Family · On The Ranch · Wacey

Weekend Update

I never thought of February as a busy month, but apparently it is. Here’s what we (okay, mostly me and Wace) were up to last week (because Bert was at the barn, doing Barn Things. Imagine).

The only way to describe last week’s weather was epic, which is partly to blame for my lack of posting. We’re talking sixties, y’all. In February. In Colorado. So we spend the grand majority of our time outside, going on walks, and I did a lot of sitting/working out on the porch while Wacey played. There is no better seat in the house to work on my computer than out on the porch in the morning sunshine with a happy toddler–so happy, in fact, that he can’t always wait to change his clothes to play, so we just slap a jacket on over his jammies. Priorities, right?

cows-stroller

sandbox

Tuesday, of course, was Wacey’s birthday, so he spent the day at the barn with daddy, guzzling donuts, hollering excitedly about the balloons, and playing in his sandbox.

balloons

Wednesday, Wace and I both had doctor’s appointments, but they were a few hours apart so we spent time in between getting lunch at Panera, going shopping for a couple of outfits for Little Brother including a coming-home outfit, playing at the park, waving for selfies, and treating ourselves after a long day with some chocolate for Wace (the ratio to ingested vs. smeared on face was pretty low, I think) and a Starbucks for me (God bless the Starbucks drive-through).

panera

kohls

swinging

waving-mirror-selfie

chocolate-face

The boys fed cows while I failed to take a single picture of any of the calves born last week (no more twins, though) and we visited the Turkey Farm (just kidding, that’s Headquarters).

feeding-hay

turkeys

We also got some awesome mail, not to mention the beautiful gifts from friends and family for Wace, which were not photographed because Wacey knows what presents are now and who am I to ask the birthday boy to wait while I take a picture? I love getting mail, even if it’s just boring stuff I ordered!

tubby

mocs

clothes-for-bub

I didn’t end up getting to go on the tour of the packing plant that was supposed to happen Friday, but we’ll reschedule–things came up, not the least of which was some major water trouble down at the calving barn. Bert was uncertain about keeping Wacey while I was gone because the aforementioned water trouble required shutting all the water off, and hurrying to try and fix the problem with a backhoe and some pretty serious equipment, none of which is baby-friendly, and it was too late to make other arrangements. But, c’est la vie, and in calving the girls take precedence over everything, so we expect things to get a little glitchy sometimes.

And it’s totally okay, because we got to play outside in seventy degrees. 

And yesterday, I made it to 35 weeks! Things are getting so real, and I’m stuck between prepare all the things and hey, you got this, it’s just a baby. I do need to at least make a list of what to bring to the hospital, though!

35-weeks

Happy Monday (or pre-Valentines, if that’s more your style). Hopefully I can get my act together a little better this week, even though we’re in for another week of gorgeous weather! I hope to go out and snag some pictures of the pairs so you can see how big our babes are getting–when they’re bitty, Bert can doctor by going out and grabbing them by a hind leg with a hand, but yesterday he had to come home and saddle because they’re officially too big and fast! Most of my plans revolve around administrative Ranch Things and tying up loose ends–I’m just going to be operating for the next several weeks as if I might go into labor, because I’m a control freak and I want to make sure everything is neat and tidy (both literally and figuratively) so I can relax and enjoy Bub when we get home, and so the guys aren’t like, getting tickets for expired license plates.

It’s a glamorous life, and someone’s got to live it.

Celebrate

Grafting Calves

Hey hey! I’m currently sitting out on the porch in 55-degree (albeit overcast but I’m not complaining) weather, watching a very happy birthday boy play with his new sandbox. We always think we know what he’ll love, but we’re often wrong (#toddlers). This time, though, we hit it out of the park!

(PS I think I may have found a jogging stroller, *knock on wood* so, you know, pray for me. Craigslist is ruthless.)

So. We’ve had three sets of twins here, plus a twin from another camp. That’s a lot of extra babies, y’all. I thought I’d visit with you about how we handle all that extra furry goodness since most beef cattle, especially heifers, don’t milk enough to raise two calves. It’s better for a cow to raise the calf–we could bottle-feed it with milk replacer until it’s old enough to eat grass and grain, but those calves never grow as well, and that’s a lot of extra work! Plus I’m a softie and it makes me sad when a calf doesn’t have a mama, and when a mama is missing her calf.

How do we get “extra” cows?

We’ll get right to it: calves die. It’s a fact of life and obviously something we try to avoid, but sometimes there’s just nothing to do. They might be stillborn, or have some kind of defect that makes them unable to live for very long, or they might get stepped on, etc. Sometimes they just get too sick and don’t respond to treatment, and sometimes they are affected by a traumatic birth and we can’t save them. Or, they could get killed by a coyote–we’ve lost one to a coyote this year, and this is why we’re very serious about predator control. So, that leaves us with “extra” cows sometimes, and we make these cows into graft (foster) mamas.

Sometimes the reverse happens, and we come up with an extra calf because it doesn’t have a mama. There are some instances where we have to play child services, and take a calf away from a cow because she is unfit to be a mother. Sometimes, she rejects the calf and tries to hurt it, other times she becomes aggressive after calving and is too dangerous to keep around, or she may not produce enough milk to raise a calf. Occasionally, cows will die and orphan a calf.

(Once, we had a cow die of pneumonia when her calf was a couple months old and I took care of feeding him. His name was Zeke and he was HUGE, and would drink 2-4 bottles a few times a day, plus grass & grain. When we got him a new mama, he was already so big that he had to get on his knees to nurse! I miss Zeke.)

If a calf dies and there is no graft calf available, Bert will milk the cow himself to keep her milking. This also comes in handy if a calf is needing to be bottle-fed for some reason because it helps us use less milk replacer, which saves money, and the real deal is always best. He won’t do it indefinitely, of course, but a couple weeks, maybe.

When it comes time to graft, there are a lot different methods that people use, and sometimes you have to try several things; there’s really no “right” way. Usually Bert’s method is to hobble the back feet of the cow, and put the cow and her graft calf in a small, quiet pen together for a few days with plenty of good feed and water and a healthy application of Orphan-No-More. Hobbles ensure that the cow doesn’t kick the calf while it’s trying to nurse, since the mom’s instinct is to not let any calf nurse but her own. Letting the calf nurse helps it smell like the mama, and helps her understand that the calf nursing will alleviate the discomfort of a too-full milk bag (mamas who’ve nursed, you know all about how good getting engorged feels!). It also gives the calf confidence and try, and keeps it vigorous and healthy. The Orphan Powder, as we call it, helps with the scent issue as well, and helps the mama bond with the calf since she’s inclined to lick it off.

bijou-graft-pair^^ This was shortly after Bert took the hobbles off of this cow, and she and the calf are now in the pasture with the rest of the pairs!

A shot of oxytocin (yes, the same hormone as in humans) can also help, especially if it’s been a little while since the cow had a calf and needs help with her milk letdown.

bijou-graft-pair-2
Some cows don’t need much in the way of convincing, though–this cow wanted a calf so badly, and these two took to one another right away.

If he has a cow with a calf that’s very recently deceased, Bert skins the dead calf (I know, it’s a little shocking, but hear me out), and ties that skin to the graft calf. It sounds strange and maybe a little gross, but it’s got a very high success rate and that’s what matters. The new calf smells precisely like the old one, and we only need to leave the hide on for a few days.

betsy-the-calf-graft-outfit^^ This is Betsy, a calf from when we lived in Montana. You can just see the edges and the twine of her “graft oufit.”

Other methods involve different substitutions for Orphan Powder, like milk, blood, even molasses, and different methods for feeding the calf–some people catch the cow in a chute several times a day and let the calf nurse that way, or milk the cow and bottle-feed the calf.

Most of the time, we can convince the cow to take on the graft calf, and they’re both better off for it. Sometimes, one or the other will refuse, and then it’s back to square one. With a herd as large as ours, we almost always have a mama available, even if we need to take a calf to another camp or vice-versa.

So far, all our mamas have calves (either adopted or biological), which is great. Bert’s been lucky this year and hasn’t had trouble getting grafts to take, so our pasture of pairs is full of happy and healthy mamas and babies who are happy to be with one another, and he’s not having to bottle-feed any calves, which is a major win.

There you go! Add “Bovine Social Worker and Expert Familial Matchmaker” to the list of hats that ranchers wear. Now we can just hope that the rest of calving season goes just as smoothly as this first month has!

Fun

Saturday Evening Thoughts

  1. Just ordered my L.L. Bean New Baby mocs and I can’t wait! After more debate than I care to admit, I ended up going with the women’s Wicked Good Camp Moccasins instead of the Wicked Good Moccasins, only because the lack of fleece collar makes them less slipper-y and thus more acceptable to wear in public when I don’t feel like actual shoes for a few months 😉
    Women's Wicked Good Camp Moccasins Size 7:
  2. Wacey’s birthday is on Tuesday and I am so excited. Like I’ve said before, we’re not doing a party, per se, but we’re sort of stretching it out into a birthday week since grandparents are coming this weekend and next, and for his actual birthday, we’re starting the day with balloons and chocolate donuts and tractor rides and you guys? It’s supposed to be in the fifties all next week, and this weekend too! Perfect for a brand new sandbox! And a break from the cold and snow that’s kept us cooped up the last couple of days. I can’t wait! Walks every day, not having to bundle up to go outside, actual warm sunshine…ahhhhh. Actually, it’s just  like the weekend he was born, which is very fitting. Lovely weather for the most sunshiney boy.
    Now, I just need to get over the sticker shock of how much play sand costs. Yikes. And the ridiculousness that we have to drive almost 40 miles each way to get the sand since the local farm store only has two cubic feet in stock. Who on earth only needs two cubic feet of play sand? No one, folks.
  3. Blogging is hard when you’re not feeling very creative, especially when that lack of creativity is due to struggle somewhere else. I’m never sure what to write when there’s a lot going on at home, or when there are hard things going on in life that aren’t really share-able. I want to be as transparent as possible, but when the hard things aren’t just your things, or even primarily your things, privacy is the most important. But, that’s the point of learning how to blog and navigate the bear that is the internets, right? We’ll figure it out.
  4. I (finally) ordered a book about light exposure because I’m frustrated at the quality of my pictures, and I want to take more high-quality, blow-up-and-frame pictures of my boys. It comes highly recommended by one of my favorite bloggers who captures the most beautiful moments of her kids, so I have high hopes. Our favorite photographer won’t be out here until June, so I’m hoping to get some decent shots of the four of us (!!) when Bub is still a newborn with my tripod and remote. Also, what on earth is the point of having a DSLR if you don’t know how to use it? There is no point. That is the answer to that question.

  5. Next Friday, I’m taking a tour of a packing plant (read: slaughterhouse), and I’m so excited. I’ve toured the plant before, but it’s been many years, and I’m looking forward to seeing it with fresh eyes and taking piles and piles of notes to share with you. Now, I just have to figure out what on earth to wear because I’m fairly certain sweatpants and Uggs won’t fly, even for a very pregnant lady, especially since it’s technically a work thing.
  6. I’m currently on the hunt for a reasonably-priced double Bob stroller on Craigslist. Pray for me.
  7. If you follow me on Insta, you’ll know that we had a THIRD set of twins this morning. If you don’t follow me on Insta, we had our third set of twins this morning! What on earth?! I mean, no one is complaining, all the calves and mamas (and foster mamas, post next week!) are doing really well. One of the other cowboys has also had a set of twins, too, so we’ve had four so far this year, and we’ve calved out maybe 10% of the cows.
    twinsies
  8.  We’re so excited to have a snuggly little newborn around, but when people tell you that babies just keep getting more fun, they’re so right. Wacey was so good (I mean, impressively, miraculously, held-my-hand-the-whole-time good) while we were walking all over Home Depot getting sandbox sand taken care of that I took him to get a little treat (okay, and one for me too) and it was so fun sit with him and giggle for a little while. He loved choosing his own drink and sitting in his own chair and thought the writing on the cookie was amazing.
    wacey-milk-starbucks
    starbucks-selfie
  9. We just finished the movie The Duel (western-esque with Woody Harrelson and Liam Hemsworth). It was okay–the trailer made it look a little better than it was. I hope that someday someone will revive the art of making the Western movie without all the weird stuff. That being said, it wasn’t bad, truly! Just a little strange with some unnecessary plot points and superfluous snake action.
  10. Can we all agree that Sam Hunt is not actually country? I mean, it seems like most of what’s on the radio these days isn’t really, either, but that guy has yet to have a song that’s even close. I’m not hating on him, I think he’s just really in the wrong genre. Also that song a gal sings about a tuxedo, and something some kid sings about putting a label on it. I’m not sure what’s up with that. Again, not hating, just confused. It makes me feel old. Like, really old. Like the mom who is like “What is this? This is terrible!” while changing the radio station to oldies while her kids groan in the backseat and my kid’s only two. However, Wacey dances equally enthusiastically to Willie’s Roadhouse and Andy Grammar, so maybe he won’t mind if I change the station when he’s older.
  11. To end on a bright note, these shoes.
    We want to live in the latest drop from J.Cew and New Balance.: Aaaaand I just remembered I have quesadillas in my diaper bag that really ought to get into the fridge. On that note, happy Saturday night, see you Monday (or Tuesday, at the rate I seem to be going).