Drought

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, I would modify that to say you can, it will just take a while. Unfortunately, I am talking about myself. You see, I finally got a smart phone and took some pictures – then it took me two months to figure out how to get them off my phone and onto the computer and eventually here on the blog to share. So, though it took a while, here are some pictures I took in April when we were in California driving along Hwy 166. You probably know there is a drought and I cannot believe how very dry it is there.

In April the hills should be green and lush with fresh grass, this is what they looked like instead.

dry cow trails

There were still cattle “grazing” in the hills, but honestly I don’t know what they were eating.

dry cattle

Many ranchers have been forced to sell off their herds because they have nothing to feed them. The cost of hay is sky-high if you can get it.

cattle closer

It is a sad situation for those folks; they desperately need rain.

dry hillside fence

This is the river bed – which had not one drop of water that I could see.

dry river bed

Over the edge of the bridge you can see the high water mark on the hills. I have seen the water that high there in one of those El Nino or La Nina (which one means it rains a lot?) years. They could sure use some of that rain now.

high water mark

The only place it is green is where there is irrigation of some kind.

sprinkler crops

This whole situation makes me very thankful to live in a place where water is abundant.

Greener Pastures

It is finally time to move the cattle from our home ranch where they winter over to the fresh green grass of the summer pastures. This has been the wettest spring on record in our area so we were a bit later in the season than usual moving the bovines this year. We moved the steers first, they have been on the summer pastures for a few weeks now. It was time to move them to a fresh paddock and believe me they know it. They are lined up at the gate waiting for us to open it.

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Before we move the cattle into the new paddock we walk the fence line to make sure all the fence wires are secure with no breaks or shorts in the electric fence. The animals watch us and if we aren’t moving quickly enough they start bellering to remind us they are waiting for fresh grass. Most of the time they are very quiet, but when they are ready to move they can get loud. After we make sure the fence is secure – no one wants to chase loose cattle around  – we open the gate and the herd trots off into the fresh grass. Here is A7, a yearling calf from last year, enjoying the new pasture. You can see he is still shedding his winter coat in places; this is the scruffiest they look all year.

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This shot of the fence line shows the grazed pasture the cattle are moving off on the left and the new one on the right. When the grass gets down to about six inches it is time to move the herd.

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And now the herd is quiet and calm again, busy munching on their fresh grass.

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Meantime, back at the ranch the cow/calf pairs were waiting. We moved them all up into the trap.

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Then sorted the cows from the calves into pens side by side. The calves don’t seem to mind being away from their mothers, the mamas are a little more concerned.

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We put the cows through the squeeze first. Alex takes off their old ear tag and puts a fresh one in; kind of like changing your earrings with pierced ears. We use an ear tag impregnated with a natural pyrethium to control flies. The cows have been through the squeeze and chute many times and know the routine.

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This is the first time the calves have ever seen the chute, sweep and squeeze, a whole new adventure for them.

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The squeeze is adjustable, but it doesn’t go down small enough to hold the calves – Rick ends up holding them so Alex can insert the ear tag.

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B5 with his new ear tag. We also banded the bull calves, all four of them. Of the 19 calves we had this year only 4 are (or were) bulls.

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Sometimes the calves get a little turned around – literally. B19 is the last calf this season; a little heifer who was very small and weak at birth. We had to tube feed her (insert an 18 inch esophageal feeding tube down the throat and all the way into the calf’s stomach, then pour in the colostrum and milk). After two days of feedings she was able to get up and nurse on her own and now she’s doing very well.

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She turned around and went out the front of the chute with a little help from Rick. The cows are not able to turn around in the chute, but the calves are so small it is no problem for them.

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Then we loaded them up for their first ride in the stock trailer and took them to their mothers in the new pasture. We just leased this 80 acre piece this year and it is a great addition for us.

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Lush, green grass for the herd – and so tall you can almost lose sight of the calves out there when they lay down.

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And finally, one of our bulls – Ox – is in that pasture with the cows. It is time for the bulls to do their job so we have calves for next year. Many of the 19 calves from last year are his.

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We had a 100% breeding rate and 100% live, unassisted births this year. Can’t get much better than that!