From Pipi’s Pasture: Rolling hay bales through snow | CraigDailyPress.com

From Pipi’s Pasture: Rolling hay bales through snow

Diane Prather/For Craig Press

These past few days, with all of the snow and the cold, it’s been a challenge to get into a full-blown winter cow-feeding routine.

Usually, it’s not a problem. My husband Lyle warms up the tractor or 4-wheeler, loads a trailer with hay, and we’re off to the feedlot/pasture where I put off the hay. However, this year is a little different. Lyle is experiencing some health problems, and although he drove the tractor a couple of times in October, he isn’t able to right now. So, I’ve been experimenting with ways to feed the cows by myself.

We don’t have a mean cow in the bunch. In fact, they’re probably way too gentle. We’ve had some of them a long time, so they’re used to having us around them when they get into their pushing and shoving behaviors regarding the dominance in eating hay, they don’t notice if I’m there among them. I’m not as tall as the cows, either. When one cow pushes another and that cow accidentally hits me, down I go. I’ve been knocked down more than once. That’s why I usually ride on the trailer.

So I had my safety in mind when I came upon a plan to feed the cows over the fence in the larger pen at the corral this winter. I will roll the bales from the nearby stack to the corral fence, cut the twines, and toss the hay over the fence. The cows will eat side by side, like in a feedlot. The cows will probably move around a lot, fighting over hay, but the positive side of things is that I can roll the bales to the fence, even in drifted snow. Besides that, I won’t have to worry whether a tractor or 4-wheeler will start, either.

That is the plan. However, because of the stormy weather, the weaned calves haven’t been transported to the sale barn yet, and the side of the corral I plan to use for feeding cows is still in use. So I decided to put bales through the feedlot/pasture gate closer to the house, roll them down into the feedlot, and cut them. Family friend Tommy Clevenger kindly moved some bales up near the gate. It has saved a lot of bale rolling.

Once I get each bale to the gate I have to hold the gate open as I push and pull the bale through, all the time having to fight off a bunch of hungry cows that are lifting the bale up with their mouths. Secondly, there’s a depression in the soil right at the gate where one big cow sleeps every night. So the bale has to be lifted over the depression and rolled past fighting cows. I carry a short stick with me to threaten the cows. That’s quite a feat in itself — carrying a stick while rolling a bale through the snow — and so far I haven’t scared anything off but have hit myself in the lip with it.

It’s a lot of work so this morning I had a brainstorm. We have hooked up gates so that the road leading up to the feedlot fence can be shut up. That way, when the tractor or another vehicle is driven up to the gate, the area can be locked down, preventing cows from getting out around the house and shop. So I shut the gates up, rolled the bales through the snow, spread them out in this area, and then opened the main gate and let the cows eat there.

It’s amazing how many solutions there are to a problem, even rolling bales.