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.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

A thought and a link.

A well known local writer and photographer came up for a few hours and took some nice pictures.  Among other things, Chris C. and I had some very interesting discussions regarding how social media has changed the way the world looks at each other....for better or worse.  Both, I think, for sure.  But certainly makes me think about what photos I am willing to throw out to the general public.  Let me explain....    

Excellent photo from early this spring of cows headed for the feed ground.  Photo credit to Marina.  

Chris took some nice shots of Paul and I pulling a calf.  After viewing, I asked her not to post them.  But not because I felt uncomfortable or guilty about what we had done, but because once a photo is put out for the public, you no longer have any control over it.  (It is very weird to see photos I've put on my blog when "Anahim Lake" is googled.....  how did they get there?  Who decided what?)    

I'll give you a tiny bit of background.  The cow is a 'first calver' and this year we have had too many 'big' calves and have had to assist more times than usual.  Why?  That is the big question at the moment.  And one I don't have an answer to yet.  Hence researching bulls, talking to our vet, and gathering any information I can pull together.  Meanwhile back at the ranch, our heifers are strong, healthy and mothering their 'too big' calves beautifully.  Just too often needing a bit of help (that should not be necessary) to give birth.  Or the calf would die.  And so would the momma.  This is despite our careful and very specific selection of suitable bulls, our strict 'pasture breeding' so there are no mistakes or surprises with bulls meant for older cows, keeping our own known heifers (rather than buying) and all the other extra care and attention that the heifers get.  

Photo Credit to Magalie.

 The carefully watched heifer in question has not been progressing quickly enough and it was well time to lend a hand.  She quietly walked in to the maternity chute and I was able to easily set the chains.  The first loop is set above the fetlock joint, and the other half hitched below the joint, below the dew claws.  This means that the pressure is distributed between two points, not just concentrated in one spot.  Obviously set the same on each individual front leg.  We are then careful to guide the calf correctly and slowly in to position, in this case pulling the legs one at a time to start out with.  While big, the calf was mostly just 'bunched up' and once we had his shoulders "walked" in to the birth canal, he came relatively easy.  We are conscious of doing this procedure as naturally and thoughtfully as possible.  We work with the cow, pulling with her contractions, and keeping the process in stages (as it would be without our help), allowing the calf's lungs to drain, (we can help clear them if necessary) and encouraging him to take his first breaths once far enough out of his mother to do so.  Once born, we quickly move him out of the way (so his mother can safely back out of the head gate without stepping on him) and set the calf in a position best suited to help expand his lungs.  Healthy mother and baby are immediately left alone to get used to the new situation and bond without distraction.  

Momma resting after a fully natural birth.  

But none of this information or understanding will you get from any still photos.  I would usually agree that a photo is worth a thousand words, but in this case, it's also about perspective.  

I can almost see the caption above the picture on Facebook now...  "Two hundred pound man carelessly rips calf from confined and helpless cow while woman smiles and assists.  If you are against such animal cruelty, 'like and share' this horrible photo.  Donate now to......"      

See what I mean?  If you are on Facebook or Twitter, or probably any of a hundred other social media sites, you've seen something similar.    

No thanks.  

But not to put a negative spin on the day!  There were many great photos taken and great conversations as well.  It is refreshing to see a new face on the ranch and I quite enjoyed our chats.  

The link to Chris's blog and her story of her day on the ranch can be found here at Wildernessdweller.ca

Cheers all!  

Monday 28 March 2016

26th, 27th, 28th

This is my second run at providing my photos of the day tonight.  As you'll notice happens quite often, the latest story gained momentum and now I can't slow it down.  
But my eyelids keep slamming shut even as I sit in front of the computer so I will attempt to finish that one tomorrow.  Obviously I need some sleep.    

And so for tonight I'll send you my photos of the last few days.....
I've been trying to restrain from just straight 'cow' photos, but that's not easy as they are pretty much my total view at the moment!  But not for much longer......or at least I will have the ears of a horse in my camera lens as well! 

March 26th
The only photo I took that day.  Bad me.  Was warm but grey so not even a very good view.  This is the last trip for the 'later calvers' to the home site.  They have been fed up on the meadow (with 'closest to calving' sorted out at least once a week).  We are nearing the home stretch!  Yes....still snow.  Spring in Anahim Lake.....  Some are mowing lawns....us not so much.

March 27th
We really did get a nasty little splash of fresh snow.  The boys are the only ones who enjoyed it.  Sure makes the corrals nasty and sloppy quick!  


March 28th
Uncle Charley put up the ZIP LINE at the ranch!  "some assembly required" alright.....HA!  They might have mentioned it also requiring a talented uncle, a full days work, a chainsaw, boards, screws, a tractor, shavings, and a whole lot of head scratching.
But pure fun, for the fun of it.

Take care all! 

Saturday 26 March 2016

March 23rd, 24th, 25th

March 23rd
Dealer keeping a close eye on the calves in the alley way pens.  He is a super dog already (he just a year old  now) but is "all" border collie.  The great traits and the neurotic ones too.  

March 24th
A storm rolling on by.  We've continued to be quite lucky with the weather.  We've had a few shots of snow, but nothing serious.  Just enough to keep the ground wet.  

March 25th
Morning sun burning off the mist over the feed pen.

We've slowed right down with calving now, just for a bit of a breather I hope, before we get on another run.  We had just a few calves over night and nothing at all during the day today.  Seems strange after being so busy, but we always find something to keep us occupied!  

Take care all,

Wednesday 23 March 2016

March 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd

 A whole lot less cows to bring down for the sort.  
March 19th

Magalie is back!  And feeding a baby calf that only a few hours ago could have easily been written off as dead.  (Has just come off the IV drip.) 
March 20th  

Cesarean Momma and baby.....
March 21st 

Here is our IV baby the next morning.  Sitting up in the barn and although not 100%, is ready to go back to momma cow. 
March 21st   

March 22nd  

Wee Benjamin (not so wee anymore) is helping me tag and give calves their first shot (Selenium and Vitamin E)

Cheers all!  

Tuesday 22 March 2016

A Good Day

We got some bad news in the morning that one of the calves  at Three Circle was down and out.  He had been sick for a while (being treated and seeming to recover), but had taken a turn for the worse.  Still alive, but unable to stand or hardly react and most certainly knocking on deaths door.  He was brought up to Six Mile and we gathered the necessary material to start an IV.  
The most effective method we have found (shown to us by a vet) is to actually cut the skin in the throat area, expose the vein and insert the catheter straight from there.  Yes, vet's can do it through the skin but remember, our nearest vet is 320 kms away.  I've been shown how as well, but never done it successfully.   We've also had experienced nurses try, unsuccessfully.   It's really hard, especially when they are so sick already.  This works.  And it worked this time as well, as we got the IV in and hooked him up.  Even so, no one was betting any money on his chances, but you always have to try! 

Not looking good.  But, optimistically, we have him strapped down. 

Keeping a close eye on the patient in the basement, we continued on our day.  (He was not improving quickly.)  It's been relatively slow in the calving department, but steady enough to keep us busy.  We had brought a first calf heifer in, earlier in the day, and by afternoon decided we better check her out as she didn't seem to be gaining any ground.  
A reasonably big calf and a way too small opening for it to come through, meant a trip back to the house to gather everything for a cesarean.
(At that point I was cautiously optimistic that our IV patient might be improving.)  

Now his breathing has stabilized and he is looking around.  And no, his straps are not tight, although it looks that way in the photo.  

We gathered hot water, disinfectants and surgery tools, and back to the barn.  We've been told, and learned over time, that making an early decision for a cesarean is absolutely  best.  If you wait too long, or try for too long  to pull the calf, the chances get slimmer and slimmer that you will have a healthy momma and baby after the surgery.    

We were successful!  A healthy bull calf came out the side door while momma quietly and patiently waited.  Hurray!!  I sewed her up (takes me forever...), and so far everything looks perfectly positive.  

And, back in the basement, our patient on the IV drip was looking around with bright eyes, testing the straps holding him down and wondering how the heck he got there!  So awesome, honestly.  I don't care how tough you pretend to be, to be able bring a calf back from 'the dead', which he surely was, is pretty darn cool.  We bottle fed him some electrolytes, took him off the IV eventually and then continued with the electrolytes at every check all night.  By morning he was up and able, and trying to buck around in the barn.....looking for his momma for some real milk.  

A good day at the Six Mile vet clinic.  

Cheers all, 

Friday 18 March 2016

Photos #2,#3

Photo number 2....
Do you see them?  I see them!  
The mountains beyond the cows.....!!  
Even some bare patches showing through up there.  

Photo of the Day number 3 (March 18)

Cheeky visitor!  
Actually, it appears this fox is taking up permanent residence as we've been seeing him quite regularly.  
He quite proudly presented himself for photo opportunities this afternoon on the hay bales and here is keeping a close eye on mum's dog.  

Wednesday 16 March 2016

A Photo a Day

With this years season being so incredibly busy so far, I just can't seem to find the time to write in the blog.  Any extra moments are spent reading to the kids, doing laundry or paying bills.  Or maybe even a little wee nap, although those have been few and far between.  Most of my time is spent going around and around between the barns and pens.  We had 40 in just over 24 hours.....  That's quite a few for us and our system.  It won't keep up like this, but meanwhile, we are certainly running ragged.
 I recently read about an Ontario farmer who posted a photo a day for one year.  What a great idea!  I can do that.....  they won't get posted every single day, but I should be able to keep up pretty well.  
And of course I will write my usual posts as well, but this should take the pressure off a little.  

So here is my official 'first' Photo of the Day.  
Taken at 2am this morning.....

  I love this shot.  Walking through the pens on my check, I heard the tell tale sounds of a momma cow welcoming her new baby.  My headlamp beam soon found the proud momma and somehow a great photo came about.  No editing, just taken from the light of my headlamp.

Cheers all!

Monday 14 March 2016

Full Swing

Well folks, my apologies for not writing more often.  I don't know if I'm just getting old, or if we are busier than ever before.  Record amounts of calves being born in very short periods of time and run, run, run.....
I started this post quite some time ago and have spend a few moments here and there.....it's a bit confusing probably.  But then I thought to myself that the confusion might help you understand just how hectic things can become!  And I want to point out that pretty much every shift has it's adventures (certainly this year!); the only difference is that I'm sharing one of mine to the blog community, instead of just around morning coffee!

The cows are on night shift.  Beautiful warm sunny days....but no, calving at night in a snowstorm is apparently a better option.  
But it's okay.  If we have to be up in the middle of the night, might as well be busy.  
Last night was busy.
I got up at 3 and read the note from the last check.  Two new calves in.

(Just to be clear, we usually check every two hours or so.  If nothing is going on, back to bed.  Or, sometimes your shift will run in to the next persons.....)

As I walked out to the pens I could hear the tell-tale lowing sound from the heifer pen, meaning a momma was giving some love to a new baby, who had already made it to the outside world.  Which means the bike and sleigh were going to come in to play to get them out of the pen and into a nice dry barn stall.

 I quickly walked through the rest of the heifer pen and noted another young cow (Y215) calving.  And in the cow pens, another one.

 The first priority is to get the new baby out of the way, so after letting his momma clean him off good, I loaded him in the sleigh and took them to the barn.  As I did, a little red 1st calf heifer (A305) shot past me and ran down the alleyway.  They often do this as they are assuming they can escape....to the feed pen.  I snarled my annoyance at her, and after settling new momma and baby in a barn stall, I went back to retrieve her.  When my brain registered the kinked tail and humped up walk, I realized she was calving too!  Another barn pen filled.  

Back to the heifer pen and convinced Y215 to come to the barn.  As she walked past me, I cut the 'calf sack' and was surprised to see the amniotic fluid was very yellow.  Generally this is a sign of stress for the calf (often too long in the birthing process, for whatever reason).  The cow certainly did not seem stressed and cannot have been too long yet as the sack was intact and the last check wasn't too long before hand.  But something was going on. 

I headed back out and retrieved the next momma-to-be (V856) from the cow pen.  When I had everyone settled, I checked back with Y215 and a two feet were showing, so all seemed well.  A half hour later I came back out, and she had a wee baby laying by her side.  Perfect.  
The other cows were also progressing, so I left the barn again.  (We are always very careful to watch the first calvers, if any need help, it is generally them.)

In the next half hour, the first baby I had retrieved was enjoying his breakfast, tail delightedly wagging.  V856 calved,  A305 calved and Y215 delivered #2.  Tiny twins!  Huh, no wonder there were signs of stress.  But both babies were healthy and happy.

I headed back out for one more cruise through the pens and another of the cows (WIN) decided to calve in the worst possible spot, in the only place she could managed to push it out into the snow.  Not only that, but the calf was upside down under a fence and momma was cranky.  So I went back for the bike and trailer and an equalizer.  We have plastic 'paddles' that we use.  They are basically a long stick with a big hollow rectangular plastic end.  They make excellent tools for sorting, like an extension of your own arm.  You could also wack your buddy as hard as you wanted with it, without hurting them a bit, but it makes quite a noise.  I put the quad and trailer in position, climbed the fence that the calf was underneath, hooked a leg and double handed the overly protective mother with the equalizer as hard as I could.  "WHAP!"  She stood back in surprise, reevaluated the situation and then patiently waited for me to drag her calf out of the snow, load it into the sleigh and then followed me to the barn with it.  It's not a real good feeling to be all alone in the night with a cranky cow and I was happy this one cooperated as well as she did.  

All in all, a successful shift.            

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Just a few photos

I figured I better check in quick to let you know I hadn't dropped of the end of the earth or been stomped by a cow.  
We are crazy busy at the moment and just no extra time at all.  The cows have been on steady 'night shift' and not slowing much during the day.  
Only a few tonight though, and just one heifer calving at the moment, so I thought I'd at least share a couple of photos. 

 Evie has calved (guess which one is hers?) and the extra babies are all very excited about it!  

First time momma and baby having a rest.  

 Nice Day.  

 Not so nice.  Blech.  

Momma following her new baby in the calf sleigh as we bring them to a dry barn stall.  (Sleigh is pulled behind the quad.)  

Morning entertainment.  

Alright, have to go check my heifer.  
Cheers all, and thanks for your patience....we will slow a bit after this initial rush I'm sure.