I need to get a copy of one of the many paintings of a cowboy working cattle in a snow storm.

Things weren’t nearly that bad the other day when we had significant ice accumulation, but they were bad enough.

Ice on the running board of “yellow” (my affectionate name for my “yellow” Massey Ferguson model 40B tractor) made her difficult to mount. I had to be extremely careful lest I slip, fall and break something vital. But, I got on, got her started, and left her to warm up.

Meanwhile, moving slowly over the frozen ground, I set about gathering the malted grains and cattle cubes I feed the cows. In the process, I noticed my second problem of the day: a cow out, and feeding contently on one of the stored hay bales. I tried unsuccessfully to coax her back with the herd. She had done this before; and in so doing marked herself “for sale.”

Hearing the rattle of cattle cubes falling into a bucket, the herd had begun to congregate around the corral gates. Yes, that was a plural (gates): somehow part of the herd had gotten into the middle pasture and was now waiting at the west gate; while the rest were at the east gate.

That created problem number three, because while I was able to place the feed in the troughs with the animals still outside the corral, letting them in through two separate gates forced me to let part of them in, and then walk across the corral, in their presence, to open the second gate, placing me at risk for being knocked down.

An inspection revealed how they got into the middle pasture: ice accumulation on an electric fence had caused it to sag so much they were able to step over it – problem number four. That would have to be fixed before I turn them out of the corral.

But first, I put out some hay. As I took it out, I spied #9 (that’s as close as I get to naming cows) off a few hundred feet under some trees; it was clear she was either calving or already had. Cows often calve in the midst of a storm; and they tend to go off by themselves to do so – problem number five.

And I wasn’t finished with storm related issues: getting the plastic twine off the hay bale proved extremely difficult because it was coated with ice and frozen to the hay.

I finally got out to check on #9, and take her some protein cubes. She had calved, and fairly recently as the calf was still wet. It was mighty cold and damp and I was concerned for the calf, but I’ve learned over the years to let things be – more often than not I complicate them by interfering.

I never got the fence fixed, but that proved okay because when it came time to release the cows from the corral they wanted to go out the wrong gate into the middle field. They were confused: because #9 is the lead cow, and she was off taking care of her new calf – they didn’t know what to do.

They’ll find the hay eventually, and will have to step over that sagging fence to get to it. I’ll fix that tomorrow.

Yes, a wintery day on the farm can be difficult, even if you don’t have to do things on horseback.

p.s. But, I’m very very grateful for the water! 

Richard A. “Dick” Ortez earned a doctorate degree from Creighton University in microbiology. During the past 40 years, he has taught elements of food science at the university and medical school levels, operated a café, and run a truck farm and food processing business. He writes the Seed to Table column at his farm near Glencoe and welcomes questions, comments and suggestions sent to raortez@provalue.net. He can also be reached at 405-338-5747.


This Week's Circulars