Friday, October 24, 2014

Changes are Coming

It is so hard to believe how long it has been since this journey began!  The road is taking a turn here in the next few days and I have very mixed feelings now.  Excitement, trepidation, sadness, curiosity - all of these run through my mind constantly these days.  So let me explain ...

We have already been making plans to change the type of operation we have - going from a cow/calf to a stocker operation.  To some - this seems like insanity; to others - makes perfect sense and a good business decision.  We have been discussing what would need to be done in the next couple of months to get everything in place and ready to begin running stocker calves.

Last week, on Sunday morning, we gathered the cows to take them to a sale here for brangus cows on Monday.  Got them gathered (with a little excitement) and got them transported to the sale barn.  I had to leave early on Monday morning as I was scheduled to work at the State Fair of Texas all week and would be staying in Dallas (yep - the hospital with the Ebola was just a block or two from our hotel).  My spouse was going to the sale to see how things went and how the cows sold.  He went - they sold and we talked a little about getting calves worked this past weekend to get them finished with pre-conditioning requirements of the organization we sell through.  He was going to have a cousin and his son come help give final shots to the calves to have them ready for the Northeast Texas Beef Improvement Organization sale in November.

That's when everything - and I mean EVERYTHING changed! We got a text on Sunday while getting cows to the sale barn from a realtor with whom we had listed the land earlier in the year but we had not renewed the listing. We had decided to just stay where we were and work with what we had.  Apparently the listing had been left up on one site and someone saw it, came and looked and she felt they would make an offer.  Sure enough - I think it was on Tuesday - the realtor called my spouse and said there was an offer on the table for the land, the heifers, bulls, and calves!  We talked after spouse emailed the offer to me and came to an agreement about what we would accept or change.  

To make a long story short - we came to terms that both parties agreed on and will close on the sale today!  I know it's silly but it really makes me sad as this was the first step when we moved here to start our dreams.  The setup was perfect for us - water, barn, working pens, etc. and allowed us to raise 2 crops of calves - just didn't really have opportunity to expand as the property around us is owned by families who are not looking to sell.  I found out how very much I LOVE doing this - and my family would never have believed that I would!

I had to make one last trip out last night to walk the entire property one last time (while it was still ours).  It was a great starting place and God's timing was perfect in providing means and opportunity to start on this journey.  I guess I am just a sentimental fool!  Cried a little as I walked the property, took a few pics, talked to the girls a little, then headed home.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Work, Work, Work!

Tomorrow is one of those days I really look forward to having.  We are hoping to get to spray for flies - UUUGGGHHH!  They are awful right now and I know it affects the performance of the cows and calves.  We are also planning to pull blood to test cows for pregnancy.  Using the blood pregnancy test helps us make decisions about our herd.  If a cow is "open" or not bred, we know she will need to be taken to the sale.  The bulls (see note about these guys!) have been with the cows since the first of May.  If a cow is not bred by now, she is using forage and water without being productive, meaning growing a calf.  If she's not productive, she does not stay.  For some that may seem harsh but this is a business and has to be run as a business.  With limited resources and a limited budget, those that do not produce do not stay.

I have said this before but I love this adventure!  It is by far the best of anything we have done and though the work may be hard sometimes and it always seems to be hot and humid, I would not trade it.  Through the ranch, our children and grandchildren are able to see an example of pulling together and working together (not always peacefully but hopefully always pulling in the same direction).  In this day of entitlement and the desire for the reward without the work, I think it is important they see the right way to live and work. 

Back to the cows - in working the cows we are hoping to evaluate calves and also get some pictures for marketing.  The calves this year are fairly uniform and are a great size.  Our Angus bulls came from Bradley 3 Ranch and they are awesome!!!  We have Brangus cows that were bred with our bulls and they produced great calves.  The cows had no trouble with delivery as the calves are not large at birth.  They do grow well though!  Many of the calves at 6 months are about 2/3 the height of the cows.  We could not be happier with the calves!  Our bulls - Hank and Drover have great genes.  Contact James or Mary Lou Henderson for information on their bulls.  You will be pleased with your results!

We are considering some different options for our operation as we move forward.  Stay tuned as I will be starting a brand new learning curve if we decide to take a different approach.  Never too old to learn something new! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

School Is In Session

I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in San Antonio for the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers convention earlier this year.  It was a great venue - who doesn't love San Antonio in the spring and the sessions offered were excellent!  The speakers had good information to pass on to the attendees and the staff at TSCRA did an awesome job at coordinating all the schedules!  They are a great group with which to be associated and always are looking for ways to get important news and information to their members and to the livestock industry.  For a novice like me, it was full of needed information to help me better understand how to operate effectively and efficiently.

There are a lot of ranchers that have been doing this work for many years - some multiple generations back, but there are also a lot of newcomers to the industry.  TSCRA staff work very hard to provide information that is needed by the "newbies" but is also relevant to the "old hands".  Two of the sessions were on strategic planning.  The focus was to help ranchers see the need for a strategic plan and to understand the difference between strategy and tactical plans.  There were some who knew but everyone in the session came away with a much better understanding of the difference.

Strategic planning may not generate excitement in your mind but the sessions provided excellent information and reasons for developing such a plan for every operation.  Strategic planning involves mapping out the "big picture" of where you want to go with your operation, like planning a vacation (which is what one of the session speakers used as the basis for his talk).  You have to decide where you're going first - then how are you going to get there as there are multiple avenues available, such as traveling by car or flying.  So you want to run cattle - it might mean looking at a cow-calf operation vs a stocker operation vs heifer replacement; commercial or pure bred; grass pasture vs. grain fed.  Once you have made that decision, then you have to determine what you are going to do when you get to your destination (again - vacation example).  Are you going sight seeing, relax at hotel pool, shopping in the antique district, play golf on the local course, hiking and exploring the parks and outlying areas?  Those are all part of the strategic plan so when we think about a cattle operation - you have to have resources - land, water, equipment, money.  Are you going to borrow, and if so, from whom and how much?  Some of these may actually fall under the technical plan as well but they are also needed to get you to where you want to go.

Strategic planning helps you to actually sit down and think through the steps needed for you to accomplish your dream. 

Of  course - there was some down time and the Riverwalk is such a nice venue to enjoy dinner and good times with friends, both old and new.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Poison Ivy, Chiggers, and Ticks - Oh My!

A few weeks back my spouse and I were working on fencing - actually were clearing brush, greenbriar, and weeds from an area that will eventually have a fence.  We worked on the entire path - though it had been cleared earlier by my son and him, as is true in this part of the world - already had regrowth of the "stuff" that had been cleared before.  We chopped, hoed, and pulled to get the path clear and ready for barbed wire to be run through for the fence.  I then got to work at the ending point to clear out brush, small trees and the ever present - greenbriar!  He was stringing the next strand for the fence while I worked on the end point.  It was not too hot so it was nice to be back out there working again.  Since I have gone back full time and my spouse is now working on his own, he does most of this type of work during the day when I'm at work and I don't get to participate nearly as much as I would like.  But it takes both to make it work, so we press on.  I pulled tree branches out that had fallen but gotten caught up in the brush, trimmed lower branches to clear areas for wire, and cut/howed weeds to clear the area so the fence could be built in a relatively clear area. 

I never thought about the different things that might be out there - other than the wood spiders we saw.  In re-clearing the path, we did see poison ivy but I made sure to use the clippers or at least my gloved hands to remove it.  However - I did not have on my work boots - but tennis shoes.  Big mistake!  I managed to get poison ivy all around my ankles.  I never thought about it when getting dressed to work that morning.  The itching started that night but I really thought it was probably chiggers - not poison ivy.  However - the blisters started developing the next day and oh the itching!!!  I have never had poison ivy and hope to never have it again.  No sleep from the constant itch and desperately trying not to scratch!  I finally wet handtowels with cool water and wrapped my ankles to try to get a couple of hours of sleep.

Then I discovered I did have chigger bites - just a few which I could handle.  But when I found the tick - UUUGGGHHH!  I absolutely hate ticks and finding one attached just about did it for me!  I found it on Monday morning and my spouse was getting ready to head out of town for the week to help his mother with some items that needed his attention.  I had to get him to help me get it off - tried everything but no budging from the little parasite!  Finally he pulled it off, left the head in so then had to start digging with a needle!

I worked out there all last summer and never had chigger bites, saw a tick and never had contact with poison ivy.  Then had all 3 in one day.

But those things are part of the "Great Outdoors" and if you're going to be in their area, you have to be aware of the potential.  I wouldn't trade it for anything!  Well - maybe the poison ivy - I have never had anything itch so constantly and hurt at the same time.

We are working on expanding and love the ranch more each day. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Babies, Babies, Babies ...

For those that were around when I started this a little over a year ago, you might remember our calving season started the first of October and ended the last day of February - a looonnnnggg 5 months.  It created some interesting scenarios as we had calves of varying ages and weights.  When getting ready to wean calves and prepare for the sale, the desire is the group be fairly uniform.  Obviously - that was not really the case with ours, although when they went to sale, they were more uniform in weight than I thought they would be.

This year - our first calf was born on February 6 and we really were hoping for a 30-45 day calving.  We didn't quite make it as we still have a few calves yet to make their appearance.  We are much closer though.  The calves have all been born with little issue and are fairly uniform in size and appearance, although there are some color variations.  They are beautiful and seem to all be doing well, which is really nice as we lost several last year.  That makes a big impact on finances when the calf crop is a source of funds for growing the operation.

Unfortunately, this year, I have not been able to be there when they were born or spend as much time with them as I would like.  Somehow, that full time job keeps interfering with my time at the ranch.  It is good that my spouse has been able to be here this past month and has gotten to spend time out there (he missed a lot of it last year with business travel).  Saturday is really my only day to get to spend much time out there but didn't get to go out today.

Here are a few pictures of the babies this year.  Love getting to see them and several of them are so curious that they walk up to the truck when we drive through checking on them.

Someone on a facebook group I follow asked me to write about how we ended up here.  It will be a repeat for some, but I really never get tired of telling it.  Also - if it encourages one person to follow their dreams, no matter what age or stage of life, it is worth it!  More to come ...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Just Another Day ...

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog - I just couldn't find anything that was really new or different to write about.  That and I started back full time this fall so it's been a little busy.  What really started me thinking is a conversation I had with my new boss about our place.  I told him that I missed not being able to go out to the land and just be!  I love getting to interact (sort of) with our cows and I truly love just sitting out there, watching them, listening to birds, and simply enjoying the beauty of the land!

So just another day - well in the month of November, my spouse was traveling with his job so the feeding/checking cows fell to me.  As you probably realize, the days are much shorter right now, so in order to get everything done, my days have to start earlier.  My "normal" routine begins about 5:15 a.m. or so - jump in the shower, take care of personal toiletry (brush teeth, makeup, hair) then leave the house by 6:15 to head out to the place.  I get out there by 6:25 - 6:30, get ranch cubes and get them fed - hopefully without getting run down by silly cows and bulls trying to get to the bags!  If it is also a day to feed hay, I normally get 1 or 2 bales put out before I have to head back to town to get clothes changed and head to work.  When I get off at 5:00 p.m., I hurry home to change clothes, then head back out to check on cows and feed another bale of hay.  This is my time I don't have to hurry away so I take my time after putting out the bale of hay to count and watch cows, checking for problems, illness, injury or whatever else might be out of the ordinary.  Fortunately, this year, we do not have calves coming during this time.  They should start calving around the middle of February, hopefully.  I get to hang out, listen to the coyotes sing, and just be quiet for a while.  It truly is my favorite part of the day.  This schedule is pretty much normal when my spouse travels for his job but I truly do not mind - other than having to hurry in the mornings to get ready to go to work. 

This is one of our 2 boys.  He walked right up to the window on the pickup on this day and started to stick his nose inside the truck.  I named them Hank and Drover (from John Erickson book series "Hank The Cowdog" - this would be Hank.

Just think this picture is too funny.  Posted on Facebook a while back and asked the question - "Can you do this with your tongue?"

I love this new part of my life and I am very grateful God gave us this opportunity to fulfill a dream!