Monthly Archives: February 2012

Twin calves update

heifer calf

heifer calf

Our twins are now three days old, and getting stronger every day. It looks like the front leg on the little heifer has strengthened on its own, as it’s looking much straighter now and it’s not bending back like it had been a few days ago. I was about half freaked out when I saw her walking on it at first, as it looked severely incorrect, but thank goodness it wasn’t anything structurally wrong with her.

On Wednesday night, Chris was able to get home a little earlier and help me move the trio into a stall/run area. Chris picked up the calves and put them in the back of my truck, and we attempted to get Bally to follow. That was easier said than done, as she didn’t “see” them in the truck, even tho’ she smelled them, and saw them in there, once we started driving off, she would turn around to where she last saw them on the ground, so we’d back up, and start all over! After some patient maneuvering, we were able to get them in the stall. Before we put the bull calf in, we decided to weigh him. Since his sire is a Dexter bull, known for low birth weight, but rapid gain, we wanted to see how much he weighed. He weighs in at a whoppin’ 60 lbs. A bit on the smaller side for a calf, but by the time they’re weaned, they weigh in pretty close to the same size as a regular beef calf, such as Angus or Simmental.

I was able to get a few good snap shots of both of them today. Here’s most of them.

New twin calves!

As mentioned in an earlier post, I had pulled in four of our cows because they should be due to calf soon. Bally, the old bald face cow, was showing signs of getting ready to have a calf when I brought them in, and every day, we’d look out the window first thing to see if she’d had a calf yet. We were both getting a bit frustrated, as she was showing all the signs, but nothing was happening.

Bally and her 2011 calf, Rita.

Bally and her 2011 calf, Rita.

Until last night when I went to feed. There was a small bubble, very tiny, but definitely a sign of eminent birth! When Chris got home, I told him the good news. Since he was going to be out in the shop getting some things done, he said he would go check on her. Time crawled by, and eventually he made it out to go check. It was 10:00 pm, dark, and cold, and I was thinking of heading for bed as soon as I was done with my evening house chores. A few minutes after he left the house, my phone rang, and it was Chris telling me that I needed to get out there, she’d had twins! Naturally, I didn’t believe him as I figured he was just pulling my leg and wanted me out there. But I put on my coat and boots and found my way through the darkness to the fence line. When I got there, Chris shined a light on Bally, and yup, he was right, there were TWO calves! Wow! We no way expected twins!

The other cows were milling around Bally, getting her frustrated as she was trying to defend one calf, then the other one. I grabbed a bale of hay and took it into the paddock next to the pasture and called in the cows. All of them came running except for Charlotte, our youngest calf, who was stuck on the other side of the fence. I closed up the gates as Chris tossed some hay to Bally, and after checking her calves from a distance, we headed back in, planning on checking on her a bit later before we went to bed.

About an hour or so later, we went back out  to see how they were doing. We were concerned that both got some milk and if they were up and looking good. The second calf  still looked pretty wobbly, but the first one was all curled up napping. Chris was sure that both had gotten that first important drink of mom’s milk, so we went back in to get some sleep.  We were hoping that they were both heifers, but we couldn’t tell last night. If there are twins, and one is a bull calf, the heifer calf has about a 90% chance of being infertile. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemartin)

little bald faced heifer calf

Here's the little bald faced heifer calf.

This morning, Chris was checking the calves with the binoculars from the kitchen window when there was barely enough light to see anything. Later on, I checked on them as I fed the rest of the crew. I thought that maybe they were both heifers, but wasn’t certain. The little white faced calf was still seriously wobbly, and I noticed that the right front leg was bending backwards at the knee. Not a good thing, but it should be able to grow out of it,  hopefully. I took some photos and video (http://youtu.be/w-gGIJhPbTw ) and left them alone. (Had some stock dogs that wanted to get too close to the calves during this filming, hence the low yelling, growling from me!)

Little bull calf twin

Little bull calf twin

I called Chris to let him know that they were both still alive, but the one was pretty weak compared to the other. He had me call Robert Tracy, our ranch neighbor to the north. He told me that we really needed to get the cow and her twins into a smaller area so that she would bond strongly with them, and we could keep a better eye on them. He stated that twins really take a lot out of the mom, and that we should feed her grain.

When Chris got home, we drove out to the pasture where Bally and the two calves were, and Chris put the little ones in the back of the truck and we lured Bally to a stall with a run that we’re going to keep them in for awhile. The barn will help keep them protected from the weather, as the breeze was pretty cool off and on throughout the day. And Bally will enjoy the free grain that she’s getting. When we left them, they seemed all settled in.

Musings on a late February day

Tonight was one of those nights that makes me feel blessed that I am living on a small ranch out here in Colorado. After quickly checking my email when I got home, I decided to walk EmmaLee and Sage out in the pasture, leaving Tucker in the house this time. It was a pleasant walk, although the wind was just a bit nippy. As I walked down the pasture, Junior, our youngest john mule came up to greet me. I scratched on him for a few minutes, finding a couple of good spots on his chest, and laughing at his lips as he moved them around to tell me that I’d hit the right, ahhhhh, spot. I walked off, and he followed me, so I scratched him for another minute or two, then walked off to catch up with the dogs. Junior stayed behind, but watched me as I left.

As I made my way back up to the gate, Junior was standing up by the irrigation ditch, and started towards me. I met him half way, and started scratching him, and lightly putting my arm over his back and squeezing a little bit. I then rubbed him where the cinch will go, and played with his ears. He just stood there, and tried to nibble on my coat and on my gloves, turning into me, but not trying to get away.

I’ve been wanting to work with him every year, but time just hasn’t worked out, but I think this time, I just need to make a commitment to work with him, starting with working in the pasture. I can take things out with me and work with him out there easily enough. He’ll be free to run off if the pressure gets too much for him, and he can return if he wants, or not, whichever he decides. If I start working him in that way, when the mud finally dries up enough to bring him into the paddock, or maybe build a round pen, he’ll hopefully be ready for me to introduce him to ground driving and a saddle. I think he’ll make an awesome mount, and look forward to working with him. If I can keep it fun and enjoyable, I’ll bet he’ll love to be worked with and look forward to it.

One really cool thing is, I went into the house to get a few carrots, and returned to the gate. He had walked a short distance off, so I called him over to me, and he came! The carrots weren’t big, but it was a nice reward for coming over to see what I wanted. Yeah, he’s going to be fun to work with.

Returning to the house, I switched Em for Tucker, and jumped on my four-wheeler to go get a bale of hay. Tucker was bouncing all over the place on the little area behind me, so I told him to get off, then made my way over to the hay stack yard, tossed a bale on the back, and drove over to the front pasture to feed the cows there. None of the cows have had any calves yet, but the old bald faced cow, Bally, is still looking like she’s close, so I’m hoping to see one soon.

After feeding the old mare, I headed out to the pasture to walk Tucker. Sage tagged along with us, running around me and dancing beside me. The cows and bulls were close to the gate grazing peacefully, and I told the dogs to leave them alone. Well, the temptation of cows right in front of her was just too much for Sage, and she kept going up to them, wanting to move them. She was doing good, returning to me when I told her no, but then the bulls started running, and I ended up chasing her clear across the pasture, hollering at her to stop. She was having soooo much fun, I doubt she even heard me! I briefly pictured bulls climbing over the fence to get away from her, but she quit before they did, and started back to me. I told her under no uncertain terms what a bad dog she was and chased her up to the kennel. I locked the door behind her, and joyfully invited Tucker to go for a walk with me. He bounced and danced all the way to the gate, then thru the gate and into the field. I could hear Sage barking, telling me that I had forgotten her!

I called back to her and told her if she hadn’t been chasing the dang cows, she’d be walking with Tucker and me. I doubt she understood a word I said, but it felt good to say it! Tucker and I started walking around the pasture, him dancing and bouncing beside me. I told him to go find a stick, and he ran off towards the trees in the corner. Next thing I know, he’s back carrying a stick. Wow! What a dog! So I threw it for him for awhile, then told him that’ll do, as he was getting pretty hot.

We ended our walk shortly afterwards, as the sun was down and it was getting dark. After collecting the chicken eggs, it was time for me to go in and start fixing dinner for Chris and the dogs.

Playing with cows

Ahhhh, springtime! Thoughts of little calves running around in green fields chasing butterflies, and butting heads abound. While it’s not quite spring yet, we are expecting a few calves this month. Most of the big ranches usually wait until March, which I would prefer myself, but our new bull Elliott had other ideas. Since he ended up in the pasture with the cows in June, four of our cows should be expecting sometime this month.

So, to make sure that the little calves aren’t killed by our mules, the other day after feeding, I walked all three dogs with me to go check the cows and see if any were looking like they might be calving soon. The old bald (white) face cow looked like she might be bagging up and showed other signs of maybe giving birth fairly soon, so I tried to move her quietly up the hill to the paddock where I could keep an eye on her and keep the calf away from the mules. Tucker and Sage were trying their best not to rush her, and I thought all was going well until she figured she was getting too far from the main herd, so she lowered her head a time or two at the dogs and started moving back. As she’s a rather large cow, both dogs let her go, and I had no way of stopping her, short of getting in front of her. As she probably weighs around 1200-1300 pounds, I didn’t think that would be a good idea.

So I changed plans, figuring it would be easier to get the whole herd in and then separate her and the other three that should be due and leave them in the paddock until I fixed the fence in the front pasture area. That was easier said than actually done. As I encouraged the dogs to start moving the herd up the small hill and to the paddock, they all headed in the opposite direction, away from where I wanted them to go. So I  walked down to where they were hung up in the corner of the fence, and started moving them slowly up the fence line, hoping they would just keep on going up the fence and to the paddock. (We’ve done this a couple of dozen times with this herd, so they know where to go.) This time the cows didn’t want to go to the paddock, and headed out to the middle of the pasture and gathered in a small group. Somewhere along the line, three of the cows that I wanted in the paddock broke away from the main herd and headed even further away. I asked Tucker to go get them, but Sage and EmmaLee decided they would help, and the next thing I knew they were heading rapidly to the furthest corner of the field. I hollered at the dogs, and luckily enough they actually listened to me and came back for further instructions. I got in front of the cows and slowly started moving them in the right direction, with Tucker and Sage eagerly trying to push them faster than I wanted to go. They haven’t learned yet that the best speed with cows is slooooowwwww!

By then it was getting dark, and I briefly wondered if I would get them in and separated. As I moved them up into the paddock, a huge full moon came up over the West Elk Mountains. I wish I had had my camera, as it was so beautiful hanging there. With that, I had more than enough light to move the cows around, and quickly got the cows that I wanted to keep in the front pasture separated from the others.

I headed for the house, but felt reluctant to go in, as the night was actually pleasant, if you can call 30 some degrees pleasant, and the moon was so gorgeous, it was almost a sin going into the house and blocking it out.