20 April 2018 – Cloudy and 40 with snow showers in the forecast
The Holler is showing all the signs of spring, but Old Man Winter just won’t go away. We have little sprouts of green grass all over the pastures, the blue birds and the meadowlarks have returned, the tulips are trying to come up, and the bees have ventured out of the hive on several warm days this week. Still, we have to head out for morning chores in our snow pants and parkas because the dawn temperatures are pretty low and the wind makes it feel even colder.
The past two weeks have been really busy, so I’m giving advanced warning about the length of this blog post. We have been disking, harrowing, and planting with unwavering faith that the growing season must begin soon.
The days fly by when you are in the field all day, but it feels great to come into a warm house at night and be tired from all the work. It also feels great to look at the field you just plowed and planted and believe….really believe….that it is going to produce some good hay. You gotta have patience out here on the ranch.
The bovines have been busy, too. Last week, Cowboy Dave had made a trip out of town to see an old friend. Linda remained and was keeping a close eye on Frita, a cow who looked imminently close to calving. On Saturday morning she called to say Frita was having her baby. Dave and I went over to the High Lonesome and met Linda in the pasture to watch Frita go through her paces.
You may wonder why we make such a big deal about watching these cows give birth. In all likelihood they would be just fine, or even better off if we minded our own business. But the counterargument is that if there is a problem, those dang cows refuse to grab a cell phone to call or text for help. We think they have trouble dialing because the numbers are too small for their big hooves. Calves can be anywhere from 50-75 lbs so there are many things that could go wrong that would require our assistance. A breech position calf would require a person to help reposition the calf in the birth canal. A very large calf may require pulling. A calf that is born and not breathing immediately, or one that won’t eat right away are both situations that would require a human assist. Not that Pilot Dave or I have done any of these things before, but Cowboy and Linda have, and we are trying to learn everything we can to be the best stewards of these animals that we can be.
Back to Frita – we watched her in obvious labor pains for nearly two hours, but then she got up and walked back to rejoin the herd. We decided to give her some space and time, and when Dave and I started heading up the driveway back to the Holler, I caught a glimpse of her going up over a hill by herself again. I said I wanted to stay and see if I could keep an eye on her for awhile. Dave went back to get some chores done on the Holler and Linda went back to the ranch house on the High Lonesome to get on with her day. I hiked a short distance up over the hill with my field glasses and I could just see Frita in the distance lying under a tree. I spotted her with the glasses and realized she was calving! This was probably only 5 minutes after Dave and Linda had left, so I called them from my cell phone (since Frita refused to use hers!) and they came back to the pasture about two minutes after the baby was born.
We got a little closer and watched as the little calf struggled to his feet and started nursing. Phew! Another healthy calf. Later that day we took Frita some hay and got a better look. It is a little bull, and we decided to refer to him as Chips – Frita Chips….like Frito Chips. This is Cowboy and Linda’s bull, so they will obviously name him as they please, but with so many calves running around, Dave and I like to give them a name so we know who is who.
Cowboy Dave returned the following day and was pleased about the healthy addition to his herd. We decided that we would move calves to one of the northern pastures because it is already mid-April and we needed to move them out of the current pasture to prepare the field and let the alfalfa and grass start growing. First, we had to catch Heidi and Chips and tag them while we could still use the paddock gates to keep the frantic mothers at bay. First thing Monday morning, we got the calves tagged. It was relatively uneventful, as the two Dave’s are getting pretty good at grabbing the little calves and getting right down to business as Linda and I try to distract the Moms with cake and hay.
Next, we rounded everyone up and herded them along the fence that borders the National Forest toward the northern pasture. The cows are pretty good about this, but of course, there is always one troublemaker. Puzzle’s calf, Heidi, decided to crawl under the barbed wire and take off on her own into the National Forest. While Linda worked the gates and Cowboy drove the cows onward with his mule, Pilot Dave and I tried to get that little dogie back to the herd. She was only six days old, but she could run! A horse would have been very helpful at this point, but since the horses remain on the “Future Purchases List”, Pilot Dave and I ran all over hell’s half acre trying to push Heidi back toward the herd. Finally, after a lot of exercise, we got her out of the forest and on the right side of the fence, but of course, she turned the wrong way and headed south back to the place everyone had just left. Heidi, Come Back!!! Cowboy Dave and Linda returned to the chase on their mule and eventually we got her headed the right way. She was reunited with her mother, who didn’t seem too concerned that her daughter had been running around like a wild child. Lady, get control of your kid!
Next, Pilot Dave and I hooked up the round feeder ring to Babe and delivered it to the northern pasture. It was a slow process, manipulating the big ring and tractor through all the fences and gates, but Dave has gotten pretty good on the tractor.
Yesterday, Pilot Dave and I checked cows in the morning. Everybody looked good and all the calfies were running around, jumping and bucking and feeling good. We gave Honey and Muzzle the once-over because they are the two remaining pregnant ladies. They looked normal, well, normal in the pregnant cow sense. We left them in the pasture intending to check everyone again around noon.
We are out of hay and since the weather hasn’t been warm enough to produce sufficient grazing grass, Cowboy Dave took his trailer south to Edgemont to pick up some round bales from the feed store. Meanwhile, Pilot Dave and I took our trailer north to Custer to pick up a disk and an auger that were in the shop being welded. We all met back on Stagecoach Springs to continue the daily chores.
Pilot Dave drove Babe up to the northern pasture to get the big bale of hay off of Cowboy Dave’s tractor. This was just another incident where we are so grateful to have a big tractor, and I am so happy that I married a good tractor driver!
I went and got Linda in the mule and we decided to do the mid-day cow check. As we approached the pasture we could see Honey way off by herself under a tree. As we got closer, we could see what looked like a big red rock next to her, but as we got even closer we realized it was a calf!
Honey gave birth to a beautiful little bull. He is the Hoten Holler’s second calf so he gets the #2 ear tag if we can catch him today. He looked healthy and was already up and nursing, so we returned to the task at hand, getting the big bale into the feeder.
The day was only half done, though, so the two Dave’s finished up the disking and planting over at the High Lonesome.
Out here, you literally have to make hay while the sun shines. Although we are done with the snow, we hope we get some precipitation today to get the oats off to a good start.