Keeping a sharp eye out for the bright side |

Keeping a sharp eye out for the bright side

by Marie Johnson

And a Happy New Year to you too. The old blue feed-truck is up and running. After replacing the transmission, drive-line, fuel filter and putting 27 shiny bolts into the sheet-metal-fabricated-floor under the gas pedal, my live-in handyman made that truck almost as good as new. Still a little trouble with the carburetor though, but hey, it is a brand new year. One should look at the bright side.

Received a holiday card from one of the cowboys involved with our ranch over the years. John, who sold us the bay mare, now long gone, sent a card writing, “This last year, it’s been pretty good at the H Ranch. The weather and cattle market have been ideal.”

He continued writing the ranch he leased had been sold to tree-farmers, but half of the ranch won’t support trees so he got hired back to build fences to keep cattle from the trees and leased back the rest of the ranch. He is looking at the bright-side.

Good cattle prices make it easier to get up and load hay in the cold. Bright-side. But if you don’t get to work out in the snow you can drive a little up the mountain to see snow almost covering the top of the fenceposts along the highway, it could be a great snow pack. Water worries may not be a problem this year. A bright-side thought while shoveling out mangers and breaking trough ice.

Snow at our place is heavily tracked up by animals looking for grass, seed, or anything for feed. Mice are hiding in the hay. Coyote tracks show where their best hiding spots were. Small birds share low bushes with the neighborhood rabbits, but neither care too much for the owls nesting above in the pole barn. Hawks living high in the trees display soaring on blue-sky days, taking their time picking up breakfast, lunch or dinner all over the ranch. Everyone seems to be dining well.

The new calves are eating well too. A few cases of scours need to be watched. Mothers with plenty of milk can have the disease set in quick. These calves came early this year because the bull we sold last fall was a tenacious fellow. He never saw barriers only opportunities. So his calves came in mild fall weather. I figured the chances of 100 percent calf survival rate would be good. But no, already lost one.

He was up when checked while feeding, but he did look a little off. Hunched back, a sign of stress, so knew to watch him. But the day he was found lying down and had to be carried into the mud room was his last. Maybe if had drenched him a day sooner. Maybe should have given him a shot of LA200 sooner, maybe, maybe, maybe. It’s a new year, should look for a bright-side.

Keeping a close watch on the remaining calves. New little black No. 117 has a dirty backside, the green smear mark of scours. But he is standing up, alert and watching me close. If I have trouble catching him it will be a good sign that he will be fine. Always a lot going on, it is best to keep a sharp eye open while looking for the bright side.

Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley cattle rancher.