Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spring 2009
LATE MARCH 2009 – We had a lot of windy, cold weather and some of the cows got sore, chapped teats (when wet from nursing). Freddy’s teats got so sore she wouldn’t let her calf nurse. We noticed her traveling around the field with Freddy George following, trying to nurse, but she wouldn’t stand still. If he tried to latch on, she’d kick him. So we brought them in from the field and put them in a pen by the barn. Lynn and I carried 2 metal panels around from the back yard (where we used them the year before, to make a shelter for Boomerang) and created a small pen at one end for Freddy and Freddy George. In this small area the cow couldn’t travel and the calf was able to catch up with her and eventually get his dinner, in spite of being kicked.
Several more cows calved, and weather was too nasty to let them calve outdoors. We used Buffalo Girl to lead a couple of the young cows into the barn (cows that had never been in there before). The young calves in the field learned how to use the calf houses, to get out of the blizzards.

That week, wolves killed 4 of our neighbor’s calves. The Fish and Game flew an aerial search, but didn’t find them; wolves came down from our cattle range at night and into the fields, then traveled 3 miles back up the mountain into the timber during the day, where they could hide. They also hide under large sagebrush when they hear an airplane.
Lilly Ann calved in the middle of the night in the maternity pen, between checks. Her calf would have been chilled if he’d stayed out there very long, but the yearling bull in a nearby pen awakened me by his bellowing (perhaps he smelled the birth fluids). Lynn and I took the calf to the barn in the sled, with Lilly Ann following.
Freddy’s teats were still cracked but healing, and she was no longer kicking Freddy George, but he developed a new problem. When I went to the barn to check on a calving cow I noticed him getting up and down and kicking his belly. This type of gut pain is indicative of severe intestinal infection that can kill a calf quickly.
There’s no vaccine to protect against this type of bacterial toxin. But we can save these calves if we treat them before they go into shock. We immediately give castor oil (to stimulate the shut-down gut to move again) and oral neomycin sulfate solution (a good antibiotic for GI tract infections). We used a stomach tube to give Freddy George the castor oil and neomycin and within a few hours he felt better. The next day we had another case. We brought Drosophala and calf (Melanagaster) down from the field and tubed that calf with castor oil and antibiotic. We seem to have more of these problems during wet weather—maybe because the calves drink out of mud puddles.
Grandson Charlie’s black cat, Shade, liked to ride in the jeep when we feed the cows, and sometimes climbed in and out of the cab through the window as I drove. He could never make up his mind whether to ride on my lap or help Lynn feed hay on the back. Whenever he saw us going to feed, he came to the jeep, running after us in the field if he wasn’t present when we left the barnyard. One morning he decided to ride on the hood. He perched there, enjoying his good view, all the way to the field and back. I wish I’d had my camera when we drove out in the field; some of the cows were curious and some were alarmed at our black-panther hood ornament. Rishira snorted and couldn’t decide whether to run off or charge at the cat on the hood!

MID APRIL – One morning Rodadendron had a bellyache, getting up and down and kicking. I kept checking her for a couple hours, and eventually her discomfort passed and she was fine. Then on Palm Sunday we came home from church and one of our cows (8 year old Inny) was dead, right by the water tank. She’d been ok that morning when we fed hay, so whatever killed her was very swift. Her 2-week-old calf didn’t even know his mom was dead; we had to go find him. We herded him through the gate and cornered him in the calving pen by using the jeep to make a chute against the fence. We put two halters on him (so we could both hang onto him, because he was too big for one person to handle) and took him down to the pole barn where we could corner him to feed him a bottle. By 11 pm. that night he was hungry enough to be cooperative when we stuck the nipple in his mouth. Within 24 hours it no longer took both of us to corner him, and soon he came to us eagerly for meals.

Two days after Inny died, a 3-year-old cow (Leena) was dull and colicky, getting up and down and kicking her belly. She was much worse than Rodadendron, so we brought her and her calf in from the field and put her in the headcatcher, and gave her a shot of Banamine to help ease the gut pain. We put her and her calf in a pen by the barn.

That evening she nibbled some hay. But she didn’t eat much, and didn’t pass any manure during the night. So the next morning we put her in the headcatch again and gave her a gallon of mineral oil and a pint of castor oil by stomach tube, along with more Banamine and an injection of antibiotic. By evening she finally started passing manure, after being constipated for 24 hours. She started chewing her cud again, and eating.
The next week one of the pregnant cows, Cub Cake, had a bellyache in the night and we thought it might be labor pains, even though she wasn’t due to calve yet. We put her in the barn because it was a stormy night, and I kept checking her. She periodically had horrible cramping and pain, kicking her belly and pawing up the bedding, but showed no actual signs of labor. By morning we were certain it was gut cramps and not labor, and we were worried because she wasn’t passing manure. Then her pain eased and she seemed ok and we put her back out in the maternity pen. Then she quit eating, and also stopped chewing her cud.
So we put her into an isolation pen, to be able to tell how much manure she was passing (not much) and monitored her through the night. We were about to give her mineral oil the next morning, when she went into labor and quickly gave birth to a red heifer. By this time Cub Cake had diarrhea. But the calf was healthy and nursed, and the cow started eating again and chewing her cud. Our vet was unable to determine what was messing up the digestive tract on these cows, but it might have been mold or mushrooms in the hay.
Cub Cake was back to normal after a couple more days, and her red heifer was growing fast.

LATE APRIL - Rosie’s calf got pneumonia within a few hours after he was born, so we treated him for several days, leaving him and his mom in the barn.
Maggie calved on a Sunday afternoon—the first day that was nice enough to have a cow calve outdoors instead of in the barn! By then we only had 2 cows left to calve: Rishira and Lilly.
On Tuesday Andrea came out to the ranch after she got the kids off to school, and helped us vaccinate the cows and brand/vaccinate the calves—all but the little group of very young calves in the swamp pasture. It went a lot faster with 3 of us, and we got done in time for her to drive back to town and pick up Samantha from Kindergarten at 11:30.

That afternoon Lynn and I set 10 steel posts along the old net wire fence above the house. The cows were so hungry for green grass that they were reaching under and over the netting and destroying the fence. Alex Annie crawled clear under it one morning and got into the wrong pasture. By putting steel posts between the wood posts, we were able to raise the old netting higher at the top and secure it lower to the ground at the bottom so the cows couldn’t mash it down or reach under so far. Andrea came out a couple mornings and helped Lynn set 10 more steel posts each time. Lynn’s back was bothering him a lot and he couldn’t do much without pain.
Sammy and Dani came with Andrea and played with the cats and helped feed the orphan calf his bottle. Dani named him Shiney.

The final week of April was very cold, freezing most nights, with snow and wind. I kept getting up at night to check on Rishira. She was overdue to calve and I wanted to make sure she didn’t calve outside in the snow. She was restless—often acting like she was in early labor—but she didn’t calve. On Thursday she finally seemed to be calving, and we put her in the barn at 5 a.m. but she never progressed to active labor—just a few cramps. By afternoon, we decided there must be something wrong, since she’s usually an easy calver. We put her in the headcatcher to check her. Her cervix was fully dilated, but Lynn could barely reach down to the calf; it was not coming up into the birth canal. He couldn’t get hold of the feet.
We called our vet, Jeff Hoffman, to come help us—and he discovered the cause of the problem. The uterus had a twist and the calf could not be born. The vet cut an incision for a C-section, and we mentioned that in 1972 our old vet corrected a serious torsion of the uterus (more than 360 degree rotation) on one of our cranky black cows (named Pandora), just by reaching in through the flank and lifting the twisted uterus and turning it over—back to proper position. So Jeff tried it and was able to correct the twist, which wasn’t as severe as Pandora’s. Then we were able to pull the calf.

It was a heifer, still alive, and we put it in front of Rishira by the headcatcher so she could lick it while the vet sewed up the incision in her flank. We put the pair in the barn, out of the wind, and I helped the baby nurse.
On Monday Rishira’s incision (where the vet reached in to turn the uterus) was draining fluid and a little pus. We tried to put her into the headcatcher to give her an injection of antibiotic, but she refused to go in (remembering the ordeal of delivering her calf!) so we took her and her calf around to our chute runway to put her in our squeeze chute. Her calf ran down the chute first, and Lynn ran after the calf—to try to get it on through and out the front so the cow wouldn’t step on it; she was worried about the calf and followed it and Lynn down the runway.
The cow was so close on their heels that when I opened the tailgate of the squeeze chute to let Lynn and the calf through, Rishira barged in, too, and I couldn’t stop her. There’s not room in a squeeze chute for a big cow and a person—and she pushed past Lynn and jammed him into the side. Somehow (maybe my yelling in her ear) I was able to get the cow to back up, and I shut the tailgate, so I could let Lynn and the calf out the front. Fortunately Rishira hadn’t knocked him down, but she’d slammed him into the side of the chute, scraping skin off his arm near the elbow, and squashing his forearm against his chest, cracking a couple ribs. He was really lucky she didn’t hurt him worse. We gave Rishira the antibiotic, then bandaged Lynn’s arm and put DMSO on the sore ribs to help reduce the pain and minimize swelling and inflammation.

EARLY MAY – The neighbors turned their cows out on the range behind our place. The grass had barely started growing so the cows were reaching through our fences. Andrea hiked along one boundary fence putting in staples and splicing wires where the elk damaged the fence, and Lynn patched fences on the other side where neighbors’ cows were getting into our fields. A couple days ago several pairs and a bull broke down a gate and got into the Gooch place, but Lynn was up there irrigating and saw them before they got very far and was able to chase them back out—and repaired the gate.
We’d planned to put cows on our hill pasture May 10 (we were running out of hay) but when Lynn walked around that fence to check it, he realized the grass was not ready to graze yet. Fortunately we found a few big round bales for sale, just across the valley, and Lynn made 2 trips with the flatbed trailer to get a total of 16 bales--to get us by until we could turn the cows out on the hill above our house.
The grass in our back yard finally grew tall enough to graze, so we brought the orphan calf (Shiney) out of the old barn to live in the back yard. Our last cow, Lilly, finally calved, on a sunny afternoon. That makes TWO cows that were able to calve outdoors that year, instead of in the barn!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Late Winter (January through mid-March) 2009

JANUARY – After some very cold weather we had several days of unseasonably warm, windy days. The snow settled, enabling the cows to push through the soft snow and graze a little. Then it got cold again and everything became a sheet of ice.
We brought the heifers to the corral last Saturday to vaccinate. Our driveway was so slippery that we first spread a pickup load of old manure (from one of the manure piles that wasn’t too frozen) along the driveway for traction so we could get the heifers safely moved without them falling down on the ice. We vaccinated and deloused the pregnant heifers and put them in the maternity pen. Then we vaccinated, deloused and tagged (with brisket tags) the weaned heifers. Andrea helped us with the heifers. Her kids stayed in the house because it was such a cold day, and drew pictures and entertained themselves making things with paper, scissors and glue.
Michael and Carolyn hauled some of the old big straw bales from the stackyard on the upper place down to the Maurer place to get ready for calving. They had their first two calves on January 10.
We went to Andrea’s house downtown to celebrate Samantha’s birthday (she was 6 on January 15) and Emily’s birthday (she would be 11 on January 19), and got home in time to do chores before dark.

Then we had 2 weeks of cold, foggy weather in which we never saw sunshine. The trees, fences and cattle were covered with thick frost. Temperatures hovered around zero. Our heifers would soon be calving, so we trained them to come into the calving pen—leaving the gate open and feeding hay in there.
Then we trained them to go into the barn. Our driveway was still a solid sheet of ice and slippery, so Lynn spread dirt/manure (from one of the big piles from cleaning corrals) across the driveway for better traction. We opened the barn doors and put a little hay inside and in front of the barn, and herded the heifers across the driveway and into the pen by the barn. We had to herd them into one of the barn aisles the first time, then on subsequent days just took them to the barn pen and locked them there for an hour and they went in and out of the barn on their own. This would make it much easier, some dark night, to bring a calving heifer in from the maternity pen and put her into the barn.

Some of the big 4 by 4 hay bales we were feeding to the heifers were frozen and difficult to chop apart, and hard to get the frozen strings off. This was hay we bought in the fall of 2007 and didn’t use that winter—we had a carry-over because we leased some of our cows to Michael and Carolyn and didn’t feed up all our hay. We were glad we had hay left over, because it became too expensive to buy; the cheapest hay was $180 a ton. We didn’t buy any, and hoped we had enough to make it through winter. Michael and Carolyn didn’t buy the expensive hay. They sold some cows instead, to try to match their cow numbers with the hay they had on hand.
Saturday evening just before dark our cows were running around on heifer hill. Lynn drove up there to see if wolves or a cougar were harassing them, but couldn’t see anything. The next morning when we went up there to feed, we discovered the fence between heifer hill and the next field was flat. The wires were broken, and 2 fence posts broken off. The cows must have run through the fence in their frantic distress. Several inches of fresh snow covered all tracks, so we couldn’t tell if there was a wolf or cougar involved, but the cows seemed ok. We propped up the fence and spliced the wires back together.
Weather continued cold. The cats liked to sit in the sun on my haystack. In the mornings before we went to feed, our young cats liked to sit on the load of hay in the sunshine, or on the hood of the jeep after we fed, since it was warm after the engine has been running. One morning we thought we’d shooshed all the cats off the hay before we drove to heifer hill to feed the cows, but when we got up there we discovered a hitch-hiker. She was scared and crying, so I took her into the cab and she helped me drive while we fed.

By end of January Michael and Carolyn had 70 new babies. Those cold nights kept them really busy, shuttling cows with calves into their barn and sheds at Maurers.
A mule deer doe came into the field above our house and stayed there several weeks. She was injured, lame on her right hind leg. She grazed the tall grass sticking above the snow, and slept next to our calf houses—and was often inside one of them in the mornings when I went to do chores. Lynn took her some alfalfa hay—leaving it by the calf houses—and she nibbled on that. She eventually recovered enough to jump fences again.

Our heifers were very ready to calve, so I was checking them a few times in the night, looking out the window with our spotlight. Lynn took one of the old big straw bales into the maternity pen with the tractor, and we scattered it around for bedding—under the yard-light where the heifers would be easier to see at night

Lynn’s sister Jenelle had an exciting experience when one of her weaned calves got into the old house next to their corrals, and went upstairs. It was afraid to come back down the steep, narrow stairway and was stranded up there, bawling. When Jenelle tried to herd it back down, it went into one of the old bedrooms and nearly jumped out the 2nd story window. She called her neighbor, on her cell phone, and he came to help her rescue the calf. They had to rope it. The calf balked the first time they aimed it down the stairs, and got away from them again, but they finally got it herded down the stairs.
FEBRUARY - Andrea took 6 year old Samantha to the emergency room at the hospital one night in early February. She awoke with a terrible headache and high fever and Andrea couldn’t get the fever down. The doctor gave Sam IV fluids and medication. She had fever and headaches for 5 days, and they never figured out what was causing the problem. Andrea continually gave her medication to reduce her fever, especially at night—when it seemed to be the highest.
We bought a small load of straw—18 big bales (7 tons). Straw was expensive, $70 a ton, but we didn’t have any left from the winter before. Lynn put one of the big bales on our flatbed pickup and we backed into each of the 4 barn aisles to spread it. One bale was just the right amount of straw to straw down the whole barn.
Our heifers have been itching in spite of delousing them a month earlier when we vaccinated them, so Lynn put up a rope between the light pole and the fence and hung a dust bag of lice powder on it. He also wrapped burlap sacks around the light pole, affixed with net wire, and saturated the burlap with delousing oil. The heifers enjoy scratching on that, and delousing themselves at the same time.
One morning when I got up at 5 a.m. to type an article, I checked the heifers with my spotlight out the window as usual, and nothing was happening, but by 6:30 I could see one of them was calving. When we went outside to bring her to the barn, we discovered 2 were calving. So Alex Annie and Rosalita went to the barn together. It was nice that they already know the way. Even though it was still dark, they trooped right across the driveway and into the barn with no problems.
Alex calved first—a little bull calf we named Alexander the Small. He got chilled quickly, since it was only 10 degrees in the barn (before sunup). He didn’t find her udder before he gave up and lay down again. So we got him up and stuck a teat in his mouth. That’s the nice thing about gentle heifers; they don’t mind if you assist their babies. Once he had a taste of milk he became enthusiastic and found the rest of the teats by himself. It’s amazing how much warmer a calf is after he’s nursed! The other heifer had her baby an hour later, a little heifer we named Rosetta. She was up and nursing before she was an hour old.

The day after our first 2 calves arrived, I helped Lynn fix a fence in the pen below the barn and we hauled a big straw bale down there and spread it along the sides of the pen next to the brush, where calves could get out of the wind. We put the 2 heifers and their babies down there after a night in the barn. The next heifer to calve was Buffalo Chips (daughter of Emily’s pet cow, Buffalo Girl). Emily named the calf Buffalo Bunny.

We had a week of cold, windy weather, so I was getting up every hour or so to check on the cows. At that temperature we wanted to make sure the new babies were born in the barn and not outside. When Leoni started calving one night, we put the other 2 heifers (that hadn’t calved yet) in the barn with her—in the aisle next to her stall—to keep her company and help keep the barn warm. Body heat from several cows always makes the barn warmer. Leoni had a bull calf and he was up nursing in less than an hour, before he got too chilled.
That next evening no one was calving, so we slipped away for a couple hours to Bob and Jane Minor’s place for supper, for my birthday. Andrea and kids came also, and when we went home the 3 girls came with us to stay for the weekend. Andrea and Charlie left early the next morning to drive to Idaho Falls for his hockey tournament.
The next day, Valentines Day, was busy. The kids wanted to see baby calves, so we took them to the pen below the barn where Em was able to catch and pet her calf, Buffalo Bunny. The little girls were able to pet the newest calf in the barn.
One of the heifers, Lemmony Snickit, was restless all morning. We’d planned a 90th birthday party for my mom at the nursing home that afternoon and were getting ready to leave for town when Lemmony became obvious in her labor. We put her in the barn and Lynn stayed home and watched her. The little girls and I went to town for the party. My brother and his wife drove up from Boise, and we invited some of mom’s old friends. Out-of-town family members and friends sent cards and e-mail messages for mom, which we read to her at the party. Lynn had to pull Lemmony’s big bull calf, then after he was certain she was going to mother the calf, he came to town also, and was able to be there for the last part of the party.

A few days later we brought the cows down from heifer hill and deloused them. In spite of the fact we deloused them in late October, they were very itchy again. We also gave them their pre-calving vaccinations. The first cow through the chute rammed back and forth as I was trying to give her a neck injection, and she smashed/bent my wrist against the chute. These old squeeze chutes were not designed for neck injections! Fortunately she didn’t break my wrist—it was just badly bruised and sprained. After we sorted the cows—some into the maternity pen, some into the horse pasture, and took the April calvers back to heifer hill—I put DMSO and an ice pack on my wrist to help reduce the swelling and numb the pain. I kept an ice pack on it all night, and by the next day it was doing much better in spite of turning black.
We put straw in the calf houses in the field above the house and put the heifers and babies in that field. We had part of the bale left so we backed into the barn aisles to unload the extra straw in the barn, and found Shade (Charlie’s black cat) under part of the bale that had fallen over! He seemed a little dazed, but otherwise ok, and glad to be out from under the straw! He must have been on the back of the truck after we put straw in the calf houses, and got pinned when the extra straw flopped down.

Some of the cows calved in late February. The second calvers had never been in our barn; they calved at Michael and Carolyn’s place as heifers (on lease). So we used Buffalo Girl as a guide-cow to lead them into the barn.
Our last heifer, Tessiana, calved February 21. She had a nice bull calf, fast and easy and we named him Tezzarro. Later that same day Roddedendron calved (daughter of Roddenia). This was her 5th calf and she’s always had them standing up. This one was no different; she didn’t lie down to calve, just dropped the calf on its head.
EARLY MARCH - The snow started melting and our calves were eating dirt and gravel along the corner of the field where the ditch washes away the sod, so Lynn put an electric wire across that corner to keep them away. This is something we have to do every year; even though the cattle have a good salt/mineral mix available at all times, the calves still like to nibble dirt. If they ingest gravel it can kill them, so we fence off that gravel bar.
We brought the rest of the cows down from heifer hill and sorted out 2 that look like they’re getting ready to calve, even though the vet who preg-checked estimated they wouldn’t calve until April. We didn’t want to take a chance on them calving up there in the snow/cold weather, at risk for being eaten by coyotes or wolves. We led the cows down through the field, with the jeep, and got stuck in a snowdrift just above the corrals! We had to use the feed truck to pull it out.
We’re then had more cold, windy weather. One of the windows at the top of the barn fell out and broke, so Lynn climbed up there with a ladder and stapled clear plastic over the opening, to keep the wind and snow out of the barn!
One night Drosophila calved quickly, out in the maternity pen, before we realized she was calving. So we used our new calf sled to pull that calf to the barn. Freddy calved the next day, a black whiteface bull calf (Freddy George). We put those pairs out of the barn the next afternoon, but that night it snowed—a heavy wet snow. By morning Freddy George was breathing fast, so we treated him for pneumonia. We spread a big bale of straw in the old sick barn and moved Freddy and calf into that barn for shelter.

That day the Fish and Game did a wolf count by helicopter, along our Lemhi valley, and counted more than 90 wolves.
Our grandkids spent another weekend with us while Andrea took Emily to her final hockey tournament. Their little team has slowly gotten stronger, and they ended their season winning most of their games, against teams much larger, from bigger towns.
While the younger kids were here, they wanted to see more baby calves, but the weather was so cold and stormy (6 inches of new snow) we didn’t take them outside. They entertained themselves drawing and painting pictures while we were feeding and taking care of cows and calves.
Lynn hurt his back again, and I helped him for a couple weeks--opening the heaviest gates, breaking ice on the creek for cows in the swamp pasture, carrying in the wood, etc. Our friend Bob Minor came over one afternoon and split enough wood to last several days. We managed to get everything done, just more slowly.

Some nights it snowed so hard that I couldn’t see anything with my spotlight from the window, and had to go outside every hour to check the calving cows. After our biggest snowstorm the temperature dropped below zero. and we had another week of really cold weather. A couple newborn calves in the barn got chilled before they were an hour old, so we helped them nurse before their mouths got too cold. We used the old sick barn as a second day barn for calves that needed to be moved out of the main barn but needed another day of shelter before going out to the deep snow in the field. The calves there know how to use the calf houses, but sometimes it takes the new ones a day or two to figure it out. We put more straw in the calf houses, and also in the calving barn. By late March the days were warmer, however, and our snow was actually melting again. We were hoping it would eventually be spring.