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Ranching in the Nicola Valley.

A day in the life at a local ranch; 8 Mile Ranch/Calton Cattle Co.

“If I get into a wreck can I call you? I already have a one in the house.” Corena

Anything can happen when your ranching in the Nicola Valley. I spent my day helping out at my friends at 8 Mile Ranch/Calton Cattle Co. while some calves were being born. Then I get to share that experience with all of you through blogging with Experience Nicola Valley.

I got the text about 9 am.

” Good morning Gerry has to go to Kamloops later this morning. If I get into a wreck can I call you? I already have a one in the house.” Corena @Calton Cattle Co.

frozen Calf warm kitchen

Photo credit Corena @Calton Cattle Co.

Getting Ready.

Oh my gosh, how exciting. I texted back right away ” Yes, I can absolutely come by if you need me.” I didn’t hear back right away. Then I got to thinking, what if something is going on right now and they can’t answer the phone. Well, I better get over there and see if there was anything they needed help with. Ranching in the Nicola Valley or anywhere can be full of surprises.
So I bundled up because the weather was a balmy -27 degrees.

freezing temp bundle up ranching life

Getting ready to go out in -27 to help friends with calving.

At the Ranch.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley of course always includes feeding. When I got to there everything looked good. Gerry and Corena a were out feeding and checking heifers to make sure there were no more calving at the moment. I walked out to meet up with Corena and chat with her to find out how things were going.

Back at the House.

She explained that Gerry had found the calf this morning looking like a little frost ball. With temperatures being so low they brought the calf in to warm up a bit. So, we headed over to the house to see how the little guy was doing.

Calf in the kitchen.

We walked in and in this big black tub was the cutest little baby calf. I have to admit I will never tire of seeing these little miracles. He was all dried off and getting ready to head back out to see mom and get some more food. Corena had already given him a bottle of colostrum to make sure he has the best start possible. I love ranching in the Nicola Valley.

calf, house, warm, cattle dog

Blue the ranch dog watching over “his” baby.

After taking a torch to melt all the snow and ice off of the trailer hitch, we got the it hooked up to the side by side then got ready to take this little one back to his momma. The tub wasn’t as heavy as I thought it was going to be. But with this little one standing up we had to be careful to have the weight distributed evenly while we carried him out to the trailer. Meanwhile, Buddy is keeping a close eye on what we are doing.

ranch dog border collie

Buddy watching us get the trailer ready.

Momma.

Once in the trailer we slowly hauled the little calf over to the pen his momma was in. She was still calling for him. It amazes me how when ranching in the Nicola Valley or on any ranch the cows and calves each have a distinct call so they know the sound of each other. Yet, to me they almost all sound the same.

Reuniting Calf with Momma.

We carried the tub into the edge of the paddock and set it down. Momma was getting a little agitated so we worked quickly to get the calf standing up and walked the calf into the paddock where mom could sniff, lick and talk to the calf to make sure it was hers. We watched to make sure Momma wouldn’t push baby away and that she would accept him back.

heifer calf reunited on the ranch

Heifer reunited with her calf

Quick check around paddock.

While we were waiting Corena suggested we take a look around the back paddocks to see how the other heifers were doing back there. While we were checking she mentioned to be careful of one of them as it wasn’t very friendly. We took a look around and all looked good so we went back and checked on baby and momma again. While I was watching and of course taking photos, Corena was blow torching the water trough to melt the pipes so it could be filled up again. In these temperatures everything freezes.

freezing water torch thaw fill trough

Thawing water lines to fill troughs.

Once we had the water filled we rechecked on Momma and the calf. They seemed to be doing okay at this point so we left them alone to bond.

Heading back to the house.

Just before we were going to head back to the house we thought it would be a good idea to have one more check. Things can change in a second when your ranching in the Nicola Valley. As we go around the corner of the lean-to Corena notices the heifer she warned me about earlier just had a calf. We went into the lean-to to watch through some peak holes. We had to make sure the mother was cleaning the little one off. She seemed like she wanted nothing to do with the calf. She would lick it once or twice then walk away.

new mother heifer calf freezing ranch life

Heifer with new calf and not interested in it yet.

Spring into action.

Corena went into the next pen and tried to rouse the mother into action by giving the new calf a little push. We thought it was going to work. Nope she again licked it once or twice again and walked away.

It was time to step in before the calf froze. We worked together to get the mom out of the pen (which didn’t take much). Then grabbing the big black tub we had just used we got the new calf up to load into it.

Calves don’t look that heavy. But it sure felt heavy when it’s not in the tub. Corena took one side and I the other. Together we lifted the new calf into the black tub. We carried the calf and tub out to the trailer and loaded it up to take back to the house. I was walking behind the trailer hanging on to the tub to make sure it didn’t slide out.
The calf was shivering so I took my jacket off and layed it over the calf. Once at the house we got the tub inside and Corena got warm towels from the dryer to lay over the calf. We spent the next half hour switching warm towels and drying off the calf.

warming calf cold farm life

Warming calf with heated towels from the dryer.

As I finished drying calf off Corena was getting a bottle of colostrum ready for baby.

Colostrum.

Colostrum is a very rich milk, the first milk that comes from the mothers. It is full of antioxidants that help protect the new calf against diseases.
Now that baby seamed to be a little perkier it was time to try feeding.

Feeding Time.

When you are ranching in the Nicola Valley one of the things you have to learn is how to feed new calves.
You would think that calves would automatically start sucking and it will be just that easy to stick a bottle in it’s mouth.
That’s not always the case. Sometimes it takes a while for them to “get it”, I was really hoping that in this case the calf would automatically pick it up.
First you have to stick your finger in it’s mouth to try and get the sucking reflex going. If the calf starts sucking insert the nipple and your good to go.

My Chance to shine.

So, here I go. I have the bottle and I am in position to start feeding. I think the calf is going to start sucking so I put the nipple in and nothing. It starts playing with the nipple a bit but no sucking. I take the nipple out and give the calf a min to taste the colostrum. Hopefully this will trigger it to start drinking. I try again, nothing. A third time nothing. Okay, time to switch positions and try at a different angle. Just not my day today.

Let the professional take over.

“Sometimes if you stand over the calf and try from a different angle the calf will start drinking.” Corena said
she then gets in position over the calf and gives it a go. Of course almost right away the calf starts to suck back the milk. Woohoo, this is a great thing. Calf is drinking and drinking strong. They can sure down a bottle quickly.

calf feeding colostrum house warmth

Calf drinking colostrum to give it the best start possible.

As Corena was feeding she asked “did we even look to see what the sex is” I laughed and said “no we haven’t had a chance yet” So while the little calf was feeding we took a peak.

Do you want to take a guess at what the sex was? A bull calf (male) or a heifer (female)? Comment below and let me know what your guess is.

boy or girl heifer or bull guess

Take your best guess in the comments below. Bull calf or heifer? What do you think.

Getting set up to take calf back out to it’s mother.

Now that the calf is warm and fed we need to go out and set up the paddocks, move mothers and babies around so we have the new mother in a paddock where they can work with her if she doesn’t accept her baby right away.

We start by opening up the gates and moving momma and her calf over one paddock. As we are doing this the new mother decides she wants to go in with them. Oh, here we go. Now we have to move them over and separate the new mother. She isn’t that friendly so we had to be very careful to watch she didn’t try to charge us. Was a bit iffy a couple times but we did get it done and they were all separated and in the correct paddocks.

Reuniting calf #2 with it’s mother.

After a few hours in the house, warming up, feeding and resting it was time to reunite this calf with it’s mother.
We again got the side by side in position to haul the tub out and into the trailer. Once we come back into the house to get the calf it’s standing. Another great sign. Carefully we carry the calf in the tub out to the trailer and load it up. I am not to keen on the calf standing, hopefully we make it over to the mother okay.

The wreck.

Corena starts to slowly drive over towards the paddock as I am holding the calf and the tub from the side to make sure they stay put. Well, what do you know. The calf decides it’s going to try playing. As it does a little jump in the air, the trailer still moving forward and calf moves back. Calf hits back of tub and as I jump in behind to catch it the calf is in my arms the tub has flipped up and dumped its contents on top of me and the calf. While all this is going on I am calling for Corena to stop. It all happened so fast. Everyone is okay and I am holding calf and laughing at the same time. I think I am going to name this calf “Touch Down” because that just felt like a long pass, catch and touch down lol.

We get the tub up righted and put the straw back inside and again lift the calf back into the tub. Okay, not much farther to go now. We can do this.
Whew, we made it back to the paddocks with out any further wrecks.

Putting calf in with its mother.

Now, for the fun part. This new mother is very jumpy and we have to get the baby in the paddock without the mother charging us or jumping the fences. We get everything ready and the calf out of the tub and standing. As I stand guard, Corena moves the baby through the gate and into the paddock. Mother is pacing around and not looking very happy. She actually looked like she wanted to jump the fence.

We get the calf in close the gate and leave her to check out her new calf again. Hopefully she will accept her new baby now and the circle of life will continue as these calves grow up to be strong young cows.

In the end.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley can be very trying at times. There is never a dull moment and sometimes you wonder why they continue. But it’s times like these that make it all worth it. I could work on a ranch every spring during the calving season. Although things sometimes go wrong and you loose a calf. It’s an amazing time of year and I wouldn’t trade the opportunities I have of helping out for anything.

Not only Ranching in the Nicola Valley.

Corena and Gerry not only do ranching in the Nicola Valley with cows but both have other businesses they do.

Corena with Calton Cattle Co. creates the most beautiful western decor items that are featured at Creative Company in downtown Merritt. Creative Company is a group of local people who had make products and sell them in this store. There are a lot of very creative people in Merritt. BC. Go in and check them out. There is something there for everyone. 

Gerry from Delistle Trucking also runs a trucking company where he hauls livestock or hay for people throughout the region. You can contact him through the BC Livestock Trucker/Hauling page.

Both Gerry and Corena are amazing people, I feel very blessed having met them and have become great friends. Plus, they let me come and help them out on the ranch which I love so much.

Cattle Co Ranching in the Nicola Valley

Photo credit Corena @ Calton Cattle Co.

Don’t forget if you want to check out more of my blogs about adventures and ranching in the Nicola Valley follow me or our other bloggers at Experience Nicola Valley

Ranching in the Nicola Valley

Living and Cowboying in the Nicola Valley

When you hear the word “cowboy” what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Did you know that the term cowboy was first documented in the English language by 1725? It was a direct translation of the Spanish word vaquero — one who manages cattle from horseback, cowboy has the same meaning. Vaquero is rooted in the word vaca, or cow, and stems from the Latin vacca.

For some of us, it is not easy to develop trust when we are dealing with something or someone new. Dealing with a horse is not different. How can you communicate with a horse? How do horses communicate with us? To learn more about horsemanship, let me introduce our guest blogger Miles Kingdon, from Miles Kingdon Horsemanship.

I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch…

cowboyI came from Saskatchewan to the Nicola Valley, in March of 1981,  because I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch.  Most importantly, I wanted a full time cowboying job in cow country.  To live in a land where I could see the mountains and ride my horse across creeks and streams, and view wildlife year round.

I had been a cowboy on the big government pastures in Saskatchewan, but that job was seasonal; finishing for the year when the farmers took their cattle home in the late fall.  Besides, the winters were bitterly cold there, and not conducive to riding year round. 

So I headed to B.C.  When I drove into the Nicola Valley from Kamloops, on Highway 5A (the only highway at that time), I saw vast, beautiful rolling hills of bunchgrass.  I knew that this was the place I wanted to stay.

Streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills

My first cowboying job was at the Douglas Lake Cattle Company.  Every day, I rode out in the early morning to look at a new range; with creeks, streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills to look at.  Other days, I’d be riding across a sea of grass, and knew I was in the best cow country I could ever see.

It was a good life at Douglas Lake, but I was still hungry to see what was on the other side of the ridge, so I hired on at Nicola Ranch.  I had a family of my own by then, and being at Nicola Ranch exposed me more to the Merritt Community.  Our children were born in Merritt, went to school and were involved in sports in Merritt. 

A cowboy may not plan on involving himself in the community too much, because of his time spent at work, but he will, through the love of his children and interest in their daily activities.  It is inevitable for the parents.  They will rub shoulders with other parents and become involved in community functions, and as a result, feel like part of that community.

A new learning curve for this cowboy

cowboyAs the years rolled by, my interest in other ranges, and the desire to do better for my family, led me to the other big ranches across BC; the Bar K Ranch, Empire Valley Ranch, and the Gang Ranch.  These places were all a new learning curve for this cowboy.  Learning how to fit into a new environment, and acclimatize to each new system’s way of doing things; all were good for me.  I gained more knowledge about grasslands and different herd management practices. 

Also, very important to me, was making a new string of horses for me to go to work with.  Taking the horses from being young and inexperienced to a finished bridle horse, at each ranch. 

Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley. 

A horse experienced at roping and doctoring cattle, cutting, and sorting cattle, and eventually becoming a willing partner that anyone, even my children,  could eventually ride.  And they did.  And until my children gained enough experience to be good help to the crew, the horses would take care of them throughout the day at work, and bring them home safely.

Not only did the horses watch how they carried my children through their formative and impressionable years, but so did the cowboys we rode with, always watched out for them.  Each of those hands became like uncles or aunts to our kids.  This is part of what makes our community so unique.  Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley. 

At one time, the native community provided most of the recruits for the cowboy crews, and as the years rolled by, people from all over Canada, the US and beyond came to ride on these legendary outfits; some to move on to new ranges, some to stay and raise their families.  Ultimately, my family and I always came back to the Nicola Valley.  It wasn’t just the ranges and the scenery, the forgiving environment, and the horses, it was the community.  The people, and their empathy for others held us here. 

Back when I was younger, and cowboying at Douglas Lake, one of the older hands did the math and figured we were riding an average of 5,000 miles/year horseback.  Some of us questioned that, but the elders on the crew attested to that figure.  Some outfits were less distance covered on horseback, while some, like the Gang Ranch, were a bit more.

I understand the horse…

So, after over forty years of cowboying for a wage, I’ve come to make a lot of friends in the cattle industry, and I’ve gotten to a place where I understand the horse quite a bit better.  It makes a difference in me, at days end, to count my blessings and tally up how many things were a bit better today than yesterday, with my horses, dogs, saddle partners and life.

It seemed the natural thing to do, once I left cowboying for the outfits full time, to hang my shingle out doing workshops.  To teach the skills we learned going places on horses, and making a living as a cowboy.  So, today, my wife and saddle partner, Possum, and I are making a business of that.  We have two more horsemanship/stockmanship workshops coming up this summer in the valley, at Seven Half Diamond Ranch. 

There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.

cowboyNow, I can pass on these skills to whomever may be interested in working with horses and cattle.  There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.  And I really enjoy passing on knowledge to our youth, who, during their impressionable years, grow and gain knowledge the most. That is what they really desire.

Ultimately, after years of freedom and adventure, going places horseback, I had a few good stories to tell, and my wife pushed me to write them down.  As a result, we are looking at publishing our first book later this year.  It will be stories of life horseback, mostly situated in this valley of ours.

Many great adventures

The horse has brought me to many great adventures, and contact with a lot of good people.  The horse will do this for others as well. As long as there’s these grasslands and cattle that need to be maintained, there will be men and women riding down a trail and listening to their spurs chiming in time to their horse’s stride.  I have been blessed to grow in this community, and have come to love this valley, and the people in it.

Thanks, Miles Kingdon! We look forward to your book!

Click here for more info on Miles’ workshops. “Miles Kingdon Horsemanship offers a wide range of clinics, camps and workshops.”

Miles Facebook Page

For more reading on the cowboy experience in the Nicola Valley, read Etelka’s blog on the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo.

cowboy