Monday, September 1, 2014

Winter Late January - Early February 2014

JANUARY 23 – Breezy, the old mare that had her eye removed, was still having problems last week.  I had her on ulcer medication (given 3 times daily—the last dose late at night in the dark) for her gut discomfort.  I started giving her yeast again (mixed in a little water and put into her mouth by syringe) to aid her digestion.  We used warm massage on her neck (where she had some swelling from all her injections).  Rice bags heated in the microwave made nice warm “hot packs” to rub on her neck.  Within a few days of this regime she was feeling better and eating better again.

            Last Wednesday Rusty Hamilton hauled us 20 big straw bales.  Weather has been cold, and the cows are eating a lot of straw along with their daily ration of alfalfa hay.

            Granddaughter Heather is still doing Suzanne’s chores morning and evening.  She stops here on her way home in the mornings and works with Willow for a few minutes.  On Thursday she put Dani’s little saddle on the filly—the first time she’s been saddled.

            Emily turned 16 last week and Sam had her 11th birthday.  Em took her driving test and written test, so now she has her driver’s license.  It will be handy having her able to drive the younger kids to the bus or to hockey practice. when Andrea is busy.

            On Sunday we took off Breezy’s mask and gently washed her eye socket.  That area is no longer so painful, but was swollen again and dirty.  The stitches are probably itchy; she’s been rubbing the side of her face.  We’re glad we have it covered and protected with the padded mask.  The mask was very dirty so we took it off and washed it, then got it dry and put it back on again before night.  It gives her a lot of protection on that side, and also keeps the shaved area warmer in the cold weather.

            Monday there was no school, so that afternoon we had a combined birthday party for Emily and Sam, at the Pizza place.  On Tuesday Emily drove the kids to the school bus so Andrea could sleep a little longer before helping her friends Jade and Anita on a house remodeling project. 

That afternoon when I looked at Breezy’s eye it was oozing yellow fluid between the middle stitches.  The stitches are coming apart.  I called the vet and she prescribed a week of antibiotics—so I am again giving Breezy medication morning and night.  The pills dissolve readily in water so I mix them with a little molasses and she doesn’t mind having the fluid squirted into her mouth.

Andrea’s kids’ female rabbit had babies a few weeks ago and they are getting too big for their cage in the house.  Lynn took our old jeep (with camper shell) to their house and put hay in the back of it; this will be a home for the rabbits until they can make a proper outdoor rabbit hutch.  They need protection from the cold weather.

This evening Charlie had hockey practice and stayed in town, so Lynn got the little girls from the bus and they ate supper with us.  Then Dani made our calving calendar for this year—writing the names of the cows on the dates they are due to calve.

FEBRUARY 2 – Last Friday Andrea took Emily to town very early in the morning to go with one of her teammates to their hockey tournament in Missoula, Montana.  Andrea helped us that morning with feeding—part of a big bale of alfalfa hay—and she drove the other flatbed truck up to the field with the two big straw bales, for Lynn to unload with the tractor and put the feeders around them. 

Just as Lynn and Andrea got back with the tractor and truck, our new Amish neighbor Rosina Yoder and her little boys came hiking up our lane to visit us.  Jayden (a4 years old) was hurrying ahead, eager to see our cats.  He spied Sammy’s old bicycle leaning against the house and was trying to push it around in the snow and ice.  Andrea found a smaller one for him that the kids outgrew years ago, and gave it to him, and Lynn used our air compressor to pump up the tires.

That afternoon Andrea took Sammy and Dani to their hockey tournament here in Salmon) and then took Charlie to Sun Valley (a 6 hour drive) for his first game the next morning.  It’s a bit of a challenge with 4 kids in hockey, going 3 different directions for their tournaments!  While Andrea and Charlie were gone for the weekend, Lynn went up to their house several times and put wood in the stove, to keep things warm and the pipes from freezing.  The little girls stayed with their dad.

I continued giving Breezy antibiotics, and carefully washing her eye, but no longer had to flush the eye; it’s not oozing anymore--just a dry crust at the stitches.

Carolyn and Heather have 2 new pups.  Their good cowdogs (Baxter, Tuff and Tiny) are getting old and lame (arthritis); Fred is their only young dog, so it was time to get some pups coming along.  These pups, Abbey and Katie, are very cute and smart, and Fred is quite jealous of these new kids in HER house.

We had some warmer mornings—not so bitterly cold—and Heather worked briefly with Willow a few times, putting the little saddle on her, driving her in long lines.  On Monday she put a larger saddle on got her used to the feel of weight in the stirrup, then Heather leaned up over her back.  She’ll keep working with her periodically (it got really cold again and we quit for awhile) and by spring will probably start riding her.


Rusty Hamilton said he could bring us another load of straw in a about week, so Lynn took 4 big bales of straw down to John Miller, to replace the 4 he loaned us when we started feeding our cows.  One of the boys unloaded them; they were working on the horse barn they are building.  John and our neighbor Jeff Minor were shoeing their big draft horses—sharp shoes for traction on the ice.

Tuesday a box of books came in the mail—the book on wolves that was recently published.  The book is called The Real Wolf: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Co-existing with Wolves in Modern Times.  It was written by Ted Lyon and Will Graves (who wrote Wolves in Russia) and has chapters by other people including Dr. Valerius Geist of Canada who is a leading expert on wolf behavior.  I wrote the chapter discussing wolf impact on livestock and ranchers.  The purpose of this book is to present scientific facts and dispel the popular fictions about wolves in North America.  The wolf issue has become an emotional topic.

Wednesday it snowed most of the day.  It was hard to see where the worst icy spots were, and Lynn fell down hard on his back when he went out to do his morning chores.  His back and hip are sore, but no broken bones.  With all the new snow, Rusty won’t be able to drive up here with his trucks to bring the straw; we may have to put the blade on one of our tractors and plow the driveway.  This weekend Emily has hockey tournament here, and her team won some of their games. 

Today Andrea took her in for an early game, then got back home late morning in time to help us bring the cows down from the field.  Dani helped, too.  Even though it was 6 below zero this morning, it was a sunny day with no wind, so we went ahead and gave our cows their pre-calving vaccinations and deloused them. 

Carolyn and Heather came down and helped.  Carolyn brought their big 4-wheel drive tractor down for loading the hay and straw, so we won’t have to put chains on our tractor to get around in the snow and up the slippery driveway.  We got the cows done in less than an hour, and took them back up to the field.   We decided to wait and vaccinate the bulls and yearlings another day (and brisket tag the yearling heifers).

FEBRUARY 12 – We’ve had colder weather again, and wind.  The ice is thicker on the creek and it’s more difficult breaking ice for the cows and for the bulls in the corral.  The cows are eating more straw and we have to take big bales up to their feeders more often.  Last Wednesday Carolyn and Heather drove the truck up with the straw, and chopped ice out of the water holes in the creek.  While they waited for Lynn to move the feeders to a different location with the tractor—out of the wind on Heifer Hill and closer to the brush—they looked at all the cows and noticed that Heather’s cow was starting to get more udder, and relaxed muscles around the vulva.  None of the cows are supposed to calve until late March at the earliest (and Michael’s herd isn’t due to start calving until mid April), so this was a concern.

            The cold weather has made the ice so thick on the little stream (spring water) in the back corral that we can no longer use that corral.  Lynn chopped for more than an hour that afternoon to try to find water for the bulls--down to the dirt with no water.  We had to move the yearling bulls out of the front corral (where the creek runs through, with a better water hole through the ice) and put them in the orchard where I can water them with the hydrant and hose, and put the big bulls in the front corral.


            The next morning it was 25 below zero but even colder with wind chill.  Andrea kept the kids home from school; her car wouldn’t start to take them to the bus.  She helped me feed the horses and break ice out of all the water tubs, and then helped us feed the cows and break ice on the creek for them.  We looked at Heather’s young cow and saw frozen blood down her tail and hindquarters and knew that she had calved in the night.  We figured she must have aborted, since she couldn’t be due to calve until April. 

            We assumed she lost a 7 month fetus, but Andrea was determined to find where she calved, and went hiking down through the fields, checking the brush, as Lynn and I drove back home with the feed truck.  As we turn into our driveway, Heather passed us in her little truck—taking garbage to the dump.  I told her the bad news, that her cow had aborted, and that Andrea was hiking down through the field to look for the birth site.

            Lynn and I drove on down toward the house and noticed that all the horses were intently watching something up in the field, and as we came around the corner we saw Andrea struggling across the field, with a calf!  We hurried down to the barnyard and drove up past my haystack and up through the field.  Andrea had found a live, full-term calf, in a deep ditch in the brush along the fence.  Its ears and feet were frozen but it was licked dry and very much alive.  It was a big calf and hard to get it up out of the ditch, but with great determination she succeeded.  She covered it with her coat and was bringing it across the field.  We helped her load it into the pickup cab and hurried home.


            I put towels on the floor by the woodstove and we brought it into the house to warm it up.  Andrea went up to her house to get more towels, a heater, and Dani, who wanted to help thaw out the calf, while I called Carolyn to tell her the good news.  Carolyn called Heather on her cell phone, and they both arrived at our place at the same time to help with the calf.

            We thawed out her ears, tail and feet with warm water.  Her hind feet were so cold that the cold immediately seeped through each hot wet washcloth we applied, but we kept changing them, applying more hot water, until the feet warmed up.  Amazingly, this calf was not chilled to the core; the inside of her mouth was still warm, and she still had circulation in her feet after we warmed them up.  She won’t lose her feet but she will lose the tips of her ears and tail.


            We got her warmed and fed her 2 quarts of colostrum substitute by bottle.  Then the calf was sleepy and Dani babysat the napping calf by the stove while we drove the feed truck back to the field to bring the herd down.  By that time they had finished their day’s ration of alfalfa hay and willingly followed the truck down through the two fields.  Heather’s young cow was at the rear, however, and decided to go back to where she’d calved, so Carolyn and Heather had get off the feed truck and hurry around the cow and bring her on down with the herd and into the horse pasture and maternity pen, where we fed them a little bit of hay.  Then we were able to sort them all back into the horse pasture except the young cow that calved, and Buffalo Girl.

            Emily’s pet cow, Buffalo Girl, is the one we always use for leading heifers into the barn to calve, or to stay in the barn to babysit a nervous heifer.  Heather’s young cow had never been in a barn.  They bought her as a pregnant heifer and she calved mid-summer out in the field.  So we thought it would be wise to use Buffalo Girl to lead her into the barn, and to stay in the adjacent stall to keep her company. 


We brought the calf out into the driveway next to the maternity pen and brought the two cows out—where the nervous mama sniffed her baby, recognized it as hers, and allowed herself to be herded to the barn with Buffalo Girl.

            The baby didn’t nurse mama, however, so at 8 p.m. I thawed some of our frozen colostrum (that we milked out of Maggie last spring and stored in the freezer) and fed her a couple more bottles.  By the next morning the calf had figured out how to nurse and managed to nurse one teat.  By afternoon she was nursing all four quarters, and her hind feet were no longer so swollen.  We were glad she was in the barn (weather was still severely cold that next day).

            We speculated as to how the young cow became pregnant so early, since the bulls weren’t put with the cows until early July.  Putting the pieces of the puzzle together brought a possible answer.  This young cow was part of a group of pregnant cows and heifers that Michael and Carolyn purchased the year before.  She calved mid-summer as a first-calf heifer and didn’t breed back; she was open last year.  There were several late-born calves in that group of cattle, including a bull calf that didn’t get branded or castrated.  He was still with the herd the next spring, and apparently bred the open cow before he and several other late calves were weaned and removed from the group.

            We kept the cow and calf and Buffalo Girl in the barn for several days;

On Saturday it snowed off and on all day, and by Sunday we had a foot of new snow.  Andrea’s kids helped us do chores and feed cows during the weekend, and Charlie drove the feed truck.  The kids enjoyed seeing the baby calf in the barn.  Saturday night we all went to the lasagna dinner at Church, and it was snowing so hard on the way home that we could hardly see the road.  There was so much snow by Monday that school was closed.  Andrea helped us all morning, feeding the cows, getting another sled load of alfalfa hay for the young bulls, helping Lynn put the blade on our little tractor.  That afternoon he plowed her driveway and ours. 


The weather has warmed up and there’s water in the spring channel in the back corral again.  Yesterday Andrea chopped through the ice on the big hole Lynn made last week trying to find water, and there was plenty of water, so we moved the big bulls back there.  We took Buffalo Girl out of the barn and back to the field.  Today, if it’s not snowing, we’ll shovel some snow out of the sheltered corners in the pen below the barn, put down some straw for bedding, and let the young cow and her baby outdoors.

Rusty brought the rest of our straw yesterday—two loads on his flatbed trailer--so it was a good thing Lynn plowed our driveway.  It was still a bit slippery; Rusty had to chain up to get around in our barnyard, but he managed to get in and out of here with his trailer.  It’s nice to have the straw.  We won’t run out now for feeding the cows, and will have a little extra for barn bedding when we calve.

Michael drove home from North Dakota and arrived yesterday evening (barely made it through some bad roads).  He will be home for about a week and it will be really nice to have him home!