From Pipi’s Pasture: Getting into winter routine
Over the years, we’ve found that cattle, like children, thrive when cared for according to a routine — fed at the same time, in the same way, each day. It’s not that we don’t have to change things around a little once in awhile — like weaning calves — or that we aren’t a little bit late once in awhile, but when we are, the cattle let us know about it. Anyway, now that the cattle are home from summer pasture, our efforts have turned to getting into a winter routine.
The routine begins at 7:30 a.m., when I gather up grain buckets of different sizes and go to the carport to measure out grain for the corral animals. Then, it’s off to the corral, where I feed the grain and hay to two pens of animals and check the water tanks. The past couple of days, that has meant removing ice from two tanks, since the tank heaters aren’t in use yet. In a few weeks, the ice-removing job will be needed in only one tank, and it will be time for the hatchet. I usually fill the tanks with water later in the morning and in the afternoon.
Next, it’s time to feed hay to the main herd. Lyle helps me with this job. He warms up the tractor and pulls a load of hay into the pasture. Once the hay has been spread out, all that remains is to check another stock tank, close to the house, and, except for filling stock tanks, morning chores are finished.
Feeding hay to the main herd is done only once each day, but because they get grain, corral animals are fed again in the late afternoon.
This is the winter routine which, as I write the column, seems “ho-hum,” unless I consider the many variables that make each day unique. For example, it may be a little thing that makes a difference, such as Nuisance the Cat jumping up on a bucket of grain, knocking it over, and scattering the 3-way grain mixture all over the ground. It might be trying to get a frozen bale off the haystack or finding that the bull has gotten the gate chain loose and is in the back part of the corral and has to be put back.
Even worse, I might find an animal that’s “off its feed,” refusing to eat and needing medical attention. On snowy mornings, especially blizzardy ones, it’s tricky getting to the corral, opening gates, and putting hay out in the wind. Sometimes, Lyle has to plow snow before we can feed the main herd, or if it’s bad enough, he may have to feed hay out of the tractor bucket instead of feeding off the trailer.
There are plenty of funny diversions, too, such as a cat rubbing up against a calf’s legs or the facial expressions “painted” by snow on a black cow’s face. It’s all part of a winter routine.