Thursday, February 10, 2011

Winter Work

Winter is not a season; it's an occupation.
--- Sinclair Lewis

There's no 9 to 5 at the office for cow-calf producers during snowy, winter days. Sinclair Lewis probably wasn't referring to farming or ranching. But he could have been.

The normal feeding routine is complicated by the snowing and blowing of a wintry day.

The photos were taken in the morning on February 8, before there was 10 inches of snow on the ground. But they do illustrate the process that Randy and Jake undertake each day to feed and care for our cattle, whether the day brings sun, rain, snow or sleet. The Postal Service has nothing on these guys!

The photographer missed the first step, but the guys had loaded grain into the bottom of the feed truck before adding the silage on top. This photo was obviously taken another day, but this grain bin is where we store grain for the cattle during the winter.

After Randy got to the pasture, he unlatched the fence into the trench silo. The fence keeps the cattle out of an all-you-can-eat buffet of silage, which we had harvested in September.

Randy used the bucket on the loader tractor to pick up the silage.

Then he deposited it in the feed truck.

The silage "steams" in the back of the feed truck. It goes from the "hot house" where it is fermenting and reacts to the cold - just like we see our breath on cold days.

After Randy dumped three bucket loads into the feed truck, he got another load, which he deposited in the old feeder in the Peace Creek pasture.

(This cow was watching the process from the feed bunk, where she was waiting for dinner to be served.)

Jake drove the truck to the pasture where we keep the feeder calves. These are the calves born last January and February on the County Line. We weaned them from the mothers last November. We will sell them at Pratt Livestock in March. They should weigh 650 to 700 pounds each when they are sold.

Jake drove along the line of feed bunks and augered the grain into them. Dinner is served!

You can't see them, but there is a line of feed bunks down the center of this shot. The feed truck signals that it's time to belly up to the "table."

We have cattle at four different locations during the winter. Some of those locations have water available, either at a creek or at a water well. But we have to haul water to one location. We have a 1,000-gallon water tank which we put in the back of a grain truck during the fall and winter months.

This photo was taken in the morning on February 8, when the snow was just starting to accumulate. By the time the storm dumped around 10 inches of snow, Randy & Jake had trouble even getting to the lot through the snowdrifts.

The water tank has a valve at the back, which Jake opened to let the water flow into the tank in the corral.

They must not have been too thirsty, since they didn't run right over for a drink.

The guys also feed hay at every location. They use a tractor with a hay fork on the back of it. They can carry two big round bales at one time. They feed both alfalfa and sudan bales.

Randy used the loader to set the bale upright.

And then Jake removed the net wrap and rolled the feeder over the top of the bale and into place.

It takes several trips to get the mission accomplished at all four locations.

But on a snowy, winter day, the cattle were ready for some grub.

You need to keep your energy up when you're trying to stay warm ... and feed a baby.

We had two more calves from heifers last night - with the temperatures at -12. Thankfully, both babies arrived in the barn, but it is still mighty cold in there. Randy spent part of his night sitting in the pickup with the heater on high, trying to warm up a 70-pound passenger.

It's hard to believe, but the temperature is supposed to get up in the high 50s or even low 60s this weekend. Let's hope lots of mamas have babies during this break in the weather!

We're thankful for the moisture the melting snow will bring to the wheat crop, but that same moisture will make a muddy mess in the cattle lots. So, it will be a challenge of a different sort over the next few days. Never a dull moment on the County Line!

1 comment:

  1. Long days! And I can't imagine how miserably cold it is out there with these temps! Short trips to the car freeze me! Hope to see some of the snow pics!