Tag Archives: Calves

First Rain

 

 

Our small part of the world is almost perfect with last week’s rain as cotyledons break the duff and dirt, a magic time that California natives, men and beasts, eagerly anticipate. Albeit a bit early, our beginning of grass will need another rain soon, but with plenty of old feed to protect the new, that window is open longer.

 

 

My niece and family have been visiting once a month to help us deal with the Kaweah River watershed’s implementation of the Groundwater Stabilization Act, 2014 legislation designed to improve water quality and sustainability in California. As a more interesting outing, Robbin and I took them up to the Paregien ranch yesterday as we checked on our cattle.

 

 

Her husband Neal is a videographer who is always looking for room to fly his drone. Though I’ve often thought of applications for a drone on the ranch, such as checking fences and looking for missing cattle, I wasn’t quite ready for the visual reality.

 

 

Robbin’s ready to record barking dogs and other assorted cowboy sounds to help us in the gather.

 

Babysitters

 

 

Robbin and I were pleased to see the fresh calves at the Paregien Ranch, our mature cows already setting up nurseries. Though I have my theories, but exactly how the cows decide which new mother will be the babysitter is still a mystery. And who will replace her while she’s grazing?

The cows have broken up into bunches, the most expectant mothers hanging together. Especially vulnerable to coyotes during labor and immediately after the calf is born, struggling to stand and nurse for the first time, each cow depends on the security of the bunch.

It’s refreshing, reassuring, and almost inspiring to see such cooperation within a species without a fuss—an example of selflessness it might do well for humans to emulate. Until then, what better way to spend a Sunday.

 

First English Calf 2018

 

 

In keeping with Age and Source Verification for our next crop of calves, this calf was born August 29, 2018 and posed for Robbin and I on our way up to look at the cows in Greasy where we found two more new babies. With a couple of weather changes in the past ten days, it feels like fall now, but we know we’re liable for more 100-degree days this month and next.

Still somewhat understocked from the drought as we rebuild our cow herd from our own replacement heifers, we found plenty of feed and water and most of the cows heavy with calf. With bull sales all over California this month, we’re excited to add some new Angus genetics to our herd, hoping that sagging salvage values will keep bull prices reasonable.

 

BEATING THE HEAT

 

 

Since the four-year drought when we had to leave the gates of each mountain pasture in Greasy open to secure water, we haven’t had a decent count on our cows. Drought-killed trees and limbs on fences haven’t helped us manage our numbers either. But we do know how many calves we branded in Greasy.

As we’ve gathered to wean and harvest our crop of calves, all but one calf was accounted for as of last Thursday, a calf that may have died sometime after branding. Nevertheless, Robbin and Terri left early Friday in the Kubota with a bale of hay, salt and mineral to look for tracks, to insure we got all the calves.

 

Evening wine, and
I still want to celebrate
the last marked calf

on the books, in
the weaning pen, out
of the brush and rock

with cows behind
the Kubota and a bale
of hay, Robbin and Terri

on the cellphone calling
for a gooseneck, for Bob
and I to haul him home.

Two frozen bottles of water,
four beers with lemons, cool
reward in an insulated pouch.

                         (iPhone selfie: Terri Drewry)

 

Last Bunch

 

 

We hauled the last of this year’s calves out of Greasy this morning to ‘soak’ in the weaning pens before taking the steers to town next week. The heifers will join the rest on the irrigated pasture to be Bangs vaccinated and then sorted for replacements. Despite one of the driest beginnings to our rainy season, they’ve all done well due to our March and April rains. Including some late slicks that missed our brandings in Greasy, these calves averaged over 700 pounds.

We’ve done well, too, weaning our English calves in 30 days, 20 of which were over 100 degrees. It’s been saddle at 5:30 a.m. to beat the heat. Our thanks to Bob, Terri and Allie for their cheerful willingness to help get the job done. (iPhone photo by Terri Drewry)

 

MATURE

 

 

Perhaps age, or perhaps it’s the 100-degree heat, but my enthusiasm wanes for lots of things, including poetry.

I’m up early enough to write before we leave at daylight when it’s the coolest. Perhaps it’s the drama of the news, its incongruence, its self-righteous and self-serving players vying for the spotlight, for power or money—mostly bad-acting at best, politics has become so terribly transparent these days. Thank God we have work to do.

Yesterday, when we finished processing and doctoring a few eyes of the calves we weaned Tuesday, Terri pulled her iPhone out to document the Greasy calves—something I had planned to do, but didn’t. Thank you, Terri.

Perhaps the work, the satisfaction that comes with the jobs we do is where enthusiasm waits, apart from the distractions of the outside world beyond our ridgelines. Engaged and invested, each day is usually an adventure. So I’ve changed my writing habits to summer afternoons, glad to be inside and out of the heat hoping to find a little more enthusiasm then.

 

 

MATURE

We take sleep when we can,
welcome the dreams that dance
unsteadily from out of dark curtains.

Undisturbed, we are the playwrights,
shaping characters and editing lines
as we move towards an unknown ending

or a mysterious purpose, if any, on this planet
at odds with itself, and with humanity—
yet hoping that the visions we hone

subconsciously will bleed into the daylight
and become like ripe seeds planted
in our brains, waiting, waiting to mature.

 

Paregien Ranch Steers

 

 

The weaned steers from the Paregien Ranch averaged over 800 lbs. and brought good money at the Vialia Livestock Market yesterday as we took a break from fixing fence with outside temperatures of 108 degrees. (Terri Blanke iPhone photo.)

 

THE INNOCENT

 

 

Already drawn to the trough,
to the prospect of being cared for,
choosing peace and domesticity,

we are startled with the interruption
of the news—as it happens—
and we become the audience

on stage, interviewed and counted
for ‘something’ by invisible pollsters
just to keep the plot alive:

a chicken in every pot,
better jobs and lower taxes
as wealth wicks up

between catastrophes,
the graft and scandals
we’ve become addicted to.

 

While Waiting for a Rain

 

 

Temperatures are forecast to rise next week as our first cold front brings light precipitation to the 200,000 acres of fire-stricken Northern California that was fanned by 70 mph “Diablo Winds”. Southern California will approach 100 degrees. Our forecast is closer to 90 as we wait for our first rain, like always, this time of year. Longer range, no rain in sight for the remainder of the month.

We keep our first-calf heifers close to the house and the hay barn. Only 35 days into calving, the transition from heifer to mother is almost magical, driven by a selfless instinct to care for a newborn calf, multiplied many times over—they all suddenly become a pasture of cows. Bred to Wagyu bulls, the calves come small, but they are growing and demanding more from their young mothers, so we augment the cows’ dry grazing with enough alfalfa hay to keep the them in shape while raising a calf.

We began feeding a moderate amount six weeks ago with the Kubota, but graduated to the feed truck last week as we’ve slowly increased their hay. In recent years, we’ve tried to keep our feeding down to twice a week instead of every other day, though we feed the same amount, thinking that cows are more apt to leave the flat ground to graze the hillsides between feedings. And they do, but as they come to water in the morning, they wait hopefully, and bawl every time the Kubota or pickup is started, on both sides of the canyon—a deafening pleading that’s hard to ignore, but tame compared to the drought years.

Nothing out of the ordinary, we will feed until the green grass comes.

 

Babies Everywhere!

 

The girls, Allie and Terri, were met by our second-calf heifers yesterday when they went up to Greasy in the Kubota with a little hay. Terri brought back this short video from her iPhone. It’s that time of year, babies everywhere!