It must be spring - the bulls are picking fights with each other, there’s the tiniest hint of green across the pasture, and the birds are back. First were the red-winged blackbirds chortling in the willows. Then the killdeers scurrying about searching out nesting sites. Now it’s the meadowlarks spilling their melodies, and this afternoon Mark saw the first bluebird out in the sandhills. Even though we still get snowed on every few days, there’s an unmistakable mildness to the wind.
Mark has been battling a nasty outbreak of scours in the new calves. Scours is the scourge of every rancher, the dreaded diarrhea that dehydrates and kills unattended calves in a few days or less. It hit just as the heaviest of calving days were behind us. Mark had only a moment to catch his breath from tagging a bunch of calves each morning, to the constant monitoring and doctoring he is doing now. He drenches the calves with a dowsing tube and in severe cases gives fluid intravenously. We’ve not had trouble like this in our memory. Weather is the biggest stressor; day after day of wind and cold and wet takes its toll. We hear it’s hitting herds all over the valley.
We use every tool at our disposal. One weapon we use is our cell phones. Each morning Jesse and I feed the herd while Mark makes his rounds. We call back and forth discussing ones that might need help or specific feeding instructions. Texts are even better. If Mark is in a tight spot he doesn’t have to dig his phone out of his pocket. Today I sent him:
“V36 blue looks yuck”
“R95 yellow has a tight bag” (meaning she hasn’t been sucked out, a sure sign her calf isn’t feeling well)
By 11:00 a.m. things were looking up, “coffee time?”
And his welcome reply, “yes.”
|One generation of calves/ three generations of Pratts|
Gary (yellow), Mark (blue), Seth (red)
|Just a day old|