Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Gloom of Night ...

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night 
stays these couriers from the swift completion 
of their appointed rounds.

It may be the U.S. Postal Service's unofficial motto, but it could just as easily be a slogan for Kansas cattlemen.

While beef production critics would like to think that cattle should just graze from green pastures all year 'round, that's not a wintertime reality in Kansas. Freezing temperatures don't leave edible tidbits in our pastures, so it's up to cattlemen to feed their herds. That happens whether it's -8 (like it was a week ago Monday), whether we're experiencing the more moderate temperatures this week or whether the wind is already howling (like it is this morning).
Randy wasn't doing his "King of the Mountain" impression. He was using a pitchfork to clean "rotten" out of the silo. What he calls "rotten" is the outer layer of silage in the trench silo. While older cows will pick through the material, young feeder calves "turn up their noses" and won't eat it. So, periodically, the guys have to clean that layer off. Randy scraped away the sides with the pitchfork because it's hard for the bucket on the tractor to remove it. However, Jake used the bucket to clean off the rotted silage in the middle of the stack. (If you look at the photo on the left below, you can see that the outer layer is a little darker. That's the "rotten.")
After the guys got down to the good stuff, Jake loaded several scoops into the feed truck.
Then Randy took it the half mile or so to the feeder cattle.
Our feed truck is ancient. I could have ridden along with Randy, but I told him I could get better pictures if I just followed him. However, I don't think I fooled him in the slightest. I didn't want to share the cab with the packrat or the mice that have made the feed truck their vacation home. True story: This winter, Randy put a big rat trap in the cab and loaded it with cheese. Two days later, the entire trap was gone. I kid you not. I don't want to meet the vermin able to cart off his own trap.
So, I respectfully declined his kind offer to ride in the feed truck. (It also has no brakes which is always a thrill when you have to gun the engine to go up the incline to get out of the pasture and then directly onto a bridge with no guard rails. Above, you can see the braking system for storing the truck in the shed. It stops when it hits the tire.)

The roar of the feed truck acts like a dinner bell for our bovines. Cattle that had been in a different, adjoining lot came to "belly up to the bar," so to speak.
Randy filled each of the bunks, running the auger so that the feed is transferred from the truck bed to the bunks. A few eager eaters weren't scared off by the noise and came to start eating.
After Randy left the pasture, all of them came to the bunks to eat their fill.
Besides the silage, the guys also feed alfalfa and sudan hay. The heifers will be delivering their "little bundles of joy" later this month. The older cows are scheduled to calve in February.

At some of our winter locations for cattle, there is water available. However, the guys also have to haul water to one location.
The water tank has a valve at the back, which they open to let the water flow into the tank in the corral.

So, whether sun or rain or sleet or Kansas wind, the guys do their part to make sure our herd has the food and water they need.


  1. Kim,
    You do such a nice job detailing the daily life of farm life.

    I was glad when you said your feed truck is ancient, that was my first thought ... sorry. Hey if it works it works. I think our little grain truck is a model from the 60's. I would take the no ride option with mice and rats too.

    I always appreciate warmer temps. Makes chores more enjoyable. It's horrible windy here.

    Hope you have a great day!

    1. It is really windy here today, too. Randy said he got pretty dirty cleaning the rotten stuff off the silo today. You have a good day, too!