June 22, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

Summer has "official" begun and not because the on June 20th my calendar says "summer begins".  Due to the extreme heat, drought and, winds we have been onto our "summer" tasks for a little while.  We have had to irrigate our hay that is under the pivot already a few times to make sure we can put up enough hay to feed the cows this next winter.  The corn was ready to hill and due to the lack of rain the irrigation pipe and water had to be started right behind the tractor and hiller.  Mark has gone from checking cows in the morning for new calves to checking the corn every morning (and through out the day and night) to see if the irrigation water has made it to the end of the field.  We had another bull get injured (not a good time to have that happen) so we spent last weekend looking for a new bull...again... and then gathering and moving the bulls around at 2 different pastures to make sure we have enough bull power to cover all the cows that need to be bred in the next 30 days.

Field by our house ready to be hilled.

The tractor and hiller going through the field.  Hilling just cuts little ditches between the rows of corn so that the water will flow better from 1 end to the other end of the field.  The row on the right has been hilled the row on the left has not.  The "hill" the corn plants are growing on will soak up the water and help hold it by the corn's roots.

Irrigation pipe is layed out in this part of the field and the water is heading to the south end of the corn field.  I think I could almost hear the corn plants hollering with excitement over the much NEEDED water!!

We went to our North pasture and gathered the "Big Simmental" bull from his herd of ladies and moved him to this pasture.  The new bull took his place at the North pasture.  Coal and I are walking him down to the cows and the windmill for a drink.

The new bull meeting all of the ladies at the North pasture.  He made quite the impression.  He smelled each 1 of them, then beat up the cedar tree in the background (had to get some great cedar perfume), then he beat up a dirt bank and covered himself with dirt, he put on a good show for the girls.

June 15, 2012

Headed to Greener Pastures

There is no doubt that spring time is my favorite time of the year and I love having the baby calves around the yard so I can watch them play in the evenings.  I have determined that the sight of baby calves playing will ALWAYS put a smile on your face.  No matter how tough the day or how tired I am I will always find myself smiling while watching them race, buck, butt heads together or fight with the dirt!!  Not sure who wins at dirt fighting but it is always great watching them rub their heads in the dirt and beller at it like they are going to stomp a hole in it.  Their playful antics is a sign that they are happy and healthy and that in itself is something to smile about not to mention they are soooo darn cute running with their tails in the air or dirt all over their faces.  As much as I am happy to have them close to the yard I am ready for them to leave and head to their summer vacation homes. 

During the winter and early spring we provide the cows with all the nutrients that they need.  It is kind of like a buffet in Las Vegas, the feed line is not very far away and it is almost all you can eat.  For some reason the good stuff on the buffet doesn't last long!!!  During the winter and spring our grasses are dormant (not actively growing) and do not provide enough nutrients to sustain a cow in late stages gestation or early lactation.  We spend a few hours every evening mixing hay and distillers grain together and checking the mineral feeders and water tanks to make sure that they have all the feed and nutrients they need to maintain their body weight during this time of high requirements and provide for their new calves.  So after a couple months of hauling feed out to them I am ready for them to use the tools (4 strong legs, a mouth full of teeth, and a rumen to digest all the forage) given to them to harvest their own feed.  We have 3 pastures between 10 and 45 miles away from the house.  We will sort the cows and calves to each pasture by several criteria (age of cow, quality of cow which also determines which bull goes where, age of calf, and disposition of the cow).  We have 1 pasture that has a lake in the middle and a fresh water canal, we put the older cows (don't have to travel far for water) there and the cows that we tend to not keep replacement heifers from.  The bulls that go to that pasture generally are better at making calves suited for the feedlot.  Another pasture is really hilly with rough cedar canyons and we put the younger more athletic cows there and the cows that have a very calm disposition.  Wild cows are not allowed to go there under no circumstance because getting them gathered back up in the fall is a night mare.  The 3rd pasture is closest to the yard and is a really good pasture so the majority of the cows that go there are high contenders to pick replacement heifers from.  They are also the calmer disposition ones as well, this is by default because attitude is a quality we look for in replacement heifers.  The bulls we put there are geared more toward producing breeding stock but still have good feeding qualities as well. 
This weekend we started hauling the pairs out to grass.  Here is where having a clear tagging system (see last weeks post) makes things go better.  We want to make sure that we take matched pairs to the pasture.  If we messed up and didn't take 1 cow's calf or took a calf but not it's mother we would have a huge mess and we would have to go back and gather them up and correct the mistake.  This is stressful for both cattle and the care givers maybe more for me as I know I probably would panic if this happened.  This is where having only 1 number for each pair of animals really comes in handy.  Sorting the pairs out is kind of like the game of memory where you have a bunch of cards with different pictures and you have to match the 2 that look alike but with a twist.  When you pick 2 cards that don't match you flip them over and leave them in the same spot.  When standing in a group of 100 cows and 100 calves going in 200 different directions finding the matches takes some patients and skill!!!!  After we sort off the pairs we double check the matches as they go into the barn, then I triple check the matches as they are loaded on the trailers.  

The calves are ready to be loaded in the front of the trailer and
these 2 cows will be in the back compartment. 

 We usually haul out with 2 pickups hooked to 2 stock trailers.  1 trailer gets loaded with all cows and the other gets calves loaded in the front half and cows in the back half.  We keep them separate on the drive to prevent any cows from accidentally stepping on a calf and either injuring or killing it.  It is all about the safety!!!  When at the pasture we unload both trailers and hold them together for a few minutes to makes sure that they "pair up" (mothers find babies and babies find mothers).  Once they are paired up and everybody is aware that their other half made the trip we open the gates and summer vacation begins!  They will stay on these pastures till fall when we wean the calves and move the cows back to the corn fields.

We work hard all winter to take good care of them and all they can do is turn their
back side to us when we give them green grass!!! 

Farm Foto Friday

This bull is working hard so far!  On this evening there were 2 cows in standing heat and he was making sure he was doing his part!! 

Hanging out looking for some trouble to start!!

This time of year the sight of 2 full water tanks is a relief.  It has been hot and dry so making sure the windmills are working is a top priority. Those 2 tanks hold enough water for 2 days when it is 90+ degres.

I did a switch up on the heifers and rode my horse out to check them instead of the 4-wheeler.  They lined up and took turns sniffing and checking out my horse!!  Such polite ladies!!!

Yeller thought that he would keep the seat warm for me!!  4-wheelers make such fun toys even for the kittens!!

The hay meadow is ready to be swathed and baled!!  It is a mixture of cool season grasses, alfalfa, and red clover.  This was taken last week and this hay is already wrapped up in bales and sitting in the stack yard waiting to be fed this winter.

June 12, 2012

Connection with our Customers Through Emotions

It occurred to me a few weeks ago after reading and engaging in some other blog posts about agriculture that sometimes we need to involve some emotion in our story.  Not the bad emotion of lashing out, name calling, and not being open minded to those who don't believe in using our products but a good emotion that shows our full character.  HSUS uses emotion to collect millions of dollars annually from mostly good hearted people who don't want to see cute kittens and puppies hungry or abused.  They give money because they believe that they are helping to feed and shelter and animal in need (FYI - less than 1% of their donation actually goes to help an animal, see their tax returns on humanwatch.org website).  I as a farmer don't want to see my animals sick, hungry, or in pain either but in some peoples eye I am a cruel, heartless, and terrible person because I raise cattle to provide food for hundreds of people world wide. 

This calf needed some help into the world on a
very cold day.  He warmed up in the garage by
the heater while the vet fixed is mom up.  I
gave him a dry rug to lay on but he preferred
the cardboard.

We in the industry can use all the facts, figures, and data in the world to prove that we are doing right by the animals but sometime maybe showing our emotions would go quite a ways.  Now I still believe 123% that our decisions on the farm should be made using sound science and proven techniques and technology to give our livestock the best life possible.  But I also realize that most of the farmers that I know wouldn't let anybody see the soft side of them because they were taught to stand strong, don't give up, and that crying won't fix the problem.  We have to grow a tough outer shell because we work with a lot of unknown and many things that we have absolutely zero control over.  We have to be tough to work in weather conditions that most would not dare to go outside in.  We have to be strong willed and determined to work well into the early morning hours to finish what ever it is that NEEDS to be done before "quiting" time.  But on the other side of that hard outer shell is a soft side that most people never get to see (including spouses and children), most farmers don't want to seem to be anything but strong and may view softness as a weakness.  But sometimes I think we need to show that we do have a soft side and it is perfectly OK to let our customers see that soft side once and a while.  I am not going to turn on the water works or support media that would use emotion to "steal" money from others, but the soft side is where the love of our livestock is at and we need to show that we in fact do care about them!!  

Born on a frosty morning and enjoyed a few
minutes under the heater in the blazer on his
way to the barn to be re-united with his momma

Like many other farmers we have put a chilled calf in our vehicle or garage to warm them up.  I took my coat off and wrapped it around is cold calf while I waited for Mark to come pick us up this spring.  We waited patiently for our injured bull to slowly get in the trailer so we could get him to the vet when we could have "hoo rawed" him and got him loaded faster but taking his time he was in less pain and was less likely to further injure himself (he weighs 1800 lbs I am not going to just pick him up and carry him).  We talked gently and worked quietly while we worked with a first time mother to get her to love her calf and let him nurse.  We do feel the pain and anger every time we loose a calf and it doesn't get easier with time either.  Yes we are in the business of raising food, we are trying to make a living doing what we love and what we love is taking good care of the land and livestock!!
We didn't get much practice this year feeding in the snow (it only snowed twice) but we hauled fresh hay to the cows that were grazing cornstalks to make sure they had enough to eat to get them through the cold spell.

Cleaning pens so our cattle are never "knee deep" in their own manure.  We recycled the organic fertilizer to our fields to grow more corn and hay.

June 7, 2012

The life of a Steer and Heifer on our Farm

We get to see our calves grow and develop into either feedlot steers and heifers or replacement heifers bound to become the next generation of baby makers.  I always find it exciting to see them born and even more fun and exciting to see them grow and develop before they leave our farm or become our next set of cows.  I thought I take enough pictures of the calves that I could pick out a couple and follow them from the beginning of their journey to the end and I thought that you all might like to see them grow and develop over the 9-12 months that they are either with us and/or before they make the leap from calf category to cow category. 
I chose steer number 040 he was born on March 12 to a first calf heifer.  I chose him because he happens to be 1 of our steer calves that is a stand out...  No matter which groups of cow and calves he is with he always catches your eye and you notice him.  Part of it is because he is a little lighter in color that most of our black calves, but mostly because he is a great representation of a heavy muscled steer that will perform well and eventually be a beautiful rib eye on someones dinner plate.  The heifer calf I picked to follow is 007, after only a few short months she has the high (very high) potential of ending up in our replacement pen of heifers.  She is out of a 1st calf heifer as well so she is a half sister to 040.  She is also out of 1 of the cows Mark and I actually own so she will be a contributing to the building of our own herd aside from the herd we lease.  007 was born on April 14 and was the last calf born out of the group of first time mom's this year.  For being born 30 days later she is still on the older end of our calves this year.  We calve for 90 days and had well over 90% of our calves born in the first 42 days.  Here are some pictures from the first 2 months of their lives so far!

040 just a few minutes old!!  With in minutes he was on his feet and looking for lunch!

He is about a month or so old here.  The calves we get our of his sire tend to have a lighter black color.  They get lighter after they are born but will turn more black when their hair sheds.

040 at almost 2 months old.  He likes to stand so that his big muscles are flexed, it matches his "I am tough" attitude.  He has been at the summer vacation home for about 3 weeks. 

007 - yes this is a cow not the calf, the calf is still nice and comfy inside the cow right now.  She was born a couple weeks after this picture was taken. 

Less than 30 minutes old.  I went by the pen not 40 minute before this to check cows and the cow was not showing too many signs that there was a delivery in route at least not in the next few minutes.  When I went back 40 minutes later to start feeding (in an effort to beat the nasty storms that were brewing over head) there was a new calf trying to get her first meal... 

She got to spend the night in the suite in the barn, a nasty thunder storm with hail and wind was developing right after she was born so to not take any chances momma and baby went to spend the the night in the dry barn...

007 about a month old loving the summer vacation home

June 1, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

Weeks fly by even faster when you have a holiday in the mix and only have to drive to town 4 days instead of the normal 5 days!!  Nobody guessed the repairs foto's from last week.  The 1st two were of the swather and the 2nd was my temporary fix on one of our windmills.  Summer activities are in full swing at the farm which means checking cows on grass, putting up hay, working on fixing everything that needs fixed, and patiently waiting for the next task that needs completed for the corn.

Hanging out in the pastures

My view from on my horse!!  Bubba is a whole lota outa shape
The kittens were thought my sweat shirt made a great place to take an afternoon nap!!!

Cha Ching is about a week away from getting to go to work for the next 75 days.  He was pretty curious about the 4 wheeler and me taking his picture!!