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!

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”.

Weaning Day

My least favorite day of the year. We weaned the calves today…the racous, noisy, stress-filled day when we separate the young un’s from their mommas. To clarify, after helping hubby roundup our herd this morning I sort of got the day “off” from corral duty thanks to my wonderful step-children and “they” weaned the calves. The three of them showed up in full force to help us today…just like the good old days.

So I was quite happy to give up my position and prepare them a warm ranch-worker-meal complete with ranch-style-potatoes…just like the good old days when they were younger and around the ranch more often.

The male (steer) calves were loaded up and taken to the auction market by hubby before sunset and behind him remains myself and 200 bawling mother cows milling about the pen where the heifer calves now reside after being pulled from their moms. Of course those heifer calves are bawling too and looking for escape holes to get back to mom. It’s a very noisy place right now.

But, quite predictably, the bawling will stop within three days. Every single year and probably every single ranch experiences this predictable behavior. But for now it sounds like this….turn up your volume!

The Ranch Gate

Much of my day is spent out in the great outdoors fulfilling my ever so important role as gatekeeper…or go-for runner, or….open the gates…or close the gates….or stand by the gate…or watch the gate….or watch out! Gate!

This brought me to pondering. You know, there is alot of psychology (or rather – drama) that centers around the ranch gate.
Many a heart and spirit has been broken at those gates. Mostly mine as I hate being yelled at. But dear hubby told me long ago that ” what happens in the corral – stays in the corral.”

A day’s plans can be altered in a split second if you miss latching the gate by some innocent oversight or you can’t run to the open gate fast enough that you’re supposed to be “watching” and a rogue animal gets through it or the entire blinking herd heads for it.

I contemplate these things now as we are in the process of bringing our herd home from their respective pastures over the next few weekends. The herd that will be my sole responsibility for most of the winter as my hubby continues to truck up and down the Alberta highways. As long as I know the status of every ranch gate – whether it be open or closed for it’s intended purpose – then I know we’re all going to get along just fine.

When We Get Quiet

Sometimes things go horribly wrong and despite our valiant and often heroic efforts we simply can’t save a calf or a cow in distress.

I used to cry and mope around for a day when we’d suffer a loss. My hubby would just get quiet. And now too, after 20 years of this lifestyle, I have learned to just get quiet.

It’s the best way we can mourn and collect our thoughts to be maybe better prepared the next time or if not our fault, to help us to “cowboy/cowgirl up” and concentrate on the rest of our herd and responsibilities that never end. We get tougher on the outside…but “the quiet” keeps us soft and caring on the inside.

Twin Tales

Ahhhhhh…always a joyous sight to come across a cow who has just delivered twins. Lively twins too and up and ready to suck right away. Sure makes up for the drama and losses of last week when we were just getting underway with this season.

The weather forecast for tonight however, alerts us of snow to come so we decided these little treasures would be best off in the barn tonight.

How do we do that? The hubby lifts them up into the back of our ATV and FlickaRancher sits on ’em (gently, I do!) all the way to the barn. Good thing we’re into the end of the cold season because those two little poopers sure messed up my gloves!

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Next we walk momma from the field through the muddy corrals right to the barn where she can sense her little ones are near. She was very willing to be guided….didn’t even mind the pooch close to her heels. She just wants her babies!!

And they wait patiently cuddled together just inside….not so sure of what-on-earth happened to them.

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Scooped off the lovely straw bed, basking in the spring sun and temporarily snatched from momma, sat on by a two-legged human in a noisy machine, bounced over the choppy frozen terrain to be unceremoniously plopped into a big old barn. Momma looks at me as if to say…….”After all this “well-meaning” human intervention…it better snow tonight!!”

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Delia

There is a character amongst our D heifers (the girls born in 2016). I named her Delia last year. She was headed for the sell group ( of my hubby’s choosing) and I could never understand why. She has always been quiet and friendly and the color red he always normally chooses. So it baffled me that she was ” marked ” as a “sell” while I had her at the top of my “keep” list.

Well, I’m happy to say that I scored a win last year. Just before we loaded all those young gals in the truck little Delia must have looked at Mr Berg just the right way because here she remains on our ranch amongst her other “D” sisters and has become quite the pet for both of us. She has been known to share a sip with my fella from time to time….

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…as well as follow us around in the pen and even nudge us in the butt if we aren’t opening a gate quick enough to her liking.

Needless to say I will be anxious to see what she brings us this first year as a new mom. Would love to have more quiet, friendly daughters from her to “remain on the ranch”!

Calving Capers 2018

The days are drawing near whereby the calves will soon begin to come on our ranch. Each year as we personally get a little more advanced along the timeline of life we push out our calving start date later and later – in hopes that weather will be warmer and more favourable. In hopes that we will rule out the spring storms. In hopes that we can make our calving season a little more graceful on our aging bones and ligaments.

As I write tonight, we are experiencing the usual wet snows that start and stop day in and day out and frustrate our efforts to put out straw bedding for the cows comfort along with some other minor frustrations. But these are small inconveniences in the overall scheme of things because we value the beautiful moisture these types of snows provide. All I can think is how green our pastures can be if this keeps up.

As the calving season approaches we make sure to walk amongst our herd and in particular our group of heifers – the gals with the letter “D” tags – born in 2016. We want them to be as used to our presence as much as possible so we can safely move amongst them if they need our assistance during this new adventure about to enter their lives. Ideally, we trust we have made the proper bull choice and the deliveries will come naturally and without incident. But until then we stroll amongst the girls.

A Snow Day

Back in the days when I was working and I had a half an hour highway drive in to and back from town, there came a day now and then that would compel me to wish that I still lived in town.  The dreaded country SNOW day. Because I would hunker down and head into town along with my rural peers. There was no way I was going to be the pansy that stayed home, while everyone else found their way into town and put in an honest day’s work! I do recall, with absolutely no fondness at all, the terror-filled white-knuckle journeys these proved to be.

When the dreaded SNOW day hits, like today, I’m relieved to have the “privilege” of staying home. But now, the dreaded SNOW day means “extreme” chores. Every little task just becomes ten times harder as the wind whips through the coveralls, blowing snow stings the face and eyes, the trudge back and forth to the routine spots feels like a marathon through the accumulating white stuff. You know, it may look fluffy and puffy and even pretty but no, it feels like cement especially as we push our way back and forth to the troughs with our barley chop pails. Oh how I wish we still had oats in the bin to mix chop….this barley is blasted heavy stuff!

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I protest too much though. A day like today, reminds me just how much our animals rely on us. We started the morning feeding our young heifer calves and they were absolutely delighted to get out for breakfast. It had been a long snow-filled night for them and it’ll help them tolerate the long white day ahead with a full belly of barley and pellets. I see my dog Patty was overly excited to escort them to the dining area!

Today of course every pen needed bales replenished. Thank goodness for a warm barn and plenty of cats to cuddle with as I waited for hubby to come back and forth with more and more bales for me to cut twine from and to open and close gates and to fill and refill chop pails. I was actually contemplating the title for this blog post as “Chore Girl Fitness” or something…….

The most rewarding ending to our day though was to bring in our cow herd from the far east field…another big group of gals that had endured a long, dark, blizzardy night waiting for their next feeding time. They needed no calling and as soon as they heard us in the tractor from a distance, they were on the move!

 

All our critters are tucked away in the corrals close to home and we can rest knowing they are safe, sheltered and fed. Let the snow come on!