Agriculture & Livestock: A tribute to ranch and farm wives

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Diane Prather

This time of year, when the weather is unpredictable, ranchers have to brand when they get a dry day and when help is available, even on a day like Mother’s Day.

So, on Mother’s Day, some ranch moms may have spent the day sorting calves, filling hypodermic syringes and fixing a meal for the branding crew.

Thinking about Mother’s Day brandings led this author to reflect on the responsibilities of ranch and farm wives.

Not only do they take care of the household chores and their children’s needs (and may work away from home, as well), these women may consider the following to be among their responsibilities:

• Carrying a bottle of colostrums to a newborn calf at 2 a.m. because he hasn’t nursed yet.

• Cleaning barn stalls and putting down fresh straw.

• Opening and shutting gates when riding with the hubby.

• Keeping supper warm until the hubby finishes baling the south 40, delivers a calf or lambs, or finishes combining a field of grain.

• Feeding “corral animals,” such as bulls and steers for fattening, or calves being weaned.

• Filling water tanks.

• Taking a turn at checking first-year calving heifers, every two hours, all night long.

• Keeping books with calf tag numbers, birth weights, etc.

• Keeping ranch accounting books.

• Fixing meal after meal for crews that brand, sort cattle or sheep, move cows or sheep, and a lot more.

• Feeding a bunch of “bum” lambs.

• Warming up cold lambs or even calves in the house.

• Helping toss sticks, mud and other (sometimes surprising) objects out of a beaver dam that has cut off irrigation water.

• Helping get a tractor, pickup truck or machinery “unstuck.”

• Watching a gate so cows don’t get out while a tractor is pulled through.

• Cleaning the chicken house.

• Supplementing baby calves with bottles of milk when a mother cow has twins.

• Meeting riders at a rendezvous point with a stock trailer to take horses and riders back home.

• “Flagging” when cattle or sheep are moved on the highway.

• Fixing lunch for a combining crew.

• Serving coffee and donuts to helpers on shipping day.

• Vacuuming mud, fertilizer and hay off the floor.

• Following the hubby to the hayfield when he’s moving machinery and needs a ride home.

• Making a run to the implement dealership for a part, hopefully with the broken one in hand so the parts man doesn’t have to guess what part might be “about this big.”

• Making a run to the veterinary clinic to pick up vaccines and medications.

• Ordering or purchasing ear tags, iodine, vaccines, colostrums and other supplies and organizing them in preparation for calving or lambing season.

• Running machinery in the hayfield.

• Turning bales in a hayfield so they can be picked up with the bale wagon.

• Listening for the phone in case somebody on the ranch has broken down, gotten stuck or run off the road.

• Ordering hay.

• Making appointments at the veterinary clinic or to take machinery to the implement dealership.

• Helping check cows on summer pasture or gathering them in the fall.

• Picking up grain and mineral at the ranch supply store.

• Helping repair fence.

• Helping brand on Mother’s Day.

Hats off to all ranch and farm wives.

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