We’ve been having an incredibly warm winter thus far – there has only been one day below zero here at the ranch. There have been a few days in the 50s in January! I hadn’t been feeding hay to the older cows – just letting them graze on the dry grass, with some lick supplement for extra protein and energy.
This week is looking more like what we expect: there has been a little snow, and temperatures into the single digits. I’ve begun feeding all the cattle as much hay as they want. We still haven’t had a real bout of arctic cold.
My son-in-law, Phil Veltkamp, runs a feedlot over in the Gallatin Valley, west of Bozeman. It was during one of those really cold snaps that he penned the following:
"The Perfect Winter Day"
You wake up early, start a pot of coffee, and glance out the window to notice a dusting of snow has fallen in the night. You check the thermometer, it reads 10 below. You throw another log on the fire so that when the kids get up the house will be warm.
You fill a thermos with coffee, bundle up and head out into the cold. It's quiet and still. You look up to see stars too numerous to count. There is a bite on your cheek because of the cold, but you kind of like it.
You head over to start the feeding equipment. You're not worried about it starting. You planned for this cold snap. You plugged the equipment in last night and put plenty of #1 in the diesel tanks.
By this time the help is starting to show up. You have good help - really good help. You do your best to take care of them because, they take care of you.
You load up your first load of feed and head into the feedlot. By this time the sun is just coming up. The cattle hear the diesel engines and start to stir in their fresh bedding piles. You bedded heavy the day before because you saw this cold front coming. The sun hits the black hides of the cattle and the steam rolls off them as they head to the bunks. The feedlot is full. That's a good thing. It needs to be full in order to pay the bills.
The quiet morning turns into the hustle and bustle of the day. One of your help runs the other mixer wagon. Your pen rider just saddled a horse and heads deep into the first pen to check for health problems. She's good at it. You'd give her a raise if you could afford it. You have several loads of hay show up that need to be unloaded. A load of bawling calves show up that need to be processed. You have to get the feeding done because the vet is going to be here early afternoon to bangs vaccinate a pen of replacement heifers. The day is busy, and you're in charge.
You take a moment to be thankful for the health and strength to do this job you love and hope all the winter days are as perfect as this one.