Two weeks ago the weatherman began warning us of a winter storm; a major winter storm headed our way.
J started thinking about storm preparations; where to put livestock and how to best care for new babies.
Here is my account of the storm. It’s a bit long, so I hope your coffee cup is full.
Saturday March 29th:
After doing our regular chores, J and I moved portable wind break to the “Alley” pasture. This is a small pasture that opens up and connects to the east pasture and has a building we use during spring storms. J thought the portable wind break would give the pairs more protection from the North and Northwest winds.
We had 3 or 4 calves born and I saw 58*.
Sunday March 30th:
J and I fed cows and the yearlings. We gathered pairs and brought them into the “Alley” pasture to feed them. This was the most efficient time to move them closer to protection and shut the gate. Afterwards, J and I checked the east pasture to make sure no calves were hidden by their mothers.
1:30 pm- J checked cows and said there were a couple of cows walking (a sign they are starting to calve) and three new babies.
2:30- We went out to tag and move the babies into the calving barn; we had more than three new calves. The yearlings were crawling through the fence and getting in with the cows. J and I went to patching up fence and hauled babies to the barn. J thought sticking the calves born Saturday afternoon into the hay corral would be a good place for them to hunker down out of the wind, so we moved 4 pair to the hay corral. We went to the house for a bathroom break little after 5 pm.
5:30- We headed back out. Our plan was to tag and haul new babies to the barn, bring the cows into the cattle lots, gather yearlings and bring them into the working corrals and put bedding down for the pairs.
J got the first calf loaded in the calf carrier and I headed to the barn. He looked up and the cows were in the hay corral, lots of cows. They broke down the fence and decided to help themselves. We chased them out of the hay and into the cattle lots. Then we fixed fence, moved pairs back into the hay corral, finished hauling babies, gathered yearlings and bedded the pairs.
In the barn, we kept groups of three pairs together. That seemed to be the least confusing for the cows and helped us keep as many families in the barn as we could. At 8 pm we made it to the house for a late supper and shower before checking cows at 10 pm.
9:00- The rain hit.
10:00- It was 36*. We had two new babies born and put two cows in the barn under suspicion. We came in at 10:45 and tried to get some sleep.
Monday March 31st
12:40- 1:10 am: The wind increased, the temperature was 29* and the rain was icy.
3:15- 4:00: The rain had turned to snow and blowing snow; it was 19*. I would say there was less than an inch of snow at this time. More new babies were born and we put another cow in the barn.
5:45- 6:45: J and I worked our way against the wind and through snow drifts to get to the cattle lot. The cows were tightly grouped, hunched and covered in ice and snow. We made our way to check things in the barn. One of the cows we thought looked suspicious Sunday evening had still not calved. We ran her in and pulled the calf; it was a still birth.
8:00 -9:15: After some much needed coffee and breakfast, J and I went out to tag calves. We had close to 20 calves in a 20 hour period.
10:45- 11:20: Check cows. Wind, low visibility and 17*.
1:20- 2:30 pm: It’s warmed up to 21* and the snow on the cows is starting to melt off. The sun is out and the sky is starting to clear. Last fall we kept a hand full of old cows so we could use their calves as grafts. This means we take the old cow’s calf and adopt it to a young cow who lost her baby. The cow that had the still born calf got a new baby.
4:30- 8:20: We feed cattle. By the time J got in for supper the temperature had dropped to 12*.
10:30-11:20- Check cows and find one new baby outside. 10*.
Tuesday April 1st
1:50-3:00 am- Back out to check cows, 5*.
4:50-5:20- Check cows, 3*.
7:45-11:45- Morning chores included feeding livestock and tagging calves born over night. After chores we cleared pairs out of the barn and took them to the Alley pasture.
1:00-4:30 pm- J and I went out and checked over the pairs. It’s really important to make sure all the calves have sucked and are not sick.
The afternoon turned out to be beautiful, blue skies, no wind and 22*! J and I moved snow and things started melting.
5:00-7:30 pm- J and I had to help a couple of calves suck (also called suckling) and tagged new calves.
J decided to leave the cows out in the calving pasture; we continued to check cows all night. It was challenging to get calving cows into the barn at night, maneuvering around snow banks and not getting the 4-wheelers stuck. We never know what we will find when we head out or how long it will take to deal with the issues we discover. After returning to the house J sets the alarm for 2 hours and we head outside to check again.
Wednesday April 2nd
The early morning cow check greeted us with cold and wind, by daylight it was snowing. As the morning progressed the snow increased. The weatherman warned us about more snow, but it was more of a storm than he predicted. J and I did chores and continued to check cows every two hours.
Wednesday afternoon the snow let up and J’s folks came out to the ranch. J’s brother and his family were visiting from out-of-state. We were glad to see extra help! I am thankful J’s Mom was willing to pick up groceries for me; the fridge was looking pretty bleak.
J’s Dad checked cows with J during the night and I got to sleep from 10:00-4:30!
Thursday April 3rd and Friday April 4th
Due to lack of sleep and taking care of our cattle J and I were starting to feel tired. Having a few extra hands to help with chores, taking out pairs and checking cows was priceless. We also had to transfer pellets to feed the yearlings and got a few odd ball jobs done. It was nice to feel like we were keeping our heads above water.
Friday and Saturday nights J got up at 2:00 am check the last bred heifer and I checked her again at 5:00. Life started to resemble a more regular level of normalcy.
Through this storm I have realized that one really is stronger than we ever imagine. I will share a few more personal thoughts about the storm next time.
On a fun note we got a black baldy calf, a set of twins and said first calf heifer calved mid-Sunday morning.
*Except for the collage pictures at the beginning of this post all photos were taken with my phone.