Welcome to our ranch near Canada's west coast in Beautiful British Columbia's West Chilcotin mountain region. Where calling the vet means hollering back at the house to bring your kit, new friendships are formed from the back of a horse and true fun for a five year old is getting a machete for Christmas. Where 'cutting the dinks off' has a totally different meaning than what first comes to mind, Muck Boots are a household name, a hand shake still means something and the coffee is always on.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Calving Routine

 Greetings everyone!  Sorry I have not be writing as often, but with no internet at Six Mile, it's a bit tough to keep caught up.  It is what it is.  :)  
This time I thought I'd back up just a hair and explain a bit more about our calving routine.  Each ranch certainly has their own ideas, methods and environment to work with, but so far, this has been working for us.  It is certainly labor intensive and I'm exceeding jealous of our neighbors sandy south facing slopes, but we have to work with what we have.  Soon enough we'll be able to climb back aboard our horses......  
Ideally when a cow starts show signs of calving, she is put in to her own pen.  Here she is monitored to be sure the calf is born as it should be, and then is strong and healthy.  We actually help a very small percentage of them, and our main reason for putting them in to pens is to provide a clean environment for the birth.  We can also be very sure that the baby is being mothered properly.  Once we are positive that the calf is strong and vigorous, the calf is tagged and the pair is put into another pen with the other pairs.  From here, we pull out the strongest pairs to go to Three Circle and they go into a big pasture there.  Eli takes a trailer load down every morning as he goes down to feed and there will eventually be more than 300 pairs there.  During our busiest periods, he will often have to take several loads in a day.  
If there is any sort of problem suspected with any pair, they are kept at Six Mile.  This could be anything from a weaker calf to a mother with too much milk for her baby to take yet.  (The milk can spoil in the udder and ruin it.)  
During calving season, and actually most of the year, the cows having either their first calf or their second calf are kept separate from the main herd.  The reason for this is that they are still young and growing themselves and need extra feed and monitoring to be sure they are keeping up to being new mommas.  The first calvers are often the ones that might need assistance with the birthing process as well. 

Breakfast of champions.

So our morning routine...
The first lot of cows cows go into the feed pen at first light (currently around 7).  We use a 'time feeding' system, where each group gets a specific amount of time 'free choicing on round bales in feeders' during the day.  
Big ranchers breakfast (eggs, homemade sausage, hash browns.....) around 8.  
Shortly after, everyone wanders out and first priority is to go through all of the pairs, get everyone up and make sure they are having, or have had a good breakfast.  We are very conscious of anything not able to take on all of their mothers milk, as being off their feed is often the first sign of sickness.  Or perhaps momma just has too much milk and that is noted as well.
The milk cows are let in with their orphan babies (all those extra twins!).

Good old Black Velvet, with Roy and Itsy Bitsy Betsy.  

Any cow or cows that have too much milk or a 'bad bag' is put in the chute for Sizzle the Hired Hand to have breakfast on.  Sizzle is an older orphaned calf that we got from our neighbor at the beginning of the season.  
All the calves born the day before and during the night are written down (carefully noting their location) and the mommas let out to feed.
We then usually sort off a load of pairs for Eli to take to Three Circle and he heads off for the day.  It can take him easily all day to feed and do chores, especially if any calves are getting sick.
By now it is probably around 10, so the cows in the feed pen are swapped for the second group.     
As soon as possible, all the tags are made up and organized and calves identified with their mommas number and their personal RFID button.   

A real selfie!  I'm heading out with my carpenters belt and hand full of bagged tags.  

Of course in the middle of this all, there are many other bits and pieces to be taken in.  Other cows calving, perhaps a calf needing help for his first nurse, checking waterers, rolling out bales for the meadow group, cleaning pens, sorting for those animals nearest calving, filling hay feeders, perhaps doctoring a sick calf, sorting for another load to go to Three Circle, filling water tubs and occasionally assisting with a birth.  
Sometimes we are done our first round by 11, and sometimes it is more like 2 before we get in for lunch.  Ideally there is time now for a nap, especially if someone had an extra long night shift.  
After lunch, any pens not cleaned in the morning get done, and new shavings put out as necessary.  We then start the process of putting all the mommas back with their newly tagged babies and making sure they are once again vigorous and nursing well.  Those that pass the test get moved into the bigger pens with the other pairs.  Anything needing help or more monitoring is left in again.  

Bree has an odd habit of doing complete inspections of every calf, from ears to tail.  Ting is overseeing the process.  

By 5:30 or so, the milk cows have started to voice their displeasure at their full milk bags and the orphans are frantically agreeing to help with that.  So the evening barn chores begin.   Sometimes that is fairly quick and sometimes it can take a couple of hours, just depending on what we have to deal with.   Last thing is always to walk through all of the pairs again, making sure everyone is feeling up to snuff.  
Generally we are back in the house around 7 or so, have supper, perhaps have a game of cards and then go to bed.  Dad stays up until about 11 for his check, Eve does 1 am, Eli and I do 3 and 5 and then the process begins again.  

Yesterday, my fancy watch registered 13 miles of walking and I was never more than 300 yards from the house.  And it just that I'm wearing the watch, certainly everyone else is putting on just as many miles!  Ah, but we are over half way now and with our twins, are still way over 100% so really can't complain.  I do have to wimper just a little at the weather lately.....we were drying out so nicely....but not so much any more.   

Yuck.  Just yuck.      
All the best,

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