The Canine Cuisine Is Served
We got a new cell tower recently. And so now, for the first time in 20 years, we get cell reception in the house and the workshop. Big doings out here in rural North Dakota.
Still, it’s never good to get a phone call, on either the land line or cell, before 9 am. Chances are it’s not good news; something or someone is broke down, late, or in the hospital. Along those same lines, getting a call on the cell from the fella cutting hay in our field—the guy I can actually see out the window cutting hay—is also not good.
“Looks like you gotta bull stuck in the waterhole north of the house,” says he, perched on his tractor. “Been there most of the morning.”
This drought, which has the whole countryside clenched in its teeth, is the start and end of most problems here in central North Dakota today. Dried up waterholes is one of them. Our ranch has gone from about 25 lakes, ponds and dugouts for watering cattle to four. Three of these are dugouts, once 12-15 feet deep, now reduced to muddy wallows which might not even tickle a cow’s belly.
Upon reaching the dugout, I looked for his ear tag number to pass on to the fellow who rents our pasture. Rather than a number I saw a name scrawled on the muddy yellow tag: Ringo. With so few bulls in a herd you can afford to name them, but cows and calves get a number.
Ringo was mired securely into the mud a few feet from the bank with just his back and head showing; I tossed a small flat stone at him to see if I could jolt him into action. It landed on top his broad hip with a dull thud, he didn’t move an inch. The stone just rested there.
If I don’t like early morning phone calls I know my cattle man never likes to get a call from me. I dialed his number. He was in the big city two hours away trying to secure a livestock watering tank, but with the drought now well-established, the tanks were all gone.
We made a plan to extricate Ringo that evening after they got back to their farm. I promised I’d check on the bull in a couple hours to see if he had somehow freed himself to save them a trip. They have pastures rented in all directions from their place; our ranch is about 45 minutes away.
Two hours later I went back through two of our pasture cells and made my way down to the dugout again. Ringo was dead. He was not the first and likely won’t be the last bovine to perish on these acres, but it’s a sad thing to see a grand 2,000 pound Angus bull reduced to floating prairie fodder.
We pulled him out first thing this morning with the tractor. Was he weak from dehydration or some other malady, or did he just get stuck in the mud? The rest of the herd, and the other bulls, seemed fine. These things happen, and in most cases, hours or days away from a vet, your only choice is to swallow hard and drag the carcass away to a suitable spot for the coyotes to clean up. From experience we know they will find it tonight and have it reduced to bones and hide within a week.
Yes, this drought has us in its teeth. It remains to be seen if we get spit out or swallowed. Cool temps and fall rains can’t come soon enough.
That’s the news from the prairie.