Monday, January 25, 2010

Vacation preparations

Yesterday I talked about the joys of returning home and why that is something I always look forward to. Today I am going to talk about all the preparation for being able to go away from the ranch for a few days. Leaving is never an easy task for me. This is a family business that has two fulltime employees (Festus and I) and hundreds of part time employees including my wife, kids, Mom, uncles, aunts, sisters, brother in laws, neighbors, friends and anyone else I can bribe with booze or beef. Thankfully those part time employees always step up to help. Some like to help out because it gives them a chance to do something different with their everyday lives. Some help out because it means I will be away for a few days and not here to annoy them otherwise.

When my Dad was still here it was relatively easy for either of us to escape for a few days. The people who help out when I am away are great people but you always feel more comfortable and less guilty when it is a family member. If you are a farmer and just have crops it is never easy to leave but it is doubly difficult when you have animals. I am the last person to make people think that we spend 24/7 with the cattle but especially in winter and at calving time they need a bit more oversight and care. Anytime you are dealing with nature things are never set in stone and the fear of Murphy’s Law being in effect is always a concern.

I know lots of cattlemen and women would never be away during calving time but on a diversified ranch with both a spring calving and fall calving herd as well as raising crops throughout the spring, summer and fall you have to take your best shots. I am not calving out any first calf heifers (two year old females in their first pregnancy) this year so that helps immensely. Heifers sometimes need assistance with calving and can also be a bit unsure of how to be a proper mother. The mature cows age 3 to 50, just kidding; age 3 to 19 as the case is rarely need any human assistance and in my opinion are best left alone to let nature take its course. This is a huge reason why knowing and paying attention to genetics is something we focus on. Maternal ability and calving ease are very hereditable traits in cattle. Often I wish the world were as selective with human breeding and their ability to raise offspring, we could end lots of the worlds problems that way.

Weather certainly can be a factor but the rest of this week is supposed to be mild with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the lower 30’s which gives me much added comfort. If we were in for a winter storm or inclement weather I would certainly change my plans and not take my working vacation this week. With livestock you can plan all you want but in the end Mother Nature will decide when you can get away for a few days. One thing I do before leaving is to make as many preparations as possible to make life easier on the animals as well as the people left to care for them.

The fall pairs (momma cows with suckling calves born from mid August to mid October) will be on new ungrazed cornstalks and also some new rangeland. With this and some protein supplement in the form of tubs filled with a fairly hard substance that they lick on that is all they need for feed. This supplement provides vitamins, minerals and fills the void of protein in their diet that is lacking in the cornstalks. I spent most of today fencing them a new section and will finish that tomorrow and give them access. Knowing they have good feed resources and access to a steady supply of running water will make me mostly secure in their well being. I still need someone daily to check on them just to make sure the fence stays electrified so they do not start to wander the desert like the lost tribes of Israel.

The spring calving cows (cows that are going to calve soon or have recently calved) are also on good corn stalks with protein supplement so they are set that way. They have access to a large body of surface water. They do need to be checked on a bit to make sure new calves get up, nurse their mother and also for the rare instance of some type of abnormal birth. Breech births, multiple births (twins rare and triplet’s ultra rare) and sometimes you have a calf that is positioned improperly in the birth canal. 99.9% of the time a mature mother cow will still have the calf and all will be fine but when live calves are your income stream it makes it important to check on them. The calves that are born during my absence I will try to give an ear tag to when I return. There is a high likelihood of me having a pulled hamstring or twisted ankle next week as a result of trying to catch these little rocket ships on legs.

The yearlings (10 to 12 month olds of both sexes) that have not yet been sold usually are fed hay twice daily this time of year. I am going to fill some extra feeders on Wednesday before I leave with hay. They also have access to a good water source and vitamins and minerals as well. This will make it so that they can be fed again the same way on Friday and will be fine until my return on Sunday afternoon. I should be back in plenty of time to check everything and feed on Sunday. This timely return is of course predicated on the hope some that idiot does not try and do something stupid like light his penis on fire while we are in flight. I shudder to think of the pain level that removing a size 11 Tony Lama from his ass would be like for the fanatical masochist regardless of the number of fat, ugly,72 year old virgins that cloud his judgment.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is downy brome aka cheatgrass aka Bromus tectorum.

Today’s picture is of a 3 day old bull calf number 0807w being a smarty pants and sticking out his tongue. Click on picture to enlarge it is a great capture.