We finally finished haying. There were several wet spots we were going to cut, but they didn't dry out enough to ensure we wouldn't bog the machinery, so we left them. The cattle can harvest that feed.
The range got dry in late summer, but we had rain in mid-September and regrowth on the grass. Content with the new green grass on the mountains, the cattle didn't want to come home this fall. Andrea and I spent five long days rounding them up and really appreciated having horses with good endurance - in top shape from our daily range rides, checking the cattle all summer.
Jim's in the backcountry with Bighorn Outfitters - where he works every fall -packing and guiding elk hunters in the Frank Church Wilderness Area. We have too many elk right here at home and wish there was some way to keep their numbers down. Lynn spent several days fixing fence before we brought the cattle home. The elk flattened fences in several new places this summer as they came and went from our hay fields.
It's frustrating trying to save regrowth on our fall pasture for the cattle (after harvesting the hay) because the elk eat it. They also tore down the fence on our steep pasture we use first when we come off the range, and we had several stray cows and calves from the neighboring range in there.
On September 23, we brought our cattle down to the big pasture above our corrals. The next morning we did chores in the dark and gathered the cattle at daylight to soft off the calves and be ready for the vet. We had them preg-checked and vaccinated (8-way clostridial vaccine and lepto) before noon. After lunch, we vaccinated all the calves (8-way and modified-live virus vaccine for IBR, BVD, PI3) and Bangs-vaccinated the heifers.
Then we sorted out 50 heifer calves to keep and put them in a weaning pasture (well fenced, with good green grass) above the house. We also sorted out 45 cows we plan to sell to our son and daughter-in-law (Michael and Carolyn). They want to increase their little herd and we can sell them some good cows at a reasonable price to help them get a good start raising cattle.
This will help them out. Plus, we'll have fewer cows to calve out this January (125 vs. 170) since we'll be short on good help this calving season. Andrea is expecting her first baby in early February and won't be able to do as much with the calving. With fewer cows to calve, calving will be easier for the rest of us, but, by keeping the 50-heifer calves, we'll have our herd numbers right back up again the following year.
We weaned all calves and put the "sale" calves on pasture. First, they spent three days in the pasture above the corrals with four babysitter cows before being moved to one of the fields we didn't cut for hay. We prefer pasture to a dusty corral for weaning because it seems to be less stressful.
Before we put them on the big hay field, Lynn and Andrea spent three days picking burdock in the brush along the creek bottom so the calves won't be covered with burrs by the time we sell them. Picking the burrs also cuts down on risk of eye problems this fall and winter.
We started having unexplained cases of winter "pinkeye" in cattle on the creek-bottom fields and pastures about 15 years ago. Affected eyes would water, turn blue, become ulcerated and blind. We treaedt them like bad cases of pinkeye, injecting antibiotic and cortisone into the inner eyelid and sewing the eyelids shut for several weeks. The eyes healed but it was puzzling because pinkeye is usually a summer problem.
Then we learned about eye problems caused by microscopic slivers from the burrs of burdock plants that float through the air when the dry burrs are shattered or crushed. These tiny slivers sometimes get caught under an eyelid and constantly irritate the eye as the eyelid moves, scraping and the damaging the eyeball surface and allowing inflammation and infection to set in.
We only had the eye problems in cattle on the lower meadows - where burdock has established itself along the creek bottom and ditch banks. We've been trying to eradicate it by chopping, spraying and picking burrs. We're just beginning to make a dent in plant numbers. But by making sure there are fewer burrs for the cattle to get into, we've almost eliminated winter eye problems.