We counted 11 elk out playing in the field. They were a rowdy bunch, running one way and then another, kicking up their heels and scuffling around with each other.
They would come up to the fence to peek at the cows and calves that we had in the close pasture.
They were a curious bunch and at one point it looked like they wanted to jump the fence and head right into the yard around the house.
The black corner on the lower right hand side is the head of one of the cows. The elk would come up to the fence, less than 10 yards from the cows before scampering off again.
When a loud log truck drove by on the county road the small herd took off out of the field. We watched as they headed out of this pasture, through an old log landing and out toward our property on the other side of the river. That is when this small group joined back up with the rest of their family. It was the large herd, now well over 60 animals strong and eating all the newly sprouted leaves on the clover in our smallest hay field.
The large group of animals when joined with this rowdy group took off running across the small field, over the fence, down through the river, over another fence and into our far field. Still not done running, they crossed the big field, again crossed the river to another field before jumping fences and heading up into the tall timber on the hill.
While mowing down stickers ( Canadian Thistles), I have been coming across a lot of Tansy Ragwort.
According to Wikipedia:
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a perennial, herbaceous flowering plant of the aster family, native to temperate Europe and Asia. It has been introduced to other parts of the world including North America, and in some areas has become invasive.
The seeds of this invasive and poisonous plant float in on the breeze and travel the waterway depositing themselves in the rich loam from high water and in the fields.
Horses in particular are susceptible to the toxic properties of this plant. Cows and people can be affected also. If left to multiply, the weed could take over the hay field and the hay would then be toxic to the herd.
The plant has to be dug out with the roots intact in order to keep it from re-growing. Once the plant is out of the ground we have to take it with us away from the fields and river so the seeds from the drying plant do not drop to the ground for future plants.
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.