Monday, July 27, 2015

Parenting lessons from the first month

Our first little is one month old. To say we've learned a few things over the last 30 days is an understatement. While I by no means have it figured out, there have been some fun, funny and truly insightful lessons and experiences.

1. Delivery room terminology is both oddly similar and vastly different between livestock and humans. It's called Picotin instead of oxytocin, placenta instead of after birth, and the list goes on. Some nurses will track what you're saying, some will look at you as if you're insane when you ask certain questions or respond with ranch terminology versus human.

2. "No baby has ever slept itself to starvation." This tidbit of advice is perhaps the most useful I've received since giving birth. Due to starting out a little slow on latching, our doctor said we needed to wake our little one every two hours round the clock to feed him. I tried this for about two days, and two hours turned into one, then turned into 45 minutes between eating, and an increasingly fussy, tired, dissatisfied baby. I finally stopped and the let the poor kid and myself sleep. He ended up gaining double the newborn average in his first week of life, so I'm assuming it worked. A couple weeks later a neighbor voiced the above statement, and I couldn't agree more.

3. Resuming work/activity. Doctors tell you take it easy and rest after having a baby. Family members tend to say the same thing. People will offer their assistance with almost anything in the house out of both kindness and the belief you should take it easy. But, if a tractor needs moved, pigs need watered, the cows get out, etc . . .  Everyone is just fine with the new mom participating in those activities. I have found a lot of amusement in the thought process that vacuuming or reaching for something on a top shelf in an air conditioned house may do me in, but driving machinery or packing feed is just fine, even if I have to lug the baby along with me and it's 90 degrees outside.

4. The livestock comparisons that occur throughout pregnancy don't stop at birth. Nursing, diapers and a plethora of other things open the door for a whole new wave of similarities that folks, especially dads it seems, will use to better understand their newborn. For example, if you nurse, "scoury" colored and consistency diapers are alright.

5. I struggled with not helping with the outdoor farm and ranch work in the latter months of my pregnancy. But, those months were only a precursor to the first month with a baby, during which I have been almost exclusively stuck in the house. I know I have been blessed with the best job in the world, but it is still extremely difficult to be unable to assist with activities I'm used to being right in the middle of. I sometimes feel as thought I am not contributing to our livelihood, and it is hard to see my husband come in every evening exhausted (even if I'm just as exhausted from being up with the baby all night), and hearing him talk about tasks I historically helped him with and thoroughly enjoyed. It's more than worth it, but the adjustment period combined with exhaustion is more challenging at times than I was prepared for.

6. If you nurse, you may the urge to share your lanolin cream, ice packs, etc . . . with any lactating female of any species on the place. At least I did a few days into the feeding regime. I also have a whole new level of respect for sows, who not only nurse over a dozen young most of the time, but little ones with TEETH. I cannot imagine.

7. Speaking of nursing, another thing that will become quite clear is why certain cows kick off their calves. No, this won't become an accepted behavior in our herd by any means, but understanding will dawn, bright as the rising sun when your little bundle of joy gum bites a part of your anatomy that has previously spent its life at least two layers below the surface of daily activities. You will also be able to relate to those cows who run over the human who tags their calf, the one who comes off a trailer with milk shooting from her bag, and the list goes on.

8. Feeding insights. My husband has expressed great curiosity on what our conversion rate is, and even mentioned creating a spread sheet of my weight loss to our son's weight gain. Fortunately he has been too busy enough with actual work to follow through with this idea, but wive's of feeders beware - that desire to calculate rate of gain, pounds consumed, and so on, runs deep.

9. Parental imprinting. Most parent's get their licks on where their kid will go to college, the type of care he or she will drive, or a brand of clothes they will never wear. Our "imprinting" has been much more focused on acceptable tractor colors (green) and breed of cattle (I say Angus, husband say's Simmental). Although I have made sure to mention to our little guy more than once that while South Dakota is great, Wyoming is better, and being a UW Cowboy trumps being a SDSU Jackrabbit ; )

10. 90's country lullabies. Maybe everyone does this, I don't know, but it has been a while since I've had cause to memorize a lullaby. With the exception of Twinkle Twinkle Litter Star, I cannot remember more than a line a here and there. Enter a healthy dose of 90's Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire, with the occasional Aaron Watson or Chancey Williams tune mixed in, and I have successfully navigated lulling my baby to sleep via music and mediocre singing more than once.

What experiences have you had in parenting that should be added to my list?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Warm temps, baby calves


 It's a beautiful afternoon in western South Dakota. Temperatures are in the 60's and we have a slight breeze at best. Following a frigid start to calving season, humans and livestock alike are enjoying the warming trend!


We are down to the last few first-calf heifers to calve, and the cows are in the thick of it. The pinky's (cows who came with me from Wyoming and bear a pink ear tag) are faring well thus far.


Perhaps the biggest highlight of the calving season so far is this guy, who arrived on March 4. He is out of a heifer we received as a gift following the Atlas blizzard. She came all the way from Virginia to South Dakota, and we are her proud new owners.



Here he is on March 5, our first warm day in over a week! We use calf coats regularly in cold weather to help prevent calves from getting chilled. It was around -30F the night before I took this, and he was happy to wear it, leopard print and all. He was not as impressed when I showed up to remove it and tag him.



 Other calves have made their appearance since the warmer temps, making our jobs much easier.



The first few showed up prior to the sub-zero weather, and managed to keep their ears.



 But, there are a few like this girl, who will have shorter ears as a result of the cold.



 Everyone spent the majority of the first warm day soaking up the sunshine. This little guy is a twin, who arrived on Valentines Day.



There's one of those pink tags, gracing the prettiest ears in the heifer pasture in my opinion : )

Hope everyone's spring work is going well, whether it be in an office, on a tractor, or in a calving lot!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The first pregnant human on our ranch

I excitedly told my husband last night that as of next week, we are halfway through my first pregnancy. He paused, then reminded me that doctors all go on a 40-week pregnancy, so technically I was wrong. Big sigh.
We deal with pregnancy non-stop around here: there hundreds of pregnant cows in the area, we farrow sows year-round, my dachshund has gone through two false pregnancies in the past year that were quite dramatic. But, we will be welcoming our first baby in June, and experiencing pregnancy for the first time personally has been eye-opening, for both myself and my husband.
Here's what we've learned so far:

1. My productivity is directly linked to coffee! Ok, maybe not, I'm sure a big part of this is the tiredness that comes with pregnancy, both from hormones, the extra work of growing a baby, and packing all that extra weight around. But, not being able to caffeinate has not been that enjoyable. During our first doctor's visit, the kindly gal explaining things to us said I could slowly back off coffee to the point of one cup (read, actual cup, not one of the biggest cups in my cupboard), or so per day. She went on to say that this really wasn't an issue for most, unless they were the sort that drank coffee all day until they were caffeinated to the max (that would be me). My husband snickered as he looked at my dazed self, who had gone from being that overly caffeinated person to a one-cup momma to be instantly when we found out we were pregnant. The effects were not that pleasant, and to this day, four months in, I miss my coffee far more than I miss alcoholic beverages.

2. Doing chores is a chore. Doctors will also tell you remain active while pregnancy. Not that difficult on our place. We adjusted a few thing to the point I have my little batch of chores to complete each morning. I enjoy it, although everyone else gets really concerned if they get near me because I am constantly gasping for breathe, even when I'm just walking around. Apparently a baby the size of an orange has the ability to shove your lungs into your esophagus. Plus, there are a lot of bathroom breaks, pauses to readjust clothing that doesn't fit right, and struggles to get my foot high enough to reach the bottom tractor step. Also, I have learned that if I do chores, there is a good chance I will do nothing else the remainder of the day. Chores wipe me out in a way I have never experienced. People with kids just nod, and say that's completely normal. As someone who filled every day to the max, this has been a humbling learning curve for me. The fact is that some stuff does not get done, when I'm tired now my brain does not function, and that sitting down "for a few minutes" often turns into a 2-hour nap.

3. Sympathy eating occurs. No, I'm not talking about my husband, but rather the cows and sows. I have had a voracious appetite from about day 3 of being pregnant. This has resulted in extreme sympathy for all the other pregnant females I'm surrounded by. I may have, on occasion, packed a few extra buckets of grain to some sows, or dolled out a little extra hay to the first calf heifers. My reasoning was that if I have doubled my food intake, we cannot possible be feeding them enough, science, known livestock feed requirements, etc... be darned. My husband, who has watched our fridge go from stocked to constantly empty, has been quite understanding for the most part, and taken back some of the feeding chores. Probably to save our feed budget for the year.

4. I explained ultra-sounding cattle during my entire first ultrasound, and even invited the tech out next fall. We compared what they look at on human baby's to determine age to what we look at in cattle. There have been multiple other incidents where our livestock pregnancy experience have carried over into interesting questions and conversations with healthcare people regarding our own pregnancy.

5. Human doctors are lackadaisical compared to ranchers. Perhaps that's a bit harsh, and I do like our doctor, but this has become a common topic around our house in the past few months. For what I consider an astronomical fee (the joys of self-employment and insurance), I have had the pleasure of stepping on scale, having my blood pressure taken, hearing the baby's heartbeat (which is amazing, but totals 5 minutes or less of the visit) then visiting about the weather, the family, pregnancy symptoms, the ranch, etc... with staff at my doctor's office the past two months. None of these conversations have included pertinent pregnancy topics that couldn't have been discussed over the phone in under 10 minutes. Plus, nine out of ten of them I have had to ask, instead of the healthcare person filling me in. Perhaps this is a first-time pregnant, not into the third trimester yet, overly concerned future mother talking, but in visiting to friends who also farm or ranch, we have agreed that human doctors take a pretty laid back approach to this whole pregnancy thing compared to the care we provide our animals. I've been told to eat healthy but not the recommended type of snaking that would help me pass my glucose test. That information came from a friend who failed hers, then had her doctor pipe up with an, "oh, well..." Another friend is who told me to make sure I schedule that appointment early, because there are eating restrictions ahead of time. As someone who leaves the doctor's office and goes home to personally feed each pregnant cow and sow a balanced, exact diet, then spend as much time as necessary looking them over, checking their water, discussing their health with other experts (the husband, neighbors, parents), and adjusting care as needed, my care seems expensive and sub-par in comparison. But, on the other hand, it also gives me a new sense of pride in the work we do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cornstalks, feedlots and fog

We headed to southeastern South Dakota/northwestern Iowa a couple weeks ago to check out a newer sprayer, and to see our good friends who just happened to buy our steer calves and my in-laws open yearling heifers. They also just welcomed their first baby into the world, and as expectant parents ourselves, it was nice to spend some time around a newborn, and new parents.
While everyone was tired of the cold, foggy weather conditions, it did make for some wonderful photos!
 
We found our calves, looking good.
 
 
 
It is so fun to see our cattle doing well for their new owner, and to see all the performance we work hard to breed into them coming to fruition.
 
 
 
We also went along to check and water cows, who were on corn stalks. I was amazed to learn that the vast majority of stalks in this area go ungrazed each year. Either because farmers don't want cattle in their fields or don't have cattle and don't care to lease out the stalks for grazing.











 My in-laws open heifers, which were weighing right at 1,400 pounds when we were visiting. I love looking at fat cattle, and these big girls did not disappoint!