Saturday, November 27, 2010

The only snow I like is in a cone

Is winter over yet? Oh that’s right it technically has not even started yet. *Sigh*. I hate to be a weather complainer for many reasons. The biggest being Mother Nature could really careless how you feel when it comes to weather especially here in the Columbia Basin of eastern Washington. The old joke around here is if you do not like the current weather just stay around for more than 10 minutes because it is likely to change. I really doubt this is much different than anywhere else in the country but days on end of the same weather here are very rare. Maybe that is why I want to complain today. It has been cold and snowy for a week and I have not even turned the calendar over to December yet.

It has been quite some time since I remember having snow on Thanksgiving but it is not unheard of. I am hoping this turns out to be like the winter of 2008-9 when we had snow and cold the first week of December and then had a pretty nice winter with some cold but very little snow in January and February. I am always trying to work on finding the bright side of any situation. My dad was really great at just taking life as it came and finding the optimistic side of most situations that looked dire on the surface. I keep thinking if I had gotten my calves weaned earlier I would be feeding less hay in the snow. This has some truth to it but there is also another side. If I had weaned my calves earlier I probably would have sold them earlier and the price has gotten better and they have gained well.

I also feel that even if I take cows onto corn stalks later it will just mean they can stay longer if the weather cooperates. In a few days it will warm up and some cows will be stomping cornstalks in the mud while my as yet unharvested corn will be in good shape for later grazing. I just get antsy anytime I am feeding much hay to cows. This ranch has to make its money by running cows cheap. No matter how cheap you find hay it still costs money to feed it. I prefer my cows to do their own harvesting and feeding as little supplemented feed as possible. The way I am going I will feed three times the hay this winter that I want to and twice the hay I find acceptable. I keep living on the optimism that in this country you only get 30 days of bad winter snow at a maximum and this year it is just early. Time will tell I guess.

My high school alma mater had a state playoff semifinal football game today in Kennewick. I was going to skip out on it but I just could not stand to tell Dakota that we were not going. It was a cold game but it worked out well as Connell beat Omak 55 to 21 and won a trip to Tacoma to play in the state championship next week. They have a real chance at repeating as state 1A champions. Congrats to the boys, the school, coaches and community on a great season. Is this blog post as boring as it seems? I really am trying!

We had a great family Thanksgiving at my youngest sisters’ house. Yesterday Christine helped me feed in both the morning and afternoon and other than that we took it pretty easy as the snow came down sporadically. I started a new book and watched a few episodes of the Sopranos late last night. I watch the whole series about 3 times a year because it is one of the few television programs that I enjoy. I did do something new on Wednesday night that I had never done before. No, it is not some wild monkey sexual move, nor some new food or drink. I am feeling this particular blog post is so lame that I am planning to do another one later tonight or tomorrow and will share what new thing I did.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Nashville warbler aka Vermivora ruficapilla.

Today’s picture is of fall pairs coming to feed in the snow, up close and personal fall pair 6066or and her calf 0066w, and Ram tough but cold!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today was a good day with some challenges but many successes as well. With tomorrow being Thanksgiving I tried to focus on what I am thankful for. The thermometer read minus 12 this morning when the sun made its first glorious appearance in the eastern horizon. The wind was calm and the sky clear and just like always I missed and could feel dad with me all at the same time as I watched the orange globe rise above the snow covered landscape. Thankful. The Dodge started easily which always makes me smile on a cold morning. The grumble of her well worn diesel motor and pungent smell of black smoke rising from her modified straight pipe made me dance a little to Cinderella singing “Shelter me” blaring from the cassette deck. I also took the time to tweak the drivers’ side door so that it closed properly or at least stayed closed on hard right turns. Thankful.

Here is a video of Cinderella performing. Can you believe this cowman used to and still sometimes listens to these long hairs! Hey what the heck, I learned how to embed a video!

When I arrived at the corrals I looked at the John Deere with hope that even as cold as it was maybe it would fire and run. I went ahead and hooked up jumper cables to it from the Dodge just for a boost. One little crank to warm the cylinders then I turned the key again as I misted some starting fluid into the air intake. It took a few turns but it eventually fired and idled with all cylinders firing. Thankful. I fed the spring cows and calves and even though they looked cold they also looked healthy and no longer had snow covering their backs like the day previous. Thankful.

I went to check the water from the well for the cows in the corral and there was no flow. Beyond the level of all physics the cows had somehow not only rubbed the lid loose covering the well box and had also unplugged the pump without getting electrocuted in some manner. Thankful. The pump was not frozen yet but the pipes were and were not going to thaw even with artificial heat very easily. I decided to just open the corrals and let the few cows being kept in it out. These were the last fall pairs I had bought but just had not worked and turned out. They were thirsty and quickly smelled their way to the pond that has enough spring action to keep a portion open and unfrozen. Thankful.

I then went and fed the fall pairs and they looked good too and there were still several places on the canal bank that were streaming with spring water. Thankful. Tomorrow many people will have the day off to celebrate with their family and friends. I will take the afternoon off but the cows do not know it is Thanksgiving and will expect to be fed once again. I will gladly do this chore because I so love what I do for a living. Thankful. I get to spend each day in what I feel is a partnership with Mother Nature. She provides things like sunshine, water, grass and cattle. I provide things like knowledge, time, labor and management of her bountiful resources and care for them in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. Together we provide high quality, nutritious beef for a hungry and growing world. Thankful.

Oh sure sometimes it is too cold, too wet, too hot, too dry, too windy or too of a million other things but I get to also see the most wonderful parts of nature and life any man could wish for. Thankful. I get to spend much of my time with my wife and children as we work together. I am able to teach my kids the value of hard work, the value of a dollar and at the same time teach them that dollars are not everything in life. Thankful. I have many good friends, an awesome extended family and my family and I have our health. Thankful. As you gather tomorrow with family and friends I hope that each of you can focus on all the things we have to be thankful for. When you enjoy the bounty of your table I would encourage you to say a thank you to Americas farmers and ranchers who have and always will strive to bring that bounty to your table. We are thankful for your continued support. Happy Thanksgiving.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Ferruginous hawk aka Buteo regalis.

Today’s pictures are a bit blurry from the cold. The first one is the afternoon chowtime and thankful cows eating. The second is of a snowdrift that manifested itself along a fence line showing both the spectacular power and breathtaking beauty of Momma Nature.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

They were here just yesterday

It’s cold outside, damn cold outside. Not the kind of cold that makes outdoor activity a little uncomfortable, the kind of cold that makes your testicles seem to disappear for a few days. It is 10 p.m. and right now my thermometer says it is 5. The low is supposed to be down to -5 overnight. Tomorrows high is going to be a balmy 14. What is really amazing is it almost seems warmer than last night. Last night only got down to 12 but the wind was blowing 20 to 40 m.p.h and it was snowing.We have somewhere between an inch and 20 inches of snow depending where the wind deposited it. I really feel for the cows on nights like the one they went through last night.

Yesterday I fed a bit of hay to both groups of cows because of the snow and also because they need just a bit of a nutritional boost in this cold weather. I spent the rest of yesterday making sure everything that would be needed today had a good chance of working. Some diesel additive in both the Dodge and the loader tractor and making sure the block heater was working in them. It makes for tough days when it is this cold and if machinery does not run it really can be a pain.

Luckily both groups of cows have some really nice natural protection. My grandfather was a tree, bird and wildlife lover and on days like these I am very thankful for that. The spring calvers are still on the home place with their calves. They would be weaned and on cornstalks by now but the corn field is about half harvested and the combine is shutdown for the time being because of moisture content of the corn. I probably would not have weaned in this weather anyway. Very few of the cows are even still “wet” and nursing their calves but weaning alone is enough stress on the calves without having to deal with it during blizzards and extreme cold. This group of cows and calves has a nice grove of trees next to a natural windbreak to the north. This kept them from getting too pummeled last night but they were glad to see the hay this morning. The trees also kept the ground below them almost devoid of snow which gave them a nice place to bed down. The fall calvers are on some cornstalks and some dry range ground. They also have a great forest of both planted and natural trees to hide out in.

The other issue to deal with is water for the cows. Luckily there is a lot of “live” water on this place and has enough flow in many places to stay open and ice free. I have a few cows corralled up that get well water and today that ran fine but as cold as it is tonight may not be open tomorrow. If I have to I will just let these cows out with the spring calvers. The cold is bearable it just makes everything seem to take longer to complete. When it is this cold just doing the basic chores of feeding is about all I accomplish at least as far as outdoor activities in a day.

These cold days can wear on my nerves for many reasons but I can often find something to calm me down and maybe even make me smile. The day starts off bad enough for me because I have to wear coveralls. I hate coveralls for a few reasons. They are confining and just getting into the top of them is a struggle for me because I have had so many shoulder issues in my life. That twisting your arm back and getting it into a stiff sleeve can make me remember ever separation I have endured over the years. I go out to the Dodge and it started great but the heater in it is fair at best. About the time I am going to cuss this I see the sprinkler nozzles in the ashtray left over from summer and smile knowing no irrigation will happen today. I get in the John Deere and it started a bit hard this morning because at first I was giving it wasp and yellow jacket spray into the air intake instead of starting fluid. That made me kind of laugh and also realize there was no way I was going to get stung by a wasp today. Dakota was home today because of the school closure so she helped me by driving while I did the feeding. It does not seem like much but it is much better than having to jump off a moving pickup to reach in and turn the steering wheel as some obstacle approaches several times in the course of feeding a big bale as the pickup slogs along in 4 wheel drive low.

The cold weather allowed me to spend the day with her as we went to Connell and Pasco today for banking and other errands. When we fed this afternoon she did run over a downed tree and about bucked me off the back as the front tire went over the log. The good thing was if I had slipped and fell I would not have hurt my nuts. They were hiding somewhere close to the back of my tonsils today. In other good news the long range weather forecast says it is going to be 47 degrees on December 7th. I better keep that wasp spray in the tractor just in case.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Canvasback duck aka Aythya valisineria.

Today’s picture is of one of the new fall calving pairs 5655o and her calf 0655w. You can see some of the trees that these cows use for shelter in inclement weather in the background.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eyes on the prize

In Wednesday’s blog I mentioned I would talk about culling cows and buying cows and how that works on this ranch and how we try and make it fit into a total business plan. I will touch on some of that today. I missed a post yesterday because I did some traveling to a meeting. The meeting was in Dayton which is about 90 miles from here and I needed to be there by 8:30 a.m. It was a really great early morning traveling to the east and seeing a awesome sunrise over the channeled scablands of eastern Washington. Many people who live here think much of this area is desolate and lacking in scenery but I love it. Miles of open “big” country, sagebrush, cheatgrass, bunchgrass, basalt rock, lots of Hereford and Hereford cross cows and the water of the Palouse and Snake rivers. The drive is a two lane often winding and elevation changing trek but enjoyable from a nature lover’s standpoint. The early morning provided sights of many mule deer close to and crossing the highway.

The meeting was about weeds and how to control them in range and pasture type settings. I want to thank the Southeast Washington Cooperative weed management association for the excellent meeting. Vic Reeves is the leader of this group and a member of my local Franklin County weed board and has been a great help to me and had prepared an excellent meeting. Lots of information on noxious weeds, the latest controls etc. Often these meetings put on by governmental type agencies are somewhat lame but this was great information, presented in a nice format and I really am glad I attended. Now about culling cows….

Parting with any cow is usually difficult for any stockman. After all, at some point you purchased her or kept her as a replacement and felt she would be productive and profitable. When you cull a cow for reasons other than age it almost seems as you are giving your decision making skills a bad grade. In reality if you want to stay in this business you can’t let personal feelings get in the way of logical culling decisions. This can be tough giving the emotional attachment and time spent with some cows. I am going to talk about 3 cull cows that left last week and why I made the decision.

3065w was a black cow that in my mind I bought two years ago. If you go to the records for confirmation she was purchased 6 years ago and was 11 years old then. She was one of those cows that come through the auction barn and usually at 11 years old are headed for a second life as ground beef. Sometimes the owners of these cows either do not know if they are pregnant or if they are how far along they are. 3065w was sold as a “butcher” cow in December of 2004. She was a bit thin but I was pretty confident she had a growing calf inside her. I took a chance and in early March of that year she had a calf and had actually gained some weight and condition on corn stalks. She was pretty average in her production of calves but I also had a very low investment in her. In fact on Thursday I am sure she returned more than I purchased her for mainly because of demand change in the market. That helps to offset the loss she gave me in 2008 (high feed costs) and the likely breakeven small calf she raised this year. The lady just got too old to take care of herself nutritionally let alone a calf. With this years higher prices her calf is good enough to not lose any money but it was time for 3065w to leave. She was pregnant but was on the late end and was looking at a late April calf so with all the factors she was not that hard to cull.

7106b was another cow not so tough to cull. This cow had been pretty good and raised good calves but had come up empty for some reason this fall. She should have calved between mid August to mid October but had not. I preg checked her and she has a calf coming this spring but waiting 6 months on a cow that had no good reason not to breed on time is something I wont do unless the cow is super special. She is 13 anyway, still in good flesh and someone will think they got a great deal on an older spring calving cow not knowing she is 6 months late. Besides, this cow is not particularly mean or wild but she is hell on Festus, she absolutely hates him and possibly all dogs. His first real beat down by a cow was by the head of 7106b.

7285w was a bit difficult to sell. This cow was quite possibly the ugliest bovine to ever walk the planet. You know those novelty glasses with big, bulbous bloodshot eyes that are on springs and fall out of the glasses? This is how this cow looked. It was like 98.6% of her eyeball was outside the socket. If Steve Buscemi ( ) knocked up Helen Thomas ( ) this cow is what their daughter would look like, maybe even a son for that matter. To add to this ugliness she was short, solid red with a tuft of unruly hair on the top of her head (the poll) and she was fat. I don’t mean a little extra padding; I mean the kind of cow that would be a midget sumo wrestler in human terms, the kind of cow that would not be able to get her body completely in the shadow of Rosie O’Donnell on a summer day. This ugly, short, fat, bug-eyed monstrosity was a cow I bought for Dad as kind of a joke. She was a pregnant 734 pound long yearling (15 to 20 months) the day I bought her for a whopping $350. For those outside the business a typical cow is 1200 pounds and a heifer has her first calf at 2 years of age and around 1000 pounds. My dad was ecstatic with this heifer when she arrived. “Oh wow, look at her body depth, she will be a great momma.” He said as she waddled off the truck and I raised my eyebrows thinking even he would cuss this potential huge workload.

7285w had her first calf on her own in the spring of 1999 (she was born in fall 1997) she continued to calve every year and would have had a calf in February or March of this coming year. Her calves were never great but always were average in weaning size and weight. As a ratio of calf weight weaned vs. mother cow weight she was stellar over the years. She was so ugly she became a standard of ugliness in our family. “How ugly was she, uglier than 7285w?” Dakota and I would say. I do not have the paperwork from the sale on Thursday yet so I do not know exactly what she returned. I am quite confident it was over $350. Sometimes you just have to pull the trigger and be logical, even if that cow is the prettiest, ugly thing you have ever witnessed.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is perennial pepperweed aka Lepidium latifolium.

Today’s picture is cow 4158w with her steer calf on February 18th 2010 and on November 16th 2010.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The joys of no schedule

I really love this time of year, late fall to be exact. Not because there is any lack of things to do, it is more because your schedule can be so flexible. In the summer you have some flexibility in your days but every morning and most evenings there is irrigation water to change. In the winter there is usually some cow feeding that is best done on a regular schedule plus the weather can suck. The springtime has some flexibility of schedule early but the calving and knowing the days of really hard work and long hours are coming can be a drag.

The irrigation water is turned off. I am really not doing any regular feeding at this time and the weather is very reasonable. I should not be seeing any new calves until the 20th of January so that is a burden that is lessened this time of year. There are always things to do like bookwork, fence fixing, equipment maintenance, and the dreaded home improvement but this time of year you can kind of schedule them at will. What is really weird is that I think I get more of them done when there is no schedule than when I put them on the schedule in the spring or summer.

I did a thorough check of the fall pairs this morning. The calf I had been concerned about was fine and I am crossing my fingers and somewhat smiling at my good fortune. All the fall pairs including the ones I purchased are looking really great. I am also excited because I feel that from a market standpoint I am adding real value to both our near and long term future stability from a genetic, financial and security standpoint. I will say however I have felt this way right before I have “hit a home run” in this business and have felt this way right before “I got my balls handed to me” so we will see just what the future holds.

I took a few cows to the auction in Toppenish today and picked up a few cow calf pairs I had purchased for me last week. I was a bit concerned about the pairs because I knew what the price had been for them but had not physically seen them. All my worries melted when I saw them today. Young black hided 3 year old cows with their 2nd calves standing by their side. These cows were just the size I like, the body type I like, the color I prefer and had good calves with them. I had culled on my fall calvers quite extensively this spring for a few reasons. One was prices for cull cows was good and the other was I had some cows really getting up there in age in my fall herd. To be able to replace those cows with younger cows of the same or better quality at close to an even dollar exchange tickles me more than a French maid with a feather duster at a rodeo.

I will explain in tomorrows post about cull cows, new purchases and how we make it work here on this place. Some of the cows I sent to sell today were decent cows but just did not make the cut on this place. That is probably the cruel irony of this business. The better you improve your cow herd and genetics the tougher you have to be in the culling department. I remember my grandfather relating culling cows to baseball. Three strikes and you are OUT! This made very good sense at one time but now it is basically one strike and you are out. Every ranch has specific things that they are better at and certain challenges they face. This is why sometimes the things you hear from one producer related to how they run their business is so much different from another.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the long tailed weasel aka Mustela frenata.

Today’s picture is 0902g with his momma on February 15th 2010 and on his own November 16th 2010.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mucho caliente

It was once again a nice day in the beautiful Columbia Basin with diminishing winds from last night’s hurricane. Last night the wind howled and I always tend to worry about tumbleweeds leaning over single wire electric fences and offering cows a way to travel. I was pleasantly surprised that no such thing happened and there were not many tumbleweed’s to remove from fences this morning.

I worked all day today but really am not sure if I accomplished much. I had two conference calls taking up about 3 hours of the day. They were both necessary and productive but somehow are hard to see as tangible when the hours of daylight are so short. The sun seems to descend faster than Monica Lewinski in the oval office this time of year. I was able to read, delete and get my email box down to 72 unread messages when I started yesterday with over 1200 of them dating back to April. Many of them were the type sent by friends with a humor slant and they were fun to read.

I went to the corner store today and filled the Dodge with diesel and saw something quite simple but also humorous. As I watched the dollar amount spin fast and the gallon amount spin slow on the pump meter a minivan entered the parking lot. It was a Mexican family, a father, a mother and I am guessing about a 3 to 4 year old boy. When the father got out of the van to go into the store the kid threw quite a fit because he wanted to go inside. The father loudly told Juan Jr. that he was to stay in the van with his mother. The father got about half way to the store when little Juan opened the drivers side door and started running towards his father. Juan Sr. heard him coming and turned and chased him back towards the van yelling at him for not listening. The kid got the door closed just as the dad got there but the window was down just a bit. Juan Sr. was very animated as he told the kid to quit crying and to stay in the van. The father once again turned back towards the store and right when he passed the front of the van Juan Jr. laid on the horn! OMG, Juan Sr. about jumped out of his “pantalones” from being startled and I spit coffee about a mile laughing. I do not know what they came to the store for but at this point the dad had enough and he got in the van, slammed the door and tore out of the parking lot without even going in the store! I was treated to another bit of laughter when I was able to view the passenger side of the white minivan. The passenger side fender had one of those stickers that look like flames. Nothing like a set of flames to make your minivan look more awesome!

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Brown headed cowbird aka Molothrus ater.

Today’s picture is another in my series showing calf growth over the year. 0904g is a steer calf pictured as a newborn on February 25th 2010 and today November 16th 2010.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The guilty Governor of Goatville

I really had a great day today. It did not always seem like it was going well but in the end it was just excellent. Whenever you are in the middle of November and the daytime highs reach the 50’s and it is not freezing on most nights that alone are enough to make most days great. I started the day checking on the fall calvers. I have been kind of nervous about the new pairs with being exposed to auction saleyard conditions, hauling and the wet weather. So far so good, the cows seem to be doing really well and the calves are good except for one calf that seems to have a bit of a cough. I will be keeping an eye on him. When we worked these new pairs last week we wormed and gave vaccinations to the calves but I decided to put off the extra stress of branding and castrating the bull calves. I need to work the fall calves I already had anyway so maybe in mid December we will do that.

I worked on some WCA stuff today like getting my email cleared out, trying to get a signature made and responding to a few things. I can see that this presidential thing will really put a dent in my time on the computer that I am able to surf and mess around. I am sure a few people in many political discussion chat rooms and message boards will be happy for my absence. I was someone that was reluctant to join the World Wide Web. Not because I feared the computer I feared the time I would spend if I entered that world. I really love information and feel that learning should be a lifelong process. The internet is great for that but wow can you burn a lot of time if you do not discipline yourself. For a guy it is bad enough with all the sexually related content but you would be amazed at how much information related to the cattle business is online.

Weather reports, market conditions, articles, and ability to save records online, nutrition information, the list is quite endless. Those topics alone could shoot my whole day if I let them. The problem for someone like me who loves information is that it really does not matter what topic it is if I feel I am learning something I did not already know. I am going to share links to a few articles that I had saved over the years that were almost too absurd to read but still I took the time to check them out. Now who can resist reading an article about Russian fishermen catching an alien? not only did they catch an alien they ATE said alien. That’s funny I don’t care who you are! Just when you think you are free from the Pravda site you find a link to something livestock related. Read the article just for fun. I was most amazed that this rare birth did not happen in Montana. The article also talks about something similar in Zimbabwe. I quote “In Zimbabwe, a goat gave birth to a similar youngster in September 2009. The mutant baby born with a human-like head stayed alive for several hours until the frightened village residents killed him.

The governor of the province where the ugly goat was born said that the little goat was the fruit of unnatural relationship between the female goat and a man.

"This incident is very shocking. It is my first time to see such an evil thing. It is really embarrassing," he reportedly said. "The head belongs to a man while the body is that of a goat. This is evident that an adult human being was responsible. Evil powers caused this person to lose self control. We often hear cases of human beings who commit bestiality but this is the first time for such an act to produce a product with human features," he added.

The mutant creature was hairless. Local residents said that even dogs were afraid to approach the bizarre animal.

The locals burnt the body of the little goat, and biologists had no chance to study the rare mutation” Now tell me that the time I spent on this was not worth it.

This afternoon was spent catching some of the spring calvers. I had one heifer calf and one cow of the neighbors I wanted to return. I also wanted to weigh on his scale a few steers and a few pregnant coming two year old heifers. The corrals are really muddy and it made things difficult on not only myself but poor Festus seemed to spend as much time swimming today as walking. He did a nice job though and other than a few frustrating missed sorts and the time it took for such a small task it ended well. I tried to take animals that were representative of the average of their contemporaries. I am always somewhat pessimistic about the weight in my own animals and was happy with today’s weighing. I guessed the steers would average right at 600 pounds but they were 655. I even separately weighed the smallest steer which confirmed the average as he weighed 638. The heifers weighed very close to 1050 and I was guessing about 100 pounds lighter. Those weights really made my day and the task kept me from internet gems like

Woman tries to cut tattooed name off boyfriends’ neck.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Great basin desert parsley aka Lomatium simplex.

Today’s picture is cow 3913g and her steer calf on February 14th 2010 and again on October 20th 2010.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

They did what?

Well here it is Sunday morning and I wanted to get a post in while a few things are fresh in my mind from the last few days. Yesterday I returned from our Washington Cattlemens Association (WCA) 85th annual state convention. It is one event that I really look forward to each year and this year it did not in anyway disappoint. I am going to try and not duplicate this blog post with too much information that I will be mentioning in my Ketch Pen article next month for our WCA magazine. Today’s post will focus more on the general parameters of the convention taking into consideration that many who read this post are not WCA members and did not attend the convention.

The annual convention is a chance to gather with other industry participants, a chance to visit old friends as well as a chance to make new friends. We had an incredible turnout this year and there are so many people and organizations responsible for this. Thank you to all the allied industry members, the trade show exhibitors, sponsors, the staff at the Suncadia lodge, speakers, panel discussion participants, WSU cougar cattle feeders, Washington state beef commission board and staff, Endowment trust fund members, people who donated and purchased auction items, entertainment providers, the Washington Cattlewomens members, staff and leadership, leaders and representatives from National organizations connected to our industry and our host county Kittitas Cattlemen and women members and leadership. I could never convey in words the appreciation and thanks you all deserve for making this event a wonderful success.

I also want to especially thank our WCA staff, past, current and future leadership members for all you do not only for this convention but for our organization and industry everyday year after year. The last group I want to mention but certainly not the least in standing is to our membership and convention attendees. Those of you that pay your dues, provide input, communicate with the public and work to help keep our industry viable and vibrant are really the foundation to keeping the WCA functioning.

I have mentioned many times that I often ponder if people who work in the cattle business are maybe just a bit shall we say “special” in their mental aspect. Maybe this thought springs from my own eclectic mentality but I really do believe that things like calving heifers, rescuing baby calves through mouth to nose resuscitation, spending the day in concert with nature and caring for the earths land and animals truly contributes to making a person just a bit different from the general public. I now have irrefutable proof that this is true at least how it relates to members of the WCA. On Friday afternoon at our annual general membership meeting the members decide to confirm yours truly as President of the WCA for the next two years. If that is not proof of some partial mental imbalance I do not know what is.

I have always been in awe of all the time, money, personal sacrifice, travel, thoughts on policy formation, leadership and flat hard work so many are willing to give the WCA and the cattle business. I hold the people in this industry in the highest level of reverence and it is an absolute humbling experience and honor to serve in this position. Those that know me are aware that shyness, soft spoken and often without opinion are terms that are not very synonymous with my personality. I will fully admit though that in the days leading up to convention I was close to pissing down my leg with nervousness over my nomination. The WCA and this industry have given so much to me and my family and I will always be in appreciation for that. All I can do is put forward my best effort to serve the members and industry over the next two years. I hope each of you will help me do this with communication and input. My joy is not in the title of WCA President, but in the desire to pay back this wonderful industry and all of you involved by serving you in a manner that helps to keep you in business and makes you as proud of your leadership choices as I am to be part of such a special group of people.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the hybrid cottonwood poplar aka Populus deltiodes.

Today’s picture is cow 5909G with her heifer calf on April 10th 2010, and her with her calf on November 1, 2010. I am going to try and find as many of these birth to weaning type combination's as I can over the next few weeks to show just how satisfying it is to work with these tremendous animals as you watch them grow. All pictures can be seen in full size by clicking on them.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Eatin pig weiner

So after my post about all the information and what I look for in a bull and all the information in a bull sale catalog I read my last post. I decided it was probably pretty boring and then my wife confirmed it when I asked her so I won’t go deeper into the bull sale catalog. The point I was trying to make is just how much thought goes into these decisions and why. If you have any questions just email me and I will try to answer your question. I sometimes struggle with what to post here because so many regular readers are in the same line of work as I am and would find explanations for a bull sale catalog boring. Others that are not involved may find it interesting. The last thing I want to do here is take the time to post and have it be boring. Boredom is like the worst possible sin ever. Life offers too many opportunities, venues, people and emotions for boredom to be acceptable.

I have had some fun and some accomplishments the last 3 days and have certainly not been bored. Friday I met my uncle Fred (dad’s brother) to look at some hay and crop stubble to decide how we could possibly best use them to our mutual benefit. He then rode with me to Toppenish to pickup more fall cow calf pairs I had purchased. Yesterday I had plans to work those new cows and calves. Christine and Dakota helped me and we got all the new cows and calves given vaccinations, ear tags and brands. If you want a family exercise that will test patience but make you appreciate each other at the end of the day work some cattle together. I once again have a great deal of thanks to give these two ladies for helping out so I can continue to live my dream. Today they helped me sort, load and move these cows to the hill pasture with the other fall cows. Last night we got a blast of rain and we were wading in mud/cowshit at about mid calf level part of the day. These two ladies never complained once. Other than one incident of Chris stumbling and kneeling in the mud/cowshit we all got along pretty well.

Our family, well really most anyone of the Olberding lineage is some combination of practical jokers and smartasses having a goodtime at others expense on occasion. It is always in good fun but sometimes it can be a bit rough on the victim. Dakota and I both had to turn away because of smiles/chuckling today and Chris was not very amused. I was mostly laughing at the expletives (complete with southern accent) she used to describe the mud/cowshit than the action of her fall. Dakota laughed because she and her sister Samantha have this thing about laughing at people or animals that fall or stumble even if it happens to them. Anytime this happens it is like a mad rush to see who is the first to say, “oh, oh fall down” in our dysfunctional group. Since I have nothing else for tonight I will tell a few short stories about teasing etc in our family and how at the end of the day it keeps us grounded, amused and not taking life too seriously.

One example would be when we were on vacation in Montana a few years ago. Dakota was maybe 7 so Sam was 13 and Amanda 15. One joy of vacation and traveling from my perspective is convenience store junk food. One thing I really like is Oh’Boy Obertos cocktail pep or smoke a roni meat sticks. These things are made with ingredients that alone you would never eat but combined are quite tasty. Pork hearts and beef hearts among the most unnerving especially for young girls between the ages of 7 and 15. I talked the girls into at least trying one and if they did not like it I would eat the rest. As they tried them they admitted they were pretty good even after knowing they were made with beef and pork hearts. As we drove Dakota was reading the ingredient list and eventually came to “dextrose”. “Dad, what is dextrose anyway?” Noticing that her older sisters had not chimed in I asked, “You girls do not know what dextrose is?” they answered that they were not sure. “Dextrose is a fancy name for pig penis.” I said. You could hear screams,squeals and spitting as my wife gave me quite a look as she quickly explained to our girls just what dextrose really is as I laughed. To this day whenever our family talks about cocktail pep, smoke a roni or pepperoni sticks they are referred to as “pig wieners” and we all enjoy them from time to time! LOL

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Chukar partridge aka Alectoris chukar.

Today’s picture is from that trip to Montana in 2004 prior to a rafting trip. I know this will just drive 4 females crazy if I post it here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who's your Daddy?

I guess I will try and get something posted here tonight. This last week was busy but productive and although everything did not go as planned it was mostly fun. I really was hoping to get away for a bit of elk hunting last week but it just did not happen. My uncle had invited me and it was something he and Dad did together for years and I really wanted to make it. I will damn sure make it next year though and least for a day or two, life is too short. I did turn a year older since the last time I posted here and was able to have one night away in a hotel room with my bride. I would go into detail but she would probably be embarrassed that she caught herself such a great man.

I have gotten a few more cow calf pairs purchased lately. They seem like a decent value as compared to anything else. I do think I am going to part with my spring calves early though. The prices are just too good to hold the risk into 2011. I will still keep a few heifers and the lighter calves but when a weaned calf is worth over $700 it just is time to cash out in my perspective. My Dad and Grandfather always preached that “nobody ever went broke taking a profit”. In the cow calf business making a profit is rare enough, making a decent profit is all too rare. Buying more fall pairs keeps some money invested yet offers a fairly low risk liquid asset if need be and is how I am rolling these days.

Today I attended a bull sale and you could certainly see and feel the positive energy in the beef business. Last year at this same sale I purchased two bulls at an average cost of $2500 each. I purchased one bull of comparable genetics today and paid $3800. Paying the increased price is a catch 22. The cattle business has gotten better but now a few more people want to be a cowman which drives up the price. The positive side is I have placed my cow herd in a pretty decent position of youth to take advantage of the better prices as long as they hold on. I do not have many more cows than I had 2 years ago but what I do own is much younger and of higher quality. The cattle business just really needs this level to hold on a few years to help cure the industry from the purge of equity and players from late 2008 through middle 2009. I am just happy to still be in the game.

Bull sales are something I have always enjoyed. The breeding bull sale season is just starting and will run through early April in this part of the country. Registered purebred breeders of many different breeds will offer for sale their bulls they raised from the past year. Most of these bulls are coming yearlings but some producers wait until they are 2 years old. The unaware would be aghast at how much thought and research goes into the purchase of bulls each year even on a commercial cow ranch like ours. Remember that ever calf that is born next year and his performance, physical looks (phenotype) carcass potential etc will be 50% determined by whom his or her Daddy is. I had a great breeding season last year as far as bulls go but then had two bulls get injured and culled two more because of age and for genetic reasons.

A bull sale catalog is not only full of pictures, weights and other measurements it has so much information it can drive you almost nuts. If you are interested here is a link to the catalog in PDF from today’s auction.

I will explain some of the terms and what I look for in a bull over today and tomorrow. Cattle people who read this may be bored by this but maybe you will see something that is flawed in my thinking and make me aware of it next week at state convention. If you opened the link go to page 10 and then scroll down to lot 23. This is the bull I purchased today. He was my second choice but my first choice sold for $6000 and was out of my cattlemans fantasy world. At the top of the page is a picture of his Daddy (sire) and the family tree. The information under the lot 23 column is the family background of his mother (dam). I have mentioned before that if we put as much thought into human mating as we do bovine mating I am pretty sure the world would be a better place. As you look across you come to “performance epds” Expected Progeny Differences is what epd stands for. For example lot 23 has a “WW” epd of +54. This means that his offspring should have weaning weight (WW) that is 54 pounds above the breed average. This is determined by records of similar matings in the past of both the sire and the dam. These numbers change and achieve a higher degree of accuracy the more an individual is mated. His sire SAV Final Answer 0035 has been mated artificially to thousands of cows and is one of my personal favorite sires to buy sons of.

CED is “calving ease direct” which is based on the number of first calf heifers with unassisted births. Our ranch is very calving ease focused as labor resources are limited and live calves are worth quite a bit more than dead ones, +14 is very good and I will feel very confident using this bull on first calf heifers. BW is “birthweight” as compared to breed average expressed in pounds. Calves from this bull should sire calves 1.9 pounds less than breed average. YW is yearling weight is a sires ability to transmit pounds to his calves at yearling time. SC is “scrotal circumference” yes, how big will his testicles be which is an important factor in fertility. Ladies please do not try and get a reading on your husbands. Milk is just that, the amount of the sires ability to pass on milk production which affects weaning weight. Remember, calves are usually sold by the pound so you want the most pounds at the most efficient cost. $EN is related to the energy or feed needed to keep an animal in good condition.

If you are bored at this point I will save the rest for tomorrow. I will pass on a bit of amusement to end tonight’s post. I stopped at a farm and ranch store today to purchase a few new ear tags. As I was walking down the aisles I saw a pretty woman with a tight shirt with the word “Guess” printed across the chest. As I walked past her I said to myself, “hmmmmm, 38C and real?"

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Double breasted cormorant aka Phalacrocorax auritus.

Today’s picture is cow 207y with her calf 0207y born on Valentines Day February 14, 2010 and with her calf on Halloween October 31, 2010. This shows just how important genetics can be in growth and profitability.