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Archive for October, 2011

Yesterday we experienced some near record high temperatures – upper 80’s.  And they said the wind was going to blow.  But, even the wind outdid the forecasters.  It was windy in the morning and it made for a lot of dirt eating by the cattle,cowdogs and me.  But, hey, that’s part of living the life I have.  I had to meet a couple of folks in a nearby town at noon. I was a tad late to meet them.  We were discussing our issues and the wind just keep getting stronger and stronger.  And we commented a few times about how it was really picking up speed. We departed and it was tough to walk and one had to be bent forward just to navigate the steps to get to the pickup.

I get home, pull in the driveway and in pulls a friend.  We are visiting about fencing jobs he’s got going and in pulls a neighbor.  The neighbor had brought me some fish and green peppers.  I wasn’t thrilled about the fish when he called to say he was bringing them by in a bit.  Haven’t really entertained eating fish in the last 25 years.  But, I didn’t want to just say no to him. My dad loved eating fish but hated going fishing.  I liked fishing but hated touching the fish and just couldn’t do the fish cleaning thing.  They were slimy, poked ya, bit me and just smelled awful and the smell on my hands seemed to last for weeks.  The smell might not have been there weeks later, but “I still smell it!”  So, my dad and I had a deal.  I’ll catch them, you clean them.  Same with frogs.  I’ll shoot them, you clean them.  I loved the challenge of catching the fish and sharpening my BB gun skills on those big ole bullfrogs.  Aquatic management control techniques or nature living harmoniously management techniques…that’s what we’d call it today.

Anyway, I take the fish to the house and put them in my vet frig.  My mom hollers down the steps, “Hey, you better go check the hay rack roof.  It’s really flapping in the wind.”  It was one of those OMgoodness moments.  I don’t need a roof heading to the neighbor’s place.  I run out of the house, around the barn and yep, the roof is trying to take off and head due north.  I run out to the two guys visiting and tell them, “Hey, I’ll be back in a bit but I got to get the tractor because I gotta roof fixin’ to leave.”  They walk out to the barn lot and are just watchin’ my roof  heave up and down.  I parked the loader on the roof, and said a little prayer of thanks that I got there in time.

We finish talking fish and fencing and they were on their way.  What a day it was.  When I lived in central NE a windy day was a normal day and we’d talk about the days when it wasn’t windy.  What a role reversal!

So, today it’s colder and it wants to rain, but doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. Glad my friends in Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas have my yesterday’s wind!  Ah, just kidding…

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If you look back through my Blog posts I had a post about how I had made the decision to change my cow/calf operation.  Since 1995, I have been a ‘calve in the Spring, calve in the Fall’ operation.  An intentional management plan, not just by happen stance – meaning I didn’t have a bunch of open Spring calving cows and make excuses for them and make them Fall calving cows.  The mental plan to do this included some theories.

1.  Since it has been such a cold, rainy spring (just like the last 3 years), the cool season grasses aren’t growing.  No spring grass growth, no spring growing conditions to make the hay fields yield worth a darn. So, why spread $30,000 of commercial fertilizer and, once again like the last three years, be in a lose-lose situation.

2.  Since it is to be a dry, near droughty, extremely hot summer, just hold off and when August arrives and the typical off and on rains come, then spread the fertilizer so that there will be some fall pasture and fall hay.

3.  You have a significant amount of hay contracted for delivery on July 10 and that will tide me over until into the winter.  And, if the rains come and the grass grows then the hay on-hand can possible make it through until late spring.

4.  CIDR and time AI the largest part of the cows.  They will sync and cycle like gang busters and your normal 69-72% AI settle rate might even be greater than my normal rates.

5.  Breed the older cows that have carried the water for 7+ years to a proven maternal sire that will produce replacements that completely fit in with the genetic work of the past 15 years.  And, clean up with one of his sons that you’ve raised and had extremely great success with.

6. Stagger the AI dates so that the calves are not all coming at once.  Just in case of weather concerns next year…we all know we cannot predict the weather, so it’s better to be smarter up front than sad in the Fall of 2012.

Well.  It’s now Tuesday, October 26, 2011.  I’ve successfully kept bulls from tearing up fences and traveling in 4 directions because the scent in the air is ‘cows in heat’.  I’ve been pretty lucky to not have cows and heifers in heat jumping fences and strolling the counties looking for the scent of bulls near by.  All but one night!  I had 4 ‘hotter than a pistel” heifers break out and cruising the neighborhood for about a mile radius.  Had I lived in an area that wasn’t on a highway, it would have not been a big deal.  But, I fired up ole Red, loaded up a cowdog, plugged in the spotlight and off we went.  What really saved the day was ole Red – the pickup.  Those silly sisters had been dodging cars, been honked at, had high beams in their eyes and were as cranked up as mice being chased by cats.  But the heifers heard the pickup’s sound and after a couple of hours we got them to a gate at home.  Only to have a speeding pickup fly by and scatter the heifers again.  I had to race ahead of them about 1/2 mile in the direction they were traveling, to a neighbor’s place, hop out, open a gate and with 3 seconds left, “pray they’d slow down just enough to deflect into his pasture”.  Great plan, except for the one that diverted too early and ended up in a shed and scattering piled winter wood all over the place.  Now, you know, if I had wanted her in there it would have never happened!  But, the cowdog and I patiently waited until she found her way to the door, came flying out and we got her to ricochet off us and through the gate.  Next prayer, “Thank you Lord.” 

Anyway.  So now, I’ve been feeding hay since August.  The reserves are dwindling.  So it was time to mental draft Plan B.  With the TX, OK, NM, KS drought cows flooding the cow markets and some finding replacement cow homes in MO, the local prices for cull cows and replacement style cows is down drastically.  So, to take cows to local markets or privately sell them is just a financial disaster.  Thinking about my Plan B has been going through my head for about 6 weeks.  Monday I made a couple of phone calls and did more mulling of Plan B. I’ve got to face the realities head on.  Hard as it is, the culling process has to start up again.  The cows culled will head NW to NE.  They will be fed, gain like gang busters and be harvested at a later date.  The glut of cows in the system may be less by then but who knows.  All in all though, the financial raping will be less and possibly the financial gain will be more.  Famous last words, “Time will tell.”

There are times when you just have to face the realities of Mother Nature and the markets.  Again, I am at that crossroads.  So cows, I’m headed out with the notes in my pocket.  Even though you’ve been vaccinated, dewormed, retagged and prepared for a new cycle of motherhood…you are now being reviewed again with your mouth conditions, weaning records, and if you look at me cross-eyed, you might get the famous ‘red check mark’.  You might be looking at this picture of an early sunrise and the loading chute.

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Monday morning.  Have you ever been so focused on what you are going to do and the sequence of your day that you never hit your ‘Pause Button’?  Well, that happens to me in my world.  Yesterday morning I headed out the basement, hopped into the pickup, fired up ole Red, backed out past my maples, looked to the East to say good morning to the day, saw a mass of ‘dapple’ clouds and hit the clutch.  Thinking, “Wow, there is a line of dapple clouds.  I hardly ever get to see dapple clouds here.  I gotta stop and get a picture of those dapple clouds.”

I hit my ‘Pause Button’.  My thoughts of the sequence of events for my morning had just been put on hold.  I sat on the crinkly, dried up grass in my bone dry backyard and just spent 20 minutes justing watching the sun lift from behind the oaks on the horizon.  The bulls in the pasture were still sleeping, the horses were beginning to stroll around.  The cowdogs were watching stoically – probably wondering why ole Red was not backing on up to drop me off to let them out so they could go run and play.  Selfish cowdogs.

I am glad I hit my ‘Pause Button’ on Monday morning.  I told ole Bert that I loved him, missed him and that I’d be back at the end of the day to tell him good nite.

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Trees were simply not something that you saw in the country where I grew up…the Sandhills of Nebraska.  As a youngster we planted some cedar sprigs to create some windbreaks and I remember the adults all laughing about how they would never see them grow to hold wind in their lifetime.  And you know what, it was basically true.  Those twiggy cedars were planted in the mid 1960’s and hardly any survived.  The ones that did are few and far between and maybe 10 feet tall.  But the sand, the lack of rainfall, the heavy snows and wildlife pretty much did them in.  The elms that had been planted by settlers and wildlife have pretty much disappeared too.  Storms, disease and box elder bugs all had a hand in their leaving.

So, as a near teen when we moved to Missouri I began to live in a whole new world.  A world of rocks and trees.  I learned by my father that not all trees are cattle friendly.  During droughty years like this past summer you have to pay attention to the leaves dropping.  The tree that can be deadly is the wild cherry.  Cattle will eat the fallen leaves and poisoning can result.  The second tree that can drop cattle like flies in frost is the oak.  The mighty oak.  Black, red, white, pin and scrub oaks produce acorns – tons of acorns.  And if cattle use them as a food source the acorns will be toxic.  Plus, once cattle begin to nibble acorns and acquire ‘the taste’ them they – the cattle – begin to be like shop vacs.  The results are death.

But, despite the things that you have to manage around with trees there are trees that are simply friendly and beautiful.  My favorites are the maples, both hard maples and soft maples.  They have wonderfully made leaves, provide pleasant shade, they don’t have issues with their leaves or spread nuts that can kill your stock.  The maples are simply a good thing.  We had record snowfall last winter and all the trees of every species and variety began the spring and summer with lots of grace and beauty.  As the rain stopped and the record heat and humidity set in for the summer, then the trees began to do as Nature as taught them…they began to lose their leaves early and the leaves that hung on have not had a real chance to color and last for long.

One of the maples in my parents’ backyard has managed to have some color that grew beautiful in a few days.  And as the leaves began to fall prematurely I thought I’d capture a few pictures to remember it’s beauty.  Fall is here, winter is soon to follow.  The days are shortening.  So goes the cycle of life.

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It’s been a few weeks and not a sniff of rain.  For part of the past few weeks it has been cooler than normal…and that has been appreciated.  But, the past week or so, it has gotten hotter than normal and been windy the past few days.  The working conditions for the cowdogs and me have been a tad dirty…really dirty, as a matter of fact.  It is hard on the cattle.  It, the dirty dust,  plugs up my head and makes my eyes gritty.  A gal’s best friend becomes the nasal spray!  But, more than anything, the dirty dust is hard on the cowdogs.  The level of their work has them at ‘ground zero’ and it’s hard on them to breathe in the dirt and dust, and inhale and swallow gulps of dirt.  And their eyes and faces are just caked with dirt.  Even ole Bert had days and weeks of the dry, hacking cough.  All due to being caked, coated, and lungs filled with dirt.

When we get to the corrals I try to have the sprinkler going so that the dirty dust is reduced as much as possible.  Today with the wind you could set the sprinkler about 20 feet from the water’s destination and get great coverage.  Kinda like getting more bang for your buck…so to speak.  Made watering go a bit faster!  The other intentional purpose is to water soak the cattle so that they get washed off…especially their faces.  They really appreciate getting their eyes and  noses washed off!  And, getting washed off is a good thing since the incidence of weeping and watery eyes has become a health issue.  The other health issue creeping around the past few weeks with all the dry, dirty lot and pasture conditions has been runny noses, and shallow, dry hacking coughs.  For 5 days this week, I added sulfamethodioxine to the water for all the weaned calves on pasture and in the grow lot.  The sul-met and the sprinkler have done the trick.  Just more things to watch and to manage to keep the cattle healthy.

Today, I decided to weigh the bulls and steers to see what the gain or loss of weight data showed.  The banding castration was done the afternoon of September 22…or basically 15 days ago.  The castrated calves gained an average of 2.82 lb/h/d and the calves left as bulls average 3.99 lb/h/d.  They are running on dried up foxtail and dried up crab grass pasture.  They are receiving 6 lb/h/d of a grain concentrate plus loose endophyte + Availa-4 mineral and they have the ADM Red Mintrate Rumensin blocks available for free-choice consumption.  The loose mineral and the Red Mintrate Rumensin blocks are shown in previous posts on my Blog if you want to look up the info on the 2 products. The gains would have been better had the respiratory issues not been dragging the calves down, but, hopefully that is kinda behind us…not totally, but it is sure better than it was.

After Bandit and Hawk gathering and penned the calves I did use a couple of ‘1st time to the corrals’ cowdogs…youngsters.  They learned their position on the alleys and got to see first hand what it takes to successfully, calmly, and effectively keep the alley loaded with calves.  Luckily, no one got hurt…well, other than Levi who took a shot to his left jaw.  Smoke, a youngster, got credit for Levi getting clobbered.  That happens when youngsters are around.  And, it will bring back memories for my seasoned cowdogs since they were the ones at fault at times for their mom and dad (Hawk and Bert) getting fouled by their kids’ nonsense or carelessness when they were rookie youngsters.

All in all, it was a good afternoon.  We were productive.  That is a good thing.  And, it all started off well…we created our own rainbows while we dealt the dirt and dust a dousing of water!

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What a wonderful morning in central Missouri…chilly, frisky, near frost.  Another sign that the seasons are changing.  Here is a glimpse of the first ten minutes of our day.

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