SPRINGDALE, Mont. – The weekend before Christmas was a windy one for many around the Big Sky State, but for some reason, wind whips down off the Crazy Mountains even faster than it does in other parts of the state. For Jim Felton, whose ranch is located right between Big Timber and Livingston, the wind was pretty notable.
“The wind has been terrible over the weekend. I think we saw some 70-80 mile per hour gusts,” Jim said on Dec. 21.
Wind at that speeds is nearly unbearable, and even Jim admits, there isn’t much one can do outside with the wind howling like that. The wind forced Jim and his crew to basically do the bare minimum – feed their cows and then go inside, just listening to the wind wine.
Thankfully, the wind let up enough on Monday, Dec. 21, so that life on the ranch could return to its normal pace. Jim reported they were able to bangs vaccinate about 120 head of commercial heifers and preg-check a bunch of black-baldy heifers on that day. All went pretty well and the cattle were all bred up good.
Monday also found Jim having to deal with a water line issue at the feedlot. He had noticed some waterers leaking and soon the problem compounded to water running down the road and bubbling up. Ultimately the issue came to a head and needed to be addressed. Help was luckily able to come out of Big Timber in a timely fashion.
Jim uses predominately thermal waterers in his feedlot, relying on ground heat rather than electricity to keep them open and flowing. For the most part, he says, they work out pretty well, but chopping water open can’t be totally avoided during the winter.
“If you’ve got a lot of cattle hitting them, they will stay open 24/7. If it gets really cold we can just pop them open with a ball-peen hammer,” Jim explained.
Despite the howling winds, it has thus far been an open winter at Felton Angus Ranch. Jim says he still has one bunch of cattle out on pasture with protein tubs, but before too terribly long they too will have to be started on feed.
Christmas came slightly early on the Felton Angus Ranch with the addition of two new longhorn calves. For 12 years, Spike, Felton Angus Ranch’s beloved longhorn lead steer could proudly be seen out in front of the herd. He unfortunately passed away earlier this year and is greatly missed by the cattle and crew of Felton Angus Ranch. Although they are just little tykes, Jim is hopeful these new calves will one day be able to fill the hole that Spike left.
Bull sale prep continues as well. The 2021 sale bulls had their preliminary breeding soundness exam in mid-December and Jim was pleased to report the batch tested really well. After the holidays Jim will turn is attention to clipping bulls and ultrasounding bulls for carcass data.
Until then, it is the steady march of hauling feed, feeding cows and learning to live with the wind.