Thursday, June 22, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - April 24 through May 26, 2017

May 2 – A week ago Monday, LillyAnn started calving. We put her in the calving pen and that left Gemini Cricket all by herself in the maternity pen. Andrea got #47 (Sugar Bear, the dry cow that lost her premature calf in February) in from the field to put with Gemini Cricket—the last heifer—so she wouldn’t go nuts all by herself.

Then we put Deerling and calf (Little Miss Firecracker Lulu) down in the big pen below the barn to get used to a bigger place. The calf ran around silly and the cow was goofy, but they seem to be still somewhat bonded.

It was raining that afternoon so we put LillyAnn in the barn to calve. She had a big red bull calf. He was slow to get up, however, and only nursed one teat a little bit when he did nurse. By the time he was 12 hours old he was nursing better, but weak and wobbly. He had diarrhea by noon the next day, when we put the pair out of the barn, so we gave him an oral antibiotic. This was a perfect example of how important it is for calves to receive an adequate amount of colostrum within the first 2 or 3 hours of birth, to get the necessary antibodies against these scour “bugs”. He was sick and off feed through the rest of that day but the medication turned things around and by 5 a.m. the next morning he was doing much better.

Carolyn brought their feed truck down to our place after we fed our cows, to get a big straw bale. Andrea loaded our feed truck again with the tractor and used it to put a bale of straw on Carolyn’s truck to take home for their foaling pen. Carolyn’s old mare Thelma (in her mid-20’s) is due to foal any time and they need a clean, dry place for her. With all the rain and snow we’ve had, all the pens and corrals are a sea of mud--and it was snowing again by that evening.

Thursday morning we had about an inch of new snow. The mud was deep again, making it difficult to drive up to the field to feed our cows. The nights are still so cold that we have to plug the tractor in for a few hours before it will start, for loading hay.

On sunny days, however, the grass is starting to grow and the leaves are coming out on the trees. Here’s a photo of the heifers grazing in the field below the lane.

heifers grazing, leaves starting on trees

On Friday Gemini Cricket finally calved. Andrea, Robbie and kids were gone for the weekend—for Charlie’s band and choir trip. Their choir got first place in the multi-state school competition and the band was third place in their competition.

Lynn and I put the heifer in the barn to calve, and put Sugar Bear (the dry cow) in the next stall, to keep her company. Gemini calved very quickly and easily without any help but the sac around the calf didn’t break. The young mama just lay there and didn’t bother to get up. I had to go into the stall and break the sac and get the calf breathing. When Gemini finally got up she wasn’t at all interested in the calf (a lot like Deerling’s attitude, with her calf). When I checked back awhile later, Gemini was still ignoring the calf; he was lying at one end of the stall and she was standing at the other. So I put some alfalfa hay right by the calf and sprinkled some “calf claim” powder on him—a flavorful, good-smelling mixture that’s supposed to encourage a cow to lick the calf.

When I checked back an hour later she was standing by him and had eaten the alfalfa and licked him a little, but when he got up and tried to go toward her udder she bunted him with her head and kicked him and knocked him down. So I moved them into the larger stall at the other side of the barn, where I could put the calf behind a panel where he would be safe from getting kicked.

I thawed and warmed up the pint of colostrum that Andrea milked out of Buffalo Girl earlier this spring when she calved, and fed it to the hungry baby. After chores that evening, Michael and Carolyn came down to help Lynn and me put the ornery young cow in the headcatch where we could restrain her and lie a hind leg back so she couldn’t kick us or the calf, and I helped the calf suckle his mom.

Later that evening Carolyn called to tell us that young Heather was having her baby and Gregory had taken her to the hospital. Lynn and I stayed up and waited for news of the birth, and I fed our calf another bottle at 1:30 a.m. Heather had her baby about that same time. They named him Joseph Michael Eppich. He weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces, and has lots of hair. The Monkey (Gregory’s nickname for the unborn baby) has arrived!

Heather and baby Joseph Michael Eppich

Saturday morning Nick came down and helped me feed cows (since Andrea was gone, and Lynn’s shoulder is still bad). Carolyn came down as we finished feeding, and the two of them helped me put Gemini in the headcatch again so we could help her calf suckle. We tried first to just let the calf out of his corner to go to her, and he went to her udder to try to nurse but she kicked him really hard, so we put her in the headcatch.

Lynn did the chores at Andrea’s house; he is feeding the dogs and cats while she and the kids are gone. Michael and Carolyn helped us put Gemini in the headcatch again at evening chores to suckle the calf, and I fed him a bottle at 1:30 a.m.

Nick came down Sunday morning to help me feed hay to the cows, then he helped me and Lynn put Gemini in the headcatch. She’s getting a little more at ease with the routine (we feed her some alfalfa hay to eat while the calf is nursing) and we didn’t have to tie her leg back that time; she didn’t try to kick the calf. We thought maybe she was having a change of heart and let her loose before he finished nursing, and she started kicking him again, so we had to put her back in the headcatch.

Andrea and crew started home that afternoon. Charlie’s choir group went to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that morning and Charlie came home on the bus with the other Legacy Choir kids and band group.

Heather and her new baby were able to go home from the hospital that day; both are doing well. Carolyn and her mom plan to go to Canada in a few days to see that baby boy.

baby Joseph Michael

Sunday afternoon Michael and Carolyn built a windbreak for Thelma on one side of her pen, in case she foals in stormy weather, and hooked up a light so they can see the pen from the house. That evening they came down to help us suckle Gemini’s calf again, and Michael named him George. I am still feeding the calf an extra bottle about midnight, since the cow isn’t giving a lot of milk and the calf can’t go that long between meals. Andrea and kids got home from Utah a little after midnight.

Monday morning Andrea helped me put Gemini in the headcatch. She no longer kicks at the calf, but she still won’t let him nurse unless she’s restrained in the headcatch. That evening we put her in the headcatch one last time and then left the pair out of the barn and put them in separate pens next to the barn—and finally were able to put Sugar Bear (the baby sitter cow who has been in the adjacent barn stall all this time to keep Gemini company) back to the field.

Heather sent us more photos of baby Joseph, including a photo of their young dog Dude checking out the new kid.

Heather & baby
Baby JM sleeping

This morning Carolyn and her mom left early to drive to Canada to stay a few days with Heather and Gregory and the new baby. We will check on Thelma a few times during the day while Michael and Nick are gone on their fencing jobs, and they will check on the mare during the nights.

Andrea helped me with Gemini and George—the first nursing with the cow not restrained in the headcatch. We fed her some good alfalfa hay in the corner of her pen and let George out the gate to go nurse. She didn’t try to run off and we were able to make her stay there and eat hay while the calf nursed, then we put him back in his own pen. We put them together again this evening for nursing, with supervision. The cow is still a bit nasty and doesn’t want him to nurse, but he got it accomplished.

Heather sent photos of baby with Grandma Carolyn, and a photo taken the first time she took baby Joseph out to meet the horses.

Baby & grandma Carolyn
Baby meets horses

May 13 Last Wednesday I was able to supervise Gemini and her calf by myself; she finally stands in her corner eating her hay and behaves while George nurses—as long as someone is there to keep her from running off. This makes it to where I can put them together first thing in the morning and again at evening chores so the nursing sessions are about 12 hours apart.
Gemini & George in their separate pens

Lynn went to town that day to get the mail and groceries and he bought a bunch of baby stuff (more diapers, some cute little shirts and suits, and a back/front pack for Heather to carry Monkey around in) for Michael to take up to Canada this weekend. Andrea and Lynn take turns checking on Thelma during the day and Michael and Nick check her at night. No foal yet.

After school today Charlie rode his motorcycle over the hill below our place and I took photos of him as he came home.

Charlie coming home
Charlie's motorcycle

Thursday was cold in the morning but the temperature got up to 80 degrees in the afternoon, and the creek is very high. Sam had severe abdominal pain so Andrea took her to the ER. The doctor thought at first it was appendicitis but it wasn’t. They gave her some medication for the pain but never did figure out the cause.

Friday Andrea helped Alfonso clean the ditch that goes through our place and on down toward his field so he can have some of the water.

My brother Rockwell gave me a bunch of Emily Binning’s cookbooks. Emily was our neighbor and dear friend who passed away in 2010 (cancer). Many years before that, she put together a cookbook of favorite recipes—her own and those of her friends and family members--and had them copied and bound in a red cover. When her husband Gordon sold their little place (at the upper end of our ranch) to David and Rosina Yoder, there was a box of those cookbooks left in the house. Rosina gave them to my brother, realizing that he knew Emily and might know of people who would like one of those books. I gave some to Andrea and her kids for sentimental reasons (Emily took care of my kids a lot when they were little, while Lynn and I were busy haying or riding to move or roundup range cattle, and Emily taught Andrea how to can vegetables, make lasagna and many other good things). We took one to Barb Peets (her daughter had several recipes and photos in that book) and one to Michael to take with the baby stuff to Heather in Canada. Emily was a very special person; we shall always remember her with love.
Emily Binning

Last week I dug a lot of the poppies out of our front yard for Rock and Bev. They want to plant some around their new house up the creek. These poppies hold memories for Rocky because there were some of them blooming at the little cabin (next to the old outhouse) we spent summers in as children, and also some at the old house on the upper place when Dad bought that ranch. There were a lot of poppies along the front yard of the old log house here on our place when we moved in, and over the years they took over the whole yard. Here is a photo of what it looked like some years ago before we started trying to get rid of them and have a yard again!

Poppies in our front yard

Last weekend we had thunderstorms and hard rain. Our creek is very high and dangerous (we can’t walk across it, and don’t want any cattle trying to cross it) and rivers flooding. Michael left early Saturday morning to drive to Canada. Nick was doing their chores and feeding. He harrowed their fields Sunday afternoon and had a hard time getting across the creek with the big tractor; the water was up over the front wheels.

When Michael arrived at Heather and Gregory’s farm he got to meet his new grandson for the first time.

Michael & grandson

Emily brought the kids out here for supper after she got them from Mark; Andrea and Robbie went to his folks place near Idaho Falls so Robbie could help his dad work on a truck, and hadn’t made it home yet.

Monday was the baptism of baby Joseph Michael in Canada. Michael, Carolyn and Carolyn’s mom were there for the ceremony, and Heather’s best friends from high school and college were there, as well. Heather sent us photos, and included a photo of baby Joseph sleeping with Daddy Gregory.

after the baptism
happy family
Gregory & baby sleeping

While Michael was gone, Robbie helped Nick work on some of the ditches on the upper place. They finished fixing the weir and headgate that they helped Michael install earlier, to more accurately measure the water they send down to Barb Peets for her share of the irrigation water. 
the new weir

Michael and Carolyn drove home on Tuesday and got home late that night.

Tuesday morning I got up at 4 a.m. to work on several articles (with approaching deadlines) and the power went off for 2 hours. Since I couldn’t use the computer, with no electricity, I did a little proof-reading by candlelight (Storey is doing a new edition of my Guide to Raising Beef Cattle and I am still working on those revisions and updates).

That morning when I did chores I was finally able to leave Gemini and George together for the first time. She doesn’t let him nurse whenever he wants, but she isn’t as aggressively mean to him. They can live together, and she lets him nurse when I feed her alfalfa hay at chore time.

LillyAnny (daughter of LillyAnn) has been reaching over the netting (sticking her head between the netting and the strands of barbed-wire above it, stretching and mashing down the fence in the field above house. The cows are tired of eating hay and are starting to reach through the fence wherever they can, for green grass, now that the grass is finally growing. I spent a couple mornings and evenings tying up the netting that the cows are mashing down, so they can’t reach over it and mash it.

I took photos of some of the cows and calves, including Buffalo Girl and her calf by the water trough.

Buffalo Girl & calf

And a photo of some of the calves drinking at the trough and rubbing on the old stump we took out when we rebuilt the fence.
calves drinking
Here are a few more photos taken while I was out looking at the cows and calves:

Merrinina & calf lounging around
Zorra Rose (a first-calf mama)
Deerling and calf—they finally became a pair after Deerling was such a bad mother for the first month after she calved
Star Fire’s calf reaching around to try to get to an itchy tail

A couple nights ago Lynn and I watched an interesting DVD that was sent to me by a lady I interviewed for an article about the roping/branding clinics she and her husband put on. Their clinics teach people how to handle cattle during branding with the least stress, and how to improve their roping and horsemanship skills.

Charlie has been spending evenings and weekends working on the 1968 pickup we got from Velma Ravndal in the early 1980’s. She and her husband bought it new, to pull their horse trailer (they raised Arabian horses), and she drove it several years after her husband died. She boarded her last few horses here at our ranch, and came out as often as she could, to ride with us, until she could no longer rider or drive. We bought the pickup from her, and drove it several years, but it has been sitting in our barnyard a long time. Charlie wants it, and has been working on getting it functional again. It’s a good project for him as he learns more about motors and develops mechanic skills.

Gemini is finally letting her calf nurse whenever he wants to. Yesterday we tagged and banded him. We also discovered LillyAnn’s calf lame with footrot when we fed the cows. We brought him and his mom in from field, captured him in the headcatch chute by the barn and gave him antibiotic injections, then put him and his mom in the pen below the barn.

Lynn and Andrea hiked around fence between us and range, to see if the elk did much damage last winter when they were coming in and out every day. Later in the day we had hard rain and strong wind and it changed to snow by this morning.

Gemini was angry, cold and wet this morning and wouldn’t let George nurse until I fed her alfalfa. LillyAnn’s calf is much better, no longer lame.

With the snow and mud it was too slippery to take the tractor down to the heifer feeder so we took them some little bales on the 4-wheeler to put in their feeder.

May 26 Sunday last week we put up another hot wire to keep the heifers in the upper end of their pasture so the rest of that pasture can start growing. We put their feeder right below the gate so we can get to it with the tractor and not get stuck trying to take hay bales down through the mud. 
this location for the heifer’s feeder didn’t work after the ground got boggy, and we had to move it

That afternoon we went to Darrel Bagley’s memorial service at the Cowboy Church up at Lemhi. Darrel (and his wife Traudy) have been good friends for a long time. Darrel had a ranch in Colorado many years ago (and lost his hands and forearms—and much of his eyesight) in a dynamite accident one winter. When he bought a ranch here in our valley in 1969 and was raising cattle and horses, we got acquainted with him, and his wife Traudy (whom he met and married after he moved here with his son and daughter). We often visited with them when our kids were little, and our kids were awed and inspired by his determination to continue doing everything in spite of what most people would consider serious handicaps. Darrel was able to do his ranch work, ride, rope, saddle and bridle his horse, take care of cattle, etc. with his hooks, and never let this inconvenience slow him down. Later he and Traudy moved to a ranch in Nebraska, and then to a ranch in Oregon, but we always kept in touch. He was having me write his biography (using a tape recorder for our phone conversations) to have it for his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.

Sunday evening Charlie and Robbie got the Velma truck running for the first time. That was an exciting accomplishment for Charlie.

Carolyn’s mare Thelma foaled Sunday night at 11 p.m. Carolyn heard her whinny and ran out to the pen, and discovered that the foal was stuck. She had to straighten one leg and then it was born quickly – a nice colt. It was soon up and nursing.

Thelma's day-old foal

Monday afternoon Traudy Bagley stopped by and we had a good visit before she had to drive back to Oregon. We decided that we’ll finish Darrel’s biography and have his kids help fill in some of the gaps in the final chapter.

Tuesday Lynn had another GI tract bleed, but not as serious as the one he had 2 years ago. He didn’t want to go to the hospital; he just rested all day and drank lots of water and Gatorade. Andrea helped me feed cows before she drove to Idaho Falls with Emily to get some things Emily wants for the up-coming wedding in July.

I patched more of the fence in the field above the house where cows keep reaching through and mashing down the netting.

Dani now has soccer practice after school. Her team appreciates her skills; she is quick, and also their only left-footed kicker.

It rained for several days and we had 4 inches of new snow Wednesday morning—on Lynn’s birthday-- and very cold all day. I plugged in the tractor that morning so it would start later, to take a bale to heifers. It barely started, however, and just before that we noticed the heifers had gone through the hot wire out into hayfield, so we know the electricity in the barn wasn’t working. All the rain, leaking through the barn roof, shorted out a light socket and blew a fuse. We had to by-pass that spot to get the electricity working again.

Thursday was still very cold and we started a fire in the woodstove. That evening was Sam’s 8th grade graduation ceremony.

Friday the kids helped Lynn move everything out of the first stalls in the old sick barn, and Robbie welded a couple gates together—to take the place of a metal panel we “borrowed” from one stall when we rebuilt Willow’s pen and needed a gate.

Saturday we brought the cows in from the field above house, sorted off their calves and put them in the sick barn, and vaccinated the cows. Sam helped me fill the syringes: 

Sam filled syringes
While we had Panda in the chute for her vaccinations, we dehorned her. Actually she knocked the horn shell off her smaller horn (hitting it on the side of the chute) and Robbie sawed off the longer horn that she jabs the other cows with.
Robbie dehorning Panda
Then, to stop the blooding, we tied a baling twine tight around her poll, just under the horn stubs, putting pressure on those arteries that are near the surface. To make it tighter, we tied another twine over the top of her head to pull the back and front of that loop closer together. This always works to stop the spurting blood. Large horns have a large blood supply and we didn’t want her to bleed excessively.
the baling twine tourniquet stopped the bleeding
Before we started branding the calves, we brought George and his mother (Gemini Cricket) around from the 2nd day pens and branded and vaccinated George, then put them back to their pen, then branded/vaccinated all the calves. Dani and Sam pushed the calves into the little hold pen and into the calf chute/tilt table for branding.
girls pushing calves into the chute
Dani pushing a calf into the calf table chute
Lynn clipped the calves before branding, to remove any long hair that would make it take longer to burn through and do a nice brand. Clipping speeds the process and the branding iron doesn’t have to stay on as long, minimizing pain for the calf.
Lynn clipping the brand area
Andrea branded the calves while Robbie held the hind legs to hold them still.
Andrea branding while Robbie holds the calf's legs
A few of the calves had horns, so Lynn and Andrea dehorned those.
Lynn and Andrea dehorning a calf
Then we put the calves and their mothers back up to the field above the house. Charlie, Sam and Dani helped with all the sorting and vaccinating, then we all had lunch here. After lunch we fed the heifers below the lane and Andrea and Robbie set a steel post in the fence above house where the old fence is leaning (old wood post broken off).

Sunday Andrea and Robbie helped feed, then went up to Michael and Carolyn’s place to help them and Nick brand calves and vaccinate their cows and move them up to the 160-acre hill pasture. This got the cattle away from the creek, which is treacherously high right now; they don’t want any of the calves drowning trying to cross the creek.

Later that afternoon Michael and Carolyn brought their trailer down and helped us vaccinate the bulls, and vaccinate and brisket tag all the heifers. Then we sorted off their 7 heifers, which they hauled to the upper place and put with their cows and calves on the hill pasture. We put our 9 heifers in the upper swamp pasture above the corrals; they are happy to be on green grass and no longer eating hay! Andrea and Robbie set 3 steel posts in the cross-fence to help strengthen it where it’s been leaning over.

On Monday Robbie went to help Michael and Nick again on one of their custom fencing projects. Our weather is warming up; it actually got above 70 degrees on Tuesday. We got the cows in from the field above the house, sorted Panda off and put her in the headcatch by the barn and took the tourniquet twine off her head, then put the cows and calves in the lower swamp pasture—no longer feeding hay!

Andrea and Carolyn went to 4th of July Creek to put wood sealer on one of the fences Michael, Nick and Robbie built. I got Dottie out of her pen for first time this spring to brush her and clean her feet.

I am still working on my book revision for 4th edition (Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle).

Wednesday was cold and windy. George was bawling and hungry when I went out to do morning chores. He had shimmied between the gate and gate post at some point during the night and was in next pen, and couldn’t get back to his mama. He was very happy when I opened the gate for him!

Charlie drove the Velma truck to school to show his friends that he got it running again, and to have his dad help him adjust the carburetor after school. Andrea irrigated and helped Alfonso get some stray range cows out of his lower field. Then she hurried to town for Sam’s high school orientation after school, and awards ceremony. Charlie sang national anthem at the assembly.

Yesterday Andrea took the kids to school early for Dani’s field trip then she and Carolyn put another coat of wood sealer on the fence at 4th of July Creek. Charlie and Sam’s spring concert (band and chorus) was that evening. It rained in the night and there was new snow on the mountains this morning.

This afternoon I trimmed Dottie’s front feet, and Andrea and I made our first ride of the season, on Sprout and Dottie. This evening Andrea and Robbie took the kids to the car races at the Fair Grounds and Charlie was asked to sing the national anthem. That kid has a great voice and people enjoy hearing him sing.

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