December 23, 2011

Shipping Calves

Shipping calves to the feedlot seems like such an easy task.  Shipping our calves to the feedlot is a little more complex than loading them on the trailer, driving to the feedlot, unloading them, getting our check and driving to the bank.  The whole process of delivering our steers actually started in August when we contracted them to the feedlot.  The cattle buyer/feedlot rep came out looked at the calves in July when they were still with their moms and grazing the green pastures.  We sat at the kitchen table and went through the vaccination, mineral, and feed the calves would have recieved by the time they enter the feedlot in December.  We provide the feeder with all the informantion of the calf from the time they are born till the time they walk off the trailer including birth dates, vaccination/wormer and dates given, breed of the calves, what they will weigh in Dec (estimate), and brand or other identification of the calf.  We sign the contract saying that we are providing correct and accurate information and that we can be held accountable if we did not do what we said we did with out notification to the buyer.  We will negotiate a price for the calves based on the info provided and keep up our end of the bargain till we deliver the calves.  When we set up our delivery date in August we designated a 10 day window when we can deliver the calves.  When we get close to the window the cattle rep calls and we decide on a date based on our needs and the feedlot needs.  This allows us to avoid shipping during blizzards and gives the feedlot time to plan on having a pen ready for our calves. 
The day we ship we MUST have the calves brand inspected by a state brand inspector.  He verifies that this group of calves is in fact our calves, they have our brand on them in a desigated area on the calf and that they are not stollen and gives the new owner proof that they now own the calves.  We pay for this inspection to be done along with the beef check off.  The beef check off is a producer run program that charges beef producers $1 for every bovine sold.  This money goes to fund research, marketing of beef (you've heard the commercials with Sam Elliots voice or now Mathew McConaughey) and other programs that support the beef industry.  Once the inspector gives us the brand release that signifies that we provided proof of ownership of the calves and we give him a couple of checks the calves are loaded and transported to the feedlot.  We are lucky in that we live on the boarder of 2 counties that are in the top 10 in Nebraska in feedlot capacity and numbers.  Our calves don't spend long hours traveling to their destination.  In fact they will be on the trailer for about 1 hour only about 40 miles.  They get weighed, unloaded, and moved to pen for processing.  Even though they have 3 rounds of vaccine before leaving the ranch it common practice to give them another booster to help their immunity as they are acclimated to eating a diet high in corn and corn bi-product (distillers), mixed with other calves from different ranches, and moved to a new home.  Because we have already done a lot of the work at the ranch our calves have a lower risk of getting sick and do a better job of handling the stress of moving to a new home.  It is kind of like the first day of school, you mix a whole bunch of kids that have been in their own environment for the summer together and week into the new school year 75% of the students have a cold or the flu.  Our goal is to prevent this through building the calves immune system from birth to harvest.  The stress of this move will be minimal as we have already acclimated the calves to alot of the things they will experience in the feedlot. They know that feed now comes from a truck or wagon and it is all mixed together.  They know how to drink from automatic water tanks and are use to living in a pen and know that when the weather turns bad and pens get wet the manure pile is the dry place to sleep.  We will turn in all the paper work with the feedlot collect our check and head home.  We don't just forget about them once we drive away.  We will get data back on the calves in the summer after they have been harvested and that data helps us make better management decisions for future calves. 
The last trailer load standing in the barn waiting
to get their turn. 

Yesterday morning we woke up to a skiff of snow but under that snow was a sheet of ice.  This always makes travel difficult and more stressful, but add a trailer and 13000 lbs of calves and it becomes even more stressful.  By the 2nd trip the sun was out, the county and state had been out and salted the really bad spots.  This year we were blessed with the effects of the feed and management changes we have made in the last 18 months being positive and also great weather.  We blew our target weight out of the water by 72 lbs!!  As we continue to improve the performance and production of the herd we will continue to learn and get better at predicting "normal".  I think we were all excited to see the calves perform up to the standard that we are holding them to.  They should perform well in the feedlot and we definately look forward to getting the data back and know exactly how they did.   

Unloaded and ready to be moved to their new pen.

December 19, 2011

Counting Down the Days

There are many count downs in life....count down to the new year, count down to the day we graduate....count down to our wedding day.... and the list is endless.  It seems we have a tendency to count down to all of those days and moments in our lives that mean something to us.  On our farm it is no different we have days and moments we look forward to and some that we dread and some that are bitter sweet.  This next week is going to be 1 of those bitter sweet count downs as we will ship our steers to the feedlot on Thursday morning.  This past weekend we sorted and picked out which ones that were going to begin the next step in their life and move 1 step closer to proving the next high quality protein source for someone in the world.  We also picked out the heifers that will stay at the farm and become the future baby raisers. 
Thursday will be a one of those bittersweet days.  We will be happy that we did our job to provide the feedlot with the best set of feeding steers that we could and that we gave the these calves the best care that they deserved.  Not to mention we will get paid so that we can continue to provide for the next generation of calves that will be born in a few short months.  Even though we will be happy that they have left our farm we will still be sad to see them go.  Most of them look alike solid black calf with a white ear tag.  Not much differentiates them from each other but there are a few that do have nick-names and a few that stand out for an experience we had with them and a few that have a personality that sticks out but there are some that just blend in.  Sometimes it is good to blend in, those are the calves that didn't get sick, didn't get out of the pen, didn't have to have help being born or beginning their lives.  So it is good to blend in.  Here are some pictures that tell the stories of some our calves lives.

#354 Warming up and Drying in the garage off after a little assistance being born.  I gave him a nice clean rug to lay on but as you can see he prefered the slick concrete and cardboard.

#G11 warming up under the heater in the blazer.  He was born on a very brisk morning and Mom was a little confused on which calf was her's.  After spending a little 1 on 1 time

#G11 a few days after getting to ride in the blazer. 

90% of our calves are solid black but the other 10% of them will have some white on their face.  #6 has a very identifiable dot on his forehead.  It almost looked like a nike swoosh!

#009 doing what she does best being my shadow.  She didn't make sorting very easy as the only way to get her to go out the right gate was for me to walk out and let her follow!  She will definately add a great dispostion to our herd! 

December 16, 2011

Farm Foto Friday

Frosty Trees in the Yard.  There is always such a peace after a good snow!

Calves waking up and getting breakfast on a frosty morning!

The last 2 cows loaded and ready to come home.  They stayed on pasture till the 1st snow when they finally decided to be cooperative!

Cows waiting for the trailer to get their so they can go home.  Enjoying a little alfalfa while they wait!

December 15, 2011

Been a Little Busy

Fall has come and gone (not officially but Winter starts next week) and with that comes craziness and chaos both on and off the farm.  Lately I have been finding myself putting in more than the "normal" 60 hour work week (at the office) to more along the lines of 70-75 hours a week.  Daylight savings day has come again and really messed up my abilty to get home before dark and get a lot of farm work done after I leave the office.  I really wished they would just leave it alone, while I appriciate the extra hour of sleep 1 night a year it really doesn't make up for the hours of productive work that could have been done if I had 1 more hour of sunlight in the evenings.  So until the shortest day of the year has come and gone I guess I will have to keep the Energizer company in business with all of the batteries I will be buying for my flashlights.  Oh not to mention so much darkness while taking care of the chores makes it really hard to get good pictures. 
Harvest is over and all the corn has been hauled to town.  As Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas is right around the corner, I will have to say the I (and Mark) are VERY THANKFUL for all the help and use of a couple of semi trucks that my father-in-law provided to make sure that we got the harvest done as efficiently as possible. 

Grain Cart and Combine 

The calves have been off the cows for 80+ days now and they have long forgotten that mom was such a big part of their lives.  They spend their days eating, laying in the sun, and at about sundown every evening there is play time.  They run in circles bucking, kicking, butting heads with each other and playing king of the mountain (manure piles are so much fun for them).  We are just under 7 days away from delivering the steers to the feedlot and we will be picking out our replacement heifers this weekend. 
We have moved all of the cows off their summer vacation homes to their winter home on the corn fields.  They have 1 more stop before they will be back around the yard for calving.  We preg checked them prior to taking them to the corn field and all of the open (not pregnant) cows were sold.  According to the vet the bulls had a sucessful 90 days and work hard enough to earn their 9 month vacation.  The cows will stay on cornfields until the sometime in March when we will move them into the calving pasture "delivery room and nursery". 

Cows waiting to be loaded and hauled home

As if we are not busy enough in November we took on a group of heifers that the neighbor purchased and didn't have room for at his place.  We just have to feed and care for them (we already have to start the feed wagon and loader tractor every day to feed our own calves) for a few months until he sells them.  They came in preconditioned (vaccinated while still on the cow) but not weaned.  After they showed up I had forgotten how nice the quiet was since our calves had been weaned for quite some time.  They did break out of jail on night 2 and got in with our calves.  One made it out of all of the fences and into our cornfield 1/2 mile north of the yard.  After a little bit I got her talked into coming back with her friends and we fixed the fence and put the heifers back in jail for a few more days.  Other than that they have stayed healthy and are eating well and have been moved out of the jail pen into a bigger pen. 
Somehow the year has flown right by again!!