Saturday, May 25, 2013


MARCH 24, 2013 – Last week Andrea and I led the fillies a few times, taking them through the deep snow in the pen where we would soon put the pregnant cows for calving. Tromping around in the snow broke the crust and it started melting on the warmer afternoons. We want to get rid of the snow before the cows have to go in there.

Andrea had a breathing test at the hospital that Tuesday and the therapist gave her medication to help open her airways. Andrea reacted to the medication and her heart started beating wildly and very erratic, so the therapist took her to the ER for a CT scan—the doctor discovered that she has a prolapsed valve in her heart that wasn’t working correctly. But it soon quit doing the spasmodic pumping and settled back to normal.

That Thursday Andrea and Lynn both went to hospitals in Montana (Lynn in Hamilton and Andrea in Missoula) for echo stress tests, to check their hearts, and they both did ok. Rick helped me feed the cows while they were gone.

On Friday it was another long day for Andrea; she drove to Idaho Falls for her monthly appointment with the pain management specialist—on her way to Pocatello to take Dani and Sam to Sam’s regional dance competition. Sam’s group won first place and will get to compete at the national dance competition in Utah in May.

On Saturday Andrea and I finally had a chance to lead the two fillies again, and took them about a mile on the jeep road over the low range. I also trimmed Sprout’s feet; they had grown too long over winter.

A week ago today we had fresh snow and windy, cold weather. Emily had severe breathing problems and pneumonia; Andrea took her to the ER where they put her on oxygen and gave her antibiotics. Lynn and I stopped after church to check on her at the hospital. Andrea brought her home later in the afternoon, with an oxygen machine. Now, a week later, Emily is doing much better.

Our cold, stormy weather lasted several days. We sorted out the cows that looked closest to calving and put them in the horse pasture and maternity pen near the house where we can start watching them more closely. Dani helped me make this year’s calving calendar (for April) showing the dates when each cow is due to calve. We have actual due dates on some of them, from their breeding dates, and estimates on the other cows’ due dates from the veterinarian’s preg-checking.

A couple days ago it was very cold, with new snow and ice on the porch, and Lynn slipped and fell down when he went out that morning to do chores. Fortunately he just bruised his arms and twisted his back a little, and didn’t land on the back of his head.

It’s still cold (12 degrees F. this morning). We started “training” the 2-year-old heifers so they will be easy to put in the barn for calving if the weather is bad when they calve. We lured them into the hold pen with hay, and then gently herded them to the pen in front of the barn, where the doors were all open, with alfalfa hay inside. We put them into the barn, and even though a couple of them were reluctant to go in, they stayed in awhile after they found out there were “treats” to eat.

Today we put the heifers into that pen for the second time and they all went into the barn on their own—to eat alfalfa—without having to be pushed. This afternoon after we got home from church Andrea and I led the fillies about 4 miles (down to the back road at Baker and back). Along the way, we worked on their responsiveness to voice commands for walk, trot and whoa.

APRIL 2 – We started saddling Spotty Dottie. She was scared and jumpy at first, so we’re working on getting her used to having the saddle put on and off, and all the sensations of having the stirrups moving, etc. and are now able to lead her around with the saddle on.

Last Monday Andrea and I rode Ed and Breezy for their first time this spring, after we trimmed and smoothed their long feet. We rode about 12 miles, down and around the road to where our new neighbors (the 3 Amish families) live, on the old Maurer place. The next day we rode again, a shorter ride over the low range. We had to carefully pick our route; there is still a lot of snow and mud, making the hillsides very slippery.

When we got home we gave Sprout some ground work in the new corral Michael helped us build last fall, since the ground is fairly dry there, with good footing. Sprout is feeling sassy and obnoxious after her LONG vacation (after going lame in July and being laid off for 9 months), and she tried to rear and strike and pull away from Andrea while being led. She pulled Andrea’s shoulder pretty badly, but didn’t get clear away from her. Andrea made her work awhile at the walk and trot.

On Wednesday we brought the rest of the cows down from the field and put them into the horse pasture for closer watching; almost all of them are starting to develop some udder. The kids were home from school for spring break and helped move the cows, and then hiked along with Andrea and me leading the fillies a couple miles down the road and back. When we got home, I put front shoes on Ed, then Andrea and I rode Ed and Breezy a few miles—around the old McCormick ranch (soft fields without rocks) and then home through the low range. We need to put a lot of miles on these horses before the kids start riding them again, and we need fairly soft footing until we get their shoes on.

While we rode, the kids helped Lynn. They played by the haystack while he loaded 8 big round bales (alfalfa/grass) on our 2 ton truck, and went with him when he took the hay up to the stackyard on the upper place. Carolyn unloaded it up there, for their cows.

We’ve started trying to get Sprout back to work again, and into a better attitude. Andrea led her about a mile down the road and back, with me riding alongside on Ed. The next day—Thursday--I put hind shoes on Ed and then we made a short ride—Andrea on Sprout, Dani on Breezy, and me on Ed, leading Breezy. Andrea has been riding Sprout every day since, taking longer and harder rides, and hoping that eventually Sprout will quit trying to buck. She’s a totally different horse this spring than when we bought her at the horse sale a year ago as an underweight, lazy, mellow 6-year-old that we thought might make a kids’ horse. She’s gained about 300 pounds, an inch or more in height, and has a more aggressive, selfish attitude after her 9 months off work.

Granddaughter Heather got home from college for her spring break and Michael drove home from North Dakota that same day. He’ll be taking some time off from his truck-driving job and doing some work here.

Rick helped Lynn spread some straw in our calving barn stalls and put a little in one of the calving pens; it looks like several cows could calve any time now—and the weather hasn’t been very nice yet for calving outdoors.

On Friday young Heather rode with Andrea and me. She brought her saddle and rode Breezy. It was Sprout’s 2nd ride this spring and we went several miles across the big fields of the McCormick Ranch and up through our low range, trying to stick to areas with the fewest rocks. We hadn’t gotten very far when Sprout started bucking, but Andrea was able to control her and spin her around until she quit trying. She jumped around a few more times along the way, but Andrea kept her from bucking very hard.

Later, as we started up the old jeep road into our low range pasture and went through a gully, Sprout started bucking again when she went up the other side of the gully. She got really mad because Andrea wouldn’t let her buck, and started hopping backward down the hill. I had been following her on Ed, and just started down into the gully as Sprout began jumping around and hopping backward toward us. I swung Ed out of the way just as Sprout kicked out in anger with her hind feet—and her legs are so long that she connected with my leg. She hit me with both hind feet, one on my shin bone just below the knee and the other just above my ankle. My first thought as the excruciating pain hit—thank goodness she doesn’t have shoes on yet!

My leg immediately started to swell, but it didn’t seem broken. I could put full weight on it, in the stirrup. We continued our ride home, another 2 miles (during which Sprout tried a few more times to buck Andrea off, but didn’t succeed). As we put our horses away, I was able to hobble around in spite of the pain. I knew I should elevate the leg and put ice on it, but we had unexpected company arrive at that point. So I simply applied DMSO liberally over my lower leg, which by then was twice the size it should be, and turning purple. The DMSO helped slow down the swelling and ease the pain, and I managed to keep going a few more hours before putting ice on it.

We visited with our friends and showed them the 2 fillies. Young Heather started working with Willow and Dottie to desensitize them to the saddle blanket over their backs and neck and all over their bodies. Andrea also led Dottie around with the saddle on while she talked to our friends.

Then I was scurrying around to feed everyone lunch. After they left I did put ice on the leg and elevated it, which helped ease the pain a bit more.

After having ice packs on it all night the pain was bearable, and I managed to do chores, and we rode again to put more miles on Sprout. Young Heather rode Breezy again and we rode more than 4 hours—taking a different route through the Old McCormick Ranch and out through the far end of our low range and down to the back road, where we stopped to tell a neighbor about a place in his new fence that the elk have torn down. We also talked briefly with his hired man who was driving tractor, harrowing a field. When he started the tractor up again, Sprout used that as an excuse to try bucking again, but Andrea spun her around a few times both directions and got that notion out of her head. We continued on through a few more fields and out to the highway. A group of horses across the highway came trotting over to the fence and Sprout blew up again. After Andrea got her under control we traveled ½ mile along the highway to Baker—a cluster of houses along the road to our creek--where Sprout used barking dogs as another excuse to try to buck, even though she is normally at ease with dogs.

When we got home we worked briefly with the fillies again. Then Freddy (one of our older cows) started calving and we put her in the calving pen. About the time she started getting serious about labor, at 9 p.m., a cold wind started blowing, so we put her in the barn to calve. She had a nice black bull.

Freddy is getting old and her udder is sagging. Her big bull calf was so tall that he couldn’t figure out how to bend his head down low enough to get on a teat, so Andrea and I quietly helped him nurse. I rubbed his hind end and helped keep him pointed in the right direction while Andrea slipped a teat in his mouth. Freddy always has a lot of milk, so Andrea milked a little of the extra into a small pitcher—in case we might need it for an emergency. About the time we finished helping Freddy’s calf nurse, Rosalie started calving, so we put her in the barn also, and she had a bull calf at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

Lynn and Emily went to church but Andrea and I stayed home to watch the cows. Michael and young Heather came about noon. Michael worked on our tractor problem (it started making strange noises when Lynn was harrowing the day before). Heather helped us work with the 2 fillies again, desensitizing Dottie more fully to the saddle, patiently moving the stirrups and flapping the saddle strings—to try to get Dottie over her skittishness.

After lunch Andrea and I rode Sprout and Ed on a fast ride (lots of trotting), doing the loop around the field and range backward. Going past the neighbor’s field of young cows and calves, we saw a very strange cow. At first glance it looked like she had a black and white hat or a skunk on her head. On closer look, it was obvious that this “thing” was part of the cow—some kind of hair-covered growth attached to the back of her head or top of her neck—and it flopped around whenever she moved her head. It was so unusual that Andrea took pictures of it with her cell phone.

That night our first heifer calved. She had a little heifer, with a quick easy birth. I hope the rest of them are born that easy!

Yesterday one of the pregnant cows, Lilly Annie, was dull and not eating, so we brought her into a pen to watch her more closely and to see if she is passing manure. She is due to calve in 3 weeks, so we hope her problem is not serious. We had our vet come out and check her. He checked her rectally and said her digestive tract is working fine, and the calf is alive, but she felt very hot. So we gave her antibiotics and some Banamine to help lower her fever and help her feel better. She started eating and drinking again after the pain-killer kicked in and reduced her fever.

Today she was dull again and not eating, so we put her in the chute and checked her temperature. It was 106, which is really high for a cow, so we gave her more Banamine, which helped perk her up. We talked to our vet and he said that with a fever that high, it might be a viral infection, in which case the antibiotics may not be very useful, but the Banamine can help her ride it out and make her feel better so she’ll continue eating and drinking.

Michael came down for a couple hours and put shoes on Sprout and Breezy. Now we can do some longer, harder rides—which will help get Sprout back into a better working attitude again—without risk of a stone bruise or tender feet.