Wednesday, April 10, 2013

After the storm

Perhaps you watch the weather and heard about the west getting pounded with snow this week? We were right in the path of the storm, and couldn't have been happier about the prospective moisture! However, it did come in blizzard form, which wasn't anyone's first choice, but dry as it has been around here no one was complaining.
When we have a blizzard, we try to get our cattle fed up ahead of time, then we leave them alone during the storm. Our rough, deep draws (small canyons) provide awesome protection, and our cows are used to taking care of themselves. If we were to try to feed in the middle of a blizzard, it would cause the cows to leave their protection, and result in more problems and calf deaths than if we just leave them alone. The cows will hole up somewhere out of the elements, and keep their calves warm and cared for too.
Everyone was fed well on Monday, then left alone as several inches of snow and some serious winds blew through our part of Wyoming Monday afternoon through Tuesday night. Today our top priority was getting our cows fed, which took extra time and equipment compared to a normal feed day. Here's how it went:

First ones out on the county road this morning, which was hard to see at times.

This is always a problem spot. While my mom, sister and I were in the lead until here, we had to stop and wait for backup.

Here he comes, working his way through.

Getting closer. Aside from us, one other family will be grateful for this road being cleared so they can feed their livestock too.

Making an extra pass to help those of us in pickups get through.

I was the cake pickup driver.

My brother and his girlfriend Sam were in the hay pickup. Everyone came to help feed this morning so they could see the cattle, help, and find out how much snow we really got. This is the most moisture we've had in well over a year, and the first blizzard in just as long. We were all excited about the moisture and concerned about our animals.

We got plenty of snow blown into some places, and I got stuck.

and pushed out
We eventually made it the roughly 6 miles from our house to where we were feeding - a carefully selected, south facing bowl out of the wind and right next to one of our rough draws. This was also where the cattle were fed prior to the storm, after taking into account which direction the wind was expected to blow out of, and which way the cattle would drift as a result. We always make sure we feed in a location that causes the cattle to drift into a draw when a blizzard or cold weather hits.
 There was more getting stuck, With our sagebrush and rolling plains, sometimes it's very difficult to tell where the snow is deep.

 Dad packed a path in the snow prior to feeding.

 The cows came from various directions,

 However, the majority trickled in from this draw, called Cedar Draw, which was where we hoped they would end up. While you can't see it in my photo, this draw includes shear cliff walls several stories high in places, thick brush and cedar trees, sandstone overhangs, some that are almost caves, and many twists and turns, all of which are about perfect for a cow to weather a storm in. You can only get a horse across it in about four places along its approximately 1/2 mile length.

 As more cows arrived, dad ran a couple straw bales through the hay buster, both to fill and warm up the cows and to give the calves something warm and dry to lay on.

 He unloaded  the bales off the stuck hay pickup, and worked a long time on getting him out of there.

When everyone arrived, we fed the cake and dad ran a combination of oat, grass and alfalfa hay through the hay buster for them.
 I took a lot of pictures - several of the cute calves. It was great to see so many newborns arrive healthy and alive. It's one thing to know they'll probably be fine, and another to know and see them and make sure all is well. No one rested real well the last couple days as the bad weather went through as a result of worrying over our livestock, in addition to being excited to actually be getting some decent moisture.

 Finally, we headed home. Here's the bunch from the road. Tucked out of the wind, getting full, and still right beside a good draw in case it gets cold and windy tonight.

 Then we ate lunch, while heading out to the second bunch to feed them. Normally our feed days are done at 12:30 p.m. at the latest. We weren't even done with the first bunch by that time today. So, dad and I ate on the go to make sure we had plenty of time to get our second bunch of younger cows fed, regardless of any setbacks we might encounter.

 Off we go, up another one mile of two-track road with our hay and cake.

 Our three year olds were also stragically fed so they would drift into this draw, which also offers great protection. While the cows looked a little rough, I'm not sure these guys even noticed there was a storm. They were happy and content.

 The same process was repeated. They were fed a combination of grass and alfalfa hay and also given a straw bale, mainly as bedding, and filler if they want it.

 Here's my dad laying in some straw in another little bowl that drops right into the draw for the calves in this bunch.

It was immediately put to use.

And after that, at 4 p.m., we were finished for the day. While the blizzard may have made feeding more difficult and time consuming today, it also provided us with desperately needed moisture that will be the difference between selling out and making it another year for some people. We're all very grateful for it, and the chances we have for more later this week!


  1. Interesting and a different way to "ranching" than we do here in Wisconsin. You have so many natural aspects to take in consideration. I'm sure years of this, your experience along with life lessons make you guys experts. Also, no one here - at least in Marathon County - have hundreds or thousands of acres like you guys do. In fact, the angus I know are rather spoiled compared to yours. They are shows cattle - and have won many grand champion national titles. The kids I know that show them eat, sleep and breath angus. Their favorite reading material is bull catalogs. Blessings from Ringle.

  2. So happy you got snow!!!! LOVE your photos!!!

  3. I'm with you on the need for moisture. I had to reseed my little 3 acre pasture for my horses (I live near Casper) and was really hoping for some rain. I'll take the snow though, it is better than nothing, and looks like we will be getting plenty for the next week.
    Of course the down side to it is if the wind comes in afterwards and blows it all to Nebraska before it melts into the ground.
    Its kind of putting a damper on my riding lessons too, because I do not care for trailering ponies on icy roads.
    Love that pic of the black calf, what a cute look on his face.

  4. Your photos are amazing! Glad you guys got some much needed moisture - we are getting some here too but in the form of rain with I much prefer to snow!