APRIL 23, 2011 – Last week Andrea, Lynn and Rick worked on the new fence nearly every day. On Wednesday it started to snow. They were soon soaked and cold, and had to quit for the day. It was snowing hard by afternoon. Maggie (a 9 year old cow) was calving, and we put her in the barn to calve. She had a nice bull calf. She’s had 7 heifers and we were hoping she’d have another heifer because we’re short on heifer calves this year. We need to start increasing our small herd again, but most of our calves are bulls!
By Saturday we had all the posts set for ¾ mile of new fence, and Andrea helped Lynn make braces. Rick helped finish the last of the braces a few days ago, and they started stringing and stretching wire. It’s a race to get the fence finished before the range cows are turned out (May 1). We don’t want them to get into our fields.
Sunday evening, just at dark, our neighbor Gordon Binning called to tell us a wolf was bothering the yearlings on the upper place; the cattle were all jammed against the fence. It was too dark to get a good shot at the wolf, but Gordon shot at it, just to scare it away. The next day Michael and Carolyn checked all the yearlings to make sure they were ok. Emily and I rode past the upper fields and checked on them, too.
Early Tuesday morning, our smallest young cow (a 2nd calver) had her calf, out in the orchard. She calved quickly, between my spotlight checks. Even though it was cold and windy, the calf managed to nurse before he got too chilled.
Andrea brought Dani out several times last week, picking her up late morning after kindergarten, and on the nicest day we took her for a ride (her first ride on Veggie this year). I rode Rubbie, Andrea rode Ed, and I led Veggie from my horse.
Yesterday I put front shoes on Rubbie. Her feet aren’t as tough as Veggie’s. He can go all summer being ridden without shoes, but Rubbie’s feet get chipped and tender if I ride her more than a couple times without shoes.
The past several mornings have been cold and we’ve had more snow. Yesterday evening LillyAnn started calving and we put her in the barn. She had a heifer calf and was very aggressive when we went into her stall to iodine the navel cord. Lynn had to fend her off with a stick.
This weekend granddaughter Heather is home for Easter. Two of her HAB (Human Animal Bond) classmates came with her, and one of their professors. They were interested in seeing how ranch horses live and work, so Michael, Carolyn and Heather took them for rides on our ranch and range. They rode down to our place this afternoon (I was planning to go for a short ride with them out over our low range) but they had to wait a few minutes because our last cow was calving. Magrat (3 year old daughter of Maggie) was having a large calf and I wanted to make sure we didn’t have to pull it. Lynn, Andrea and Rick were up on the hill working on the fence, and I was the only one here watching the cow. She finally had the calf, and I quickly saddled Rubbie and went for a short ride with Heather and her classmates.
MAY 8 – The next day, Lynn, Andrea and Rick worked on the fence again and finished stretching the wire. On Monday Andrea helped Lynn put posts and wire in the gullies—so the calves can’t go under the fence in those low spots. That week Lynn, Andrea and Rick finished putting in all the stays (2 metal stays between posts) before the range cows started pressing the fence.
Emily rode with me that day, out across the low range, and when we came back from our ride we rode up along the new fence to say Hi to Andrea, Lynn and Rick, and check on the fence progress.
Dani came out several times with Andrea, and enjoyed hiking up in the field with me to see the calves. She named several of them, and is learning to tell them all apart. She likes to stand out there in the field, waiting patiently for the calves to come up and sniff her fingers. The cows are getting used to seeing her and are not worried about her being out there with their calves. Dani also likes to talk to the yearling heifers and they come up to the fence to sniff her hand.
Last week Andrea started harrowing our fields, and John Jacovak brought his excavator to start digging at the site for Andrea’s new house. He made good progress the first day, then hit a solid rock shelf and had to move farther away from that huge rock. The ground under the house site is mostly clay, so we’ll have to haul in rocks before we put in the foundation. Fortunately, we have a hillside of rock/shale on our upper place, along the road. John brought his dump truck, took his excavator up to our “rock” hill, and spent several days hauling rocks to the house site.
Andrea brought Dani with her on Wednesday and while Andrea finished harrowing I took Dani for a long ride on Veggie, making a loop over the low range. Dani practiced holding her reins properly so she won’t bump Veggie’s mouth with the bit. She also practiced trotting, learning how to post up and down in rhythm with Veggie—instead of bouncing. She’s developing good balance.
Rick came out the next day and helped Lynn put culvert headgates in a couple of our ditches. The warm weather is melting the high snow on the mountains, and our creek is running a lot of water. We need the headgates in place before the creek floods too much.
When Lynn drove up the creek yesterday he saw cattle on our high range, above the upper place. He went back with binoculars and realized they were yearlings, so he told Michael. They had more wolf problems. The day before, some of their yearlings crashed through the pole panels at the creek water hole and many were on the wrong side of the creek in another field. Others ran through the wire fence on the upper end of the field and got out on the road. Apparently 13 of those went on up the road, through an open gate, and out to the range. That afternoon Michael and Carolyn gathered them back down to the field.
MAY 20 – We’ve had more rain, snow and cold weather. A few days ago we had to scrape snow off the windshield of the feed truck. But we’ve also had some warm afternoons; the leaves are finally appearing on the trees—and grass is growing. The creek is dangerously high, flooding across all the low areas of our fields. Lynn has been making ditches in several places to get the water back to the creek. He made ditches through our main corral so the water can’t flood down through it and make our lane too wet for John to haul rocks. He created ditches in our haystack yard to take the floodwater back to the creek. Then he spent a couple days working on the wild meadow ditch on the upper place, hauling rocks with the backhoe to a washed-out section, and cleaning the rest of the ditch with tractor and blade.
We managed to brand and vaccinate our calves, vaccinate the cows, and vaccinate and tag the yearling heifers just before the corral got too muddy. We’d planned to do it a few days earlier, but we had more than an inch of rain that day and had to postpone.
Our new neighbor, Alfonzo (who is renting the Gooch place and lower fields that we—and then Michael—leased for 40 years) put a large group of cows in the lower fields for a few weeks before he put them on the range, and left 10 of them there after he turned out his cows. There’s not much grass in those fields, after being heavily grazed, and his cows are reaching through the fences. The fence between our two places, which we built 44 years ago, is old and tired, so Andrea helped Lynn set 29 new wood posts (with our tractor and post-pounder) in the weakest areas, built some new braces, and re-stretched the wires. Dani and I hiked down in the field to look at their progress. That afternoon they set 16 new posts in the sagging fence above heifer hill, on our upper boundary.
The grass has finally grown enough that we put Chance (granddaughter Heather’s old horse) in the pens below the calving barn to graze, and Molly (Carolyn’s old horse) up in the ditch pasture. Even though Chance’s teeth are so bad he can’t chew hay, he’s able to graze green grass. I dewormed and vaccinated all our horses.
On Monday Andrea came out early morning and we rode Rubbie and Breezie over the low range to check gates and fix fence, and on the way home Rubbie was hurrying down a rocky hill to cross a gully, and twisted her left hind leg. She was immediately very lame, not putting any weight on that leg at all. I led her the rest of the way home, a couple miles, and put DMSO on her stifle joint when we got home.
She was so lame I put her in a small pen, instead of in her regular pen with Veggie—so she won’t have to move around. Her fetlock joint started to swell, so she apparently injured both joints. Our vet came to examine her, and there’s nothing broken, but it may take awhile for the pulled/sprained joints to heal. I’m still putting DMSO on those joints, and giving her “bute” orally, to help reduce the pain and inflammation. Today, 4 days after the injury, she is still very lame, but putting some weight on that leg.
Yesterday Andrea helped Lynn put an electric fence across the field below our house. Today we’ll put our cows down there, on the side that gets too boggy to cut for hay, and we’ll let them graze it. They will be happy to finally have some grass and we can quit feeding hay! It’s been a very long, long winter and slow spring.