A new twist

So, I’ve written quite a bit about our deer problems. But now they’ve taken a whole different turn. Now the deer are dying.

I don’t mean that one or two has met its maker in a peaceful ceremony performed by the deer-healer. No, we’re talking more than a dozen of them, all lying in our feed. I actually believe that there are at least two dozen carcasses, but I’m not interested in actually going out and counting. Here, see for yourself.

So, yeah, it’s a problem. And here’s the kicker…why are they dying? There’s plenty of feed (although, truth be told, deer aren’t meant to eat dairy-quality alfalfa, so that could be part of the problem), they’ve made nice little burrows in our haystacks, which should be providing excellent cover. Do they have diseases? Are they sick?

Next comes, what will happen to our feed? Is our herd at risk?

The master-minds at Game and Fish are supposed to be here in the morning. One of our neighbors called them this evening. It seems that one of the deer decided to die next to his house. Even kicked the house as it was taking its last breaths. I’m very sorry that the deer caused such a commotion, but I’m grateful that our neighbor called Game and Fish to complain. Perhaps if we’re not the only ones calling, they’ll start paying more attention.

Well, I better head to bed. There’ll be a long night of checking cows, since it’s so cold tonight. Plus today was a very stressful, crazy day. I’ll tell you more about it later.

If I remember.

What’s the big deal?

I realize now, that with all my complaining about the large number of deer here, that some people are wondering what I’m complaining about. I mean, they are beautiful, and tasty, creatures.

Well, here’s a quick rundown:

1) As I’ve said before, deer poop. And they pee. All over our hay and feed. Cows don’t like it, and I have to admit, it’s starting to smell funny over there. Yuck! What a mess!

2) Deer can carry disease, and quite a bit of it, especially in the numbers that they are travelling here. These diseases are transferable to our cattle…which is bad, really bad. Remember way back when? When I talked about our herd? Well, we’ve worked really, really hard to make sure that our herd is healthy and disease-free, mainly for the benefit of those that enjoy the beef we produce. We would hate to risk that, all because we weren’t given any other options by those that are supposed to be helping us. And, just to remind you, calving starts in just a couple weeks. Which means we’ll have some little calves that are even more susceptible to disease than our cows are…not a good situation at all.

3) Again, I’ve mentioned before that with the large number of deer come predators. Predators make cows uneasy. Cows that are calving that are uneasy makes for dangerous conditions. Not just for the cows and calves, but for anyone that works with the cows. We need to be as careful as we can, so that everyone can make it through calving season without being injured…including the cattle.

4) Danger to family. OK, now this is something I’ve been working on, and pray that I’ve taught my boys well enough not to have to worry TOO much about it, but I still do. As you can see in this photo, the deer are eating at the hay bales that are easiest to get to…the ones on the ground. Well, you see, each of those bales weigh a little less than a ton. And they are stacked four high. As the deer eat away at the bottom bale, the whole stack becomes unstable…posing a risk for the whole thing to come toppling down.

As the deer eat away at the bottom bales, the whole stack becomes unstable.

Imagine almost 3 tons falling on you? Now, I’m not just concerned about my boys, but what about a Game & Fish officer coming to check on things, or my husband, trying to straighten things out? Or even the deer themselves. (Although, that would seem to be poetic justice to me!)

5) Last, but certainly not least, the deer are costing us money. Not only are we losing feed, and the costs associated with that, but the deer have very good taste. They are eating the hay that we’ve worked very hard to put up in dairy-quality condition. This means that these deer are costing us every where we turn. I can’t give you a real accurate number right now, but we’re talking multiple thousands of dollars. Could you afford to lose $10,000? How about $20,000? Wouldn’t you feel a little frustrated and concerned about it?

Well, we certainly have a lot to discuss and figure out on our way to Mayo…and here I was concerned that we would have nothing to worry about! 😉

Preparations

We head to Mayo tomorrow. It’s hopefully time to finally get to some answers. Poor kid has been through the ringer, and all before he turns 2. I’d complain about the fairness of it all, but we all know that fairness doesn’t play into these things.

Anyway, while all this is going on, we’re still at the mercy of winter, still have cattle to care for and still have chores that need to be done. Which means we start planning now, preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, making sure that everything is in place, so that if (I should say when) it snows while we’re gone, it’s not a lot of extra work for whomever is helping us out.

So Boss Man is off, getting things ready. I’m packing bags for all of us, arranging staying places for the other three kids, arranging back ups, in case someone is sick, and the back ups for the back ups, just because we roll that way! Planning out time of departure, time of arrival, places to stay in Rochester, what mode of transportation to take, etc., etc. Like planning a great vacation, minus the fun and vacation!

And just when I thought I had it all planned out, up pops another problem. Our deer situation has gone from kinda crazy, to absolutely unbelievable. It’s hard to even imagine saddling someone else with this issue while we’re gone, so we’re trying to do what we can to help the situation out.

Here’s my latest shots, without any voiceover. I think it speaks for itself:

I’ve contacted the proper authorities (probably even a few that could care less), shot footage and sent e-mails. I’m not sure what will happen from here on out, but I know we’re working on it.

I will try to keep everyone posted on how things are going. And we’ll hopefully be home before we know it. I’m also wishing that maybe we’ll be a few hundred deer shorter than where we are now!

Ever increasing problem

We have a “small” problem on our farm. I call it a small problem, because the animals themselves aren’t all that large, but the number in which they are here…that’s where the issue lies.

Last year it started as a nuisance. I warned Boss Man that I thought the deer around our house seemed to be getting closer and closer, and seemed to bring their extended families with them. At first, he kind of brushed off my concerns, saying that they had never really bothered the hay before and that they would probably move on shortly.

They didn’t.

In fact, they seemed to rather enjoy themselves, and made themselves right at home. As you can see here: (Warning, this is the first video I had ever shot, so please excuse the nausea-inducing zooming and movement…I’ve learned…well, at least a little.)

This year is a whole new ballgame. We have already enrolled the help of our state Game and Fish, who have come up with some interesting tactics. (For instance, a really neat gun-looking, bottle-rocket-on-steroids type thing!)

To explain it from my husband’s point of view, I’ll just give you the run-down of a conversation we had:

“It’s a double-edged sword. If they eat my hay, they won’t starve. They’ll be stronger and healthier, but then they’ll also survive winter and there will be more next year.

“If they don’t eat my hay, they’ll starve. But they’ll be weak and more susceptible to disease, exposing my herd to who-knows-what.”

And this is what we’re talking about for this year:

So, you see, we’re in a tough spot. If we don’t feed the deer, they will get sick and die. But may expose our cows to all sorts of unwanted stuff.

If we feed the deer, they won’t leave, and could still get sick and die. And we will still have exposure to whatever it is they are carrying.

We have already spent money on buying panels to place all around our feed, such as the silage that we cut and the freshly-ground hay. Game and Fish suggest that we space our hay stacks closer together, but our insurance insists that our hay stays further apart. I personally don’t believe that where our hay is located would make much difference to this large number of animals.

The amount of money that has been lost through the hay and feed that has been destroyed is almost nauseating. But the danger to the health of our herd is what has us the most concerned. We are doing all we can to protect our livestock, but it would be nice if there was a better system in place to assist producers that come across these issues.

Trust me, this is something that Boss Man and I will be working on.

Hoping for a good weekend

This week has been a mixed bag of ups and downs, sickness and wellness, etc., etc. We were blessed with pink eye on Thursday, which means eye drops for all! Although things have cleared up remarkably well today.

I’ve been working on trying to tag my deer this year. And I will say that I did get two shots off this morning on a pretty nice buck, but I wasn’t expecting him to pop up and wasn’t prepared. My own fault, I’ll admit.

One of my problems seems to be someone who thinks I need to be babysat. No matter when I go or where I’m at, it appears as if a vehicle or two just happen along and stop and watch. It’s driving me nuts!

I get it, I know that my presence isn’t exactly wanted. No one on this farm has hunted in many, many years (if ever), and so the idea of someone who would like to shoot an animal in this area is daunting for some. But if I’m that intimidating, then I would gladly teach them a lesson or two on how I got to be the powerful sportswoman I am today! 🙂 Anything to get the high-powered binoculars off my back.

Just some background on my hunting: I have a gratis, which means that I can only hunt on land that we own or operate. That’s it. No more, no less.

Since I have a gratis, that does mean that I can shoot a buck or a doe. My choice. (Actually, more like the bullet’s, but that’s another story.)

I hunt because I like to have the meat. Although for some it’s the thrill of the chase, for me it’s the pleasure of knowing that I’m providing a meal for my family…and one that is mighty tasty! (We also process our own sausage, which is unbelievably nummy!) And it’s one less animal out there for my van to hit.

At the end of deer season, all I want is to have an animal in my freezer. Buck or doe, doesn’t really matter. In the last 5-6 years, I have only shot two bucks. One was not definable as a buck until you were up close and personal. The other is mounted on my wall. I am not a trophy hunter.

Although, I do have to say that with the attention I’ve been getting lately, I wouldn’t mind at all to shoot the buck that legends are made of…but that’s just a little dream of mine. As long as my tag is on something, I’ll be happy. It does me no good to have my tag at the end of the season.

I’m not real fond of the taste of paper.

Not your everday mom

I was told this morning that Big Bro and his friends think that I”m weird. And I guess it’s kind of a good thing.

Let me explain:

In our family, the family dynamic is a little off. Boss man takes care of most of the farming stuff, the cattle stuff, etc. When I can, I pitch in and help wherever needed (such as driving silage truck). On the flip side, I do kid duties, school duties and house stuff. He pitches in when I force him to. (Just kidding!…kinda)

That’s a pretty normal scenario for a lot of families, especially a lot of farm families with young children. So where do we differ? Well, for the most part, I’m the one that takes the boys fishing, hunting, playing sports, etc.

Apparently this makes me weird to a bunch of third graders.

It’s a family tradition. My dad took us hunting and fishing from a very, very early age. It was a family event and everyone was involved. I’ve always wanted that experience for my children…and so we began.

With George’s frequency at the doc’s office, I haven’t been able to take them out as often as I would like this year…but we’ll make up for it in years to come…I know it. And we’re already scoping out deer for deer season.

And don’t worry about me taking out the best and brightest of the animals, because if a deer is dumb enough to come close to my mini-van full of yelling, screaming kids trying to tell me that the deer is coming towards us while I’m trying to quietly “sneak” out of the vehicle without alerting the deer as to my whereabouts while wearing a large amount of blaze orange and shushing my children…well, that deer is probably at the shallow end of the gene pool and should be culled from the herd. The good news is that intelligence does not effect the taste…so the sausage will taste just as good! 😉

There was a year, quite a few years ago, that I was able to go out at daybreak, all by myself, and boss man would stay home with our (at that time) two young children and I was able to pretend that I was a real hunter. I even had that one mounted!

Apparently being a mom that hunts makes me weird. I can live with that.

And yes, I know how to field dress a deer. And no, I don’t expect anyone else to do it for me. So, in a few weeks, the boys and I will pack up our gear and after school we will drive around and see if we can secure our sausage source for the upcoming year.

Just one more reason that I love our farm.