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Cows can’t wait to head for green grass

Rancher's Diary: A quick look back at May as the spring season got underway with the end of calving, and time to start irrigating

Lynn using the tractor and blade to clear grass and debris from a ditch that will carry water for hayfield irrigation.

May 5 – Last Wednesday Andrea helped Lynn put up a temporary electric fence along the south side of the pasture where the cows and calves are. This will keep the calves from eating gravel along the ditch bank and keep them away from the elk panels on that side of the field (the backside of the stack yard). One year we had a calf get it’s head caught reaching through a panel so we want to avoid that risk. That afternoon Lynn cleaned more of our ditches with tractor and blade, and we finally got some of our ditches turned on at the creek so we can start irrigating.

Sunday Michael and Carolyn moved their cows from the fields on the upper place, herding them to our mountain pasture. They still have three cows left to calve, but they need to get that group away from the creek — which will soon be at high-water stage. They don’t want any calves drowning, trying to cross the creek. We are still waiting for two last slowpokes to calve, in our herd.

Michael had an article published in May’s Progressive Forage Grower magazine, and has another assignment to write an article for a summer issue. He hopes to start doing more writing again.

He and Carolyn, Andrea and Em are getting ready for their trip tomorrow. They are driving to Oskaloosa, Iowa for Nick’s graduation from William Penn University. Today Andrea and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls to pick up a rental van for the trip. On their way home they picked up Carolyn’s mom at Arco. She will be going with them to Nick’s graduation in Iowa.

May 10 – Early Wednesday morning they started their trip. Lynn took Andrea’s kids to the school bus an hour later. The travellers made it as far as Rapid City, South Dakota (by 11 p.m. that night) to stop for the night, and continued on to Oskaloosa on Thursday.

Saturday was Nick’s graduation, with 310 seniors graduating. As soon as it was over, Michael and Carolyn, her mom, and Andrea and Em loaded up all his stuff in his pickup and headed home. Em rode with Nick in the pickup.

After chores, the girls helped me make pizza, and Charlie hiked down to join us for supper. Robbie got home from work in time to eat with us, and later took the kids home. Then Lynn and I stayed up late, periodically talking with Andrea on her cell phone as we tracked their slow progress through a terrible wind/rainstorm. It started raining when they left the college and got worse as they went through Nebraska, changing to snow when they got into South Dakota. The road was treacherous. They counted six vehicles and two semis that slid off the freeway. Nick’s pickup didn’t have enough traction and slid around a few times but he managed to keep it on the road. Their rented van doesn’t have very good tires for winter travel; it was a slow and treacherous trip, finally getting to Rapid City at 1:30 a.m. to spend the night.

This morning (Sunday) they had more than a foot of new snow in the motel parking lot. The snow plows were trying to keep the freeway clear, however, so they headed on home, with fog, rain/snow and poor visibility, but at least it was daylight.

May 21 – We had rain last week. The field above the house where the cows and calves were living was muddy and we’re getting several cases of foot rot in the calves. We brought Buffalo Girl and her big steer, Gilbert, in from the field last Wednesday and gave him antibiotics to treat his sore, swollen hind foot.

The cows were hungry for green grass, and tired of hay. We kept them on hay in the little field above the house until we had some pasture tall enough to put them out on. Sunday we moved them around to the lower end of the swamp pasture above the corrals. They are glad to be out on grass and we are glad to not be feeding hay. We didn’t quite run out of hay. We’re still feeding the 10 heifers some alfalfa (along with their pasture) until we can get them vaccinated, tagged, and put out with the cows.

Today Dani’s class at school had a field trip to the Big Hole Battlefield in Montana. Andrea and Robbie went along with the class to help with the trip. This is Andrea’s birthday; she’s 45 today. Lynn and I silently celebrated the fact that we have a 45-year-old daughter and three very special grandchildren that would not exist if Andrea had perished in the fire 15 years ago this summer. We have much to be thankful for.

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