Hardware Disease: Goodbye Tonka

Tonka Grand ChampionConnie’s favorite cow, Tonka, died last week. She was a favorite because Ethan showed her at the Santa Barbara County Fair in 2011 and she was the Grand Champion Heifer that year. Adele, this year’s Reserve Champion was out of her. Ethan still proudly wears the Grand Champion buckle he received.

IMG_2002Recently, Tonka was acting strange and losing weight. So she was brought down from the hills and put in a pen for observation. There were signs of something as a lump under her jaw had developed. She was checked for woody tongue but that was not it. Her brisket started to enlarge which indicated “Hardware Disease”. A “Bounty Hunter” metal detector was used to determine if there was any metal in her.

Cattle are not discriminant eaters and frequently swallow bits of metal and nails and parts of fencing as they graze the hillside. These metal pieces accumulate in a chamber of the stomach called the reticulum which is also near the heart. The metal pieces can puncture through and impact the heart or cause infection throughout the body. Yes indeed the “Bounty Hunter” lit up which meant that she had metal in her. The detector also saved time during the autopsy as it showed where the metal was. Metal pieces had settled in several places in her body and one had caused an abscess.

Tonka had a magnet placed in her several years ago to help prevent this disease by attracting the metal pieces all in one place. However her magnet stopped working as a coating grew on it and it no longer held or attracted metal pieces. Above is a pic of the magnet that was pulled out of her body. Note several metal pieces that stayed attached to it.

FullSizeRender(1)When a cow dies what happens to the body? There are several options. One, is to call the Tallow works and they come out and pick up the animal. Two, is dig a big hole and bury the animal. Three, leave it out in the hills and let the buzzards, bears and bugs do a fast job of making the carcass disappear.

Goodbye Tonka. Thank you for leaving your legacy with Grieb Ranch.

The Crazy, Cool, (Exasperating), Exciting Cow Rescue Story By Ethan

Daisy down.

Daisy down.

I thought that I would have a peaceful evening of Thursday, November 20 but nope, not a chance. . . I was literally a centimeter away from stuffing my face with spaghetti when my mother crashed through the door, “Ethan, we’re going to need your help!” One of our cows was in distress. We loaded up the Kubota with a cow halter and tow ropes. Daniel (my brother) took the truck with the old faithful red trailer and Papa (Grandpa) took the tractor. Off we went up into the hills in our convoy.

When we got to the cow in distress we got our answer to: “Why all this?”

Well, mom went out to feed the cows in the early dawn that morning. As she was feeding she noticed that a cow was missing so she scanned the horizon. She happened to see a strange flick up on the hillside and went to investigate. There she found Daisy, the Jersey cow, thrashing in the suicide position – lying on her side, thrashing with eyes rolling back in her head and trying to get up. With all her strength mom had to get Daisy into a sitting position. Daisy could not get up. To make matters worse, Daisy was in a place that made rescue nearly impossible. So . . . mom raced home to get feed and water for Daisy. Since no one was available back at the ranch to help rescue Daisy that morning, mom brought the feed and water to Daisy then had to leave her there. Mom had to go and do her other life responsibilities that day, praying for Daisy.

Mom finished her day of teaching and hurried home to see if Daisy made it through the day. Yikes! Daisy had fallen or rolled down the hillside to the road below.

Daisy rolled from the top near the tree down to the road below.

Daisy rolled from the top near the tree down to the road below.

She was lying with her head down hill and once again in the cow suicide position. Mom had to pull her tail and legs to get her to sit up….she was so near the edge that one wrong struggle to get up would have sent her to the point of no rescue. So mom went off to get help. That’s where I came in, just before stuffing my face.

Our convoy had to position our help past Daisy on the uphill side. I got to stand with pressure on Daisy to keep her from struggling so she wouldn’t go over the edge. Daniel lined up the trailer and we decided it would work best to try to get her in the tractor bucket then transfer her to the trailer. We were all in a precarious position; one wrong move from any of us would mean major injury to any of us, including Daisy! We put a halter on her to help control her flopping head. Yeah! Everything worked as planned. We got Daisy in the trailer and got her set up. However, she could not sit up on her own so I had to wedge myself in the trailer and sit with her to keep her upright for the bumpy trip down the hill. We made it down the hill and unloaded Daisy at the barn.

After several days and many tubes of electrolytes, four of us flipping her from side to side several times daily (so the body fluids would flow), propping her up in a sitting position with a few hay bales……………on the 9th day down she got up. Oh and her two month old heifer calf had to be roped and brought in as Daisy was not able to care for her. We put the calf on a bottle, and she is hand-fed twice a day at feeding time. The calf is in a pen near her mom is now starting to feed off Daisy. Daisy and her heifer calf will be part of the herd again soon. We thank God for His care of all His creatures.

Daisy's heifer calf.

Daisy’s heifer calf.

“I could dance with you ’till the cows come home . . .”

“I could dance with you ’till the cows come home. Better still, I’ll dance with the cows and you come home.” – Groucho Marx, who was never one to pass up an opportunity for a play on words, expresses this in his dialogue in the 1933 film Duck Soup.

 "I could dance with you till the cows come home. Better still, I'll dance with the cows and you come home."

“I could dance with you till the cows come home. Better still, I’ll dance with the cows and you come home.”

Put on your dancing shoes, the cows are coming home to Grieb Ranch with hope of green by Thanksgiving. With rain in the forecast for today the likelihood of green looks quite promising.

"SC" branded cattle with calf.

“SC” branded cattle with calf.

Many of the registered herd went north to Oregon late winter of 2014. Now the cattle are leaving the freezing, icy Oregon weather to come back to the beautiful California Central Coast. One load of Oregon born late-calving cows and weanling calves have come home already. Other cattle went to sales in Madras of Jefferson County or Cottonwood in Sherman and Gilliam counties, Oregon.

Papa Carl at the age of 86 will make the trip north to drop off a few bulls, and bring back some fall calving cows with their calves. First the bulls need to be “Tric” Tricomoniasis and semen tested before they go north. In the meantime the survivor cattle that never left Grieb Ranch are calving.

So if you see Grieb family members dancing with the cows it’s because the hills are green and they are looking for you to come home and join them in their dancing.
Prayerfully this devastating drought is behind us and the pictures here showing its effects will be history.

Awe, so cute, Babies!

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Meet “Baby Cakes” a healthy heifer calf born to “Chocolate Chip Pancake” who was shown by Ethan at the Santa Barbara County Fair this summer.

The first of the fall calf crop was born on the Grieb Ranch last night! There are a few “grade” cows still on the meager feed of the hills of Grieb Ranch plus supplemented feed. The registered herd enjoys green grass up in Oregon. At Grieb Ranch the calf crop is planned for early Fall so that the babies can be raised on the green grass that is coming; because we’re praying for rain!

The 6th Generation at the Grieb Ranch enjoying the puppies!

The 6th Generation at the Grieb Ranch enjoying the puppies!

Puppies, babies, calves, chicks . . . What is it about new babies that makes us smile? Most people will stop everything at the sight or sound of a baby and flock to dote over the little creatures. Little children also become delighted over the wee creatures.

Maybe babies bring a smile because of the wonder of the miracle of new life. Babies of all kinds are so adorable, tiny and full of promise. Looking at baby animals can remind us of our amazing God and the great love the creator has for us. Not only are baby animals adorable there is the reminder that God loved us so much that He gave us life and formed us in our mother’s womb. “You formed my inward parts,” the psalmist says, “You covered me in my mother’s womb.” (Ps. 139:13)

Yes it’s fall calving time at Grieb Ranch and although the herd is small this year with a few here in California and more in Oregon, there is still the excitement, wonder and awe at the new life. New life renews our world and reminds us that life keeps going on and that creation has a purpose.

Still more exciting than new birth, is rebirth. God offers people spiritual rebirth through Jesus. (John 3:3-8)  God tells believers that we will be changed and inherit life eternal when Jesus returns.  (I Cor. 15:50-52)

So when we see all those new baby calves, chicks, goats or puppies let us remember that our physical and spiritual rebirth is and will be a far greater “awe” from God.

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:14

No Rain = No Grass, No Water, and Expensive Feed.


Grieb Ranch Registered Angus in Oregon.

Grieb Ranch Registered Angus in Oregon.

It’s been 3 years without much significant rainfall here in California. As a result the hills that make up Grieb Ranch are bare, some of the springs have dried up and supplementing the cattle with expensive feed is costly. The solution for Grieb Ranch was to ship (via truck with cattle trailer) a few of the remaining head of Registered Angus cattle to Oregon to Connie’s sister’s ranch last winter. Here they have feed until more rain falls back at Grieb Ranch on the Central Coast of California. This is the first time in the 136 year history of Grieb Ranch that the range cattle have had to be moved elsewhere for feed for a long period of time.

Calves with ear tags.

Calves with ear tags.

The cattle in Oregon still need to be worked, which is a bit difficult to do from California. Connie took the train up in June to work the (late) calves that were born in the snow after the Mother Cows were shipped to Oregon last winter. These calves needed to be branded, tagged and vaccinated and Connie was on hand to do just that. The train trip was fun. As she traveled, Connie was filled with hope as she passed beautiful irrigated hay fields, and some irrigated pastures that were dotted with cattle; a rare sight these days in California.

"SC" branded cattle with calf.

“SC” branded cattle with calf.

As fall approaches so does the arrival of the 2014 fall calf crop, many that are hopefuls for the 2015 Registered cattle show at the fair. The details of each new calf: its birth date, sex, and weight are recorded. An ear tag is then placed in each calf’s ear indicating the sire (bull) and dam (cow) and the birth date of the calf. At a later time the registered calves will have an ear tattoo placed for permanent identification.

At Grieb Ranch we continue to pray for rain, and look forward to the day when we can bring back our cattle to the green hills and flowing springs of Grieb Ranch.


Pictures by Wendy Gauthier – Connie’s niece in Oregon