Drowsy Water

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Real Ranch Easter Egg Hunt

Maybe it's because we have a little cowgirl running around. Or maybe I have a minor case of cabin-hermit fever. Or maybe I just have way too much time on my hands. Whatever it is, I am having a blast hiding Easter Eggs this year. What a place to hide eggs, too. This Colorado Dude Ranch has endless hiding spots. See if you can guess each spot!

Oh, and yes, it is snowing. April 1st and still snowing. Hmmph.
A horse feed box.

In the pasture with the cows.

The DWR sign post.

In with the chicks. I hope their eggs aren't this color when they start laying.

In the hay barn.

In with the Mommy Shiloh and her kittens.

A cabin porch.

The big chicks. "What is this? Is it going to hatch?"

A close up of the kittens. One tiny egg for each tiny feline.

Oh, and the tractor. Tractors have lots of little niches, holes, and ledges to hide an egg or two.

Happy Easter from Drowsy Water Ranch!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It ain't all romance and ribbons at Drowsy Water

I like to portray the ranch life as one full of adventure and romance. And, honestly, there is a lot of that happening around here. There are colorful sunrises during morning roundups--horses neighing and snorting as they charge back to the ranch for their morning feed. There are country songs by campfires on cool summer evenings. There are blooming flowers, falling snowflakes, and singing birds.

But it's not all romance and ribbons around here. Take, for example, the end result of our countless hours of work in the hayfields. After hours, days, weeks, and months slaving away to mow, rake, and bail our hay we save it for the cows and horses to eat in the winter. Then every single day each winter we take the tractor out and feed the hay. Can't miss a day. It's the definition of dedication.

Well, as my aunt always said about hay and the haying process, "You have to remember, it just becomes a turd."

This time of year, that saying has never been so apparent. The cows have been cooped up in the same pasture most of the winter. The hay has been eaten in the same few spots and, well, it has to go somewhere.

We had a friend up last weekend that commented "It's like they have a method to it. It looks like they never poop in the same spot twice." Maybe that's true.

As spring warms the ground and melts the snow, the cows will be moved and we'll drag the pasture. "Draging" is a method to smooth fields and break up chunks of dirt, manure, etc. We connect a screen of chains and metal to the back of the tractor then drive the tractor back and forth and to and fro until the ground is level and the chunks of gunk are pulverized. Then when the hay starts growing again, it has even ground and great fertilizer.

And the hay process begins again. . .

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Ode to Rocky: The King of the Drowsy Water Bovines

We have a lot of animals. And I mean a lot. We have horses, cows, bunnies, cats, dogs, chickens (sometimes), ducks, and other domesticated animals that live with us now and then. Of all of the animals we have, I think the one animal that has the best life, the guy that has it made more than any of our other pampered pets, is Rocky, our bull.

Yep, Rocky has the occupation most males dream of. First of all, Rocky is a big dude. He's a a ten year old Black Angus and Tarentaise cross. He weighs in around 2000 lbs. He eats pretty much all day everyday. So, you want to know why he has the best job here? Well, Rocky's job, albeit an important one, is what most 16-30 year old males dream of doing: his purpose in life is to impregnate 25-30 females of his species every summer.

But it's not summer here for long. So what does Rocky do the rest of the year? For most of the year, Rocky just hangs out around the ranch. He might hang out in the pen down the road or he might hang out at the ranch in Walden. Wherever he is, he is usually all alone. When he's alone, his day is all on him. If he feels like eating hay for an hour then staring at a post for an hour, he can. If he wants to test how loud he can say "mooo" then have a bathroom break, he can. If he wants to slobber all over himself without moving a muscle in his body, he can. No woman is there to remind him he needs to shave or that he should maybe consider taking a shower. No one is nagging him to to pick up his socks, turn down the t.v., or fold the laundry. He just gets to be 100% male.

Like I mentioned, things get exciting for Rocky in the summer. Come June or so, Randy Sue pushes all of her cows and calves out onto thousands of acres of open space to graze and roam about. Soon after, Rocky is pushed out to chase down and impregnate all those good-lookin' cows. Let me tell ya, he's rearing to go every year. He chases after those cows, bellowing out as he searches for them and those heifers moo back in return.
Rocky does his job, and he does it well. One of the reasons Randy Sue chose Rocky's cross breed was because Tarentaise generally produce smaller calves. So, while Rocky is huge, bulls can be much huge-er (yes, I know that is not a real word). Rocky's size means easier births for the cows and thus a higher survival rate for the calves. Tarentaise are also known for their ability to subsist on what is available to them in their area. Whether they get to eat tall green grass or short sparse shoots and weeds, they tend to turn out okay. And any heifers we keep as replacements have high fertility rates and calve unassisted in most situations. The Tarentaise bred cows also demonstrate strong maternal traits and optimum milk production.

The black angus part of Rocky and the cows mean the calves have sound feet and legs, they usually have no horns, and they can adapt to live in almost all weather conditions. Angus bred calves also have superior feed conversion and natural marbling of their meat.

Rocky, here's to you. Our all-man, all-bull king of bovines.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Bovine Adventures at Drowsy Water Ranch

Ahhh, the Bovine.

What a wonderful creature. Here at Drowsy Water Ranch, we have one or two of them to play with. In the winter, Randy Sue keeps about 30 mama cows down the road and a few younger "yearlings" up here at the ranch. They eat, a lot. And they moo. And then the food comes out. It sounds boring, I know, but really, they're great fun. The next blog or two will be about keeping cattle at a Colorado Dude Ranch--a fun but time consuming endeavor.

We'll start now, with the little guys that eat and moo and poop just a few feet from where I have parked my rear. (Please, no comments on my rear in relation to a cow's. . .brother John, that especially means you!).

A yearling is cow that was born last spring. Most of the calves born in the spring are sold in the fall to a buyer but, occasionally, we'll keep a few around here for one reason or another. Maybe the calf was too small to sell, maybe she was a little sick or hurt, maybe we need a replacement heifer, or maybe we want to keep a steer for team penning next summer. Whatever the reason, they hang out at the ranch all winter and are fed daily.

Their close proximity to us means they often become quite friendly. How many of you have ever been friends with a bovine? Probably not many of you. They are some of the funniest friends you'll have.

They wash our hands for us. . .
And give us warm kisses. . .
And they LOVE treats!

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Friday, March 27, 2009

New Baby for Drowsy Water Ranch

I've said it before and I'll say it again: living on a family ranch in Colorado means you get to experience life up close. Births, deaths, traumas and triumphs are all just part of the job. Today's post is about one of the happiest (and cutest) parts of the living on a Colorado dude ranch--the babies.
We had our first baby calf towards the end of last week. She is a heifer (girl-cow) and comes from one of Randy Sue's newest cows. Isn't she just adorable? Baby cows are some of the cutest things you'll ever see at a ranch. They are all awkward and leggy but fluffy and full of energy also.  It really is a shock to the system watching a baby calf run and play and hop around like a little puppy.  You almost think they must be a different species than the big, slow, chubby-chicks they have for moms.
Don't get me wrong, the moms are no joke. Can you imagine getting pregnant every year, being pregnant for nine months, then having your baby in an open field laying in the snow and cold? Seems like they'd get sick of it. But, every year they guard, protect and care for their little calf with the utmost of seriousness and concern--just like any other mom.  Honestly, having cows around was part of my reason to decide to forgo much medical intervention during Peyton's birth. If a cow can have baby after baby while laying down bellowing in an open field with no help, then, by-golly, I should be able to have a baby just fine in a warm room surrounded by a swarm of attendants catering to my every need.  Sure, like people, it's not always that simple but cows seem to live through the experience no matter how painful it might have been. That was the lesson I learned from them and it's a lesson I wouldn't have learned if I didn't live at Drowsy Water Ranch. 
Once again, I've digressed from this family ranch blog to odd topics of motherhood. Lucky for me, we have many more calfs on the way that will need ample ooh-ing and ah-ing. 

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mooo-vin' Out

Friday was a big day for the calves.  They finally moved off the ranch and are headed to cow-college. At college, they will develop into full-fledged cows and exit ready to fulfill their life's purpose. 

Their journey toward cow-hood began approximately a month ago when the little calves were weaned.  Weaning is the technical term for teaching the calves to eat hay and grass instead of their mother’s milk.  The calves are taken, in one fell swoop, from their mothers’ teet to a separate pen with hay.  No milk here, kiddos.  The calves then spend a few days bawling for their moms and the moms bawl for their babies.  Most mothers of nursing children will testify that this part of the journey tugs at their heart-strings.  Sometimes, the concept actually makes their udders ache. But that’s enough talk about udders. . .

Now, if we’d had the blog up and running at this point in their journey, I would have written a whopper about what happened to our calves when they were separated from their moms.  Long story short, a few wiley calves decided to take it upon themselves to find their way back to Mom who was a good five or six miles to the west.  Upon discovering the missing bovines, the story involved a horse-trough turned escape route, Justin roping calves along the highway, Randy Sue loping through meadows, Ken driving the trailer back and forth at least five times, a neighbors corral, and about 10 hours of chaos.  In the end, we had all our calves back at the ranch, and we also had a super-secure calf pen.

Once they are weaned, the calves are ready to go.  Randy Sue, along with a few other local ranchers, sells her calves to a buyer in Texas.  The ranchers convene in Kremmling before the calves are loaded and shipped to Texas. Here’s a step-by-step account of the departure day.  

Step 1: The steers and heifers are separated at the ranch before being loaded calves in the trailer to take to neighbor’s ranch near Kremmling.

 Step 2:  The group of steers is weighed, then the group of heifers is weighed. The scale looks like any other pen you’d see.   While calves are in the pen, the weight is registered in an adjacent building.  We weigh calves both to determine shipping load and to determine the average weight per calf.  Here, Justin and Randy Sue await the final reading for the steers.   Randy Sue’s average steer weighed 587 pounds; heifers average weight was around 540 pounds.

 Step 3:  The groups of calves brought by different ranchers are kept in separate pens.  Two important checks need to take place before the calves can be loaded in the trailer.  The vet must complete a health inspection to ensure no sick calves are being shipped.  Also, the brand inspector checks brands to ensure the calves being sold belong to ranchers. 

 Step 4:  The calves are loaded into the trailer.  Cow trailers are pretty nifty deals.  There are ramps that go up and down, and gates to divide groups of cows.  Justin ensured that our calves got a nice pen on the upper level for their trip. 

 Step 5: They’re off! They will spend the winter on a wheat field in Texas before heading to a feed lot. So long little buddies!