Young bulls in waiting,
waiting for spring, and heifers,
and life to go on.
Today, we are “springing forward” in time. The transitions back and forth between Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time are always jolting. I think it’s harder than one hour jet lag because the environmental clues of sunshine and shadows don’t change. We are close to the Equinox, when daylight and nighttime hours are approximately equal. This change is subtle but real. It reflects the wheeling of the earth, sun and stars. The measurement of time is a human construct, to give us a path to capturing the vast reality of our journey through the universe. The ancients built pyramids and Stonehenge to chart this course.
We are finally, I hope, making the transition from Winter to False (or Almost) Spring. A few days ago, we woke up to zero degrees, again. For the last two or three days, daytime temperatures have been above freezing–even as high as a balmy 40 degrees! We are moving from snow everywhere to snow most everywhere, interspersed with mud. We have lots of little lambs on the ground at Powder Flat. Most of the ewes are still in the Big Horn Basin, but we are seeing the light at the end of the snow tunnel and hope to bring them home soon. Most of the cows are in Nebraska and Laramie, but we are waiting for the day when conditions improve so they can come home too. The young bulls are hanging out at Powder Flat with the early lambers. Roma poet Virgil: “fugit inreparabile tempus”, which means “it escapes, irretrievable time”.
It’s almost time for the bulls to seek romance with the cows. The highlight of the year comes just before the summer solstice, when their long months of waiting are at an end, and they get to hang out with comely cows in the beautiful Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests. What more could a bull want?
The time has come to shear the early lambers. We raise our own bucks out of our purebred Hampshire and Rambouillet ewes. These girls lamb in late February and March, so we like to get their wool off before lambing is well underway. Of course, we have some babies on the ground already.
The shearing crew showed up right on time–well maybe a couple of days late due to weather, but that is actually on time. We had to haul the shed into the Powder Flat Headquarters with a tractor due to mud. We managed to get a half day in, and shear most of the whitefaces. We were ready to start bright and early the next morning, but…fog, in February. This meant that the ewes in the wool were, not exactly wet, since it was 17 degrees, but frosted. We knew that with some sun, and maybe a breeze, they would be dry enough, after lunch, to start shearing. But no. The fog didn’t burn off until afternoon, and the air was absolutely still. Finally Meghan said, “I’m calling it. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
Eamon is working on his pilot’s license, so he decided to combine business with education. Eamon, Pat, McCoy and Eamon’s flight instructor, Ryan, flew to Texas to shop for bulls and to Nebraska to check on our heifers that are wintering there.
It is time to chose our future bulls out of the contenders. The bull calves have grown out, and we looked at them with a critical eye. The best of them will grow up to be bulls and to sire our future calves. It was a big day for them, since they also had to leave their mamas and be weaned. As you can see, we finally have snow on the ground and temperatures have dropped–a lot!
It’s that time of year. In order for our calves to be born in a timely manner next spring, the cows must become pregnant now, or soon. Most of them will manage this in the traditional way, which involves a close, if brief, relationship with a bull–preferably one of our choosing. Some of the cows will have a close encounter with a straw of bull semen. What this encounter lacks in romance it makes up for in the quality of the afore-mentioned semen. Artificial insemination allows us to breed the cows to bulls which have been carefully selected for characteristics we like, while not having to buy and support very high-priced bulls. If, for some reason, the cows do not respond to the attention of Adam, Megan and Hallie–well–there’s always the actual bulls who are willing to work to ensure a spring calf crop!