Thursday, May 27, 2010

For the love of gummer mouth cows

Today was one of those days that things went great, I was able to really appreciate my life, I had some fun, yet it was difficult to deal with reality.

I started the day changing two hand lines and one wheeline which normally is a pain but knowing I would spend the rest of the day being a cowman made the time fly and my attitude have a positive outlook. Once I had the water changed I headed to the corrals to load the cows I planned to sell today.

I had 8 cows to sell today for various reasons. Two were spring calvers that were going to calve soon but too late to fit my spring program. These were both old cows and fairly easy to part ways with. Four other cows were fall calvers that I had recently preg (pregnancy) checked. Two of these were middle aged, average producing cows that were going to be on the late end of calving and two others were older cows that just needed to go because of old age and mediocre production. Again these cows were parted with in relative ease.

The last two cows were the ones that tugged at my heart strings. Both of these ladies were pregnant and on schedule to calve between mid August and mid October which is just as I want my fall calvers to be. Both of them had raised good calves last year and other than the fact that one was 17 years old and one 16 years old they had not done anything wrong in their lifetime as far as I was concerned. Many people are afraid to own old or older cows. I prefer to look at old cows the way my father did when he would say, “a beef cow does not get old by being a poor calf raiser!” Most cows are sold at an age where their teeth cannot support them or because they have not raised a good calf. We have a fairly abundant supply of soft green grass on the ranch so we can use a cow longer than most.

Cow number 3109y was born here on the ranch in the fall of 1993. Dad had chosen to keep her and only 3 other fall heifers that year. I was a bit skeptical at the time because her mother was on the small side and she looked as if she would be a little cow herself. She did turn out to be on the smaller side as she sold today at 1090 pounds which is fairly small for a commercial beef cow but only slightly below average for the type of cows we like to own. This cow, 3109y had her first calf unassisted on August 17th 1995. She had her 15th and 16th (yes twins) on August 20th 2009. From what I can decipher from my sometimes incomplete records she never missed having a calf. This is pretty amazing in the commercial beef cow world. For those of you that attended the Benton Franklin County fair last year you may have saw her twin bull calf in the beef barn. At that time he was an orphan that the beef barn kids named “Booger” that we bottle fed throughout the fair. His sister “Snot” stayed out on dry range with their mother. (Very difficult for a commercial beef cow to properly raise twin calves in dry range conditions) Booger ended up with a surrogate mom shortly after the fair and is a healthy weaned calf as is his sister today. I watched this old cow struggle a bit this winter and with her age and the cull cow market at a high level I decided to sell her today. Thank you 3109y for always being a good mother, a good producer and an easy going cow. I promise you that the fact that your facial features were terribly unattractive (even ask Dakota) did not enter into the decision.

The second cow was 4069yt, a black cow that body wise in human terms I would relate to a woman that is 6 foot 6 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. “Racehorsey” as we refer to those types of cows. 4969yt arrived here in December of 2006 in a group of fall calving pairs I purchased. She was already 12 years old which is 1-4 years past when many ranchers get rid of cows. With our soft valley grass we can keep cows longer than average. She was part of a group of 21 cow calf pairs I bought that day and really the only cow I was not too excited about at the time. She had a good calf but damn was she skinny! Over the years I realized that was just how she was. I think this cow could have been given free choice grain daily and never gotten fat. As skinny as she looked that day off the truck she certainly overcame the odds. She was the last of those 21 particular cows still here on the ranch and weaned off an awesome steer calf this year. To be honest the only reason I sold her was because of a slight limp and the fact that I did not want the skinny thing to have to face another potentially difficult winter. If every cow were like these two I would be a millionaire by now and so selling them was difficult. Luckily I have been able to own a few disaster cows in my lifetime so here I am continuing to try and make a living raising and finding cows like 3109y and 4969yt. Thank you ladies for all you gave our family.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Canada thistle aka Cirsium arvense.

Today’s picture is cow 4069yt back in January with her last calf 9069y.