After last week’s post, it occurred to me that between myself and my husband and others like us in the cow-calf and cattle-hauling industry….well, we’re at the base – the foundation (as opposed to “the bottom”] of the food cycle. The cycle that brings your food from farm to plate.
We raise cattle and keep them fed on grass and fresh water. We watch over the good will and nutrition of our breeding herd so they in turn bring forth healthy, thriving calves which later a cattle-hauler like my trucker-hubby loads up and takes on to a feed-lot….. so the cycle can go on and on.
I feel very privileged and honored to be a steward of this lifestyle…even on these cold, wintery challenging days. To be responsible for the well-being of these precious animals that in turn contribute to providing one of the most efficient and high-quality proteins around.
And so we tend to pamper our herd. Pampering – means keeping the feeders full, refreshing the straw bedding after a snowfall, vaccinating against disease and maintaining a watchful eye over all for any changes in behavior or signs of discomfort. I guess, in the end this isn’t necessarily “pampering”….just good management and we take a wee bit of pride in being part of the process to bring healthy and nutritious food to your plate.
Sometimes I get a text or a call from my trucker-hubby as he’s about to drive by home with a load (of cattle) with the invite to come along for a ride. I never give up the chance even if it’s an overnighter. We’re especially fortunate now to have son Tyler fully trained to pick up the reigns and tackle those chores in our absence. We took advantage of him last weekend so that I could accompany hubby on a trip to the south of the province which would be an overnight stay in the Kenworth.
What I came away with was a renewed appreciation of what he puts up with on the road (wild winter weather/rude & impatient drivers-all for another post maybe) how different and limiting the environment is for truckers in the world of COVID restrictions.
On the upside…the traffic is definitely lighter. We would go for an hour almost sometimes and not meet an oncoming vehicle….that’s definitely a benefit.
But the real downside is the lack of rest stops and services for them when they do finally end the day and have time to rest and restore.
We went as far as Picture Butte (5 hours from home) and after he had delivered his load…in the dark….all alone (no employees to help with unloading at the feed lots after 5PM anymore) we camped out at a co-op gas bar/truck stop which thankfully provides a clean washroom/shower building but that’s it. From there we took a chilly “romantic” walk through the industrial area to downtown to find a place to eat.
But that’s the thing….no dining in any restaurants right now under Public Health Orders so a tired trucker has to find an establishment that offers takeout and he/she waits out on the street until it’s ready and takes it back to the truck to eat alone. The hospitality and congeniality they used to find in these places has been taken away from them and it makes for a very, very long day.
So we ordered some donairs for takeout – waited out on the street – then found a picnic table in the dark beside the Scotiabank and ate our supper before walking back to the truck again – back through the dark and empty streets.
He wanted to point out to me too that in Picture Butte back in the day, after he and other truckers in his group had finished their loads at respective feed lots, they would meet at a particular pub for last call. The last trucker in would get the bill. It used to be hopping busy and a good place to unwind, but now…..ghostly silent, one vehicle outside waiting for a takeout order.
This turned out to be a longer post than I usually publish because I guess I wanted to share a message with a little background. You’ve heard it before but I hope you will – “Thank A Trucker”….
maybe just pack a supply of emergency face masks to give to the poor trucker that’s refused entry or service to the only convenience store around just because he/she might have forgotten his/her mask back in the truck at the far-far end of the parking lot…..because – oh yes….that happens.
You know…for years…we have weaned our calves on a busy weekend when the husby is home just long enough to get the deed done with whatever help we can muster up on said weekend. Then, he hops into the big old Kenworth and drives out of the yard leaving me and the dogs with a yard full of bawling, stressed out cows and calves trying their best to get back to each other through gates, and fence lines and corrals.
This year I was not worried about weaning day at all because husby was going to be home for the WHOLE day and not only that – the days thereafter!! He would finally see what chaos he leaves us with when he heads back on the road….back to the off-farm job.
So I took the time to take this little video of the calm and quiet of the last day our cows and calves would be together. I was planning this post in such a way that my video capture the following day would be loud and chaotic and full of bawling and howling moms and babes.
Well, the joke is on me…..guess these gals were good and ready to say goodbye to the children. Peace and harmony prevails on our ranch today already. The expected bawling usually goes for exactly three days straight…but all they can give up is what you hear on this peaceful little video.
There are numerous high-value assets here on the ranch. During my years working and living this amazing life I believe I have identified our top three – but their order of importance varies over the seasons. They are:
– a live healthy calf,
– a reliable, functioning tractor,
– a good solid three day rain.
As of last night, we are about to experience the latter and we are sure happy about that. (My regrets to the grain farmer at this time)
I also tend to unnecessarily stress a bit about those calves after a long rainy and windy night…that they’ll likely get separated from moms in the weather drama and when I hear the early morning bawling in the field it just reinforces my state.
But I have to remind myself yet again that the bawling is the seeking out for each other and a momma will always sniff out her babe. Peace and harmony soon returns if I just leave things alone.
It’s now a day to watch that rain gauge fill and listen to the grass grow…it’s a happy ranching day!!
There are times during calving season- actually many times – when the rancher has to step in and help Mother Nature along.
For instance, sometimes we have to teach the calf to latch on to momma’s teat, especially if she has a “big bag and big teats” that might be too much for the little gaffer to figure out on his own. But once he/she gets that first satisfying “pull” – well, there’s no turning back – off to the races and good health! That all important first suck from mom is the key to establishing a good dose of immunity against the hazards ahead.
That first “dose” is called colostrum and if a newborn calf hasn’t received this natural elixir within its first few hours of life, his/her chances for thriving dwindle fast.
We like to have this colostrum stored as a backup if we’re ever in a position where a calf is just too weak to even be coaxed to suck. I thought it might make an interesting story for the blog to share this all-important process and task that we undertake from time to time when we have a cow with an abundance of milk to share and store like good old Flopsie provided for us this year.
Husby steps up for the extracting task (after all, he grew up with dairy cows). I step up for the cleaning and storing task. We all have our roles.
Finally, our dear cats get the residual, a rich yummy treat…we all have our roles!
I’ve been after husby lately to supervise and ultimately teach and correct my fencing skills. Like any ranch, there is always a string of fence to mend and thanks to the county snowplow during this past winter, piles of snow had been pushed vigorously enough to dismantle quite a few spots on our east field. Jackpot for me! Training ground!
We have never had the time to properly teach me this oh-so-necessary ranching craft so once again I am benefiting from this pandemic and the way it has slowed down the pace of our lives. So, out we trekked a few days ago and Fencing 101 Berg Style began.
Before this day, my main role in fencing was simply driving the staples into the post after the wire had been rejoined and stretched by The Mr. But when The Mr is away trucking for more days of the year than home…and the fences have the regular tendency to fall apart, then I have to be ready and proficient enough to return the premises to the same secure state as when he left the yard.
The secret then, in fencing repair, is mastering “the eye”…. He tells me to wrap it around my hand and then wrap the end of the wire fence back around itself. Make sure both ends of the string of wire to be mended have these two “eyes” that will hold the strip of barbed wire that will be looped into these eyes, then stretched with the wire puller and voila!!! All repeatable steps for each area needing repair. What a revelation…to master the concept of these eyes!!
I think this blog post requires a sequel in the form of a You Tube type video depicting the classic repair of a broken ranch barbed wire fence….there are a lot of entertaining steps in the entire repair of such a thing as this, so be watching for it soon!!
I had the neatest experience back in early March (before Covid 19 took over our daily lives) and came away from it without one picture!!! Further reason, methinks, to invest in that go-pro camera to document my daily adventures that beg to be blogged and/or “vlogged”.
What had happened, back in March, was that I attended a bull sale/live auction at a local ranch by myself and bought us a bull! I have attended many bull sales and cattle auctions but always alongside the hubby and he did all that bidding stuff and chinwagging and strolling around the pens before and after the sale. But when the bull we want is for sale, and the hubby is away trucking, well…I get to stretch my wings and head out to buy a bull.
By the time I got done my chores that day, showered and changed (because these are quite the social affairs!) and drove myself through the muddy country roads to the ranch …I had missed the homemade lunch but was in time to register for my buyer’s number….my first and only very own buyer’s number! #75…going to laminate this and keep it in my 2020 record book for sweet memories.
I found some acquaintances in the stands once I made my way through the stands…never comfortable walking into a show and sale ring when the sale is going on and you’re right there in front of everybody bidding on the bulls in the ring. But when you see some familiar faces ahead you stride forward and plant yourself alongside.
Thankfully I arrived well before the bull we wanted came through the ring and I got to watch the strategy and routine with the auctioneer and the ringmen watching us buyers in the stands. The key is eye contact…yes, indeed…as soon as that auctioneer caught my eye when our bull came in he was my best friend!! It happened so fast but all of a sudden after just three nods from me we had our bull … for $500 below the upper limit we had set…woohoo! I think I could do this again! Heady stuff!!
So I share this wordy story now mostly for my own personal memory and recollection of this unique time for me, but ultimately to record that it was this week that we had our bull delivered to our place – in the most socially distanced way we could.
And I finally got my picture of me and the bull I purchased all by myself with my #75.
It took twenty years. Twenty years of plugging in our tractor in the dilapidated, unheated, un-insulated sixty year old shop and hoping the breaker didn’t trip overnight and we’d have to pull out the ether to cold-start Old Faithful and tackle a day’s chores in challenging weather that faces us most days.
Twenty years of holding our breath that the roof wouldn’t fall in on us at any time.
But yes, twenty years it took us before we finally bit the bullet and built a beautiful new HEATED shop which houses all our vehicles and farm implements.
and especially the work horse…hubby’s Kenworth.
We love it. We love it so much we chill out here for a little beverage spell and hash out our respective days….me and my chore duty…hubby’s adventures on the Alberta highways. I always look forward to the text from hubby on his way home…” meet me at the shop”…
The husby (rancher/trucker) got called to haul today so I get to run the corral routine my way for a wee while.
My dog Patty is always ready to assist and her “sister” Ruby is overly anxious to do so …younger, rambunctious and very assertive, so she requires a little more control. But between the two of them, they sure make chore life alot easier!
Now I know I’m not supposed to be proudful but I have impressed myself a smidge by my feed pellet rig-up. Before, the arrangement was to fill the chop pail and drag it towards me through the resistant ground under the bin and then haul to the trough. I felt there had to be a much easier and lower-back-friendly way to drag those old pails. Lo and behold – there is!! What better use for a couple spare plywood planks than this??
Let’s just say…I’m happy and back-healthy … instead of puffed-up proud.
One would suppose that after dispersing (selling) almost all of our herd that this blogger would have all sorts of free-time to be posting stories and pictures and filling this blog daily! I’m here to tell you – finally here – that it just doesn’t happen that way.
Regardless, I’m still at it…the blog still lives and my stories carry on.
Right now, hubby and I find ourselves blessed with probably our best and most productive hay crop ever! After the copious beautiful rains during most of this summer, we are now in the fields along with our helpful neighbours, gathering this bounty. The irony of course is we don’t have all those cows to feed. Seems when we had “all those cows” we were constantly facing possible drought conditions and seeking out ways and means to buy more feed. So, now….can it be….we are on the other side….we can actually SELL feed!!! It’s been a delight to be on the haying “crew” helping make this all happen.
We seem to have a gender-specific-duty thing going on too. Either it’s me or stepdaughter Shelby running the tractor and rake and the fellas are operating the balers. I had the unique experience the other day to drive her out to the field where the tractor and rake were waiting for her shift. I call it “unique” because we had her daughter – our first grandbaby!!! – wedged (don’t report me to the safety people) into the back of the 3/4 ton truck and about to experience her very first Berg Adventure with her grandma.
Wouldn’t you know it, I drove us right into a low-wet-spot and dug that old truck right into submission.
Get ready Baby Jill….when out at the ranch with Grandma Flicka…well, stuff just kinda happens!!!