Windchill Wonders and Worries

This is a story of joy and panic.

Joy – because our second grandchild was born two days ago, in the morning (while a -43C windchill was raging outside) and then, shortly after we got the news we had a serious farm crisis and we didn’t even get to celebrate the joy until we tended to our crisis.

I have to back up a few days to explain what led to this panic/crisis. We have been in a near-crippling deep freeze for the last week to ten days. Temperatures ranging from -25 to -35 complete with windchills sending the real temperature to almost -50….with no relief! The winds rarely let up and the sun just has minimal power to lend any warmth to any living being.

I continue to be amazed how our animals keep on keepin’ on in these conditions but they do.

Crowding at the only working waterer

It’s the equipment that starts to give up. Two of our three cattle waterers decided enough was enough and they froze up. And then the real panic, our electric space heater in the pump house quit and when we opened up the box of our backup heater….we find it’s the wrong kind….it has no cord to plug in!

If the pump house has no heat all the water lines that run to the corral AND to the house freeze solid and the whole system shuts down. In these conditions – a nightmare to even hope to repair.

We just wanted to enjoy the news of our new granddaughter – instead we’re scrambling to replace a simple heat source that we thought we had backup for but….

So off I tear to the nearest city (an hour away) to find some units and get myself back ASAP. Meanwhile, hubby and son Tyler remain behind to jimmy-rig a cord into the backup unit we found. Thank goodness we have our very own instrumentation technician in the family and thankful he was available this crucial day.

I wasn’t taking any chances, once I found them and loaded up with 2 of each.

By the time I got home things had settled down, the pump house was still warm, the water-lines had been preserved and peace had returned to the farm-site.

Our back up supply of heaters is going to be beefed up considerably now after this scare. When you don’t have a hardware store just minutes from your doorstep, out here in the country, you have to be more prepared. Still learning these hard lessons after all these years of farming/ranching!

Time now to catch our breath and get ready to meet our new precious sweet grandchild.

It Starts Here

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.

A big cozy straw bed sheltered by trees and a wall of bales for sleeping comfort.

Weaning

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.

Sometimes…A Little Help

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.

I like to strain the raw milk from the natural blah that comes from milking the cow out in the corral.
I like to label who the colostrum came from and when and then it all goes to the freezer. I have a feeling not many folks bother doing that – but, it’s important to me.

Finally, our dear cats get the residual, a rich yummy treat…we all have our roles!

No waste!

I Bid I Bought

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. wp-15876954062393643989114538353298.jpg 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. wp-15876954810174659318883531627947.jpg

My Day For Chores

 

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.

No Sale

I can’t believe how happy I am even though we’re in the midst of selling our cows. How is it that one cow can make my heart flip? I’m pretty sure my macho rancher/trucker hubby has a really soft heart for this gal too. We get to bring Delia back home!!!
Turns out she’s “open”…not carrying a calf…not pregnant. This means she got sorted off with a few of the other open cows that would be sold another day…not in our dispersal sale. However…good thing I came to the auction market today and got to watch all our cows go through the chute as they were being preg-checked and tagged.

Good thing I was there, because when I heard the vet call out “she’s open” I turned to hubby with my big sad puppy dog eyes and said….”She’s coming home with us!!!” He didn’t turn me down.
I wrote about Delia a couple years ago when she almost got sold as a market calf instead of being chosen as a replacement heifer to keep with our herd. I think I did the puppy dog eyes act then too and it was a successful strategy. And so, here she is again…saved from the sale pen and back home where she belongs.

Hard Decision

In less than a week now my husband and I will be selling our beautiful cows. We are having an official herd dispersal. When the human body parts tell you it just might be time to reconsider your limitations and your frailties…..well, you just have to be ready to make some hard decisions.
Hubby asked me to create a video that could be shared with potential buyers and the general public. I designed it in such a way that hopefully the viewer will understand how much we have cared for and continue to care for our herd. The kids have helped us so much along the way and I was heartened to be reminded of this and their part in all this as I went through my thousands of images over the past few years.

And so, not really sure what the next chapter is going to look like…we have a much smaller herd of young animals we have opted to keep with us at home because, let’s face it, a cattle guy and a cattle gal will always have a wee bit of cows.
Rest assured however, Flicka Rancher will continue to share her “chapters”.

Fancy Fella

When this guy was born back on May 10, 2018, he sure caught my eye. Such a showy fella with his perfectly goggled right eye, his four shiny white socks and white-tipped-tail.

He got a name right away – Fabian – and I decided I would keep my eye on him as long as he was with us from the yard to the pasture and beyond. Because they don’t stay with us long, I rarely name the steer calves, but how could I not?

He grew up big and strong and so I know he ended up in the heavier group of steer calves that we sent to market. I watched that sale on my computer that night and although I noted who the buyer was it remains a mystery what feedlot he was taken to.

When I get caught up with my new set of winter chores and the farm books for year end, it is my intention to do the background work and research and find out where my big handsome Fabian is living, feeding and growing now. Wish me good luck!

My Chore Team

Here’s a couple of characters I sure couldn’t do without around here. Patty and Ruby….my chore team….and my cheer team too.

We keep each other company throughout the entire day. Ruby holds her post in the tractor at my feet.

And my dear Patty follows me everywhere else except the tractor. This rancher gal never needs to feel lonely with these two around.

Here is an example of them assisting me with returning our bulls back to their own pen after being out for watering. I have all my penned animals on a somewhat rigid schedule so I can keep up with the myriad of indoor activities on a farm gal’s plate…like bill paying, book keeping, meal planning and preparation, baking and sewing. (Notice that house-cleaning doesn’t always make-the-cut….hah-hah).

Needless to say, Team Patty-Ruby are invaluable to me and the entire operation on this ponderosa.