Three Years Ago Today

10903370_684221518355549_696973377_nThree years ago today I had a bad day.  I know this because I keep a farm journal.  It’s most basic notes record the weather, the amount of hay (if any) the cattle ate, other animal happenings, and the weather.  Other times it is a page of achievement or atrocity.  I encourage new and experienced producers alike to keep journals in order to look back on both their progress and mistakes.  I know when the flies are likely to show up this year and I know when my hands will start to get cold.  I am sharing this passage because I can still feel the tears in my eyes that day, the uncertainty in my belly that night, and now in retrospect, the knowledge and composure that will allow me to never make those mistakes again.  Below is my experience on February 20th, 2014…minus the swear words.

Chickens:  chicks should be here tomorrow.  A rat (I think) has been getting into the brooder but I stopped up the hole that I believe is the entrance and laid a trap.  This needs to be monitored daily as a rat will kill all the chicks.

Cattle: 
Ok…
Brown cow’s calf froze to death in the storm
Big mamma had a calf that has survived and is now presumably out of the danger zone
Curly calved this morning and the calf was vigorous and healthy
Pearl’s calf has died inside of her and I will try to remove the calf from her tomorrow if she has not already expelled it (Pearl had to be put down later that week)
I will head back out to the farm tonight to check on the calves and put jackets on them as needed
We have about a week of hay left because of the snow and we cannot transport hay to the cattle…here are our options

  1.  Snow melts enough to drive the truck out
Call Brian and have him bring hay to the summer pasture
Move hay by hand to winter pasture as needed because we cannot move the round bales once they are dropped off
Pick up round bales as needed with truck and move to the fields

2.   The snow has not melted enough to get the truck out there

Build a lane to the front of farm and feed the cattle as needed there.This will require constant supervision as the cattle will be out of the main fence.
Carry out square bales.

In the end I had the hay dropped off, then I hired a contractor to move the hay with an excavator.He never showed up so we went door to door asking if someone could use their tractor to move our hay.We were lucky enough to find a neighbor who we hired and the cattle were fed.I won’t go into details about the next time I saw the M.I.A. contractor.

This situation, although terrible and difficult, was a learning experience and convinced me to change some of my management decisions on the ranch. The death of the animals was a result of my inexperience coupled with the force of Mother Nature.  From this occurrence I decided to never attempt to calve in winter again, to have an emergency hay plan in place before winter sets in, and to develop some novel ways to move sick calves in severe snow conditions.  Because of this preparation, I have not lost animals in this manner since and never plan to again.

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