Yesterday marked the beginning of a new season. Oh I know that winter started a few days ago, but that's not the season I'm referring to. We started Feeding Season. It happens every year, but I don't think it's ever happened on the same day. Last year it came when snow covered the Basin and lasted until we turned out in April because high water had the meadows flooded.
This year, it's just time. There is no snow on the ground, but the grass was cropped by calves before shipping so there is nothing left of the meadows.
All of the cows came in on Saturday for pregging. I took bets on the percent bred and offered $5 to the winner. Some guesses were optimistic and some were hilariously negative: 95.75% (smart a$$) 92%, 68% (Debbie Downer), 88% (cautiously conservative) 91.25% (copy cat smart a$$) and 90%(that's me. I like A's... but Husbeast had expressed some concern at cow behavior so...).
As the cows came through the chute, the vet pregged with his ultrasound machine calling out months bred. Most were 5 months, a few 6 months and some that wasted too much time and were culled because they are only 30 days, 2 months or 3 months bred. Those who had $5 on the line were quick to holler that the bred cows didn't count for the bet. When one was called opened and confirmed the old fashioned way with the vet warming up his arm, the crew got quiet. No one likes an open cow.
When my favorites came through, I withheld their names until the verdict was read. The tiny cow that I picked (with the help of our friend) a couple of years ago, and caught a lot of grief over because she is so out of place and looks like a mini cow instead of the full sized version, came up a solid 5 months. I air punched and pointed at Husbeast "She made it again!" BOOM! *insert happy dance gif here.
Last year's first calf heifers did really well. Only a handful of them headed to the DTR pen (down the road). Those that bred back were sorted off from the main herd so they can be fed heavier rations and not have to compete with the older bullies. A few of the oldest cows went in with them for the same reason.
When it was all said and done, the pessimistic betters lost and the bred cows earned us a solid A; 94.6% bred.
Husbeast and I always breath a sigh of relief, once we know who made it and who didn't.
Now we focus on feeding them all well enough to maintain body condition, gain weight and grow a calf while also keeping the furnace going during the cold winter months (which seem to last until friggin June around here. *tiny rant over...).
As we drove out to the meadow with hay on, the small brains of the cows had reserved that particular memory. They know what a feed truck looks like, sounds like, smells like.
From now until turn out in May, our days take on a "new" routine. Grass hay will be loaded first for the main bunch of cows. They will get fed, followed by the bulls and culls (while they are here) then the heifers get their ration. If it's an alfalfa day, they all get fewer grass bales, but those come first, then we will load again and head to the cows, the bulls, the heifers.
We will drive back along the feed line, looking at cows. As we inch closer to March 1st we will watch for signs of the first to calve. Of course, we will have to make bets on who it will be. Husbeast holds the record for winning this one. I usually get it right when the cow is licking the calf off..."told ya she was going to calve..."
Unlike the 4 seasons the rest of the world knows, Feeding Season is irregular. Similar to those seasons, just about the time we are annoyed by it, something will change. The days will grow longer, the months will change and the calves will start to come. It keeps us busy and somewhat entertained through the cold, dreary, blue months of winter.
It's a new routine only because it's a new year. There will be new 1st time calvers, there are new divisions in the cow groups.
It follows along with what I always say about ranch life...Always Different. Always the Same.