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.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Good Dogs

Was riding home the other night after a long day and thinking how lucky I was to have such a great, dependable team of dogs.  I've been meaning to write in the blog for ages anyhow and I figured they certainly deserved some special mention.

Many of you that have been with me for a while will remember my Dealer dog (he occasionally liked to write a bit as well.)  Last June, about this time actually, he got stepped on badly and ended up with a broken leg.  Not great, not great at all.  
Being without a good dog in this country is completely unacceptable, especially with bigger groups of cattle.  The country is by turns too open with huge spaces, too closed in and tight, and too muddy to get around in.  A dog makes cattle gathering and moving possible and they are absolutely worth their weight in gold. 


Back to Dealer.....from a young dog he has had a health problem.  I'm not entirely sure where is stems from, but when he over exerts himself, he acts like he is having an asthma attack and, if not noticed and rested instantly, he will almost act like he's having a stroke.  He shakes and staggers and whimpers, barely keeping up to a walking horse and almost seems like he can't see.  It really takes a lot to put him in to this state, but it is terrifying.  So long story short, I've given him to a friend of our who is living in the area and doesn't necessarily put on the miles I sometimes do.  It was very strange to give him away (for him especially I'm sure) but he has bonded very well and is a happy dog.  His new owner rides with us occasionally and while he certainly recognizes me and almost unconsciously tries to work with me, he does well for her as well.

Here is my Dealer dog as a pup on his first trail ride.  I'm delighted he has a good loving home but I do miss my buddy.  The saying "a dog is the only creature in the world that loves you more than he loves himself" is certainly true with this fella.  


So currently I'm working two dogs.  I have little Zip who is border collie through and through.  She has all the perks and quirks of border collies but is loyal to the bone and a super tough little nut.  She prefers to stay quite close to me, and although I can send her out to the sides or the front, she keeps close track of where I am.  She prefers to work ahead of where ever I am at and isn't afraid to duck in a grab a nose or a heel if the opportunity arises.  She has never gotten grumpy with people and even though she will protect me to the death from other dogs (or at least puts on a show like she would), she always ends up forgetting how tough she was trying to be and ends up playing with them instead.  She is a fun and uncomplicated dog (just 2 years old now) and it is great to see her strength and confidence grow with her.  I have the basic commands on her, meaning "lay down", "steady", "walk up", "come by" (which means to go left), "way to me" (go right) and "that'll do" which is a call off.  A loud hiss will send her in with teeth a snappin'!  

Zip poses in front.  Magalie and her dog Bell, Raffe, Ben and Tanis with the Itcha's in the background (and happy moo's).

The border collie stare.  Five Mile and the still snowy Itchas in the background.

Brady is my other champion.  She is a cross between a border collie and a Huntaway, which is a New Zealand stock dog, bred to bark as well as herd.  She is a big dog and looks more like a black lab mutt than a cow dog.  But she is absolutely amazing and I will never be without a barking dog again for working big groups.  Any old ranchers or cowboys reading this will be sitting back at that, shaking their heads in disgust right now, but I'm here to tell ya, don't knock it until you've tried it.  She certainly doesn't 'yap', she just uses her voice (and her presence) instead of her teeth.  And that way she is able to effect many more animals than just what is at the very back of the pack.  She has a huge outrun and never leaves an animal behind.  And if she needs help, I always know where to find her.  I thought that her barking might cause trouble, especially with cows with young calves, but the cows really don't take offence to her and just move on.  She is such a mild manner dog (when not working) that she can move and hang out right among the cows or calves.  She will let the calves come right up and sniff her and wanders about only inches from the cows and they just quietly watch her, or continue their naps.  Not so when she gets working though, she is a force to be reckoned with and they fully respect her.  Because I was trying to work both her and Zip as pups last year after Dealer broke his leg, I put completely separate commands on her.  She has a 'sit' (which just means to stop, doesn't matter if her bum hits the ground or not), a "right", a "left", a "walk up" and a call off.  I've just started sending her out with whistles (works so well!), but really she pretty much does what needs to be done.  It is rare to have to re correct her after being sent out.  She instinctively heads for the farthest animal and doesn't give up until it heads for the bunch (or for me).  If she is confused, she stops and looks back at me, waiting for confirmation or a new command.  She is also a total lover of all people and super easy to be around.  

The crazy hail storm didn't bother Brady one bit.  But then, not much does.  

One of Brady's greatest traits is the ability to relax.  Anywhere and at any given moment.  

Now don't get me wrong, I am certainly no dog trainer and my dogs don't work perfectly.  We are not going to win any trials, that is certain.  They tend to be too 'loose' as I am not very strict about commanding every move.  It certainly backfires as they tend to break their "heel" command when we are riding and will take every opportunity to push or gather, even if you don't want them too.  They have to be sent out of the herd if I am trying to sort, as they refuse to stay to the heel and try and 'help' instead.  Tough to sort cattle out, when the dogs are busy bringing them back in.  The flip side of that is that they really do think for themselves, assess the situation the best they can, and react to it.  They have saved my butt on numerous occasions, often stopping wrecks (such as cows heading off away from the herd, or calves running for home) before I even knew it was happening.  With them, I can manage about 3 times the cattle and situations that I could without.  They work well independently, but also are quick to help each other out.  I honestly could not do what I do with them.  

                 A glimpse at the brood mare band.  Bun and Lucy are sharing a back scratch with Bun's baby posing.  You can just see Bubbles rump with her baby behind her.  Unfortunately, the sorrel mare lost her baby this year and Twinkle (Big Momma) on the right is with our stallion for the first time. 

Squirt sneaks in a quick nap while we haul the sorted off bulls to another property.  
 
She looks terribly sad but was the luckiest cow in the outfit on this day.  I found her stuck on her side in a hole, with a rock against her back.  The rock luckily kept her from getting right over on to her back (which would have killed her very quickly), but there was no way she could get up.  Squirt helped me pull her upright and steady her until she found her feet.  Besides missing a lot of hair and a few meals, she is totally fine.  Her calf was very happy to have his lunch upright again.  

Heading for home.

Cheers all!  
Punky  
  

Friday, 6 April 2018

Photo Catch Up

Not a lot of time to write these days, as expected.  Especially with this never ending winter we've had this spring.  Seriously sick of the white stuff, not gonna lie. 
But I have a few photos to share and that will be good enough for this time.  I don't always remember to take photos, but went through them the other day and thought it was kind of a funny mix.  I often save photos or meme's etc that I find on the internet, so I thought I'd just share ones that I've taken/saved day by day.  Some are a bit random, so bear with me, this is as entertaining for me as you.  :)  


March 13th
Sweet Ava and the boys


March 14th
Helping in the barn


March 16th

March 18th

March 19th 
This calf was born (naturally!) with a condition called hydrocephalus, or 'water on the brain'.  We ended up having to put him down as he could not stand and had no suckle reflex.  Amazing.  Hope I never see it again.   

March 21st.  Smart babies in the shelter.

March 22nd.  
This has been the winter that never ends....
March 23rd
Cow 'selfie'

March 24th
From the light of my head lamp.


March 25th
Was told about an option on my phone that tracks steps. 
Remind me about this simple, easy ranching life I lead again....
Oh yeah, it all about the lifestyle.

March 26th


March 27th
Momma and baby

March 29th
The 'orphans'...the two on the left are from twin sets and the one on the right was taken off of one of our bought heifers.  I don't mind a bit of wild, but when the cow grows fangs, hammers fences and smashes gates trying to get to your blood.....well, she needs a new home.  We've had some really great heifers calve out of that group we bought last fall.  And a disappointing number of ones that will never see another spring on this ranch.  A good reminder of why we prefer to keep our own......

April 1st
It sure does.

April 3rd
Magalie and her helper "Mitch"

April 4th
Fun in the hay.
So nice to have their laughter and energy around the ranch.

April 5th
Our new milk cow "Magnolia" filling the extra bellies.


April 6th
Yes, April 6th.
Plowing snow today, April 6th.
Sigh.
Come on Mother Nature, we could use just a bit of a break...

Cheers all!
Punky  


   




Monday, 12 March 2018

Hoping and trying....

Remember the post I wrote a while ago, about the rancher I met at the Stockyards, whose comment about ranching being the 'most hopeful business in the world'?  Hoping the weather improves, hoping the market holds, hoping that calf nursed, hoping that old cranky cow calves on her own.....  The comment still makes me chuckle.  I recently had to set up a new account for the combined ranches and, when asked what name to put it under, I honestly thought about telling the secretary "Combined Hope Ranching".  



Hopeful has to go hand in hand with 'try'.   When being hopeful doesn't work out (which so often happens), you best have a Plan B, all the way to F or G.  That generally starts with "Okay then, dang it, let's try......"  

So our calving season has begun, as you may have guessed.  The weather has been less than cooperative (so much for being hopeful there!) and it is more like late January than almost mid March.  Well, I shouldn't say that, the last couple of days have been absolutely gorgeous.  It has seemed over the winter that when it warms up a bit, it snows.  Snow clears and it is beautiful, but teeth gritting cold. 




Our calving season has come on slowly.  We turned our bulls out later this year, and between that and our cows being in less than stellar condition last spring, we are pretty slow getting going.  But they are pregnant and the flood of babies is coming!  The cows are in good shape this year overall, and I'm sure 'hoping' to have a good season.    

It didn't start out that way, with only 1 out of the first 3 surviving.  But thank all that is good that the one that did survive (and thrive) is Jackson's one and only calf.  Grandma gave him his own heifer this spring and he is very proud of her and her little steer calf.  



The first calf that didn't make it was simply born dead, as far as we could tell.  Certainly there was no indication of anything going amiss, besides lack of heart beat.  Eli and Jackson had gone to check on her in the barn and found the calf still lying with feet inside momma, dead as can be.  But you gotta try......they ran in and rubbed and rubbed the calf, puffing air into its lungs and hoped and hoped.  But it was well and truly gone.  
The next calf had a leg back, and looked weirdly puffy.  We easily re positioned the baby and helped momma deliver.  He was hard to get breathing and just wasn't right from the beginning.  The calf continued to puff up and go downhill, and even though we used all means possible, died a few hours later.  (Our autopsy showed an abnormally large heart....)  

2am check when hoping for better weather didn't work out. An opportunity to try and remember why you wanted to be a rancher in the first place!

The next momma to be was brought in and a wee tiny baby easily delivered unassisted.  I figured right away that there was a #2 in there, and sure enough, momma laid back down and went to work again, already licking and talking to #1 staggering around the pen.  She was straining too hard and taking too long and sure enough, #2 was trying to enter the world ears first, rather than feet and nose.  She was easy enough to re position and then nearly landed in my arms with the next contraction.  

So the heifer whose calf had died with heart issues was still wanting her baby and bawling by the barn door.  Knowing it's worth a try, I took the 2nd twin directly to her old pen (without the original momma licking it) and let the sad heifer back in.  She was absolutely delighted with her now active baby and chuckled and chatted away constantly as she licked her shiny as can be.  We made sure both twins got adequate colostrum and everyone was happy.  I actually had to turn the heifer out of the pen unless someone was watching for the first day.  She kept tucking the wee one into her chest with her head and then trying to lay down with it.  Great theory to keep it safe, absolutely terrible in practice when the calf isn't mobile enough to stay out from under her and the chances of being crushed to death are extremely high. 

The photo hardly does her justice but this wee twin easily walks under her long legged mommas belly and imitates a giraffe to nurse.  This is #2, delightedly accepted by the sad momma who lost her own baby.    


Despite hoping we were over our bad luck, Eli found a calf pretty much frozen in the pens.  He picked it up and ran for the hot box, positive it was much too late,  But you have to try.  With the propane heat slowly warming it up, warm colostrum in his belly, a pain killer administered and a whole lotta hoping, he amazingly did come around, although it took all night.  Unfortunately, the cold seemed to have froze the sucking mechanism right out of him, so that was certainly an issue.  I actually think he was premature as well.  He would get up and wander around, but suck?  No certainly will not thank you anyhow I think I'll just starve but thanks anyhow leave me alone nope I don't want any I don't know what you are doing but I'm too smart for that trick no way notta chance.  But we had to try, and try and try.  So now it's been nearly a week of trying.....momma, the bottle and the stomach tube when nothing else works.  Magalie has been getting him out in the sun and who knows if it helped or not, or maybe it was the lamb nipple we tried yesterday afternoon, but miracle of miracles, he nursed the bottle and then his momma!  Hurrah and a fist pump!  Nice when all that trying and hoping pays off.  

Ben and Magalie giving "Frozen" some love and sunshine. 
(Look at the snowbanks!  It's MARCH!)

In overall news, since these stories, we have had plenty of calves who are happy and healthy with no issues at all.  I did want to share these however, maybe just to point out that life on the ranch is not all bouncy calves in the sunshine and riding into sunsets.  Trust me, the romance wears off quickly at 2am with a lineup of issues to deal with.  But you never stop hoping, or trying.  Sometimes you are just trying to keep your hopes up!  



How do these posts get so long? 
I was just going to post a few photos and now here I am, almost late for my next check.  
So as calving ramps up, I will still post, but likely more photos than stories.....as was my intention tonight.  haha
Best run,
Punky  

Oh, but I have to share a laugh with you.  After each check at night, we write in "The Book" so the next person knows what is going on.  Some choose to write the very bare basics, some are a bit more detailed.  
This is from last year.....  made me grin out loud again!  

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Moving Cows



Greetings all!  
I wrote this post some time ago but thought I would share tonight.  We are busy at the moment with calving preparation. It also happens to be 'end of term' for Jackson, so finishing up his assignments and getting everything handed in is a priority as well.  We are doing a video slideshow for much of it, and it has turned in to a lot of work (of course.)  Seemed like a good idea at the time......   
Anyhow, I thought I'd add a few photos to this post while I'm waiting for the slideshow videos to upload, or download, or whatever needs to happen....   


 I came across some older photos recently and they are fun to share.  On the top you see my dog Ting compared to a set of little wee twins.  Ting is not a big dog and she absolutely outweighed them.  If memory serves me, the smallest was 18 lbs.  But totally healthy!  

  As it happened, we had an abnormally large calf around the same time.  Here they lie, side by each.  

Might think this was momma and baby......instead of the smallest and largest calf of the year.  

I've been asked a few times, and not sure I've answered properly, about why we seem to move our cattle so often.  It's a valid question.  Basically, it comes down to food.  In the summer time, we are constantly monitoring the cows to make sure they are not overgrazing any particular area, and that the bulls are present to do their job.  There is really a lot of feed out here and cattle tend to either a) really scatter or b) really concentrate on their favorite areas.   There are other factors that come into play as well, but good management means being in close contact as often and consistently as possible.    


Our range is very large, with a huge diversity in altitude and environment.  Not only are we mindful of the dates and restrictions provided to us by the government, but we must have a larger picture in mind and use our environment to the best advantage.  For example, it is best to utilize the farthest away grass during the summer as it is very risky to push cattle too far away in the fall.  One never knows when or if Mother Nature will unleash record cold temperatures or allow multiple feet of snow to fall at once.  If that happens (and it does!), it is difficult enough to gather cows that are within a couple of miles of home.  It would be impossible if they were scattered 15 or 20 miles away, especially up in the higher altitudes.  So while it may seem handier to have the cattle closer to the ranch in the summer,  they will obviously eat up all the forage available and you best have a big stack of hay available come fall!  It also helps that, in the fall and winter, our big swamps freeze over and feed that the cattle cannot access in the spring and summer becomes available.  So we move them, and watch them.  Or try.  It's big country and much of it is not that friendly.  


 Be a rancher they said.....it'll be fun they said......  

Now in the winter, when the cattle are all home, we are moving them for a similar reason, although not such great distances.  
I mentioned earlier that we have several ranch sites.  Of course these ranch sites are where the hay is.  And where the hay is, is where the cattle need to be.  Again, we have to think about the big picture, making sure how we are feeding makes sense.  

So, for example, we had a large amount of cattle at Three Circle earlier.  They were left there long enough to be fed all of the lesser quality hay (got rained on) as right now they need to maintain and the hay is plenty good for that.  Once that lesser hay was used up, we moved them again as we will need the remaining "good" hay there later in the year.  Now they need to maintain..... later in the Spring they need the best quality we have as it takes a lot of energy to grow that baby in the final stages, produce the essential high quality colostrum, calve out, milk well and raise a healthy baby.   



From Three Circle we took the majority of our mature cows up to a remote meadow that we have a couple hundred bales put up on.    It is a real pain to do the feeding up there, but it makes more sense to take the cows to the hay, rather than haul it all out over a long rough track.  (About a 1 1/2 hour tractor ride one way.)  We took them up there in two groups as there were too many to handle if they decided they didn't want to go.  It is rough, brushy country and not easy to get around in if things get tough.  Luckily, both groups traveled well, but it meant two very cold days in the saddle, rather than one.  We brought them all home (in one group) and finally everyone was settled at Five Mile for the remainder of the winter.

As the time gets closer for calving (first of March), almost all of them will be moved to Six Mile where our main facilities are.  (And lots of excellent quality hay.)    

Oh, and to top it off, we always keep the first and second calvers separate.  The young cows are still growing and do best with extra care and attention.  They always get the highest quality feed and plenty of it.  Really, they are kept pretty much separate (for calving and then with their new babies, on range and with specific bulls) until they are of the age to have their third calf.  Then, while still young, they are considered 'mature' and go into the main herd.


Clear as mud, right? 

Cheers all!
Punky

  

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Winter has arrived



SO much snow!  Like much of British Columbia, we got hammered with snow.  It may not be a record for Anahim Lake, but it sure in a pain.  Especially with calving season looming around the corner.  Mum, Dad and Eli have been endlessly plowing snow and the height of the snowbanks is quite shocking.  The best photos are to be taken up at Six Mile because it is a relatively small area where the corrals are and the snow is piled as high as the tractors can get it.  I took the boys up there skiing, but my photos did not turn out at all, so I'll try another day.  

Love this one of Eli plowing snow with the tractor.  

 Not a great shot.  Was trying to get the crazy sky colors, but you get an idea of the snowbanks piled around.  Spring run off is going to be something impressive!  


Don't try this at home folks!  (I mean being so close to a moose.....try the skiing behind the snowmachine!  That's awesome.)  
I normally wouldn't stop the kids this close to a moose (they can be very dangerous).  This guy saw us coming from a long way away and calmly stopped to watch the show. We are hard to miss with me on the snowmachine, 2 kids on skis jumping snowbanks and a pack of dogs stampeding in every direction.  He didn't show any sign of being worried or aggressive (trust me, you know an angry moose when you see one!) so we stopped for a quick snap on the way by.  

My wee sheepies enjoying their morning treat.  

The 'Misfits' getting their morning treats.  These are the leftovers from last fall, ones that could not be sold due to size or injury.  They are all healthy and happy and growing well.  

I've seen more lynx in the past week than I've seen ever in my life.  So cool.  This little one was in a family group.  We saw 2 others and heard one more.  (Look up the noise they make on youtube.....eerie!)  Two days later I watched a big guy cross the meadow in front of my kitchen window, casual as you like.  So amazing how they can handle these snow conditions.  And now, yesterday and today again, I saw two young ones along the road to town.    
(Gotta brag just a little....we went into town today so Jackson could take his CORE written exam.  CORE (Conservation and Outdoor Education) is the course required to get a hunting license.  He rocked it and aced the practical part last week, so he is officially able to hunt (once we get our paperwork straightened out.)  Pretty proud boy, let me tell you what! 


Look at the snow!  We got more after this photo too.  This is Twinkie (aka "Big Momma"), with Fugly in the background.  They are wintering well.   

Hard to believe calving season is just around the corner!  
We will start moving and processing cows this coming week (retagging, vaccinating etc) and then it is basically time to start night checks.  We shouldn't start calving until early March, but somehow the cows seem to ignore the calendar.  They are jerks like that.  :)   

All the best folks.  
Punky