Winter Sunset

Winter Sunset

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ladies in Waiting

R58's expression seems to indicate she just realized that her doctor's appointment is that doctor's appointment. Ladies: You know the one. It's the annual exam we all love so much.

Her bunk mate, R36, was ready to break out, too. (It's not a good thing when iron bars come loose during cattle working, but thankfully, R36 was our only attempted escape.)

Dr. Dayul Dick checked out R58 and R36, along with our other ladies in waiting, during a recent veterinarian visit. (Yes, Dr. Dick's arm is in the business end of the cow, while Randy is checking her teeth at the other end.)

In actuality, Randy was checking R58's teeth to approximate her age. These days, we use identification eartags that indicate which year each calf was born. For example, our tags this year started with a "4", indicating the calves were born in 2014.
This one gets a new ear tag.
However, sometimes the eartags are lost, so we have to substitute new ones. In that case, Randy checks the cow's mouth for teeth. If she is lacking in dental health, we identify her as "old" in the records. (Perhaps, with all my teeth problems, I should be more nervous about my longevity on the County Line. It's a good thing a similar policy has not been instituted for humans. Just saying!)

During Dr. Dick's internal exam, he estimates the age of each cow's fetus, which his assistant records.
They also give the cows shots for blackleg and PBD (persistent bovine diarrhea), as well as a shot for internal and external parasites.

Sometimes, the cows have not been bred. All 26 cows at the Rattlesnake pasture were pregnant. However, six of the 69 from the Ninnescah Pasture were "open," meaning they weren't pregnant. When a cow was open, Randy marked its forehead with yellow chalk and drew big "O"s on both their flanks. That helped us quickly determine which ones we needed to sort off to take to the cattle sale.
November 7, 2014
The ones who were pregnant were taken to their winter locations. Some of the Ninnescah pasture cows went to the Peace Creek pasture on a beautiful fall day. Others in that group went to the round top, but I didn't get a good photo there.
The cows from the Rattlesnake went to graze on some alfalfa ground and to eat sudan stalks.
November 5, 2014
It was a nice warm day, when we moved them on November 5.
It's looking a whole lot different these days, after our snow last weekend and more than a week of below-normal temperatures.
November 17, 2014
Our County Line maternity ward will officially open in late January with the heifers. Then, in February, the other ladies in waiting will begin dropping calves.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

That's My Story, and I'm Sticking To It!

True confessions: We probably didn't need to take a 4-wheeler ride through the Ninnescah pasture. When we got to the pasture to round up the mama cows, they were hanging out in the lot by the old hunting cabin. (We had already rounded up their babies and taken them back to the farm for the winter.)

It looked like they were all there, but it's tough to count them when they're milling around in a bigger lot. That's our story, and we're sticking to it. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been a point to Randy and me taking a morning 4-wheeler ride in the pasture. 
And if we hadn't done that, we would have missed the beauty of a fall day in Kansas.
Even though the grasses were more brown than green, there was still beauty in the landscape as the sun streamed through the trees and danced across the surface of the Ninnescah River. 
As usual, I couldn't resist pausing to take pictures along the way.
We rode through the pasture, looking for cattle hiding in the trees near the river banks.
My riding companion may have questioned my scouting abilities, since I was equally interested in the scenery.  (We all have our roles, don't you think?)
I saw the well-worn cattle paths, where the mama cows and the babies trekked to get drinks of clear, cool water this summer.
Some of the trees had already shed their leaves and others had lost their vibrancy, but there was still beauty as we drove in the pasture grasses.
 We bounced across the grate that marks the dam over the river as we headed back to the corrals.
And while we didn't find any stragglers during our ride, it was time well spent.
 (Jake might not agree, since he was up in the lot waiting on us!)
Once we got back to the lot, we moved the cows into the south lot and around the old hunting cabin. The cabin and a fence form a lane through which we move the cattle into progressively smaller areas.
Since we had sorted off their calves during our first trip to the Ninnescah, we didn't have to do any sorting. We loaded the mama cows into trailers to make the trek back to the farm.
As the nursery rhyme goes, home again, home again, jiggety jig!
Next up:  A visit with the vet for our "ladies in waiting."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Doctor Appointments

I'm not a fan of going to the doctor. I know it's supposed to be the male species that avoids medical intervention, but in our family, I am the one dragging my feet.

Still, the studies show that going to the doctor for routine physicals and preventative care keeps you healthier in the long run. It's true for adults and for our children. And it's also true for the bovine inhabitants of our farm.

After we gathered the calves from their summer homes on the Ninnescah and Rattlesnake pastures, it was time for their doctor's appointments. Hutchinson veterinarian David Harder and his assistant came to help us "work" the calves. The calves go down a lane and into a squeeze chute.

We use the chute to safely restrain the animal and also to keep the people involved safe. Dr. Harder lowered a panel in the chute to check and see whether the "patient" was a boy or girl.
He had syringes in both hands, giving the calves shots to prevent blackleg and PBD (persistent bovine diarrhea).
He also gave a shot to control parasites inside and outside the animal. That syringe hung from the chute on a gerry-rigged baling wire hanger. What would we do without baling wire on a farm? They kept the medications cool by storing them in a specially-fabricated cooler. Other supplies were in a caddy hung over the fence, so they were ready to grab quickly.
Some of the heifer (girl) calves will eventually become part of our cow-calf herd. Randy identified the heifers he wanted to retain for our herd, choosing the ones in good body condition and good confirmation. Dr. Harder gave those heifers a calfhood vaccination to prevent brucellosis, also known as "bangs." This disease causes abortion or premature calving. The vaccination must be performed by an accredited veterinarian, in compliance with state and national regulations.
Dr. Harder used a device to "tattoo" the animal to show it had received the brucellosis vaccination. Then he used green ink to mark the tattoo.
A few of the calves had lost their yellow identification ear tags, so Randy put in new ones.
They also gave a growth implant to steers and to heifers we didn't plan to keep for breeding. 
Like keeping a patient record for humans, the assistant recorded the "office" visit, making note of the calves we calfhood vaccinated. 
We keep the weaned calves in the corrals for a couple of weeks to get used to being separated from their moms. It also gets them acclimated to eating hay and silage.
They are less likely to be "spooked" by deer or other animals when they are in the corrals, which reduces the chance of them breaking through a fence.

We will feed the calves through the winter. In March, we'll sell the steers and any heifers we don't retain for our own herd. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Snapshots from the Back of My "Horse"

It was time to saddle up our "horses" and gather the cattle from the Ninnescah pasture. Our horses are of Japanese descent and don't requite any hay. Instead, they consume a steady diet of gasoline.

Thankfully, the round-up happened before last week's cold front arrived. I'm just behind in telling the tale. It was an overcast day, but at least the temperatures hadn't bottomed out yet.
For the first round-up, we gathered all the pairs - the mamas and their calves born last February and March. We enlisted the help of another neighbor, C.W., who provided his own trusty steed. Randy and I were also on 4-wheelers. Jake was in the pen near the old hunting cabin, tossing hay into the air, hoping that would attract the cattle.
There are lots of places where the cattle can hide, but this time, most of them were together, and we rounded them up relatively easily.
The guys brought up a few stragglers while I blocked them from the east. One of the slow guys was a neighbor's bull. We brought him into the lot and chauffeured him back home, too.
These two were also stragglers.
We got all the mamas and their calves up in the lots by the old hunting cabin.
As usual, I don't have pictures of the actual sorting process. Trying to separate mamas and babies requires my full attention and both hands.
Once we had them separated, the mamas watched closely while their babies were loaded into the trailers.
I don't usually use an HDR treatment on my photos, but I liked it on this one.
Since we didn't have room back at the farm for the mamas yet, we let them back into the pasture.(They've since been moved, but that will be a story for another day.)
They followed the trailers to the road, where I stood guard at the gate while the guys drove the trailers out.
We stopped by the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op to weigh the trailers. The calves averaged 640 pounds after a summer on grass, a weight gain my handsome chauffeur was happy with.
Once back at the farmstead, we counted the calves as they came out of the trailer.
Next up on Kim's County Line, the calves' appointment with the veterinarian.