Friday, June 24, 2016

Ranch Diary: April 28 through May 18, 2016

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MAY 4 – When Andrea took Sam back to the doctor a week ago to have her elbow checked again, the x-rays showed both bones broken near the growth plate. They are not displaced, and should heal ok if she doesn’t over-extend the elbow (and keeps from moving it very much). The doctor now has her wearing a hinged brace that limits the movement of her elbow.

Last Wednesday Dani came home sick from school and Thursday stayed home from school. She didn’t feel well all day, and slept quite awhile here on our couch while Andrea irrigated and took new bales of hay around for the cows and heifers’ feeders.


She was feeling better by evening. Lynn went to town that day for the MRI on his lower back, and for his physical therapy, and brought Sam home after her physical therapy. Charlie got back that evening from the music trip (with the school band) and Emily picked him up in town.

Everyone was really tired that evening and Lynn went to bed early. I put Maggeriete (nickname Shrek because of her jaunty ears) in the calving pen where I could see her easily from the house. She’s the last one to calve, and she decided to do it that night. I got up and looked at her from the window, not long after I went to bed, and she was obviously in labor, pacing the pen. I watched her awhile and then when she got more serious—in active labor, lying down to strain—I put her in the barn because it was raining. Just after midnight the calf started to come, and the feet (when they appeared) were huge. I called Andrea, and she came down from her house and brought Dani, who insisted on being present when our last cow calved. Andrea and I pulled the calf, and Dani helped get him breathing.           

Shrek is a very gentle cow and knows and trusts Dani (that kid feeds her grass!) and didn’t mind having all three of us in the stall helping with her new baby. Then Andrea took Dani home to bed and came back to help me suckle the calf. He was so big and tall that he didn’t understand how to put his head down low to find the teats. Rather than try to force his head down (which would have made him resist) we simply milked a little colostrum from Shrek into a bottle and got the calf started sucking the bottle. After a taste of that good stuff he was very eager for more, and much more cooperative about following our fingers to suck on—and readily suckled when we stuck a teat in his mouth. He was so big it took a lot of colostrum to fill him up, and we managed to get him on all four teats. By then he was starting to figure out how to get onto them by himself.

About 30 minutes after we finished that task and Andrea went home, the power went off and was off for 2 hours. We were lucky it didn’t go off while we were trying to suckle Shrek’s calf, since it’s very dark in that barn without lights!

It’s a relief to have our last cow calved out! We actually finished 3 weeks quicker than last year and got done calving in just over 4 weeks from start to finish. The next morning we put Shrek and her big boy out of the barn, into a nearby pen. He’s the biggest calf we had this year, and still a bit clumsy.

Dani still wasn’t feeling 100% that day (Friday) and had a fever, so Andrea tried to get a doctor’s appointment for her, but the clinic was booked up and they told her to just wait and take her to the walk-in clinic on Saturday. Andrea took her in early Saturday morning but the doctor’s assistant who examined her said it was just a virus and that she didn’t need any antibiotics.

She still had a fever on Sunday and felt even worse by Monday morning so when Andrea took Charlie and Sam in early to school that morning to get on the bus to go on their next band trip, she took Dani to the ER. The doctor there concluded that she had a serious infection and should have been started on antibiotics two days earlier when Andrea brought her in to the walk-in clinic.

Lynn did his physical therapy again on Monday and got the results from the MRI on his back. It doesn’t look good, and he was referred to a specialist in Missoula, Montana—a neurologist who does back surgery.

Later that day Carolyn and young Heather stopped by and we gave them their belated birthday gifts and belated anniversary gift for Michael and Carolyn. Their anniversary was April 27th.

That night Dani had high fever of 105.3 and Andrea stayed up all night with her, giving a cold shower to get the fever down, giving her medication, etc. It was pretty scary. Tuesday (yesterday) she stayed in bed and we hoped that soon the antibiotics would help her fight the infection.

Last night Dani was still pretty sick, with fever and a bad cough, and Andrea stayed up all night with her again to keep track of her temperature and bring it down whenever it got too high.

Today Andrea took her to the ER because her fever had gotten very high again. The doctor took blood tests and put her on oxygen and IV fluids; her oxygen level was too low and she was dehydrated from the fever. They decided to keep her in the hospital but it was middle of the night before they got her into a room. She and Andrea were camped out in the ER all day.

MAY 11 – Last week Michael brought us two more loads of oat hay (4 bales total) since we need to keep feeding the cows a little longer until the pasture grows enough to put them out on grass. The new water master for this year (Gary Thomas, no relation) came last week to become familiar with all the ditches and locations of headgates and weirs. We are hoping that we can have a better irrigation year without so many conflicts!

Last Thursday Sam and Charlie went on a school bus with their music teacher and a group of other students to Boise to see a musical play, but Robbie took them in early that morning so they could stop and see Dani and Andrea in the hospital. It was an overnight trip; the kids stayed in a motel after the play, and were scheduled to come back home on the bus the next morning. The bus broke down however, and they were delayed in Boise all day—and finally had to borrow a bus from a Boise school to come home, arriving home about midnight on Friday.

Emily stopped by to see Dani in the hospital a few times and give her support and comfort.

Andrea stayed with Dani in the hospital all day Thursday and Friday, except for a couple hours when Lynn went in to sit with Dani so Andrea could come home and help me move some big bales out to the feeders for the cows and heifers and load more alfalfa hay on the feed truck.
Dani was starting to do a little better by Friday evening, but still not eating much. The doctors decided she was doing well enough to come home by Saturday afternoon, but even though it was Mark’s weekend to have the kids, he didn’t want the responsibility of having to take care of Dani—and told Andrea that he thought it would be ok for her to take Dani home. 

Andrea brought her home to our house where she took a 4-hour nap on our couch (after we enticed her to drink a little water and have a few sips of chocolate milk) while Andrea did the irrigating. We didn’t want Dani to get too dehydrated, since she was no longer on IV fluids, so after her nap we encouraged her to drink more water, and a glass of milk. She actually had an interest in food by then, and ate a peanut butter sandwich (the only thing that sounded good to her). This was the most food she’d eaten at one time since before she got sick. 

Then she insisted on seeing the calves, so she and I walked slowly up to the pasture above the house and she sat on the big tractor tire (that serves as a holder for the mineral tub) and many of the cows and calves came up to her. She always picks grass for them and they were wondering why she didn’t have any! She was delighted to see her favorite calves, and enjoyed watching the calves playing around, especially her favorite one, MagDoll, who ran around bucking and then sniffed noses with Sugar Bear’s mom.

Then Dani and I walked slowly back down to the house. By then Andrea had brought her medicine and breathing treatment (puffing medication into her lungs). It’s great to see Dani starting to feel better! 

I called Carolyn to tell her that Dani was home from the hospital, and Carolyn told me about the close call she’d had that morning when she was irrigating on gopher meadow on the upper place. After all the runoff and high water from the early snow melt, a lot of sand had washed down into the ditches and one of her irrigation dams was full of sand. It was too heavy to get the dam out of the ditch, so she was going to cut the dam and let the water wash through it and take the sand with it. She had driven down into that field on her 4-wheeler, and one of their leased cows (a second calver) had snorted at her and then went into the brush with her calf. 

This young cow calved more than 2 weeks ago, up on the hill behind gopher meadow, and didn’t bring her calf down to the herd until it was about a week old. At that point, Michael and Carolyn drove toward the calf on their 4-wheeler to see if it was a bull or a heifer. It was a little bull, and very wild and crazy! It charged right at them and tried to climb up onto the 4-wheeler with them! This was quite unusual behavior for a young calf. The mama cow was also aggressive and crazy.

So when Carolyn drove into the field to irrigate and deal with the ditch full of sand, she drove around that pair at a good distance and was relieved to see them disappear into the brush. She didn’t think much more about it, and started to slit the irrigation dam with her knife—when all of a sudden she heard a bellowing snort behind her and that cow was charging at her. The cow hit her and knocked her over the dam into the ditch on the other side, and kept trying to hit her again. The only thing that saved Carolyn was the fact the cow couldn’t quite get over the pole holding the dam. Carolyn still had ahold of her shovel so she hit the cow over the head with it—multiple times, since the cow wouldn’t back off. Finally, after many whacks on the head, the cow departed, and went back into the brush to find her calf. Carolyn was lucky. She was up there all by herself and it was a good thing she wasn’t seriously hurt by that crazy cow.

The next day, Sunday, was Mother’s Day. Dani came down for a little while when Andrea came to irrigate, and they picked grass for their pet cows and calves, then Dani took another nap. Andrea kept her home from school Monday and Tuesday because she needed to rest and recuperate a more, and then was able to go back to school today.

In spite of the cool weather, it’s feeling like spring, and most of the birds are back. The killdeer are nesting in our fields, and Emily took photos of some newly hatched killdeer chicks.


We had some rain and snow on Monday—so much nasty weather that Michael, Nick and Robbie had to quit working on their fencing project (the other side of town) by early afternoon; they got soaked and cold. Yesterday was cold and windy again but it didn’t rain so they resumed their fencing. Andrea hiked around the swamp pasture fence to see if there were any repairs needed before we put the heifers in there, and shut the top gate. She and Robbie put a bunch of staples in that evening, where the deer have been going through the fence in several places. 

This morning I put some of my horse hay in the heifers’ feeder, since they’ve run out of the last big bale, and their alfalfa. After Andrea got home from town (taking the kids to school and Sam to the doctor for a check-up on her broken elbow—which is healing very nicely) she helped us move the heifers to pasture. We brought them through the pens by the barn and sorted off Michael and Carolyn’s heifers—to keep in the lane by the barn where there’s some grass, until they can be hauled up to the upper place. Then we took our group around to the swamp pasture above our corrals. The grass has grown enough now for grazing, and the heifers are eager for green grass instead of hay!  

Lynn got the kids off the bus, and Dani was exhausted after her first day back at school. She went home and took a nap.

This evening, about the time I was getting ready to go to bed, I heard cows bawling in the field above the house, so I went out there to check on them and make sure everything was ok. The heifers had crossed the creek and come down along the fence above that field, where the cows could see them, and they were bawling at the heifers. But one of the calves was up the field above, right next to the heifers, and I wondered how he could have gotten through the net-wire fence. Then I noticed that the gate between the two fields was wide open! The only thing keeping the whole herd from escaping into the hayfield was the electric fence on this side of the gate. The calf must have crawled under the hot wire and gone out the gate. So I chased him back in and shut the gate, and then it took a little time to encourage him to go back underneath the hot wire to his mom, because he didn’t want to get shocked again! 

MAY 18 – We had a few nights last week that got quite cold (down to 24 degrees one night), and froze all the apple blossoms. It took a few nights for Andrea to catch up on her sleep after being up so many nights while Dani was sick, but Dani is doing a lot better now. Last Thursday Lynn went to town for his physical therapy, got the mail and groceries, and picked up the vaccine for our cows and calves at the vet clinic.

That afternoon we had another kid emergency; after school Charlie was waiting to get on the bus to come home, and a new kid (a bully) was teasing him and messing with his backpack. Charlie told him to quit, and tried to push the kid away, and the kid retaliated by shoving Charlie so hard it knocked him down backward, hitting his head on the concrete. It knocked him out for a few seconds but he got up and insisted on getting on the bus to come home—even when one of the teachers thought he should stay and be checked out. The teacher called Andrea, who was in town for her physical therapy, who called Lynn (who was stopping on his way home from town to pick up Charlie off the bus). Charlie was still a little unsteady, with a twitch in his right eye, so Emily (who was heading home from work at that same time) took Charlie back to town so Andrea could take him to the ER and have his head checked. He had a nasty bump and probably a mild concussion, but seemed to be ok.

Our weather continued cold and windy with a bit of rain now and then. On Saturday our neighbor Alfonso had about 30 people up at the Gooch place to help him brand calves. They had a big social get-together mid-day before they started getting the cattle in, and that afternoon it was raining hard before they finished branding. Michael and Carolyn had planned to brand their calves on Sunday and take their herd to pasture on the 160, (and brand ours next Sunday) but it rained all day Sunday so the branding got postponed. Calves can’t be branded if they are wet. It would scald the tissues and create a more serious burn. Michael and Carolyn brought their trailer down and hauled their heifers home, to put with their cows and calves. The heifers have all grown very well over winter, and hopefully they will all breed this summer.

Our cows are unhappy because the heifers went to pasture and the cows are jealous; they are tired of eating hay. A few of the cows were reaching through the fence in a few places--between the net wire and the barbed wires on top, and squashing down the net wire—so I pulled it back into place and tied it up more securely.

Monday it was still rainy, but Michael and crew worked on a couple of their fencing projects anyway. Then yesterday it was clear, so Michael called early that morning and told us they’d decided to go ahead and brand, and get ours done, too, while the weather was good. They want to take their herd to the hill pasture in a few days, and just try to get both herds branded first.

So Lynn helped me feed the cows, Robbie and Andrea moved a few stored things out of the front stall of the little barn next to our calf chute, and then they went up to help Michael and Carolyn vaccinate their cows and brand their calves.


We planned to do ours right afterward, and Carolyn asked Lynn if he could go to town to pick up some more dewormer for the cows, so he did that while I cooked a big pot of chili for our lunch, and got a few gates ready. Then Lynn and I moved the yearling bulls to a side corral, and the big bulls to the back pen, so we’d have the main corral free. Then as soon as the branding/vaccinating was finished on the upper place and the whole crew came down, we got the cows and calves in from the field above the house, sorted off the calves into the little barn, and vaccinated the cows. Lynn and Robbie strung out the extension cords and got things ready for branding while Michael and Carolyn were vaccinating and deworming the cows.

Andrea hiked up in the swamp pasture and called the 13 yearlings down to the corral (they followed her all the way down) and we vaccinated them and put them back up to their pasture. Then we vaccinated the bulls, and branded/vaccinated the calves. Michael did the branding this year, and dehorned the handful (4 calves) that needed dehorned, since Lynn didn’t feel physically up to doing it, with his painful back. Lynn sat on a lawn chair and let the rest of us do the various tasks. 

Nick pushed the calves into the calf table.


Carolyn vaccinated the calves
Michael did the clipping
We always clip the area to be branded, so the branding iron doesn’t have to burn through a lot of hair. This makes a better brand and doesn’t hurt the calf as much, because the iron doesn’t have to stay on as long.
Here’s what the finished brand looks like.
           

Most of our calves had no horns; there were only 4 that needed to be dehorned, and Michael did the dehorning.

Everything went well, and we put the cows and calves back up in the field above the house. Afterward everyone had lunch here, and even though it was rather plain fare (a big pot of chili, with brownie for dessert), it was a nice “birthday dinner” for Lynn, having family here. He’s now 73. He said the best birthday present was having so much good help to do our branding! 

Today the calves all seem ok after their branding and vaccinating, and the weather is still fairly nice (though it might rain this evening). We’ll give the calves another day to recover and then move the herd out to pasture.                    

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ranch Diary: March 15 through April 27

MARCH 24 – We had a lot of windy, stormy weather last week, and some snow. It got down to 23 degrees one night and the mud was frozen enough that Andrea was able to move the big bales out of harm’s way (where spring melt was coming through the stack yard) with the tractor, without getting stuck.

Lynn went to the doctor to see the results of his MRI. His hip sockets seem to be ok (he doesn’t need hip surgery) but there was evidence of old injuries that are causing some pain—an old healed fracture in the pelvis, and some other problems. We don’t know whether those happened when he was trying to stay on a horse that was bucking, or when the dirt under the old bridge caved in on him when he was trying to get some debris out from under there during high water—and had to pull his leg out from under several hundred pounds of dirt and mud before he drowned—or when he had a motorcycle accident coming home from irrigating and met a pickup that was on his side of the road on a blind corner.

The doctor thinks the old injuries are causing him more pain now because he has favored the leg and sore back, and has lost some of the normal motion. She prescribed physical therapy, and also wants another MRI on his lower back because it is badly out of place.

We brought the 7 young cows down from the field last week, and put them in the maternity pen and horse pasture where we can watch them easier, since several of them were looking like they are close to calving. The next day we moved the older cows across the creek over the bridge and into heifer hill, where they will be a little closer when the time comes to bring them down, too.

The calving barn’s dirt floor is pretty wet because of the big pile of snow behind it that slid off the roof this winter. We should have shoveled that pile away, because it’s been melting and soaking into the dirt floor in the barn.  We opened all the doors to help it dry out faster. Even though we’ve had some spring weather, the occasional blizzard makes us glad we still have a barn for calving cows during bad weather.

Last Thursday we went to town for the funeral of our neighbor Bill Sager. He fell and broke his hip a few weeks ago and never recovered.

The next few days were cold, down to 14 degrees at night. We started training our heifers to go in the barn, in case it’s cold and stormy when they calve. We put a little hay along the edges of a couple barn aisles, with some alfalfa on top of the grass hay. After putting them into the barn the first time, they eagerly went in every day after that, for several days, to eat the alfalfa hay. Now if we have to put one in the barn some dark night, it won’t be a scary experience!

Alfonzo left his gate open on the lower place and almost all his cows got out and went over the hill to the low range, looking for something to eat, but the grass hasn’t grown enough yet to provide any feed. He finally realized the cows were out and rounded them up again.

Michael, Nick and Robbie put tall wood slabs on this end of our 2nd day pens to create a good windbreak. Now our pens are ready for calving.

They also put a pole “cover” over the ditch by the culvert under the driveway, so no calves will fall in the ditch when we are taking them back and forth across the driveway. The cover will also keep vehicles from driving into the ditch.

Andrea cleaned out her little travel trailer to loan to Michael and Carolyn and Michael smoothed out the mud ruts in their driveway so they could pull it up to their house for Gregory’s sister and her husband to stay in. They drove down from Canada yesterday and hope to stay a few days.

Michael and Carolyn had their first calf born day before yesterday morning and another one that afternoon. We put some slough grass bedding in a couple barn stalls yesterday so we’d be ready when ours start calving.

Dani’s friend Sequoia stayed overnight with her last night, and the two little girls came down early this morning to help us feed cows. When we drove to the field above the house we noticed one cow on heifer hill and she didn’t come down to the feed truck. We could see she had a baby calf lying there, so after we fed the cows their alfalfa we drove up there.

It was Buffalulu. She had calved 3 weeks ahead of her due date—a tiny bull calf. She’d licked him dry and he was several hours old, but very cold and hadn’t nursed yet. We put him on the back of the feed truck and Dani and her friend hung onto him while I drove the truck to the next field and Andrea and Robbie followed the young cow. She was a bit confused because she wasn’t exactly sure where her calf was, but he bellowed and bawled almost continually, and she followed his voice. We got her down with the other cows and through the gate, and drove on down to the barnyard. It was windy and cold, and he needed some food. She was too nervous to let us help him suckle, so we put her in the headcatch by the barn and got him started on a teat. After helping him get as much milk as he could hold, we put the pair in the barn, out of the wind.
It was windy and snowing off and on all day and the power went off for a couple hours. By afternoon the little calf had figured out how to suckle his mom without help. That evening another young cow (Twinkle Twinkle, a second calver) started calving so we put her in the other barn aisle and she calved quickly—a nice heifer calf. She was about 10 days ahead of her due date, but not as tiny as the little guy next door. Dani named him King Cong Gorilla Boy because he was so tiny he needed a big name, and also because his face looks a bit like a baby gorilla. The heifer is charcoal color (more gray than black) so Dani named her Charky.
APRIL 5 – We had more snowstorms and windy weather the last week in March. We put more of the cows in the maternity pen and horse pasture where we could see them from the house, and fenced off the deep ditch in the top corner of the orchard. The cows like to sleep in that corner and we didn’t want any of them to roll into that dry ditch.

Young heather’s boyfriend Gregory and his sister and brother-in-law stayed with Michael and Carolyn several days before they had to drive back to Canada. Carolyn brought Gregory’s sister and husband down here last week to meet us.

The next day Dani helped Andrea bring some of the loose hay (stored in the “sick barn” across the creek) around in the little trailer with the 4-wheeler in several trips to spread as bedding in the pen below the barn. She had fun riding in the hay.

We put the two young cows and calves down in that big pen where there are several good windbreaks. Little Gorilla Boy is still very tiny, but doing great.

Several more cows were getting very ready to calve so we locked those in the orchard (maternity pen) at night where we can see them from the house with a spotlight.

Charlie was very sick last Friday, with a high fever, so Andrea took him to the clinic. The doctor’s aid who looked at him thought it was a virus and didn’t prescribe an antibiotic, but his fever and cough kept getting worse. Every night his fever was up to 104 degrees and Andrea had to give him a lot of ibuprofen to try to keep it down. She couldn’t get another appointment for him after the weekend (the clinic was booked solid), so she took him to the ER Monday evening, and the doctor there took a chest x-ray and diagnosed the problem as pneumonia. He gave Charlie a shot of high-powered antibiotic and a prescription for follow-up. Charlie was sick all through spring break but was finally recovering enough to go back to school this week.

We’ve had several more cows calve. The evening that Andrea took Charlie to the ER, Dani helped me put Magnicate in the barn to calve—since it was cold and windy. She calved quickly at 8:30 p.m. and the heifer calf was up and trying to nurse within 30 minutes. But the cow kept having severe cramps and kept lying down trying to clean, so finally Dani and I intervened. We put a tub of alfalfa hay in front of the cow to encourage her to stay standing up and eating, and I helped the calf get onto a teat.

The kids were out of school that week so the girls enjoyed helping with the cows and calves. Sam helped Andrea take a couple trailer loads of loose hay up to the calf houses for bedding, and put new bedding in the two barn stalls.
On Thursday we brought the last 5 cows (the later calving ones) down from the field to put with the others in the horse pasture because they are all starting to get udders.

Andrea put up the electric wire around the calf houses before we started putting pairs up there, so the cows can’t get right next to those little houses. Then they can’t gang around the houses to eat the bedding out of them and won’t step on or lie on any calves that sleep in front of the houses. We put several cows and their calves out there this week.

Andrea started harrowing the fields, now that the snow is gone and the cows are off them. It may be an early spring and we want to start irrigating quicker than last year. She harrowed the field next to her house (where the largest group of cows spent the winter) with her little jeep pulling the harrow, to scatter the manure and the wasted straw from the big bale feeders. It all makes good fertilizer. The little jeep is pretty rough and bouncy, however, so Robbie helped her take the blade off the tractor so she could finish harrowing with it. Charlie was feeling well enough by the end of the week to ride around with her in the tractor, and he enjoyed driving it.

Our mud finally dried up enough that we were able to take the chains off the tractor for harrowing. Andrea has been using the tractor nearly every day to load alfalfa hay on the feed truck or take big bales of grass hay out to the heifers’ feeder or oat/barley bales to the cows’ feeders. The heifers go through a big bale every 3 days.
It’s also not too muddy out on our low hills anymore, so on Sunday Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed for their first rides this spring. We need to get those horses going and back to their routine so the girls can ride them.

It’s time to start irrigating so we’ve been cleaning ditches. Robbie burned the grass off one of the ditches, and we hired Allan Probst to go through several of the worst ones with his little excavator. The ditch that comes to heifer hill through the Gooch place was silted full in several places, and in other places the bank was washed away from Alfonzo’s hap-hazard irrigating. Allan was able to clean out the clogged areas and rebuild the bank on the places where the ditch was about to wash out. While he was here, we had him go through the ditch to our lower field across the creek, since it would be faster and easier for him than for our old backhoe. But just after he finished and was bringing the little excavator down the hill to come back from that lower field, one of the tracks picked up a rock and it jammed and threw the track off. Lynn tried to help him get the track back on, after jacking it up, but it needed a new part. Allan had to order the part and come back again the next day (yesterday) to fix it and take it home.

We’ve had a few more snowstorms, so Andrea started spending part of the night here to help me watch the cows, to put the calving cows into the barn. As long as we have a good barn we’re not going to have new babies born outside in a blizzard!

Today was a little nicer, and Andrea started the water in the newly cleaned ditch to heifer hill. We don’t know how long our irrigation water will last this year, so we want to get all the fields growing early. 

APRIL 14 – Last Thursday Dani stayed here overnight because she wanted to help watch the cows, and she got to see Cub Cake calve. Dani has stayed here several nights and I get her up for school; Robbie picks her up on his way by with the other kids to take them all to the bus. Andrea sleeps in a little, after spending part of the night watching cows until I get up early to take over. Later that day Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed again for their second ride this year.

The next day I trimmed Dottie’s feet and rode her for her first ride, and Sam and Dani rode Breezy and Ed for their first ride this year.

Dottie was goofy and obnoxious but the older mares were a good influence on her. They were nicely mellow for the girls. Just as we were leaving, Buffalope calved in the horse pasture (so Andrea put the other cows in the orchard so they wouldn’t interfere with bonding of mama and new baby), and by the time we came back the calf was up nursing.

Robbie is helping Michael and Nick on fencing projects around the valley. Word is getting around about the good job they do, and they have several more jobs lined up. Michael probably won’t have time to rebuild any more fences for us until next winter.

Dani and Sam have an after school job once a week, cleaning house for Conrad Vitzthum, our elderly neighbor down at Baker. He lost his wife a few years ago and needs a bit of help with the house cleaning, so the girls enjoy doing that for him and earning a little money in the process.

The grass is trying to grow in the fields, so on Saturday we moved the electric fence in the field below the lane and confined the yearling heifers to a small area at this end by the gate and the water trough, and moved their hay feeder to a high spot in that corner. We’ll keep them in this smaller area and give the rest of the field a chance to grow (so we can cut part of it for hay and pasture the marshy side of it later). We’ll put them out on pasture when the grass is taller.

That afternoon Andrea and I rode Breezy and Dottie; we need to put a few more rides on the horses before our friends from Colorado come to visit, because Jodi wants to ride a horse. Walter and Jodi have a bed and breakfast business in Durango, and they’ve been hoping to come visit us. Walter is like part of our family. He came here in 1980 from Austria, not knowing much English, and needed a job and a place to stay. We arranged for him to stay in the little cabin my uncle owned (above our upper place) and he worked for us a few years, building fences. Later he had some other jobs, sold cars, then went to California and had a thriving business making billiard tables, then met and married Jodi. They moved to Durango and have a great bed and breakfast. We’ve never met Jodi so we’re looking forward to their visit.

Charlie took a test on Saturday for his ham radio operator license and passed it, so he is really excited. My brother Rocky loaned him a radio until he can get his own.

On Sunday Michael needed more alfalfa bales, so Andrea loaded a couple on our feed truck when she was moving more bales around for our cows, and Lynn drove it up to the upper place, where Michael loaded on a couple big oat bales for Lynn to bring home for our cows. We’re mixing the oats and the alfalfa and it’s working very well for the cows.
Andrea also brought a little trailer load of hay bales around for the cows in pens by the barn.
That afternoon Andrea and I rode Breezy and Dottie again. This was Dottie’s third ride this spring and she’s starting to behave herself a little better.

I cooked a big dinner for everyone when Andrea got the kids home again from Mark that evening. Buffalo Girl (Em’s old pet cow) started calving so we put her in the barn after supper. She’s a very strange cow and even though she’s a good mother, the first few hours after she calves are a bit challenging. It’s as though her hormones are mixed up. She licks and roots her calf, bellows at it, and knocks it down when it tries to stand up. We have to be there to intervene, so she won’t hurt it. This is her 11th calf, and she does this every year. If we can keep her from injuring the calf, get him on his feet, and help him suckle, then everything is fine from then on. Once she actually starts nursing her calf, the hormones of motherhood kick in and she mellows out and behaves like a normal mama.

So Andrea, Dani and I sat in the next barn stall and watched the progress as she gave birth to her calf. She lay down tight against the back panel of the stall toward the end and we had to untie the panel and give her more room, which caused her to get up before the calf was fully born. So we just pulled him on out, and got him breathing. Buffalo Girl bellowed and rooted, but wasn’t as aggressive as last year. Andrea had to whop on her last year to protect the calf, and that old cow remembered. She backed off each time we had to reprimand her. After the calf got himself organized and was functional enough to try to stand up, we helped him to his feet. Dani brought the tub of alfalfa hay to distract and pacify the cow, while Andrea and I helped him to the udder and got him nursing. The old cow behaved herself and by the time the calf got full, everything was good and it was safe for us to leave them be. He’s red (all of her other calves have been black0, and here’s a photo of him (and a friend) a couple weeks later when he and mom were up in the field with the other cows and calves.
I continued watching the cows, and saw that Rocket (one of the first calf heifers) was in early labor, and more obviously calving by 3:30 a.m. but she didn’t progress. By daylight I put her in the side pen and did my chores (feeding the horses and heifers). She wasn’t progressing normally but finally about 8:30 she pushed out a water sac, but there were cotelydons on it (the red fleshy buttons that attach the placenta to the uterine lining), which meant the placenta was detaching. So we took her around to the headcatcher by the barn and Lynn reached in to see what was going on. The front feet were there, but back a ways, and the calf was a bit sideways. He couldn’t get the head coming.

Michael and Nick were coming down the creek on their way to a fencing job (Michael pulling the flatbed trailer loaded with materials, and Nick in his pickup), so they stopped to help us. Michael was able to push the calf back and get it coming straighter, and the legs pulled forward (they’d been hung up at the elbows) and finally got the calf pulled. It was alive—a little heifer. We got her breathing and took her around the corner into a pen, then let Rocket out of the headcatcher and gently herded her into the pen, and she immediately began licking and loving that baby.

Michael was very slimy by then, and Nick took him home to change clothes. I went to finish my morning chores, and Lynn went back around to the pen to check on the new baby. Rocket was lying down again, licking the calf lying down, and straining hard. It looked like she might be trying to have another calf. I went quietly into the pen, crept up behind her, and reached my hand in—and felt a big furry rump and a little tail. She was having another calf, but it was breech.

Michael and Nick had come back down to Michael’s truck and trailer by that time, so we flagged them down, and began round two. Rocket didn’t want to go back into the headcatch, but with 3 guys pushing on her, she went in. Then Michael had to try to push the calf back into the uterus far enough so he could manipulate each hind leg, one at a time, up over the cow’s pelvis and bring it backward. The young cow was straining so hard, pushing against him, that it was almost impossible. Nick and Robbie pushed her tail up over her back as hard as they could, to put some pressure on those nerves (which makes it more difficult for her to strain), and finally Michael was able to get both hind legs into the birth canal and then pull the calf. It was limp and dead, and had been dead for some time. It wasn’t full term; it had very short hair and wasn’t as fully developed as the other twin. So, we let Rocket out of the headcatch and she went back to the pen to finish licking her live baby. By that time Michael and Nick were really late to go work on their fencing job, so they just washed up a little and left. I took a photo of Rocket and her baby in the pen.
Early the next morning we had several more cows calving. When I looked out the window at 1:30 a.m. Buffalo Baby was calving, so Lynn and I went outside and put her in the side pen where we could see her more easily. While we were out there I heard a cow up in the orchard gently mooing so I hiked up there to find Rosalee in early labor. I brought her down and put her in the front pen. Rosalee calved very quickly and had a heifer calf at 3:25 a.m. Buffalo Baby calved soon after, at 3:35 a.m. but I had to rush out there and break the sac and clear the membranes and fluid away from its head, because the cow didn’t get up immediately. The calf was still encased in the sac and fluids and would have suffocated. It was a big heifer calf. The cow licked it for a few minutes then lay down to clean, and the calf was getting chilled. It was cold and windy. So I went back out and got the calf up, but she wasn’t able to get onto her mother’s big teats. That cow’s udder has gotten progressively worse over the years and she’s on the list to sell this fall! She still hadn’t nursed her calf by daylight.

Robbie took the kids to the school bus then helped me feed the cows. Rosalee and calf were doing great, but not Buffalo Baby’s calf, so we put the cow in the headcatch, tied a leg back so she couldn’t kick us, and I helped the calf suckle those big teats. Then Robbie went to help Michael and Nick on their fencing project.

That afternoon Merinina calved out in the horse pasture, right after lunch. After the calf had nursed, Lynn and I moved the pair to one of the pens by the barn, so the other cows wouldn’t bother them. She had a heifer also. We now have twice as many heifer calves as bull calves, just like last year, and only a few more cows left to calve.

The old horses, Veggie (age 30) and Rubbie (age 29) are finally shedding most of their winter hair and looking a little less shaggy. Veggie is doing pretty well in spite of bad teeth, and Rubbie is actually quite fat.

Today it’s raining again. The creek is really high, and Andrea caught up on her irrigating, moving some of the water and shutting down some of the ditches that are flooding the fields too much. Alfonzo had way too much water in one of his ditches that comes on down to our place, and it was starting to wash out the ditch bank.

Andrea went to town to pick up Sam from school and take her to the ER to have her elbow checked. She was doing cart wheels at school and landed wrong and heard something snap, and her elbow is really painful.  The doctor took an x-ray but couldn’t tell if it’s broken. He put it in a sling, and told her to come back in a week to have it checked again.

Lynn and I nailed up several poles and a board on the pen next to the field, to eliminate the wide spots where the heifers keep sticking their heads through the poles to try to check out the baby calves. One heifer got her head stuck this morning and couldn’t get loose until I went into that pen and spooked her enough to try harder to get out. We eliminated that possibility of happening again.

Lynn got the kids off the bus this afternoon and Dani helped me do chores—feeding the horses and heifers. This evening she helped me sort out a couple cows and two heifers that look like they could calve tonight, and put them in the pen in front of the house where they’ll be easy to watch. She really enjoys helping with the cattle. 

APRIL 27 – We had more rainy weather with a bit of snow last week. One of our heifers, Sugar Bear (a daughter of Cub Cake) started calving on a cold, snowy night so Andrea stayed here and watched her. When she went into serious labor we put her in the barn to calve. She finally had a bull calf, and Andrea gave a little pull on it at the end because the heifer got tired. She mothered it well, and it was up and suckling by the time it was 1 ½ hours old. Here’s a photo of that pair a week later, up in the field.
Lynn goes to town twice a week for physical therapy for his back. It helps his back, but then he usually does too much lifting or bending and makes it sore again!

Another young cow, Lilly Annie, started calving the next day and we ended up putting her in the barn to calve that evening because the weather was still very cold and windy. By the time Lilly Annie finally calved, Andrea stayed here on the couch to nap, and Dani was sleeping on the other couch. Lynn got up at 4 a.m. and looked out the window and noticed the young cows in the front pen were looking intently at Magrat in the side pen. She hadn’t been doing anything obvious when we all “crashed” at 2 a.m. but by 4 a.m. she’d calved. Andrea and Dani both got up to help us sled the new baby to the barn, since the weather outside was nasty/windy/cold. The heifer calf was black with a white star in her face, white feet, and white tip on her tail—a throwback to her great-great-great-great grandmother Baby Doll and to her grandmother Maggie (Dani’s favorite pet cow that we had to sell a couple years ago when she got old). So this heifer is named MagDoll and Dani hopes to make a pet of her. Here’s a photo of Dani with the calf, soon after it was born.
We helped the calf nurse (because Magrat’s teats are too long and low), then Andrea went home to go to bed. Dani went back to bed on the couch and I took one last look outside and noticed that our final heifer (first calver) was in labor. I got Dani up to help me, and we were able to put her in the barn to calve. I sent Dani back to bed and stayed up to watch the heifer because the calf’s feet that were emerging were huge. She finally got down to business and had the calf ok, but I gave a pull on it, too. It was a huge heifer calf. It’s nice to have all our first calf heifers safely calved out. There were only 3 cows left to calve, at that point.

The next day, Sunday, was a nice day (after a cold night) so Dani came down and rode Ed and I rode Dottie. The horses hadn’t been ridden for a week and were a little goofy but we had a good ride. Dani practiced using snaffle reins as well as the curb (she wants to learn how to ride English style as well as western), for the first time, and on our way home we found a nice white tail antler. Dani got off and got it and brought it home. Andrea was busy irrigating all afternoon. In spite of the cold nights, the grass is growing in the warmer afternoons and everything is looking green.

Dani helped me clean house a little, in anticipation of guests. On Monday Lynn went to town for physical therapy, and Andrea and I made a quick ride on Breezy and Dottie. When Dani got home from school she helped me with chores and we put several pairs out to the field and brought Rocket and her calf back in. Rocket still hadn’t cleaned, after having the twins, and is losing weight. She’s eating ok and doesn’t seem to be sick, but we brought her back to a pen by herself (below the barn) where we can pamper her with good feed and she doesn’t have to compete with the older cows.

On Thursday we tagged more calves and put those pairs up to the field with the other cows, and cleaned house. I made chili and corn bread and we had lunch when Walter and Jodi arrived. They drove partway here the day before, spent the night in Pocatello, and drove the rest of the way that morning. It was great to see Walter again (after nearly 16 years) and meet Jodi. We visited a bit then they went with Andrea to town (she had to go get Charlie, who missed the bus). Dani stopped here when Lynn got her and Sam off the bus, and helped me peel carrots and potatoes and do chores. I’d cooked a roast and we had dinner for everyone here that evening.

Friday morning Andrea took Sam to the doctor to have her elbow checked again and this time the x-rays showed both bones obviously broken, next to the growth plates. She was to continue wearing the sling, with lots of padding to keep the elbow immobile, until the bone doctor could look at it. Fast forward to today, and Sam’s appointment with that doctor. He ordered a hinged brace for it, which he will put on her elbow tomorrow.

Meanwhile, last Friday Walter and Jodi enjoyed helping us feed the cows and put Cupie Doll and her heifer calf out to the field. 
Jodi had been hoping to ride a horse while they were here, so Dani rode Ed, I rode Dottie, and we adjusted stirrups on Sam’s saddle for Jodi to ride Breezy. We had a really nice ride, making a big look over the low range, and Breezy did very nicely for Jodi. We were lucky to get that ride accomplished, because the weather got stormy again by late afternoon and then it rained the rest of the days of their visit! 
Friday evening was a bit hectic because Em’s car broke down on her way home from work. Andrea had to take the kids to Mark, and Robbie borrowed a car trailer and retrieved the car. We’d planned to have dinner at Andrea’s house (she made lasagna) but it got really late and Lynn and I just went to bed.

Saturday it rained all day. Andrea, Walter and Jodi helped feed cows. Then Andrea used the tractor to take new bales to the heifers and cows; Walter helped her while Jodi babysat the new batch of kittens that one of Andrea’s cats had (which Andrea rescued and brought in the house). Then they took Andrea’s car in to town for Em to drive until she gets her car fixed. We eventually had supper at Andrea’s house. Lynn and I drove up there in the rain on the 4-wheeler because her driveway was too slippery for our pickup, even with 4-wheel drive (the tires have no traction).

With all the rain the creek was very high (some of the snow on the mountains coming off) and our ditches were flooding. Sunday morning there was water coming down across the field where one of our hay feeders is, so we couldn’t get to it to put in new hay. Walter cooked a delicious brunch for all of us that day, and again we drove up there on the 4-wheeler. Then Andrea, Jodi and Walter helped Lynn put up an electric fence along the creek side of the field above the house, to keep the calves from sticking their heads through the elk panels (and getting stuck) and to keep them away from the ditch where they love to eat dirt and gravel.

Andrea, Walter and Jodi went to town that evening to pick up the kids from Mark, and I put Emerald (a second calver) in the calving pen. Since we wanted to make sure she calved ok, we ate dinner at our house that evening (so we could watch her, and because Jodi wanted to see a calf born). Andrea went up to her house and brought the food down and we had a pot luck. Emerald calved after dark, with her hind end pointed the wrong way for Jodi to get a very good view from the window. I ran out to make sure the sac was broken, and Andrea and I got the calf breathing, but had to fend off the mama because she was quite upset with us messing with her calf! It was a huge bull calf (twice as big as the little heifer she had last year) so it was a wonder she was able to have it so quickly and easily (only 15 minutes from the time the amnion sac came into view, until the time she delivered the calf).

That pen was muddy and wet, several deep puddles from the rain. The calf didn’t get up, so when he was 2 hours old Andrea and I went back out to get him up. He was big, clumsy and wobbly, flopping around and likely to end up in the mud puddles. So we got the calf sled and pulled him to the barn with mama following—so he’d have a clean dry place to get himself organized and get up and suckle.

The next morning the power went off while I was doing chores and watering the horses, so I had to wait and finish watering them later. Walter helped Andrea move hay around with the tractor before she went to town for her physical therapy. Her old graft contractures are still pulling her back and neck out of line, and the physical therapy is helping her a little. I cooked dinner for the whole crew again, and Emily and her boyfriend came out, too. Meanwhile we put Emerald and her calf out of the barn into one of the second day pens.
Yesterday Andrea, Walter and Jodi took the kids to school and then helped me with chores and feeding when they got back. Before they left to go back home to Colorado, Andrea took them for a drive up the creek, so Jodi could see the old cabin where Walter lived when he first came here. They drove on up the creek into the forest, so she could see the view looking down the whole valley.
Then they headed home, but hope to come back and visit us again in November.

Today the weather cleared up and we actually had sunshine. Andrea helped me feed the cows after she got back from taking Sam to the doctor to have her elbow checked (and will take her in again tomorrow for the hinged brace). We’re still waiting for our last cow (Maggeriete, nickname Shrek) to calve. She was our last one to calve last year, too, when she had Butterflybrow.

This afternoon when I checked on the calves and watered the cows, I took a few photos of some of the cows and calves, including Dani’s favorite calf MagDoll, and snapped a picture of Lynn waiting for me, sitting on some bales at my haystack, enjoying the afternoon sunshine.