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.