Happy New Year! I was a total rebel on New Year’s Eve, and was in bed by 10. I had pretty decent intentions, or at least as good of intentions as a rancher usually has, which translates to around a 5% chance that we will do some social event that we say we are going to do. But, after spending the day feeding, moving equipment around and running in the proverbial circles, I bowed out of a quick trip to Colorado to spend the evening with friends. While the decision was a little frustrating, my head thanked me the next morning as New Year’s Day was another full one of feeding and chasing livestock.
On Jan. 2, the Business Partner, the Right Hand, and I sorted all the calves to go into the background lot. With the Boss Man still gone for a couple of weeks, and the succession plan in place, this was the first time we had an all-female crew for this day.
In the past we had usually taken two days to sort, one for steers and one for heifers, but this year everything had been ran together after weaning — minus the bull calves — and with fewer numbers than before because of succession, we turned this into a one-day project, albeit a very long day. We ran everything through and sorted by gender, then reran the groups through to sort by size. Fortunately, the numbers for bunk space were right on and we didn’t have to re-sort anything. I love to analyze the personality of our “groups” every year and this year’s character is dog-gentle and seems like they’ve come to the consensus that they aren’t going to get worked up about anything.
Every afternoon now I’m over at the background lots feeding. This is a new change this year. In the past, we’ve always fed in the morning, and then come afternoon I would run to the North Place and feed the calves in the background lot there. Since we were able to put all of the calves together at the Home Place, I could make the decision on when I wanted to feed, and after laying out all of the pros/cons to the Boss Man, got him to agree with afternoon feeding. We have one extra person around in the afternoon, plus I’ve been checking on cornstalk cows first thing in the morning, so it all seemed to make sense — or at least it did in my mind, which may not be saying much.
But — and here comes the big but — if I would have had ANY clue that Nebraska and Colorado were going to be inundated with a flock of 6-foot-wide drones that nobody seems to know what they are doing or where they are going, I would have never even considered feeding in the afternoon/evening.
Last night, prime example. It was a very busy Sunday and I was running just a little behind getting to the feedlot, which meant I was feeding in the dark. My teammates have Sunday off, so I’m over at the lot in the dark with the headlights from the equipment trying to mix the last load of feed for a group of feeder heifers, and it is dark — and I mean dark. I made the “dumb” mistake of opening social media where multiple posts come up about drone sightings.
Now I’m a proud supporter of the 2nd amendment and have a “friend” in case one of the 100-plus deer that are watching me feed daily decide that the Golden Globes were a farce and everyone should be a carnivore. But I have no defense against a 6-foot unexplained drone potentially circling above our feedlot.
I’m not hiding a warhead, and I’m pretty sure Elvis doesn’t live on our ranch, so please don’t come over to our place, because that would freak me the heck out.
Fortunately, I made it from the tractor to the pickup without a drone sighting, but I was “terrorized” enough I had to call the Boss Man and inform him that if our operation was all of a sudden part of a “grid”, I’d pee my pants, and be done, just done.
There is no more drone reading before evening, and I’m making sure that we have plenty of aluminum foil on hand just in case I need to make little hats for me and our livestock (that 4-H origami demonstration from grade school may pay off). On a side note, I did consider causing bodily harm to one of my teammates the other morning when he sent me a Snap that said he saw a drone and it was heading my way. I refrained because just my luck, Elvis would have showed up after all.
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com.