Getting ready to head across the river for the morning feeding, I looked past the tree and the bridge that crosses the river and saw a herd of elk along the hillside.
Traveling over the bridge, the view became clearer and we saw at least 20 elk heading toward the hay field for a day of grazing.
This is the mid-sized herd from out of the 3 that visit the farm.
Once we were over the bridge, the herd caught the sight and sound of us moving toward them. About half of them were already over the fence and in the hay field when the herd reversed direction and bounded back out of the field.
The herd traversed through the green trees and jumped another fence to get onto the hillside that had been clearcut and replanted several years ago. Still, it was hard to track the group on the uphill climb.
About 300 feet above the hay field, I caught a glimpse of the herd.
Because the hill had no big trees, I was able to watch the silhouettes against the sky as the animals trailed along the top of the ridge.
From this spot, the elk have 7 miles of timber ground that spreads out toward the ocean. I hope they find good grazing so that they will stay out of my pastures.
One of the elk herds has descended on the far hay field/pasture with a vengeance. It was hard to count as they kept moving, swirling around in a slow-dance version of circling the drain as they pick through blades of grass that are now exposed after the snow finally melted. The total neared 50 as far as I could tell with at least 3 bulls in the bunch.
This far field was supposed to be the grazing area for the main herd in a couple of days. We take fields out of rotation for feed after we spread manure out on the grass. The elk have determined that the field has broken down the manure and the grass is ready for eating, they beat us moving the cows to this pasture.
I can’t blame the elk herd, they are probably hungry from this unusual winter, and this grass that we had so generously fertilized for them 2 months ago is just the best tasting area they could find.
We are still planning on moving our main herd of cows over to this far pasture, but in the light of the current grass-stealing events, we will have to move the cows back out of this pasture sooner than planned and augment their feed with hay.
It may have been a change in the barometric pressure, the phase of the moon with its gravitational pull, a stalking pack of coyotes, or simply the lead cow deciding she needed a change of scenery. The herd decided, in the middle of the night, during the driving, warm rain of the Pineapple Express that was melting the snow-pack and sending tons of water into the Nehalem, to cross the River.
We found them in the morning, stranded on the wrong side of the river.
The idyllic picture that I had posted last week doesn’t look anything like this view from the bridge of the muddy and swollen Nehalem River.
The herd is stranded in the upper field at the far and right side of this picture. Where the river was cross-able for a cow 12 hours earlier is now swift and flowing about 6-7 feet deep in the middle. The rain kept coming and the river expanded from when I took this pic.
Instead of the herd getting fed in the outside feeders, we had to resort to feeding them on the cold and very wet snow. We had to pick and choose where we fed because pools of water dotted the field where they were stranded.
This pasture is not very big compared to the large grazing area across the river and in two days they had mudded and pooped up much of the area, yet the river still had not receded enough for the herd to swim back across. We continued to feed on the ground each morning and evening.
#12, Topper, was just a year old when we trained him to walk with a halter and took him to the Clark County Fair this last summer.
Now he is ready to be the sire for his own herd. He was purchased by one of our repeat customers over in the Scappoose area just an hour away by trailer.
Since Topper had halter experience, it was no problem to get him fitted into the rope and walk him out of the barn and into the stock trailer for delivery. He should continue to grow and do well with his own herd of 15 cows to be in charge over along with large fields to roam.
The bull pen is now down to a 20-month old and 9 yearlings ready for sale.
Hints of weather changes have been seen in the coloring of the green leaves, to the slightly shorter days and cooler nights. But most notable has been the increasing cloudy-ness of mornings and the lingering clouds throughout the day in the form of fog.
As we were feeding the cows breakfast, the fog began to burn off and hints of a blue sky emerged slowly. By the time we had finished throwing the hay off in slabs onto the pasture, the blue sky took over with a brilliance and only a few patches of fog hung on for a few more minutes before the day gave way to a cloudless day.
Rounding up the main herd twice a day is not a particularly hard task. The animals know the sound of us, the dogs and the John Deere Gator. They know that if we are checking on the them, there will be a reward meal of sweet grass hay to go along with the round up.
On really warm afternoons, the herd will retire to the cooling shade under tall maple, alder, ash and hemlock trees. The thick brush that grows around the edges of the clumps of trees make for good side scratching and fly removal. It’s also a nice place just to hang out between naps and meandering through the shade. But it is also a hazard, for if the animals are not fed on a regular basis, the low fences that are barriers for the animals become more like suggestive boundaries rather the law.
Open range land can mean way too much freedom for the herd that is more comfortable and and much safer within the farm proper.
This calf stood right in the thick of things with his head down while all the other members of the herd had moved out of the brush and onto eating in the next pasture.
He waited for me to walk around him and urge him forward with a whoop, a holler and a lot of thrashing around the brush before he would move out of his hiding spot where he was so comfortable.
We have been keeping a closer eye on the herd these days after a neighbor from across the ridge stopped by. They were missing a couple of their Scottish Highland heifers after a cougar had run them through their pasture fences. Over the years the mountain lions have been seen around the farm. Earlier this spring, a friend that had been driving past the farm, saw a big cat walk down the driveway, cross in front of his car, leap over the fence and head toward the river. Continue reading