Saturday, April 25, 2015

Oddments and endments

It's about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. I'm cold and shivery but warming up and drying off. The thunderstorm that arrived an hour ago was filled with cold, wet rain which I got to enjoy rather enough of.

All in all it feels like today was a day reasonably well lived.

I started early this morning, out checking cattle and calves with the first kiss of the sun. I don't always start so early but I had a birder scheduled for a ground nesting tour at 8 a.m.

No new babies overnight, which was fine, but I had some concerns about one calf who was born last Friday.

By the time I'd finished checking cattle it was time to go pick up the birder. I should have taken a lot of pictures but I always get caught up with showing and telling and forget to take the snaps. I did get a horned lark and her nest, but then I put the phone away.

My birder's name was Josh. Nice young fellow from Florida, raised on a dairy farm and now a wildlife biologist. Wife and six year-old son. On assignment in Wyoming, saw my tour info on one of the birding web sites. Two nose rings and a big jangly earring. A bit disconcerting but I'm getting used to that stuff. The new hotness I guess.

Josh was surprised at the up and down on the ranch. "It looks so flat from the freeway," he said. We hiked about 4.5 straight line miles with a cumulative elevation change of about 3,000 feet. Nice little workout.

The topic has come up here in comments (Juvat!) and I've promised a post, but this isn't it. Here are a couple of pics though, taken in the canyon area on the north side of I-80, the part we call the "North Googie."

But I digress.

After we finished the tour I returned to poor little calf 520. Way to wobbly and weak. Neglected. So I snatched him up and took him to his mama. She seemed happy to see him and let him nurse.
She was a little sore in her left front quarter (of the udder) though, and kept pushing him away when he hit the sore teat.
With three out of four good ones, you'd think cow and calf could figure it out, but sometimes it's a challenge. Little 520 was weak and wobbly enough that eventually he just plonked himself down. He'd got some milk down his neck though, so I left the pair alone in the hopes that he'd perk up and be persistent.

I got a bite of lunch, then decided to go get the mail. On the way I stopped to take a picture of the blooming grape hyacinth and a giant dog.

While I was petting the dog, what to my wondering ears should appear but the syncopated thumping of a Phrog's big brother. Could I be hearllucinating? Nope. The dog saw it first. Following a slow pass down KIBM's runway, an Ohio ANG $#!+hook landed on the hammerhead and dropped its ramp. The OD paint had faded to that snappy army lime green, which made me think it might be a "D" model.

Three crewman scampered down the ramp and scurried around "checkin' stuff." That was for show though, and you can't fool an ol' helo bubba. One by one they drifted off downwind and watered the flowers. Which gave me time enough to zip over on the Gator and record the visit for my kind readers.

Put a smile on my face it did!

In the meantime, ol' 621 had a baby, a pretty red heifer.

For the remainder of the afternoon I tinkered with fence and kept an eye of 520 and his mama. She drifted away, he stayed put. By late afternoon the predicted storm was moving in and I had to make a decision. In general it's best to avoid intervening and let the cow and calf work it out. But this little guy was just too weak and I didn't want him to get a cold soaking on top of everything else. So I picked him up and relocated him to the barn. Unfortunately I shaved the timing a bit close and ended up getting a good soaking. But I kept the calf dry!

I got a bottle into him and left him inside out of the rain and with a full belly. I'd have got some pictures but I was too soaked. Get some tomorrow.

And now I'm warm and dry with my own full belly, contentedly listening to the thunder and the drumming of the rain on the roof. A pretty good day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


The other day Juvat, resident F-15 Guy over at The Chant, commented that I have a great life.

Bang! Nailed it.

Yesterday Sarge suffered his second Monday of the week. I'd been kinda feeling sorry for myself yesterday because I had to spend an hour dealing with county gubment bureaucrats. I have a sneaking suspicion that Sarge would have traded me straight up and thrown in a case of lawn mowin' beer.

I'm ashamed to admit that most of the time I take my great good fortune for granted. I like to think I work hard and do a good job and make a contribution, but the fact is that I'm on easy street because I'm standing on the shoulders of Giants.

Hard work? Pfui. The sum total of my physical and intellectual output to date would just about add up to a season or two of modest effort for my forbears. Contribution? Pfui. My service to the nation amounts to a pleasure cruise when compared to the Sailors who came before me. I wouldn't make a pimple on the @$$ of a real Sailor.

I have the most profound reverence and deepest sense of gratitude for those who made my life possible. Because of them, stuff like this falls in my plate every day:

I hope that when the final totting up is done, my little contributions will have at least maintained the gift and not diminished it.

Wanker Wednesday!

With visual aids!

The Brits knew from training films. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The master rancher*

* Also a purveyor of fine landmark properties at extremely reasonable rates.

It all started innocently enough. Cows 3046 and 2049 laid down about 75 feet apart to have their calves. They'd picked a nice spot in a little grass-choked swale surrounded by stony high ground. Each cow had produced a fine, healthy bull calf; 3046's a big, strapping red one and 2049 a solid, Simmentalish red baldy. The red one would be 513, hereafter Red, and the red baldy 514, hereafter Baldy.

The cows had dropped their calves an hour or so before I found them in mid-afternoon, and when I drove up each mama was standing proudly alongside her dried off, belly-filled-with-colostrum baby.

I coasted to a stop between the two pairs.  Red was closer so I tagged him first.
513. Weighed circa 140 lbs at birth! The yellow thing on his left ear is the back side of the ear tag.

In our operation when the calves are born they get an ear tag for identification and a vaccination to prevent disease. They also get examined and weighed, and the bull calves get castrated. Other outfits may do it differently. In fact, every cattle operation is unique, so no other outfit does it the same way we do. A lot of similarities exist, of course, but on balance there are more differences. But I digress.

A few tools of the trade:

Ear tagger with one-piece ear tag.
Ear tagger with one-piece ear tag loaded.
Close view.
The ear tag is a one-piece design and the tagger is simple and foolproof to load and use. One-piece, simple and foolproof are important concepts at the master rancher level. Trust me. When done correctly application is quick, nearly painless, and essentially bloodless.
Vaccine, syringe, needle. The vaccine guards against nine different pathogenic threats.
Three cc syringe with 16 ga/1.25" needle. Vaccine dose is 3.5 cc.
Hanging spring scale. I'd get a digital but can't afford it at the rate I lose these things.
Scale hanging on the weighup strut attached to the truck. If you compare the scale in this image to the image above, you might notice a difference. There's a reason for that.
Weighup rope. Two slip knots for the calf legs and a carabiner to attach to the scale hook. That 'biner lifted me out of the feces once upon a time.
Bander with two elastic bands. These are used for castrating newborn bull calves.
Close view of the bander and bands.
Bander loaded and ready for application.
As you might imagine, the bander is used to apply an elastic, constricting band around the base of the scrotum. This cuts off blood flow to everything below the band, including testes and the skin of the scrotum. Starved of blood supply, the tissue dies within an hour or so and sloughs off within about six weeks. Aside from the initial discomfort, which doesn't seem to bother the calves very much, the process is painless and nearly stress free for the animal.

Now where was I?

Oh yeah, I'd just tagged (ear tag, vaccination, exam, castrate, weigh) Red, and turned my attentions to Baldy. His mama had been watching closely and wasn't exactly down with the whole business. So while I was reloading vaccine, band and ear tag, she got baby up and headed on down the trail.

Wasn't my first rodeo though, and following a liberal application of cow psychology and deft handling technique, I soon had Baldy in hand and the tagging process underway.

The cow raised her tail and headed over the hill to the south.

The "run away!" response is a little unusual in my experience, but it happens. Potentially it's a problem. Sometimes cows get so agitated and confused that they seem to forget whether they have a calf, and which calf it might be. In other words, sometimes the cow-calf bond can be broken. That's usually a bad thing.

Pair bond. With parturition (birth) the cow gets a dump of hormones which drive many physiologic changes. Those hormones turn on the milk flow and start decoupling the placenta. They also, along with genetic programming, cause her to begin vigorously licking the newborn. This stimulates the calf and encourages it to breathe on its own for the first time. As the cow licks and sniffs and nuzzles the calf, pheromones in the amniotic fluid and those exuded by the calf cause another flood of hormones which drive pair bonding.

So a few minutes after birth the pair are bonded and hormones are driving the cow's behavior, including the imperative to protect her calf.

By the time I began tagging Baldy, 2049 was in a quandary. She'd seen "bad stuff" happening to another calf. She chose to take her calf and flee, so the flight mode was already activated. When I caught her calf she was overwhelmed by the situation,and had to do something. Already in flight mode, she continued to flee to the safety of the herd.

In general, it's a good idea in such a situation to get the pair back together fairly quickly. So I finished up with Baldy, threw my equipment in the back of the truck, and turned back to the calf. My plan was to pick him up and follow mama. When she stopped running I'd drop the calf where she could see it and all would be well.

So, I turned around and... no calf. Baldy had hoofed it off to the north, into a sea of tall grass. Then, following his own instincts, he'd plonked himself down and gone quiet.

My backup plan was to drive over to the cow and tease her back in the direction of her calf. Good plan, if the cow cooperates. Still in flight mode, she didn't cooperate.

The sun had just set and the light was fading fast. A rain storm was moving in. Without mama poor little Baldy could become hypothermic in the night, could perhaps even be predated. But the cow was still in bat guano crazy mode, and the calf was in hiding. What to do?

The only real choice was to let nature take its course. Most likely mama would find Baldy and take care of him. If not, well, we'd just have to deal with that in the morning,

It was about then that I realized I'd lost the scale In my pursuit of the cow. It was somewhere out there in the tall grass.

Sigh. Such is the life of the master rancher.

The next morning...

I found Baldy and he was fine. Dry and warm and still in hunker down mode. Mama had obviously found him, he'd nursed again, and all was generally well.
Baldy the next morning. "Just doin' what I'm told, sir!"
Mama was still agitated and more than a little displeased with my presence.
Mama dingbat. If you read cow body language, she's saying "I HATE YOU."
So we were all good, except for my being out the fifty bucks for a new scale. Back to work.

Within a few hours the rain set in and cows began popping out calves. Not the best calving weather, 35 degrees and raining, with a 20 mph north breeze. But calves can take such conditions so long as they get up and nurse fairly quickly. Colostrum is wonderful stuff, packed with sugar and fat for energy and all kinds of immune factors and stimulants. There were a lot of wet calves, but they were all vigorous at birth and up and nursing within minutes.

By mid afternoon I was soaked, chilled, shivery, and my thermos was empty. I repaired to the Ranch Mansion for a bit of lunch and a good bollicking for bringing my filthy self inside. Warmed and energized (though still slightly damp and well chastised) and with a full bag of coffee, I set forth again. Much of the afternoon was a repeat of the morning.

At about 5 p.m. I checked on Baldy, still parked in the tall grass. He was wet, chilled and shivery. I stuck my finger in his mouth and was displeased to find it cold in there. He was developing hypothermia. I got him up on his pins and watched him defecate (take a dump/make poo-poo). Still green, not the yellowish color of digested colostrum. He'd either not nursed after all (less likely) or hypothermia had slowed his gut to a near standstill (more likely). And mama dingbat was a full mile away, grazing lush new grass. Not good enough.

I snatched up the mostly cooperative Baldy and installed him in the passenger seat of the truck. He was quiet and took the ride in stride, a sign that he was drawing down on energy reserves.
Baldy, bein' a big boy (and not shittin' all over my seats).
Within a few minutes I neared mama dingbat, who unsurprisingly, moved smartly off to keep a 150 yard buffer between herself and the master rancher and his hated conveyance.

I deposited Baldy on a grassy hummock in sight of mama dingbat and backed away. Mama continued to graze, ignoring the new arrival. So I rolled down the window and gave forth with my patented "calf bawling in distress" imitation. That did the trick.

As I left the pair alone Baldy was nursing hungrily, tail gyrating like mad. That's calf talk for "yum-yum-yum-more-more-more!" It's also one of the high value, non-monetary forms of remuneration for the master rancher.

One morning later...

I found mama dingbat and Baldy enjoying the sunshine. As I approached mama gave me a baleful glare and Baldy took the opportunity to hit the tanker.
Hangin' on the boom. Yes, cattle tank Air Force style. Kinda.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"I stood by my oath"

H/T to Phib over at the porch:

My poor words would not add and would mostly detract, so...

More here, here, here. Much more out there. All worth the time and effort. Except for wickedpedia*

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Corporal Tibor Rubin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period from July 23, 1950, to April 20, 1953, while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea. While his unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawing unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully.Following the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, the 8th Cavalry Regiment proceeded northward and advanced into North Korea. During the advance, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked his unit at Unsan, North Korea, during a massive nighttime assault. That night and throughout the next day, he manned a .30 caliber machine gun at the south end of the unit's line after three previous gunners became casualties. He continued to man his machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted. His determined stand slowed the pace of the enemy advance in his sector, permitting the remnants of his unit to retreat southward. As the battle raged, Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese. Choosing to remain in the prison camp despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary, Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp. His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners. Corporal Rubin's gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army."

* Nothing wrong with reading the wickedpedia entry, just put your brain in gear first and ask yourself whether the man is more important or the trendy narrative of oppressed victimhood. Keep in mind that the yo-yo's who run wickedpedia have never been anywhere or done anything or ever had an original thought. They mean well, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. As was the road the gute deutsche Volk prepared for Tibor Rubin, his family, and all of the untermensch Jews.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wanker Wednesday (Thursday Edition)

Who knew there were so many days?

Hunter T.7A

This is actually quite an interesting jet. Powered by the Rolls Royce Avon   RA.7 MK 121 with circa 7,300 lbs thrust, T.7A was fitted with IFIS and used by the RAF as a Buccaneer transition trainer. You (yes, YOU) can travel to the UK and fly this very jet. Check out the Hunter Flight Academy.

No cheesy music!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I don't get no respect


Reminded me of this:

There's some evidence that the lack of respect might be well deserved...

Calving is a great time of the year.

Even the burrowing owls are having calves.

This big bull weighed 140+ pounds! Normal is 70-90. Cow had him unassisted.
May your spring abound with zest and wonder.