Ralph Porch Plays the Momma Cow
Wanblee, South Dakota
Ranchers are big burly guys that twist barbed wire and rope steers, right? Then why is Ralph Porch walking around with a giant baby bottle full of warm milk? Listen to Ralph Porch explain how some days he gets to be the momma cow…
Bernie and Polly inspect the Badlands
West of Interior, South Dakota
Scientists and the fossil record tell us the ridge mule Polly and I are occupying in the picture above was once covered in close to a thousand feet of water.
Flash forward to the present. The inland sea’s gone, replaced by guys with mules posing heroically on the highest points of the once-submerged landscape. Arid, with less than a foot of annual precipitation, one wonders. Aside from ego-boosting photos, what’s this land good for?
In one word: Ranching.
Cow and calf country
West of Scenic, South Dakota
Because the South Dakota Badlands are so dry, they can’t be farmed. Instead, they’re home to enormous ranches. In local speak, they’re called “cow and calf operations”. The calves are born to the mother cows in spring who nurse them until they’re old enough to eat grass.
But what happens if a mother cow can’t nurse her calf? Maybe she dies. Maybe she has twins and there’s only enough milk for one to go around. Then what’s a rancher to do?
Enter Ralph Porch.
Ralph Porch and his family ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation just south of Interior South Dakota. As mule Polly and I passed through his neck of the Plains, he invited us to spend the night.
The next day, before Polly and I headed out, Ralph asked if I wanted to go feed the bucket calves.
Ralph with bucket calves
That’s right, every morning before Ralph starts his regular chores like mending fences, big, tough Ralph Porch feeds calves who’ve lost their moms. He mixes milk from formula, pours it into enormous bottles, and the nursing begins.
The nursing begins
Ready to hear Ralph’s thoughts on bottle feeding? Just click on the player below.
Thanks Ralph, Diana, Shari, Shannon, Shane and Shawn Porch for putting mule Polly and me up and showing me how to bottle feed calves. For more on the Porch family’s ranch and Quarter horses, click here to visit porchfamilyquarterhorses.com.