It looks like Terri and Lee were having too much fun yesterday loading the hay truck before heading up into Greasy to check the cattle and stockwater. We’re feeding somewhere everyday as the calves come, giving the cows a little extra as they raise new calves, while also trying to keep the cows in shape so they’ll cycle and breed back in December. Hopefully we’ll get some rain and green grass before then.
Rather than let the cows get thin before starting to feed, we feel it’s easier to keep the flesh on and more economic to start feeding early. While making our circles to monitor our stockwater, we began taking hay in early August, gradually increasing the amount to where we’re feeding full time now until the grass comes.
With more dry feed and less cows in our upper country, we make the 4-wheel drive trek to Greasy and the Paregien Ranch once a week, while feeding our younger cows down low three times a week. Stockwater in our upper country is more tentative and needs to be checked regularly.
Robbin and I were waiting to load the Kubota to feed another bunch as the girls were tossing 130 pound bales around. We followed behind them later and managed to see all the cows, calves and replacement heifers on the east side of Dry Creek, very pleased with all we saw.
a lightning strike beckoning
red shiny engines.
When we weaned her last year’s calf last May, we sorted the gray cow to an accessible pasture, so when time allowed we could bring her off the mountain to remove a horn that would soon be growing into her head. Four weeks ago after feeding the Greasy bunch, Terri and Lee let me know the horn was in her head. They chummed the small bunch she was with into the Gathering Field. Then about ten days ago, Robbin and I went up the hill and brought her down to the squeeze chute to remove her horn, thankful she had not calved yet.
We have several gray cows due to a combination of some recessive genes that have offered a little extra heterosis or hybrid vigor, both in size and maternal traits. Like the others, she’s gentle and stood cooperatively as I cut the end of her horn off with a pruning saw, smearing pine tar and applying ample commercial products to ward off flies.
I knew Saturday that she had had her calf, though I never saw it. She’d been sucked, showed telltale signs of afterbirth and hidden it somewhere in the tall grass of the irrigated pasture. On my way to shut my irrigation water off on Sunday, I saw her lying next to the fence, looking suspiciously like the calf was on the other side. The pastures are open to one another, but a day-old calf wouldn’t know that.
Before coming home, I thought I’d investigate, hoping for another gray heifer calf. Cord still wet, it was hiding in the grass and came to the Kubota, circling and bumping the machine, looking for breakfast. Having found fresh bear tracks along the creek, I wanted to see them reunited but not wanting to play too much cowboy, so I followed the pair at a distance on either side of the fence towards the gate.
When the calf left the fence to lay back down in the pasture, I left them alone to close an irrigation gate valve. As soon as I was out of the picture, the gray cow sailed through the gate to find her big bull calf.
Like most newborns, finding milk is often a process of ‘trail and error’.
When I arrived yesterday to change my irrigation water, a coyote was nonchalantly studying these cows and calves from just outside the fence. The cow beneath the Valley Oak was lying close to her calf, hours old. The cows, of course, knew he was there well before I did. Taking an indirect approach, coyotes will gradually work their way among the cattle acting preoccupied and harmless until they become familiar to a bunch, all the while looking for any weakness among the calves—hence the Trickster moniker.
We have completed our first month of calving and pleased with 50% of our calves on the ground, a bright spot in the middle of this drought, though our total cow numbers have been reduced by half these past four years. This is the third calf for this particular bunch of cows bred by Vintage Angus bulls.
As the light turns softer and shadows longer, early mornings can be rewarding with lots of wildlife this time of year, especially where there is water. About twenty Canadian Geese are stripping the ripe seed of the water grass elsewhere in the pasture and our little bunch of wild turkeys, that are becoming used to me and the Kubota, are rummaging for bugs where I’ve completed my irrigation.
I take my camera, never knowing what I’ll see.
Posted in Photographs, Ranch Journal
Tagged Calves, camera, Canadian Geese, cows, coyotes, dawn, irrigation, Trickster, water, wild turkeys
Dear Dad, you never saw a drought like this,
four years running, so few cows left on the ranch—
nor I a war like yours: bait for Nazis in the Bulge.
The world has changed, the planet ever-changing:
ice caps melt, oceans rise, seasons out-of-sync
with what we know. New ground to graze
now that I am old. Nothing in the mountains
for bears to eat, they roll down ridges, track
dusty roads on the scent of fresh placentas,
lion pads everywhere you go. We cannot leave
this canyon, these calves, alone—all living
off this piece of ground that we are so bound.
In the name of convenience
we deaden our senses
far from the basic elements
from which life rises
from this dusty, musty earth—
lost touch with old ways
of believing and seeing things
intrinsic to the spirit.
Yet we acquiesce to custom
and anonymity, bow
to technology more fallible
than a man’s word, or
become slaves and addicts
to selfish notions
where the lazy work the hardest.
I don’t recall a more-welcome fall, this astronomical landmark when our daylight hours equal dark and night promises to last longer as we move towards the Winter Solstice. The sun slides south down the ridge, rising later, as sunset doesn’t hesitate, but literally falls into Antelope Valley just to the west of us.
We have endured the summer, we have endured four years of drought, as we enter that time of year when it might rain, bring green grass and fill the earth with moisture, bring water to our cattle. Wildlife walks with a different air, lingering longer in the morning. Coyotes and bobcats take their time as if they own this ground. Perhaps displaced by the Rough Fire, we’ve already seen more lions and bears than any year I can remember.
This is the time of year when our calves are born, the beginning of another cycle with the hope of rain, green grass, and fat calves, mornings and evenings by the fire. Just another day, but this is the one we have waited for.
among common fiddleneck—
new color for spring.
As always, we don’t know
or when, but we prepare
for rain and cold
with odds in our favor.
There is no election,
no debate, no polls.
The fickle gods
write their own rules
and grin like hell
when we object
to their unfairness.
We were gods once
when we were children
with scraps of wood
and leaves for sails
floating down a furrow.