When we butchered the two-year-old cow with the broken leg last month, we discovered the reason for her broken leg - a bullet hole through the bone that shattered it. It never would have mended, so it's just as well we butchered her. We felt badly about losing her - and the nice heifer calf she would have had the end of this month.
With her, and the steers we had to butcher after the trailer accident, our freezers are full. So, we didn't get too excited about elk hunting this fall. However, three of Jim's friends from New York drew permits and came out to hunt. Lynn, Jim and Andrea helped them get their elk out, but haven't had a chance to fill their own tags. The snow was too deep for easy hunting, and we had too much to do. We don't need the meat, but we do regret wasting our tags and not helping control the expanding elk population.
On a brighter note, the other four "crash victims" from the trailer accident - the crippled calves we couldn't sell - are doing better now and are walking normally again. We'll sell them as yearlings next spring.Looking Forward To New Addition
Jim's friends and family from New York had a special baby shower there for Andrea. She, however, was unaware of the party. When they came to the ranch, they brought the shower gifts with them to surprise her. What a surprise. We had all kept the secret and Andrea was truly delighted. Seeing all those baby gifts is getting us mentally prepared for the new little one that will arrive in early February.
We bought two crossbred Limousin-Angus bull calves from a friend on up the Lemhi. We were pleased with the ones we got from him five years ago. From those we kept a lot of daughters and several sons. The sons - in our "composite" mix - are even better than their sires and almost all our calves this year were from those five-way cross bulls. We really like the vigor and feed efficiency of our five-breed mix. We quarantined the two bull calves for a couple weeks, gave them booster shots, deloused, branded and put them with our other bull calves.
Michael and Carolyn are moving from the little farm in Arco to a bigger place near Mackay, where they'll have room for raising cattle. Lynn and Jim took a pickup load and truck load of corral poles and firewood to them. Jim has spent 10 days there helping move things like barn panels, animals and household items. It really helped having two pickups and trailers.
Right now, he's helping Michael build a bridge. They're unable to cross their frozen creek to feed cows without falling through the ice with the pickup. After that, he'll come home to help us with our last minute projects before calving.
We got old manure and bedding cleaned out of the second-day pens and Lynn has been hauling manure out of the "maternity ward," but we still have the sick barn to finish. We used it last winter with temporary walls, and if we don't get it finished this year we may just put big straw bales up against the side for a wall. We didn't finish it this summer because we were still debating about leaving the tall side open. We may eventually use it for a machine shed and build another barn with a lower roof to use as a sick barn (it would probably stay warmer with a low roof).
Snow Comes Early Our weather got cold and snowy and we had to bring the cows down from the mountain pasture two weeks ago. Even though there was still a lot of feed there, cattle weren't able to use it. We had to start feeding hay to our replacement heifers because their pasture snowed under, too, but the cows were able to rough it for awhile on our fields. They're able to get at the taller grass along the ditchbanks and edges that didn't get cut for hay. But now the snow is getting too deep (there's a foot of snow on our upper place) and we're easing into full feed for everyone.
There was still about three weeks of good fall pasture left, but it's mostly buried. We hope that by feeding hay this early we won't run out next spring. We put the pregnant yearlings and two-year-olds on the lower place, so we can feed them separately until we put them into the maternity ward.
We also moved the bulls from the Cheney Creek pasture to the upper place and started them on hay, though there's still a little grass sticking up that they can get at. We like to winter the bulls on pasture rather than in a corral. They seem to get along better and also have plenty of exercise so they're fit and athletic for the next breeding season. Our crossbred bulls do fine growing up on pasture (and a little hay in winter) and never get any grain.
I took the shoes off the last two horses now that we don't need them for any cattle work. In winter on our home pastures the cattle can be managed on foot or taken anywhere following the feed truck. All the horses get a well-earned vacation. l
Heather Smith Thomas and her husband, Lynn, operate the Sky Range Ranch near Salmon, ID.