14 December 2019 – Cloudy and 23

We got another coating of icing on all of the trees last night, but there isn’t very much snow on the ground and I think we will be just fine without a white Christmas!

Ice-covered Holler

Holler activity has slowed way down in December, mostly because the days are so short.  The sun isn’t rising until 7:20 and it is already dark around 4:15.  Only one more week and the days will start to get longer again.  Time is really flying.

Meanwhile, we have been staying occupied moving corral panels.  After we had the cold storm at the end of November, we moved the corral panels back into the barnyard and set up the alleyway into the squeeze chute so we could run cows through there.  We had an appointment for the veterinarian to come out to preg-check our older cows, and to inoculate the whole herd.  Also, everybody got poured with dewormer.  Well not Dave or me, but all the cows.

Setting up the corral
Getting the girls lined up and ready to go

This was the first real trial for our corral and squeeze chute set up and it went splendidly.  The vets even said they thought it worked great and gave a few minor suggestions on narrowing the alley way, but overall they felt this was a very functional facility.  We are so grateful for the vet clinic we have here, and especially that they do ranch-calls. I think they had fun, too, because we have such a small operation and our cows are so docile.  We don’t use a prod to push them through the alley, instead we just wave cake in front of them and they walk right into the chute!

Fatz getting her BANGS shot

This was my first time running the headgate on the squeeze chute.  The first calf that came through was Lucky, and I was ready….well, I thought I was.  I saw her walking into the chute and right when her nose came through the catch I pulled down on the lever as fast and hard as I could to operate the headgate.  I looked up and saw her bounding off into the corral.  I completely missed.  It reminded me of that feeling of when you try to hit a baseball and you swing as hard and fast as you can, expecting a home run, and all you get is WHIFFFFF.  The vets and Dave looked at me, not so much with disappointment, but something more like, “This is going to be a long day if she’s this bad.” The vet said, “Every time you miss one you have to buy a case of beer!”  I guess she really knows how to motivate people!

We chased Lucky back into the alleyway and once more she came ambling into the squeeze chute and I pulled the lever and BAM!  Caught her!  I didn’t miss another cow or calf.  (Don’t get too excited, there are only nine of them.)  The vet said I get the “Most Improved”  Award. I just didn’t want to give away all the beer.

Preg Checking – make sure you don’t wear anything nice!
An ultrasound of a calf

We were disappointed to learn that one of our cows, Valentine, is open this year.  It is impossible to tell if the bull just didn’t like her or if she had been pregnant and aborted for some other reason.  Dave and I thought she may have been open and in heat because one evening while we fed, all the cows came for dinner as is their routine.  Then, Valentine took off running to the west toward another ranch that has cows and a bull in its pasture.  This was very strange behavior.  Eventually, she came back to eat a little hay, and then she took off running in the same direction again.  It was just beginning to get dark and there was really no way she could go anywhere, so we finished our chores and left it up to her to work out her issues.

Once we got inside the warm house, the phone rang and it was our new neighbor.  They are in the process of moving to the Rock Ridge Ranch at the end of our road, but were not staying there at the time.  They did, however, have a video security camera installed that they could monitor from a different location.  The lady called to say, “I have an alarm going off at my house and when I looked at my camera, there was a wide-eyed white face cow looking in the window!”  Dave and I knew it was Valentine and said we would get her, although we weren’t quite sure how she would have gotten through the fence onto the neighbors’ property.  We put on our 400 layers of clothing and headed back out into the cold to find her.  Once she heard the diesel engine of the Mule, she came running down the road towards us and the rest of the herd.

Dave and I continued to the neighbors property and found a wooden post that had been knocked down and about a 3 foot gap in the fence where Valentine had squeezed through. We were pretty sure Valentine didn’t knock the pole down, but it was amazing that she found the one spot in the long fence to run through, and then come back through when she heard the Mule.  Anyway, we wired up the fence and called the neighbor to let them know there were no more creeping, peeping cows in their yard.

This strange behavior must have been indicative of Valentine being in heat, so we weren’t completely surprised when the vet said she was open. We are disappointed.  We decided to downsize our herd this year to ensure we wouldn’t have to buy extra hay, and were expecting 5 calves in the spring. One open cow is a 20% loss so that kind of stinks.  Still, we will give Valentine one more chance to get pregnant next year since she is such a nice girl and she had a beautiful baby this past April.  Maybe someone should have a talk with her and let her know that even bulls can detect desperateness and it is NOT attractive.

Valentine after her crazy shenanigans looking for the bull.  It seems she thought she could use a mud-mask to improve her situation.  

After the vet visit, Dave and I moved all the panels back to the configuration where the girls can hide from the weather in the barn stall.  It has been pretty nice since then, and they haven’t even poked in there, which is also okay.  That means just less poop shoveling for us!

Dave has been busy manufacturing some cutting boards.  Last year he sent his mom a beautiful American Flag board, and both of his sisters liked it so much that he made them each one this year.  His goal was to get them out before Christmas.

A beautiful hard-wood cutting board!


A cutting board for law-enforcement family member….American flag with the thin blue line

Simple chores and feeding occupy our days now, but we are always planning and trying to improve our operation.  We know it won’t be long until we are spring planting, calving, and getting ready for haying again.  We are enjoying this mild December and getting ready for Christmas. This afternoon we have stew cooking on the wood stove and are getting ready to go out and bust ice in the water tanks again and do some afternoon feeding. The house is warm, the wood box is full, and the cows all seem fat and happy. We are really getting to appreciate some down time and the peacefulness of the season, and we are grateful for every single day.

Decorations in the loft

Happy December, everyone!