Sunday, May 31, 2020

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - April 20 through May 12, 2020

APRIL 28 – We had freezing nights, but some warm days this past week, up to 60 degrees in the afternoon, so the grass is starting to grow fairly well. I brought Dottie out of her pen a few times and let her graze a little green grass while I brushed her. The horses are shedding their long winter hair. I trimmed Dottie’s front feet; they are quite long and I don’t want her tripping and stumbling when I start riding her again.

We are still waiting on one last heifer to calve, leaving her in the calving pen at night with that yardlight on so we can see her from the house. She’s become accustomed to living by herself and has become a lot more mellow and gentle.

On Wednesday Lynn went to Bohannon Creek to locate sites for a water well for a fellow from Montana who bought some property over there. Dani and her friend Jack went on a 4-hour hike up on the mountain behind Andrea’s house with and saw several herds of elk. She took a few photos, and sent me pictures of a pond up high on the mountain created by melting snow, and some snowbanks still intact. The view looking down toward the valley and our ranch was a long one!

pond on top of the mountain
pond from snow melt
snowbanks on mountain
That night I was wakened by cows bawling; the cows and calves in the field above our house were running and bellowing like they do when there’s a wolf amongst them, so I called Andrea. She was babysitting Christopher (Em was on night shift at the care center) and she sent Dani down. Dani brought her gun and a spotlight and drove her 4-wheeler up on the road above the field. The cows were still upset and bawling, milling around in a big circle. She couldn’t see any predators but shot a few times up into the hill to scare away anything that might have been lurking around the cows.

Thursday was cold and windy all day, with a little rain off and on. Michael and Carolyn made a trip to Montana to get another load of posts and poles, taking advantage of the cool weather; their truck’s air conditioning doesn’t work and it gets really hot inside on a warm day.

After the cows finished all the hay (big bales) in their feeders, we’ve been feeding them some little grass bales in those feeders and putting a little alfalfa on top of those bales. We’re hoping we won’t run out of hay before the pastures are ready to graze.

The cows and calves were running and bawling again early Saturday morning. Whatever predator was bothering them a few nights early must have come back again.

Sunday we babysat Christopher awhile, then at chore time Andrea and Emily hiked down here and Christopher walked around with us and enjoyed sitting by the gate while I watered the heifers. They were very curious about him—this tiny little human sitting in the grass and picking up rocks.

cows checking out Christopher
Christopher looking at the cows
Yesterday Dani and Andrea helped me put up an electric fence along the creek side of the pasture above the house where the cows and calves are—to keep them away from that fence, which is made of elk panels. Each spring when the grass starts growing, some of the calves try to reach through those panels to get at some green grass (since it’s all grazed short in their pasture) and can get their heads caught unless they are fenced away from that side.

Then Dani gathered raked up the fallen branches in the front yard and make several trips with the 4-wheeler and trailer to take them out to the brush pile at the end of the driveway. Andrea changed water then went to town for groceries. When she got back she realized that some of her water had flooded out stackyard. There isn’t much hay left there, but it was flooding our last little “stack” of alfalfa (two big bales). Lynn started the tractor and moved those bales out of the stackyard. He let the wet one drip for awhile on the loader, then set it on a couple big tractor tires to hopefully drip/drain and dry out a bit. Dani took pictures as he carefully got those bales out of the stackyard without getting stuck!
wet bale
rescuing wet bale
I trimmed Sprout’s feet; they had grown really long over winter. Then we went for a ride; Dani rode Ed, I rode Dottie for her first ride of the year, and Andrea rode Sprout. We made a short loop out over the low range, and Andrea took a photo when we were out on the bentonite hill overlooking Baker Creek.
Dani on Ed
On the way home Sprout tried to do some bucking and became very furious when Andrea wouldn’t let her buck. She’s usually quite ornery on her first rides after a long vacation. We didn’t ride her much at all last year, or the year before, because she injured her right front knee (developed a bone chip in the joint after bucking around in her pen that winter) and has been a little lame off and on. We may be able to ride her a little, however, if we give her “bute” (an anti-inflammatory) on days we ride, and put DMSO on her know to reduce the pain and inflammation after a ride.

Dani started working with Shiloh again, catching and brushing her, and picking up her feet. She hopes to start riding that mare again soon. Emily and Christopher stopped by and I took photos of Christopher sitting on his mama’s shoulders having a great time being the tallest guy around.
Christopher & his mom
When I did chores yesterday evening I walked through the cows and calves while I watered them, and noticed that my “crash cow” was very sick and miserable. This is the young cow that tried to run home when Andrea, Dani and I were taking the herd up to the 320 last October—and we had to try to outrun her and head her off before she got to the open gate—and Dottie tripped and somersaulted over me (for details of my crash, check that old blog for October).

That poor cow had a terrible bellyache and was a bit bloated; she was lying down, rolling around on the ground and kicking, like a horse with colic. I got her up to see how seriously bloated she was (not extreme—just general fullness rather than a huge, tight rumen full of gas). She staggered a short distance then lay down again to groan and roll around. So I came back to the house and called our vet and he suspected, as I did, that she had a blocked gut, and suggested we check her rectally and see if there was any feces at all in the rectum.

Dani helped me get the cow and calf in from the field and to the pen in front of the barn. Andrea came down by then and helped us put the cow in the headcatch. I put on an OB sleeve and reached into the rectum as far as my arm would go and there was no poop at all; the rectum was cavernously empty. So we gave the cow an injection of Banamine for the pain, and put a stomach tube in (via one nostril) and gave her some mineral oil along with a pint of castor oil—which is the best laxative because it stimulates the gut to move—and nearly 3 gallons of water.
Lynn holding tube
giving cow oil and water
Dani holding rope, Lynn holding tube, me holding funnel
the last of the oil & water going down the tube
It took a while for the oil to all run through our small-diameter nasogastric tube, and by the time we were about done the cow shit out a big pile of loose manure! That was a really good sign.

By then it was nearly dark. We put her and her calf in the second day pens, fed them some hay, and the cow immediately went to eating, feeling better, and quite hungry. I checked on her again after dark, and she was still comfortable, still eating.

There are no poison plants in that small pasture and it was a mystery why she might have a shut-down gut, unless maybe it got bruised. Panda has started hitting the cows with her horns again, ramming them in the belly, so she might be the reason for this problem. Years ago we had a cow with a bruised rumen (from being hit in the belly by a horned cow) and it took 2 days and lots of mineral oil to get things moving through her gut again.

This morning my crash cow had pooped a couple more piles of manure but hadn’t drunk any water. She was interested in some hay, however, and that was good. She did drink a little water later this afternoon.

Today granddaughter Heather in Canada sent us a photo of Joseph (who will be 3 years old tomorrow) sitting on one of their pregnant mares. He’s eager to start riding the horses again.
Joseph on one of his favorite horses

MAY 5 – My “crash cow” recovered rapidly after we gave her the oil and got her gut working again. We kept her and her calf in the small pen to monitor her for a couple more days but she had good appetite and continued to eat and drink, passing manure, and started chewing her cud again, so we knew she would be ok.

Dani and I made a longer ride on Ed and Dottie Thursday morning, then Dani worked with Shiloh, brushing her, cleaning her feet (and not letting Shiloh take her hind feet away, like she was doing earlier) and tied her up for a while. That evening Lynn and I called granddaughter Heather in Canada and sang Happy Birthday to young Joseph; he is now three years old.

I went out at dark to turn on the yard light by the calving pen, but the heifer wasn’t doing anything obvious. When I got up at 1 a.m. to look out the window and check on her, she was definitely calving. Andrea was babysitting Christopher (Em was working night shift again) so Dani came down and helped me put the heifer in the barn to calve, since the wind was blowing hard and it was starting to rain.

It’s times like this—a dark, stormy night, with rain beating on the barn’s tin roof—that we are glad we take time at the start of calving season to train all our heifers to go in the barn. This one had no cow to serve as a role model and “leader” for going in the barn, but she’d been in there 3 times before, to eat some nice alfalfa hay, so she went right in without any hesitation.

She’d been in active labor awhile; the calf’s feet were already coming out, and they were big. Dani and I sat in the barn (a couple stalls away, out of sight) to watch and make sure everything would be ok, and Andrea came down (leaving Christopher asleep) in case we needed help. The heifer had the calf ok at 1:30 a.m., but he was gasping for breath and still caught at the hips, so Dani scrambled quickly over the stall partition and pulled the calf on out and got him breathing. He was a little slow to start breathing, and may have been without oxygen a bit too long because his eyes were rolled back and seemed a bit funny.

At any rate, the calf was alive, and the young mama loved him, licking on him while Dani was getting him breathing. Dani went home to wash up and be with Christopher and Andrea stayed awhile in case we needed to help the calf nurse. We went out to the barn to check on him and he hadn’t gotten up yet, so we gave him more time and went back out again at 2:30. By then he was up and blundering around, with his eyes still rolled up like he was staring at the ceiling. We hoped he wasn’t blind. It was raining hard and the wind was howling; the barn was creaking and rain rattling on the roof. The young cow was nervous and the calf wasn’t making much progress at finding the udder and we realized it might be a bit difficult to help him because his mama didn’t want to stand still. I had one packet of substitute dried colostrum and we mixed it up and fed it to him with a bottle. At least he wasn’t too retarded; he drank the bottle just fine.

So we left him and mama to bond and figure things out—but at least he had a tummy full of food to give him strength to try to nurse later. We finally got to bed at 4 a.m. I got up at 6 and went out to do chores, and checked on the calf. He was up and about but hadn’t nursed his mom yet.

After breakfast Andrea and Dani came down and we were prepared to put the cow in the headcatch (to restrain her while we helped the calf nurse) but by that time when we peeked in the barn door, he had actually found the udder and was smacking away on one teat. So we didn’t have to help him after all.

We got another big bale for the heifer feeder, then Dani and I fed the cows while Andrea irrigated. It was rainy and windy off and on all day. We left the young mama and baby in the barn. Also, we realized that even though he wasn’t blind, he was a bit impaired and needed a little extra time in that small familiar place before going out in the big wide world. He was still only suckling one teat and hadn’t figured out the others.

It rained really hard, with strong winds, that night, so we were glad he was still in the barn. The wind blew down part of a willow tree in our driveway by the bridge. Stan drove here from California that day and got here that evening.

Friday it didn’t rain so we were able to put the new calf and mama out of the barn. He was still only sucking one teat, which was barely enough to keep him going. Since he was such a “special needs child” we didn’t put him in a very large area, so he would have a better chance of him and mom keeping track of each other; we left them in the small grassy pen in front of the barn. The sunlight and bigger area (than the barn stall) would do him good; he was actually trying to buck around a little, even though he was not very strong.

Stan sawed down the big willow that blew down in the driveway by the bridge and hauled it off, and helped Andrea load the feed truck again with small bales, and we fed the cows. Lynn had another call for water location for a well up Carmen Creek. That afternoon Stan welded and fixed the round bale feeder that the bulls destroyed; it will be great to have it functional again.

Dani and a friend took the dogs for another hike in the hills behind Andrea’s house and she took a picture of the old homestead cabin over on that neighboring range.
Old homestead cabin
Saturday morning when I did chores I was delighted to see that the little calf (that Dani named Stormy, because he was born during such a horrendous rain/wind storm) was finally nursing two teats! This will give him twice as much nutrition and energy and maybe eventually he’ll figure out that there are a couple more on the other side.

Dani worked with Shiloh again, brushing her and cleaning her feet, and riding her around bareback and letting her graze a bit.
Dani letting Shiloh graze
Then she cleaned out our porch/tack room and got everything organized—and made name tags above each hook on the wall for the bridles/halters for each horse. Lynn took the tractor up to Andrea’s house and moved the cement sacks out of the meat house that she and Stan built last fall, so they could organize it; Stan made shelves for that room and for her other shed, for more efficient storage. They stacked the cement bags on a pallet and covered them with a tarp just before it rained. Eventually Stan will help Andrea pour part of the future concrete floor for the meat room.

Sunday was rainy, so I put Stormy and his mama back in the barn until it quit raining. In his compromised situation we don’t want him to get wet and cold. Even so, he was getting pneumonia. His respiration rate was very high so I took his temperature and it was 103.5 degrees. Normal for a calf is about 101.5 degrees. So I gave him a shot of antibiotic and a small dose of Banamine, a drug that is helpful for respiratory illness as an anti-inflammatory and fever reducer/painkiller. By evening he was feeling better, breathing normally, and nursing his mom a little more.

After it quit raining Dani and a friend took the dogs for another hike up the mountain and she took more photos.
view from the top of the mountain behind Andrea's house
Yesterday was nicer weather even though the morning started cold and we built a fire in the wood stove and plugged in the tractor to make sure it would start—to take the last two round bales to the cows, and a new bale to the heifers. We still have a few round bales of alfalfa for the heifers but no more big bales for the cows or bulls.

Stan sawed up some of the larger “trees” in the brush pile that Nick and Michael left after clearing out brush to rejuvenate the old fence between our upper field and the Gooch place, and hauled those pieces down here for firewood. Lynn used the tractor to push the rest of the brush pile down toward the creek and off the hayfield, where it won’t be in the way of irrigating and growing grass. It will just make more windbreak for the cows in the winter.

Dani and her friend are trying to get in better shape and made another hike up the mountain, and her friend took these photos of Dani.
Dani on the mountain
This morning was cold again (27 degrees) but it warmed up by afternoon. Stormy is doing better, stronger and livelier, so we put him and his mom in the bigger pen below the barn and he was happy to have lots of room to run around.

Lynn pulled our old manure spreader up to Andrea’s house with the tractor, so Stan could work on it. It had some major mechanical problems when we got it from Lynn’s brother years ago, and never were able to fix it enough to use it, so Stan took on the challenge of trying to repair it.

Dani came down here at noon and she and I went for a ride—Dottie’s 3rd ride of the year and Shiloh’s first. We made a longer loop around the low range, riding for more than an hour, and Shiloh did very well for Dani. She didn’t even spook too much when a deer leaped out of the tall sagebrush right beside her when we were going up the old “Indian Trail” this side of Baker Creek.

With the feed truck empty (all the hay fed off it, and some brush hauled off with it) Lynn drove it up to the upper place and Carolyn loaded a big grass bale for him to bring down for the bulls. Michael earlier hauled some big bales from a ranch across the valley but will have some left over because their cows are not eating it very well now that the grass is starting to grow. This is year-old hay that got rained on and some of it is moldy, but it’s better than no hay. The bulls will eat it even if they don’t like it, because there’s no grass in their corral. We can mix it with a little alfalfa (we saved one of the last big bales of alfalfa for the bulls) to augment the protein and nutrition lacking in the old grass hay.

MAY 12 – Last week we had several cold, windy days and some rain. By Wednesday little Stormy was finally nursing all four teats and doing better. We went ahead and tagged him and banded him, and the next morning put him and his mama up with the rest of the herd in the field above the house. I took a photo of him and his mama leaving the pen, and up in the field heading out with the other cows, and some of the cows & calves at one of the bale feeders.
Stormy & his mama leaving the pen
Stormy & mama up in the field
cows & calves in field
We loaded the feed truck again (our last big square alfalfa bale, and a lot of little bales) and will feed the cows little bales and a small amount of alfalfa daily until we run out of hay. Thursday we started to get everything ready for branding. Dani and one of her friends got all the stuff out of the front stall in the old sick barn (motorcycle, tires, boards, other things that were stored in there), since that’s where we pen the calves for branding. Then they moved the extra corral poles and pole ends out of the alley by the chute (where Nick put up new poles and had a few left over).

Friday I cooked a big pot of chili and got our syringes and equipment ready for branding. Stan and Andrea were tending Christopher that afternoon so they brought him on the 4-wheeler with them, and Stan took him for a 4-wheeler ride up the road a couple miles while Andrea helped Lynn and me take a new big bale to the heifers. Then Christopher walked around the barnyard with us.
Christopher in the driveway
Christopher exploring
Christopher & great-grandpa Lynn
Then we all hiked up past my haystack to the field to look as the cows and calves. Some of the calves came to the gate to see us.
calves by the gate
Christopher had a lot of fun picking up rocks and checking on everything. Emily got home from town and hiked around with us. I took photos of her and Christopher checking on some pretty rocks, Christopher examining a rock with grandma Andrea, and Christopher sitting in the grass.
Christopher checking out some rocks
Christopher with grandma Andrea
assessing the grass
Then Lynn strung out several hoses to reach from the house to the sick barn, and sprayed the old churned up bedding in that stall, to settle the dust. We didn’t want it dusty for the calves in there, the next day for branding.

Saturday was a good day—a little windy in the morning, but no rain—and perfect for working the cows. It was a bit cool that morning so I plugged in the tractor when I went out to do chores at 6 a.m. just to make sure it would start a couple hours later. Dani and Stan came down at 8 a.m. to help me get the heifers in and take them around to the corral, and Lynn drove the tractor into the corral so we could use the loader (up high) to tie their heads up for putting in brisket tags.

Andrea stayed home with Christopher until Emily got home from her night shift at the care center, then came down to help us, and Dani’s friend Jack drove out from town to help also. We had everything ready by the time Michael and Carolyn came down at 9 a.m. to help us vaccinate, delouse and tag the heifers.

Dani and Andrea pushed them into the chute, Michael caught their heads and put a halter on, Carolyn gave 2 of the shots and I gave the other while Michael tied their heads up (to a rope hooked to the tractor loader) to give access to their dewlap skin. Stan and Jack ran the squeeze, then helped hold the halter rope at the proper angle for Michael.
Micheal put halter on to pull their heads forward
Michael pulling rope tight
Jack & Stan holding rope higher
He punched a hole in the dewlap skin with the tag punch, inserted the hasp for the tag and installed the tags.
Micheal punching hole in dewlap skin
Michael punching hole
putting the tag on the hasp
This is their permanent number as cows, for the rest of their lives. We also deloused/dewormed the heifers with a pour-on product that works systemically against internal and external parasites.
tag installed
After we finished with the heifers we put them back to their pen below the lane, and ran the bulls in for their vaccinations and deworming/delousing. We were glad Michael was doing the head-catch because those bulls are so big and strong that they can push through and on out of the chute unless someone is really strong and quick at catching their heads.

Then Michael and Carolyn headed home to irrigate and get all their chores done and we continued with the rest of our cattle working. We brought the cows and calves in from the field above the house and took them to the lane to the corral where we could sort the cows into the corral and held back the calves. One calf darted past the gate person and out the gate, and Dani tried to tackle the calf—but ended up crashing onto the ground and bruising her ribs on some rocks. We took most of the cows on through that corral to the round corral, so we didn’t have such a mob of cows to contend with, to make it easier to get the wayward calf. We took it and its mama back to the sorting lane and were finally able to get the cow back out, and the calf sorted back to put in the sick barn with all the other calves.

It didn’t take long to put the cows through the chute and give them their vaccinations, then we branded and vaccinated the calves. Dani and Jack brought them in small groups out of the sick barn and into the little pen by the calf table, and Dani pushed each one into the calf table.
Dani getting a group of calves out of the barn & into the alleyway
Dani putting calf in toward calf table
Dani getting ready to put calf in table
I caught each calf’s head, Stan tipped the table, I vaccinated them, Lynn clipped them, and Stan held the tail firmly upward to keep them from struggling as Andrea branded them.
Lynn clipping
Stan holding tail
Andrea branding while Stan holds tail
Dani took a couple of photos also, from her vantage point behind the calf table.
branding crew
ready to brand the calf
When we got done branding we put the calves back with their mothers in the corral for a short time while Andrea, Jack, Dani and I took the feed truck out to their pastures and put hay in their feeders. Then we took the cows and calves back out there and they were glad to be back out of the corral.

I fed the crew lunch—the big pot of chili and a fruit salad and jello salad. It was nice to have an instantly available lunch when we were tired and hungry!

Later that afternoon Emily took Christopher for a “stroll” in his 3-wheeler stroller and came down to our house and I took photos of him.
Em & Christopher out for a stroll
Then they strolled a mile down the road and over the hill onto the low range. On the way home Christopher got tired and took a nap. On their way through the barnyard he’d dropped his white toy kitty cat and Emily didn’t see him toss it out of the stroller, but Lynn found it when he went to put the tractor back in its parking place. At first glance Lynn thought it was a dead rabbit. He rescued the critter and gave it back to Christopher on their way back home. It was a nice stuffed toy—one that was given to Emily when she was a baby.

Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent us photos of three of her mares that recently foaled, with their new babies.
new baby
young foal
new foal
Yesterday Stan left early to drive to Albuquerque New Mexico where he has a job for several weeks running a shower station during the coronavirus situation.

The rest of us rested up from the branding efforts, except for feeding the cows and irrigating. Andrea cooked a big dinner that evening and we all went up to her house to celebrate Mother’s Day; Sam and Charlie came out for the evening (they’ve been staying out at their dad’s place) and Charlie helped us load the feed truck again with little bales before we went up to Andrea’s place for supper.

It was fun seeing Sam and Charlie, and playing with Christopher. I took photos of Christopher greeting us as we came in the house, and having fun with his Auntie Sam, and having supper with us.
Christopher & Em
Christopher & Auntie Sam
Later while we visited, he was dancing to music while watching one of his favorite movies on TV, and I took photos of him watching his movie and dancing.
Christopher watching his movie
Christopher dancing to the music
Before we left to come home, took photos of Andrea and her four kids
Andrea's kids
Andrea & kids
Then Andrea took a photo of Lynn and me with our 4 grandkids. They have all outgrown us old folks!
old folks & grandkids