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Every February, without fail, calving season comes. And along with that comes a need for the water truck lady. It is one of my favorite jobs.
THE NEED FOR WATER
As the calves get older they are moved further away from the calving sheds and out into pastures with shelter. Some of these pastures do not have wells or windmills, so we need to fill up a tank with the pickup. The water tank holds about 300 gallons of water and takes about 45 minutes to fill.
Sometimes I will take 3 loads to the same tank, especially if the girls are thirsty! It takes a lot of time, but not a lot of brains, so the guys don’t really like doing it. I gladly volunteer! Haha!
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There are a couple of perks that come with this particular task. First, while the water is filling, I can work on landscaping around the barns and cleaning up leaves/weeds from the previous year. Boom. Two birds with one stone. It is during this time I have created a couple of fun rock gardens along the cellar house. Oh the projects you can get done in 45 minutes!
LET THEM EAT CAKE
The second perk, is that I generally have a bucket of cake on the pickup. Cake is a big protein cube that cows adore. They actually lose their minds when they know there is cake about. They will try to crawl on your lap, in your window, up on the pickup bed. They love it that much.
Check out my free first-aid for livestock checklist!
The fun part is bringing the “cake monster” out of the cow. At least I think so. My Father-in-law and husband might not agree the next time they drive out to check cows and get swarmed with ravenous mamas, but I love all the attention.
OFF WE GO
After the water tank is filled, I screw the cap on tight (important!) and I head out to the pasture. There are usually a couple gates to open. Wire gates. Most of which I can “man handle” open. But sometimes I use the cheater wire and let it sag a little until someone a little stronger than me comes along to shut it proper. A girl can only grunt so much.
STOP AND GO
The next part seems simple enough, but backing up to the tank can have its own problems. There needs to be a clear path to the tank, meaning no calves or cows are lying down in the way sleeping having happy cow dreams. It’s also very important to get up within about 4″ of the tank WITHOUT bumping into it.
If the tank is completely empty, you can bump it gently and it will move. If there’s water in there, no bueno. It’s not going anywhere and you may leave a tiiiny dent in the side (I promise those big dents are from thirsty cow knees, not from me.) What usually happens is this charade of me backing up 2″, jumping out and checking, backing up another 2″, jumping out and checking. The cows love this, I’m sure.
OPEN ‘R UP
After I finally make it close enough, I unscrew the top lid and open the valve to let the water flow. If the girls are completely out of water, I have to play supervisor and make sure everyone gets a drink without climbing into the tank or knocking the valve off. They can kind of get hard on the sides of the tank if they all are pushing at once. These girls are big.
This is also the part where I break out the cake! “Sorry, Doll Face, there simply isn’t enough room for the pair of us in here.”
The calves are also curious and often times I’ve caught them poking around under the pickup. Curious little critters. They don’t have the same affinity for cake as their mommas, so they don’t think I’m nearly as fun.
BUT IT’S NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES
This job is so easy, really, unless you’re 4 months pregnant, and have a baby taking up more and more room all the time, like I was in the spring of 2016. Every day I would don my overalls, muck boots, and coat, and set off down the road to find the water truck. Thankfully my overalls still fit normally. It was my bladder I was having problems with. Let me illustrate this for you.
First, I fill up the tank with lots of (gonna be Miss Obvious here) WATER. I did have 45 minutes to get up to my mother-in-law’s house, so I was a frequent visitor during this time. I don’t think she even knew then, but she probably had her suspicions!
After it was filled, I BOUNCED down the road or out to a pasture with a giant tank of water sloshing behind me. Golly. Somehow during this 10 min trip my bladder had filled up again. We (baby and me) finally arrive at our destination. I crank open the water valve on the tank. Oh. My. Goodness. It could be quite horrible at that exact moment. But, I survived, and so did the cows.
There are so many other jobs on the ranch that I feel I am quite good at. Like overfeeding hay, getting the pickup stuck in the sand with a loaded trailer, leading the heifers like the pied piper in the wrong direction. But those stories will wait for another time.
What’s your favorite early spring task? I’d love to hear your water stories, too!
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