Archive for June, 2011

The meeting today with the representatives from Purina/Land ‘O Lakes/PMI Nutrition was a chance to discuss three main areas of concern for most people who have working dogs.  The three main things that drive a decision to buy OR not buy a product are:

  • Availability
  • Price
  • Quality

For me, I start with QUALITY.  Why?  I put QUALITY first in my cowdogs’ nutrition because I put QUALITY first in my cattle program.  For me, QUALITY begins with being a product that is ‘formula specific’…meaning that regardless of the price changes of commodities or other micro or macro ingredients in a mix, I want to know that every time I buy a product it is going to be made exactly the same as the last ton I bought.  I am that way for my cattle mineral and fabricated protein supplements.  Consistency counts. 

The next big factor I consider when buying a product is AVAILABILITY.  If it not a stock item, it becomes less attractive simply because it can be a hassle to ‘special order something’.  When I need it never coincides with when the feed store is ready to put in an order.  I am too late…just missed the order deadline.  Or, I have to wait because they want to put it with their next order…and that will be a week or so.  If I order outside of the feed store’s next/normal order day or week, then the cost of what I need is going to be higher.  For me, I order dogfood a pallet or a ton at a time.  Generally, that gives me better pricing and I can get my next order in on one of the feed store’s regular order times.

Factor three is a biggee…PRICE.  Long gone are the days of a large ‘bag’ of dog food being a standard 50 pounds.  Just like the wording on a dog food bag.  Long gone are the days of English being the only language printed on a ‘bag’ of dog food.  A large  ‘bag’ of dog food rarely is 50 pounds anymore…it changed to 40 pounds and now 35 pounds.    The quoted price never rolls back with each downsizing of the ‘bag’.  The price stays the same but the COST PER POUND OF PRODUCT is what varies.  I see this constantly when I search for the large ‘bag’ of M&Ms.  Remember the days when a large ‘bag’ of M&Ms was a full U.S.A pound or 16 ounces.  Large ‘bags’ of M&Ms are not so large anymore.  The price didn’t go down either when the bag got smaller.

So, today with the folks from Purina I mentioned the poor position that their products are faced with from my view as a customer.  I visit with people from all across the United States and the ideas are the same…if it is not available then I can’t buy it, if I order the product then it becomes too expensive to justify the cost, and I want to make sure I am providing my dog with a good quality food.

I shared the messages that my Facebook friends posted.  The comments provided were just what they needed to see.  Comments from various states which represents a national area of concern.  The positive remarks were appreciated simply because it gives ‘field validation’ to the consumer acceptance of the quality of the Exclusive products.  The issues raised give ‘field validation’ to the consumers’ concerns.

I would like to hear from other working dog people.  If you could get a coupon to give you a large ‘bag’ or bags of Exclusive dog food to try, would you be able to locate a dealer close enough to be able to get the product?  There would even be a possibility of the offer applying to the Red Flannel products.  If you are interested in participating in trying the Exclusive or Red Flannel products then go to my website and click on my email address and send me a message or go to my Facebook page and send me a message there.  Provide me with the following:

  • Your name
  • Your mailing address
  • City, State, Zip Code
  • Type of working dog(s) you have
  • What type of work the dogs do

The type of dogs that this offer applies to are working stock dogs, working cowdogs, hunting or field dogs, search and rescue dogs.  THIS OFFER DOES NOT APPLY TO HOUSE DOGS, CITY, METROPOLITAN OR URBAN DOGS THAT ARE STRICTLY COMPANIONS OR FAMILY PETS.  I reserve the right to not forward to Purina those communications that do not fit the role of a ‘working dog’ as described in the first sentence of this paragraph.  And, if this gets to be a hassle and way over my head, then I  reserve the right to call this whole thing off. 

I ranch for a living and my cowdogs are my ranch hands.  So what we do on a daily basis comes first.  Trying to foster a network for helping other people to be able to get access to good quality Exclusive dog food products at an affordable price will not get in front of my ranching or my own cowdogs.

In July, I have been asked to participate in the national Purina beef genetics progress meeting.  Today, the Purina representatives felt that it would also be a great opportunity to have a ‘summit’ or presentation regarding all of the above issues.  If you have comments that you would like to share at the ‘dog food summit/meeting’ then send them to me and I will see to it that your comments are received by the Purina people.  The deadline to get information to me is July 20, 2011. 

The goal is to put together a network of working dog owners (as defined in the aforementioned paragraph(s)) so that no matter what part of the United States you are in, you will be a member of  a ‘group’ and the ‘group’ will be able to get price breaks on Exclusive and Red Flannel dog food products.  It is the principle of ‘power in numbers’.

Lastly, I am not promising anything to anyone with trying to pull this all together.  So, if you want to send your comments, you can simply copy and paste the above bullet points into an email message or Facebook post.

Thanks to all the people who sent messages yesterday and today.  The reps. appreciated getting copies of your remarks to take back to their corporate managers.  Comments were received from several states and that was a plus.

I have been using Exclusive or Red Flannel products since August 2002 when I got my pup Bert.  The blue merle cowdog in the picture on the right is my dear Bert and his mate Ms. Hawk.  The picture on the left is Ms. Hawk as she and I sat in the back yard on Sunday night as the sun set in the West and we watched its glow in the East.  Sitting there visiting with our ole buddy Bert under the tree in the back yard.  We sure loved him and miss him.

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Today, on my way home from ‘the shoulder magician’ I stopped at the hardware store to get my 4-wheeler sprayer a toggle switch and an in-line ball valve.  I conquered the electrical issue with my sprayer!  The ball valve…well, it was as small as I could get but the barb/pex ends were just a tick too big.  Return item!  But, I rigged up a little fix-it for the pressure gauge ball valve and we were good to go.  Agenda…spraying weeds in the arena, around the cowdog palace, the fence rows behind my house, around the barn lot, and off to a pasture to spray a weaning trap and some corral and fence rows.  Today’s weed cocktail was a mix of Grazon Next and Remedy Ultra.

It was a great day to spray.  The wind was out of the NE and about 10 mph.  The right direction for most of today’s spraying and enough horsepower in the wind to get great or beneficial drift.

It was  a productive day. And, the day was personally satisfying to know I could get my sprayer up and running.  Tomorrow brings visitors so ranch work will be limited to checking cattle.  Gotta say I am dreading the rest of the week’s forecast…going to be hot and humid with heat indexes in the 100’s…

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We had about 1/2 inch of rain overnight.  I tried to get the cowdogs out to run and do their business before the second round of rain showed up.  It was a short morning run for them and they got about 30 minutes to stretch, run and play.  Then it was looking really black to the west.  So I hurried along to put everyone away until the rain passed.  By 10 the rain was nearly over and it was time to get around to check fences and cattle. 

A typical day to check cattle covers about 30 miles.  When I got back around to the home place I headed over to get some cowdogs to go along for the trip through the heifers.  It is about a 6 mile trip to get around to check the heifers. It was windy and still pretty cool.  I got out 8 cowdogs and they loaded up in the 4-wheeler wagon to make the trip across the highway.

We started to take off and I noticed I had forgotten to put one cowdog back into her pen.  I hopped off the 4-wheeler and took her back to the barn.  On the way back to the 4-wheeler I noticed that I had been in such a hurry to get going that I had not hooked the wagon to the 4-wheeler. The cowdogs were all loaded up with NOWHERE TO GO!

It was too funny to not laugh.  They were just looking at me like, “This is weird.  She tells us to load up and she’s leaving without us!”  I backed up, hooked up and off we went.

Laughter is truly good for the heart and soul.

The laughter and nearly an inch of rain made for a good day!

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Sunday is to be a day of rest.  Right?  Well, I thought I’d get out early to get my normal chores done before it got hot.  It was very humid and thick with fog.  Almost felt like you needed a fog horn to navigate and find our way to the cowdog palace.  One thing about it, the cowdogs ran and played without supervision because I couldn’t see them in the fog.

By about noon, I got this bright idea that I would just park the 4-wheeler spray rig under the tree and try to trouble shoot the ‘no pumping water’ problem.  The fuse to the pump was fine.  So I thought that while I was taking things apart I’d check for line blockages.  When I first got the sprayer the tanks had some plastic fines from some of the drilling to place bolting brackets on the inside of the tanks…supposedly they were cleaned out.  The lines ended up being fine.  So, it left me with the switch.  I begin to loosen the screws to take off the switch.  I don’t like messing with electrical stuff.  I think it is because I have been shocked in electric fence deals throughout the years and I constantly anticipate getting zapped.  Just the fact I’m thinking about possibly getting zapped has caused me to ‘get’ zapped at times.  I get the two screws out.  Take the two wires and lay them done.  Turn my head to put the screws down and POW, ZAP.  Of course I jump back!  The wires had slipped under the metal bracket and were arcing these little shots of flashing, zapping light.  I grab the wires.  I was kinda laughing to myself, “Well, duh, you should have taken the fuse out first!”  But, instantly though, I was relieved and happy for myself because I knew if I had fire in the wires, then it had to be the switch that was causing my fancy sprayer pump to not kick on. 

With all this being over my head, I thought I’d take a chance to call a friend that was a Dow chemical rep for a couple of decades.  He’s been retired for several years and now he does custom pasture spraying as a retirement job.  He’s actually responsible for showing up with his fancy spray rig and got me interested in buying one.  Roger is a great guy.  He’s one of those folks that won’t sell you something just so that he gets his commission.  He’s a great mentor of what to use and why.  He’s a great mentor of what not to use and why.  Years ago we drove around for several hours looking at pastures…grasses, legumes, weeds, shrubs, trees, and various other undesirable things to spray and get rid of. 

I gave him the summary of what was working…well, in my instance not working.  I gave him an outline of what I had checked and the results.  He says to me, “Well, you’ve done all the right things. Put your fuse back in.  Then take those two wires and hold them together and see if the pump kicks on.”  I instantly thought, “You have got to be kidding.  I’m not touching those wires!”  I hesitate a bit and say, “Did you say to take the wires and hold them together?”  I had heard him the first time, but I just didn’t want to ‘hear him’, if you know what I mean.  There was no way I could do this with him on the phone.  It would take me some time to get up the nerve to pull this task off.  So, I thanked him for his insight and help.  We talked about the weather and how odd the Missouri winter and spring were.  He told me of a friend that lives in the NW part of Colorado that has sand bagged around his home in an effort to keep the snow melt water from taking over part of his home.  His friend had attended some government meetings about the flooding.  The folks in the mountain areas have been basically told to expect high water issues until the nights begin to get cold enough to freeze.  Simply saying the record snow levels of the winter are not going to go away…it’s just way too much snow and you don’t want it to all melt this summer.

Roger and I ended our conversation and I begin theorizing how I could touch those wires together.  My grand plan was to take a pair of vice grips and wrap the jaws with electrical tape.  That away I would take away the zip-zap of the wires touching the metal jaws.  Then, if I set it just right, I could clamp it down and hold the wires together without holding them in my fingers.  So to hold the vice grips in place I used those ‘handy zip ties’ to attach the vice grips to the metal bracket where the switch used to reside!  Now, the moment of truth.  I pick up the wires, took a deep breath and put them in between the jaws of the vice grip.  I close the vise grips and the wires touch and zap each other and I have them hobbled in between the taped jaws.  Instantly, the pump kicks on!  I was so relieved.  AND, I was so excited that all I could think of was to go out and spray.  Gad, it was in the mid 90’s and humid as heck, but ‘the sprayer was working’ and I was going to at least get the Co-Ral out of the tank.  So off I went.  The underneath side of the dog pens got sprayed, around the pens, inside the barn along the walls, around my house to ward off the spiders, around my mom’s house, the three granary bins, the hay rack for the calves and the calves hanging out under a shade tree. 

When all that was done I loaded up with Round-up and headed out to put a dent in some red velvet pigweeds, rubber weeds, and crabgrass.  Well, that went pretty good until the an outside tip on my boom sprayer quite spraying.  But, I went on and did some hand gun spraying.  The spraying day ended with a couple of hours of taking the boom tips apart and flushing everything and putting it all back together.

What a day of rest.  It all ended with Hawk and I sitting in the back yard watching a ‘space ship shaped’ cloud form and dump rain E of me.  It was a neat looking cloud.

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We got lucky on Saturday morning.  The sky from the W got blacker than black, it rumbled and roared, it blew.  The cowdogs scattered.  And in about 5 minutes we got about 1/0 inch of rain…if that much.  The sidewalk did get wet.  The ground under the trees was dry.  As fast as the clouds rolled in, they rolled on by.  I guess it was the thought that counted.  It sure did make for a steamy day.  At the end of the day – while I was feeding the cowdogs and letting them run and play – it clouded back up like it was really going to get with it again.  But, all we got were some pretty visuals.  My last cloud shot of the evening looked like it had a pigeon-shaped bird forming. 

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After a few nice, cool and breezy days we are getting back to summer reality.  A shower passed through the countryside south of me…well, maybe a county away.  It had a lot of booming thunder and some pretty black clouds.  But, we were not lucky enough to get it to venture our way.  It headed to the SE.  I guess it was the thought that counted.

Since the rain missed us I thought I’d gather about 80 pairs and spray for face flies. So, we loaded up some mineral, some Mintrate Rumensin blocks, a little grain for the calf trap, some fly spray concentrate and off we went.  Gathering the cows went off without any problems. We sorted the calves off and routed them to their new trap pen.  And on the last pass through the calves during sorting we found a problem.  A bull calf with a rectal prolapse.  These are not a real big deal…very fixable.  But, this time of year it can be a problem with all the heat and the flies.  Damage to the rectum can occur rapidly.

So, I thought I’d just mix up my spray and get the flies knocked off the cows and calves and then go back home and get some ‘fix the calf supplies’. Well, this is where the morning began to unravel.  I measure my concentrate, pour it into the back tank on my spray rig, get the hand-gun so I can mix the water and concentrate, flip the switch to the sprayer…nothing.  No hum of the pump kicking on.  Nothing.  All I could think of was, “What?”  Wiggled this, checked that, unhooked and hooked the electric line back up, flipped the switch…nothing.  Okay, let’s drive around to see if it appears to be some other loose connection.  Nothing.  So, by now, it is warming up, the cows are getting a bit restless and stirring up the dust.  I think, well they’ll be okay.  I’ll just go on home and get my stuff to ‘fix the calf’. 

I buzz home.  I get my betadine scrub, suture, needles, pain killer, alum, douching bottle, antibiotics, scissors, gloves, tail-block concoction and stash it all in a bucket and off we go.  Hawk and I sorted off the calf and headed him to the chute.  Not thinking about the process of taking care of the calf…just thinking about that dang sprayer problem.  Sewing the calf up can be done in my sleep and blind-folded.  Working on that sprayer is a whole different story.  I’m not sure what to do now to troubleshoot this problem.  But, I do know that it is getting hotter, the cows are now more miserable and I am getting antsy to just turn them back out.  So, I get the calf caught and head to turn out the cows…and think, dang it, I don’t want to have to get them back in…so just sew up the calf and maybe you’ll think of something while your tinkering around with the calf.

I am thinking during all this hasseling around with the calf that I am grateful that my shoulder and arm are now somewhat useful.  If I could just get this pain out of my socket and neck.  Maybe, I should give myself some of this pain block concoction…well, maybe not.  I sew up the calf and send him back to the trap pen. 

Back to the 4-wheeler and that fancy sprayer that ‘”ain’t-a-workin'”.  So frustrating.  I wiggle this, wiggle that…still nothing.  I need to check the fuses.  It is just simply getting too hot and not enough breeze to ease the minds of the cows so I decide to just scrap the idea of spraying today. I thought I’d just leave the calves in the trap.  They had shade, water and feed and I’d go back later…about 6.  I thought I could maybe get my sprayer running and that getting the cows back in would be no big deal.

Luck was not on my side in fixing the sprayer.  So about 6 I went back to the pasture.  Got my sewn up calf back in.  Gave him a flushing out, turned him back to the trap.  Hawk and I opened the trap gate and left.

If we get an unexpected shower of rain tonight then I’ll be glad I didn’t waste the spray on the cows.  Maybe tonight I’ll have some sort of dream to unravel the mystery of the fancy sprayer’s problem.  Fingers crossed….!

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Today was another morning of physical therapy for my shoulder and arm.  We have moved to a new stage.  My rotation is getting pretty good so I have graduated to the level of adding resistant or tension to pulling things.  Folks have been telling me and asking if I have gotten the latex bands yet.  Well…today we got introduced to the ‘red band’.  I was so excited!  I thought I had been doing pretty good, but that latex band is finding areas that need some more attention.

I have a really nice man as my main therapist.  He’s got family with a farm background so we have a lot of things we can talk about.  They are mostly row crop people but they do have about 100 cows.  For Missouri or all points south of I-70 that is a lot.  His wife has a brother-in-law that came to the U.S.A. from Australia as a bronc rider and apparently he is pretty good.  The bronc rider lives not too far from me…about 12 miles, I guess, and he works horses for some roping guys.  And, as it turns out, we have quite a few ‘in common’ friends.  Like Dr. Mark Markway, DVM, who is a very good horse veterinarian and a good dog vet. Doc Markway had a black stallion that was the world champ in cutting and/or working cowhorse events a few years back.  I’m not sure of all the specifics, but, I do remember reading some local news articles about Doc’s horse.  And, I have some cowdog customers who are into cutting horses and they even know Doc and have visited him for his expertise in equine sports injuries.  It’s a small world at times!

So, I get home from town today and it is still amazingly pretty out…mid-70’s, great WNW breeze, humidity is only 50% (which spells vacation here) and some of those big ole fast-moving poofy clouds.  The feed delivery guy showed up early so I helped him and then began some rounds to check cattle.

Everywhere we went from 1-4:00 there were cattle out grazing everywhere.  I do not remember in my life a time in June when you could or would find cattle out grazing during the afternoon.  Even red cattle tend to gravitate to the shady areas on a typical June day in central Missouri.  It’s the last week of June!  Cattle grazing in the afternoon!  It was a pretty sight everywhere we went.  Cattle grazing at the same relaxed pace in slow-moving rows. They all just looked so happy and peaceful…munching away…nip, clip, walk, stop, nip, clip, walk, stop.  

I realize that this is a rare moment for this time of year.  And even I felt the ‘ah, this is nice’ as I drove on by.  Gotta thank the Lord for the relief from the heat.  We could use a shot of rain.  But, one good thing is better than none. 

After I got my cattle checking runs done it was time to buzz off to the vet and pick up two cowdogs that I dropped off this morning on my way to therapy.  One needed some general dental cleaning and the other needed a broken tooth taken out.  Muffy needed her teeth cleaned up and Redhead had a broken tooth that was ready to pull.  They were sure glad to see me.  It was the typical ‘get me outta here mom’ moment.  Poor ole Redhead needed to go pee-pee.  He looked like an expanded balloon and it seemed to take minutes for him to empty his bladder.  Felt sorry for the little guy!  They were thrilled to get home and to get a drink of the home well water.  Big pearly white grins from both of them.

Tomorrow looks to be a bit warmer than today. But, it is also going to be less hot than what the forecast shows for next week.  Back to the mid to upper 90’s.  I sure feel sorry for the agriculture folks living through the past few weeks of 100 degree weather.  I wish they could get some rain and get some 90 degree weather instead.

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