Cleaning Stalls and Chasing Cows

After last night’s chilly weather, we had 4 pairs that were put in the cow barn to calve. Today it started warming up after 3 pm. At 6 I decided to go get some fresh air and clean the stalls. I enjoy cleaning stalls. I’m good at it, I find it relaxing, and it’s a nice little workout. Moreover, it’s something no one else here cares for and is one place where I can be really helpful.

A basic rundown of how I clean stalls.

The stall starts like this:

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I use a pitchfork and first scoop out the big things like the poop and afterbirth. Then I rake all the straw into the center.

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I pull the cart close and load up everything then tote it outside to dump.

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That’s it. I try to get them as clean as I can. If we had cement floors I could get them cleaner, but the dirt floors are more accommodating to cattle. The cow barn has potential to be one of the places with most germs and bacteria. Because of this, it is important that when a calf is pulled, the first thing after it is breathing is to spray the navel with iodine (we use 7% from our vet clinic). If the stall floor is wet or moist, we use the other stalls until it is dry.

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We haven’t been having as many calves the last couple days, most likely because of cool weather, or we could just be hitting a lull in the calving. My husband went to bed at 11:00 tonight and I went to check heavies at 11:30. Ranching law has it that he can’t just go to sleep un-interrupted.

I came across an old cow trying to claim a heifer’s calf. The cow was dead set on claiming the calf and wouldn’t let the heifer within 20 feet of her. Cows will claim other’s calves when they are about to calve themselves. I was worried she would take the calf off with her to calve, then abandon it after she had her own calf. I didn’t want the calf cold, hungry, and alone all night (especially since I just chased a coyote out of the calving lot). I couldn’t discourage the cow to leave the calf so I went to wake up my husband.

Sleepily, he got out of bed and got dressed to help me. He said I needed tact of a man…..

He grabbed a cattle prod as we headed out the door into the calving lot. We pulled up to the cow and my husband got out instructing me to drive. By the time I got the pickup turned around all I saw was a spotlight shaking wildly on a mad dashing cow and calf, my husband waving a cattle prod running as fast as he could on foot through the darkness of the calving lot. It looked anything but organized.

I floored the pickup to catch up and the cow made a turn into a group of cows along the fence. Another cow/calf pair was there and she let out a crazy cow moo as she saw the spectacle that was headed her way. Cows and calves started scattering every direction.

The calf got separated from the old cow and we ran her through the gate. Almost to the pen, she turned and got by my husband who was screaming at me to stop her. I went to slam the pickup into reverse and the gear shifter stuck on me. She got by us back into the calving lot.

I picked up my husband and we went to start over again. Maybe we need more man tact….

Second try went a little better. This time my husband was driving and when we got her through the gate I practically rolled out of the door of the pickup (he couldn’t stop) to shut the gate to the calving lot as we went by.

Remember the post I made a couple days ago about my husband’s magical fence fixing skills (Calving Lot Fences)???? He fixed the dang gate and made it too tight!

When a cow gets by you once, it makes it that much harder to work her the second time. She came sprinting back again (apparently my husband has a hard time with reverse too). I was in a mad panic to shut the gate and could faintly see her dashing towards me. I dropped the spot light and managed to get the gate stick into the bottom loop of the gate and was trying to latch it but it was too tight! I was praying that she wouldn’t just try to run through the gate, flinging me with it, and tangling us both up in it. Prodless and shovel-less (I missed my shovel a lot at this point), I used the only method to deter her I had and snatched up the spotlight and started flashing it on and off her face so she couldn’t see.

It worked and she turned and ran the other way as my husband followed her into the pen and shut her up.

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Time for some time-out cow. Boo-yeah.

I am glad we can laugh about these things when they’re over. Now it’s 1:30 am and I’m getting ready to do one last check of the heavies. I just really hope she’s calved because I would hate to take an already excited cow and have to run her into the corrals to pull a calf. Wish me luck!

The victims:

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