“Go back to bed, Mom. I will take the next check for you.” Sweet words from my son. He was referring to whom was taking the next night check of the heifers. For the 2-year-old heifers, this is their first calf. Calving heifers is time and labor intensive because, like a lot of first time mothers, they are unsure what the heck they are supposed to be doing. We check them, at a minimum, of every two hours around the clock. If something is going on (we have one in the shed that is trying to calve) we check them more often than that. It means a lot of sleepless hours for everyone.
Trent, our oldest son, is here helping us. It is wonderful. He is young, likes staying up late, jogs to get gates, jumps over fences instead of having to climb them, and can carry 3-4 bags of mineral for me when I’m loading them in the morning to fill feeders while doing chores. This means my number of trips in to the van trailer to haul out bags is greatly diminished. He has made my life pretty easy. He has taken the first several checks each night and letting me sleep several hours uninterrupted. Last night he took the cake by telling me to go back to bed when it was my turn to check. What a good kid. He came in at 1:45 a.m. to give me an update on what was going on as he was heading home for a few hours of sleep before chore time. He had a heifer that had just calved and one still waiting.
I headed to the barn at about 3:30 a.m. to assess the situation. The heifer that had calved before he left had her calf up and going, and the calf was sucking when I got down there. A great start. I headed down to check the drop bunch and to check the other heifer he had put in the shed down below. Walking into the corral I spotted eyes on the ground down in the corner of the corral. Rats. There was a calf on the ground, and he had two heifers fighting over him. Double rats. Then imagine my surprise when I got down there and found they weren’t fighting over him, but that two heifers had calved in the same corner. Uh-Oh. Now to straighten out the mess as both heifers were owning both calves.
I got the shed opened up, both calves drug in, the heifers rounded up, and started trying to match the right momma up with the right calf. I got things figured out and ran to the house to make a couple of bottles of colostrum as those babies were a little chilly and I wanted to get something warm in their bellies ASAP. I rubbed them down good with some towels as I fed them, got them on their feet, and now with some warm milk in their bellies, they took off looking for some more nourishment. All was well.
The heifer that had been in the shed for a few hours had finally settled in enough to start calving so I went outside and camped on the feedbunks to give her some time. At 4:15 a.m. she had feet out so did another walk-through of the drop bunch, checked on some pairs we had put out yesterday morning, went back up and checked the calf that had been born a few hours previously, and ran to the closest house for a drink of water.
I headed back out about 4:45 to check my patient, snuck in through the other barn, cracked open the walk-through door, and there was the heifer with her hind end facing me, chewing her cud, and a calf out to the hips. I tip-toed through the straw to try to help her out and she came flying up, spun around with the calf still hanging out, ran me up on the panels, and then rammed them a few extra times to let me know she wasn’t kidding. The calf didn’t shake loose. There he still hung, alive, but not liking the situation one bit. I snuck back over the panels to try again. Nope. She was having none of it. Back over the panels into an empty jockey pen I went. Now what? Ugh!
I started crawling from pen to pen to try to get back close to the walk-through door to see if I could sneak out and call the house for some help. I got to the pen closest to the door, but she wasn’t about to let me out the door. I crawled back the way I had come, and then started crawling over panels the other direction to get to another door. I made it past the alley where she was, over the last panel, and out the side door. We have no cell service in the barn, and have no cell service close to the barn. It becomes a game of trying to find the spot in the corral where your phone will work. I had just started playing the two steps forward and one step back trying to get some bars on my phone when I heard a barn door open in another corral.
“PINE! HELP ME!” I yelled, not ever thinking that I might actually spook my poor husband. Yep– he still likes me. He came running to the gate, I suppose thinking I was hurt, and only shook his head when he saw that I was standing by the barn door. “Sorry, Honey!” I explained. Then told him my predicament. There is nothing a rancher likes to hear more at 5:15 a.m. than that there is a heifer on the fight with a hip-locked calf and you can’t get in the pen without getting ran back out. We went in to assess the situation.
Divine intervention. The heifer was back down and straining, and fortunately her hind end (and thus the calf) was right up against the panel. A rope around the calf’s front legs, a couple of strong pulls by Pine, and that poor baby was out and looking no worse for the wear. The heifer, by this point, had made a bee line for the other end of the alley and was lying down at the other end. Pine crawled in, pulled the calf down to her so she could get a good look at, and lick at it, and he made it back to the panel with her hunting him full steam. Nasty thing.
Good news is that she had calmed down considerably by the time we tagged her calf later this morning. They are both settled in to a jug pen to hang out for a while longer before we turn them out and put them down in a north lot for some more further watching.
“Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.” — Arthur Koestler
Big words, Arthur. I bet your actions would be to run up a fence if a mad heifer was chasing you. Thanks for your thoughts, though.
Until next time… JARW
It pokes. It tears. It cuts. It rips. It scratches. Yeah, yeah… it also keeps the cows where they belong. But for goodness sakes! Ugh! Barb wire is my daily morning adversary. I open and close several barb-wire gates each morning while feeding. It definitely shortens the amount of time it takes to do chores if the person in the tractor doesn’t have to get out to open the gate to the hay corral, get back in the tractor and get out some bales, climb back down out of the tractor to close the gate, get back in the tractor to drive to the feed ground…. you get my drift. I try to keep the gates open and ready to the hay corrals and to the right pastures, and then go back and close the gates behind the tractor. And for this ranch wife, not much is worse than opening a gate where the top wire at the gate post is barbed wire and not smooth wire.
The weather has been warmer the last couple of days. Yesterday morning I had my coat unzipped for a bit as my layers were getting a little on the warm side. Then it happened. It bit me. The damn barb bit me. Good fences and good gates are stretched tight. If you are one of the big strong men around here you can walk up, put your hand on the gatepost, and just with one push get enough slack to open the gate. Now I’m no slouch. Matter of fact I like to think that I’m fairly strong. However, we have gates that require me to reach around the gatepost and grab the fence post in order to pull them close enough to make enough slack to take the wire off and open the gate. So picture this if you will… walking up to a gate post, wrapping your arm around the gate post (the one in the picture to be exact), and those damn barbs biting right through your sweatshirt. Yikes. The picture is true. NO RANCH WIFE EVER asked that the top wire closest to the gate post be barbed wire. I’m serious… NOT EVER.
The picture below, on the other hand, shows a great, ranch-wife friendly gate. This gate never bites me. See the SMOOTH wire leading up to the gate post? See what good men there are around here? They fixed this gate and pieced in a piece of smooth wire at the end of the barbed wire. See that! There is smooth wire close to the gate post. This is the place where my arm, arm pit, and other anatomy pushes. Now that’s love!
It’s the little things! “Feel” the love.
Until next time… JARW
Winter has many sounds— snow crunching, limbs creaking, ice cracking, cows and horses eating hay, the chains on the tractor tires clinking, and for most of the last month, incessant wind blowing! It is depressing to wake up in the middle of the night to hear the wind howling and realize that it didn’t even lie down with the sun. It makes even sunshiny mornings cold and brutal. The last few mornings, albeit very cold, were virtually windless (only 5-10 mph winds and not 20-30 mph) and thus much more comfortable.
Crunching snow, if you have never experienced it before, is actually quite loud. There is no sneaking up on anyone with the snow crunching underfoot. They say that snow crunches when it is really cold and dry. No I haven’t researched it. I’m good with this explanation. It is really cold, and the snow is really powdery and dry, and I hear it crunch really loud. That works for me. Lots of things keep me awake at night… why snow crunches when you walk on it is not one of them.
A couple of days ago a new “winter” sound met us when we were out doing chores. The feeding tractor left before me, which meant that Huck The Wonder Dog (which is a perfect name for him because he really does make me wonder sometimes) headed out with the tractor. I was heading to the shop when Huck came tearing back to the yard. I didn’t think much about this other than to wonder how he knew I was out and about as I hadn’t whistled for him yet. We headed out and stopped over south at the water tank where Pine was putting out mineral. I needed to grab some goggles out of the pickup as it was snowing some and hitting me in the eyes. And yes, sometimes I’m a wimp about things hitting me in the eyes. I can admit it. Wimp.
Pine was on the other side of the fence (the tank waters two pastures) and motioned for me to shut things off and listen. I’ll be danged if a coyote wasn’t howling like crazy, and he sounded like he was awfully close. Being married to a man who LOVES to coyote hunt has its advantages. Hours of coyote calling videos enabled me to correctly GUESS that it was a challenge howl (which my coyote calling husband confirmed), and the coyote did not like Huck. Pine said he had been howling for some time farther away and when we showed up (Huck and I) he had come in closer. The picture below shows exactly where we spotted him. He was only about 350 yards out (confirmed with Pine’s range finder).
This is the breeding season for coyotes, thus probably the reason the coyote was so bold. Needless to say, Huck and I didn’t see him again as we were bringing cows to feed in this area later in the morning.
Thought I would share this picture with all of you who don’t follow me on Facebook. This was my fun, obviously snarky, picture I posted this week. It has been shared close to 200 times so I’m not the only one who could relate to it! 🙂
Please continue to comment on the USDA’s proposal to allow importation of beef from Brazil. At this point, the website only shows 221 comments. I would love it if we could all FLOOD the website with comments. You do NOT have to be a livestock producer to comment. Consumers need to comment, as well. As a consumer, as well as a producer, I need to know that the food my family eats is safe. Please comment on the USDA website. Let them know that the US does not need Brazilian beef imports.
For more information, please follow the link below to read my article in the Tri-State Livestock News this week regarding foot-and-mouth disease. Feel free to share it with as many people as you can to help educate both producers and consumers alike on what is happening with the USDA.
Like father, like daughter. My heart is smiling.
Until next time, or as my JARW friend Carolina from NY taught me, Ate a proxima (that is “until next time” in Portuguese!)
What is it about bale stacks and kids? I remember how fun it was to climb the stacks. Now, though, I’m pretty sure I am no longer capable. The Wild Child thinks it is a glorious escape from the drudgery of feeding. While we are feeding, walking through the cows, cutting bale wrap and twine, opening and shutting gates, and checking salt, mineral, and water tanks, she likes to spend her time climbing the bales with her bestie, Huck. That crazy dog loves jumping up the bale rows as much as the Blonde Bomber, only he is a little more adept.
Mr. Huck then comes down for a few pats and “atta-boys” for taking care of our Wild Child.
Anyone up for some stack climbing?
Just living the life! Until next time… JARW