Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sale!

Well - we started this journey about a year ago.  This week - on Wednesday - we will take our calves to the sale here.  I follow a page on Facebook that is made up of Ranch wives and women all over the U.S.  Someone posted last week about loading their calves up and becoming very sentimental about it.  I guess I am a little hard hearted.  I love seeing the babies and have really enjoyed watching them grow, getting to know them and all the little quirks (except for the "jughead" we have that is an IDIOT!) but I don't think I will be crying on Tuesday morning when we load them up.  It is part of the circle we find ourselves in when raising cattle.  I pretty much saw each one of these calves as a newborn and even watched several of them as they were born!  But I also always knew they would be going to the sale when they were weaned and old enough.

These are pictures from about a year ago ...


I was such a novice and knew absolutely nothing this time last year.  I am still a novice and certainly do not know everything but I have seen and had to experience some events that helped me grow.  I love this part of our lives and would not trade it for anything!

This was a week or so ago - feeding creep feed at the trough ...


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bridge Work

On our land, a creek runs through part of it and to reach the hay meadow at the back requires a bridge to cross the creek.  A pickup has been driven over it many times since we purchased the land, and then we had hay cutting/baling equipment drive across to get to the hay meadow.  All made it without incident but the bridge was showing signs of wear and needed to be repaired.  Thus the undertaking of repairs took place earlier in the summer.  Our son came in and worked alongside my spouse and me to rebuild the bridge.  (Reminds me of a couple of songs - "Love Can Build a Bridge" and "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters").

First - the old boards had to come out.  Our son and my spouse worked on that for several days.



Next order of business - prepare beams for new boards.  Using the cutting torch to cut holes (son was the master using the cutting torch!) and leveling out the edge.


Once holes were cut, the slag had to be scraped so the boards would lie flat against the ibeams.


Next - place boards (2" x 6" x 12' rough cut oak boards - they were HEAVY!), drills holes, then set bolts, all while perched about 15 feet above a creek which was home to several water moccasins, turtles, and other critters.


Here - all the boards are in place.  Nice, new, sturdy bridge.


To keep the wood from deteriorating so quickly, it needs a sealant applied.  The bucket at the other end of the bridge is the paint to be applied.  Before I could begin to paint - I had to be sure it was mixed well.  So I stirred - and I stirred - and I stirred!  The paint was 5 gallons in a large bucket.  Stirring a gallon of paint was never too bad.  Stirring a 5 gallon bucket of paint was a different story.  The first day, it took over an hour of stirring by hand; the next few times it was about 30 - 45 minutes each time!  The sealant was brown and had to be applied by hand with a brush.  In order to reach the undersides outside the beams, I had to lay down and lean out over the ends of the board with paint brush in hand.  To help me keep track, I would work to get at least a dozen boards painted each day that I could go out.  Some afternoons it was way too hot for the paint so I had to wait for days that I could get out early in the morning - when it was at least below 90!  Below are the different stages of painting (what looks like shadow is actually the paint).




Below is the completed bridge - sealant complete.  The people who cut our hay were glad we had replaced the old bridge.  I think they were not sure it was safe to drive tractors across before!


Although my part was minimal - sure is nice to see this completed!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weed Eatin'

My spouse took a few days off last week for a stay home vacation.  His work requires that he travel often so his time at home and on "the ranch" are very limited.  He posted thoughts about weeds in the pasture last week (check out his blog at www.panhandlepoet.blogspot.com).  In the endeavor that we began when we moved to northeast Texas last year, conservation is very important to us.  One of the previous posts was about the desire to maintain the pasture, water, and wooded areas for the wildlife that is present.  In the effort to maintain the pasture, weeds have to be dealt with on a regular basis.  There are several that are considered "invader species" and are not palatable to the cattle or the wildlife.  Those plants need to be eliminated as they utilize nutrients from the soil and water that is needed for the grass and desirable plants.  However, we work very hard to limit the use of chemicals and pesticides on the pasture, preferring to take care of the issue with manual labor (some days I would be more willing to use chemical applications on some of the weeds!  Those 90+ degree days and 80 - 90% humidity are killers).  So we take a hoe and we start the process.

He works much harder at it than I do and is able to accomplish more weed control.  However, I took up the hoe this week and went to work on one of the areas that had a lot of wooly croton (goatweeds) growing up in it.  As I went through methodically hacking the weeds down, it made me think about my spiritual life.  Where the weeds are coming up, there actually are more species that crop up around the ones I am trying to control.  The croton plants get bigger and the other species begin to come up too, choking out the grass that we desperately want to maintain for grazing.  Some of those stems were as big or bigger than a man's thumb and were really tough to chop.  The small ones were really easy and I could go through a large area quickly.  The large ones were a major PAIN and took more time and a lot more effort to chop them down. 

When I allow any sin to come into my life, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear, it can grow quickly if allowed to remain.  It will grow and begin to choke out the good things-time with God, spending time in His Word, spending time with fellow believers.  It will get bigger and bigger and allow other sins to come in and begin to grow.  It will drown out the voice calling me back to the One who knows me best and wants the best for me.  When I realize what has happened and I want the sin gone, God will help me, but it will not be an easy task.  Those big, thick trunks are hard to chop down and if I leave even one small portion attached to the root, it may come back stronger than before.  It takes a tremendous amount of effort on my part and I have to be willing to stick with it.  Now that is not to say that God just sits by and waits for me to do it on my own.  That is not the case.  He gives me His strength when I yield to Him, but I have to yield.  Not only do those weeds (sin) that have been allowed to grow take more effort, but in my life, the process of trying to clean my heart is also painful.  God promises that He will discipline His children because He loves each one too much to leave them in a state that is less than His will.  However, I can choke out that voice and ignore the discipline, thereby hardening my heart to hear God's voice.  Makes it much harder to clean the field that is my heart and also more painful.  In addition, if I ignore the voice and the discipline, I am allowing other sins to come in and take root, just like other unwanted plants come in when small weeds are left and not taken out early.

Just my thoughts on weeds in the pasture and weeds in my life.

Proverbs 24:30-34  "I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.  I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw:  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man."

I do not want to be the one who has no sense and allows the weeds and thorns to thrive!  Oh - and I did use the hoe again this week and made more of a dent in those pesky goatweeds!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Working Day

I know it's been a while since I posted.  Between jobs, computer problems, and just simply life, the blog has been neglected.

In April, a work day was scheduled to tag, brand, vaccinate, de-worm, dehorn, and other "necessary procedures" for all calves; brand, vaccinate, and deworm cows and bulls.  Family members were recruited - or volunteered or whatever to help.  Supplies, equipment, and medicine were gathered and all personnel were excited for the day.  Yep - most of us were "greenhorns" and really didn't know what to expect, but it didn't matter.

Everyone got out to the ranch early to get started before the day got too warm.  All headed to the pasture to begin the process of gathering the cattle and get them moved to the working pens.  This job was the first of many to see plans change throughout the day!  All hands attempted to work together to herd the cows and calves into the working pens.  The cows had other ideas!  They would start towards the pens, then one would get in her head to go the opposite direction.  Needless to say it was a long, LONG morning!  Finally got all the animals into the working pens and got the calves separated off to begin the processing.  Duties were assigned with quick lessons on what to do, equipment distributed, and record keeping set up.


The first calf came through the chute, worked and sent on through.  For the most part, it went well.



The picture below shows the first mishap - he's holding his ripped jeans.  A calf's hoof caught his jeans and ripped from the pocket to below the knee - duct tape fixes anything!  Fortunately - no injury other than the jeans.


 The pictures below were the cheerleaders for the day!  They were such troopers and stayed most of the day!



The calves made it through the processing so the next group was the cows.  Things started out ok, but as is quite often the truth, it didn't stay that way.  Equipment didn't break down but certainly threw some kinks.  It took much longer to work through the cows than calves and everyone had to be very flexible in how their job was handled.  The head gate on the chute began to stick and made it interesting trying to catch a 1600 lb. cow!  More than once gates had to be reset quickly to keep a cow from heading out before getting all the goodies she needed.  

Even though the day was over 12 hours long, all cows and calves got worked ( the last few in the dark - and they are black cows!), and all the help survived the day without too many hurt feelings, injured pride, or physical injuries.  All in all - it was a good day and I loved it!

The process has occurred a couple of times since that day.  It actually goes much smoother and the calves are much calmer now and for the most part, don't balk or hesitate going through the working chute.  There is always one or two that are a little crazy but most go through quietly.  It sure makes it easier especially since there are normally only one or two doing the processing now.  

What a learning experience this has been!  But as I've stated in multiple posts since starting on this journey - I love it and wouldn't trade any of it!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Grass Is Always Greener ...

Lush green grass.  Cows love it and they must think if it's fenced off that it's better than what they have!  So I should have been warned about this propensity they have for making the most of any and every opportunity to reach said greener grass!

My spouse was out of a town at a conference about a week ago and had gotten a message from one of our neighbors that a couple of the calves were out so I went out after work to check.  I counted multiple times and kept coming up with the correct number of cows and the correct number of calves!  I decided to go ahead with feeding.

The cows have figured out that when the pickup pulls in the pasture, they are probably going to get "cake" (ranch cubes).  They will crowd the gate, run after the pickup and almost knock me over trying to get to this treat.  So on this day  - there are 31 cows and 29 calves crowded around the gate as I pull up.  I have the bags of cake on the tailgate of the pickup and try to get the gate open, shoo the cows back, jump back in the pickup and drive through the gate, jump out and close the gate before any cows or calves can get out.  Most days they just follow the pickup but NOOOOO - not this day.  3 of the cows see the lush, green , ungrazed grass and they are out the gate!  I shake the bags of cake to try to get their attention but they are having none of it, so I go ahead and drive out a ways so the rest of the flink (did you know that is what a group of 12 or more cows is called?) will follow me, which they do.  I spread 2 bags for them to start on and they go after it and ignore me as I drive out of the pasture and try to gather these 3 cows back in with the rest.  I did try to "herd" them - that did not work.  I used the bag of cake left to entice them - that didn't work.  I tried walking them back to the pasture but I could not leave the gate open or the rest of the cows would follow suit and all of them would be out!  I even threw some pieces of the cake at them to try to "leave a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow" but that didn't work.  I even screamed at them and finally used my cell phone to call my spouse - and screamed "I AM SICK OF THESE STUPID COWS!!!! at the top of my lungs in a message on his cell phone.  I still cannot get their attention - that grass must have had sugar, drugs, or something completely addictive as they were not leaving it for anything.  I finally opened the gate into an adjoining pasture to try to entice them in with cake one more time.  This pasture also has not been grazed for a while so it also has nice, lush, green grass.  In the meantime, I have talked to my spouse on the phone a couple of times - and can I just say I was less than polite!  Actually I should say I was downright hateful, mean, and ended with "Well I hope YOU have a great evevning!!!"  (The sarcasm was not dripping from my mouth - it was a waterfall!)

I did manage to entice the cows into this second pasture and managed to get the rest of the cows and calves in as well, shut the gate and was just about ready to head out when I had another thought ...  I have pictures of feral hogs that have been in this pasture a couple of different times.  Yep - fences might be an issue since we have not had the cows in there for a while, I decide to walk the fence to be sure everything is okay.  Of course it's not okay!  It could not possibly be that easy.  Fence is down across a small wash area where said hogs have come through - with a hole big enough that certainly any of the calves could walk through and actually probably the cows too.  Oh and it is almost 7:30 so it is pretty dim by this time too.  I call my spouse again - in tears for the umpteenth time - and ask how the heck am I supposed to fix this and keep the cows in?  He has a couple of suggestions.  We have a couple of "bull panels" in the barn and I think one of them would fit across the gap and could hold, if I can just figure out how to get it out there and then get it wired.  I drag it out of the barn (because I can't figure out how to get it in the pickup as it's too long and I am sick of the whole venture at this point), across the pasture and do remember to grab tools before I leave the barn as well.  By this time it is close to 8 o'clock and almost dark; which would be the time the hogs would be more likely to be coming out and I have a pair of pliers and nothing else to defend myself should they decide I make a good target.  No hogs - I do manage to get the panel up but cannot get the barb wire cut to use to wire the panel to the remaining fence.  One more phone call to my spouse as to how to cut the barb wire or what to do to get this thing attached so the hogs can't tear it down and the cows/calves can't get out!  Finally - I actually do manage to get it repaired, wired, cows are in, and seem content - I'm done.

Have to apologize to my spouse as I head home but he is really sweet and understanding about the frustration and lack of knowledge on my part.  The weekend is to be spent at TSCRA Annual convention in Fort Worth which was a nice break.  I also got some advice from the person I look up to as a woman trying to learn this business.  Mary Lou Bradley Henderson is the woman I look up to the most - she has been involved in ranching her entire life - and she has knowledge, experience,  and wisdom.  We talked for a short time while at the convention and she had some great insights for me.  She told me - "Meltdowns are okay.  We all have them!  Get your own set of tools that fit your hands and you can work with, get a good sorting stick to use with the cows and the bulls, and call me anytime!"  She will probably never know how very much those words were needed last weekend but they were a balm to my soul.  As I was screaming out loud at the cows, the sky, my spouse, and this choice in general - one thing kept coming to my mind - What would Mary Lou do?  She would get out there, do what needed to be done, and get on with life.  So that's my new mantra for now.  Thanks Mary Lou!  You are definitely my inspiration to keep going on this journey.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wild Thing!!!

In the midst of raising cows and calves, it is also very important to us that we take care of the wildlife that calls our area home.  To be perfectly honest, some of the critters are welcome, some are not.  We have deer, coyotes, an occasional Mexican eagle, hawks, ducks, herons, and numerous bird species that we both enjoy watching.  We also have turkey vultures, black vultures, feral hogs, fire ants, and some other species  that are not as appealing, though some do serve a purpose.  The turkey vultures are around and do serve to take care of carcasses, as do the black vultures, but the black vultures quite often are more aggressive and will drive away the turkey vultures.  Blacks have caused the death of at least one calf and forced me to barrel madly through the pasture trying to save another!  Ok - that may be a bit of an exaggeration but when I see them circling any of the pastures, I know we probably have a cow giving birth or a brand new calf and the vultures are harassing one or both!  That does tend to send my blood pressure up and foot down on the gas pedal.  I chased about 3 dozen away from a cow that had just given birth to a calf that they (the vultures) had completely encircled and were moving ever closer to the new baby.  The calf we lost to the blacks, was actually stepped on by its mother as she was trying to drive away the blacks that were agitating her in their attempt to reach the newborn.  Guess they got what they wanted! 

I have also seen feral hogs in the past few weeks and they are most definitely not welcome either.  Their rooting causes holes and places for a cow to step into and break a leg, along with eating up nice, tender, grass!  Their rooting causes destruction to a pasture by destroying the desirable grasses and forbs, allowing undesirable invader species to come into the area.  A landowner trying to maintain pasture for his livestock will have to spend dollars, time, and great effort to bring the pasture back.  The hogs can get through almost any fence, thus destroy fencing, causing the landowner to spend dollars to repair/replace barb wire and posts.  Now admittedly, baby pigs are cute, in their own way, but those boars and sows are just plain ugly and vicious!  Their skins are tough with a thick layer of fat making it difficult to take them down, their tusks and teeth are nasty and if bitten or scratched can cause severe infections, and they will chase a human if startled.  They have very poor eyesight but extremely good hearing.  There are serious environmental and economic repercussions that come with feral hog infestations!

Fire ants are another of those species that are an annoyance and can be detrimental to other species that nest on the ground or even newborn calves.  I have to admit that I don't see any redeeming quality in the fire ants and I would love for them to be totally gone from our pastures.  Their mounds are a pain to deal with, cows will not graze around them, and if you ever inadvertantly step on one and stand there, clothes will be flying trying to get the nasty little things off.  Their bite is vicious and prolific, causing painful, itching sores.  They swarm so rapidly that a calf or some other small animal on a mound could be completely covered by ants in a very short time period.  They don't provide any type of benefit that I can see but they are certainly detrimental.

Black vultures, feral hogs and fire ants are considered invader species.  They utilize food, water, and space that would otherwise be available to the native species, thus often driving out those native species. 

I want to emphasize the good that we do in caring for the wildlife that do call our area home.  In building fences, we make sure that deer have access to grass and forbs in the pasture.  We want to keep our ponds clean and available for herons, ducks, and the occasional Canada geese, as well as provide water for the other species.  We will spread the hay and manure to provide nutrients back to the soil and continue to look for ways to handle weeds without damage to the environment, thus efficiently utilizing the moisture and nutrients in the soil.  By spreading the material around, it actually helps the pasture to grow, providing feed for the cows, seed and insects for birds, forage for deer, and cover for the various species that utilize the taller grass.  It is our desire to be able to spend time enjoying the wildlife and know that we are providing care for them, as well as our cows.  Environmentalists  - many farmers and ranchers were environmentalists long before it was considered "popular".   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hard Lesson

This lesson was a tough one.  The incident occurred almost 2 weeks ago and I have mulled how to present the facts in a way that would not be offensive.  The hard reality is that life and death are part of life and death.  Guess that sounds a little awkward but I hope readers understand.

As my spouse travels often, checking, feeding, and just general care of the cows falls to me.  If you've read any of my previous posts, you know I am a complete novice at cattle operations.  I have also started a full time job, so these duties have to occur either before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m., which means a lot happens in the dark or during the hour for lunch.  If I want to get a good count of cows and calves (just a reminder - the cows are ALL black and many of the calves are black baldy or solid black calves), I often go out during my lunch hour.  If I wait until after 5, it still gets dark really quickly and makes it hard to get a good count.

My spouse was traveling all week and was not due back home until late on Saturday, January 19th.  On Thursday, January 17th, I drove out at lunch to check on the cows and try to get a good count.  When I drove up, there were several cows around both areas where we have been feeding hay.  Often, calves and even some of the cows will be laying down in the hay, which was the case on this day.  I really didn't think much of finding a cow laying in the hay, but soon realized there was a problem.  The cow did not get up when I walked up as would normally be the case.  The cows are not necessarily wild, but they also do not like us walking up to them, especially if there are calves around.

This cow - # 78 had delivered her calf, but the calf didn't survive.  I really don't know if I could have made a difference had I been there, but it was still sad.  But there was more ...

The calf was pretty big and apparently if the cow is too fat, delivery can be a problem.  This was the case that day.  #78 could not get up after delivery and had a prolapsed uterus after the delivery.  I honestly thought she was dead when I walked up.  I will not go into details or post pictures, but those that have been around livestock for very long do not need additional explanation.  I wasn't sure if we had some kind of animal attack on the cow, or if aliens had invaded or some form of animal sacrifice!  However, she moved her head, so I knew she was still alive!  Yeah!  Now what do I do for her?  I did not have a clue, if there was anything that could be done, by me or anyone else.  I tried to reach my spouse but he was in the air and completely unavailable by phone at the time.  I called our banker friend, who also has cows to see if he could give me some advice on what to do.  He also was unavailable at the moment.  I called the man we had purchased the land from as his home was just down the road from our place.  He was about 10 minutes out and volunteered to stop by to see if he could help me figure out what needed to be done.

Just a funny side note as the story is not funny at all - remember I said that I came out on my lunch hour.  So I am dressed in my "work clothes" but I do have my rubber boots - cute ones - black with pink and purple horses on them!  Fortunately, my son had left us 2 pair of coveralls he had from an internship he did with Halliburton a couple of years ago.  Once I realized it was going to take more than just driving the tractor, I pulled a pair of coveralls over my dress clothes - so the picture would be worth $10,000 dollars if I just had one!  I am in these bright red coveralls with reflective strips and my black rubber boots with pink and purple horses out in the pasture.  I'm trying to start a new fashion trend.  At least if something happened, someone could see me from the road! 

The man from whom we purchased the land did stop and tried to help me get the cow up so we could get it penned for the vet.  (Our banker friend called in the meantime, gave me the name of a vet to call, and diagnosed what had happened!).  He tried but simply could not help, so he called a friend who lived close.  They were able to help her get to her feet, but could not get her penned.  The vet would not come out unless we had get her penned.  We talked, I talked to my spouse, and we agreed to let her settle down and try to get her penned later that afternoon.

Realize that I only have 1 hour for lunch - this was about 1 1/2 hours in.  I had already called to let them know what was happening and that I would let them know how things progressed.  I had to take care of the calf - got that handled.  As I was talking to my spouse on the phone, I walked back to check the cow.  She had gone to the very back of the pen and was finally laying down.  As I got closer, something did not look right.  I walked to within about 1 foot and she did not move her head or even twitch her ears.  I realized that not only had we lost the calf, but we lost the cow as well.  Going into this venture, there is always the potential for loss - thus the statement at the beginning of this post.

That is not the end of the story - on Saturday, I was able to be present when another one of our cows delivered her calf.  All went well, without incident, and the calf continues to thrive today.  I think it was part of the lesson God had for me, that He allowed me to be there to witness this new life.  I was and am very grateful for this opportunity to be a small part of this life.  I am most definitely a "cowgirl wannabe" and maybe someday, I might just make it!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Facts Behind Beef Prices by CME Group


Because we have started raising cattle, and because this definitely has an effect on our decisions, and because a fellow blogger (Make Mine Beef) posted this ...

(Note:  The points actually do not have anything to do with cuts of beef - just for illustration point.  Although - depending on your point of view - the point about competition might be in the correct part of the anatomy!) 

The facts behind beef prices



CME Group - Ensuring Effective Market Place

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lookin' Good!

Happy New Year!  It is hard to believe all that has happened in the last year.

It's been a while since I have been able to post.  Since the previous post, I have started a "real" job - at the Southwest Dairy Museum here in Sulphur Springs.  It is actually a little ironic that I am employed there, as I do not drink milk or eat ice cream - lactose sensitive.  The museum is a tribute to the dairy industry, which was and is a large part of the economy of this area.  The dairy industry is not an area with which I have ever had any experience.  It will be a learning experience in my attempt to be an asset to the organization and the industry through the job.

I am having to learn how to make use of daylight after work to get cows checked, counted, and fed before dark.  When my spouse is out of town, I need to get out to check cows, count all, look for new babies, and feed - all before it gets too dark.  I normally leave work at 5 p.m. and immediately head out to our place.  See - the cows are black and most of the calves are black with white faces.  Can you see it?  Trying to count black cows and calves and it is quickly getting dark?  Yep - hard to see them all and get an accurate count after dark!!!

The other part of this equation is feeding.  I try to get a good count of the cows and calves first, then work at getting hay to them.  The tractor does have lights so I can at least feed after it gets dark.  Now remember that I said I leave work and immediately head out to the place.  I don't have time to go home and change clothes as it would be too close to dark to see clearly.  Soooo - yep - I have gone out in my "work" clothes to check and feed.  One time I was in a dress, tights and boots, climbed up on the tractor, drove it to the hay, picked up the bale, drove to the pasture, climbed out to open the gate, climbed back up, drove into the pasture, climbed back down to close the gate, and dropped the round bale.  THEN I had to climb down to cut the twine, and reverse the procedure.  Interesting to say the least and I must say I was glad it was dark so no one could see me jumping up and down.  Someone could probably win $10,000 if they had a video camera to catch all the action!  LOL!

One of the guys at work commented that a woman could not handle or understand about needing to feed livestock.  One of the other ladies that works at the museum and has livestock made the following comment - "The difference between a woman and a man feeding is that we both can get the job done, but we women LOOK GOOD doing it!!!"  That's my new mantra!