February 29, 2012

A Close to 2011 Calf Crop

Here I sit in my office waiting patiently for the auctioneer to announce that our cattle are next to come into the sale ring.  Thanks to the Internet I can sit in my office and not have to take a day off to watch our cattle sell.  I can even buy cattle on the Internet at the sale barns that I am a registered bidder.  Pretty darn cool!! Now it is not quite the same as being at the auction in person but for those of us who also work off the farm we can still participate in the sales and watch our cattle sell.  We hauled the replacement heifers (not the ones we keep for ourselves) and the few steers that were not big enough to go to the feedlot in December to the sale barn yesterday afternoon.  Let me tell you it was a strange feeling last night when I was out feeding the bottle calf and checking the bred heifers to not have the calves following me up and down the fence.  We raise our cattle to provide beef for consumers and we can't provide the consumers the hamburger or rib eye steak if we don't sell the calves we raise.  Even though it is hard to let them go there will soon be another generation of calves on the ground soon that will need our care and attention for the next 12 months.  Not to mention the bank will like to get their payments for the year.  Now it is time to clean the pens and move the replacement heifers that we are going to breed this spring moved into a pen.  It is time to start getting them prepared to make their journey into the production team.  Any day now calving season will be in full force and before we know it fall will be here again and the pens will be full of calves again!!

Farm Foto Week

This last week I was spent the week at the Nebraska Cattlemen's Classic in Kearney Ne.  It is a large cattle show where many producers in Nebraska and other surrounding states bring some of their cattle and compete in the open show.  The Top bull and heifer in each breed then competes for top title in the Supreme Row contest.  All of the cattle entered into the open show are then sold to other cattle producers looking for top quality genetics to add to their herds.  The weekend is also full of events for the young cattlemen and cattlewomen of the future get to bring their 4H and FFA projects (steers and heifers) in to compete and get some well needed practice in cattle care and handling.  Events like this don't happen without outside financial support from cattle industry supporting business (feed dealers, bull services, equipment dealers, insurance companies, etc.).  I spent the week hanging out in a booth and visited with a lot of cattlemen and many of the other vendors at the show.  Here are some pictures from the show to make up for Farm Foto Friday!

Selling 1 of the many Heifers brought to the Classic

Some of the Sponsor Booths/Displays

Getting ready to for 1 of the sales

New product to make it easier for cattlemen/women to feed Distillers Grain!!

February 17, 2012

New Addition to the Herd

After sitting through 5 bull sales we finally got a bull bought!  It is hard when the end of a sale is coming and the bulls that were on my list to are already sold to someone else to not just buy a bull to join the crowd who were able to buy a bull.  Setting goals and limits are hard, but sticking to them is even harder.  This week I was able to purchase a bull that meets all of our selection criteria (and then some) and was in our price range.... well.... kind of..... With feeder calf prices reaching new highs every week it has made it more difficult to get bulls bought for a "decent" price this year.  Not to mention the definition of "decent" price has risen $1000-5000 over last year as well.  The good bulls are bringing premiums which with the high feeder calf price and higher input cost is to be expected.  The past few years I have bought bulls from seed stock producers who have their sales this time of year but will keep, feed, and deliver the bulls to their new owners in April.  Great for us because at this time of year these young bulls are still growing and need diets higher in protein and energy than my older mature bulls.  This time of year our pens are still full of some of last years calves that we are growing for sale and we need to have some pen space available for the heifers who will start calving any day now.  This year the supplier I purchased the bull from hauls their bulls to the local sale barn and the new owners take immediate possession.  So we sorted out a couple of steer calves to keep the bull company for a few days before we put him in the pen with my horses.  He will get to live with them for a few months till the grass starts to green up then we will move him out with the old bulls.  The steers kept following me around and getting in the pictures making it harder to get a few good pics of the bull (I named him "Cha Ching").  I am hopeful that is the sound we will hear when his offspring are born!!  Next year!!

February 14, 2012

The Girls have come Home!

It doesn't seem quite possible that it is time to bring the girls home for the next few months.  Seems like we just turned them out to summer pasture yesterday.  Spring time is almost here and we will have a bunch of new baby calves running all over our farm before we know it.  It seems funny to me that my favorite time of year can be sooooo stressful but still so rewarding all at the same time.  I bet if you did a survey of cattlemen and asked them what is their favorite part of raising cattle the majority of them would say calving time.  Even though it is extremely stressful for the caretakers, there are a lot of sleepless nights, usually at least 1 good struggle with the reality of life and death, but in the end there is nothing better than a young calf running and playing in the spring.
Our cows have been about 2 miles down the road for the past month and up until a week ago we didn't have to feed them as we haven't had much snow to cover the corn stalks.  We got to the field with a 4 wheeler, a horse, a extra car, and the tractor with a bale on the back at 9 am Sunday morning.  Our plan was to get the cows moved down the road after all the people going to church had already left with the thought that we would be done before they started to venture their way home.  Winter finally showed up in Nebraska and the temps have started to reflect Feb instead of May.  Nothing like a brisk horse ride when it is near zero degrees with the wind chill to get you woke up and ready to tackle the world.  The cows gathered good, and were following the tractor to the gate when everything came apart.  The cows ran to the gate beating the tractor, they turned left when they should have turned right.  Good thing for the neighbor kid who was in the car to block the road in case this happens.  He got them stopped , turned the right way and the tractor got to the road in front of the herd.  Not to much of a disaster but they always have to try one get away.  Now there is fence on both sides of the road all they way to our fields.  Part of it is electric wire and part was 4 strand barb wire.  They have been in a single hot wire for the past 3-4 months and have stayed in beautifully so we were not worried that they would go through any fences.  That is where we were WRONG!  Cow number 100 is now on my #%$! list where she will stay for probably the end of time and I will probably never use the number 100 again!  She broke 5 of the 6 hot wire fences, tried to take my horse, tried to take the neighbor kid, attempted to go through a permanent fence, and got stuck in a snow bank where she proceeded to get more angry at the situation.  All of which could have been avoided if she would have chose to follow the tractor and hay down the road with the rest of the herd.  The rest of the herd was walking down the road and following the tractor just fine, except for the few that followed 100 through every fence she broke.  But once we turned them around they went back the way they were suppose to and didn't have to get mad and throw a fit about it.  Needless to say, we got all the cows down the road and safely into our hay meadow and corn fields.  Then we had to tackle the task of fixing all of the neighbors fences that were broken along with our own fences.  The next time we walk the cows down the road I am going to find 100 and put my horses nose on her butt and make sure she doesn't get within 20 feet of a fence.  Not to mention she has landed herself a spot on the "all star" list.  This is a list of cows that "all have stars" by there number to be culled out of the herd!! 
I wanted to get some really good pictures of the days events, but I had my hands full and was only able to get 1 picture....before mayhem began.... I was waiting for the guy in the insurance commercial to pop in and give me a speech about how this could have been prevented with good insurance!! Hahahaha

February 10, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

Patiently waiting for Mark to cut the twine!

Unrolling the bale for the Cows!  It is easy to find the Black
Cows in the snow covered corn field!

Line of cows eating the hay

February 9, 2012

Winter showed up... Finally...

It has been a beautiful winter so far.  The temps have been well above freezing and we have even had a few days in the 50's!!!!  In fact the frost has come out of the ground and we have been able to dig some post holes!!  Normally we are happy to see a day with temps slightly above freezing!  The weather turned back to winter last Friday and has stayed so far.  We REALLY REALLY needed the moisture and it was a really wet heavy snow.  So as I look at the cold white stuff and the mud I keep reminding myself that we need the moisture so that we will have green pastures in the spring and good soil moisture for the corn fields prior to planting.  Here are a few winter pictures to enjoy!

Mark pushing snow with the 4-Wheeler.  Tekan watched with such excitement, she
LOVES to play on the piles of snow!!

Tekan wondering why Mark pushed the snow soooo far away!!

Even though we haven't had to feed much this year, the
Cows are eager for some hay!!

February 8, 2012

Bleacher Butt at the Bull Sale

I am sure I could ask any parent who has kids in high school sports about bleacher butt and they could write me a book.  It is that time of year when those who raise bulls for those of us who buy them are having their annual production sales.  We are looking to buy a couple of bred heifers and we need to buy 1 new bull this year.  So my kitchen table is begining to resemble my desk when I was in college and was studing for a test.  There are bull sale catalogs, flyers, and other resources layed out everywhere!!  Genetic selection is such a big and vital part of our cattle business.  With out good genetics we will not have calves that will meet our goals and give us the opportunity to be profitable.  Notice I didn't say they would be profitable, just that they will have the genetic ability to potentially be profitable.  There are so many other outside factors that we have no control over that effect the profitability of our cattle enterprise (weather, markets) but with out good genetics we will not have the potential to make money.  On our ranch 1 bull will account for 17% of the calf crop every year.  If we make a bad choice and buy a bull that doesn't produce calves that will meet our feedlot goals or our heifer development program that can be costly mistake.  Not to mention a mistake we may be married to for up to 15 years if we kept any replacement heifers out of that bull.  The nice thing about the beef industry is that we have tools to help make selections on bulls easier and with some of the new technology with mapping the bovine genome we may have some more tools that will help as well.  Researching a sales catalog is like sitting down and studying for a biology test.  I pull the EPD's percentile tables off the breed association website help give me a guideline on where the potential new bull falls within the breed for certain traits.  I set minimum and maximum limits on specific EPD's and a bull must meet 7 different traits on paper and he must meet 4 different physical characteristics as well before I will look at him.  If he gets the paper approval I will look at him and evaluate him for other physical characteristics that we consider to be beneficial for our breeding program.  By the time the sale starts I have a game plan with a list of bulls that meet our goals and those are the ONLY bulls that we will bid on during the auction.  We avoid impulse buying at all cost!! 
Needless to say I sat patiently through 1 bull sale on last Sat waiting for the Bred Heifers that were also for sale.  There was 3 guys there buying everything they could at what ever the cost.  I bid on every heifer I had marked as 1 that would be a great addition to our herd.  I failed to be the winning bidder on any of them.  Sunday rolled around and again I sat patiently for the 2 bulls that I really wanted to buy.  I looked over to they guy bidding against me on the 1st bull and realized I know who he is and I was not going win this battle so I let him buy the bull.  The 2nd bull came in and I had the winning bid going once, going twice, and that same guy jumped in at the last second.  So we battled back and forth for a couple of seconds when I realized I was not going to win again no matter how high I bid.  I couldn't believe it!  So the hunt continues for a couple of bred heifers and a good bull.  It is early and there are plenty of bull sales to come in the next couple of months.  So it looks like I will get to enjoy another case or 2 of bleacher butt at a few more sales.