Snow and cold weather came early, putting ice on the water troughs and forcing 125 cows down toward the bottom of our mountain pasture. Recent, milder weather has melted the snow, however, and the cows have moved back to work the upper slopes.
One of the water troughs was rusted through, but Lynn and our daughter, Andrea, put in a new one just before the first major snowstorm. The work was well-timed, since the early snow made it impossible to drive up there for awhile.
We vaccinated and deloused the young bulls and put them in Cheney Creek, a native grass hillside pasture that should last two months unless it snows under. We grow our bulls on pasture, not in a corral; it saves feed costs and makes more athletic bulls and better breeders. They don't grow as fast as pampered young bulls, but eventually get just as big and are more fertile and sound.
In early November, I wormed the horses and took shoes off all but the two I'm still using to check cattle. Andrea is no longer riding; she's six months pregnant and it's getting more awkward for her.
On November 7 we sent a semi-load of pregnant cows to our son and daughter-in-law, selling them some good cows at a cheap price to help them get started. They are in the process of moving to a new place where they'll have room to build a herd of cattle, and are fixing up the old house and patching fence. Andrea spent a week helping them move and fix fences.
A Costly Shipping Tragedy We brought the weaned calves down from the middle fields in mid-October, Lynn leading them a mile down the road with the Jeep and a bale of hay, and me following on horseback. The calves are very manageable with the four "baby sitter" cows as an influence -- those cows will follow the Jeep anywhere.
We put the calves in the small pasture above the corrals overnight, then got them in at daybreak next morning to haul to the scales to sell. One of our neighbors brought his big stock trailer to help us. We loaded the first calves and were heading down the road when the trailer door came open and the 28 steers tumbled out.
Most of the calves came out backward, landing on their rumps and backs. Lynn, Andrea and I were following in our truck. It was a nightmare watching calves fall out onto the road, but there was nothing we could do. Our truck horn didn't work and the driver ahead couldn't see our flashing lights. He didn't even realize he'd lost the calves until he arrived at the scales a couple miles down the road and found his trailer empty.
Andrea and I jumped out to round up the dazed survivors while Lynn took our truck on to the scale. One steer died of a broken neck, three had broken backs. Andrea started calling the others, and they began to follow her back up the road while I gathered the stragglers. We began the slow trek back home. Most of the calves were just skinned up and bruised, but several were limping badly.
We got them back to the corral, then Andrea took a gun and knife down to the accident scene. By the time Lynn and the neighbors got back, she had field-dressed the first victim. With help from the neighbors, she got the other three taken care of while the rest of us finished hauling calves. Twenty of the 28 crash victims were able to get back on the truck. We kept four home that were lame.
It was a sad day. With hindsight, we should have called off delivery of the calves and weighed them another time. This was one of our best sets of calves, thanks to good grass this year on the range. But, by the time we finally weighed them, they'd shrunk an average of 30 lbs.
They were to be weighed early that morning, but instead stood in the corral until after noon. Plus, there was the extra shrink suffered by the 20 that had crashed and hiked a mile home before getting on the truck again.
But with the heartache of the situation, we weren't thinking too clearly. That accident cost us several thousand dollars. But we did salvage the meat from the four casualties, and the other four victims are recovering.
Bad Luck Keeps Coming In early November, Lynn turned off ditches and hauled hay with our stock trucks. We buy alfalfa from a neighbor since we don't grow much (and the elk and antelope eat a lot of it). But Monday we put the racks back on to haul a cow home from the upper place.
While riding to check cows, I discovered Watusi Woman (a two-year old, pregnant with second calf) with a hind leg shattered below the hock. She traveled o n three legs well enough for me to ease her a mile down from the mountain to our upper corral, where we were able to load her and haul her home.
Watusi Woman was a young and athletic cow. We suspected that she'd been shot by a hunter. When Lynn and Andrea butchered her that afternoon, they discovered a bullet hole through the bone, confirming our suspicions.