Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Learning the ropes

What a wonderful and productive day I was able to enjoy today. I had started the day with fairly low expectations based on a few things I knew I was going to face. My nephew Chase is leaving tomorrow and my sister, brother in law and Mom were taking him and Dakota sturgeon fishing today. I was glad the kids had the opportunity for a fun day but I knew I would miss my irrigation changing team members. These two teens have been a great help this summer and have worked very hard helping me. Everything they have learned from me is probably not all politically correct but my teenage work ethic school program I am sure will serve them well later in life. Thanks you two for all the help, the jokes, the laughs and even for keeping the snickers and ridicule to an acceptable level when I missed that rock chuck from practically arms length.

Knowing I did not have my helpers I planned that morning irrigation would run extra long and hoped for few problems or issues. The irrigation Gods smiled today and everything went fine and without any real problems. I was also a bit worried for today because I knew I had to do a thorough check of the spring calves. Yesterday I noticed two calves that were a bit droopy and not feeling exceptionally well. Neither of them was anywhere near “treatable” level but I certainly wanted to check on them specifically as well as the whole herd as much as possible today.

Everyone has their own idea of just what constitutes a “cowboy”. There are some cowboys who can ride any bronc or bull but could not spell “cat” if you spotted them the “c” and the “a”. There are some who can maneuver a horse through any obstacle or over any terrain but cannot back a stock trailer 2 feet in a straight line. There are some cowboys that are superstars in the auction barn but fall woefully short in the vet shack or the hospital pen. There are cowboys who can tell you exactly how many days pregnant a specific cow is but will also palpate a bull and tell you he is going to calve in February. I guess my point is that there are so many skills you need in this business you just try and always learn and hope for the best.

I mostly feel fairly competent and secure in my being a “cowboy” because I can do most anything but I am not really good at anything. There is one thing though that I cannot do for shit and that is rope. Oh, I might be able to rope a stray basalt rock, a turtle with footrot or the neighbor’s dead ca...ummmm ka...ummmm, neighbors dead kitten on a really good day, but a bovine? Yeah no, that will likely not happen. It does not matter if I am riding a good Quarter horse, a Honda horse or lying in bed with my rope with nothing else to do until Christine gets in bed dressed in her chaps and lingerie I just CAN’T rope. That being the case I have to decide just how to deal with a calf that might be under the weather and needing human intervention.

I can gently drive (walk) the calf to a corral and then use a squeeze chute or squeeze the calf behind a panel depending on the specific case. The issue is whether the drive to the corral with the stress and the dust breathing is more damaging to the calf than the treatment helps. If the animal and cowboy will move slow and steady and be patient this works very well. I luckily have semi erect corrals usually within a reasonable distance so this is often the choice but it can be time consuming especially if dealing with multiple calves.

The other option is to “bulldog” or steer wrestle the calf. This involves creeping as close to a calf as possible then usually traveling at a high rate of speed from a horse, atv or the back of a flatbed pickup and jumping off, catching the calf around the neck and wrestling it to the ground and subduing the calf. This way usually works well for the cowboy that is sick himself because the calf usually overpowers you while you are busy pulling a 16 gauge hypodermic needle and syringe from your I mean upper thigh that is now empty of your chosen pharmaceutical. I usually employ some combination of the driving and wrestling schools of thought.

I found out today that my calves are bigger than I thought. Funny how that calf that was only 250 pounds from the pickup seat is much closer to double that size once you have it in a squeeze chute or your arms around its neck and a needle and syringe in your upper thigh. I treated two calves today one by each method and made note of 3 others to check tomorrow. These calves had some type of respiratory issue (bovine respiratory disease BRD) which can be several bacterial issues. These calves were a longggg way from dying but were not 100% and had fairly low grade fevers. This type of issue usually is short lived and rarely widespread but anytime you see something like this there is concern. There certainly has not been any stress on the calves other than days in the 90’s and nights in the 50’s.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Azure hawker aka blue dragonfly aka Aeshna caerulea.

Today’s picture is a video I took as I watched cows graze today. Seeing what plants they prefer, which plants they avoid and watching them eat in general hopefully makes me a better “cowboy” and range manager because I am always going to be a shitty roper. Oh and yes, some cowboys listen to songs like Copperhead Road on their pickup radio.