Heifer calving has begun, right along with the cold wintery weather. So it's time to do whatever it takes to keep these babies alive.
The big equipment was brought out to clear paths, break up snow, create wind breaks and bring in warm bedding.
Last night the wind blew and temperatures dropped to almost zero. Tonight it is predicted to drop well below zero. So it's all hands on deck to prepare as much as possible.
It's a pretty rough start on these babies when they are dropped in the snow and cold. We do all we can to help them out.
There is the truck transport. Of course a load of dogs to assist.
If the calves get too cold, they are transported to this calf heater, or a tub with a heat lamp and when that fills up, they are brought to my house and lined up in front of the wood stove. I haven't had them in the house yet this year, but I'm sure it will happen.
The snow we had drifted, not like the snow that is seen in other parts of the country, but still plenty to freeze a calf.
We not only are taking care of the heifers, but we have other cattle to tend to as well. This herd should be out on the desert range by now, but there is too much snow. They are still in the fields and are being supplemented with protein block.
I'm sure there will be plenty more calving pictures in the weeks ahead. Wish us luck.
We have been in a drought for longer than I can accurately say. Lately we have gotten some moisture, and as much of a pain as it is, and the muddy mess it's created, none of us are complaining.
Well that's not entirely true, This morning we had to gather the cows out of the field and it was like skating on ice. For some reason, my horse seemed to have more trouble walking on it than all the others. So I believe there may have been a little complaining on my part.
It's been a little cold. But also so beautiful.
Whenever we get the chance to chase cows on the weekends we do. This gives our youngest cowboys and cowgirls the chance to come along. And let me tell you, they are tough. No complaining from them.
We took the cows from the fields at the ranch, up and over the hills and into the next valley, where they will spend the rest of the winter.
I'm not riding much these days, as my priorities have changed now that I'm a grandma of two little girls. But it won't be long before we have them out on the range with us.
It was great to be able to go along this day.
Below are a couple more "cold morning picture from the feedlot"
We went from warm fall weather to winter like weather. We even got a little snow!
I may not be excited about the cold weather, but the snow is a sight for sore eyes.
First, it was just cold wind. Not a pleasant day to move the heifers.
The cold day didn't stop this young cowboy from saddling up and helping his dad.
Then the weather got colder, and we got a little snow. The cowboys still work, no matter the weather. Today they were sorting replacement heifers in the feedlot.
I should also mention that the day before this was windy, snowy and cold and they were preg-checking cows. They are tough. I was lucky enough to stay home.
Just for the record, I drove down to the feedlot for these pictures. I wasn't actually working in the cold. I know, kind of cheating. Don't kid yourself though, I have been there, done that. It's just my time for a slower pace. (whenever possible)
They look through all the heifers and choose the best ones. They look at the overall conformation, size and breed of the calves.
The boss was sorting them. He seems to be concentrating pretty hard.
Of course Clay has some say in the choosing of the replacements as well.. He has a good eye.
A good dog is always helpful.
A good horse is also essential.
The calves are doing great and growing fast.
I'm going to keep hoping for more snow.
I started this blog back in September of 2014, but I wasn't sure where I was going with it.
I used to post a lot more frequently than I do now, mostly because I don't work with the crew as much. I am fortunate enough to have taken a less active role in the hard work, thanks to our wonderful crew and our sons.
Recently, I was contacted by a stranger who had seen some of my photograph cards at a local shop. He grabbed my business card, and I agreed to meet with him. He enjoyed the pictures from my blog, and encouraged me to keep posting. "The blog is a diary," he said. "It shows change, as well as the endless cycle of [our] work." He wrote an article about me, which humbled me and made me realize just how special the life we lead is. Here is what he wrote:
High Desert Ranch Wife
Story by Andy Romanoff — Pictures by Tana Baker
Once you leave Hinckley Utah you’re pretty much on your own till you come to the Borderline Casino ninety miles later. I’d been driving for hours on deserted two-lane without passing any signs of life along the way. It’s the kind of road where if you stop to pee you can just let loose anywhere cause no one’s going to see you anyway. Darcy and I were on our way to Great Basin National Park and a motel nearby, but first, we were making a stop in Baker to pick up some supplies.
Baker Nevada is a bend in the road on hwy 487. It’s what’s called a census-designated place, only about 70 people living in a small cluster of homes and a couple of stores. Among them is the Bristlecone General Store, where we stop for food and conversation. And poking around the place I glance at a rack of business cards and spot one that says; High Desert Ranch Wife Photography.
Flipping it over I read; Photos of a real working ranch -- Tana Baker, the real working ranch wife, and there’s a website. Well you know I have to check that out.
Now let’s take a minute here to make it clear how far we are from everything as I’m looking at this card. The nearest town is probably Ely, about 60 miles away. Salt Lake is a modest 229 miles; Carson City is 320 miles if you head in the other direction. So we are not just nowhere, we are in the center of nowhere. And somewhere out here a person named Tana Baker is taking pictures of her life on a cattle ranch and putting them up on a website to show the world. And Tana is not just spending a week or two shooting pictures on the ranch, she’s been telling this story for years. She is living her life in the middle of her story.
For the most part, Tana is not offering us Life magazine photography — the herd and the cowboys beautifully photographed from the edge of the action. Instead, her pictures have been made while riding with the herd; she shows us what it’s like to be in the middle of the work and she shows us what happens in the in-between moments when most people would put their cameras away. That’s different.
What else is different is all the things she shows you about cattle ranching, the parts that most stories leave out. There is dust and heat of course — or snow if you wait a few months, and there are cowboys and cowgirls doing hard things so we can eat a cheap burger. Because one thing that Tana does is make it clear that this is not an easy life. She shows you the details, the hundred little things she sees, and that is what makes this more than a simple essay. One thing I love is that her blog takes you back through the years. As I click through the pages I start to see the rhythms of her life out here, calving and moving herds to pasture, the culling of the weak and the accepting dependence on weather. This is an older way of living she is showing us. One more bound to the cycles of life then we can easily experience in the city.
And one more thing I love is her comments, interspersed between the photos. They are so directly about what she is photographing and its importance to life on the ranch. Weather has life or death meaning, water isn’t a given, her horse so much a part of what she does that she writes … “I always try to include some of my horse in the picture so I can remember who I was riding that day … ”The heifers hunkered down in the ditch to stay warm” … and this which says a lot about the reality of taking these pictures … “I should remind you that every time I take a picture I have to take my glove off, and it never fails, at least once in the day I drop it. I should explain how big of a deal dropping my glove is. For one thing, I am wearing about 42 layers of clothes and warm boots. I also ride a VERY tall horse and for those of you that don’t know me, I am a whopping 5 foot 4. So getting off and back on does have its challenges.”…
It’s not all pretty what she pictures. Corresponding back and forth with Tana at one point she writes to me, “I want to warn you now about some of the things you are going to see. If the sight of animals being roped and thrown to the ground so that they can be tagged or castration or a hundred other things that happen as part of ranching better to move on to the next story” and she’s right of course. But that’s neither the focus nor the point of these pictures; it’s just part of her life and she shows it.
So there you have it, a most unlikely story found in a most unlikely place. I went looking for dark night skies and instead found pictures made by someone far from the photographic world and city life, pictures that are worth looking at and thinking about.
I wonder if there isn’t a gallery owner somewhere who might want to recognize this work and get Tana to mount a show. It’s iPhone photography but it harkens back to the beginnings of photography when people went around the world making pictures to bring the unseen to the rest of us. Better yet some book publisher should explore the story that could be made from all this but I’ll leave it to them to get on with it. For me I’m just glad that Tana Baker has taken the time to show me what her world feels like.
Tana Baker - High Desert Ranch Wife Photography - https://www.highdesertranchwife.com/
Story by Andy Romanoff
Pictures at https://andyromanoff.zenfolio.com/
Writing at https://medium.com/stories-ive-been-meaning-to-tell-you
YouTube Channel at Youtube
My blog has shown the wet years and the dry.
It has shown the cold snowy winters and saving calves from freezing.
It's recorded our unconventional ways of "fixing" things.
I have recorded our compassion and love for our animals.
The blog is a record of the harsh climate and weather conditions we endure.
I have recorded our children growing and learning.
My blog records the journey over the same trails year after year. The changes in vegetation and even the color of the cow herd.
After having a story written about us and what we do, I have come to appreciate it even more. I plan on sharing our life's journey more in the future.
Also, I hope to figure out how to link a page to this blog so anyone who wishes can purchase my cards or photos.
Thank you to all who read my blog.
Wow, I can not believe I haven't posted since February. Time really flies. I think my lack of blogging may be due to the fact, that this drought is just sad and demoralizing. The dust and wind never end.
February led to March and we moved cows on the dry desert. We decreased the number of cows that we wintered out this year. The ones we had out did surprisingly well.
We got a skiff of snow on the range in April, and it was pretty cold for most of the month.
April led into May. It was time to bring the cattle home and get the calves processed.
We had a great branding crew again this year.
More branding pictures at: https://www.facebook.com/highdesertranchwife/
Along with getting all the calves processed in May, we also AI, (artificially inseminate ), our heifers.
Then just like that it was June. I don't think I even took a picture. I'm sure the cowboys were busy.
And now it's July. We started weaning early this year. The cowboys start well before the sun is up to beat the heat.
I've enjoyed taking these early morning pictures.
In September we will start preg-checking and unfortunately we will probably have to sell more cows.
We have great help in training.
Keep praying for rain.
Finally, we have gotten some snow. Our dry land needs this so badly.
The heifers hunkered down in the ditch to stay warm.
This little guy looks a little grumpy about the weather.
The weather doesn't stop the work from going forward. It's shipping day.
The heifers don't stop calving just because it storms. In fact, they seem to need more help.
The snow is beautiful and we are so grateful for it.
Our friendly Bald Eagle keeps an eye on us.
The cold and snow isn't fun at the moment, but we'll take it.
Yes, this was January 2021. It was dry and dusty. We were moving cows on the North range.
What a dry dusty year it started out to be, and continued on that way.
February; The heifers were calving.
We got just a tiny bit of snow. All and all we had pretty good calving weather, even though we could have really used more moisture.
The days still got a little chilly and the desert was sparse.
Cattle on the desert in March.
Mid March we got a small amount of snow. We moved cows to new pasture.
March weather was unusually warm. Poor Gaucho.
We had an early branding in April.
It was kind of a cool day and we had a dusting of snow on the mountain.
In May we had more brandings. It was dusty.
In June we took some time to enjoy our family.
In July we weaned our calves. We weaned early this year due the drought and lack of feed.
We took a little time to do some relaxing and exploring.
On August first we had an unexpected rainstorm, causing some flash flooding.
In August we had early morning starts as we finished the weaning and sorted through our cow herds, weeding out the old and toothless cows.
In September we just tried to keep cows in feed, alternating meadows and fields.
In October we had a cold snap with even some mountain snow. It didn't calm down the dust for very long though. We moved cows onto new feed.
The vet came and preg checked our cows. We vaccinated and dewormed them.
Some really cool dude and his dog were out on the prairie in November.
We took our first desert herd out to the range for the winter.
Now it's December. We brought the heifers home from the Parker Place out North and from the Flat. We waited to bring them home until we had a good strong head wind. It was a bit cold.
I also got a new pony this year. I will train her like a big horse and get her ready for my grand babies.
We'll see how she does in 2022.
Here's hoping the new year will be a good one. Stay tuned.
As I've mentioned before, we are in a terrible drought. This means we have no choice but to thin down our cow herd numbers. One way we are doing that is by mouthing, (checking teeth), in our cow herd, at least in the older cows. If they don't have good teeth, then they won't be able to graze well, especially where the feed is more scarce and short.
We catch the cows in the chute, the cowboys look at their teeth. This isn't as easy as it sounds. The cows aren't always very willing to say "cheese".
The cows are loaded into the chute by a cowboy on horse back. This takes a good horse and a skilled and quiet hand.
The cows that, "make the cut" are turned back in to the meadow.
The old girls with no teeth, or poor teeth, are loaded on a truck and will be sold. I know it sounds cruel, but it isn't. It would be worse to see an old cow starving all winter because she doesn't have teeth to eat.
This was last month, and still very hot out, so we always started in the early morning. And of course in the dust.
We have started the next step in thinning the herd. We are preg-checking. The vet comes out and checks every cow to make sure she is pregnant. If not, she too gets sent down the road. It's just the way life is on the ranch.
Stay tuned for pictures of this process.
Wow, I can not believe I have not posted since March. It has been a hard, hectic, rushed and really tough spring and summer. Our continuous drought has made things very stressful here on the ranch. We have pushed ahead most of our work as much as possible. We started our branding in April, and brought cows off the range as early as we could. We had to wait until a little grass grew in the meadows. And now we have already weaned. Unfortunately, due to the drought we are forced to sell some cows this year. That is hard on ranchers, who have spent years and years building a herd of cows they are proud of and also attached to. We all have our favorites in the herd and we may see some of them head down the road this year.
We came off the desert in April and May. It was a dusty and dry spring, which has continued on throughout the summer.
We spent several weeks with several hard days gathering cows off of the desert range. Some cows found a little feed high on the hills and hiding in canyons and gullies.
We had our first branding in April. After last year not being able to have gatherings, this was great fun for everyone.
Branding season went well. It was great to see our friends again.
We have such a great bunch of friends, and they are such terrific help.
We moved cows and heifers often trying to make the feed last and not over graze any one meadow.
It's always exciting to see a stream of water.
It has been brutally hot, so the cowboys start every morning before sun up.
We just finished weaning our calves. This is usually started in a few weeks, but due to lack of feed and water, we needed to get calves off the cows sooner. Then we will sort through our cows and sell anything that is old, broken mouthed, (no teeth), poor udders or injured in anyway.
Weaning is over. It is always bitter sweet. The cows and calves adjust quickly.
And now the tough decisions are ahead.
Pray for rain.
We have been in a terrible drought, so the site of a little snow in March made us all very happy.
Some days we are lucky enough to get some extra help with the cattle. Future cow boss right here.
Spring means new babies!
We have been moving our cows onto spring range.
The cowboys and cowgirls, are working hard. But maybe the horses are working the hardest of all.
This photo was taken by my daughter in law. What a gorgeous site. We really love and value our horses.