Friday, February 28, 2014

I Hate When Death Wins

This isn't the post I had intended to share with you today, but I just had to write this (maybe you'll get a double dose of The Rancher's Wife today!). 

I hate death.  And I hate that even though as hard as we try, we lose sometimes.  I think I take it personally because it means that I wasn't enough.  Today I had to face that reality again.   

The temperatures are warming up enough (or I am sick of being inside) that I decided to go for a run this morning.  It was just an ordinary run- I thought I was dying but still going.  I was jamming to my iPod and picking up speed as I headed down the last hill.  This is where it all changed.

I noticed there was a heifer in the already-calved-pen that was stuck on her back.  If a cow gets on her back and her feet uphill she can't get up alone (sometimes I think I feel like that...). If she is left like that long she could die.  Needless to say, when I got up to her, I called The Rancher to come fix it (because he can fix anything!).  His response was to do it myself... um... no.  I can't really do a job that takes the two of us.  At this point I noticed that she was calving and so we had even more reason to hurry.

After The Rancher's speedy arrival (that seemed to take hours) we pushed and pulled and grunted and finally got her un-upside down. Then we realized that she couldn't stand.  When cows have been trying to have a baby for a longer time than usual, the pressure can make it so that they can't get up.  This was actually ok because it meant that we could pull the calf right there.

 The nose of the baby was sticking out and we could tell that he was struggling to breath. That calf needed help and every minute counted.  Which meant we didn't have time for the calf puller or chains or even gloves.  We ended up using a bungee cord to wrap around the calves legs, the wench on our 4 wheeler to do the pulling and yours truly stuck her bare hands into the heifer to help during the tough spots.  It wasn't the most conventional way of pulling a calf, but it worked.

Once we got the calf out, we went to work getting him breathing.  A lot of times just tickling the inside of their nose will make them sneeze and that's enough to jump start them.  But that didn't work...

We tried rubbing his back and chest, trying to wake him up a little more.  That didn't help...

The Rancher got down to him and tried some mouth to nose breathing.  With every breath he would give, the calf's heart would beat a little faster... for a while.  But eventually it wasn't enough and his heart stopped.  He died even though we were there to help him.  He died while we were doing all we could.  He died while my hand was resting on his little chest, willing his heart to beat again.

There comes a point when see that you are going to lose.  And its at this point you put everything you have into it, denying the horror that is becoming reality.  You hope that your will and determination will cause something miraculous to happen so that you don't have to face the truth.  The truth that calf has died.

This is one of those days that we don't love on the ranch.  We are reminded that we have limits and that there are some things we just can't fix.  And I hate that.  I really hate when death wins.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Calving on the Ranch

*Just a little note- I have picture of a few cows giving birth.  Its not too pretty.  These are definitely not my photo contest photos... You've been warned!

Watching a baby being born is such an incredible experience.  That includes watching a baby calf being born.  Its not too often that you get to see it.  With my luck I make it just as momma is done and licking baby off.  But the other day I managed it just right to see this little baldy calf being born!

After having my own babies, I am so impressed with the instincts that these first time heifers have.  There are no doctors or nurses or even husbands to help them through it all and (for the most part) they rock it!

We take a lot time to check the cows to make sure that things go right when they deliver their calves.  First time mommas have more problems than the seasoned cows, which is why we keep them close to home. 

Generally, we know that when a cow has left the herd and is acting a little antsy, it is probably in labor (that's how I feel too...).  We know for sure that she is calving when we can see a water bubble and the feet sticking out.  At this point the calf should be born within the next hour or two and if its not, its time to jump in and help.

Seeing those feet coming out is a good indicator of how things are going.  If the toes are pointing up its good news.  If they're not, it means that calf is coming backwards and you've got some work to do.  The cow might be at this stage for a while because she is working to push the shoulders and head through.  But once they do come, gravity helps out and the rest calf quickly comes.

A momma's instincts kick in fast once that baby has hit the ground.  The cow is quick to get up to start licking and cleaning her new little baby.  The mom side of me thinks that those licks are part momma loves!  The calf's instincts kick in fast too because as soon as it can, it will stand up and look to start nursing.  That first bit of milk (colostrum) is SUPER important because it contains nutrients and antibodies that will help give energy and a strong immunity.

If all of this has gone down without a hitch you can pat yourself on the back and leave them for a while.


... things don't always go the right way.  When we talk about calving there is always a lot of "if-s" and "should-s" and "generally-s" and "usually-s" because we plan on there being problems once in a while.  Murphy has a permanent residence here at the ranch...

The first thing to do (after we manage to get the mamma to the maternity pen) once we realize a cow needs help is to figure out exactly what is going on.  We face a whole variety of issues like one leg being stuck back, the head being turned the wrong way, the back feet or bum coming first, or the baby being too big for a first time heifer to have alone.  The figuring is the easy part.  Getting the calf in right position is the tricky part.  I mean, you have The Rancher pushing the calf in, grabbing that one leg to get it in just the right place all while momma is having contractions and pushing on the already stuck calf.  And there is only room for one hand to do the work.  Yep... kinda tricky!

When the calf is finally in the right position the cowboys put some chains around the legs and connect it to a sort of jack.  Its brilliantly name "The Calf Puller"... With some steady pulling the baby is able to come much easier.  And Ta Da!  A calf is born!

Congratulations, its a bull!

To see all of the many exciting pictures, click the "read more" link below!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Wintertime Horses

Every few days The Rancher takes a bale of hay out to the horses.  The last few times that he has gone to feed he has a slight issue... the horses have been getting out!  He pops the gate open, drives the tractor into the pasture and then once he has cleared the gate out they go.

But being the ever vigilant ranch wife I've been there to the rescue.  I mean, you can't really miss eight horses running down the road.  I feel guilty admitting this, but I do love to see them run.  Its like back in the day when bands of horses would run wild, free... and crazy.  Ya they were crazy, but still beautiful!

It really only took a minute to get the horses back to their pasture on those few days they were out roaming.  Giving a good cowgirl whoop and holler is just the trick to get those horses to turn back.  Do you think it would work to get my kids to come back like that?

One fine morning we had the privilege of helping The Rancher feed the horses and we must have been good luck.  Not a single horse ran out!  They must have known that I wanted a few photos.  I love a winter shot of the horses in the snow. Their long, thick winter coat is its own kind of beautiful.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Making Some Blog Changes

I'm sure that you have noticed the changes on the blog.  We are working on a facelift over here!  All of these efforts are for you, my dear friends.  I want this to be a blog that is easy to read and find whatever you want. I hope its a place that you want to come back to read often and share with all your friends.

So please be patient while these changes are happening.  If you ever have suggestions, please tell me.  I want to hear of the things you love or the things you don't love.  Every bit will help! 

"They're Sheep... Not Cows!"

On our last outing to check water we came across some range neighbors.  As soon as The Rancher's Sidekick could pick out what they were he shouted, "They're sheep... not cows!"

Apparently we need to get out and see more critters than what we normally see on the ranch because our kids loved seeing those sheep!

There is a big sheep herd sharing the range with our cows in Locomotive.  They blend in with the country side really well and when you finally recognize that the sheep are there they just POP out at you.  Hundreds of sheep!  There is even a little sheep camp and their very own sheep cowboy, sheepboy, shepherd...

I think that they must have been surprised to see us because they just took off running.  Little fluffy sheep running all over.

 I had to do a double take when I saw a black sheep in the midst of the other white sheep.  I had to ask what it was... I assumed it was a herd dog!  I think that I had better stick with what I know best-cows!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Out to Locomotive Checking Cows and Water

We are about to put a lot of miles on the ranch truck.  It happens every year when we take the cows to Locomotive (we also get a LOT of mud).  Its important that we take the time to check out the scene in Locomotive because we can't let our cows go without feed and water. 

For the most part, the work happens from the truck.  We drive across the range to make sure that all of the troughs are working and filling.  Generally we keep some supplies in the truck in case there is a trough that needs some work.  If ever there is a bigger problem the cowboys come home to gather up the bigger tools and head back out.

Along the way we see how the feed is.  A drive though helps us gauge when we need to move cows or if we would ever need to bring any feed down (but that usually only happens when the snow comes).

Of course we check out the cows too.  Occasionally we find a few on the wrong side of the fence.  Apparently, the grass really is greener on the other side! 

I let The Rancher take care of all the hard work or keeping the wheels on the road and I just make sure to document the cow scene!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hauling Cows to the Calving Pasture

The Rancher has sighed a big sigh of relief last week.  All of the cows that were home (about 500) have been hauled to the calving pasture in Locomotive. 

It took 3 days to get them all moved down and we jumped in to "help" take them down

Now that we have all of the cows moved we will be making the trip down to check them, but Locomotive is a great place to calves out our cows!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

First Calf of 2014

I have been asking and asking when we would finally have our first calf.  In fact, I've been asking for over a month and I swear that every time, The Rancher would answer that it would be in two weeks.  But he was saying that for the last month!

But the wait is over!  We have our first baby- a bull (that will soon be a steer).

After bundling my babies up, we braved the cold to find the new baby calf to take some photos of the little fella.  We found him nestled in the straw with momma close by.

With the first calf here the rest will follow soon.  Remember, in the spring when we AI-ed the heifers? One of the benefits and reasons that we do that is so that they are synchronized to all calve together.  Now that we have reached their due date we are going to be swarmed by babies!  Hooray!

And now that I'm getting this post out, I think its time to go check to see if there are any new babies before we turn in for the night.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Feeding Cows With The Rancher

I love going out to feed the cows.  Maybe that is because it gets me out of the house or it gives me a chance to play with my camera or maybe its just being back to my cowgirl element.  Whatever it is, I love to be out feeding cows.

The Rancher... ah... not so much.  He's not a fan of those things that he has to do over and over, repeating it everyday (read that in a bored, droning voice).  It always makes me laugh when he reminds me of how he doesn't like those jobs.  I am the queen of doing the same thing over and over- breakfast, dishes, lunch, dishes, snacks, dishes, dinner, dishes, clean, laundry... repeat.  Its a good thing that I'm the house wife and he, well... isn't.

But back to feeding cows, something The Rancher's does everyday- that's what we were talking about.  We have a pretty handy system- I cut the net wrap on the bale, he rolls it out to the cows.  Then repeat, about 8 times.  We have the big group of cows, the bulls and the first time heifers. 

I'll admit that The Rancher has some pretty awesome tractor skills.  He makes it look easy to pick up, drop, roll, nudge, or tip a bale.  But I know different.  I'm not completely inept with a tractor but I certainly couldn't do it with such finesse.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Maternity Pen Prep- We're Ready For Babies

A little something you should know about The Rancher- if there is something that needs fixing he will do and when he does it, he fixes in a big way. 

With calving just around the corner The Rancher is finding and fixing everything that needs updated.  The major one has been the maternity pen.

Last year it was such a struggle to get the heifers in when you were alone, so that was high on the list to get fixed.  He spent a few days in the shop making a new gate to replace some old panels (that, of course, we were there to "help" put up).  They put in a few man-gates to make it easy to move from pen to pen.  The last day they replaced a handful of poles and added some tin for a windbreak.

It makes me feel better that these new mamas have their own maternity bay- all fixed up and ready to go.  Granted, we don't really want to use it because that means there are problems... but still its nice having it there! 

So lets have some babies!  (don't let The Rancher know I'm begging for the calves to start coming!)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Out to Feed

The cows are heading to Locomotive.  They are due to begin calving within a few weeks which means it is time to get them to the calving pasture.

Locomotive is such an ideal place for our cows.  We hardly get snow there (or at least enough to matter) so it makes for a dry, warm place for babies to be born.  NOT to mention that they are so spread out, that one momma doesn't take another baby by mistake.

Ya, we really like calving out in Locomotive.

And since the cows are leaving, the kids and I have been taking a few mornings to go out and feed with The Rancher before we missed our chance.  There were even a few days that he actually needed me to be the one to cut the net wrap! Oh, the things that make this rancher's wife happy...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Favorite Super Bowl Ads Representing Ag

I love football but I'm not a huge Super Bowl fan... There, I've admitted it out loud.  I really am more of a college sports fan so I don't really even have a favorite pro team.  And since motherhood began my attention to sports has REALLY dwindled.

Even though I'm not a fan, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good Super Bowl party with the treats and commercials.  It seems I only get the highlights when we rewind to rematch the amazing plays (thank you TIVO) but this year I hardly got to see even the commercials.  Ya, you probably guessed I was busy wrangling my crazy kids.  And making football cookies with The Rancher's Sidekick...  But of what I did get to see, I loved how many had roots in agriculture.

This was probably my favorite!

There was an ad I was watching for but it didn't air in out here (it only went to 20 cities).  What is so fun about it was that it about being a ranch mom and featured a real ranch mom that I follow!  Fun to see someone representing the rancher's wife club and doing it so well.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

And the Winner is...

Kirsten! Congratulations to Kirsten for winning the drawing for the 2014 Cowboy Calendar.  Maybe this year I won't make a calendar on an impulse at the last minute and have it ready and available when the year actually BEGINS!  And who knows, maybe you can help me with the final product!

Spring in January

You must have been praying for some snow with us because the weatherman is calling for a sever winter storm with 12" of snow in the valleys and 2-3 feet in the mountains!  Yahoo!

Of course it is coming just as we are about to start calving... so I guess now we pray that the calves will keep warm.  Oh, the life of a rancher!

With all of the storms heading our way, its hard to believe that less than a month ago our lawns were bare.  Our Christmas snow had melted with a few of warm and sunny days.  It felt like spring!

The Rancher has really had some spring fever and has been sprucing up the ranch.  He has been doing some intense cleaning in the shop and sheds- he even found the back wall of one!  They have done some corral repairs and he has even trimmed up the trees.

I don't know how professional pruners take care of the trees, but I would feel safe guessing that they don't use a tractor and a chainsaw like these ranch boys!  But I guess when that's what life gives ya, you go with what you got!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Ranch-kid's Amusement Rides

I avoid taking our kids to the tractor stores.  I know that sounds harsh but I know that they will want to climb on EVERY tractor.  I'm terrified that some day we will be taking home a lawn mower because we broke it from The Rancher's Sidekick climbing all over it.

But there is a day that we wait for every January when there are tons of tractors that we can explore.  ISU in Pocatello hosts an Ag Expo where businesses bring their products for farmers and ranches to check out.  They also bring tractors, of all sizes.  I honestly wonder how they get some of those BIG combines in- I have yet to the a door that they can fit in!  This year The Rancher's Sidekick even found some his size that weren't lawn mowers!

Usually it is the same old stuff but its always worth going to see if they have anything new.  And of course we all want to sit in the new tractors!

 Even The Ranch Princess had to sit in the tractor.  Nothing will stop her from being with the boys!

 Ya, super big equipment...
I had to take this picture because we have pride in agriculture