Occasionally, a cow loses a calf at birth or a calf loses its mother, and you need to graft the orphan or a substitute calf onto another cow to raise it. In this unfortunate circumstance this heifer lost her calf for one reason or another something wasn't quiet right. We didn't have a "bum" or extra calf available in our herd we had to go out and find someone who had one. Most of the time I don't try this hard, but this is a nice little heifer and she really wants to be a mamma, and it's Tyson's only cow. So I call a couple dozen people looking around for a calf. Talk about the typical story of I call a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy that might have a calf. That's how it went down this morning and by this afternoon I had this little sweetheart back home! Now the cow is in the head catch for a couple reasons. One we wanted to make sure that the calf sucked for the first time on this cow without her interfering at all. See sometimes they smell the calf and they immediately don't like them cause the calf is not their own, they can tell. Secondly, while I was on the road bringing the new calf home, Lon was home skinning the dead one. I know it kind of sounds morbid but it works most of the time. We will use it's hide and put it on the new calf so we can try to trick the mother cow into thinking that it's hers. In a few days, once the calf has drank her milk and she starts to realize that it's hers to take care of, we will turn her back outside in the pen. They do manufacture products that you can use to put on the calf for smell, we have worse luck with those then to just do it this way. (There is lots of reading out there on all the tips and tricks ranchers have used to graft a calf, see the link above.) We appreciate the help of a rancher down by Three Forks that had a set of twins and was willing to sell us one, so we could let her be a first time mom! So far so good, but it is only day one.
So look at this picture very closely...what can you see? You see the four-wheeler, you see Lon, and maybe he's hooking the winch up to the suburban. You might be able to tell that the four-wheeler is stuck in a ditch or a snowbank too. You notice that I'm taking the picture from the inside of the truck. This picture isn't out of the ordinary. Ya, it seems like I'm always pulling Lon out. You may ask why I'm in my suburban? Well, I was on my way up to the house when Lon called me, and it was an emergency that I get to him quick. Luckily, he was close to the house. Well then you may ask, why didn't he just walk to the house and get a truck. Sometimes it's not just what the picture shows, but what is outside of the picture that you can't see that is apart of this story. You see (or don't see) the mad mamma cow to my left outside my door on the other side of the ditch! Note to self: not a good idea to try to get away from a mad mamma cow that's trying to protect her baby and get stuck in a ditch while out running her. This made for a very awkward situation. About every other second Lon would look up and use my suburban as a wall from her. Every time she moved, stomped, snarled, mooed, or shook her head, he'd jump behind the suburban. Finally, she took her baby down the fence line and away from us, so we could get him the rest of the way pulled out. That's why I'm inside and that's why you don't know the whole story of a picture until you've heard the story to go with it!
We live on an old sheep ranch. The going joke has always been that we can grow more wire than we can grain. Back in the day, if you didn't do the loose hay piles, then you had small square bales and they were tied with baling wire. Living on an old sheep ranch that at the least ran about 11,000 head it's inevitable that you will find wire where they fed, wire where they reused it for fencing, wire where some animal drug it for awhile and then left it behind. Of course, anytime that you could really use some to actually fix something it can not be found. Lon and I use to have close to 200 at the most. We said enough a few years ago and turned the sheep business over to our oldest boy, Bill. The story along with that goes something like this. Bill was named after Bill Loney, a local rancher down the valley. Bill died just this last year in May, but was someone that Lon really looked up to. Bill also gave Lon his first two sheep that started him into the sheep business. Well Bill Loney called up one day, shortly after our Bill was born, "I have some sheep for Bill I'll bring them out tomorrow". So Lon and I were thinking probably two sheep. Nope when he backed the trailer up and opened the door, here comes ten. Of course we told him he didn't have to do this, but there was no way he was going to take no as an answer. See in the midst of all this Lon and I had just switched over to cattle, so we had just like five head just because they wouldn't fit on the trailer. We thought we were pretty much rid of the pesky things, that is until Bill showed up. If you've ever been around sheep, they are basically born to die. If one crawls into somewhere were they shouldn't be, they all follow. For example, we had a big culvert that we were going to put in one summer. They thought it would be a good place to cool down, they all got stuck in it, overheated and died, we lost 6 head. Just because they couldn't figure out to back out of it. Lambs, oh they are so cute (and stupid)! In the picture above I don't know if you can tell, but they were running, bucking and playing. Long story short, Bill now has about 10 head that we are lambing now, and finally got sheared this weekend. They are suffolks/hampshire crosses and he uses them for 4-H. It's very hard to find guys that will shear anymore. It is back breaking work! I found a really good article from Kathy Voth, How and When to Shear Sheep. She suggests DIY. My reply to that is, hell no! I'll sell them before I have to shear them. This winter has been a duzzy so because of the weather we sheared later than we would have liked, but the wool insulates the sheep and if you take that away, they can get pretty darn cold. I'm hoping since we did this spring hits soon, because here in the next few days it will be calving season. I bet you can guess my next blog post!
Well it was one of those days today. Yep, one of those days were you just keep your pajamas on, curl up with a nice warm blanket and stay in the house. Actually got to sleep in this morning, all was good especially after trying to get home last night from Bozeman in a whiteout, blizzard. The usual hour and half trip took a good three. So at any rate we were tired and was glad we were at home. Lon had got up made sure cows were fed. Awww....Then, the phone rings. "Lonnie, this is Wayne, I'm stuck." "Okay then Wayne I'll head out that way." It was no sooner than when Lon walked out the door someone or something flipped the wind switch to high! Thought if my house wasn't frozen to the ground we might be taking off somewhere. So I might as well get prepared because usually that means I'm backup so I get dressed, darn it! Sure enough about an hour later the phone rings again. "Honey, I'm stuck, bring the tractor it's worse than I thought." Of course, at this point two things happen when you're in a hurry. One, either nothing wants to start or you have to fuel up, find the chain, etc... which all takes time. Two, the condition gets worse. In this case, both happen. As I'm letting the tractor warm up and fueling it up, mother nature's wind gauge must have broken because now the wind is blowing even harder. You know when the snow turns to ice needles and they fly through the air at your face at 70 mph. Finally away I go with the tractor to save the day.
Now we are to the point of the story where I'm going to side track for a second. For those folks that don't understand rural farm/ranch country and how we live, please listen. When I'm going down the road, yes at 14 mph max, and it pisses you off, because what the hell are you doing out here in whiteout conditions on the road going this slow, you are a hazard. Well, here's the answer. First off don't scowl at me, I am bigger than you and will squish you like a potato bug! Secondly, you were probably going to fast in the first place and need to slow your ass down! Finally, I do have my lights on and flashers that means hazard, I see you no need to be a dick, it's crappy out I know I don't wana be here either but, I'm headed to save someone else's butt, it just might be you one day! If I could have someone flag me I would, be he's stuck! Please just stay courteous, patient, and respectful, I'm going as fast and as safe as I can. If you would like some tips please check out AgWeb, they give some great tips on staying safe with agriculture equipment on the road.
So I finally get to Battle Creek as I pull off the highway I notice that this is not going to be fun, I'm going to have to plow my way in first. I get to Lon's truck next and we get out and discuss the game plan on how to dig everyone out. Yes everyone cause by now other vehicles had come down the road. The problem with plowing today was ice. It was so icy underneath that when Lon would get a big scoop of snow he'd start spinning. The whole time all I could think of was please don't get the tractor stuck too. Luckily the three hour project turned out ok, only one broken taillight on the whole thing, not bad. If you didn't get a chance to look at my FB pictures yet, I've posted more there than here. Just glad we made it back home, but that's what we do around here, help our neighbors when they need it. When we started home up our lane, Lon had to plow us home. Yes, the wind is still blowing so no point in trying to plow the road to get out. Most of the problem is the berms are so high there's no real place to go with the snow. (A berm is basically the top of the snowbank, example, the berms in the pictures below are taller than the truck.) Will make for an interesting morning to get to work!
All I have to say about this week is stay warm! Driving to work this morning and saw these deer all huddled up of course when I stopped they all got up. It's too cold to be outside doing anything and that temperature reading is without wind chill. I'm SO glad we are not calving or lambing yet!!! It's enough just to keep tractors running and feeding cows and making sure water stays thawed out. Stay safe folks!
Little disappointed today in the ole' postal service. Makes me a little worried about some of you guys that are sending me deposits! Please double check to make sure I get it or send it certified just to be safe! So today, I stop to get our mail on the way home out of our new mailbox (see prior story about what happens when semi's cut corners too close). Anyway, I get home and just like everyone else I sit down and go through the mail. Bill. Bill. Junk. Junk. Oh what's this, a card? So I open it. It's a Christmas card, so then I flip the envelope back over to see the postage stamp on it. Oh boy, over 40 days late... Come on! Not only did they have to switch horses to get it here, since it was also from someone in town here, but they had to go by a horse from where Spain and ship it here. Where in the world has this thing been? Back to my first concern and note to our hunters, please please make sure I get everything that you are mailing me! Drop me an email when you send off your deposits or give me a call when you think I should have it. You just never know and I'm not a big complainer but gosh! For now I'll keep it local and just go into town and talk with the gals here. I hope I won't have to take this issue any further. I'm sure this is not a first for some, but it's first for us!
Julie Hanson married Lon in 1996. She is a Montana native, grew up on a ranch, lives and works on a ranch,and is a partner in Anchor P Outfitters. See more on the About Us page.