Lately on our ranch, our three daughters are in ‘baby animal paradise’!
As you know we are in the middle calving. This is when all the mother cows have their young. But to add to the mix, in December we bred our cattle-herding dog ‘Red’. A few days after Valentines Day she had seven puppies. On my farm as a child, our female dog would often have puppies. I have such fond memories of playing with the puppies and wanted my girls to experience the joy too. Then last night, in conjunction with our 4H Club, the girls got 12 baby chicks. They are heritage breeds which will grow up to be laying hens.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie ‘Despicable Me’ but there is a scene in it where the youngest daughter says, “It’s so fluffy, I’m gonna die!!”
That is about where my girls are at! Its like a petting zoo around here and the girls are loving it!
Here are some pictures of the various babies:
Yesterday I left Doug to it, as I headed off for a day of skiing with my daughters and their school. At 6 p.m., when we drove in the yard and asked “How’s it going out there?” we found that Doug and our other daughter had just helped calve a calf that was backwards. They had four other calves in the day. Things had been quite pleasant with the sun shining and all going well, so Doug sent our hired man home early and Grandpa went out to dinner. At 8 pm Doug went out to check the cows again and I turned into bed early. (I was real tired sometimes we go to bed then get up again at 11:00 pm for the last check. This was the case for me last night.) On his check he found there was one more new calf out in the cow pen, looking like it was close to standing. He came back in and went out at 9 pm to see if the new calf was up. It was fine, but he found a cow with two back feet sticking out. This means the calf is backwards and has to be helped out. In a normal presentation, the face of the calf emerges before its umbilical cord breaks, it can take its first breath and all is good. But with a backwards calf, its umbilical cord breaks and its face is still in the womb. If the birth is not fast enough then it can be deprived of oxygen, and suffocate. So to prevent that, the rancher needs to assist and get the calfs face out quickly. If you’ve ever chased a pregnant cow, who really thinks she should calve right where she is, you might chuckle at the thought of a tired rancher wearing insulated coveralls and muck boots, running through eight inches of crusted snow in the dark! As I peacefully rested, he finally won the battle, getting the ole’ girl into the maternity pen and pulled the 2nd backwards calf of the evening. The minute the calf was out of her, that ole’ #567 ran Doug out of the pen saying, “I got this from here Sonny! Leave us alone!” He stomped into the house and work me up getting a bucket of water. In my sleepy stupor, I asked, “How’s it going out there?” He told me he pulled a backwards calf and was just cleaning up. Back to sleep I went, thinking we were good for the night, what more could go on? But at 10:30 pm when Doug walked out to retrieve the Gator (ATV) from out of the field where he had left it when his ‘fight’ with #567 started, he thought he should have one more quick look at the cows. At 11:30 pm I was awoken by the door slamming again and Doug stomping into the house. I asked, “How’s it going out there?” He said, “I just pulled a backwards calf and am cleaning up! I retorted with, “I know you pulled a backwards calf you told me that an hour ago!” It was like DejaVu! But, that was the THIRD backwards calf of the evening!! Very strange! At this point I felt very guilty for going to bed! Doug did finally join me at midnight, after he took one more quick walk out to get the Gator and one more quick look at the cows. Thankfully, all was quiet!
Here is a diagram of how a backwards calf looks:
Thoughts of days like this pull us through the long, snowy days of calving!
This fall I received a call from the local TV station. They were doing a series on the best way to “Break A Sweat” and asked if we would be interested in being a part of the series. I agreed, but was a little unsure because in the fall we do not have much going on at the home ranch. We are busy in the mountains gathering cows to bring home, so I was worried we wouldn’t be every interesting to film. However, we still had some finishing to do on our new calving barn, so we decided to put the reporter to work building rail gates. Here is the video clip!
Almost two years ago now in June 2012, at the BC Cattlemen’s AGM in Fort St. John, is when I (Erika Strande) officially met Erika Fossen for the first time. I knew who she was from articles about her and her family in the Beef in BC magazine. The Fossens do some direct marketing of their beef to a local ski hill and restaurant, which at the time I was just starting to do in my area, so was always intrigued with it. At the AGM I was briefly introduced to the Fossens and Erika and I immediately checked how our names were spelt and then quickly congratulated each other for having the correctly spelt way! (eri‘k’a not eri‘c’a)
At the same time at the AGM, I had just been notified that I had been accepted to take part in a Canadian Cattlemen’s program called Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL). This program is a 8 month mentorship, where each mentee is matched with a mentor in the area of the cattle industry that they are interested in. In addition to the mentorship, the mentee also receives a budget to attend different industry events and meetings to network and gain a better understand of the political side of the CCA (Canadian Cattlemen’s Association) the national governing body of the Canadian cattle producers. Earlier that April 2012, I flew to Saskatoon and met with 25 other young beef enthusiasts from across the country to compete for 1 of the 15 spots in the mentorship program.
I was lucky enough to be one of those 15 and graduated from the program in March 2013. The program has truly been a life enriching experience. I met 15 other people from across Canada who are super inspiring people who know so much about so many different aspects of the beef industry. In addition, I met people who have many years of knowledge and experience in the industry who were genuinely interested in sharing their knowledge with us young producers. Last, but not least I got to meet and really got to know Erika, Doug and their family. It has been great to have somebody to talk to about ideas, frustrations, or just day to day aspects of the industry.
It was our love of bovine that initially brought the ‘Erika’s’ together, but in getting to know each other our similarities became uncanny! We found we had A LOT in common besides the spelling of our first names! Flying to Ottawa for the CYL graduation event in conjunction with CCA annual meeting and were standing in line at Starbucks and ordered the same drink! We laughed and chalked it up to coincidence, but then the similarities just kept coming. Over New Years we were partying with some of our best friends in Merrit and her sister and husband from Alberta and then realized they are Erika and Doug’s best friends from college! We have the same taste in clothing and have the exact same shirt, boots and jeans. If one of us is wearing something, the other usually says, ‘I love that and was planning on getting it!” Most recently, ‘other Erika’ posted the blog “January scenes” and I saw we have the same Stormy Kromer women’s felt winter cap! We also have a very similar sense of humor, sarcastic and slightly weird, and when we are together we laugh a lot! It is really cool in life how two people can be brought together! What started out as just an eight month program, turned into the beginning of a wonderful life-long friendship!
*Disclaimer* Sorry about the selfie I just wanted to prove that we DO have the same hats!!
The Erika’s at the BC Cattlemen’s Association AGM in Vernon.
Recently we had extremely cold weather for our area! The temperature dropped down to -28 degrees celsius and our stress went up.
We were at the very beginning of our calving season when this frigid weather came. Even though not many heifers or cows were calving yet, we still checked the cows every two hours, just to be sure. By ‘not many calving yet’ I mean that when we really get going, we can get up to 17 calves in one day. Thank goodness that was not the case then!
I would like to tell you about ‘Kate’. Kate is an animal that we have entered into a competition at our local Fall Fair. The competition is called the ‘3 Year Challenge’. The first year you enter a 6 month old female calf. Our daughters were excited because this meant they got to watch their dad get drug around the corral, as he halter-broke her!
Here is a video of the 2nd time Kate was on a halter (for some reason we missed videoing the 1st time!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=retvRLxaiN8
All the entries are brought to the fair, paraded around and judged. These halter-broke Fall Fair animals get special treatment, as they are washed, combed, blow dried and made to look clean and beautiful: Show Cattle. After her time in the spotlight, she is put back with all of her other peers (our herd) and spends the winter with the other cows. The following summer, she is exposed to a bull and hopefully gets bred. That fall, when she is one and a half years old she is brought back to the Fall Fair and competes again. Here is a video of Kate at the Fall Fair. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO-juES7Dfs
Once again the cycle repeats its self, but now we get to the present day in my story. SO, the coldest day of the winter and who decides to calve? Yes: Kate! (who is named after the Royal ‘Kate’ of course!) She calved in the late afternoon and was moved into the barn with 3 other new mothers. She had a baby girl and we named her ‘Pippa’. Yes we know that is Kate’s sister, but we liked the name. We were going to name her calf ‘George’ if she had a boy, but she didn’t. It was the best we could come up with other than Camilla! After supper my daughter and I looked at each other and decided we needed to go out and check how she was doing, as we were worried about her ears. When we got out to the barn, sure enough the tips of her ears were starting to freeze. When calves come out and they are all wet, and if it is really cold, this happens. You know this because in your hand the tip of the ear feels very cold and stiff, like cardboard. So we held her ears in our hands and rubbed them until they felt warm again, then my daughter sacrificed the neck-tube off her own neck and we put it on Pippa. This pins their ears back to their head and helps to keep them from freezing. You only leave it on until the calfs ears are dry and then they are fine (they freeze because they are wet). Here is a picture:
Thankfully the weather has been on a warming trend. Kate and Pippa are doing very well. I will try and remember to keep you updated on them, especially when Pippa gets to go to the Fall Fair!
We have been busy putting down shavings (we use it for bedding) in the winter months, so our cows and their calves have a dry place to lay down. Whenever I do this chore it reminds me a lot of cleaning my house it looks so nice and fresh and clean for hmmmmm maybe an hour and then in no time it’s a disaster. The cows love the shavings pile and come over and poop on it ect and in no time it does not look fresh and clean.
We started building a new calving shed last year. We got the final piece of tin nailed down on the roof on New Years Eve Day. We built the whole shed ourselves (more accurately my dad did and I helped, he was definitely the brains behind the project). It was a really neat process to be a part of and I really learned a lot! From the building process of the building itself to making the rail gates and learning how to properly hang them! We were able to use trees from our property and had to buy only one sling load of lumber and tin. After we had the tin nailed on we couldn’t do much more last year because the building process took longer than expected (weird that never happens… ya right), so once we were done the tin we couldn’t do anything else because we had to pound posts inside the building to separate it into pens, but in January the ground was too frozen, so our project was put on hold. This year we finished building all the rail gates and put slabs up on the outside to prevent wind, snow and rain from getting inside. Our calving sheds are really important because this is where our new calves and their mom go if something is wrong during the calving process and we need to intervene and help the cow deliver a live calf, or if a calf is sick, or if it is really cold out and the calf has just been born we put them in the calving shed. It is great that we have our new shed build because now we have more room for our calves to have a dry place especially because we are trying to grow our herd and our 1 calving shed just didn’t have enough room anymore! We couldn’t have finished the shed at any better timing because we had our very first calf today! He was a Hereford bull calf!