Wednesday, March 13, 2013


JANUARY 1, 2013 – With the cold stormy weather in late December, we decided not to wean Michael and Carolyn’s summer-born calves. They would do better if we left them on their mothers awhile longer (and didn’t stress them by weaning in nasty weather), since those cows won’t be calving until May and later. We preg-checked and vaccinated the cows here in our corral, and vaccinated the calves, while Michael was home from North Dakota briefly from his truck-driving job, and his kids were still home from college to help. Nick and young Heather brought all the cows up to the chute.

I fed everybody lunch here after they got done working cattle. We put their cows and calves down in our lower field. Carolyn, Lynn and Andrea can feed them here, with the round bale processor, while Michael is in North Dakota.

Thursday before Christmas we all had supper here (Andrea and her kids and Rick, Michael and Carolyn and kids). The next day Lynn and Michael went to town to meet with the Farm Bureau Insurance claims adjuster. She assessed the damage on our flatbed trailer (which was totaled in the slide off the road upside down on December 14). She said the insurance might pay the equivalent of what a used trailer of that age might be worth, but will pay only $1000 toward fixing our John Deere tractor—which needs extensive repairs after that wreck. The damage to Michael’s pickup bed will be fully covered, however. The day after Christmas he drove it to Blackfoot, Idaho where the old box bed was removed and a new flatbed put on it.

A few days earlier, Michael and Lynn brought down a truck-load of big round bales from the upper stack, and Michael strategically placed more round bales in our hold pen, to make it easier for Lynn and Carolyn to load them into the bale processor to feed. Lynn and Carolyn took turns several days, going with Michael in his tractor to feed the cows, having practice lessons running the bale processor. It pulls behind the tractor and chews up the big bale and puts it out the back end in a windrow as you drive along. Carolyn will feed the cows most days and Lynn will feed them on the days Carolyn works at the vet clinic.

Emily’s dad, Jim Daine, came to spend a couple days with Andrea and kids for Christmas. We had a simple Christmas dinner here at our house with homemade pizza. Andrea’s other kids were at Mark’s place for Christmas this year. We had another celebration when the kids got home, opening their gifts at Andrea’s house.

Dani was delighted to get a set of grooming tools, which she’s eager to try out on the horses.

The morning after he got his pickup fixed, Michael left early to drive straight through to North Dakota, back to his job driving trucks. He hauled 20 new truck tires back there, for the outfit he’s working for.

Since our big tractor is still in the shop downtown being repaired, Rick and Andrea helped Lynn put a hay fork loader on our smaller tractor, so we can load big bales. Lynn brought some big alfalfa bales around to my horse stackyard, for feeding our heifers in the field above my hayshed.

We’ve been feeding the 2 Morgan fillies a little grain and some alfalfa pellets during the cold weather. We give most of the supplemental feed to the weanling Willow—who needs the extra nutrients to grow--and only a handful of pellets to Spotty Dottie because she’s fat and doesn’t need the extra energy. She simply gets a little treat so she doesn’t feel jealous and grumpy when we feed Willow. Andrea and I have been leading the fillies up or down the road a few times, but not as regularly as when the weather was nicer. Emily and Andrea led them a couple of times.

JANUARY 10 – Lynn did chores for one of our neighbors for two weeks while they were visiting their children and grandchildren in California. The weather got really cold and froze the water line into their house, but Lynn was able to get it thawed out.

We are breaking ice daily at the creek for the cows. Last Wednesday when Lynn started our tractor to move some big bales, the diesel gelled up in the tractor. We apparently didn’t have enough Power Service in the mix to keep it fluid at this cold temperature.

On Sunday Emily went with Lynn and me to feed our cows and had her first practice session driving our feed truck. While she was driving, I took photos of the cows, and one photo of Maggie—Dani’s favorite old cow.

While we were on Heifer Hill feeding, a friend of Rick’s drove in that driveway in a little car, and spun out. Lynn didn’t have a chain or rope to pull the car, so he tied the baling twines together from the bales we’d just fed, to pull the car up out of the driveway.

Later that morning, grandson Nick stopped by. Lynn helped him install a new toolbox in the bed of his pickup, and then Nick drove back to college in Iowa. Young Heather went back to Helena, Montana last week for her final semester at Carroll College. She’ll be graduating in May.

After Carolyn fed their cows Monday, she took the tractor and processor back up the creek to feed their horses on the wild meadow the next morning (she feeds them a big bale every 3 days) and to bring more grass bales down here. She got the horses fed, but when she backed up to another big bale to load into the processor, that bale was frozen to the ground and didn’t move—breaking the processor and smashing one of the hydraulic hose ends. She noticed it leaking fluid, so she turned off the tractor and hiked back to her house to call us on the phone.

Andrea helped Lynn and Carolyn jack up the processor to where they could work on it enough to safely bring it down here, and carefully fed off the bale in it. By then the day was warmer, and the ice on our driveway too slippery to take the tractor/processor back up it, to take to our local welder/repair man to fix. So we fed their cows some of our small bales, with our feed truck, to finish their feeding for the day. Early the next morning Lynn and Carolyn took the tractor/processor to be fixed, and Andrea and Carolyn fed the cows some little bales again with our feed truck.

Today it warmed up and snowed 6 more inches. Lynn used our little tractor this evening to plow our driveway and Andrea’s driveway and he hopes to plow Michael and Carolyn’s driveway in the morning.

JANUARY 17 – Last Friday it was Lynn’s turn to feed cows with the processor, since Carolyn had to work at the vet clinic. When Lynn pulled out into the field he found a newborn calf. Most of the cows Michael and Carolyn bought last summer had very young calves at side or were ready to calve, but a few of them had large calves and 3 of them probably had a chance to breed before they were sold. When our vet preg-checked the cows a few weeks ago he said this old cow, number 206, would probably calve in January but the other two wouldn’t calve until April.

It was cold and windy when Lynn found the new calf, but 206 probably calved in the brush where the cows were bedding, which would have given some protection from the wind. The new calf was dry, and had nursed its mother. Later that morning Rick helped Lynn adjust the processor to blow hay out the side, and they spread an extra bale of grass hay into the edge of the brush, to give the cows and calves more bedding in the cold weather.

Andrea took Emily to her hockey tournament in Kalispell, Montana Friday through Sunday. Their team won all 4 games, for the first time ever. Emily made several of the winning shots.

Saturday morning it was 12 below zero. It took awhile to break ice out of all the horse tubs and to chop open the water holes in the creek ice. We fed all the cows extra hay, to give them more calories to withstand the cold weather. Carolyn had to leave for work early in the morning so she left the blankets on Molly and Chance (their two skinny old horses) because it was still cold. Lynn and I drove up there late morning to take off the blankets and to put more wood in Carolyn’s stove.

It was cold again on Sunday. When Lynn and Carolyn fed cows that morning, they discovered another newborn calf—from one of the cows that was supposed to calve in April. The calf was cold but seemed ok, and had nursed at least one teat. After sub-zero weather for a couple more days, however, it wasn’t doing as well as the older calf. When Andrea and Carolyn fed the cows on Tuesday they saw the younger calf lying on the old feed trail, on its back, stuck between 2 big frozen manure piles. The calf looked dead, but twitched its hind leg when they approached with the tractor and processor.

They jumped out, with an ax-handle for a weapon in case the mother cow was aggressive, and grabbed the calf. The cow was worried but didn’t attack them. It was a big calf, about 90 pounds--about all Andrea could lift while Carolyn held off the cow. Then Andrea handed the calf to Carolyn and climbed up into the tractor, grabbing the front legs of the calf as Carolyn handed it up and pushed on the back end. They got it into the cab, finished feeding (not much room in the tractor!) and brought it to the house.

We spent the rest of the day thawing out that calf. She must have been stuck on her back quite awhile. Perhaps a cow knocked her down or rooted her out of the way, rolling her between the frozen manure piles. Her body temperature was below 80 Fahrenheit; too low to register on my thermometer. Her feet were stiff and frozen so Carolyn and Andrea used hot water to try to thaw them out. We lay the calf on blankets by the wood stove with an electric heating pad under her, and used a hair dryer to warm her back, continuing to use warm water on her cold feet.

I injected dextrose under her skin in several places. After we started warming her, we tubed her with 1 ½ quarts of warm water with powdered colostrum mixed in. By this stage in her life (3 days old) she wouldn’t be able to absorb the antibodies from the colostrum, but we thought this mix might give her more energy than regular milk replacer. Lynn inserted a nasogastric tube into her nostril, and down to her stomach, and Carolyn poured the energy-rich mixture into the funnel for the tube feeding.

The calf probably hadn’t nursed her mother since the day before; she was dehydrated and didn’t urinate until evening when we gave her another quart and a half of colostrum mix. By that time her temperature was rising, up to 99 degrees (normal for a calf is 101.5) and she was strong enough to stand.

Lynn, Carolyn and Charlie (who was here doing homework after school) took the calf to Carolyn’s house to stay in their basement by the wood stove. Carolyn fed the calf a bottle at 2 a.m. and again at 8 a.m. She stayed home from work yesterday, and after she and Andrea fed the cows, they put the calf back out with its mother. Lynn and I were outside feeding the 2 fillies their grain when I heard Andrea yelling, so he went to see what was happening and I led both fillies back to their pen. The cow was kicking at the calf, and wouldn’t let it nurse—smelling it and hitting it with her head. Perhaps the calf smelled different after we’d taken care of it for more than 24 hours, thawing its feet. Andrea and Carolyn realized the calf needed more help, and they were bringing the pair to the barnyard.

Once we got the pair into the corral the cow was very upset and more worried about the calf, and she let it nurse. We could see she had a very sore hind teat—the end was raw from frostbite. So we put the pair in a small pen by our barn where we can monitor them. We shoveled snow away from the windbreak side, and bedded along it with hay. The old cow is smart and acts like she’s been handled on foot before; she made herself at home in the pen and was not upset about being confined.

She’s an old cow, without much milk, but we can pamper her here. Andrea and Carolyn brought her a little alfalfa hay from the big bale by my hay stack and the cow was eagerly eating it. When they went back again to check on the pair, the cow looked at them, sniffed the ground, and looked at them again, as if to say, “Where’s some more of that alfalfa hay?” She is not as wild as some of the other cows Michael bought; she acts like she’s accustomed to being cared for by people. This morning (15 below zero again) the calf was cold, but nursing, so we won’t have to raise it on a bottle.