It's official. We are now officially in a drought. It's been obvious for some time now. Except for a few teasers... you know where it starts to rain and you get all excited and then you turn around and it's done, I cannot remember the last time it rained. We had 1 minute and 47 seconds of rain today - not even enough to hardly wet the driveway, let alone moisten the parched ground. Look at the grass in Big Guy's pasture! Crispy fried, like it's late August or something. The only good news is that I haven't had to mow in almost two weeks (but it's on my agenda for tomorrow).
But look at him!!! We're nearing the end of antler growth. Another month and a half and they'll be hardening up in preparation for the rut. I love how symmetrical Big Guy's antlers are. They are just so impressive. I hadn't seen him in about four days, so I was glad he decided to say "hi" today.
And this girl? Well, she's still trying to recover from her ordeal. Now she's fighting a bit of infection, so the vet wants me to medicate her every day for a week. The first two days were a bit awkward, but I think we've finally figured it out. My chute is an elk chute... not quite made for such diminutive creatures.
Our first issue was that yak have some of the thickest, toughest hide I have ever tried to put a needle through! Wowza! At first I was trying to give her the injection in the muscle of her hip because I simply couldn't immobilize her head enough to allow me to do it under the skin behind her shoulder, but it was so dang hard to get the needle in, it was a huge ordeal every time I had to inject her... and, of course, the dose is big enough it has to go in two separate jabs. I finally realized if I raise the chute up a bit and then close it all the way, I can pretty much completely envelope her and safely get her doctored up. A little grain helps too. Here she's asking me, "You sure you don't want to jab me again? I could use a bit more of that grain."
I am just astounded at how quickly these babies grow! And they are so much more willing to come out than Little Girl was last year. She was a bit of a scaredy cat - still is, truth be told, but not these two. They listen if mama says they should move away from me, but it doesn't seem like they're really scared of me.
But that doesn't mean I'm getting up right next to them or anything. If I zoom in on my camera, I can see quite a bit, but it's still tricky to determine gender at this point, at least it is for me. I think we might have a boy and a girl for the first two. I've still only seen 602's baby from way far off, but I did see it this morning at least.
Not sure if 603 will grace me with fourth baby, but I can't say for sure she won't! Fingers crossed. And 100, my other yak cow, looks like she might be starting to bag up. Her udder seemed just a bit less floppy today. ;-)
As you might imagine, things are crazy busy for me. There is always ten times more to do than I have time for, but I just keep plodding along! I picked these roses tonight to crystallize tomorrow since I expect my dehydrator to finally be empty in the morning. That thing runs 24-7 this time of year. I've got strawberries to process, cheese presses to make, and plants to water. So. Many. Plants. To. Water. Boy, do we need some rain. I sure would like this drought to end. Officially.
It feels like I'm seeing our elk babies more often, earlier than I did last year. I'm not sure if it's just my perception or if that's really the case, but it seems like they're hiding less than Little Girl did last year. Maybe it's because there is more than one calf this year. Maybe it's because one of our cows is now an experienced mama. Or maybe I'm just more patient now that it's not my first go round.
The other night, as I was walking past the pasture after finishing my work up for the day, I could see 604 back in the corner of the pasture with both young calves (and Little Girl) while the other cows were out grazing. It was too far for a picture with my phone, so I just watched for a while before heading up for the house.
Just a little bit later, I looked out my kitchen window and saw that everyone came out to the buckets together! I ran to get my big camera and document the occasion. It's still a long way - thus the pictures aren't great - but you can get a nice peek at those two little calves.
The whole herd hung out for a while, both calves nursed, and the calves wandered around a bit. They're pretty steady on their legs now. I've occasionally caught glimpses of them doing the zoomies out in the pasture, but never for long enough to get a video yet. I look forward to watching them play together before too long!
And then I saw the hand off. 604 had done her time babysitting. Now it was 601's turn. She called the kids and they both got up and followed her dutifully. "Come on, kids, it's time to go!"
In the next photo, you can see 604 in the back left, and in the back right, you see 601 taking the kids off to go rest. I love watching the family/herd dynamics in this group.
Sometimes, I think we anthropomorphize animals too much, and then sometimes I realize that us animals are really all the same deep down. It takes a village! :-)
It was a heckuva 24 hours. It started with this girl going into labor. It seemed like birth was imminent yesterday around 2 pm, so I set in to watch. It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to have that privilege, so I waited, camera in hand. But nothing ever came. There was no amniotic sack and no feet, so I figured it was all just stage 1 "preparatory labor." I'm not prepared to tell you the whole story tonight, but suffice to say, things finally came to a head around 11 pm.
While waiting with 93 while she labored, it got dark, and I turned the big spotlight on the paddock. The elk were a bit disturbed by this and were chatting loudly amongst themselves and then coming by the fence looking very curious about what was going on with that poor yak cow.
And then I noticed 604 was walking laps around the pasture. And then they became more purposeful and I could see she was panting and I knew! She was in labor too!
Sadly, shortly before midnight, I realized the yak cow had an abnormal presentation when she finally let me get close enough to palpate the amniotic sack. And then I simultaneously realized the calf was already dead. It was a strange deal, the calf already being dead because the presentation wasn't difficult to correct when I helped her deliver her stillborn calf. It's hard to deal with the death of what you expected to be a joyful occasion but then to not understand exactly why it happened makes it more so.
I think I probably made it to sleep around 2 am and then my boy woke me up at his customary 6:30 wake up time, but I was awake! I wanted to go check on my girls. How was 93? Had 604 had her calf yet? 93 seemed pretty good and 604 was still walking the fence.
Around 9 am, I saw that 604 had stopped pacing, so I went to see how things were going, and I could see feet sticking out, which was such a relief! Then I decided it was time to see if I could catch a peek of 601's calf. It had been over two days since I had seen it and I like proof of life occasionally!
That's when 601 and I began to play the hot/cold game. She was in one pasture up against the fence and so I closed the neighboring pasture off so I could get closer. As I moved, I could get a feel for whether I was getting closer (hotter) or farther (colder) from her calf by how she reacted. When she acted like she wanted to charge at me, I knew I was getting close!
It soon became apparent that the calf was in the pasture I was in while mama was stuck in the other pasture, so I took a little extra time trying to find that calf, watching mama's reaction the whole time. There were a few times it was clear I was close, but can you believe - I never did see that little thing. I finally gave up and went up to the house. I was in the back yard when I suddenly saw her calf headed across the pasture toward his/her mama. I must have practically tripped on it!! They're such good hiders!
Around 11:30, my neighbor came by to pick up the calf's body to bury it for me. While we were chatting during the exchange, I looked over and - low and behold - 604 had just had her calf!! Talk about the juxtaposition of life and death.
604 and her baby are doing great. I can't believe we have TWO elk calves... at the same time! And I'm confident we have at least one more coming. 93 is still struggling a bit trying to pass the afterbirth, but the vet doesn't seem too concerned. I wish that little yak bull had made it; I hope that the other yak cow has a successful birth soon... I'd sure love to enjoy a little yak calf running around in addition to the elk calves. But that's the nature of it all. Farming. Life. The whole bit. The Lord gives and the Lord taketh away, but it's all blessed and beautiful.