Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Feeding over east

Holly and I fed in the pasture called the School Section, so named because part of the pasture is a School Section, on Saturday. This general part of our ranch is called "over east," because you drive through the Over East pasture to get to the School Section pasture.
Perhaps a post on pasture names will be in the near future to better explain this.

As we drove along, loaded with two very heavy, second cutting alfalfa hay bales, we hit the siren a couple times to alert the cows of our arrival. The county road parallels the pasture for a couple miles, so it works great for gathering as you drive to the feed ground.
This windmill is also where our house water comes from, although we use a solar pump these days. It's located just to the left of the picture, and pumps water out of a natural spring and into a large storage tank. Then it's gravity fed down 3 miles of pipeline we put in ourselves to our house. We're very blessed to have a spring, as there is very very little water suitable for human consumption in this part of the world!

Back to feeding. We arrive at the feed ground, and much to both Holly and I's delight, a few cows decided to bring their calves.
These cows very good mothers, and very suspicious. You typically won't see their calves until they're about a week old.
Range calving cows are a lot different than those calved in around the house, and we learned that after we moved to our present location from the black hills. The only evidence a cow has a calf, that's alive, is if she's sucked out. She will bed him down somewhere, come to feed, then go back and gather him up after she eaten. After he's been around for several days, she will bring him in to the feed ground, maybe.

Emmie and Pearl love to go feed too. There is just so much to explore, plunder, attack, eat and sniff out.
But, it's also important to be cautious at their weight and speed, as these cows are a whole different animal than the relatively naive and mellow heifers back at the house. They both learned this lesson the hard way, and it stuck, so they wait for the go-ahead before bailing out of the pickup...well Emmie waits for the go-ahead, Pearl is long gone by now.

Then you wait, and wait. Some cows won't come this time of year, especially if they've just calved. Some also prefer to "chase" the first tasty bits of green grass poking through.
But, for the most part, they come trailing in from all over the pasture, leaving a few black dots on hillsides, where you can bet a cow has a new calf is laying amongst the sagebrush.
These cows will also forgo a meal for a couple days after calving. They stay with their calf during that time-like I said, they're good mothers, and that's critical on our operation.

While you wait you have to guard the hay bales against a few select cows that will march right up and tear into it. You will meet a couple of these in a upcoming cows of note post. You become a cow of note if you make us stand out in the wind and cold, instead of waiting in our warm pickup, blaring Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift (Holly's favorites), or, in reality, whatever one of the two radio stations we get are playing.

You wait some more. The dogs rip and roar across the country-side. They see it as great fun, I see it as the expelling of energy, and a resulting quiet drive back to Casper...
As soon as they exited the pickup, those two cows that had their calves immediately turned around and left. They bedded their calves down just over a hill, then came back.
I love feeding. The waiting is a time to look over your cattle, discuss issues if someone is with you, or think if you're alone. I also take pictures (no kidding), and Holly and I do love being able to play our music nice and loud.

Finally, the last cow you've decided to wait for (that's her in the back, out of focus) comes trailing in. That's also a cow of note, Number 18, there in the front.

We all load back into the pickup, get the radio turned back up, and feed our bales of hay.

Then head home to continue with our day, leaving our cows with a nice meal to meet their nutritional, and milking requirements.

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