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Rancher’s Diary: Wildlife put pressure on cattle feed

On the home front, health issues to deal with

Our neighbour Sy Miller with his jackhammer post pounder, setting posts for our new horse pen.

January 25 

With such cold weather in December and January we’ve gone through a lot of firewood. If it ever warms up, we can let the fire go out at night to save wood.

Tuesday was Emily’s ninth birthday. We all had dinner at Andrea’s house. The elk are still coming into our field, pawing through snow and eating the rest of our pasture, and eating Alfonso’s haystack along the road. They eat with his cows when they’re fed, and tried to get in with our young cows to eat at their feeder but Andrea’s dogs scared them away. Robbie shovelled snow off the old barn roof (so weight of the snow won’t collapse the roof) and Charlie shovelled snow piles away from the barn doors. Robbie used a snowblower to remove snow from our house roof. Several roofs in our area have collapsed with the weight from two feet of snow, so we thought we’d get some of the weight off our roofs before we get more.

February 2

We had another siege of extremely cold weather for a few days and had to plug in the feed truck each night so it would start in the mornings. On Saturday 30-plus elk were lounging on the hill above our field again and another group on the other side of our place.

On Monday Robbie, Michael and Nick started on the fence-rebuilding project for Willow’s pen. They took out the old fence and put up a tall pole to route the electric wire across to my hay shed so they could do away with the electric wire around the old pen. Robbie used the tractor and loader to lift out the old crabapple tree stump. That old tree blew down many years ago and needed moved so we can rebuild the fence, where the big stump took the place of the smashed fence.

Yesterday was very cold and windy so the guys didn’t work on the fence. Wind blew big drifts across our driveway so Robbie plowed through them. It was still snowing this morning when Andrea and Lynn drove to Idaho Falls for her pain doctor appointment and his arthritis doctor appointment. Robbie helped me feed the cows. The doctor examined Lynn’s shoulder (hurting for several weeks after it popped out of joint and back in again) and told him some of the attachments are torn and he might need surgery. Lynn came home in a fancy sling that helps immobilize the arm and shoulder, so he won’t keep moving it too much and hurting it more.

February 8

Friday morning I discovered a bunch of whitetail deer had gotten into our haystack below the driveway, by going under the old flatbed truck. The truck is next to the stack and we’d attached one end of the plastic netting to the truck, to keep deer out of the hay. They’d gotten in anyway, tore up a lot of hay, then knocked down the netting to get out. They waste a lot more hay than they eat. We don’t mind as much when they eat hay with our cows in the field (because the cows clean up everything the deer don’t eat), but we try to keep deer out of our stacks because they pull out hay, tromp on it, poop on it and waste it. Andrea helped me remodel the netting around the stack so the deer can’t get in again.

Early Saturday morning I went to feed the horses and found six elk eating at my haystack. A two-point bull wouldn’t leave until I ran up to them and started clapping my hands. There were 15 more elk on the hill above the main road. They’d eaten and torn up all the bales I’d laid out for feeding horses, and ate on bales in the hay shed. They left piles of poop in the mess of torn-up hay bales. I chased them out of my stack and into the field, and then they had trouble getting back through all the fences.

The next two nights I turned on all our yard lights including two on the end of my hay shed, to try to deter them. They didn’t come back into my hay, but went in with the young cows the next night and ate hay out of their feeders and left a big mess.

The past few days were warmer — thawing in the afternoons, for the first time in many weeks. Yesterday the guys started back to work on Willow’s new pen. Michael took the flatbed trailer down to Millers and hauled Sy’s tractor and post-pounder up here. Andrea and I moved Dottie, Ed and Breezy to the pens by the calving barn, to be farther away from the loud noise of the hydraulic jackhammer pounder. We didn’t want any of them to freak out and crash into a fence.

Sy plowed the deep snow away from the fenceline. The ground underneath was not frozen — even after all the bitterly cold weather. Sy used the tractor to pull the old posts out of the ground, then set new posts in the new fence line. With the jackhammer pounder, he set 40 posts in an hour — with Nick lining them up and Robbie working the chain to pick up and place the posts where they needed to go.

It snowed all night; we had six inches of new snow. We’re glad we got the posts set yesterday! Michael’s tractor had a flat tire this morning, so he was glad we’d plugged in our tractor. He brought his feed truck down here to load a couple of our bales.

February 15

This week, Andrea and Robbie went to Salt Lake for her doctor appointment — a specialist to check the bone spurs in her neck. The doctor said she doesn’t need surgery at this point, for those, but her shoulder problem does need attention. She’ll need that checked next.

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