It’s Our Life

We’re farmers. Cattle and grain. It’s in my husband’s blood. It’s his passion. It’s not easy, most days it’s really hard. There isn’t such a thing as downtime, unless it’s raining.

We don’t get sick pay. Or maternity/paternity leave. There are no paid vacation days. Actually, we don’t have much chance for vacations. And if we do go, we’re paying a family member or neighbor to feed cows. It’s cold, wet, dirty, or hot work. It’s sun up to sun down most days of the year. It’s high costs of new machinery and parts. It’s good grain prices and low cattle prices or vice versa. It’s kids that don’t see their Daddy all day. It’s me not seeing my husband for more than 10 minutes in 24 hours. It’s a lot of sacrifices and being broke for much of a year.

But, it’s freedom with no boss. It’s family dates in the truck driving through gorgeous pastures to check cows. It’s that first newborn calf in the barn. It’s a whole huge yard to explore. It’s baby kittens in the Spring. It’s walks down a gravel road. It’s the rush of moving cattle to different pastures. It’s the combine filling up with grain every Fall. It’s the amazing feeling of seeding being complete in the Spring.

It’s hardships and happiness. It’s wealth and poor. It’s good weather and bad. It’s aggravating and amazing. It’s smiles and tears.

It’s our life and I wouldn’t change it.

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Guard Cows

A few years back, I was out here in the hills with my newborn son and no one else. It was hunting season which is a pretty big thing around here. It was late afternoon and I heard shots. Loud shots. Close shots. And I was scared. There’s always a little fear when I’m here by myself because we are so rural. I think 4 or 5 shots rang out and I noticed they were coming from somewhere in front of my house. Soon after they quit I realized how freaking irate I was! How dare someone shoot a gun so close to my house, our shops and our corrals??? I phoned my husband and he raced out here but the person/peoples were already gone. However, there was blood in the snow in our haystack.

We did eventually find out who it was and husband gave him a stern talking to. He was just a young teenager from a nearby farm. And he knows better than to be hunting around people’s farmyards now.

Anyways, I have gotten off topic. I was hanging out with my kids late this afternoon when I saw the glint off a truck’s grill out in one of our fields. There is no hunting on our land if you haven’t asked us for permission. Main reason being, we have cattle. Very easy for our cows to be in the fields and someone starts shooting. I can’t even imagine how mad my husband would be. I watched out the window for a bit as this truck drove around out there. Again, it’s hunting season and no one came in the yard or asked permission. There’s nothing I could do from the house but I want people to know to ask the landowner before hunting or just cruising around unknown land.

I tweeted that I had seen this truck and that no one had permission. And was told to release the hound. Well my 13 year old dog, Homer is in no rush to run far afield to chase a truck. Different story if you are a strange vehicle coming in my yard. I replied back that I should release the cows, all 200 of them, and they could stampede that truck. Wouldn’t that be scary? Or better yet, our 3 massive bulls could dent that pick up truck pretty good. And scare off the hunters. Maybe they could get the message out to ask permission.

All in all, I’m glad I have a guard dog, guard cows and guard bulls. And great people on Twitter! This is your warning to stay off my land 😛

 

This one’s for my sister Nette. You can check out her awesome writing skills over at www.clubnette.com Read one of her Moe stories and you’ll want to read them all!

 

A Cattle Procedure From Way Back

I won’t show gross photos! We dehorn our calves every Fall. It is kind of gross in person. There is blood. But I won’t show that. I don’t want to scare my few followers away. It’s actually fun though. I love chasing the herd into the corrals and rounding them up to get them through chute. This year it was just me, my husband, my mother in law and a good friend of ours. We ran all 200 cows plus that many calves and our three bulls through the chute. The cows and bulls got vaccinated against some diseases and the calves got dehorned. Out of 200 calves I’d say only about 30 had horns that needed to be cut off. Back in the day, before I arrived here, they used a wire with two wooden handles and sort of sawed the horns off. Now we have a dehorner the cuts them off. It’s a lot easier and less time consuming.

We have to trim the hair around the horns for an easier grab with the dehorners first. then the horns get cut off and we slap some flour on the holes to help stop the bleeding. Since we’ll be selling the calves in a couple weeks, if they just had tiny nubs for horns we left them be. It’s a pretty straight forward process and doesn’t take long if everyone, cattle included, cooperate and do their jobs.

My husband runs the main chute (head gate) because he is the strongest and most knowledgeable. Also if a cow or calf gets through without being properly processed it’s all his fault and the rest of us don’t get crap. Last winter my husband bought a couple purebred heifers who birthed purebred bull calves. So we kept their nuts on them and hope to sell them in the Spring as purebreds. We put them in with the bulls and they look so small compared to the big grown bulls.

And just cause I like the look of a nice golden straw bale.

Poop, Poop and More Poop

I am a Mommy. And a stay at home Mommy at that. So I know poop. I’ve been changing diapers and wiping bums for 3 years straight now. I also live on a farm. A farm that has cattle. So I know cow poop too.

A big time every Fall on this farm is when the corral cleaners show up. This year was a little later than usual so we had a lot of snow on the ground when they started hauling the poop out. The snow was actually a benefit because it kept the horrid smell down. We spread the poop over fields for some natural fertilizer.

When I first moved out here, I went for a ride in the tractor spreading manure. I had never been on a farm prior to moving out here. So I wore flip flops to walk through the corrals and get in the tractor. Needless to say, I was bawling after I was done because I had cow poo all over my feet. I’m not such a wuss 9 years later.

Bad Cows

Yesterday our cows misbehaved. They were being bad. They have a huge pasture area with lots of green grass to eat and enjoy. Instead of being lazy cows, they decided a jaunt through 5 feet of water to the durum field would be a good idea.

The call came at 11:30am. I was having coffee at my sister’s. Brad yells through the phone “Get in my truck and get out out here now! The cows are out!.” He was baling hay near the pasture. I loaded my kids up and headed home.

Drove out to the hay field and Brad boosted his quad. I followed him across the pasture with his truck. He chased the cows back through the slough and then attempted to fix the fence. A difficult job when the fence goes right through the slough.

After an hour or so, the fence was fixed and we headed home for lunch. We ate. Brad headed out to continue baling. I put the kids to sleep and went outside to enjoy the sun.

4:30pm and Brad calls, “Get the kids in the truck. The cows are out again.” I did as told and headed out to the field. Again. Brad went flying over there on his quad and chased them back again.

This time a brainwave occurred. Chase them all home and put them in the corral. Fix the fence the next day and let them out to the hay field. No durum anywhere near that. HA!

We did just that. Brad chased them with the quad and I bumped my old gimpy cow along all the way home. We worked as a team and it went well. And I got to drive Brad’s big Dodge truck. It’s a standard. And I didn’t stall it once. I know. I’m cool like that.

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Hauling cattle

Working with cattle can be trying on a person’s nerves. Add in my husband’s temper and stubbornness and sometimes it’s just not fun.

This week, my husband and I attempted to haul 30 yearling heifers and 2 cow/calf pairs out to pasture. We also had both our young kids with us. It was a trying experience to say the least.

The first load went smoothly. He loaded all 12 heifers by himself and we hopped in the truck to drive them 70 km to our other farm. The kids slept on the way there and we were all okay.

Getting back home to load the second load, we left the kids in the truck and thought we’d be done in 20 minutes. Needless to say, it took over an hour. With my husband yelling and swearing at everything and my kids crying in the truck, my nerves were wore thin.

We finally got on the road again and the kids were sick of being in a vehicle. We dumped that load off and hurried home. As we loaded the last load one cow kept jumping over a barrier we had set up. It was beyond frustrating and I thought we were going to murder each other or that stupid cow. I helped him load the last trailer full and took the kids in the house. He made that trip alone.

Sometimes it’s not all fun and games around here. Our fun family time quickly changed to being absolutely sick of each other. But better days are to come!

Calving

It’s that time of year again at our farm! We wait and wait and wait for the first calf of the year to be born. Constantly checking the cows and heifers everyday for weeks before we finally come across a new baby. The first ones are always exciting but as you get into a month or two of calving it gets tedious and a bit boring.

For the first five years I lived out here my job was to check at 3am so my husband could get some sleep. I loved the simplicity of those middle of the night cow checks. Me and our old dog Homer walking in the cold still night. Everything dark and quiet and just really peaceful. If something was calving I would hurry back to the house to wake up my husband.

We’d go back out together to bring the new calf and momma into the barn. Get them bedded down with new straw and make sure the calf was sucking. Some nights there would be more new ones outside after we had just got others in the barn. We spent many hours out there in the middle of the night working together to make sure the new babies were warm and fed. On the really cold nights I would climb in the hot box with a calf or two as my husband fed other new calves.

I haven’t done those late night checks for three years and I probably won’t do them this year either. Our own babies have joined our family now and I can’t catch up on sleep as easily I could when we were kid free. We bundle up our kids and take them to the barn to see new baby calves throughout our calving season. I miss the freedom and silence of those late night cow checks but maybe in a few years when our kids are in school I can start doing it again.

Our first calf hasn’t come yet this year so here we sit waiting to see what will join our cow family. A heifer? A steer? What color? How big? Twins? This is such an exciting time of year!

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Thrill Of A Sale

I recently accompanied my husband to a cattle sale. We’ve been to many sale over the years and I find the ones where we’re selling to be more fun. As soon as you walk in the building, the smells bring memories back and maybe a gag to your mouth. He constantly tells me I will get used to the smell of cow poop but I think that’s a fib, it’s been 8 years around cattle and it still disgusts me.

Cattle sales are a good place to people watch I’ve learned. The excitement of watching the little tics of buyers and trying to keep track of who’s bidding at any given time help pass the day away. A thumb here, a nod there and the surprise of seeing a woman bidding. It’s a rush to hear our name being called out when we’ve purchased a ring of cows or heifers.

Trying to keep track of what the auctioneer is calling out is another round of fun. Have you ever heard a person talk so fast? I have a hard time understanding what he’s saying, let alone following along so I could bid. Who says white men can’t rap? Go to a cattle sale and listen to the auctioneer!

There’s no chit chat with my husband at a cattle sale. He’s too involved in the ring of cows, other buyers and knowing where the bids are. So if you wanna have a discussion with him, make sure to do it on the drive to the sale.

If you’re ever bored and visiting the Prairies, go to a cattle sale. Enjoy the sights and sounds and the coffee’s on the house.

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