16 October 2020 – Sunny and 50’s
Things stay busy on the Holler in October because the calfies are getting too big to nurse so we have to wean them off their mothers. This year we thought ahead and coordinated the separation of moms and babies with the vet’s visit for preg-checking. That way we only had to sort the cows once!
We brought the whole herd into the corral and Dave set up this wood bar between two of the corral posts. The babies are short enough to go under it, but the moms are not so we just walked everyone around in the corral for a few minutes and the calves shot under the bar and the moms stood there looking confused.
One of our favorite vets, Dr. Olivia, was right on time and was able to give the heifer calves their “Bangs” or brucellosis vaccines. They all got poured for flies and that part of the day went relatively smoothly. Bo, #10, was a little slippery and while I caught her in the head gate initially, she squeezed out backwards into the chute. I opened the head gate to try to catch her again but she sprang through and I missed her. First round of beers on me.
Dave chased her backwards through the chute and I prepared to catch her again but I think she thought it was a big game at this point and sprinted toward the head gate and leaped through it before I could catch her. Second round of beers on me.
Dave chased her back through again and this time I kept the head gate closed until she scooted her nose up to it. Then I just barely opened it and she tried to jump through again but I got her. I think I lost some cool points, though. Thanks Bo!
We began working the big cows. They were getting their vaccinations, poured for flies, and checked to see if they were pregnant and when they were due. It was going relatively smoothly until Wooly Bear decided she did not want to participate and jumped over the corral fence taking out several strands of wire with her. Andie decided to follow her. We scrambled to move some corral panels to cover the hole in the fence but now two of the big cows were on the lam. We continued to work the remaining cows and spent way too much time rounding up the two rebels. At the end of the day, poor Dr. Olivia had to speed off to her next appointment and one of our friends that came to help had a smashed and bloody finger from rambunctious cows in the alley way. It’s not really a round-up unless someone gets mad or hurt or both.
We found out that Moscow the bull had done a fine job impregnating nine out of ten cows. Sadly, Hunny, one of our original girls, is not bred. Dave and I kept an open cow, Valentine, last year and agreed in advance we will not be keeping any open cows again. They are expensive to feed and they act crazy when they go into heat. Sorry Hunny, but your number is up. More on that in a minute.
After the vet left and the friend’s finger was bandaged and doctored, we loaded up the calves in the trailer and led the moms up the road to a pasture we call the Hideout. The moms followed the trailer easily because they knew their babies were inside. In the dirtiest of tricks, we led the moms into the Hideout, did a U-turn and drove the babies out and shut the moms in. It’s time for weaning and this was the best way we could ensure to separate them.
We drove the babies back to the corral and unloaded them. While they were looking for their moms initially, they were quite pleased to see we had put out some buckets with a sweet grain mix for them. We also had a big bale of hay and some fresh water. They still bawled, and their moms could be heard bawling all the way up in the hideout. This went on for two full days and included one of the moms, Triple-Stix, jumping the hideout fence and coming back to stand outside the corral and bawl for her baby. We would lead her back to the hideout with cake and she would get water and cake and come right back. This also went on for two full days.
On the third day, I woke up at about 2:30AM and felt panic. Why was it so quiet? There was no bawling or mooing. I lay awake listening and I could not wait until sunrise to throw on my shoes and go see if everything was okay. All the babies were in the corral sleeping and there was no sign of Triple-Stix. I guess they all decided the bawling was a waste of energy. Peace at last!
Things went well for the next few days. The calves are digging their new routine, especially the feedings of sweet grain mix. The moms have settled into the hideout and most of their bags have gone down quite a bit so they aren’t desperate to find their babies and nurse them. Triple-Stix gave up on jumping and now she just looks mad at us. After about a week of separation, Dave and I were up before sunrise drinking coffee and when it began to get light out we went to change into chore clothes but I looked out the bedroom window and saw a calf NOT IN THE CORRAL but in the yard looking back at me! Those sneaky devils had busted out of the gate and were headed off to who knows where.
Dave and I ran out the door while he went to the corral to close in the three calves that weren’t brave enough to leave. I took the Sheriff and tried to chase the other two back into the corral. It was pretty easy because they took one look at Sheriff Joe and turned around heading back to their sanctuary. He didn’t even chase them but just crept up the fence while I flanked them to funnel them back through the gate. Dave looked at me in my cowboy boots and pajamas and said, “Nice job, and nice outfit!” I am a farm fashionista.
We have been actively trying to sell our calves and Hunny for about a week and a half. We have always just taken our cows to market, but at the auction we have no say on the final deal. It seems for operators our size that no matter how nice our calves look they don’t bring the price that an arena full of uniform steers or heifers do. This year we advertised on Facebook Marketplace (Stagecoach Farms) and Craig’s List to see if anyone wanted a steer, three replacement heifers, or an open cow who probably has several more calves in her future.
We got a lot of response and as of today we have a plan for everyone. We are going to keep Henry the 8th as a steer and feed him up and take him to the butcher next fall. A gentleman in Wyoming is planning to come get Apollo 11, the other steer, and add him to his herd with the same intention to feed him out and have him butchered when he gets big enough. Another couple nearby wants to start their own herd and are planning on getting the three heifers this week. They really loved them and said their grandchildren would be so excited to see these gentle calves. Dave and I joke that they are going to a petting zoo.
Hunny definitely hit the jackpot because another local rancher with a herd about the size of ours wanted to add another cow. He says his cows come for cake and let him scratch their heads, just like ours. He came to see Hunny and how nice she is and decided to add her to his herd where he will breed her with his bull. He took her home and said she became the “boss cow” immediately so it sounds like she found her new place. She was definitely the boss cow here so it will be interesting to see who takes over next.
That about wraps up the first ten days of October. As busy and chaotic as it might sound, things have not really quieted down. More on that in the next blog….but until then, keep it free out there in the real world!