Trich Outbreak Concerns Ranchers

AUGUST 23

Last week Andrea and I rode to the 320 pasture and fixed several holes in the fence where wildlife had broken or stretched wires. We don t want range cattle getting in; we re saving that grass for Michael and Carolyn s yearlings. They recently got back from their trip to Iowa to take Nick to start his first year of college at William Penn University.

On Friday young Heather drove to Helena, Montana to start her third year at Carroll College, and on Sunday Michael and Carolyn hauled several horses over there, including the one she s been training for her HAB professor. The college will use the other four horses during the school year for HAB classes, so students will have several horses to work with. Then the horses will come home to the ranch for summer. It will be different now for Michael and Carolyn, with no kids at home.

We received disheartening news yesterday. Our neighbour, Jack Jakovac, recently had a vet pregcheck his heifers, second-and third-calvers the young cows he keeps home on pasture every year, and discovered half of them were open and some were aborting! The vet tested the aborting cows for trich (trichomoniasis) and they were positive. The rest of his cows are out on the range and can t be tested until they re rounded up in late September, but some of them may also have the infection, which means other range neighbours may also have infected cows.

This is a scary situation for the whole neighbourhood. We ve never had to deal with trich. This is a protozoan infection spread from infected bulls and cows by breeding. State law requires that all bulls be tested every year.

Some of the cattle a new neighbour brought to our creek last year probably had trich, because the only way Jack s cows could have become infected was from a cow that went through the fence into his place in December. Alfonzo didn t come to get the cow, so Jack put her in a corral overnight until he could haul her home the next morning. He put her with two virgin yearling bulls he d just bought, and probably didn t think that would be a problem, because at that time of year he d assume the stray cow was pregnant.

Those bulls apparently bred the open cow and became infected. Their infection was not detected because Jack always trich tests his bulls at the end of his breeding season, rather than in the spring. One of those yearling bulls stayed in the home pastures to breed heifers and young cows and the other one was turned out on the range in May. So now this devastating disease has probably been spread to other cattle.

SEPTEMBER 10

After we found out about the trich problem, we rounded up our bull from our group of cows in the post pile pasture, and put him in the corral where he would be safe. A neighbour has some stray cows (that came home early off the range) on the lower place, right next to our pasture, and we didn t want to risk having a mix-up. We don t want our bull to become infected!

The state veterinarian came the end of August and met with all the ranchers on Jack Jacovak s range and discussed the trich problem, and the fact that this year all the bulls will need to be tested three times (to be sure they are free of this disease) and all cows should be preg checked, with any open ones sold. Everyone is hoping to can get this problem stopped before it spreads farther around the valley.

Last week Andrea and Rick spent part of an afternoon helping Lynn fix a bad place in the heifer hill fence in the brush by the creek. We want to make sure that possibly infected cattle can t come through into our place when he puts them in that pasture above us this fall. After we worked on the fence, we moved our cows and calves to the heifer hill pasture.

Andrea s kids started school. Dani is in first grade, Sammy in third, Charlie fourth and Emily in eighth grade. They are enjoying being back in school and seeing their classmates again. We d hoped their new house would be finished by now, but it will probably be another six weeks.

Nick ran in his first college track meet on Saturday and placed third for his team. He s running longer distances now, 5,000 metres instead of 3,000.

SEPTEMBER 20

Michael and Carolyn put yearling steers and spayed heifers on the 320. In spite of our hot, dry weather, some of that tall grass is still green. They were short nine yearlings, however, that went through the Cheney Creek fence and out onto the neighbour s range. During the past few days, Michael and Carolyn helped those neighbours round up their cattle, and found their missing yearlings. Yesterday on our own range, two new neighbours rounded up their cattle, but didn t find them all. Some have gone into Mulkey Creek (French s range).

We heard a wolf howl a few mornings ago. Ranchers in our area are glad the wolf hunts (that were halted last year by environmental groups) are starting again. One of our friends on the other side of town lost several calves and a cow to wolves this summer, and hunters recently saw eight wolves in that pack.

After a long, hot summer, if feels like fall. Temperatures have been below freezing some nights, in spite of hot afternoons. We had rain one night, which eased our dry conditions and cleared the smoke out of the air. We re hoping our fire season will soon be over.

HeatherSmithThomasrancheswithher husbandLynnnearSalmon,Idaho.Contact herat208-756-2841.

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