Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch – March 26 through April 24, 2017

April 1 – This past week has been cold and windy with most night temperatures below freezing. Andrea’s kids were home for spring break early in the week and enjoyed helping with chores and feeding. Dani helped Andrea and me corner and tag Zorra Rose’s calf and move that pair to the big ben below the barn. That evening she helped me take more hay and straw down to that pen and we made comfy bedding areas in the windbreak corners.
Zorra Rose's new calf

Fonzy had a cow and new calf out on the road along Gooch place – she was part of the group that got out of the lower place when he left his gate open. She went over the hill onto the range and calved somewhere out there, then brought her calf back to the field a couple days later. There wasn’t enough grass out there yet to survive on, and she decided to come back to where the cows were being fed hay.

Lynn had his last session of physical therapy on Tuesday. Now he’s supposed to keep doing some shoulder exercises at home to keep strengthening and regaining range of motion. That evening Starfire (another first-calf heifer) was calving. We put her in the calving pen with Buffalo Girl to keep her company. After dark it was getting cold and windy so we put them in the barn, in adjacent stalls. The heifer calved shortly after midnight and had a heifer calf.

Wednesday morning was very cold. Outie (daughter of Innie and granddaughter of Onnie) started calving so I put her in the calving just before daylight. She calved after breakfast—a big heifer calf. The wind was cold and the calf was a little slow to get up so Andrea and I tried to help it get going. The calf was getting chilled and the cow wasn’t very helpful so we finally put her in the headcatch and helped the calf nurse.

It’s amazing how much difference it makes when a cold calf gets a bellyful of warm colostrum with all its rich energy. The calf was soon bouncing around and quite self-sufficient. That afternoon Magnicate, a daughter of Maggie, calved out in the horse pasture—a big bull calf. Soon after, it started raining hard, so we put that pair in the barn. It rained hard all night and I had 6 inches of water in the bottom of my wheelbarrow the next morning (probably the equivalent of more than an inch of rain).

Thursday was a little warmer. Robbie fixed leaks in the water trough above house—coated the bottom with a rubbery product that dried and sealed off all the rusted-out spots. Friday he went with Andrea on her trip to Idaho Falls for her appointment with her pain doctor. That evening at a restaurant they met a Canadian couple from Saskatchewan who know Gregory and Heather (my granddaughter), and go to church with them. Small world.

While they were gone, Lynn and I discovered that the electric fence wasn’t working. All the rain (and leaky roof in the old shop) had shorted out the electrical system in the shop and blew a fuse. We had to get a new fuse to fix it.

My brother Rocky called that evening to tell us there was a dead elk caught in the fence right next to their house—and he needed some help to remove it. I told him he should probably have the Fish and Game Department do something with it, and I called and left a message for one of the Fish and Game Department officers, since it was a weekend and no one was in their office. He came out and looked at the dead elk today and said it was killed by a cougar; the cat was probably chasing it down the mountain and it hit the fence—which slowed it down enough for the cat to grab it and kill it. The cougar had grabbed its neck, and slit open the abdomen to eat the liver, but then must have left quickly without eating much more of it, perhaps because there was activity at the house a few yards away. We’re hoping the cougar isn’t hanging around because we all have cows with new calves, and the Yoder’s little boys could also be at risk when they are outdoors playing in that woodsy area.

This morning Andrea, Lynn and I tagged and banded a few calves and put several pairs up to the field above our house. Here’s a photo of Magnicate’s calf.

Magnicate’s calf

April 9 – Last Sunday Lynn, Michael and Carolyn, Andrea and Robbie spent all morning burning the ditchbanks along the field below our house. Even though the heifers grazed there for several weeks and got rid of most of the old tall dead grass, there was still a matt of old grass in the ditches. It needed to be removed before we start irrigating, to get rid of the obstructions. Rain in the wee hours that morning made everything wet and more difficult to burn (and it took quite a bit of propane and diesel to keep the fires going), but also ensured that there would be no danger of wind-blown sparks setting something else on fire (like our haystack nearby). The wind did come up quite strongly before they were finished, but there was no risk for the fire spreading out of control

Shrek (one of our middle-aged cows with ogre-ears) started calving mid-morning so I quickly put her in the calving pen. It was very windy and cold, so I put her in the barn. She calved quickly even though it was a huge heifer calf.

Andrea and Robbie picked up the kids that evening from Mark and we all had dinner here. Em and Robert came out to join us. After dinner Dani helped sort out the cows most likely to calve, to put into the orchard for night—where we can easily see them from the house with a spotlight and binoculars.

On Monday Michael hauled Sy Miller’s tractor and hydraulic jack-hammer post-pounder over here and he set all the posts for the new fence on two sides of the field below the house where the heifers are wintering. We had a blizzard while they were setting posts, but it didn’t last long and they kept working. Then Michael and Robbie set the gate posts in concrete.

Tuesday morning was very cold (17 degrees) with some new snow. It melted quickly after the sun came up, but there was still a bit of snow hanging onto a spider-web outside our dining room window so I took a photo through the window.

snowflake spider web

Michael and Robbie worked on the fence again, putting on the top rails. Andrea’s bad cold settled into her chest as pneumonia so she went to the doctor and had a shot of antibiotics and a got a prescription for follow-up. I cooked lunch for the fence crew again. Lillie Annie started calving so we put her in the barn and she had a nice heifer calf later in the evening. Michael and Carolyn’s cows are calving now, too, and they are nearly 1/3 done calving.

Wednesday Michael and Robbie worked on the fence and put more top rails.
putting top rails on fence

That morning the cougar killed a doe in Michael’s field, right next to his cows, and Rocky found another dead elk just a few hundred yards up the creek from his house. It’s probably one of the two female cougars that was hanging around our places last fall, killing deer. Maybe it’s the one that was stalking Michael and Carolyn’s horses the day some hunters driving along the road shot at it to scare it away, as it was sneaking up behind Carolyn’s mare and ready to pounce.

working on fence
building fence

Michael & Robbie building fence
Thursday was our warmest day this spring, up to 62 degrees that afternoon. Robbie helped Michael put barbed wire on the new fence and hang the gate, and net wire on the fence between the field and the horse pen. Dani didn’t have school that day due to parent-teacher conferences, so she helped Andrea and me feed the cows. When we drove out there we discovered that one of the young cows (StarFire) had a tangle of old electric wire around her chest and shoulders and was dragging about 100 feet of wire. She’d apparently rubbed some of the old wire off the upper fence and got tangled in it. We had to bring her and her calf down to the pen in front of the barn to catch up with her enough to get it off her—before it choked her or before she got a bunch of calves tangled up in the dragging end of it.

After we fed the cows, Dani helped us put straw in the calf houses, so they’ll have a dry place to sleep during the rain and snowstorms. I fed the guys lunch and they worked on the new fence again all afternoon. Twinkle calved late afternoon—another heifer calf. We have mostly heifers and very few bull calves so far.

Friday morning at 3:30 a.m. Panda started calving so I put her in the calving pen where I could watch her more closely from the house. Since she’s a first calver, I put Buffalo Girl in with her, to keep her company so she wouldn’t be so upset. I worked on a couple articles (always deadlines to meet), and kept watching Panda from the window. By daylight she was in more serious labor and trying to get away from the pain, pacing the fence, pushing on the gates, kicking her belly and getting up and down.

I did another phone interview after chores and breakfast and by that time Panda was more serious, with the calf’s feet appearing. They were huge feet, however, and it looked like we might have to pull the calf. Also, the weather went nasty and started raining, so Lynn and I put Panda and Buffalo Girl in the barn. Andrea and Dani came down to help keep track of her (hiding in the barn and watching her from a couple stalls away where she couldn’t see them). She was taking too long and we decided we needed to help her, so Andrea called Robbie. He arrived just after Lynn, Dani, Andrea and I started pulling the calf, and Robbie added his strength to the pulling power—which was a good thing because the calf hiplocked and it was a tough pull to bring it on out the birth canal. But we got it safely born—a huge heifer calf. It was up suckling before long and Panda was a good mama.

Then Michael, Nick and Robbie worked all day on the fence. I cooked lunch for them, and it rained hard during lunch and they were afraid they might have to postpone until the next day, but then it cleared off a little and they were able to continue working all afternoon.

Meanwhile, Deerling (another heifer, and one of Dani’s favorites) was calving and we put her in the barn stall next to Panda. She calved mid-afternoon, much easier and quicker—a small heifer calf—but she wasn’t at all interested in the calf. Unlike Panda who was a super mom in spite of our help with the calving, Deerling (who had no interference whatsoever) didn’t mother her calf. When it got up and tried to nurse, she kicked and bunted it. We had to put her in the headcatch to restrain her and tie a hind leg back (so she couldn’t kick) so her calf could suckle. She didn’t have much milk. Perhaps she calved a bit early (though her due date was fast approaching) or for some other reason the hormones of motherhood and milk production just hadn’t kicked in yet.

The calf was still very hungry at chore time and Deerling kicked her every time she tried to suckle, so we put Deerling in the headcatch again and let the calf have at it. Deerling still didn’t have much milk so we gave her a shot of oxytocin (a drug that stimulates milk let-down and motherly attitude) but that didn’t help much. We were able to put Panda and her calf out in a pen (they were so well bonded by then) and put Deerling’s calf in that adjacent stall so her mom couldn’t beat up on her or kick her. We fed the calf a bottle of colostrum replacer because she still hadn’t had enough to eat.

Andrea, Sam and Dani came down at 2 a.m. Saturday morning to help me put Deerling in the headcatch again and let the calf suckle and fed the calf another supplemental bottle. At 10 a.m. we put Deerling in the headcatch again (at least she wasn’t very reluctant to go into it, which was a blessing) so her calf could be nursed. She still didn’t have much milk and seemed a little dull, breathing with labored effort, so we realized she might be sick. We cornered her behind a panel in the barn and tied a rope behind her so she couldn’t back up, and I gave her injections of antibiotic and Banamine (an anti-inflammatory and painkiller). I didn’t want to give her any more injections while she was in the headcatch because I didn’t want her to refuse to go into that chute again; we needed her cooperation to keep nursing her calf. We put Buffalo Girl in the stall next to her to keep her company since at that point in time there were no other cows or heifers in the barn.

We put Deerling in a different, bigger stall in the barn (next to the headcatch right outside the barn door). In that big stall we could panel off a corner of it for her calf—so it would be right next to her but safe from her kicking. We gave the calf another supplemental bottle that afternoon. That evening it was very cold and raining when we put Deerling in the headcatch again, and let the calf suckle, with a towel over the calf to keep it dry (the headcatch is outside the barn).

Dani & Andrea suckling Deerling's calf

Andrea and Sam put her in headcatch themselves at 2 a.m this morning. At least Deerling is easy to handle and doesn’t kick much when she’s in the headcatch; she just won’t let the calf nurse yet without being restrained.

I got up at 4 a.m. to work on articles, and at 6 a.m. Lynn heard a cow bellowing (I couldn’t hear it over the sound of my computer). I rushed out to the barn and discovered that Buffalo Girl had just calved. She’s a too-aggressive mama and always needs someone there to keep her from rooting her calf too vigorously when she starts to lick him. Once he can get up and nurse, she’s fine, but she needs supervision to make sure she doesn’t keep shoving him around so he can’t get up.

Andrea came down and together we guarded the calf until we could get him on his feet and then helped him nurse his mother.

Put Deerling in headcatch again at 10 a.m. She finally starting has a little more milk and the calf no longer needs a supplement bottle. We’re putting Deerling in the headcatch just 3 times a day (mid-morning, and at evening chores and at 2 a.m.) instead of every 6 hours and the calf seems to be getting enough to eat. We no longer have to tie her hind leg back (to keep her from kicking); as long as she is restrained in the headcatch she lets the calf nurse.

April 17 – We’ve had more calves—mostly heifers and very few bull calves. Last Monday the guys worked on the fence again and I cooked them lunch—and we had a nasty blizzard during lunch and then the snow quit and they were able to resume work.

On Tuesday the guys finished the fence between the field and the horse pens and put up the hot wire along the sides (to keep the cows from rubbing on the netting and to keep Sprout from chewing on her top pole) and I put Sprout back in her “new” pen.

The guys put new poles along the top of Ed and Dottie’s pens where the horses chewed them this winter, and a new hot wire out from the fence that will keep them from chewing on the new poles.

Wednesday morning started turning the corner on Deerling’s attitude. Lynn helped me at 2 a.m. that morning (and let Andrea sleep) and when we let Deerling out of the headcatch she just stood there for a few minutes and let the calf continue suckling, without kicking. This was progress! At the next feeding we let Deerling out of the headcatch very soon after the calf started nursing and she stood there calmly and let the calf continue. So we put the pair in the second day pens –out of the barn at last—in adjacent pens, where the calf has more room to run around and the cow can see and smell her (Little Miss Firecracker LuLu) more readily through the fence. At nursing time we fed Deerling in the corner next to her calf’s pen, and let the calf come through the gate and nurse. This is much easier than having to put her in the headcatch each time, and one person can do this chore. Here’s a photo of Deerling’s calf, taking a nap.

LMFC Lulu taking a nap
That afternoon Rocket (a 2nd calver) and MiniMag (a first calver) went into labor about the same time. We put them in the calving pen, and later into the barn. Rocket was named by Dani because she was born very quickly—like a rocket, according to Dani. It must be a family trait, because she didn’t have a problem this year and she calved FAST. Last year wasn’t so easy, however. She had twins and they were not presented correctly. We had to go fishing for them and pull both of them (the first one was stuck and the second one was breech). But this year she didn’t even bother to lie down. One minute she was just standing there in the barn and when I came back to check on her 10 minutes later she had already calved (dropping the calf on its head in a heap with its head underneath it’s body). It’s a good thing I checked, because the calf couldn’t breathe like that, and I got it untangled in time, before it suffocated.

MiniMag didn’t calve so easy, however, and we were glad we had her in the barn because her calf was huge and we had to pull it. It’s easier to sneak up on a heifer in the small barn stall and put chains on the calf while she’s lying there laboring. Andrea got the chains on the calf’s legs and Robbie helped us pull the calf—another hard pull. Most of the heifer’s calves have been born easily this year, but some of the Zorro daughters (who were big themselves at birth) have had big calves and needed a little help.

Thursday it rained, but Michael and Robbie went ahead and set the gate post for a new gate in the corner of Ed’s pen (to replace an old panel that’s hard to open). The little walk-through gate is fine for taking Ed in and out, but when we need to take a machine in there to clean the manure out of the pen we need the bigger gate.

That evening it rained more, turning to snow, making it difficult to see the cows from the window. The spotlight doesn’t work very well in a snowstorm. Andrea took a little hay out to them in the middle of the night so the cows would eat and spread out and not be all huddled in a tight group where we couldn’t see whether any of them were calving. She also put new straw out in the 2nd day pen windbreak corners for the new babies so they could lie on something dry and not be so cold and wet.

Dani had a friend overnight. They helped us feed, and played with Deerlings calf

Emily and Robert made a trip to California to see his grandfather, and stopped to see my cousin’s husband, Ray. There was new snow on Donner Pass on their way home, and the road was closed for cars without chains. Since they didn’t have chains they camped in a gas station and slept in their car until the road opened again the next day.

Saturday was cold again. Lynn and I tagged the newest calves. Rosalee started calving so I put her in the calving pen by the house. She took a while, and then was having a little trouble; she got up before the calf was fully born and it hiplocked. Andrea and Robbie had to pull it out – putting the chains above the calf’s knees because the calf was so long, with front feet dragging the ground.

This is what Rosalee did a few years ago when she was calving the day of Bill’s funeral (Lynn’s brother). I stayed home from the funeral because we realized she was calving, in case she needed help. She had a big bull calf that hiplocked and I had quite a time pulling him on out by myself, but finally managed to do so.

Yesterday was cold again, down to 22 degrees in the morning. Deerling has made a lot of progress and she didn’t try to kick her calf at all after I left them together for the whole time I was doing morning chores, so I just left them together. They are now an official pair! Michael and Robbie finished up the last of the horse pen job, hanging the new gate and putting hot wire along Dottie’s pen.

I cooked supper for everyone that evening when Andrea and Robbie brought the kids home from Mark. After supper they went out to start the tractor (it had been plugged in all day) but it wouldn’t start. The battery was run down, and the battery charger wasn’t enough to get it going soon enough. Michael had to bring his tractor down just before dark to load our feed truck for morning and take a new bale out to the heifers.

This afternoon Andrea and Robbie burned the grass off ditch above the little field where the cows and calves are, so Andrea can start the water through that ditch.

APRIL 24 – Merrinina calved last Tuesday and as soon as her calf nursed a little we moved that pair out of the calving pen to the 2nd-day pen with a shelter--a tarp over one corner--since it was raining. By afternoon it was raining very hard and I went out to herd the cold little calf into the sheltered corner where there was a dry place to lie down.

Buffalooky started calving that evening and we put her in the barn because it was still raining hard. She had a big bull calf. The bulls are still way behind; we have a lot more heifer calves than bulls this year.

Wednesday morning it quit raining so Andrea, Lynn and I tagged and banded Rosalee’s big calf. He was hard for us to put down on the ground to band him (he weighs a lot more than I do because he’s big and was already several days old), but we got it accomplished. At least Rosalee trusts us, and though she hovered over us, mooing, and concerned about her calf, she didn’t try to bash us.

We put Buffalooky and calf out of the barn to a 2nd day pen, and briefly put Deerling and calf down in the big pen with Rosalee and calf, thinking Deerling and calf could probably “graduate” from their pen and start living with some other pairs. But Deerling was still a little confused and was letting Rosalee’s calf attempt to suckle, so we put her and her feisty little heifer back in their own pen.

Thursday morning at 1 a.m. Cupie Doll and Malulamae were both calving so we put them both in the barn. Malulamae is a first calver and needed a baby-sitter in the next stall so it was handy that we had an older cow calving at the same time. Malulamae got frantic when the labor pains hit, and tried to climb the walls and bash the doors down. Andrea had to stack several bales of hay on the outside of the barn doors (along with the props we usually put against the doors) to make sure she didn’t get out.

When she started serious labor Andrea and I sat quietly in the back stall by the back door where the cows couldn’t see us, and watched—in case we needed to help. The heifer took awhile, with a big bull calf, and we did end up pulling it, but it was an easy pull. By that time (5 a.m.) Andrea was exhausted, having been up all night, so she went home to bed and I continued watching Cupie Doll. She finally calved (a big heifer calf) and Malulamae’s calf was up nursing, so I went out to do my morning chores.

We let Andrea sleep, and Lynn helped me feed the cows, get firewood and put Rosalee and calf up to the field with the other pairs. After that he got the tractor started (the battery seems ok now, after being recharged) and brought some big bales around for the bulls, and loaded the feed truck. About that time it started raining hard, so I put Buffalooky and calf down into the larger pen below the barn where there’s a better windbreak corner and an overhanging tree that gives more shelter.

Friday we did chores and feeding early, took a big bale out to the heifers, tagged all the new calves and put the two pair out of the barn. Lynn went with Andrea to Challis to watch the girls’ track meet. Both Sam and Dani did very well.

It was a nicer day and I took some photos up in the field above the house, of some of the cows and calves.

cows and calves in the field
dinner time

Saturday we tagged and banded the newest calves then Lynn went to locate a water well for a rancher across the valley. Sunday we had rain off and on all day, so Lynn was glad he did the water-witching on Saturday.

Sunday morning we fed cows in pouring rain, put pairs to the field in the rain, and then it let up a little and Robbie and Andrea put up the hot wire to split the field below the lane and lock the heifers on the creek side that we always pasture because it’s too boggy to put up hay. This will give the hayfield side a chance to start growing, without the heifers continually grazing it into the ground. They are hungry for green grass, even though the grass isn’t ready to be grazed yet. The kids ate dinner here that evening, after coming home from their dad’s place. Dani enjoyed seeing Deerling’s calf again, and walking out to see all the cows and calves in the field above the house.

We only have two cows left to calve—LilyAnn and a first calf heifer, Gemini Cricket (a daughter of Emerald). This morning LillyAnn is restless, so maybe she’s in early labor. It would be nice to have both of them calve soon!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - February 14 through March 26, 2017

FEBRUARY 20 – We’ve had warmer weather, barely freezing at night. Michael, Nick and Robbie have been working on the new fence for Breezy’s pen and I’ve been cooking lunch for them the past few days. 

On Thursday Andrea got a call from the school to tell her that Sam had slipped in the mud during the noon hour, and had fallen down and hit her head on the concrete sidewalk—breaking her glasses and briefly knocking her unconscious. She was being taken to the ER in the ambulance. Andrea rushed off to town and got to the hospital about the same time the ambulance did. The ER doctor thought at first that she might have broken some of her facial bones (along with a mild concussion), but her face was just badly bruised. We are glad she wasn’t hurt any worse than that.

On Friday Andrea held Willow for me while I trimmed her feet. They’d grown very long over the winter and I wanted to get them trimmed before we put her in her new pen. She has very hard, durable hooves and even though they were a bit softened by being in the muddy pen, they were still difficult to trim and had not broken like most horse’s feet would do when growing that long.

On Saturday we put Dottie, Ed and Breezy in the 2nd day pens by the calving barn to get them farther away from the noise of pounding posts. Michael hauled Sy Miller’s tractor and hydraulic (jack-hammer) pounder over here on our flatbed trailer, and Sy set all the new posts for Breezy’s pen. Some of them were a little hard to pound through the frost, but they used a metal pilot post to start those holes, and managed to get them all into the ground far enough.

Yesterday it rained, so the guys were glad they’d set posts the day before. Today the weather was nicer so the guys worked on the fence again.

FEBRUARY 28 – We had a lot of windy weather last week, and a blizzard on Tuesday afternoon. The guys had to quit early that day, after they got soaked and cold. That was the afternoon we were going to have a vet come look at Shiloh’s eye (it has been running and irritated and we thought there might be something embedded under the eyelid). We postponed until the next day and even then it was so windy we took Shiloh to the top of her pen where we could stand behind a big sagebrush that blocked some of the wind. The vet couldn’t find anything in the mare’s eye, but the third eyelid tissues were swollen and the eye was discharging mucus so she inserted cortisone/antibiotic ointment into the corner of the eye. We continued that treatment daily for several days and that seemed to resolve the problem. While the vet was here we also had her look at Breezy’s remaining eye, to make sure it is staying healthy. There are rough red areas on the white part, but they are not cancerous. Keeping a face mask on her all the time helps protect her eye from sunlight, insects and dust.

The strong winds blew more shingles off Andrea’s roof and we had to replace them. We had a few cold days, down to 17 degrees at night.

Lynn’s appointment with orthopedic surgeon went well, with good news. He doesn’t need surgery. The shoulder attachments are partly torn, but not all the way through, and will probably heal. The surgeon injected cortisone into the inflamed areas and prescribed several weeks of physical therapy to help restore strength and range of motion.

Charlie took his drivers’ test and passed the driving and written tests so now he has his drivers’ license. He can drive to the school bus, leave the car there at Baker and drive home again.

On Friday the guys finished Breezy’s new fences and we moved that old mare into her new pen and put Willow in her rebuilt pen. Here are some photos of those two new pens.
new horse pens
Willow's new pen
Now the side pen where Willow spent the winter can be used for calving again. We also put more poles on the calving pen fence so cows can’t stick their heads through. We sawed up some of the old fence poles for firewood, since we are running low on wood after the long, cold winter.

The guys made a little gate in the side of Willow’s pen (in addition to the main gate at the end of the pen) so I can carry hay through to feed her, and use the slow feeder for that greedy mare. 
little side gate into Willow's pen
Willow was frustrated the first few days because it takes more time to eat, pulling the hay out through the grate a little bit at a time, so she pawed it and tipped it over, but eventually learned how to use it. She still tips it over and over and plays with it like a toy but doesn’t get her foot caught in it anymore. She mostly flips it over with her nose.
Willow eating out of the slow feader
On Sunday we got the cows in and vaccinated them with their pre-calving vaccine and deloused them all again. It’s been a bad winter for lice, with it so cold. Michael, Carolyn and Nick helped. Michael brought his tractor down for diesel and after we worked the cows he moved some of our hay bales around for the heifers and loaded the feed truck.

Yesterday morning cold again, down to 18 degrees. Sugar Baby (a 3-year old second calver) had a premature calf. Andrea and Robbie discovered the tiny baby when they came down to help me feed cows. All the young cows and first-calf heifers were grouped around it, sniffing and helping lick it. The calf was very tiny, with short, velvety hair, and probably 6 or 7 weeks premature. Robbie carried it to pickup and held it while Andrea drove. Even though the calf hadn’t been born very long, it was chilled, with sub-normal temperature of 92 degrees. Normal for cattle is 101.5 degrees. We warmed the little guy by the wood stove and dried him with towels. Here is a photo of him resting on his bed of towels.
calf sleeping on towels by the stove
I warmed up some colostrum but the calf wouldn’t suck a bottle, so we tubed him, inserting a tube into the nostril, to the back of the throat where he swallowed it, and on down into the stomach. Then we could attach a funnel and pour the colostrum into the tube and feed him that way.

feeding premature calf with nasogastric tube
We fed him by tube every 4 hours. Lynn went to town and bought milk replacer and we started feeding it today after we ran out of colostrum.

After school the kids stopped by to see the calf. Dani curled up with him for a while on his bed of towels.

Dani taking nap with premature calf
The calf was stronger by evening and trying to get up. Lynn helped me tube him in the middle of the night.

This morning Andrea helped me tube-feed the calf after the kids went to the bus. She also checked on the young cow that calved prematurely. She was little dull and off by herself. We brought her down to the corral and gave her antibiotics and Michael checked her (on his way to work on another fencing job) to see if there was a twin still inside her. No twin, but the cow was slow to clean, which is common with a premature birth. We put her in orchard with Buffalo Girl so we can watch her, and kept feeding the calf every 4 hours.

MARCH 9 – The premature calf only lived 2 ½ days. He was getting stronger for awhile and then went into decline, with a slight fever. Even though we had him on antibiotics, to head off pneumonia (since the lungs are not well developed yet at that stage) something went wrong; his body systems were too immature to sustain life on his own. 

Wednesday afternoon Andrea went to town to attend the awards assembly at the middle school, where Sam was receiving her student of the month certificate. Then she helped Lynn on a water-witching job, locating a site of a well on Carmen Creek. The property owner wanted Lynn to put in a steel post to mark the site, and Lynn’s impaired shoulder made that impossible, so Andrea went with him to pound the post.

Lynn is now doing physical therapy once a week and some exercises at home to help strengthen his shoulder, and he’s getting more range of motion.

This past week we’ve had warmer weather—a couple days up to 50 degrees in the afternoon in spite of freezing at night. The snow is almost gone from our lower fields.

Charlie looked at old 1967 Chevrolet pickup that we bought years ago from Velma Ravndal (the elderly lady that boarded her horses here for a few years). Charlie wants to get it running again and drive it, so this will be a good project for him.
On Sunday Andrea helped me feed the cows early, then she and Robbie went up to Michael’s place to help Michael, Carolyn and Nick vaccinate and delouse their cows, and put nose flaps in the 6 big calves (late summer calves that wintered with their mothers) to wean them.

A couple days ago it snowed again, but was warm enough to melt off by evening. Yesterday and today were warm, feeling like spring. We are short of hay, however, after feeding so much during all those weeks of extremely cold weather, so we are buying 50 more big bales (alfalfa/grass) from a rancher across the valley from us. He delivered 10 of the bales yesterday afternoon. We only had one bale left for our heifers, so before Phil arrived with the load of hay Andrea moved that bale out of the way, and we took the 2 oat bales out to my horse pasture (where we will soon be moving the young cows, before they start calving). That left just one more oat bale we will probably feed to the bulls.

MARCH 20 – A week ago Saturday we moved the young cows (first calf heifers) from the lower swamp pasture to the horse pasture and orchard where we can watch them when they start calving. They are enjoying the oat bales in the feeders.

cows enjoying oat bales
We cleaned the old bedding out of the barn the next day and left all the doors open for a couple days to help the dirt floor dry out before we put new bedding in. We started training the heifers to go into the barn, using Buffalo Girl to lead them in. 

Even though the weather is fairly mild in late March through April, we sometimes get storms and snow, so we want to be able to put a calving cow or heifer into the barn if necessary. We lured the heifers in with a little alfalfa hay, to teach them that being in the barn is not scary.

We brought a big straw bale around for barn bedding and put a tarp over it to keep it dry until we use it, and took a big bale out to the calf houses in the field above the house—to put bedding in those little houses for the young calves when we have cows and calves up there.

Now that the days are getting warmer and the mud is starting to dry up—and afternoons are longer with Daylight Savings Time—Dani has been spending time here after school, working with Willow. That young mare is 5 years old this year, and still very green, since we didn’t have time to do anything with her last year. Dani has been catching her and brushing her, and we hope to start riding her again in a few weeks, to resume her training.

Dani brushing Willow
Tuesday it got up to 64 degrees. After school Charlie brought in some wood (we still need a fire in the early mornings when it’s cold) and then helped Andrea saw up a few old poles (from the fencing projects) for future firewood, while Dani worked with Willow. She led Willow around, and brushed her while she was eating out of the slow feeder.

Willow eating at slow feeder

Willow pulling out hay

The heifers are enjoying their training sessions, going into the barn to eat a little alfalfa hay. They come eagerly into the calving pen when we open the gate, and troop across the driveway to the barn. 

Lynn went to Agency Creek on Wednesday to locate water for a lady who needs to put in a well. That day Michael and Robbie finished up the horse pen project and re-hung a gate, so I could move Sprout back into her creek pen the next morning. Michael brought down the backhoe and started taking out the ancient fence along the field below the lane. That fence was old when Lynn and I moved onto this ranch in 1967 and the posts were rotting off and falling down, the net wire was saggy (we’d propped the fence up a few times with steel posts) and rose briers had overgrown it. We are rebuilding that section of fence, along with the old fence between the field and the 2 horse pens where Rubbie and Veggie lived for nearly 30 years, and where Sprout and Shiloh now live. Sprout can stay in the creek pen until we get that side rebuilt. In one afternoon the guys got nearly all the old fence and brush torn out and hauled off. The heifers in that field now have access to the ditch bank pasture and can graze the tall grass (that got snowed under last fall before they could use it). They are enjoying the extra space and grass, as well as the hay in their feeder.

heifers have access to ditchbank with fence gone
heifers eating hay at feader
Also that afternoon Phil Moulton brought us the last loads of hay we are buying from him—50 big bales, total, to make sure we have enough hay to make it through until there’s adequate grass for the cows. He hauled a couple loads to us, which we stacked by Shiloh’s pen, and 3 loads up to Michael’s stackyard.
more hay for heifers

The next morning was cold, down to 22 degrees, but warmed up by afternoon. Robbie and Nick worked on the fence and got all the rest of it taken down and hauled off. Andrea went to town for Sam’s doctor appointment/checkup physical so she can start track and cross-country this spring. 

Carolyn met all afternoon with Cindy Yenter, our local IDWR person (Idaho Department of Water Resources) and together they got the errors straightened out in the water district bookkeeping for what the water users’ assessments will be. Cindy is now more aware of the major problems we’ve had the past several years—especially last year—with one neighbor (who was the Secretary-Treasurer of our water district) trying to manipulate things, falsify water use records, and cause us as much trouble as possible. We’re hoping for a better irrigation season this year, with more oversight from IDWR and more enforcement of the locked headgate rule, so certain people can’t steal our water.

Saturday was very warm, up to 70 degrees in the afternoon. Our tractor started without being plugged in, for taking a new big bale to the heifers and loading the feed truck for the older cows. Strong winds in the afternoon made it necessary to tie the barn doors open, however, so the props wouldn’t keep falling down and the doors banging open and shut. We are still trying to get the dirt floor dried out a bit more after all the snow slid off the roof and made a slow-melting ice pile behind the barn—seeping into the backs of each stall. With the doors open and some air flow through there, it’s drying out.

Yesterday we gave the heifers another training session (going into a couple barn stalls to eat a little alfalfa hay) and sorted off a few of the earliest-to-calve cows in the field above the house. It’s easy to sort the ones we want by feeding some hay on both sides of the gate and then quietly bringing the ones we want and putting them through the gate, with one person guarding the gate to make sure we don’t get any extra volunteers.

Today Robbie and Nick sawed up the old posts and poles from our fence rebuild project, for firewood. Maybe with this addition to our dwindling woodpile we won’t run out of wood before we run out of cold weather!

MARCH 26 – We had a few warm days, up to 55 degrees in the afternoons, then it got cold again, down to 22 degrees at night. We brought a few more cows down from the field to put in the “maternity ward” in preparation for calving.

We had our first “real” calf (since the premature baby that didn’t live) on Wednesday. Zorra Rose (a first-calf heifer) calved quickly and easily—a black brockle heifer calf. It was a nice afternoon so she didn’t have to go in the barn. The calf was up and nursing very soon, and Zorra Rose was a good mom. She wasn’t due to calve until April 9th; the calf was 17 days early, but strong and healthy. Here are a couple photos of the new calf after we put her in a windbreak pen with her mom. She is checking everything out, and curious about the hay that mom is eating.
Zorra Rose - new calf
baby trying mom's hay

We probably won’t have any more calves for a day or two, but we started putting the most likely candidates in the orchard pen at night, where there’s a good yard light, and we can see them easily from the house with a spotlight and binoculars.

Our fields are drying out enough to harrow and spread the manure piles around, so on Friday Andrea started harrowing and then let Charlie do several of the fields. He enjoys driving the tractor. Yesterday Andrea harrowed the last field (below the lane, where the heifers are). The heifers thought it was great fun chasing the harrow around the field until they got tired and bored with this novelty.

A couple days ago Emily found an arrowhead while hiking, and took photos of it. This is the first arrowhead she’s ever found. There are many arrowheads and other ancient artifacts scattered around this area, from long ago when the Indians were living in this area and traveling back and forth from winter to summer hunting areas.
Emily's arrowhead

Today Andrea and Robbie burned some of the tall grass out of the ditch that serves the field by her house and started a little water through the ditch. Even though we had a lot of snow and the fields were moist for a while as it melted, we’ve had a lot of wind lately, drying things out. The grass is trying to grow, on warm days, so it’s probably time to start thinking about cleaning ditches and irrigating.

***For interesting stories about calving, baby calves and other adventures with cattle, you might like my book Cow Tales: More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch.  This book is part of a 3-book series that includes Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, and Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters.  These are $24.95 each and autographed copies can be ordered from me at 208-756-2841 or hsmiththomas@centurytel.net  or P.O. Box 215, Salmon, ID 83467, with a discount when all three books are purchased.