Sunday, May 3, 2020

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - March 19 through April 20, 2020

MARCH 27 – Last Thursday we had our first calf, born 13 days early. It was a cool, foggy morning and we gave the heifers their second barn lesson—and they all went in very willingly—and we were glad to have that accomplished before we had to put Magdalena in the barn later that day, to calve. The weather was very windy and cold and we thought it best to let her calve in the barn. 

Andrea and Dani hid in the barn in a farther-away stall to watch and make sure everything went well during the birth. Magdalena calved swiftly—a nice bull calf. Dani took a photo of him a few minutes after he was born.
first calf
He was on his feet very soon and trying to find the udder, but was having a little trouble suckling. Eventually Andrea and I helped him; we gave the cow some alfalfa hay in a tub—which she was content to stand there and eat—while Andrea very quietly crept alongside the calf and guided him onto a teat. She then realized there was a problem; the cow’s teats were sealed over and there was no way the calf could start them. Probably during the really cold windy weather she suffered frostbite on the ends of the teats and they healed with a bit of scab. Andrea had to squeeze them hard to start them—which the cow did not appreciate (and tried to kick a little) but considering that this cow is not a pet and had never had anyone try to get that close to her udder before, she was really quite cooperative. After the calf was able to nurse, he eagerly got his dinner! Dani took a photo of Andrea helping the calf get onto a teat.
Andrea helping Magdalena's calf nurse for 1st time
Later (at 4 a.m. in the morning) I went out to the barn to check on mama and baby and they were doing fine. After we fed the cows, Andrea and I put some hay in one of the 2nd day pens for bedding (in the corners where we’d shoveled the snow out) and put Magdalena and her calf out of the barn. Dani took a picture of them.
first calf - day after birth
She also carried in more pellets for our stove, filled the wood-box and helped me shovel more snow out of the corners of the bigger pen below the barn so we can eventually put bedding down there for baby calves.

That afternoon Michael brought his skid steer down here and then took his trailer to get 4 big bales of hay he was able to locate from a rancher up the valley. He’s running out of hay for his cows. Even though he is trading fencing for some hay on a ranch across the valley from us, he can’t get into that haystack until the snow settles; the stack is a long ways from a road and the snow is still more than 2 feet deep up there.

On Saturday we put the heifers in the barn one more time for their last “barn lesson” and then took big bales to the pasture where we have the pregnant cows. Andrea and Stan moved their feeders to new areas. We also took a new big bale of alfalfa to the young heifers and a bale of grass hay to the bulls.

That evening we sorted off the cows most likely to calve next, and put them in the orchard “maternity pen” for the night, where we can see them from the house. Dani started coming down here on a 4-wheeler at 2 a.m. to check the cows on her “night shift” so I can sleep a little longer. I usually get up at 4 or 5 a.m. and it helps to have someone check the cows once or twice in the night before that.

Sunday was warmer, up to 48 degrees. Andrea helped Lynn and me tag and band Magdalena’s calf. It’s a lot easier on these little guys to castrate them at this age than to wait until they (and their testicles!) are bigger.

Michael brought a load of poles for our corral repair project, and then used his skid steer to remove the remaining deep snow from our pen below the barn. There was so much snow that it would have taken several weeks to melt.

That evening Zorra Rose started calving, so we put her in the calving pen where we could watch her. After it got dark I turned on the lights in that pen, and by 8:30 could see that she was in active labor and the amnion sac was starting to emerge. I went out to turn the lights on in the barn (since it was quite cold by then and we’d decided to put her in the barn to calve). When I went to the calving pen to start bringing her to the barn, I could see that the calf’s feet were coming, and they were hind feet!

So Andrea, Dani and I took her to the pen by the barn and put her in the head-catch, and Lynn called Michael. Michael and Carolyn had gone to bed, but they came down to help us. We were getting the calf puller located when they arrived, but we didn’t need to use it. The calf wasn’t very big (almost 2 weeks ahead of due date) and with several of us pulling we were able to get the calf out fairly quickly and it was still alive. It was a heifer, and we got her breathing without much trouble.

Since it was a small calf, and backward, we wondered about the possibility of twins. Michael reached in to check, and there wasn’t another calf, but the placenta was already coming loose. This calf was on borrowed time; we were lucky to get it out alive. We put the mama and baby in the barn, and Dani carried the calf. She took a photo of it.
calf doing fine after backward birth
.. and we took a photo of Dani when we all got back to the house—she was all slimy from carrying that new baby.
Dani slimy from carrying calf
We checked on the pair again after a few minutes. The little calf was strong and lively, and was up and nursing mama within 45 minutes.

Monday was cold and windy again. We put Magdalena and calf down in the big pen below the barn, and the new mama and baby out of the barn to the 2nd day pens. Michael and Nick worked on our corral fence, and Michael stopped by to take a look at the lively little calf that he helped save the night before.

Andrea and Stan went to town for groceries and to do the town errands—which are a little more challenging with the new protocols for social distancing and not being able to go into some of the places of business.

That night it rained hard and when one of the first-calf heifers started labor at midnight we put her in the barn to calve. We put China Doll (the gentle 2nd calf cow that we’d used as a “leader” to teach the heifers to go into the barn) in with her, and moved her into the adjacent stall to keep the heifer company so she wouldn’t freak out being alone in the barn. The heifer finally calved, and was a good mother.

By morning the rain had turned to snow, and we put more bedding in the pens for the cows with new calves. Another heifer started calving in the afternoon, and at 4 p.m. we put her in the barn. She was taking too long in early labor however, and never really progressed to hard straining so we realized something was wrong. Late that evening after Andrea came down here, we put the heifer in the headcatch to restrain her so we could check. Emily and Stan came to help, too, in case it was a difficult birth.

Andrea reached in and found the calf’s head starting to enter the birth canal, but no feet. The front legs were both turned back at the shoulder. It was a long, hard reach to get those legs; Andrea had to push the calf’s head back in farther, to have more room to maneuver the legs. Lynn and Dani held the heifer’s tail straight up as hard as they could (a strategy that helps keep a cow from straining and pushing so hard), so Andrea could have a better chance at pushing the head back and manipulating the front legs of the calf. She feared it was dead because there was no resistance, no movement of the calf when she was repositioning the legs and bringing them into the birth canal. Also, the placenta was separating and already had some holes in it.

As we pulled the calf—Andrea, Lynn and Stan pulling hard on the chain handles, with Emily and me stretching the vulva so the head could come through—we could see it was dead. The eyes were glazed and the calf’s tongue was limp, thin and dehydrated.

It was a very sad situation, but we realized that this calf probably died even before the mama started labor and there was no way we could have saved it. It had been dead several hours, and that was probably the reason it didn’t enter the birth canal properly. A live calf wiggles around and resists the pressure of the uterine contractions when early labor starts, and gets pointed toward the birth canal with front legs extended. A dead calf is limp and unresponsive and apt to get jammed into or against the birth canal in any kind of position. So we lost this calf and Dani wept. We hate to lose any calves, but this young heifer was a really nice one and she would have been a good mama. We put her back out into the maternity pen with the other cows.

That evening we got an e-mail from granddaughter Heather in Canada and she sent a photo of her two boys taking a nap. Pretty cute kids!
sleepy Canadian kids
The next day was cold and snowy, and we used the tractor to bring several more big bales to the cows and a big bale of straw to the pasture above the house where we’d be putting cows with young calves. We spread straw in both calf houses, and put part of the bale into a feeder so we can put a little alfalfa hay on top of the straw.

One of our cows (Panda—named for her white face with black spots) has short little horns and is very mean to the other cows, knocking them out of her way and hitting them in the belly with her larger horn. She may have been the cause of the heifer losing her calf. After watching her knock the other cows away from the new bales in the feeders, we decided to dehorn her, even though she’s heavily pregnant. We put her in our squeeze chute and started sawing off her biggest horn, but it was difficult to tie her head securely enough to keep her from moving too much, and when she struggled she almost got upside down in the chute. We didn’t want her to abort her own calf from the stress, so we didn’t quite finish the job, but we did thump her horn hard enough to make it a little sore so she wouldn’t use it to keep hitting the other cows. After she calves we will either dehorn her or maybe just sell her this fall after she finishes raising her calf. She has a really bad attitude and we don’t need a cow that’s this ornery and mean.

Yesterday it snowed a little more. We put several cows up in the pasture above the house and one of the calves (the little heifer that was born backward) was smart enough to figure out how to go into the calf house to get out of the wind and snow.

Grandson Nick came down with some fencing materials and built the braces in the fence that he and Michael started repairing earlier in the winter—the old boundary fence between us and the old Gooch place. We want to make sure Alfonso’s cows and calves can’t come through it into our place.

Efforts around the country to halt the coronavirus are ramping up, and the governor of Idaho said that all non-essential businesses would be closed for a while. Banks have closed their lobbies and people can only use the drive-through services.

Today we put the young cow that lost her calf up in the field with the cows and calves. She seems to be recovering ok from her ordeal and difficult delivery. Lynn went up to Andrea’s house for a little while and helped babysit Christopher while Andrea fed the cats. Since it was a warm afternoon they took Christopher outside and he had fun walking around petting the cats and picking weeds.
Christopher walking around outside with Great Grandpa Lynn
Christopher picking weeds and petting cats

APRIL 4 – I cleared off the couch in the dining room last week so Dani could sleep on it when she’s down here all night some nights watching the cows or helping with a calving cow. On Saturday one of her favorite cows calved. MiniMag is a granddaughter of Dani’s old pet cow Maggie. It was a nice day (not snowing or cold and windy so we let her calve outside in one of the calving pens next to the house. Andrea’s friend Stan got to watch a normal, natural birth for the first time! We had a nice view from the kitchen window. Within just a few minutes the calf was getting up, and it didn’t take long for it to find the udder and get dinner.

At chore time that evening Dani helped me move the mama and baby to a 2nd day pen by the barn, where there’s a windbreak and bedding. The heifer calf was very gentle and mellow and Dani named her Sweet Pea.

Sunday morning Dani was still asleep after checking on cows through part of the night, and Em was sleeping after her late night at work (she works some late shifts at the care center) so Andrea and Stan brought Christopher with them when they came to help feed cows. We took the tarp off the round bale stack and Lynn got a couple bales with the tractor (in two trips) to take to the pregnant cows, and Christopher helped me drive the feed truck for Andrea to feed a few little bales to the cows and calves in the pasture above the house. Christopher liked helping drive the truck, and on the way back to the gate he took the knob off the gear shift lever. Then Christopher rode in the tractor with Lynn when he took the tractor back to get the 2nd big bale of hay.

Afterward, Christopher stayed in the house with me while Andrea and Stan put a tarp
over what’s left of the straw stack (the old tarp tore apart when we took a bale of straw off it a few days earlier). One of Magrat’s daughters was calving so we put her in the side pen by the house and she had a nice bull calf, but she stood up just before the birth was complete and the calf landed on its head in a heap. Andrea ran out there and climbed over the gate in haste and grabbed the wadded up calf by a leg and straightened it out so it could start breathing. Then after everything was fine she took Christopher home with her on the 4-wheeler.

By evening chores the weather had turned nasty and stormy so Dani helped me take the cow and new calf to the 2nd day pens where there’s more bedding and a good windbreak. Later that evening we all gathered at Andrea’s house to celebrate Christopher’s first birthday. Sam and Charlie came out early, and took a drive in the old Eagle (Andrea’s old car that Dani is now driving) and on their way back home had a tire blow out. Andrea and Stan went to rescue them. The spare tire was flat so they just limped the car a little ways along the highway and left it at Bob and Jane Miner’s place. They were a little late getting back for the birthday dinner, but it was a fun dinner. Emily made a special soup goolash and I brought Jello salad and a big batch of potato salad that Lynn and I made.

Christopher had fun with his little “smash cake” that Emily bought, and Emily took
photos of him smash/eating it, and a photo of Lynn and me enjoying him enjoying his cake.
Christopher's smash cake
Christopher enjoying his birthday cake
Great grandma & grandpa enjoying Christopher enjoying his cake
He also had presents to open. I drew a horse on the little T-shirt I gave him, and Em put it on him. Stan gave him a truck that he can sit on, with a tool box seat that opens—and he is now using that as a portable toy box. Em took photos of him wearing the T-shirt and opening his other gifts, and a photo of him examining the new truck.
Christopher wearing birthday shirt
Christopher examining his new truck
By the end of March Michael and Carolyn were nearly half done calving (none of our cows were due to start until the first of April but a lot of them have been calving a little early). They had bad luck with one young cow’s calf however; predators attacked it and tore a hole in its abdomen and started eating the guts. The cow was frantic and very upset. The calf was still alive when Michael and Carolyn found it but soon died. They don’t know whether it was coyotes, a wolf or a cougar that grabbed the calf.

Andrea and Stan went to town to get a new tire for the old Eagle, and got it safely home again. We had another new calf that evening. Then it snowed all night and we had 6 inches of new snow by morning. I took photos at daylight from the dining room window and the window looking into the front yard.
view from the dining room window
view of front yard
Then I went out to do chores and took a few more photos of the new snow—views from the back porch, and looking down toward the calving barn.
view from back porch
snow on the wood pile and old tack room
lane to calving barn
I took my camera up with me to feed the horses and water the cows, and two of our local sandhill cranes were up by the cows’ feeder and I took photos of them. They like to scratch around in the straw in hopes of finding any bits of grain that might have been left in the straw after the grain was harvested and the straw baled. They saw me from a distance, however, and started to leave, but I got several photos of them.
pair of sandhill cranes by the hay feeder
sandhill cranes leaving
After the sun came out the snow started to melt, but I took a couple more photos from the house, looking out toward the horse pens. By late afternoon the snow was mostly gone.
snowy horse pens
I also took a photo of the calf houses; most of the calves figured out how to get into them and find shelter during the storm; there were only a couple of the newest calves that weren’t in there that morning, including Sweet Pea, who was sleeping in the snow at the end of one of those houses.
calf house
I also took a photo of Lynn’s cat, Edna, trying to walk through the snow without getting her feet cold in the deep snow, by walking in some tracks.
Edna traipsing through the snow
At evening chore time Dani was helping me feed the horses and we also took another bale to the cows and calves above the house. Lynn yelled out the door at us and when we went to see what he was yelling about he said we’d just had an earthquake. We didn’t feel it outside, but in the house he said it sounded like a freight train, or someone crashing a truck into the side of the house, and the dishes were clattering. We have some antique pans, Dutch ovens, etc. hanging on the wall behind the pellet stove, and they’d been clanging and banging—and were still moving back and forth when Dani and I went into the house 10 minutes later. The epicenter of the quake was only a couple hundred miles away from us near Stanley and Challis, but the quake was felt by some of our friends and family in western Washington, eastern Montana and Colorado.

Wednesday we had a little more snow and colder weather. It was fairly pleasant by afternoon, however, and Dani took a few moments to brush some of the really long hair off Breezy. That old mare is 30 years old and the past 2 winters has grown an exceptionally long hair coat that doesn’t shed off very well in the spring. She has an endocrine problem in her old age.
Breezy's long hair
Thursday morning, after two very cold snowy windy days, we discovered that Sweet Pea was dull and not nursing. She was only 6 days old, so this was serious. We brought her and MiniMag in from the field and put them in the end pen by the barn where there’s a little windbreak corner with a roof over it, and we gave the calf an oral antibiotic (for a gut infection, since she was a little bloated) and in injectable antibiotic for the pneumonia. She was doing much better by the next day.

Sam has decided to go into the Army after she graduates from high school next year. She wants to become a nurse, with the Army paying for her nursing education. She and Andrea drove down to Baker that afternoon (where there is better cell service and internet reception than at Andrea’s house) to talk with the Army recruiter via the internet.

Yesterday evening we had another heifer calving so we put her in the barn and she had a bull calf. Meanwhile, Sweet Pea was a little off feed again (not nursing her mom very well) so we took her temperature. She had a fever so we gave her another dose of injectable antibiotic and some Banamine (an anti-inflammatory to help reduce her fever and discomfort and help her lungs). Today she is doing much better again.

Andrea and crew have been madly cleaning house all day because this evening Sam’s new boyfriend was coming out for supper. Sam stopped here with him on their way home (to give the house crew a little more time to clean house!) and we talked with him awhile and she showed him all the horses.

Late this evening Michael and Carolyn called, wanting to borrow some Banamine (an anti-inflammatory analgesic medication) for Peaches—Carolyn’s 5-year-old mare, who was colicking and uncomfortable. They’d used up the last of their Banamine, giving her an injection earlier in the afternoon. Even though she’d gotten a little relief from the discomfort for a while, she was pawing again and wanting to lie down. She wasn’t violently thrashing or rolling and they suspected she might have an impaction. I got out my bottle of Banamine to give them (one of them was going to drive down here to get it) then they called me back and said they’d decided to call a vet out to look at the mare.

Rene (from Blue Cross Vet Clinic) came, and thought the mare wasn’t looking too bad, but decided to go ahead and palpate her rectally--and discovered that she had a very large impaction in the large intestine. She gave Peaches some mineral oil and water by tube into the stomach, to try to moisten and lubricate the impacted material, and since the mare needed more fluid through the night, Michael and Carolyn hauled her in to the vet clinic where Rene was going to give her fluid by tube every 6 hours. We are hoping that Peaches will be ok, since she’s a very special horse.

She’s a foal from Carolyn’s favorite old mare Thelma, and she’s had a lot of challenges in her young life. First off, Michael and Carolyn had tried for several years, unsuccessfully, to get Thelma bred, and then when she did finally have a foal, it was a difficult birth. Michael discovered Thelma laboring in the field and needing help to have the foal. He put a halter on the mare and led her more than half a mile down to their house (with the foal’s head and feet sticking out) and into a corral, where he pulled the foal—and it was still alive. Next problem was her crooked legs. When the filly was very young they hauled her to a vet at Challis (70 miles away) to have surgery on her front legs (screws put into the growth plates of the cannon bones below her knees) to slow down the growth on one side so the bone growth on the other side could catch up and straighten the legs) and then take her back again to that vet at the proper time to have the screws removed.

The filly’s legs were then straight and she was doing well. Later they took her to a friend in southern Idaho to start training her. Last summer Michael started riding her (at age 4) and she did extremely well. Carolyn was looking forward to riding her this summer, so we hope she will be ok.


APRIL 12 – We had another calf last Sunday. Starfire had a little heifer calf. We gave Sweet Pea one last injection of antibiotic and turned her and her mama back out in the field with the other cows and calves. She seems fully recovered from her pneumonia.

We hauled more bales to the cows with the tractor and Lynn loaded Stan’s wood-splitter into his pickup with the tractor loader—because Tuesday Stan needed to drive back to California since he has a doctor’s appointment there. We gave him Shiloh’s old shoes that we removed last fall. They were well worn and very smooth and shiny, and Stan will probably make something special with them, since he enjoyed riding Shiloh last summer.

Dani has been eager to start riding the horses again, so Monday morning she got Ed out of her pen to brush her, and then rode her around the barnyard bareback. I took a few photos of her riding Ed.
Dani riding Ed bareback
Late that afternoon Andrea, Stan, Dani, Emily and Christopher went for a long hike along her upper driveway out to the main road and then came down here, with Christopher in a 3-wheeled buggy-cart. He thought that was a lot of fun. The dogs all went along with them and had a great outing.
The hikers coming down our lane
Stan with Christopher
Christopher enjoying his outing
Carolyn’s mare Peaches was doing fairly well at the vet clinic through Sunday but still hadn’t passed any manure. Monday morning Rene called Michael and Carolyn to tell them the mare had taken a turn for the worse and thought she should be put down. They called me in a panic, asking my opinion on whether the mare might have a chance if they hauled her to an equine hospital for surgery, and what it might cost. I couldn’t really give them an answer, not knowing the mare’s condition. So they drove to town to check on Peaches and were pleasantly surprised at how good she actually looked—she was on her feet and eager to see them. So they loaded her up and took her to Willow Creek Animal Hospital near Idaho Falls—180 miles away.

She stayed on her feet the whole trip and had good vital signs when they got there. After doing blood tests the doctors said she was a good candidate for surviving the surgery, and put her on IV fluids for several hours to fully hydrate all her organs. They did the surgery at 5 p.m. that evening and removed a huge impaction, which required an incision into her large colon twice as long as what is normally needed. It took a couple hours to stitch her back up. After she woke up ok from the surgery, she was doing well in recovery, and drank some water. They were going to keep her on IV fluids and antibiotics for several days. Michael and Carolyn drove home that evening.

Early Tuesday morning we had another calf, just before daylight. I watched from the livingroom window and saw the young cow lying right next to the gate, and that’s where she had the calf—it slid under the gate as it was born. So I ran out there and grabbed its legs and pulled it back to the proper side of the gate, and out a ways onto some clean hay so the cow could start licking it.

I talked to Michael and Carolyn on the phone later that day and they said they’d talked with the vet taking care of Peaches in the equine hospital. They’d put a tube into her stomach and determined that the little bit of blockage that was in the stomach earlier had passed on through, so they started her on some mash to eat.

Wednesday almost felt like spring; it got up to 60 degrees in the afternoon. I took some photos of the heifers at their feeder, and Dani trying to tempt one of the heifers (Panda’s daughter, Pandamonium) to come closer.
heifers at feeder
Dani trying to sweet talk Pandamonium
I took my camera when I went out to check on the cows and calves, and took photos of Starfire with her young calf
Starfire and new calf
and a photo of Sweet Pea (now fully recovered from pneumonia) with her mom MiniMag
Sweet Pea and her mom
And photos of a couple mamas and babies lounging around, and one of our first-calf heifers with her baby.
mamas and babies lounging around
young mama & calf
Two cows were calving that morning—LillyAnnie and MalulaMae—and I put one in each calving pen. After Andrea helped me feed the cows and calves in the pasture above the house, she took Dani down to Baker where there is better cell service, where Dani could have an on-line consultation appointment with the counselor in Pocatello who is assisting with her anxiety and emotional problems that have been interfering with her ability to handle her school work. With the coronavirus stay-at-home situation, the doctor is doing some of his appointments this way, so Andrea didn’t have to take Dani to Pocatello.

The doctor could tell that Dani’s emotional status is much better now, and her anxiety has dramatically reduced now that she is staying fulltime with Andrea and not having to spend time with her dad and his girlfriend who has been very harsh with Dani. The doctor scheduled a later appointment for early June, when Dani will go to Pocatello for a 4-hour testing session. It looks like she may qualify for some special help at school.

All morning I had been watching MalulaMae, who was not progressing in labor. By the time Andrea and Dani got back to the ranch, we knew something was seriously wrong; she’s a big cow, this is her 4th calf, and she should have had it very quickly and easily. When we put her in the headcatch by the barn, Andrea reached in and discovered that nothing was entering the birth canal. She could feel through the membrane sac surrounding the calf, and felt hindquarters and a tail. No legs. This calf was breech, sitting on his butt, with hind feet up toward his head.

In years past, we’ve been able to manipulate some of these breech presentations and get the hind legs into the birth canal, but it takes a lot of strength and long arms. Lynn wasn’t up for this task anymore, and Michael was down river on a fencing job. We called Dr. Cope, the one vet who could possibly help us (since the two lady vets don’t have the strength or length of arm needed). Cope was out, and his wife told us he was up Carmen Creek (the other side of town, more than 22 miles away) semen testing and trich testing bulls, but she thought she could reach him on his cell phone. It was noon by then, and Cope told the ranch crew to go ahead and take their lunch break an hour early (they’d planned to take a break at 1 p.m.) and he took off to come save our calf.

He got here in less than 25 minutes and went to work on the cow, trying to get the calf’s hind legs, one at a time, into the birth canal. This involves twisting and flexing the leg at the hock and bringing it over the cow’s pelvis and into the birth canal, cupping the hoof in your hand to try to keep it from scraping/tearing the cow’s uterus. He got the first leg fairly quickly but struggled awhile with the second one; the hock kept catching on the cow’s pelvis and cervix. He finally got it, and hoped he hadn’t torn the uterus in the process.

Once both legs were out, we hooked chains to them and used the calf puller to ratchet him on out quickly—before the placenta detached or the umbilical cord pinched off on the way out—so the calf could start to breathe. Andrea took photos as Cope winched the calf out with the calf puller.
winching the calf out by the hind legs
It was a bull calf, and not very big, so we got him out quickly and easily, and got him breathing. Carolyn started immediately clearing the fluid away from the calf’s nose as soon as he was out of the cow.
Carolyn starts the calf breathing
Then we pulled the calf around to the grassy area next to the headcatch, in front of the barn and let MalulaMae lick him, and Cope drove back to Carmen Creek to finish testing bulls. He told us he doesn’t mind coming to our place for emergencies because he knows we only call him if he’s really needed, and also that we don’t wait too long to call him and that there’s a good chance the calf will still be alive. He says it’s frustrating and depressing when he gets called out to extract dead calves that people have waited too long to call the vet. We took a photo of the cow licking her calf.
MalulaMae licking her calf
Then Andrea, Dani and I picked up the calf and carried him the short distance to a 2nd day pen where TalulaMae could finish licking him, and the calf was soon up and nursing. That cow shed her afterbirth in less than an hour, which meant it was detaching even before the calf was born, and he was running out of time. He’s lucky to be alive!

Emily had to go to work so she left Christopher here on her way by. We had a quick lunch and watched LillyAnnie calve in the calving pen. She is a very aggressive, protective mama when she calves, and her nickname is Alligator Eyes. We watched her from the house window and realized that the sac around the calf was not breaking as the calf was born. Andrea, Dani and I rushed out there, and the cow jumped up, with the calf still hanging by the hips and the sac not broken, with fluid around the calf’s head. Andrea grabbed the calf’s legs to pull him on out and break the sac and I had to whop the bellowing cow across the bridge of the nose to keep her from charging over the top of Andrea. All’s well that ends well, and we got the calf rescued and got out of there, and later Andrea took a photo of that mama and baby.
LillyAnnie and her calf
Andrea and Dani took Christopher home, and later came hiking down with Dani carrying him in a backpack, taking him on an outing because it was such a nice day. I took photos of them, and a photo here in the house before they started home again, and again when they were heading home.
Dani & Christopher
ready to head home
The next day was warm again. Andrea helped me feed cows and move the cows with new calves around. She took the chains off our feed truck since we no longer have snow and the mud is drying up, and helped Lynn take the chains off the big tractor. Since it was such a nice day Dani saddled Ed and rode her for the first time on a real ride, up over the hill onto the low range. I took photos of her as she got ready to go ride.
Dani getting ready to ride
Dani & Ed
Lynn put a battery charger on the littlest tractor, greased it, and put the drawbar on it so we can drag the harrow with it. The fields were dry enough to start harrowing (breaking up all the manure piles and spreading the old hay and bedding straw around so the grass can grow), so we can start irrigating. China Doll (the gentle 2nd calver we used for leading heifers into the barn for their training) calved that evening.

Friday was even warmer, up to 64 degrees by afternoon. We tagged LillyAnnie’s calf and put that pair up in the field with the calved-out cows and calves, but kept MalulaMae in a few more days for observation, to make sure she didn’t get a serious uterine infection after the difficult breech delivery of her calf.
MalulaMae & her calf
Andrea started harrowing the lower back field, teaching Dani how to drive the little tractor, and soon left her to do it on her own. Lynn took the big tractor down there to clean a couple ditches with the blade, and got stuck a couple times, but Andrea pulled him out of the mud with the little tractor.

Dani loved driving that tractor, and harrowed 3 more fields that day, finishing just before dark. I took photos of her when they brought the two tractors and the harrow up from the lower field, moving up to the field by Andrea’s house.
Dani driving the little tractor
Dani ready to harrow fields
moving the harrow from one field to the next with the big tractor
Lynn bladed the big piles of straw off that field while Dani harrowed. Emily brought Christopher out to the field and he was eager to ride in the tractor again, so they rode around awhile with Grandpa Lynn and Em took photos of Christopher helping drive the tractor.
Christopher & Lynn in tractor
Christopher driving tractor with Lynn
When they took a little break, Dani was clowning around and lounged on the loader times of the big tractor. On the last field, Andrea drove the big tractor to blade off the piles of bedding straw and old hay from the feeders, while Dani finished harrowing.
Dani on the tractor tines
That evening Stan’s daughter called Andrea to tell her that Stan had a serious accident. He and his grandson were riding their 4-wheelers on some old logging roads in the mountains near Stan’s place, and Stan got into a spot that was too steep, tried to back up, and his 4-wheeler tipped over backward on him. His grandson lifted it off, but it injured his leg (took the skin off, with a deep scrape) and he had a concussion, in spite of his helmet. They took him to a hospital, where they did a CT scan on his head, and stapled up his leg wound. He couldn’t remember anything at all about the accident. They kept him overnight at the hospital. Yesterday he was doing better and the doctors let his daughter take him home to her place. He still can’t remember anything about the day of the accident, but is doing better and today went home to his own place.

Yesterday was very cold and raining most of the day, so we were fortunate to have the harrowing done before the fields got too wet. At chore time that evening the wind was blowing so hard it was taking the black plastic off what’s left of our round bale stack by the horses. Lynn helped me hold it down and retie it to the bales to keep it from sailing clear off.

Yesterday was also our Granddaughter Heather’s birthday. She’s 29 years old. She sent photos of her boys, and Joseph helping her blow out her birthday candles.
Birthday cake
Joseph ready to help mommy blow out candles
Today was very cold and windy, with a high of 33 degrees. I had to break ice this morning on the cows’ water tanks. Michael and Carolyn built a shelter in one of their horse pens, making a small stall-size enclosure with a roof over it and two solid sides for windbreaks, in preparation for bringing Peaches home from the equine hospital in Idaho Falls. That mare has been steadily doing better in her recover from surgery and will be able to come home in a couple of days. With the nasty weather, she’ll need to be protected from wind and rain/snow during her convalescence.

Michael is planning to rent a mini excavator for a few days to clean ditches before we start irrigating, including our ditches that originate on the old Gooch place above us. Those are very clogged with grass and all the debris Alfonso put in them last year to stop the water before it comes down to our place. I called Alfonso to tell him we’ll be cleaning the ditches. The one that Andrea spent days shoveling last year (with help from Stan) is all mashed in again from the herd of cows that Alfonso had in that field last fall and winter.

Currently we have just 4 cows left to calve (one is a first-calf heifer) and Dani has been helping watch them at night so I can get some sleep. If the weather stays cold and wet we don’t want them calving in a snowstorm! We’d rather put them in the barn to calve so the newborn calf won’t get too chilled before it can get up and nurse.


APRIL 20 – Last Monday was bitterly cold—12 degrees that morning, with a strong wind. Michael took his trailer to town to get the Bobcat mini-excavator and went ahead with cleaning the ditch that we’ve had the most problems with (that comes down from the Gooch place to service the field by Andrea’s house). It took most of the day to clean that whole ditch. Nick and another kid who is currently working for Michael brought fencing materials and finished repairing the fence between us and Alfonso on the side above Andrea’s house. They set taller posts in that fence line earlier, and now added more wires, so cows can no longer try to reach over or through it to get into our place.

Late afternoon our young bob-tailed cow calved quickly in the horse pasture, but we didn’t want to leave her there because it was still very cold and windy. Andrea and Dani helped me load the new calf into the calf sled and Dani pulled it to the barn, with the cow bellowing and coming along behind, trying to climb into the sled with the calf. We got mama and baby safely into the barn, and he didn’t get very cold—and was up nursing his mom within 30 minutes.

Tuesday was cold and windy again, but a little warmer—up to 40 degrees by afternoon. Michael and Carolyn left early that morning with their horse trailer to go get Peaches and bring her home. They took one of their other horses (Gus) to serve as a familiar buddy for her on the trip home. That day was Carolyn’s birthday, and I think the best birthday present was being able to get her young mare home again, after the miracle of being able to save her from a near-fatal impaction.

When Andrea helped me feed that morning, we dragged the two empty bale feeders out of the horse pasture and took them into the field above the house. We only had 3 cows left to calve and they could live in the maternity pen where they are easier to see from the house. We need to use those bale feeders for the cows and calves. I plugged in the tractor that morning and it started by noon, and we took a new bale to the young heifers, and 3 bales to the cows with calves above the house. Dani helped us get the tarps tied back down on the haystacks, in the wind, and filled our wood-box. We’ve been burning quite a bit of wood again, in the cold weather. That evening it rained, turning to snow by midnight.

It rained/snowed all night. Panda, the horned cow, started calving very early in the morning and I put her into the calving pen just before daylight. After breakfast Andrea and Lynn helped me put her in the barn to calve. Michael braved the nasty weather and worked several hours cleaning some of our ditches—on the lower back field and the ditch that serves the big field below the house. That mini-excavator doesn’t have a cab on it, and he simply dressed warm with many layers, with the snow and rain eventually making his legs cold before he finished those ditches. Then he went to town to buy a couple small bales of grass/alfalfa hay for Peaches. She needs some really good hay but can only be fed 3 flakes a day. They don’t want to overload her gut until her large intestine is more fully healed from the surgery.

Andrea and Dani went to town to meet with two of Dani’s teachers and get packets of homework, since she doesn’t have enough internet service at her house to do her homework online. While they were gone I checked on Panda periodically in the barn, and she calved swiftly just before noon. She had another heifer calf (her 4th heifer).

At chore time that evening Dani and Andrea helped me get MiniMag’s 2-year-old heifer (the one that lost her calf) in from the field above the house. We put her in with the two pregnant ones that are left in the maternity pen. It looked like Panda’s 3-year-old daughter will calve next, which would leave the other one—a first-calf heifer—all by herself. Since she’d probably freak out with no buddies, we put her “classmate” (the one who lost her calf) in with her to keep her company until she calves.

The next day was very cold. It was only 18 degrees that morning, with a high of 35 degrees in the afternoon. At least it wasn’t snowing and blowing so hard, so Michael worked on more ditches. He cleaned/restored the ditchbank all along the ditch that serves the fields above our house. Nick and a helper worked on the fence again between our place and the Gooch place. That afternoon Dani brushed Shiloh and trimmed her mane, then brushed Ed some more (shedding winter hair) and rode her in a loop through the fields and Andrea’s upper driveway through the woods.
Dani ready to go for a ride
Dani riding Ed through the fields
Dani and Ed in the woods along Andrea's upper driveway
Panda’s 3-year-old daughter Pandemic started calving mid-afternoon so I put her in the calving pen. She calved quickly at 5:30—just before chores—and had a heifer calf. The calf was up and nursing before the sun went down, and mama had licked her dry, so she didn’t chill when the night temperature dropped to 17 degrees. Before dark, Dani helped me catch and iodine the calf’s umbilical stump and move the pair into the side pen so we could put the pregnant heifer in the calving pen (where there’s a yard light) so she’d be easier to watch during the night in case she calved.

Friday morning Michael came early to start the mini-excavator, fuel it up, and tackle the worst ditch—the one that serves our heifer hill field. It originates on the Gooch place and Alfonso doesn’t have a water right for it but always uses it and has plugged it up with big rocks and dams. We hired an excavator 3 years ago and had it cleaned/repaired but Alfonso nearly destroyed it the very next irrigation season by cutting taps out of it where it goes around a steep hill, and nearly washed it out. Andrea has struggled with that ditch every summer since, to keep it cleaned out enough to get the water down to our place. Michael got it repaired and cleaned from top to bottom but it took all day. Andrea took him a lunch and helped him remove some of the rocks and junk. This season if Alfonso damages the ditch we will just call the sheriff and send Alfonso’s landlord the bill for repairing it again.

Dani rode Ed again that afternoon, and Emily took Christopher for a walk-about in his 3-wheeler stroller. She brought him down here for a visit and he had fun walking around and around our dining room table with Lynn’s canes.
Christopher loves walking around the dining room with Lynn's canes
Great grandpa's canes are fun!
Then Emily took him back up the road in the stroller. He enjoys these outings.
Em & Christopher out for a stroll
Saturday was a little warmer. It froze hard again but got up to 60 degrees by afternoon. Michael cleaned ditches on the upper place. Lynn helped me put Panda and calf up to the field with the other cows and calves, and Andrea started a couple ditches that morning, after shoveling some of the debris out of one section that goes through a stand of trees where Michael couldn’t clean it with the mini. I brought Dottie out of her pen for the first time all winter and brushed off some of her long winter hair.

That afternoon Dani babysat Christopher while Emily napped (she’s on night shift at the care center for a while, working 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) and Lynn helped Andrea start the other ditch that Michael cleaned for us. While following the water around through it to our place, they noticed Alfonso opening the gate into the pasture just above our heifer hill field, propping it open. He was probably planning to put cattle in there this weekend. Since there’s still a big gap in the fence where we had to take it apart to get the mini through for cleaning the ditch, we needed to close it up. Dani helped us tie some wire panels across the opening with baling twines to make a temporary fence until Nick and crew come back to repair the fence—when they work again on the boundary fence repair.

Yesterday we saw Alfonso’s horses in the pasture above heifer hill, so it was a good think we closed up the hole in the fence. Today Nick finished repairing that fence and put poles across the ditch.

We started the tractor and took more bales to the cows, and new bale to the heifer after Andrea and Dani helped me put up a hot wire around a small area right below their gate, to lock the heifers away from the rest of the field so it can grow. We will feed them in this small area until there’s enough pasture grass to put them somewhere else.

We talked with granddaughter Heather in Canada and she told us they were nearly done calving, and soon will be having their first foals. She sent photos of some of their pregnant mares.
pregnant mare
pregnant mare
pregnant mare
pregnant mare