Thinning the herd

 

3282DB75-6D04-4D23-98BF-1E3DC6872D3CFriday morning we lost water.  Now this happens at least annually and he had just had some power blips so I figured the pump had just kicked off.  The controller resides in the basement of my mother-in-law’s house.  I called a few times and realized she was out of the house.  Around noon I called and she was home, she attempted to reset the pump without success.  I went down to try and see if I could get it started.  The pump controller is pretty complicated so I try not and mess with it too much.  Annmarie has to reprogram it when I do just randomly push buttons and that takes some effort on her part.  We could not find the instruction manual after I tried to turn it off and on (would not do it) then pulled the fuses and got the error code to change from “OC3” to “Er2”.  I then attempted to search the internet for the control manual without success.  I even called a pump distributor with no success.  The longer I stared at the case the more the weird melted plastic section stood out.  I could not ever remember that being there.  I touched the plastic case and discovered that not only was the case melted but that section was hotter than anywhere else on the case.  I called Pendleton Electric, as they do well pump controllers knowledge gained courtesy of Google.  I was able to say I thought the pump controller had burned up and to read the tag on the size with the power ratings.  They wanted the Hp of the well motor but we don’t know it.

We went out to the barn to start sorting sheep and got a call that the repair guys were here.  It was less than two hours from the time I called!  Annmarie went down to answer questions and oversee.  This left the Child and I to sort all of the sheep.  This sounds like a great combination unfortunately sorting out animals is rough on a good day.  If you want to know how well you can work with someone then just try and sort animals with them.  You will realize that everyone else are a bunch of idiots and if they would just do what you ask of them this entire process would go smoothly.  Now when everyone thinks the same thing it tends to cause some problems.  Now that we have more 6 foot panels I was able to create a sweep gate in the back of the barn.  So as we push more sheep down the chute we can keep moving the sweep gate and shrinking their waiting area.  This was Annmarie’s idea but we never had enough panels or lightweight panels to move making this possible.   It worked great and will now be something that happens every time.

They were able to put in a new controller and yes the old one had burned up after 15 years.  The new one has a pressure display in pounds and nothing else.  It’s just a grey box.  You turn off the pump now by pulling the fuses.  Finally, a sensible design.  Unfortunately, they could not get the pressure up to 60#.  They maxed out at 57# which means we most likely have a leak.  Annmarie walked the entire length of the pipe and could not find any water bubbling up. This does not mean we don’t have a leak as Annmarie reminded me there was an area down by Donna’s that was wetter than we thought it should be last year but it never bubbled but it was near the front spring.  So we are going to look at that area hard this spring after all the rain stops or when we lose water totally.

The Child and I had to make some executive decisions as some of the lambs were marked for cull and keep.  Their temperament in the chute decided their fate.  The child doesn’t like sheep with “crazy eyes” and wanted to cull all bad behavior out of the herd.  We saved around 6-8 female lambs to replace the old ewes.  We had to save all the old ewes as they have babies.  We have 6 no tag Barbados sheep.  We had a brand of tag that the sheep could pull out by reaching through the woven wire fences and lost a lot of tags.  We are probably going to have to retag them so we can track their babies.  They all look alike and we would like to track their productivity.  We are going to sort off the ten cull ewes before we put the ram back in with the main herd.  They will spend most of the summer in the orchard so we know they are not pregnant when we sell them.

We ran them through the chute system and had 22 to sell written down and 23 in the pen. We tried to recount several times and discover who I had not written down.  We finally gave up and ran them back through the chute backwards.  All the keep animals were on the inside of the barn so the far end was empty and isolated from the main herd.  Before we got halfway through them we found the one I had missed.   I had set it up so those sell animals would stay in the milking area of the barn and the corral area.  This way when our buyer shows up we can load them and be done in under 15 minutes.

 

E92E12EB-52BA-4CCA-A4FD-1BEA203864BFI had to feed the bull and his two charges and the ram next.  The bull had gotten tired of the four panels surrounding the large bale of alfalfa and had hooked and thrown it off with his horns.  This is one of his talents that he knows and performs on a regular basis.  I pulled a large bale of alfalfa out of the machine shed and pushed it down to Alcatraz.  I had to open the gate to push the bale inside but this let the bull, 2 steer and the ram out.  I thought, foolishly, that they would follow the bale of alfalfa back into their pen.  Nope!  The bull ran over to the far gate and started hollering for female cows.  I got the bale situated and the panels around the new bales.  Both horses were in Alcatraz happily munching on alfalfa when I went out with the tractor to chase the animals back.  No one wanted to back to isolation.  It took me about 30 minutes of tractor wrangling to get everyone back into the pen.  I considered going and getting the dogs but last time I lost my voice convincing them that I was boss.  The tractor worked eventually.   The dogs do best in wide open spaces.  I was unable to get either horse away from the all you can eat alfalfa buffet so I just locked them in with the cows and ram.  Annmarie got them by just walking over to the pen later that evening.  They just walked over to see her, I am not their favorite or their leader.

Removing 23 teenagers, age 6 months or older really opened up the space in the barn.  I was surprised.  It was enough of a difference that we might end up with a teenage herd running around in the barn lot next winter.  We can open up the old lamb shed for shelter and just feed them out of the back of the barn.  I will need to think up a feeder type for the outside of the building.  The real problem are the horses.  What do we do with them?  They need some shelter, they will share with the sheep but an all you can eat buffet is not healthy for them despite what they think of the idea.

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That hurts

This Saturday we decided to tag and band the lambs. There was much discussion (arguing) as to how many lambs we actually had and wether or not the coyotes had been picking them off. Annmarie shot one Friday night and I missed one later in the day Saturday, so we know they are close to the barn lot. We opted to not use the dogs to push the sheep from the barn lot into the barn. We wanted the sheep to remain calm and just mosey on into the barn. Well they were calm, way too calm. We finally had to get shaker sticks to encourage them the last little bit of the way into the barn. Once in the barn we put up three gates to shrink the available area for them to roam in and I grabbed the tag and band supplies. I sit down on the floor of the barn with the supply bin on my left and my coffee to the right. The coffee didn’t last five minutes before some random sheep knocked it over repeatedly. I finally had to give up on having coffee during this labor intensive endeavor (I spent the entire time on my backside while Annmarie did the lamb catching!). We ended tagging 25 lambs and 2/3 of those were boys. We still have had more girls than boys lambs born on the farm since we started over 10 years ago. We have just been increasing the ear tag numbers every year sequentially and we started with the number one.

After the sheep were done we decided to work the cows. This required closing gates and setting up the corral for the cows. I was in the barn getting fly spray for the cows when I heard this bone chilling scream coming from the corral area. Both Hoss and myself were in the barn and we took off for the corral. I thought Annmarie was being mauled and stomped by the bull or one of the three steer in the corral. Nope, the asshole of the bee verse, a yellow jacket, had stung her on the hand and she had responded by trying to verbally assault the offending party at the top of her lungs. She went inside to treat the fire in in her hand after I agreed to find and kill the offending party. I had placed an old sheep horn in the corral fencing and it made a great place to build a Yellow jacket nest. I gave Hoss the spray and told him to go kill all the offending parties. He did and then we sprayed the cows with fly spray, we had to let the four cows out of the chute after the bull and another started fighting. We ended up letting the bull go out to the other female cows. He has not been near the house since rejoining the female persuasions.

Hoss and I then went up to the Upper Prime Field and finished installing wood stays along the creek side of the new fence. We used 100 of the 200 I had just purchased the night before. On the way out of the field we stopped and patched the new cross fence in six places. The last little section of fence near the new T -brace and new gate needed to be reworked. Hoss had not stapled the fence to the T-brace, once we did that a wire needed moved down to just above the woven wire. A few more wooden stays got installed and the fence is now sheep proof! The new fence, a section of the old fence has 6 strands and no woven wire. It may need some more T-posts and wooden stays but for now it should keep the sheep inside.

Hoss will start in on the next pasture on Monday, I want him to start in on the wheat field side and we will work our way around the field counter clockwise. I figure it will take 2-3 weeks to get it done, no more than 4 weeks hopefully.

Fence repair and build continues

I sent Hoss up into the upper prime pasture to look for the Bull’s escape route. I told him to go to the upper spring crossing as he loves ducking under the crossings. Yep, that is what he did. Hoss did not think he was capable of going under the fence.

The crossing should be Bull proof now, he should not be able to slide the panel up over his back with that 2×6 in his way.

Hoss has been working on getting all of the H braces secured and built. Once this is done we will be able to start stretching fence and getting it secured appropriately.

I went up and helped for a short while on Friday morning and we we got the back cross fence out of the weeds and started securing the bottom to the posts and T posts. I remembered this time to check and see how Hoss was doing with the T-post clip application. The helpers usually need to be shown how to install them. This was true on Friday also. I got him straightened out and we started attaching the bottom two clips through the dip. Once those are secured we will tighten the fence some more and get it all up. Hoss will be back on Monday to get the odds and ends caught up and then back at the fencing.

The freight company texted me on Friday afternoon to drop off the new hay equipment but even though I called immediately they did not answer. I will call first thing Monday morning so we can get the hay equipment delivered. I will get it hooked up and get about another 3 acres cut! I may get another 3-5 tons of nice grass. Hoss is going to clean off the loaner equipment so we can get it back on the pallets and get it sent back to the company this week.

We need to use bull Alcatraz

Annmarie called me on Wednesday, while I was at work to let me know that the bull was out. When I went to answer her call I noticed that I had a text on my phone from a neighbor saying our bull was out. Her call was that he was out and she had managed to get him into a neighbor’s corral and needed me to bring the horse trailer.

So I drove home and got Hoss to back up to the horse trailer. We have not used the trailer since we bought it two years ago. We knew it would be needed. Hoss and I had to unload the wood out of the trailer before we could use it. It had a flat tire and the spare was flat. Luckily, I knew there was a tire pump in the pickup we just needed to get there to use it.

We were able to back right up to the corral and use two panels to make an alleyway and the bull just went right into the trailer. Usually the bull pushes through a creek crossing or gets through the wires. Hoss will look at the fence line after they get the bull put away. I convinced Annmarie that we should put the bull up with the steers in the upper prime pasture as we just fixed that fence. I went back to work as they unloaded the bull.

Annmarie called me again at work in the early afternoon to say that the bull was out again!! This time he had gone the other way and headed up the creek. Annmarie headed up with the pickup and dogs to push him our way. I headed home early. I should have stopped at the house and change shoes, but I knew that Annmarie wanted to get done as our company had just arrived and she had left them alone at the house.

As I was driving up the gravel road looking for Annmarie I called her and she hollered stop I see you as I drove down the road. She had been with the uncooperative bull and the two deaf dogs for over 45 minutes. One would not know that she was to be ordained this week as a priest!! Mouse thought that the only way to move the bull was to grab his tail or bite his heels. I ended up having to walk up to the bull and take over the dogs as they had gotten ahead of Annmarie. I got him down to the road and let him out onto it. He started ambling home and I went and got my car. I could see Annmarie coming off the hill but the bull was going out of sight. Once Annmarie saw the car moving a steady stream of yelled comments began and I ended up stopping, getting out and chasing the bull on foot while Annmarie drove the car. The dogs, I and the car pushed him back to top of our property and he turned down and started headed home. We got him into the corral and locked him in. He will be staying there until Sunday so we don’t have to chase him down again. It took us two hours this time to get him.

The next day the bull had a pretty bad limp. He has a bad left front foot and when he walks too much it bothers him. He was not getting any sympathy from either one of us its his own fault.

More white stuff

I went around this morning after chores and moved more snow! I made it a point to go behind the machine shop and clear that gravel road, so the trash guys can just drive around the loop. Having the trash picked up every week is a luxury in the country and I need to spoil those guys whenever I can because we really appreciate it. The cows are starting to get covered in snow as they are not going down to the old school house or the willows to shelter from the weather. I think they think they will miss out on a meal if they go down there. I can now open the gate wide open, leave it open and just drive out into the pasture and all the cows follow the tractor and ignore the open gate. the food is with me and they all know it.

I stayed outside this morning for 2.5 hours until my hands and toes started to go numb. They were pretty red by the time I got inside and warmed them up at the gas stove.

We had another single lamb born this morning. I got her and ther mother into the momma baby area. The only problem is that tonight when I went out to feed and water the mommas and babies I noticed a possible prolapsed uterus or afterbirth. The problem with this is the ewe is very wild and wont let me get close to her. She is on the watch list and Annmarie will let me know how she is doing in the morning. We may have to pin her down and administer some care to her against her will.

The quail are now coming every day to eat on our back hillside. I had forgotten to feed them and had to go back out and give them their quart of food.

I have a horror story about last night. I put another coat of Varethane on last night so I am back to sleeping downstairs in the craft room on the floor. I woke up at 0130 freezing to death! I was shivering and cold. I thought it was time to wake up. Somehow the half door had gotten closed stopping all heat from entering the room. I got up out of bed, opened the door and went out to the living room and turned up the heat! I also took every throw blanket off of the couch and dug the only one downstairs out of a drawer. I felt like a mummy when I crawled back into my bed but I did fall asleep without suffocating.

The two bully alpaca are stuck out in the orchard. They have melted down a body wide hole in the snow and maintain it. I hardly every see them up and about. I suspect this is what they do in the wild. The rest of them just go into the machine shed and find cover. It is supposed to snow another 4-6 inches of snow tonight. It is official this February we have received the most snow on record about the last 125 years. We knew it was not normal and we were right. Now it needs to melt off slowly in the mountains or we are going to have some major points of flooding.

It is really the middle of the night

Here are some pictures of the Bull Corral. I still need to get in there and use a harrow to tear it up and smooth it out. Everything is so dry and loose that I don’t want to get in there with discs I think they will go too deep. We are going to keep the horses in there for another five weeks. At that time we will have three of the cows slaughtered and they can then have the entire barn lot. The cows have free access to the upper prime lot so they can eat their fill. The horses were getting fat on that same all you can eat menu. They are quite vocal about being on rations. Mika would not come over to the fence and let me rub on her. I did not give her food until she acquiesced and let me rub on her face and side. I have learned that the horses are just like the dogs with that group mentality. You have to be the leader or they just won’t do what you want. Once you are the established leader they are much happier.

Annmarie woke me up at 0200 Thursday night, actually Friday morning to tell me a cow was mooing. Now in her defense at 0200 I am not thinking straight so she prefaces this with the following statement “Before you say anything that will speed up your ability to go to sleep when was the last time you heard the cows pitching a fit in the middle of the night?” I did actually pause before talking and I also heard the cow let out a moo. The moon was incredibly bright and it was very light outside so I went with that excuse first. It didn’t work. She got up to go outside and check on the cows. As she was getting dressed I rolled out of bed ready to go outside. She asked me about clothes. Again, this is simply an impediment to getting back in bed quickly and its 0200!! She made some statement about us maybe needing to go down to her Mother’s house and she didn’t want to see me in my newborn glory. I capitulated and put on pants, slippers and grabbed my Walther P22. I headed for the front of the barn as I was pretty sure it was the pesky annoying bull hollering. Annmarie was on the back hillside flashing a light around looking for cows. I spotted the bull laying down and all four cows just chilling. Mission accomplished, time for bed. We met at the bridge so I could report off on my findings when she states maybe the other cows, all the way down by the schoolhouse, are causing the ruckus. Normally, this could be discounted as no normal human can hear this far, but Annmarie’s hearing is not normal. Not by a long shot, she can hear as well as most owls. I am truly amazed at times by what she can make out or hear, her students can attest to this also. We headed back out to the pickup when I was saved by the annoying bull, he hollered thereby convincing Annmarie that was what she had heard. Once at the bedside I was back in bed in under 15 seconds. She had to get up early but I decadently slept in till 0830! It was amazing.

This is the moon on the ill fated early wake up. I took this just before dark over the back hillside. Who knew I was documenting proof for the blog in advance?

Cowboy breakfast

The animal experience ended well, we made homemade biscuits and milk gravy! I even fried the sausage in leftover bacon grease, do not knock it until you have tried it! The sausage was really lean and you need some fat to get the flour to brown. The biscuits are always made from Bisquick, which isn’t really from scratch but they are still made at home and they are amazing. It was a great ending to a long morning. We started moving animals at 0530 this morning. It has been very hot and the animals don’t do well in the heat, they get stressed easily. Annmarie doesn’t like the heat either, one could say she gets stressed also, if one dared. So we were out the door by 0534 to begin our adventure. It’s hard to explain to people why we have worked so hard to subdivide the property and why we have so many different gates and enclosures throughout the farm. It all comes down to moving and sorting animals, this task is much easier if you can place animals in pens or re-sort them when needed. This was especially true today as we had two separate groups of cows and two separate groups of sheep.

The sheep and horses were in with the first group of six cows. We used the border collies to push the sheep into our front yard. This was Annmarie’s idea as it gets them out of the way and I agreed but as an added bonus the lawn needs mowed. Dual purpose is the name of the game. The dogs did very well and it took less than a minute to get them out of the barn lot and into the yard with no swearing. This is a near miraculous event and not very common. Our dogs are trained to respond to swearing and yelling. This is totally our fault, but we realize that the dogs need to practice on the animals to learn but it can be trying at times. We got the first six cows into the corral and dusted them down for flies. We had them in 2 of the 3 pens then went to get the other cows. The other cows were way down by the schoolhouse. Actually, half were up by the irrigation pump but they ran down to see the bull and ended up at the end of the property by the school house. Annmarie took both dogs and Mouse was being a spicy pickle with tons of extra hot and a dash of horseradish. Sarah asked me why she kept using him if he kept running and doing the wrong thing. I told her that she was teaching him, he won’t learn without mistakes and since she could call him back every time with the animals visible he just needed fine tuning. Getting him to return to us with the animals in his sight is the hardest trick of all to teach and that one we have done. The rest is just repetition. He wants to go in a straight line and pretends that the command “right” or “left” means run directly at whatever animal it is we are currently working. She got them out of the trees and headed back toward the house. We pushed them through the first fence and I closed the gate and worked the dogs as Annmarie’s voice was wearing thin as well as her patience. The cows don’t want to work easily as there is a calf in their midst. The reason we want them is so we can tag and band the calf and let the bull at the sequestered cows and yearling heifer.

The above picture is where the cows were the first time, the below picture is where the cows are after they got around the dogs and Annmarie because the dogs failed to turn them when they broke. They ran for the dry creek bed and went under the fence. I had not locked down the panels in the creek area yet. I usually do this later in the summer when we are trying to control access to certain areas of the pasture. I did shut the gate, even though it didn’t help. Sarah had to go to work so Annmarie and I and the dogs pushed them up the hill this time so we could run them across the top of the hill away from obstacles. This worked well and we got them into the barn lot fairly easily. We locked them in behind the barn and attempted to push them into the corral. Now it should be noted that before we went out to get these cows Annmarie asked me if we should not use the horse corral panels to build a funnel for the cows to go directly to the corral. I was opposed to this option as it meant more work. Well, this came back to haunt me as the cows would not go into the corral. The mean cow with the green ear tag would not go, she kept coming back at us and eventually ran past us. Annmarie is a huge proponent of gentle steady pressure when moving the animals. I am more of a holler and dog kind of guy. She got me to agree to make hamburger out of the green tag cow and to add her to the butchers list but even more importantly she agreed to go into the barn while I worked the cows with the dogs. The dogs did great and we pushed everyone right into the corral. She wanted to know why I didn’t do that every time. I stated that my method is only quicker part of the time and the animals tend to break away more as I use the dogs and shaker sticks aggressively. I just got lucky.

We powdered and sorted cows, the green tag cow went into the to be eaten in six weeks pen. We have a no scrotum bull that was wreaking havoc in the pens. He is in the to be eaten pen. He is is about 100# heavier than everyone else. We had a one nutter last time we killed and he was great eating. This one never had any testicles descend stupid problem number 15.

We managed to get the calf isolated to one pen and I went and got a tag and bander pliers. I like the calves to be under 30 days old but this one is more like 2+ months old. I am here to tell you that there is a world of difference when you are grabbing and catching one by yourself. I couldn’t get it by the neck but managed to snag a back leg. Have you ever seen those vibrating dumbbells advertised on infomercials that go back and forth and you are supposed to hold onto them? It was exactly like that trying to hold onto a back leg and getting drug around the pen. I knew that I needed to grab the opposite front and back leg and then flop him onto his side. But the execution of this was not happening. I could not get to the head of the animal. So I grabbed the other back leg! Now I have two of these pumping pulling weights attempting to jerk me off my feet. I got kicked in the chest and belly several times before it finally started bawling at the top of its lungs. I couldn’t take the physical, auditory and mental abuse any more. I let it go and we concocted a plan to get this stuff done. We decided to keep the calf and mother in the corral until I can get some help. We will feed them, let them into the old milking portion of the barn and fill the 35 gallon water trough. I realize that the cure for this is to learn to rope. I had rope to tie up legs on the calf but I could not get it to ground. Annmarie tweaked her back 3 days ago so she was forbidden to help wrestle the calf. On a good day I end up with bruises and sore for a couple of days.

After all of that Annmarie decided to give the green tag cow a butcher reprieve and she was put back in with our bull.

The bull and his 8 ladies needed to be pushed back out to get a double fence between them and the market cows. So the dogs and I stopped at the spring to get our fill of water before moving on. Zeke went upstream and made the water muddy for me to drink. This is part of the annual water quality check I perform. I have never gotten sick yet. As far as we know no one has over the course of the farm’s life. The spring head is only about 60 feet away.

The sheep just did not want to leave the shade or the front yard. We tried twice with the dogs but everyone was tired after 4 hours working animals and the lawn still needs to be mowed so we are going to leave them in for at least a day.

We called the state trapper on Friday and he returned our call today. He is coming out to evaluate our predator problem on Monday. We will get this sheep depredation problem under control. Someone suggested guard dogs and they do work, but they cost about $75/month per dog to maintain. We are not about to go into this yet as it costs us about $120/month for the two border collies by the time you add in food and all the vet bills. This is cheap help and saves us from having to pay a human being to help so it is totally needed but it is an ongoing cost and we like to keep those as low as possible.

Annmarie and the dogs were all tuckered out after the running around and a hearty breakfast.