Tag Archives: Animals

The Big Question

Kids in agriculture often learn life lessons much earlier than most.  They experience the loss of calves, lambs, pets, etc., early in life and sometimes often.  On the flip side, they are blessed to see the miracle of birth way more often.  And, they learn about the birds and the bees earlier than most kids.

Tonight we had been talking about getting the rest of the bulls out of the cows as the breeding season has ended for us, and then hauling the bulls back to their home pasture to recoup and get ready for next year.  Later while tucking the Wild Child into bed, after prayers, we were visiting about our day.  She started telling me about a day in late June when we moved some pairs from one pasture to a new pasture.

“Mom.  There was this bull with a dirty butt… I think he was #4.  Anyway, he was riding all the cows.”

“That’s his job, honey.  He was breeding them so they can have calves again in the spring.  Cows can’t have babies without bulls.”

“Oh yeah.  I knew that.”  Silence…  and then, “So moms can’t have babies unless dads breed them?”

“Ok!  Time to go to sleep!  Have a good night, Sweets.”

Sometimes it is best to leave the birds and the bees talk strictly focused on animals, especially when dealing with a 5-year-old.  Yep— she caught me off guard on that one.

Until next time… JARW

Looking Forward to 2014

I’m ready for the new year.  I’m excited to see what secrets it will hold.  I’m looking forward to seeing what avenues open up to us in our business and personal lives.  I’m anxious to see what paths my adult children choose.  All-in-all… I can’t wait to turn the calendar to January.

We bangs vaccinated our replacement heifers a week ago.  Bangs disease is the common name for brucellosis (contagious abortion).  Brucellosis in cattle causes abortion or premature calving in the affected cows.  Infected cattle are also difficult to get re-bred and often become sterile.  Bangs vaccinations must be done by a veterinarian so our tried-and-true veterinarian, Dr. Don Beck from Fallon County Veterinary Clinic, came and spent the morning with us.  We always enjoy working with him.

The calves look great.  It is always fun to watch them grow… the calves that we raised and poured our hearts and souls into; the calves that we KNOW, and KNOW their mommas and daddies.  These are the calves that we drug in to the barn if they were born outside when it was too chilly.  These are the calves that we made sure were up and nursing quickly to ensure their best chance at good health.  These are the calves that we helped stand up when they struggled, helped suckle if they didn’t know how, and helped make sure their moms LET them suck.  These are the calves that we hauled in to the house to get warm if they got chilled and babied along in the barn when they weren’t taking off like they should. These are the calves that we walked through every day while feeding to make sure they were staying healthy and getting well taken care of by their mommas.   We will get to watch these replacement heifers grow and they will be artificially inseminated in May of 2014 for calving in the spring of 2015.  The circle of life continues.

The coming 2-year-old heifers that will begin calving in less days than we wish to think about are home getting fed well and preparing for their first calves.  These heifers are like a bunch of kids.  They are so curious.  As you can see, we didn’t have the panels up on the back side of our yard yet at our walk-out basement.  The heifers enjoyed exploring our yard and seeing what was going on.


The left side of the fence is my garden spot.  They fertilized that heavily for me.  The right side is my back yard.  They fertilized that, also.


The tree on the right side of the picture is in the corner of my yard.  The heifers are coming down the path that leads over south where they are fed hay in the mornings most days.  They can’t resist trailing down the road to the houses and corrals to see if the horses left any hay or pellets lying around.  They also will go in the machinery shed and investigate, and have been found standing in the vehicle garages if there is an empty bay while a vehicle is out.


Here they come again from over south.  This is mid afternoon.  That is usually when they are ready to take a little jaunt to see what kind of trouble they can get themselves into.


The next three pictures show the heifers coming down the road into our house.  They are also spread on a feed ground up on the top of the hill if the weather is nice.  Then they trek down the road instead.  Here you can see that they are stretched along the road single file and will follow the road down and around the corner to the corrals, too.  They just can’t stay away.

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They like to rub on the bushes outside my yard fence and scratch on the branches.  They like to rub on the girls’ school cars and have been known to rub a mirror completely off.  The dogs stay busy sending them back over the hill.  It won’t be long until they are brought in to the calving lot.  Then they will be put back out in this pasture after they calve.  They then bring their calves around the yard to see what’s happening.  It is always fun to watch the newborn calves bucking around outside the yard fence.

Not many days until calving starts.  The curious heifers now that make me laugh won’t be quite so cute then when we are checking them every two hours around the clock.  I better enjoy them now.

Until next time… JARW



The majority of our calves are now gone… loaded on trucks and shipped to the buyer.   It was a glorious year for moisture and grass, and the calves sure showed it.  They were nice, big, healthy, and uniform.   I didn’t get many pictures as it is kind of a hurried and harried time, but did get a few snapped while we were gathering and sorting.  I love fall work and shipping days.


Selling calves is always bittersweet.  We watched these babies grow and hate to see them leave, but know that the circle continues around and that it is time for us to get ready for winter and for the next batch of newcomers in spring.  We always have some that we watch extra close all spring and summer— usually because they came out of a favorite cow, but sometimes because it started its life in our entry because it needed some extra attention, or sometimes because we spent hours with it every day for the first couple of days getting it to suck or getting it to stand, or sometimes because we were there for every part of its birth and it made us laugh when it struggled to stand for the first time, or sometimes even just because the calf was always full of spunk and bucking around in the sunshine.


On shipping days we gather everything in to a corral, sort the calves off of the cows (that is what the Big Guy is doing above and what Papa is helping to do in the picture below), load the calves on to trailers, haul them to town to the scale, weigh them all, and then load them on trucks to be hauled to the buyer.  It is always a little stressful as obviously we don’t want anything to go wrong, but also because we want our calves to weigh well and look good as we want to make sure the buyer gets the best calves we can possibly offer him.  These calves are our paycheck for the year– the whole year — so an important day it is.


Along with everyone gathering, hauling calves, taking care of all the action in the alleyways, etc., someone is also inside with the guy weighing the calves keeping track of weights, averages, loads, etc.  The Wild Child was who I caught a picture of while walking through the scale house, but it is actually my mother-in-law who keeps things in line and the shipping books up to snuff.  She knows the value of this day better than any of us as she has taken care of business on the bookkeeping end of shipping for 50 years.  She knows that shipping time is our payday for the year.  She knows about the heart and soul that went in to the cows and calves.  She knows the work that went on all year long.  She just knows…  she is “just” a ranch wife, as well…  what a glorious thing to be!


 Until next time…  JARW



SD Sunrise JARWFirst of all, people have asked where they can help those who suffered storm losses.  Here is some information for you.  Thanks for all who have emailed looking to help.  May GOD bless you all abundantly.  To those suffering, please know we are praying with you, hurting with you, and will help in any way possible.  The sun will continue to rise. Please take care of yourselves and those you love.

Rancher’s Relief Fund on the web.

Rancher’s Relief Fund  on Facebook.

Secondly, this will be my last post regarding the negativity and the cruel comments that are circulating surrounding the livestock lost in the snowstorm.  I figure my time is much more valuable and better spent trying to educate about agriculture and what it is that we really do, rather than trying to understand the cruelty, lack of compassion, and lack of education being shown in the comments.  However, I am truly perplexed by some of the comments.  The negative comments posted on articles by those who don’t live our life and have no knowledge of agriculture I can understand way more than the negative comments posted by people who profess to “once being” a rancher or farmer.

I have seen comments by “I was once a rancher” passing judgement on who is a good rancher versus who is a bad rancher based on what livestock was lost.  Are you kidding me?  The storm didn’t chose where to hit the hardest based on whom Mother Nature deemed a bad  rancher. There were comments by “I was once a rancher” stating that all of THEIR livestock “back in the day” would have been in protection of barns, trees, wind breaks etc.  There was livestock killed while being protected in barns after the roofs collapsed from the weight of the snow.  There are pictures after pictures of animals who blew out from protected areas and later died many miles away after going through multiple fences, draws, etc.  There were comments from “I was once a rancher” stating everyone had enough notice and the cows shouldn’t still have been in the summer pastures.  The storm warnings changed from day-to-day.  It went from a couple of inches one day to several more inches the next, and so on.

Lastly, the craziest part of all of this is that all this time I thought there was shared sense of camaraderie among people in agriculture— whether those currently in agriculture or those “I was once-ers”.  Our world surely is changing as I never dreamed that fellow ranchers would be bashing each other over bouts of bad fortune.   I never dreamed that fellow ranchers would be twisting the knives a little deeper in the guts of those already hurt and suffering.  Here I thought we lived in the best part of the world, lucky to live the best life, and honored to be part of a time-honored way of life where you help out your neighbor, cry with them, pray with them, hurt with them, and do everything you can to help them.  Guess not.  At least not all of us.  Maybe I’m not praying for the right people.  I will add the “I was once-ers” to my list of people to pray for.

Until next time— JARW



The character shown by the Western South Dakota farmers, ranchers, and community members is a blazing example of what kind of people live this life.  Through all the devastation, heartbreak, and condemning words, they are trudging through and picking up the pieces.  May GOD bless each and every one of you dealing with the losses– whether your own loss or helping someone else with theirs.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

As for those condemning…  Animal cruelty?  Seriously?  These livestock losses were NOT because of animal cruelty or neglect.  I’ve read some comments posted on the internet on news stories about the storm and the storm losses.  I am NOT at a loss for words.  I have lots of words for these people.

First of all, to the person who posted that his family used to ranch and they never lost a cow.  Baloney.  That is like saying “I was once a member of a family and we never had a death.”  Phooey.  People die.  Animals die.  It is the circle of life.  We lost our old cow dog earlier this summer.  It was not due to cruelty.  He was  a member of our family, he was old, and he died.  The circle of life.  I believe this person also stated that ranchers should only have the number of cows that can all fit in their barns at one time.  Again… Baloney.  It is hard to make a living with only the number of cows that can fit in your barn.  In addition, there have been cases where livestock in a barn perished from suffocation.  So what comment would those passing judgement have in a case like this?

This is NOT the time for comments condemning these ranchers for their losses.  I would bet that many of these men and women were risking life and limb trying to find their livestock before and during the storm trying to make sure they were in safe spots.  I am equally as sure that as soon as possible after the storm had subsided that these same people were out looking for their livestock to try to make sure it was okay, to make sure that it had food and water, making sure that it was safe, and digging to get to livestock that was covered with snow to try to save it.  To those passing judgement, did you even do this for your next door neighbor?  To those passing judgement, did you push your way through snow drifts even 50 feet to make sure your neighbor was not suffering?  These people were traveling many miles, on foot, on horseback, on snowmobiles, on four-wheelers, to check on their own stuff AND to help their neighbor.  Is this what was going on in your community?  Is this what those condemning the ranchers and farmers were doing?

It is easy to sit behind a computer and pass judgement on someone else.  It is easy to stick a pen name on your response to really NOT put yourself out there and be judged.  Isn’t it funny that it is so easy to judge others behind a fake name?  These people suffering losses aren’t afraid to share their name and their story.  They aren’t afraid to put it out there and be judged.  They have broad shoulders and are carrying the weight of the world around on them most days.  They are proud people with LOADS of character and strength.  Their hearts are broken.  Many of them won’t make it through the financial hit from the loss and have to sell out.  Some of their relationships won’t last due to the strain from this event.  The stress of the losses and hardship will make some physically ill.  Still want to pass judgement?

Instead of passing judgement calling us “money-hungry cattle barons” why don’t you pick up a shovel and go help them?  You go help dig out the livestock and watch their heart-break with each new carcass they find.  You can dig through snow drifts looking to see if there is anything underneath all the snow.  You can cut out ear tags  and try to find brands to see if the livestock is even yours or if it is your neighbors.  You can go help pull livestock out of the dams and creeks and listen to the sobs of the world crashing down a little farther while they deal with the aftermath.  You can go walk a mile in their shoes BEFORE you so selfishly and so hurtfully question their character.  I guarantee you that these people would do all they could to help you if you were in a similar situation.

As my friend Mary stated:  “What the majority of America is not comprehending, is the fact that these farmers and ranchers have mortgaged their cattle and calf crop and probably their land (borrowed money using them as collateral) to pay for the things they need to keep their ranch going from day to day such as seed for the next crop, fuel, machinery payments, fence posts and wire, pasture lease payments, cake and hay for winter feeding, salt mineral and medicine for livestock, parts, repairs and supplies, payments if they have purchased cattle for replacements or expansion, bulls, ranch liability insurance, crop insurance, vehicle insurance, taxes..all this stuff costs thousands of dollars. I haven’t even mentioned any living expenses. Now that the calves and cows are dead, there will be no money to pay the banks. Hopefully the bankers will work with these people. We don’t have the luxury of raising our debt limit and we can not borrow our way out of debt. The next course of action if ranchers can’t make their payments is bankruptcy and foreclosure, which means the banks take the ranch away from their owners which may have been in the family for generations. Such an emotional toll as well as financial. My heart goes out to those that have lost darn near everything. It could have been my neighborhood so easily. I pray that the good Lord has his caring arms around these people in the days to come. They will need it. ”  Great words, Mary.  Thank-you.  

Also, for the people who think that they are not affected whatsoever by the loss, let me assure you that you and/or your loved ones certainly are affected.  There are a LOT more uses of cattle then just beef to eat.  I would venture a guess that those thinking this problem doesn’t affect them use beef products whether they think they do or not.  Let me show use some uses of beef.


For all those asking how they can help, here are some resources.  May GOD bless you for opening your hearts and helping through whatever avenue you choose… whether through prayer, through labor, through encouraging cards and notes, through fundraising efforts, or even through donations of goods, services, or money.  I urge you to keep praying for all those who suffered losses.

Beef Magazine:  5 Resources for South Dakota Ranchers…

Black Hills Area Community Foundation:  Ranchers Relief Fund

South Dakota Cattle Locator website. 

Lost and Found Black Hills Blizzard

 South Dakota Stockgrowers

Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18  

To all those suffering losses, please know that you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.  Until next time… JARW



Blizzard Casualties

20130925_063458My heart is breaking as I sit and write this post.  So many in this area of the world had devastating livestock losses.  My prayers are split between prayers of thanks for sparing us from the brunt of the storm, and prayers of strength and healing for those that lost so much.  I find myself feeling guilty that we were spared when so many others were not.  I know how hard everyone works to keep their livestock safe and healthy, and to lose your animals is losing more than just your livelihood.  You are losing your blood, sweat, and tears.  You are losing your friends.  KBHB Radio shared the first news that made me cry.  There is so much emotion.

We lost power on Friday morning.  It had rained throughout the night and morning, and was followed by a heavy, very wet snow, and then wind.  The Big Guy got the generators going and I turned on the oven to warm the house a little.  We have cove heating and one heater pulls so much wattage that hardly anything else can use electricity at the same time.  It is much easier to just warm up the upstairs with the oven.  Fortunately, the temperatures never got too cold.  During the first day I went several times and cleaned off the branches of the trees in our yard to try to save them from breaking off.    That is really all we could do as it was snowing and blowing too much to get to any cattle.   All our cattle are still out on summer grass and the yearling bred heifers are the closest to our home place; they are 12 miles away.   We weren’t able to get to anything on Friday.

By Friday evening and early Saturday, most of the roads West River in South Dakota were closed.  A Rapid City Journal story reported that the interstate was closed from Murdo, South Dakota to Sheridan, Wyoming— a distance of about 380 miles.  The National Weather Service in Rapid City  shared that this was the most snow Rapid City has ever received in October, the most 1-day snowfall for Rapid City ever, and the second most 3-day snowfall (the first was in April of 1927).  Our area seemed to be hit by the least amount of snow compared to most other places West River.  It doesn’t really matter the amount, though, when the winds are blowing with gusts around 60 miles per hour.  It is white-out conditions with lots of blowing, drifting snow, and sadly livestock drift with the wind.

Saturday afternoon we had several blessings– the electric company restored power to our community and we were finally able to get to our cattle.  We were enormously blessed in that although we had some calves through some fences, overall we were spared losses.  We are the minority.  We have friends in other areas of Western South Dakota that suffered catastrophic losses.  We have friends that are still assessing their losses as they aren’t yet able to account for all their livestock.  However, as the livestock losses continue to pile up, please keep all these people in your prayers.  These losses are financially devastating, as well as emotionally devastating.  Pray for strength as they dig these animals out of snow banks and deal with all the carcasses.  Pray for comfort as their hearts break.  Pray for healing, both emotionally and financially.  Just PRAY.

Until next time– JARW

This Week In Photos 8.29.13

Spent a few days watching this replacement heifer that had a little eye irritation.  We wanted to make darn sure it that it didn’t progress in to anything more than a little runny eye.  Thankfully it didn’t!


Cut in to a watermelon this week and it was hollow. Completely.  I have never had that happen  before.  It had three distinct sections, but completely hollow in the middle.IMG_9615

The Wild Child and Huck.  I think they love each other.  Good ole Huckleberry!


“You talkin to us?”  A few of the bums watching me intently to see what my plan was, and already planning their escape route.  Their mommas were old and/or crippled cull cows that went to the sale this month.  There wasn’t a plan.  I was just checking on them.  They didn’t make a run for it, which is always nice.


Eagles Nest.  The view in our winter pasture.  The place where the Wild Child’s imaginary eagle friends, Earl and Pearl, live.   We have TONS of Earl and Pearl stories.  They are really quite delightful, mischievous, and helpful– depending on the day.


This beauty was a LONG way away from a hunter looking to score big.  I honestly wasn’t laughing… shaking my head, but not laughing— really.  Poor guy.  There were some nice ones by him, too, so I’m sure he wasn’t too upset.


Huck will just grab the Wild Child’s finger and hold them in our mouth.  They are both so goofy.IMG_9625

One of the waterhole blinds.  It is actually quite pretty here, but still don’t know how many hours I could sit in one.


This is how we wash the dirt off of tomatoes at our house.  Isn’t this how everyone does it? She is going to be a wet little girl when they all start turning!


Until next time— JARW


IMG_7037Ranch kids sure seem to learn about death early, and sometimes often.  The Wild Child has had a tough go with her livestock this year. Her 3-year-old cow, Kaydee Cow, sloughed her calf in January and went to the sale a few weeks later.  She hated to see Kaydee Cow go. Her first cow-induced sadness.

Her 2-year-old heifer, Lula Belle, had a runt calf in March– Brown Eyes. She calved during the night and I carried him to the barn.  He was so little, but a spunky little thing.  When the WC got up the next morning I bundled her up and took her to the barn to show her Lula Belle’s calf.  On the way down there she was adamant that she was going to name the calf Blue Eyes because she was sure it would have blue eyes just like she did.  When we got there she just shrugged her shoulders and said “Well– I guess I better name it Brown Eyes.”

cropped-IMG_67271.jpgBrown Eyes went to heaven when he was about six weeks old.  He had looked a little out of sorts when we were sorting some pairs, but nothing that we were concerned about.  The next morning Pine went out to check on him, came back to the house and said, “I need to talk to you in the bedroom.”  I knew it couldn’t be good.  He had just found Brown Eyes dead.  So we broke the news to the Wild Child.  She took it like a trooper, said “Well I guess GOD needed him”, and then wanted to go out and see him and check on Lula Belle.  That’s what we did.

We found Lula Belle on the feed ground filling her belly.  The WC says “She looks so sad.”  I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.  Lula Belle looked anything but— she only looked happy to have hay in her mouth.  That afternoon we brought in another calf off an old crippled cow and grafted it on to LB.  The WC was in the barn that night checking on the progress.  She told the graft not to worry that Lula Belle was going to take good care of her, and it seems she has.  She was just so matter of fact about it all.  

Yesterday she had another rude meeting with death.

IMG_7867Our old dog, Better, went to heaven.  It was a sad, sad day– for all of us– but especially for Papa as Better was mostly his.  He buried him in the pasture along side of his last faithful old dog.  Better was 14-years-old.  This morning the Wild Child said to her dad, “Did you know that Better died yesterday, Dad?”  He had been on a parts run when it happened.  Then she started crying.  With her crying, me now crying too, and him with tears in his eyes he said “I did, Kate.  It makes me so sad.”  And here I sit crying again.  Dang dog!  I just hugged her and said “Oh don’t cry Sweetie.  Better is in heaven with GOD.  He doesn’t hurt anymore.  He can run and play again.  He is probably even chasing rabbits!”

“MOM!”, she replied!  “If the rabbits are in heaven they are already dead so he won’t have to chase them too far.”  Her view of the situation was so enlightening.  She just knows that when friends die they are going to be with GOD.  She was sad, but realistic.  It happens.  It sucks.  But she knows and trusts that all is still well with the world.  She should give lessons.

Rest In Peace, Better Dog!  You will be missed.