Are the cattle prices starting to get better? Local cattle sales and market reports indicate a better cow market. I was at a cow sale in Assiniboia a few days ago and good killing cows went for better than 50 cents a pound. The cow prices seem to be back to what they were before the Mad Cow Disease knocked the prices down to a very low level. Many cows were sold for just a few cents per pound. Some bred cow sales have also strengthened lately. Good cows have sold up to $800 to $900. Someone with grass and feed should be able to make them pay off. We need a better price for our steers.
The better price for the steers will only come about if the fat market goes up or if feeder prices come down. A lot of cattlemen are not waiting and are giving up by selling off their cow herd. Lloyd, Ryan and I will continue as we have in the past. This could be the year for the cattle prices to return to a better price and when and if prices go up, it will be good to have some cattle to sell.
This was a good day for me. My neighbor drove me over to the Big Muddy ranch. It is 120 miles over to the ranch and there is a very good covering of snow all the way. Ryan was not home. He was away with some school students on a ski trip to Manitoba.
Ryan’s wife, Carla, was home with the two smallest kids. The older ones were on the trip. Carla is a very capable young women. She knew I was coming and she had a tractor all loaded to feed some cows. I rode with her in the cab. The tractor was new one year ago and it seems to be a very good tractor for feeding the cattle and for other work as well. It is a McCormick tractor that is well equipped. It did not take long for Carla to carry two bales over to the cow herd. One bale was a triticale bale and the other one was hay. Carla could sure handle the tractor well. After the bales were down and spread over the clean ground, I walked among the herd and while my eye sight is not good, I could tell that the cows were in very good condition.
On this date in 1936, my sister Marjorie was born on my dad’s ranch on Rock Creek in southern Saskatchewan and the details of that birth will always be with me. Following is what happened.
In 1935, Dad had a fair crop and put up a good supply of feed despite the previous four years of bad drought. In February, Dad went to Thief River Falls, Minnesota by train, going by the way of Winnipeg. He went to visit his mother who was very old. At home, doing the work was my brother, Gene, age 19, a Scottish shepherd and myself, age 15. My job was to haul coal from a coal mine that was six miles away. No roads were open and everything was done with horses.
Mama was expecting a baby and had arranged at the time of the birth that someone would go with a sleigh and get Nurse Disney. We also had Yvette Deshaies, age 16, helping with the house work. On his way home, Dad had a bad appendicitis attack at Winnipeg and went to the hospital in Winnipeg for an emergency operation. Our nearest telephone was at Fir Mountain which was 14 miles away.
The sheep herder, my brother Gene, my little brother Jim and myself slept in a bunk house about 50 yards from the house. We were getting anxious about Mama’s situation and with Dad’s emergency operation in the hospital in Winnipeg. About three o’clock on the morning of February 22, Mama came from the house carrying a lantern and woke Gene up and said he would have to go for Nurse Disney. Gene very quickly dressed, got a lantern lit and went to the barn where he harnessed the team and hooked them up. He went across country for six miles. There was no trail and deep snow.
Gene was a very capable young man. He knew directions and was an expert horseman. Despite Gene’s abilities, I was still worried. There was a bad ground storm that night and it was well below zero. The Scottish shepherd and I were worried that the sleigh or the horse’s harnesses or something might break. However, Gene made good time and returned with Nurse Disney (a very experienced and capable person). Gene was back in a little over two hours.
At eight o’clock, Gene, the shepherd, and I went to the house for breakfast. Nurse Disney informed us that Mama had a new baby girl and that both baby and mother were doing fine. Nurse Disney stayed for a day and then we returned her to her house. I drove the team seven miles north and picked up Mama’s mother, Lula Price, so that she could come down and help until Mama could get back on her feet again and supervise the hired girl with the house work.
The work on the ranch with the livestock carried on. My next job was to haul some wheat out over very poor sleigh roads. Dad got home from Winnipeg; Mama and the baby were doing good. The cattle and sheep were being well cared for and after getting the wheat out, I was back hauling the lignite coal from the coal mine which was six miles away. Yes, everything turned out all right, but I will always remember that cold stormy night when my brother, Gene, went for Nurse Disney.
This day, March 1, has always carried a lot of importance for me. First of all, it is my birthday and secondly, as a rancher, March 1st is looked upon as the first day of spring. At this time, we start looking for a good Chinook wind to come out of the south-west to melt and clear some of the snow off so that our cattle and sheep will have some grass to eat. Soon now, the gophers will be out and the horned larks will be back by the dozens. The crows and the brave robins will also soon be here. My Dad would always like to take a ride into the big open country to see how the horses had wintered. Did the young colts get through the winter or are the mares having their babies? Soon now, Dad would be sending some of us out into the bush with an axe to cut down the poplar trees and willows for fence posts. The poplars would be blue stoned. The kids would now start to think about school. We lived six miles from school and even if school was going in February, we would not start until late March or early April because of the distance and the threat of blizzards.
This year, March has come in like a lamb. The weather looks as if we are heading up to a thaw. I surely hope so because I like to see the cattle out on the prairie. Mother Nature is wonderful. Today, I am ninety years of age and I will write more about my birthday in a later column.
Boyd Anderson is a mostly retired rancher from Glentworth, Sask. and has been a columnist for Grainews for many years.