On The Ranch

Fall Colors

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I have a big ole post written about antibiotics that I wanted to publish yesterday, but I wanted to be super thorough so I’m waiting until I speak to a vet about several things. In the meantime, here are pictures of fall to make you glad.

These were all taken in Rand years ago, since cactus doesn’t exactly have fall colors. I miss Fall in Rand, buuuuuuut I don’t miss feeding cows for nine months or dealing with sixty below and several feet of snow on the regular.

On The Ranch

Shoulder-Length Gloves and Gallon Jug Lube Day

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Yesterday we preg checked our first group of cows for the year. These are the heifers who will have their first calves this coming January. I won’t lie to you, it was sort of a hard day for me. It was our last day on this ranch, and we won’t get to see these calves born next year. I’m going to miss this place and this crew with my whole heart. It was great, though, to see how good the cows looked, and to end on a high note.

Preg check (or palpation) is something that happens on the majority of ranches, whether commercial or registered. On many non-registered ranches, it will be the only time all year the cows will be in the chute! The purpose is to see which cows are pregnant (bred) and which ones are not (open). In order for a ranch to stay afloat financially, cows should have and wean a calf every year, otherwise you will be spending money to take care of cows who aren’t making you any of that money back since the sale of calves are the bred and butter for most ranches. Most ranches will ship their open cows and their culls (cattle that are being got rid of for one reason or another) soon after–if not immediately after–preg.

“Being got rid of” is a travesty of a phrase, but I kind of like it. Sort of like most people think it’s weird that I like plain BBQ, aka plain meat, but I kind of like it.

There are different ways to go about pregging cattle–some ranches hire a vet to come out and just call bred or open, some ranches (like this one) have a vet come out and ultrasound to give us an idea of due dates (and sometimes a heads-up about sexes of calves or twins, or physical problems with a cow like an infection or goofy ovary or narrow pelvis that might present difficulties later), and some ranches have a cowboy or employee on staff who knows how to palpate cows. All involve shoulder-length gloves, lots of lube, and the requisite plastic clothing or strong stomach.

(Our vet has the coolest deal where she wears goggles that show the ultrasound rather than having to lug along a big screen and it’s seriously the coolest. She’s an entirely mobile, self-contained unit!)

We had 260 heifers to check yesterday, and the boys did great! Buster spent his time being held by/sleeping on various people and surfaces, and Wacey alternated between helping me and his daddy in the barn, and playing in a pile of dirt with his tractors, and terrorizing the guys with flags and (defunct) hot shots. There was a touch-and-go moment where he quite literally got stuck in a mud puddle and almost got his boots squelched off but we all came out unscathed and only a little more worse for wear!

This fall feels so strange because it’s the first time in seven years that we will not be pregging and weaning calves for months. The new ranch we’re going to will preg all the cows at once, ship the calves at the same time, and be done with it. I’ll explain more as we go on, but I imagine it feels a lot like a newly-retired accountant who only has to prepare their personal taxes. Strange, but not bad, but maybe a little empty? Or maybe the word is less hectic? Either way, #newbeginnings, and #slowfall. You know, like the Slow Food Movement? Ours will be the Slow Fall Movement.

That’s not to say, of course, that we’ll be idle. There will still be cattle to gather, calves to ship, cows to preg, opens and culls to ship, projects to do, and water to chase, but it will be a lot less of an exhausting marathon and more like Forrest Gump’s jog. He looked like he was having a lot more fun than most marathon participants I’ve seen, anyway.

Anywho. Happy Tuesday, and I’m here to tell you that the original, Bieber-less version of Despacito is really the better one.

 

On The Ranch

What’s Happenin’

The girls are all preg-checked, the calves are all weaned and out to grass, the boys aren’t having to saddle and ride out at dawn every day, and we’re not trucking stuff back and forth to the barn several times a week, which means….fall work is O.V.E.R! Alllll the praise hands, y’all.

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Don’t get me wrong, I really do love fall work, but for some reason, this year it seemed to drag a bit and we were all over it by the end. For me, it was a combination of being in my first trimester (ick), the prolonged summer heat (double ick), and a toddler who finally couldn’t cope with the craziness in his schedule and had a little bit of a wacky sleep moment there for awhile.

(Edited to add: we’ve hit the two-year sleep regression. It’s so great. )

So, what’s next? The guys are working on getting the cows all sorted by calving date since each camp calves at different times. The heifers (first-time moms) are already at our house, where they will stay until summer, and they got their second round of pre-calving vaccinations today. Pre-calving vaccinations are kind of like vaccines that pregnant women get–they help both mama and baby stay healthy and really make a difference.

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All the guys are taking advantage of the unseasonably warm and dry weather to complete some projects that fell by the wayside this fall, like cleaning barns and pens, fixing fence, riding young horses (and taking along young dogs, both of which are happening in the picture below), getting hay moved around, prepping vet rooms and calving facilities, and general tidying up of the mess that seems to accumulate from August to October. Sometime this month we will also ship the culls and opens (the cows we are getting rid of and the cows who are not pregnant) and we’ll start giving pre-calving shots to the other girls, too–the heifers calve first, so they need their shots first.

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For my part, I’m almost done getting all the fall data entered and the cowherd in good shape in the computer, and tying up all my loose ends with paperwork. It’s not exciting, but every year we have over two thousand animals to keep track of on our division alone, and I try my hardest to have the books and database match what’s in the pasture at the end of the year. Here in a couple weeks when all the cows have been sorted or shipped, I’ll start working on getting our calving books made up and printed and handed out to the guys.

This is about as quiet as it gets for us, but I don’t mind being less busy this time of year because it gives us more family time during the holidays. It’s also a relief to get Wacey back into a good sleep schedule because a) he needs his sleep and is a happier guy when he knows what’s up, and b) I’m counting down the days until the impending newborn sleep deprivation has us all exhausted–easily the hardest postpartum thing for me, and the part I’m most nervous about this time around. I’ve made a pledge to not worry about (or prepare much for) Little Brother’s arrival until after Christmas because I want to enjoy this time with Wace and really abiding in Advent.

Also, I with all the Christmas sales going on it’s a very real possibility that I could fall down the nesting, we-need-all-the-things-even-though-we-don’t rabbit hole, and that doesn’t need to happen. Because a) money, b) space, c) self-control. I have some. I swear. I only bought two tiny newborn things when I was in Oshkosh a few weeks ago! See all that self control? I have some (if I repeat it, it makes it true, right?)

Except when it comes to Christmas lights and Starbucks cold cups. This is something you should know about me right away.

Happy December 1st! Thanks for reading, again–so happy you’re here!