MAY 10 – Last week we put out more straw in and around the calf houses, to give the calves clean bedding. The cows are also eating some of it. This is probably the last straw we’ll have to put out for them this spring, we hope.
Dani was sick for several days with a high fever and cough. She missed school but is doing better now. Andrea took her to the doctor, who prescribed an antibiotic.
Some friends from Oregon, Jerry and Silvia Wilcox, who run a carriage business (doing weddings and funerals with their horses and carriages/wagons, and using their draft teams on wagon train adventures) brought a horse to our Amish neighbors to be trained, and stopped to visit. They’ll pick up the horse this fall after a summer’s work as part of a team, and it will be ready to join their other driving horses.
Granddaughter Heather has been working with the 2-year-old filly (Willow), doing more ground work, and is starting to ride her. She’s been taking her around to the back corral and riding her around in it.
Young Heather also rode Dottie a few times for me, to get that young mare going again after a winter vacation. She’s doing well, picking up where we left off in December. Only one negative episode: Heather was cantering Dottie in circles and figure eights up on heifer hill on their 4th ride, and Dottie slipped on a slick spot and fell flat. Young Heather rolled clear and the mare didn’t fall on her, but when she got up she took off and ran home. Heather hiked down from the field and got on her again and rode back up and finished the session with a good ride.
That afternoon we had another calf, leaving only 3 (one cow and two heifers) left to calve. The next day Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed, and Andrea gently washed the dust and dirt out of Breezy’s eye socket. It has healed very well after the eye removal in late December.
Andrea helped Lynn clean some debris out of the ditch above the house, then took Emily to the doctor for a check-up and x-rays to see if her leg has healed enough for her to start putting weight on it.
Last Friday Andrea and I made a long but fast ride on Ed and Sprout, for Sprout’s first ride this year. She only tried a couple of times to buck a little, but not nearly as hard and nasty as she did last spring. Andrea rode her several more days in a row, and the mare settled back into work quite nicely. All the riding and cow-chasing they did last year paid off; Sprout is a bit more dependable now.
Andrea harrowed the field above the house, where the cows and calves are, and harrowed the horse pasture and orchard. That finishes it up until we take the cows out of that little field to go to pasture—and then we’ll probably harrow that field again.
On Saturday Carolyn and Heather took their truck and trailer up to Mulkey’s place to help haul cattle to the range—an all-day project. Andrea and Lynn brought their flatbed feed truck down here to load a couple more big bales of alfalfa for them. Sammy helped me trim Veggie’s feet, holding him for me and letting him eat a little grass while I trimmed them. The 28-year-old gelding hadn’t been trimmed since last fall, so his feet were getting pretty long. Charlie went with Lynn on the 4-wheeler to irrigate.
Nick drove home from college in Iowa (a 2-day drive) and made it home day before yesterday evening. His little pickup was having problems toward the end of his trip, as he came up the creek road. Yesterday morning when he started to move the pickup to a flat spot by their house so he could jack it up and look underneath it, the tie rod fell off! He was very lucky that it didn’t happen on the trip home; his guardian angel must have been looking after him!
Yesterday it rained off and on all day and last night it changed to snow. We had 5 inches of new snow this morning. Carolyn, Nick and Heather left at 4 a.m. this morning, in the dark, just before the rain changed to snow, to drive to Pocatello to go to Carolyn’s brother’s graduation (receiving his Master’s degree). About 40 miles up the Lemhi River a bunch of deer ran across the road right in front of them and they hit one, breaking out a headlight and damaging the front of the car. It was still drivable, so they just turned around and came home. We were scheduled to do their chores for a couple of days, and feed their cows, but Carolyn called me at 6 a.m. when they got home, to let us know they weren’t going to be gone, after all.
In this crazy weather we are still getting up at nights to check the last 3 pregnant cows. The older cow has had a big udder for more than a month and will hopefully calve soon. The two heifers look like they’ll be a bit later.
MAY 20 – Last Sunday Andrea took the kids fishing. That evening our last cow finally started calving. By midnight there was a nasty wind blowing, and a bit of rain, so we put her in the barn right after she calved, pulling the calf to the barn in the calf sled. Nice to have a calving barn even for bad weather in mid-May! The next day we were able to put them back outside.
We decided we didn’t want to keep getting up at nights to check on the two heifers (one of them will calve fairly soon but the other one probably won’t calve for another couple weeks), so we sent them to the sale at Butte, Montana, along with a young bull we don’t need this year. We had kept an extra bull in case Michael and Carolyn needed one, but they don’t need him so we sent him to the sale. Prices are fairly good right now. Carolyn and Nick brought their trailer down on Monday and we loaded the 2 heifers and the bull and hauled them to the community corral and scales at Carmen (the other side of town) to load on the semi. Rusty Hamilton put a load together from ranchers around the valley, to go to the sale. They sold fairly well. Our bull weighed 1500 pounds and brought $1 per pound. The two pregnant heifers brought $1775 apiece. Now we can sleep again at night and not have to get up to check those heifers!
On Tuesday Andrea and I made a fast ride to check range gates and shut a couple that had been left open all winter. The next day young Heather brought one of her horses down here and used him to give Willow her first ponying lesson, leading her around in the orchard
Then Andrea and I rode with Heather back up the creek as she headed home, then made a loop over the range again—on Dottie and Breezy. Our range neighbor Alfonzo hasn’t fixed the broken gate post yet on the jeep road into the middle range. He had a lot people help him brand, and turned his cows out on the range, but didn’t fix the gate—so Andrea and I tied it up with baling twines. We don’t want his cows going into the middle range 3 weeks early, before the grass up there has a chance to grow.
On Saturday I trimmed Rubbie’s long feet, then Andrea, Dani and I rode (Dani’s first ride this year, on Ed) with Heather on a ponying/training ride for willow. Heather has ponied Willow a few times around home, and this was a longer ride—leading her on a 2 mile loop around the low range. We went along to open and shut the gates for her, and Dani enjoyed seeing how young Willow is coming along in her training. We’ll keep ponying her a few times so she learns how to lead nicely from another horse, and learn how to navigate through the gullies and around the sagebrush and hillsides before she has to do it carrying a rider.
Yesterday morning when Andrea and I fed the cows we noticed a calf lying off by herself. She didn’t get up and come with the others. It was Rocket, named by Dani after she and I watched her birth, a month ago (she was born quickly and Dani said she “came out like a rocket”).
When Andrea walked over to check on her, we saw that she had diarrhea and didn’t want to get up. She needed treatment immediately. We went back to the barnyard and moved all the stored objects out of the “sick barn” including Andrea’s jeep—and had to use her car and jumper cables to get it started.
Then Lynn helped us bring the cow and calf in from the field. The calf was so weak and wobbly that it took two of us to get her up, and she could barely stand, let alone walk. Lynn went to get the calf sled while Andrea and I fended off the other cows (who all came running, thinking it might be their calf) and helped get the staggering calf to the gate. Then we put the calf in the sled and pulled her to the barn, with mama following.
It is very unusual to have a month-old calf this weak, so suddenly. She wasn’t dehydrated, even though she was scouring. She was slipping into toxic shock, probably due to toxins released by a bacterial gut infection. Her gums were purple instead of healthy pink color. We realized she needed IV fluids; the metabolic changes in her body from shock were shutting down her organs, including gut function, and she wouldn’t be able to absorb oral fluids very well. We called Michael, who had just gotten home from North Dakota the night before, to come help give Rocket IV fluids. While we waited for him, we gave Rocket an injection of Banamine (to help ease the gut pain and reduce any inflammation) and tubed her with fluids, electrolytes, and castor oil (to help stimulate the gut if it was shutting down, and to absorb the toxins).
Michael, Carolyn and Nick arrived soon after, and Michael was able to stick a needle into the jugular vein first try, without having to shave the calf’s neck. We put 3 liters of IV fluids into her, and added some baking soda (bicarbonate—to reverse the acidosis) and dexamethasone (to help reverse the shock and keep her from leaking fluid out through the capillaries and losing blood pressure). As we were finishing the 3rd liter, she finally urinated, which was what we were hoping to see. This meant we had restored her fluid levels enough to prevent kidney damage, and her kidneys were still working—she could flush some of the toxins from her system that way.
We continued treatment through the day, giving her more fluids and electrolytes, and a kaolin-pectin mixture via stomach tube every 3 to 5 hours. She was still too weak to stand, but by late evening she was stronger and gave more protest when we tubed her. When we got up at 1 a.m. to tube her again, she was a lot stronger. This morning when I went out at 5:30 a.m. to check on her, she had actually nursed her mother on one side, so we didn’t give her fluids at that time—just more kaolin-pectin via dose syringe.
She continues to improve and we didn’t need to tube her at all today. Andrea and I simply treated her a few times with the kaolin-pectin by dose syringe—into the corner of her mouth to the back of her throat, a little at a time so she can swallow it without choking. Her bowel movements are starting to firm up, so we may not need to continue treatment much longer.
This week I started working on my next book—a collection of stories about some of our favorite horses over the years. It will be called Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch. My publisher, A.J. Mangum (The Frontier Project) hopes to have it published by mid-October. At that point it can be ordered through any book seller, or autographed copies can be purchased directly from me.
Meanwhile, a young doe has been coming into our yard every day to nibble the grass and I took photos of her through the window.