Day in the Life – April

April on the ranch is start of a very busy season!  During April and May there always seems to be a thousand different tasks that need to be done and there are never enough days to get it all done!  Between feeding cows, checking calves, branding calves, fixing fences, harrowing fields, planting new fields and turning out cows, the days are long!

On Wednesday, my day started out by finalizing some details the Kamloops Stockmen’s Association Annual General Meeting that was to start at 3pm.  I have been the secretary/treasurer for the Kamloops Stockmen’s for the past eight years and today will be my last meeting as the secretary/treasurer.  I have really enjoyed the position and now it is time to pass it along to someone new.

I dressed and fed the boys, quickly cleaned up around the house ready to go outside into the snow! Yes, snow! We have been getting a lot of moisture this spring and it is still not very “spring” like! Hopefully the weather will warm up soon so the grass will start to grow.

Next, my parents, the boys and I started the morning chores.  Each morning in April, we feed grain to a few animals, feed hay to the various groups, check the last few cows who haven’t calved, and check all the calves to make sure they are healthy.

My mom and I decided that we would put some fresh straw in the calf shelters since it was so wet outside. One of the last 3 cows to calve (14-63) had a nice little heifer calf the evening before and the calf was cuddling up in the new straw.  When we went to leave, I looked up over the top of the hill and I could see a cow who looked like she had recently calved.  We walk up to find 14-63 licking another little heifer calf! Since it was so wet, we put both calves in the trailer pulled by our Polaris Ranger and took them into the barn to dry off.  Since 14-63 is a young cow (this is her second-time calving), we wanted to watch the calves closely to make sure each of them was getting enough milk.  We made up a bottle of colostrum just to make sure each calf had a good drink prior to leaving for the meeting.

14-63 – October 2016

We headed back to the house to quickly change as the boys had a doctor’s appointment in town before the meeting. My dad met us in town after the appointments to take the boys home to feed the bottle lamb and to babysit while my mom and I attended the meeting.

The Kamloops Stockmen’s Association is a regional livestock association representing the livestock producers in our area.  At this meeting, we have various guests attend to update the members on current issues, events and programs. We have a great meeting with lots of informative talks and a wonderful supper!

When we arrived home from the meeting, we did a quick phone call to a neighbor to update him on the meeting as he couldn’t attend and I put the boys to bed. I had a few minutes to finalize some details and answered some emails and went to bed ready to start the next busy day!

Moving Newborn Calves

On our ranch, we take usually take each cow with their newborn calf to the barn when there is snow on the ground so the calf can dry off and get a good start on nursing. Therefore, we must move them from the calving field to the barn, which can be up to ¼ mile. With our newborn calves weighing an average of 80 to 100lbs, how do we move them?

We use two different methods depending on the cow, what time of day and/or the weather. Our first choice is our Polaris Ranger with our calf trailer as long as there isn’t too much snow.  Once the calf is in the trailer, he/she is secure and the cow can follow while watching and smelling the calf.

Sometimes, a young cow may not follow as well as the older cows, especially during the middle of the night so we will then use our calf sleigh! Yes, our calves get to go sledding as a newborn!  The sleigh works well as the cow can follow along side.

There are a few times each calving season when these two methods won’t work.  Sometimes a young cow won’t follow either method, so we will take the calf to the barn and go back to get the cow in separately.

A Day in the Life – March 2017

A day in the life, and quite the day it was today!  The morning started by having a quiet breakfast with the boys while doing some laundry, making beds and updating the ranch calf book.   My calf book goes everywhere with me this time of year!

We all got dressed and headed outside in the windy weather and arrived at the barn to my mom and dad putting a cow (7-47) in the cattle squeeze.  She had been calving since 5am and it was now 8am and she was not progressing.  Everything felt normal with 2 front feet and a head coming, so we let her out to give her some more time.  The boys, my mom and I cleaned the barn and I processed the calf from yesterday, as we do each morning.  This involves tagging, dehorning, giving 2 needles (selenium and vitamin A & D) and if it is a bull calf, sometimes castrating him.  We then walked out to the field with all the cow/calf pairs and checked each calf to make sure he/she was healthy and checked each cow’s udder to make sure her teats are all getting nursed.  Sometimes a cow may not allow her calf to nurse one or more teats as they may be sore and if that is the case, we will bring her in closer to the barn to monitor.

Next, we waited in our supply room to watch if 7-47 would start progressing further and finally decided that we must help her as she obviously was not “getting down to business”.  Back into the squeeze and we assisted with the delivery  a small bull calf.  My first comment was “small… this cow never has a small calf”! We let 7-47 lick her calf for a few minutes and then decided to take them into the barn as the wind was very chilly.  That was when things got interesting!! We had previously let a cow and calf into the barnyard who we are having to watch closely as the cow over the past couple years has been getting very protective of her calves.  Needless to say we were trying to get the 7-47 and her calf into the barn while watching our backs! Both of my boys were sitting in the Chariot watching us from outside the barnyard pen.  Our cows are usually very quiet, so this isn’t something we experience often! But suddenly we see more feet coming out of 7-47! Twins!  So, back into the pen she goes.  We put a halter on her while she is licking the bull calf and assisted with the delivery of the next calf, a heifer! Both calves were doing well but we decided to give them a bit of colostrum. The colostrum will help them get going faster in the cold, windy weather and then we can check them again when we get home from delivering beef. Even though 7-47 is 10 year old, she appeared mystified by the fact that she had 2 calves and not 1.  After some difficulty, we give one calf colostrum and the other calf is starting to get up so he should be able to nurse on his own soon.

The boys, my mom and I quickly went home to change our clothes and pack the truck as we had to deliver some beef packages and ground beef to local customers in town at 2pm.  I answered some emails and Facebook messages about Usborne books on our way out the door as I am an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books. We delivered the beef and went to get our side-by-side tire fixed while my dad stayed home to “babysit” the cow herd.  Once we got home, it was time to check the twins again, make supper and put the boys to bed. I was lucky enough to stay in the house while my parents checked the cow herd and the twins.   After supper, it started to snow so my parents quickly went back outside to put 7-47 into the barn.  By the time 11pm rolled around, we had over 6 inches of snow on the ground.

Late nights have been catching up with me so I had a quick nap with the boys and then I worked on entering the daily ranch records into our Cattlemax program.  Cattlemax is an online herd management software program that we use for our cattle records. I wrote this post, scheduled some Facebook posts for the next day and prepared my son’s homeschool curriculum ready for tomorrow.  Hopefully tomorrow will go smoothly so we can get some school done! Time for some sleep so I can be ready for another adventure filled day tomorrow.