Thursday, September 15, 2011

Early Winter 2008 (November-December)

One morning in mid-November another weaned steer was dull and off feed, with a snotty nose, so we brought him into the pen by the barn and gave him an antibiotic. He was doing much better by the next day, and grazing again. I think the changeable weather was a stress, making the calves more vulnerable to respiratory infections.
Andrea took Emily to her hockey games in Montana that weekend, and we kept the 3 younger children. On Friday we took the 2 little girls to their dance class, and Charlie to hockey practice. The kids enjoyed helping me do chores each evening, feeding Boomerang (the crippled calf) and playing with the cats.

Charlie went with Lynn to the upper place to move protein tubs from gopher meadow to the upper field where the cows are still finding some grass. We were hoping to make the grazing stretch for another week or more before we bring those cows home.
The next day one of our neighbors came to help Lynn butcher Boomerang. The calf was only 7 months old but his limb deformities were making it harder for him to get up and walk around. In spite of his young age and gangly stature (not much bulk) he was heavier than we thought. His carcass weighed about 600 pounds and had more meat on it than we realized. It was interesting to see how deformed his ribcage was; the left side—at the front--had a large area in which the ribs were protruding inward toward the center of his body. It’s no wonder he had trouble with that front leg and had a hard time walking. We knew his leg bones were abnormal and that his ribs stuck out too far at the rear but we didn’t realize his ribcage was so deformed internally.

Thanksgiving morning I rode Veggie to the upper place and we gathered our cows to bring them down to the lower fields. They followed Lynn (with the feed truck) and I followed the herd. The cows were glad for better pasture. That afternoon we went to Andrea’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

Michael and Carolyn were trying to stretch their pasture as far as possible, hoping to not feed hay until January. Hay cost more than $200 per ton, delivered. The price was coming down a little, thanks to a drop in fuel prices, but still too high--especially with the severe drop in cattle prices. It never works to feed high dollar hay to cheap cattle. Even though cows weren’t worth much that fall, Michael and Carolyn decided to pare their herd down to what their hay supply would accommodate for the winter. They sold a few more of their older cows.
They also decided not to lease any of our cows. They’d leased some that past year, but we pastured those cows all summer and fall. Michael and Carolyn still had 6 of our pregnant heifers. They planned to get those back to us before calving season, as soon as they had a chance to sort them out of their herd.
We had several inches of snow December 3, but it melted, then another couple inches. We tried out some steaks from the butchered calf and they are very tender and delicious. He was worth the extra bother of raising him on a bottle.

Lynn and I hiked around the lower fence between our pasture and the big lower fields where Michael and Carolyn will be putting their cows, since we knew there were bad spots in the fence that needed fixed. Lynn put 2 more wires along the lower end where the old fence is low and sagging, and spliced a spot where hunters had taken the wire apart to make a big hole for deer to go through. The hole was big enough for cows to go through. There were several other places that I was able to patch with tree branches laced through the wires. Lynn set 4 steel posts in another spot where a bull crashed through the fence earlier this fall and broke off the wood posts.
After it snowed, Michael and Carolyn started feeding the 150 cows on the Gooch place, feeding one big round bale (alfalfa) each day until they could get them moved to the lower place. Their most urgent task after the snowstorm was to move another herd of cows out of their leased place on Sandy Creek. Later they moved their cattle down to the lower fields.
Lynn drove to town to pick up Andrea’s 3 youngest children who stayed with another weekend. Andrea left late that night with Emily (after Em’s hockey practice) to drive to Idaho Falls for Em’s hockey tournament. This was her third season playing hockey and she was really enjoying it. Charlie, Dani and Samantha had fun with Grandma and Grandpa and decorated our little Christmas tree. We started a fire in the living room stove; the temperature was dropping below zero.

We had cold weather for awhile, down to 12 below zero with a nasty wind (making the temperature equivalent to about 30 below zero). Lynn covered our old well more thoroughly to make sure the water pipes in the bathroom didn’t freeze. The old hand dug well is right next to the house and we don’t use it anymore, but it creates an air space next to the bathroom. While Andrea and Emily were at the hockey tournament in Idaho Falls, Lynn drove to town several times to keep the fire going in Andrea’s stove at her house, to make sure her pipes didn’t freeze.
We put more protein tubs out for the cows, and for the 12 weaned heifers below the lane; they were still grazing in spite of the snow and we didn’t want to feed hay yet. Even though the short green feed is deeply snow covered, the cattle are eating the old tall grass on the hillsides and along the ditchbanks, thanks to the protein supplement—which was less expensive than hay.
Just before Christmas we had good luck and got 5 of our 6 pregnant heifers sorted out of Michael’s herd on the lower place. When they put 150 of their cows on the lower place, their 40 heifers and our 6 heifers were part of that group and we were trying to figure out the easiest way to get them home.
When I was feeding my horses one evening, I saw some cows coming up through the small field between the lower place and our field. That small field wasn’t supposed to have any cattle in it, so I realized the gate between it and the lower place must be open. Lynn and I were about to hike down and chase them back, and then realized they were heifers and one of them was ours. A few more were coming; part of the herd was finding the open gate and coming up through the little field toward our place.
We saw several more of our heifers near the front of the group. So we opened the gate into our field and Lynn guarded it (so our 12 weaned heifers wouldn’t get out) as I carefully sorted our heifers one by one around the corner and through the gate. Our heifers, being gentle and tame, and remembering us from when we fed them a year earlier as weanlings, were easy to sort out of that big herd of cows—which speaks highly of their intelligence, memory and trust, since they hadn’t seen us for almost a year. There were only 5 of them in that group, however. The 6th was probably down farther on the lower place with the rest of the cattle. We got our 5 sorted out and herded the 45 extra cows back down through the small field and out the gate they’d come through, and shut the gate.
We kept watching for the other heifer every time we drove by the lower place, but didn’t see her until a week later. Lynn was driving out our lane to go up the creek and deliver Christmas gifts to neighbors when he noticed 2 young cows near the gate, away from the main herd. One of them was our heifer and the other was a 3-year-old cow we sold a couple years earlier to Michael and Carolyn—and she had been in the group that came into that field a few days before, so she knew about the gate. Lynn slowly and quietly opened the gate without startling the cows, and got the 3year old through the gate, and then the heifer saw the open gate and followed her. He locked them in that little field and came to get me.
We fed some hay to our group, to help keep them happy on our side of the fence and also to attract the heifer and her friend. They came hiking toward the gate when they heard the feed truck. The difficult part was getting the timid heifer through the gate without the cow, but we managed to do it, then took the cow back down to join her herd on the lower place. So all our heifers were safely home again!
Our cows ran out of pasture a few days later, so we moved them to another field. Lynn called them and they followed him out of the pasture, through the barnyard, and out through another pasture to a field they hadn’t grazed yet. Our cows are very trusting and will follow us anywhere, knowing we are taking them to a new pasture

The end of December, a deer was killed right above our house by a cougar, in the midst of our cows. This was the 3rd cougar kill on our creek in 2 weeks. The other 2 deer were right next to our neighbor’s house above us. We hoped the cougar wouldn’t start killing cattle; Michael and Carolyn lost 2 calves to a cougar a few years earlier.
Lynn plowed all the neighbors’ driveways again, and plowed a better trail up to the haystack, to make it easier to load hay. Michael and Carolyn took their cows down to the Maurer place for winter feeding and calving. We were glad we got our heifers—saving the effort of sorting them out down there and hauling them home. It snowed for several days so we had to start feeding hay; the grass was all snowed under.

Our friends Pete and Bev Wiebe from Kelowna, BC arrived, and stayed 2 days on their way south to help with a mission project in southern California, rebuilding several homes that burned in the brush fires that summer. Pete and Bev are the ones who helped make it possible for Andrea and me to go to the World Burn Congress. Pete is a burn survivor, and we got acquainted in 2000 after Andrea’s accident, when he wrote to us to give encouragement. We have been very grateful for their friendship, and enjoyed their visit in our home.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fall 2008

SEPTEMBER 2008 – That fall was cold, freezing hard every night. Andrea and a friend helped us get more firewood. I was working on a revision/update for my book STOREY’S GUIDE TO RAISING BEEF CATTLE. My publisher (Storey) likes to periodically update their books, and since it had been 10 years since this book was published, they wanted a new edition. I also received page proofs for my next book (CATTLE HEALTH CARE) to check over.
One Saturday Emily rode with me for 4 hours to check the water troughs we fixed the week before—the ones that had been vandalized. The big trough in Baker Creek was still working (the elbow I’d put back together and the clamps on the pipe ends were still holding), and the one at the head of Baker Creek was still okay. The twines I’d wrapped tightly around the slashed pipe elbow were still there and very little water was leaking through. But one of the other troughs was empty; the pipes I put together were apart again, probably because I hadn’t been able to get the clamps tight enough using my pocketknife to turn them. This time I had a screwdriver and was able to fix it better. We discovered that another trough had been sabotaged, with a hole jabbed in the upright plastic pipe. All the water was leaking out the hole instead of going into the trough. I patched it by forcing a stick into the hole to create a plug.

The next day we moved our cows to a new pasture on the upper place, so they wouldn’t be adjacent to the range cows drifting home along our fence. We didn’t want our bull fighting other bulls through the fence or getting out on the range. Michael and Carolyn vaccinated one group of their cows--the ones that summered on their leased places at 17 Mile and Sandy Creek.
Then they rounded up their cattle off our range, and were short a couple pairs. Those may have gone into the neighbor’s range while the gates were open earlier in the fall. The next day we had a hard rain, the first really good rain that fall. Michael and Carolyn rode all day in the rain, moving their Sandy Creek cows.
OCTOBER - Emily rode with me again to gather our cattle off the upper place and bring them down here to the fields, to put with our smaller group.

On the way through the corral we sorted off Michael and Carolyn’s bull that was with our cows all summer, and took him down through the barnyard and pasture to put him with their other bull on the lower place. He threatened to charge at our horses, and at Lynn—who was on foot opening gates. Right after we got the bull through the gate, Lynn stumbled onto a ground nest of yellow jackets and they flew around his head stinging him. One stung Emily on the ear. We left the bull and came back to the house to put antihistamine ointment on Em’s painful swollen ear, and Lynn’s stings, and I gave Em some Benadryl tablets to counteract the reaction and swelling.
The bull, meanwhile, crashed back through the fence into our field. Since he was too dangerous to handle, we left him alone, but we opened all the gates into our lane and holding pen. By the next morning he’d come into the pen, bellowing at our bull in the corral. Lynn carefully and quietly slipped behind him and shut the gate. The bull was still on the fight and dangerous.
We talked to Michael and Carolyn and offered to buy the bull and butcher him. We were afraid he might hurt anyone trying to load him in a trailer to send to market. They decided to trade him for the 4-wheeler of ours they used all summer to irrigate.
In early October I moved some of my hay bales around by the gray horses’ pen, and left some hay near Breezy’s pen, enough for a week—to make it easier for Lynn to do my feeding chores quickly and easily while he took care of Andrea’s 4 children here. Andrea and I went to the World Burn Congress in Raleigh, North Carolina.
This is an annual gathering of burn survivors, family members/caregivers, hosted by the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and that year it was held in North Carolina. Ever since Andrea’s burn injuries 8 years earlier, we’d wanted to attend one of these conferences, but never felt we could afford the time and expense. That fall, however, our good friends in Canada, Pete and Bev Wiebe, insisted that we should go. Pete is a burn survivor who wrote to us after Andrea’s accident, to encourage us. We became acquainted with him through many letters and finally met him and his wife in January 2008 when they stopped here at the ranch on a trip south.
Pete and Bev attended the World Burn Conference in 2007 in Vancouver, BC. They also attended the Canadian burn conference during the summer of 2008. After these experiences they felt Andrea and I should go to the next one. He and his wife encouraged us and helped make it possible. These friends paid our registration fees and informed us that the Phoenix Society often helps with expenses of first-time attendees who can’t afford transportation and hotel fees. So, with their help and encouragement, we were able to do this.
Andrea and I flew to North Carolina on September 30 (we drove to Missoula, Montana early that morning, then flew to Minneapolis and then on to Raleigh). The WBC was awesome. There were more than 700 people attending (burn survivors, family members, caregivers), with about 300 first-timers like us. It was an adventure, flying to NC (Andrea’s first time on a big airplane instead of a life flight!), and fun for us to be doing something together. But the most wonderful part was the 4 days of intense inspiration—meeting other burn survivors and their families/caregivers and hearing their stories, being part of the sharing. The love and energy arising from something like this is fantastic, as beautiful people (wearing outer scars—and some with missing fingers, limbs or without facial features--but beauty shining forth from inside) gently and compassionately helped those who were still struggling with extreme mental and emotional pain as well as physical pain. To be a part of this was truly wonderful, re-affirming our resolve to spend the rest of our lives helping other burn survivors and their families. While we were there, another burn survivor took our photos (she was taking photos of all the attendees) and sent us copies afterward.

Andrea really appreciated being able to participate in this conference. It was so special for her; she spent every possible moment meeting and connecting with other burn survivors, encouraging the ones who are not as far along as she is, and drawing strength from some who have overcome horrendous challenges to become the emotionally strong and inspirational people (in spite of continuing handicaps) they are today. It was an intense time of sharing—the ones who were farther along on their journey (life after a burn) encouraging the ones still struggling to cope with the physical and mental pain/trauma of a serious and life-changing burn injury. Andrea was somewhere in the middle, far enough along to be an inspiration to some who were still struggling, and inspired by those who were farther along in their journey. It renewed her desire to help others and this is something we both will be doing for the rest of our lives. Andrea hopes to do more with burn survivors; someday she’d like to help with the summer burn camps (for children).
We continue to cherish this experience at the WBC and have kept in touch with many of the new friends we met. We hope to attend another conference sometime in the future. Some attendees keep going back year after year because it gives them such a re-charge for living. There’s nothing quite like sharing experiences and helping other people, to help you through your own challenges—giving you strength when fighting your own dragons. Helping someone else is extremely therapeutic! We shall carry this experience in our hearts forever; it shall color our emotions and relationships and hopefully help continue to make us more loving and compassionate human beings. After getting home again, it took awhile to madly try to catch up from 6 days being gone (and Lynn was glad to have us home again, after taking care of Andrea’s 4 little kids). He was worn out, but managed fine with the kids, getting them to school, kindergarten, Head Start and their various activities. Emily helped with the younger kids, assisting with their homework and getting them ready for school. It was an exhausting week for all of us, but we were so glad we did this.
That same week, Michael finished baling the last of his hay and got it hauled, just before a big snowstorm. We put Boomerang, our crippled calf, in the barn. We moved our cows to a new pasture, and discovered 2 cows and a calf were missing. They’d gone under the fence by the ditch and into another field, so we rounded them up. We weaned the calves, hoping the stress of bad weather wouldn’t cause illness, but they all came through it just fine.

Michael and Carolyn weaned most of their calves during October, but had problems with fences. Something spooked a big bunch of calves in their weaning corral at the Maurer place and the calves crashed through one side of the corral and got back with their mothers. Nick helped Michael fix the fence, and they had to sort off those calves again. They hauled the cows to one of their other leased places, on Sandy Creek, to get the cows farther away.
We butchered the ornery 3-year-old bull (the one we traded our 4-wheeler for, from Michael and Carolyn). He is very tasty, and much nicer in the freezer than on the hoof threatening people!
We put our weaned heifers in the little field above the house, hoping the grass wouldn’t snow under. We were short on hay and hoping to stretch our pastures as far as possible that fall. We bought a ton of protein supplement (in lick tubs) and took some to the upper place for our cows, hoping this would help them utilize the rough dry feed and encourage them to continue to graze. The protein supplied what was lacking in the dry grass. There was enough old dry grass to last several weeks, and the protein supplement was a lot cheaper than hay. Very plain, low quality hay was costing about $200 per ton to haul in. Good quality alfalfa was even more expensive.

Michael and Carolyn fenced some of their stackyards on their leased places, where cows had been crawling into the haystacks. They took 6 metal gate panels from the sick barn and our makeshift fence in the back yard (where Boomerang, the crippled calf, was living earlier in the summer) to make a quick fix on their stackyards.
One evening Rishira’s big steer (Sher Kahn) was lame and lying down in a corner of the weaning pen. I made him get up and noticed that his right hind foot was sore; he didn’t want to put any weight on it. We decided to treat him for foot rot. By morning he was not only lame, but very dull and not eating, and staggering when we brought him around by the barn to put him into the headcatcher. We gave him antibiotics, and a shot of Banamine to ease his pain and fever, and left him in the pen by himself with hay and water. By mid morning he was feeling well enough to start chewing his cud, and by noon was picking at the hay, feeling better after the shot of Banamine. By the next morning he was dull again and not eating or drinking, and very constipated, so we gave him more Banamine, and force-fed him several gallons of water (with electrolyte salts), a quart of mineral oil, and some molasses to give him energy. This helped, and the next morning he was up and eating again, and passing manure.
That evening the weather got worse, so we opened the barn doors so the sick steer could go in to get out of the rain. We had rain for 2 days and he spent most of his time in the barn. After the weather improved he was well enough to go back out to the pasture with his buddies.
Michael and Carolyn found their last missing pair—a cow and calf that went to the neighboring range during the summer and showed up with the neighbor’s cows.
Andrea’s youngest girl, Danielle, had her 4th birthday on November 4, and we had a little party for her at Andrea’s house downtown.
We had very cold weather after the rain. Lynn took more protein to the cows on the upper place. Michael and Carolyn hauled 100 more cows to the Gooch place from Maurers, making 5 trips with 2 trailers. There was enough grass there to last several weeks if it didn’t snow under.

Nick and Heather both went to the state track meet and did well. Nick placed first in his 5000-meter race, and Heather placed 5th in hers. The next weekend Nick was invited to the Junior Olympics in Boise and placed 12th in his cross-country race. He qualified again for the invitational track meet in Australia next year, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to try to raise the money again to go.
Michael and Carolyn shipped 3 semi loads of calves in mid November. The steers went to a feedlot in Colorado and the heifers went to a buyer here in Idaho who bought their heifers the past several years. With the dramatic drop in cattle prices that fall, some contractors were backing out on their contracts, so we were relieved that the buyers of Michael and Carolyn’s calves still honored their contracts.