Monday, December 27, 2010

The Great Cow Hunt

With all the snow we've had, we've been concerned about all the cows out on the range. Many of the shrubs and grasses they would normally eat are buried in deep snow, and some of the water sources are frozen over. The cows went out healthy, so we knew they'd be good for at least a few days. With the inversion it's been hard to go up in the airplane and get a good look at them, so on Sunday morning we headed out to look for one of the herds. We were graced with over an inch of new snow to start off the day.

This is the state highway. It wasn't particularly early in the morning, but we're about last on the priority list for the plows, so we were in the four-wheel drive truck. The temperature was about 27 degrees Fahrenheit. We took the kids with us, along with blankets, shovels, a picnic lunch, and a sled, just in case we got stuck.

Or wanted to go sledding. You never know when the mood might strike.

Before long we were off the highway and on a county gravel road, but to our surprise, it had been plowed earlier in the week and was in remarkably good shape.

The low clouds (and slightly dirty windows) made visibility really poor, but we were hoping we would be able to spot some cows.

And then sure enough, we did, black spots on the hillside. They had eaten through some of the snow and were nibbling on sagebrush and Mormon tea. Those aren't favorite foods for the cows, but it does provide nutrients and will keep them alive.

My husband wanted to get close to some cows to decide if they looked miserable or not. I asked what criteria he used to tell if a cow was miserable or not, and he said, "You can just tell." So alas, I still do not know exactly what to look for.

This cow was pretty close to us.

I asked, "Is this cow miserable?"

He said, "Maybe."

I grunted. I wanted a definitive answer.

"She's alright. She might be a little tired."

We kept driving.

We continued driving up the one-lane road, finding that the temperature was rising to above freezing as we rose in elevation. Although we didn't have so much fog, that temperature inversion was still in effect.

The cottonwoods and willows along a stream provided some relief from the white conditions. My husband explained to me that the cows would go eat the willows if they couldn't get to anything else. We didn't see any cows in that area, so we surmised that the rest of the herd was elsewhere, but we just didn't know where.

If enough looked miserable, the plan was to try to move them back to the main part of the ranch and feed them.

We had a brief moment of sunlight (on one cliff face), and hoped that the sun would shine more to melt more snow.

We turned around and started back into the colder, lower elevations. The sun disappeared. Dang it!

Then we headed north to look for the rest of the cows. The plow hadn't made it to this road, so we followed the deep tracks of some other truck that had dragged its transmission through the snow. We kept our eyes on the power lines, which in sections had been covered with a thick layer of frost from the inversion. This is one of the biggest reason for power outages around here.

The temperature went down into the teens, and we only saw a handful more of cows. If I were a cow, I wouldn't be hanging out in this frigid spot! Later my husband found them even farther north, where they had found a somewhat warmer spot higher on the bench to hang out.

The deep snow has turned out to be a record for December for a nearby spot and possibly for us. We're expecting another snow storm to come in tomorrow, followed by subzero temperatures. Brrr! I guess we better get ready for The Great Cow Hunt, the Sequel.


G. Robison said...

You know, that is one heck of a lot of snow for that area in December. Or anytime. Wow.

G. Robison said...

But we all know how badly it needs every last drop of that moisture. Hope you get lots more this winter (but spread out).

The Incredible Woody said...

I'm thinking that cow looked pretty miserable!

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