Monthly Archives: March 2013

Don’t Forget Your Belt

There seems to be an unwritten rule around our place that in order to load cattle there must be a row of troughs down the middle of the pen, and the pen must be muddy; at least ankle deep. A few years ago the wise man scheduled a shipping date for some rangy steers that had been out on rye-grass for the past 4 months. If you have spent any time at all around cattle that have been on green grass as a primary diet, you know not to get within 10 feet of their rear end or you could become a poster child for all natural green fertilizer…if you know what I mean. And buddy they have a good aim! In this particular group of calves, there were about 60 head. We were trying to move them from the large catch pen (the one with the troughs) into the smaller loading pen to be able to get them into the trailer. It looked something like this: 60 excited steers, a long row of troughs, Wise Man on one side of the troughs, and me on the other.

Feed troughs in the middle

Feed troughs in the middle

When you start to move cattle into a smaller pen, they usually go pretty well the first time. The idea is to be quick and efficient. Get them where you want them, and close the gate fast. Simple, right? Well, this particular day just happened to fall just as The Wise Man was coming off of a diet. He’d been on the diet for a few months, and I don’t think he realized just how much weight he had lost. Knowing that the steers would be excited and taking a squirt at us every now and then, we always wear old clothes. Evidently this pair of jeans that Wise Man had on were some of his pre-diet big boy jeans. As we start to move the calves down both sides, the front calves had found the hole and were starting to string into the loading pen. Everything was going well until a few steers circled by, missed the hole, and started to come back toward us. No problem, this happens sometimes. Just hold your position on your side of the troughs moving quickly from side to side so they don’t get by you, and turn them back toward the gate. They came on my side first, and I was able to move around quickly enough to turn ’em back. Next they came on Wise Man’s side, and then on both sides at once. I was holding my own and turning them back when out of the corner of my eye I noticed steers running by on Wise Man’s side, and we lost the whole bunch. Even the ones who had found the gate into the smaller pen had run back out and were coming past on his side. As the last few steers were running past him, I noticed that he was just standing there. He didn’t even  throw his hands up. It was kind of like he was just waiting on them to all get by. That’s when my eyes were drawn to this bright white object, sort of like a flag of surrender. Then I realized it was his underwear. Yep, there he was in the middle of the muddy lot with his pants down around his ankles. I just looked on with amazement, and lots of thoughts ran through my mind…  I heard myself say, “What are you trying to do, flash them?!”. He quickly grabbed his pants and got them back up around his waist, but this time he kept one hand on his pants to hold them up. As we started the calves, (now a bit wary as to where they are supposed to go) Wise Man is hazing them by holding out his left hand then quickly bringing it to his pants so he can free up his right hand . It took a long time time to get the cattle in that day, and since then we have added a new rule. Don’t forget your belt!

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Star Gazing on the Farm

As a guest blogger, I suppose I should introduce myself.  I am the brother-in-law of the “cow speaker”.  I should let you know up front that I don’t speak cow.  Not even close.  I don’t even think I have even touched a cow.  Usually when the guys are sitting around talking about heifers and bailing wire, I smile and nod as if I know what they are saying.  I can’t remember how many times I have gone home to Google “what is a heifer?”  For Christmas, the cow speaker and I received really nice work gloves from our mother-in-law.  A quick look at my pristine gloves in my tool box two years later will tell you how mechanical I am compared to the cow speaker.  Just so you know, the next year I received a coffee mug instead since my gloves were still good.  It’s not that I don’t want to be handy around the house, it’s just that my opportunities are few and skills limited.

 

My work gloves

My work gloves

 

You see, I don’t speak “cow” but “C”, as in “The C Programming Language”.  Yes, I am a city-slicker, technical journal loving, computer-geek, firmware engineer.  Think of firmware as the code inside of your favorite gadget that makes it magically work. As a firmware engineer, my idea of a good time is installing a new hard drive or writing a new algorithm to improve the efficiency and reliability of a gadget.  I might get my hands dirty but only because the keyboard needs to be cleaned. My wife says all of this makes me think “differently” than everybody else.  I think she is complimenting me, but I’m beginning to wonder about that because of the way she stresses the word “differently”.

 

So what would the “cow speaker” and the “C speaker” possibly have in common? Perhaps it is our love of the outdoors.  We both appreciate the majesty of the open spaces, amazing Oklahoma sunsets, and the sight of the Milky Way stretching across a crystal clear black sky.  For him it is a love of working outdoors. For me it is a love of escaping to the outdoors when I am tired of trying to analyze the failure mechanism of the latest firmware bug at work.  Most of all, I suspect that for both of us being outdoors makes us feel a little closer to our Creator.

 

I encourage each of you to spend time outdoors looking at the night sky. Whether you enjoy the pitch black skies of the country or the light-polluted skies of the city, take time to appreciate how amazing it is to peer upon other suns so far away they are but points of light.  Look in the clear western sky this month after sunset and you may glimpse one of the most beautiful and rare sights – a comet visiting our part of the solar system. May the beauty of Comet PANSTARRS remind all of us of the ties that bind all of us together.

Hale-Bopp Comet

Hale-Bopp Comet

 

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Horses for Handicap

I have ridden a lot of different horses for a lot of different people. A while back a lady brought me a horse to ride, and she didn’t have enough upper body strength to throw a saddle on. She wanted me to condition the horse to walk under a suspended saddle and stand while it was lowered onto the horse’s back. Well, I don’t know how much you know about horses, but they are natural born cowards and walking under something is not on their list of safe things to do. I really enjoy working with horses, and I told her I would see what I could do. I started the horse through my program, and he was a sweetheart without an ornery bone in his body.

Quincy starting under saddle

Quincy starting under saddle

I got him going well on the ground.

Changing from halter to bridle

Changing from halter to bridle

I handled all his feet and got him used to yielding to pressure.

Handeling horses feet

Handling horses feet

Once in the saddle, I started getting him used to things being above his head.

Dismounting from both sides

Dismounting from both sides

I started with swinging ropes, then a plastic bag, then a duster swirling around while I was in the saddle. He was doing exceptionally well, so I made a rope and pulley system to raise and hold the saddle up while I led him under it.

Standing under suspended saddle

Standing under suspended saddle

Lowering the saddle.

Standidng while lowering saddle

Standing while lowering saddle

Contact!

No lifting required

No lifting required

Undo the strings holding the saddle, tighten the cinch, and you are ready to go. This was a really gentle horse, and I was able to get him to this point in 30 days . His owner was thrilled about the horse’s progress, and the fact the she could ride again and saddle her horse on her own.

I’m always amazed by how much I learn when working with animals. Just like people, they are each unique and have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. The key is being able to identify what their strengths are and working on those areas. There are some horses that would never stand for this. Knowing this will take you a long way toward accomplishing your goals with horses. It just so happened this horse was a great fit for this lady. A match made in heaven.

 

 

 

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Penny the Calf Goes to College

A few years ago I was wanting to increase my herd size quickly, so I bought some bred heifers from a ranch up near Perry. After getting them home and making sure they were doing well I introduced them to the rest of the cows in the herd with no problems at all. Cattle will sometimes butt heads and fight for dominance when together for the first time. When they were close to calving, I moved them into the calving pen with a few others. One cow in particular seemed to want to take on the whole herd and was fighting about 3 at a time, that’s when I herd a loud pop and down she went. I put out some feed and went over to her. She got up but held her right hind leg off the ground, she could move but would put no weight on it. I called wise man Fil for advice and he suggested calling the OSU vet teaching hospital. We made an appointment, she loaded in the trailer easily enough, and we were off. Once we arrived and checked in, they got her inside and did an evaluation. Several students and a staff DVM looked her over and came to talk to me before they proceeded. They gave me about 5 different reasons why this may not work and 1 reason that it might, and then asked if I would like to proceed and I told them to go for it. After putting her under they proceeded to wrap her leg with vet wrap while holding huge pieces of cotton next to her leg. After they got it padded up really well, they brought in a 4″ piece of thick PVC pipe about 30″ long and cut it in half long ways. They heated and bent the pipe to go over her hock and flared it at the top to keep from rubbing her skin. Then, they got something like athletic tape and taped both halves in a splint around her leg. On the bottom they took something similar to epoxy and put it all over one half of her hoof and then waited for her to come around. When she came to, her leg was stiff and she had a big plastic foot. She couldn’t seem to get up on the slick concrete floor. The vet really wanted her to get up so she would know that she was capable of standing. Wise man Fil got in front of her and raised his voice and did all he could to make her stand, but she would just get up on her knees and try to charge him. We finally wound up rolling her onto a pad and dragging the pad up a ramp into the trailer. The girl vet students would pet her and say soothing words that seemed to calm her some, but if she even heard the wise man talking she would get a glare in her eye. When we got home I parked the truck and trailer in the lot, opened the trailer gate, and said “It’s up to you now…” and left her alone. The next morning I went up and she was laying in the barn, but jumped up and hobbled over to eat, so I named her Peg Leg. In about a week she delivered a nice big heifer calf, unassisted, with her cast on.We had to keep her away from the other cows obviously, so she was in a big lot with a shed and pipe fences that were about 2 feet off the ground. The calf, Penny, would nurse in the morning and then slip under the fence and run with the rest of the cows all day. Then she would come back in and nurse in the evening and spend the night in the barn with Peg Leg. In about 2 weeks, it was time to take Peg Leg back to the vet to see if the cast could come off, and I thought we should take baby Penny with us. We got there and let them out of the trailer into the vet barn, and the doc told one of the students to put that calf back in the trailer, I helped him walk the baby out there, just sort of leading/pulling her along when she noticed a pipe fence about 2 feet off the ground by the trailer and shot under it. Now we have a 2 week old baby calf loose on campus and lucky for us, the vet area was fenced off from the rest of the school on about 10 acres. The vet student started yelling “loose calf!” and people started running out of all the buildings, and they shut the main gate to the road. One guy came out of the horse part of the hospital and had a rope. Penny would run buy him going nine-0, and he would miss her every time. It seemed that everywhere she went she ran as fast as she could, like she really wanted to see everything while she was at school. By this time if you could imagine, we have a mob of about 25 students all running after this little black calf that seemed to outsmart them at every turn. Meanwhile, the vet, wise man Fil, and I stood in the parking lot and watched, laughing as every now and then a student would go down from exhaustion. They finally cornered her in the southwest corner, just about as far away from the trailer as you can get. They were able to contain her until they got a rolling calf cage to bring her back in, and we put her in the trailer. After all of that, the doc wanted to give Peg Leg (or Peggy as we were now calling her) 10 more days in the cast. He told me I could just take that off at home, no need to bring her back in. I still have Peggy in my herd, and she doesn’t even limp anymore so we don’t still call her Peg Leg. She just calved in with her 5th calf this week and is a very good mama. Oh, and if wise man comes around and she hears his voice, she still to this day gets a fire in her eye and comes to see if she can push him back in the truck. And of course, we had to keep Penny since she’s the only college educated cow we have… She brings up the herd’s IQ! As a side note, I tagged Penny’s 3rd calf as a new baby the other day and it shot across the pasture and ran almost a mile before it stopped and brushed up again. Like mother like son. I named him Bullet.

Penny and Bullet

Penny and Bullet

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