On The Ranch

Feeding the Girls

Bert sorted his heifers last week into groups by calving date. The girls who are calving first came to the pasture right next to the pens because they’ll start having calves soon and Bert will have to keep a close eye on them. The others are out in another close by pasture since before long, it will be their turn to come on down to the maternity ward, aka the pens!

Today, we helped Bert feed the girls in the pens. I love feeding cows. It’s a good opportunity to see everyone, and it just makes them so darn happy. He feeds them in the feeders in the pens so they get used to coming in from the pasture for feed. This way, he can close the gate on them at night once they start having babies to make it easier to check on them in the dark. They’re fed in the evening, since there is some evidence that feeding calving cattle in the evening helps them to calve in the morning, rather than in the middle of the night, the philosophy being that they are more likely to calve about twelve hours after their meal. Whether it’s super true or not, it does seem to help, and since it doesn’t hurt, why not?

We have a good routine down: Bert buckles Wacey into the buddy seat of the tractor so they can ride together, and I open gates and cut twine for them.

bringing-bales
First, he gets hay from the haystack. This hay that he’s feeding is an alfalfa/grass mix, and is some of the best we put up last summer–nice and green.

girls-waiting-for-feed
The girls wait (sort of) patiently. They’ve learned to come in once they hear the tractor start up. This is why it’s nice to have someone open gates–you can’t just leave them open  to start with because the girls will follow the tractor, and it’s a pain to get in and out to open and close the gate every time.

boys-in-tractor
I spy a little boy who is thrilled with his life right now!

picking-up-a-bale
He’ll set one bale down…

bale
…and lift the other up over the feeder. I’ll climb (ever-so-gracefully, I’m the most graceful 150-pound lady you’ve ever seen, naturally) into the feeder, and cut the twine off the bale so it will fall apart into easy-to-munch flakes. It’s important to get the heck outta the way, though, because that hay’s heavy (those bales weight about 900 pounds) and you don’t want to be smooshed! Don’t worry, in addition to being the most graceful, I’m also the most spry 😉

pulling-twine-with-tractor
Sometimes, the bale falls on the cut twine just right and it’s hard to pull it out from underneath the hay. So, tying it to the tractor loader and having Bert pull it out from under the bale is an excellent solution. It’s not good to leave the twine in the feeder since it’s not a great thing for cows to eat or get wrapped up in, plus it leaves a mess.

open-bale
Once the twine is cut, Bert goes back for the other bale and we rinse and repeat!

mad-heifers
The next step is to rudely interrupt the girls mid-munch so that you can get a picture of their hay-y faces. This teaches them patience in advance of motherhood, and prepares them for all of the other times in their lives when I will rudely interrupt them with a camera.

heifers-eating-at-bunk-2Sometimes, though, they just choose to ignore me. It’s okay, I guess.

heifer-long-feeder

red-heifer-feeder
That’s about as definitive a bovine stink-eye as I’ve ever gotten, but can you blame her? She’s heavily pregnant and I’m disturbing chow time!

heifers-eating-at-bunk
These girls had the right idea–there are two feeders, one in each of the calving pens, and they figured out we had filled both of them and escaped the mob in the other pens to treat themselves to first dibs on this delicious stuff. Smart ladies, these ones.

sweats-and-nikesAnd, because we’re all about #reallife here, lest you believe I actually am graceful and spry and jumping around in some super cute ranchy outfit and a great hat, here’s a picture of my sweats and running shoes aka the most appropriate ranch wear ever. To be fair, these pants are ah-mazing. I got them with a gift card from my MIL and may just buy more in more sizes/colors so I can wear them to the very end of this bladder-kicking extravaganza pregnancy. And then there is Wacey, who is not in this picture except for a tiny little shoe photobomb, but he was wearing grey sweatpants with a brown and yellow striped thermal and a fleece.

Basically, everyone come see how good we look!

Happy Wednesday! Hope you’re as happy as a cow munching some fresh green hay.

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