The ornery old bull is more welcome on the dinner plate than he was in the yard

OCTOBER 23

Michael and Carolyn weaned most of their calves during the past two weeks, but they’ve been having problems with fences. Something spooked the big bunch of calves in their weaning corral at the Maurer place and the calves crashed through one side of the corral and got back with their mothers. Nick has been helping Michael fix the fence, and they had to sort off those calves again. They’ve been hauling the cows to one of their other leased places, on Sandy Creek, to get the cows farther away.

We butchered the ornery three-year-old bull (the one we traded our four-wheeler for, from Michael and Carolyn) and yesterday tried out one of the roasts. He is very delicious, much nicer in the freezer than on the hoof threatening people!

We put our weaned heifers in the little field above the house; there is still some green grass there and it should last them a few weeks unless it snows under. We are short on hay and hope to stretch our pastures as far as we can this fall. We bought a ton of protein supplement (in lick tubs) and took some of the tubs to the upper place for our cows, hoping this will help them utilize the rough dry feed and encourage them to continue to graze. The protein will provide what’s lacking in the dry grass. They are now happily grazing on the hillsides and ditch banks. There’s enough old dry grass there to last several more weeks, and the protein supplement is a lot cheaper than hay. Right now very plain, low quality hay costs about $200 per ton to haul in. Good quality alfalfa is even more expensive.

Today Michael and Carolyn were fencing a couple of their stackyards on their leased places, where the cows have been crawling into the haystacks. They took about six metal gate panels from the sick barn and our makeshift fence in the back yard (where Boomerang, the crippled calf, was living earlier in the summer) to make a quick fix on their stackyards.

NOVEMBER 3

Last Saturday we moved the three big calves (two steers and the bull calf) from the little pen and lane below the barn—where they have been cleaning up the summer’s growth of grass. They ran out of good grass so we put them in the holding pen between the barn pens and the gray horses’ pen, to clean up that area. But first we put them in the headcatcher chute to pick off all the burrs stuck to them. We neglected to chop and gather the burdock plants in the pen below the barn when we put them down there, so they were covered with burrs. The three of them filled the headcatcher chute and they couldn’t move around much, so they stood patiently while we picked their burrs off.

The next morning Lilly’s big steer had gone through the hot-wire out into the driveway, but luckily we’d left the lane gate shut and he couldn’t go very far. We put him back into the holding pen with his 2 buddies, and fixed the hot-wire.

Michael and Nick went deer hunting last week, and Nick (age 15) shot his first deer. It was the first time he’d ever been hunting, so he was very happy with this accomplishment.

We dewormed the horses, since it’s late enough in the season (with cold weather during the past month) that there will definitely not be any more bot flies. This deworming will rid them of bots for the winter, as well as killing any of their other internal parasites.

On Tuesday evening Rishira’s big steer (Sher Kahn) was lame and lying down by himself in a corner of the pen. I made him get up and noticed that his right hind foot was sore; he didn’t want to put any weight on it. We decided to treat him for foot rot the next morning. By morning however, he was not only lame, but also very dull and not eating, and staggery when we brought him around to the pen by the barn to put him into the headcatcher.

We gave him antibiotics, and a shot of Banamine to ease his pain and fever, and left him there in the pen by himself with hay and water. By mid morning he was chewing his cud, and by noon was picking at the hay, feeling better after the shot of Banamine. By the next morning (Thursday) he was dull again and not eating or drinking, and very constipated, so we gave him more Banamine, and force-fed him several gallons of water (with electrolyte salts), a quart of mineral oil, and some molasses to give him energy. This helped him a lot. Friday morning he was up and eating again, and passing more manure.

That evening the weather got worse, so we opened the barn doors to one of the stall aisles, so the sick steer could go in there to get out of the rain. We had rain for two days and he spent most of his time in the barn. On Saturday we gave him another round of antibiotics, and he seems to be back to normal now. We put him back out with his two buddies, and moved them all to my horse pasture where there’s more grass.

Michael and Carolyn found their last missing pair from the range; that cow and calf had gone to the neighboring range, to Mulkey Creek, sometime this summer and showed up with the neighbor’s cows. This week they worked some more of their cattle and hauled their 40 pregnant heifers up to the Gooch fields.

NOVEMBER 16

Andrea’s youngest girl, Danielle, had her 4th birthday this month, and we had a little party for her at Andrea’s house downtown.

We had some very cold weather after the rain. Seeing the weather prediction, Lynn put the blade on our tractor and smoothed out the berm along Barb Peets’ driveway before it froze solid. When her boys tried to irrigate her place this summer they flooded her driveway and then created the berm along her lane to keep it from washing out. But that hump needed to be removed before winter, or we won’t be able to plow off the snow for her.

Lynn took more protein to the cows on the upper place last week. There is still some dry feed up there. We’ve had more rain; we are grateful for the moisture, but glad that it isn’t snow just yet, at this elevation. We brought our old dump truck down from Michael’s house, hoping we can still clean out our corrals before winter sets in.

Michael and Carolyn hauled 100 more cows to the Gooch place from Maurers, making five trips with two trailers. There’s enough grass there (using those fields and hillsides in conjunction with Cheney Creek pasture) to last them several weeks if it doesn’t snow under. We are all a little short on hay for the coming winter.

Nick and Heather both went to the state track meet and did well. Nick placed first in his 5,000 meter race, and Heather placed 5th in hers. This past weekend Nick was invited to the Junior Olympics in Boise and placed 12th in his cross country race. He qualifies again for the invitational track meet in Australia next year, but he’s not sure at this point if he wants to try to raise the money again to go.

On Tuesday we opened the gates into the wild meadow and the field above the little corral, so the cows on the upper place now have access to the whole area. We had to be gone all day Wednesday, doing chores in the dark at 4:30 a. m. so we could drive to Idaho Falls with Andrea, and we wanted the cows to have some better feed in case it snowed. We’ve just had rain, however, so they are still able to graze. While we were in Idaho Falls for a meeting with Andrea’s lawyer (still working on the divorce and custody issue) we got hockey skates for Emily and Charlie. They are both participating in hockey this winter and very excited about it. This will be Emily’s third hockey season and she’s doing very well with her skating.

Michael and Carolyn shipped three semi loads of calves on Friday. The steers went to a feedlot in Colorado and the heifers went to a buyer here in Idaho who has bought their heifers for the past several years, to develop as cows. With the dramatic drop in cattle prices this fall, some contractors were backing out on their contracts, so we were relieved that the buyers of Michael and Carolyn’s calves still honored their contract.

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband Lynn near Salmon, Idaho. Contact her at 208-756-2841

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