Thursday, January 27, 2011

A reliable friend

I spent the day with a great friend today. The friend I am talking about is my 1998 Dodge 2500 pickup. Someday when I am really old and feeble I will always remember all the fond memories, great times, and pure cowman fun I had with this well worn old beast. I mentioned in my last post that this was my first and possibly my last “brand new” vehicle I have ever purchased.

I had made a good move in 1996 when the cattle market was in a deep crash. I scraped together every penny I could find and bought as many bred heifers as I could. I could not get a bank to loan any money because the cattle market was really bad at that time. My grandfather once told me a bit of advice that has served me well in this business. He said if you want to buy cattle, do a budget, fill out the paperwork for the bank loan and then see what the bank says. If they approve the loan then you should run far and fast because the market will soon take a downward spiral. If on the other hand they reject your loan find a way to scrape up all the money you can and buy as many cows as possible, because the market is about to turn around for the good. When he put it succinctly he would say “a banker will offer you an umbrella on a sunny day, and piss on your head on a rainy day in the cattle business.” Sadly he was about 100% correct.

The cows and heifers I had bought had risen in value and I made some nice cash on my calves. I decided it was time for a new pickup and began my search. I found the rig I wanted in Kellogg Idaho. The salesman and I had everything settled over the phone so one late afternoon I loaded up Christine and the girls and headed to Kellogg. We arrived right at the close of normal business hours but the salesman was happy to stay late. (Imagine my surprise) I was trading in a 1993 Isuzu Rodeo and after all the paper work was done we headed to their shop to get my new pickup. This particular pickup had everything I wanted except a rear sliding window. The salesmen had offered to install one and said it would be ready when we got to Kellogg that evening. We walked into the well lit shop and there set my black pickup. Complete with a removed solid rear window and a new sliding rear window lying in the bed. Apparently a mechanic did not get the memo that it had to be ready that night. I was disappointed but really used the situation to my advantage. I wailed on about bringing my young family all the way up there to ride home in our new rig and now it was all ruined! We would have to go home in our old rig and I opined that I may never be the same mentally after this disaster. It actually worked out pretty well because I was able to haggle a nice discount and a free extended warranty out of the situation. The next day they delivered it to me at home and took in the Rodeo in trade.

From that day forward this truck has been excellent for me, I feel it even saved my life at one point. (Blog post September a time to enjoy on September 27th 2010) There has never been a time this truck has left me stranded. It has had the care of regular oil changes and that is about the extent of the regular maintenance this rig has enjoyed. I feel a ranch pickup is there for use and I will not “baby” a pickup. I reminisced a lot today because hopefully this is the last time this pickup has to make the long trek to Toppenish. My new pickup still needs a 5th wheel ball but I plan to get that done soon. Today I wondered just how many times this pickup had been to the auction over the years and all the bovines it had transported by pulling my stock trailer. So many miles of bouncing over cornstalks feeding cows and checking on new calves, so many winter nights of idling away waiting on a heifer to calve. Countless tons of hay and supplements hauled, witness to so many smiles, laughs, tears and beers. Copenhagen spit on the floor, calf shit on her doors, iodine dumped down the heater vents and every kind of deli food wrapper tossed inside, yet this truck never complained. Five dogs, 3 kids, I wife and 13 calf crops were all carried by this pickup. All these things it has done for me but probably the most challenging thing she has faced is all the ranting, pontificating and just plain talking to myself she had to endure while propelling me down the interstate or a circle road. I may have replaced her for the open road, but she will continue to serve in her semi retirement here on the ranch and local area.

After I unloaded my cattle today at the auction market I parked the rig and went to chat with the auction owner for a bit. There was a group of people wandering around looking at everything that seemed too well dressed and somewhat out of place. I do not know what they were doing at the auction but one thing they did do, take several camera phone pictures of a 1998 Dodge that was covered in dried cowshit from feeding in the corrals this morning. All I thought to myself was, yep that one is MINE!

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Blue copper butterfly aka Lycaena heteronea.

Today’s pictures are a few of the best product I have ever owned and some of the things it has faced over the last 13 years

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Introducing "Griselda"

Iam going to try this direct posting thing once again tonight in the interest of time. There may be a few more grammatical and other errors but hey this is not Ms Voelkers high school English class. Today was a great culmination to months of preparation, failures and disappointments.

I started the morning early checking heifers and giving a bit of feed to them and the fall calvers. I did not have the camera with me but the sunrise was absolutely stunning today and with it Dad and I had a good chat even if it was only us that know we chatted. I know how stupid this may seem to many but I swear Festus moves a bit closer to the middle of the front pickup seat to make room when Dad is riding along and shootin' the shit with me in my mind. I fed the yearlings and then headed home for a quick shower.

I had mentioned awhile back that I have been pickup shopping. I know many people enjoy shopping and dealing on vehicles but that is really not the case for me. I somewhat enjoy the shopping aspect as long as it is online and I don't have to actually deal with a salesperson or spend any money. The only problem with this is you never seem to have a newer rig and you spend the bulk of the next day praising your old vehicle and pretending it does not have some electrical issues and that the door does not really close that badly.

For me it is not really even a problem with spending the money as much as dealing with salespeople and making them understand that I know what I want, I am not very flexible as to what I want, I am reasonable about the price but I wont way over pay just to complete the deal and much to their amazement I can not only tell them "NO" but I somewhat enjoy telling some of them to "go f*c7 themselves" if they bother me too much. I just want to point out that when you ask third graders what they want to be they never say "car salesperson" and there is a reason for that. When your mind is still that pure and uncorrupted and free of slime it just makes sense. I know I am painting in broad strokes but it amazes me that any human thinks that I absolutely cannot get through tomorrow using the same pickup I have used for the last 4700 odd days and desperately need the one they are trying to sell me.

I have been very happy with my 1998 Dodge pickup that was the first and actually the ONLY vehicle I have ever purchased "brand new". It has been an excellent product and the reliability, toughness and longevity is legendary. My first odometer went to 160,000 and stopped. After some work and inability by the local Dodge dealer it was reset to 0000000 (zero). It again turned to 204,0dd thousand then stopped once again. That was about Valentines day 2008. My best guess it is around a half million in the mileage department and the engine is still fairly strong and untouched.

As I started shopping for a newer rig I did a lot of research just to try and temper the disappointment I would likely have with a newer rig compared to the satisfaction my 1998 has given me. From what I learned I wanted to stay with a 5.9 liter Cummins turbo diesel but that added a bit of an issue. Dodge changed to a different 6.7 liter diesel engine in mid 2007. From what I have researched the engine is fine and another solid Cummins product but the connected emission/EPA mandated/save the world bullshit has made a legendary product a virtual castrated and unreliable version of its once former glorious self. "New" is just a term and I could give a damn less if it is not reliable and has some longevity. I was already pretty committed to finding something mid 2007 or older but low mileage. Oh oh.

Used three quarter and one ton pickups and low mileage are like saying "intelligent vegetarian". Things like this very rarely exist. I had a few other basic items that I really had no room for compromise. It had to be a longbed to better accept the stock trailer, it had to be a manual transmission for the same reason and it had to be a 2007 or older with a 5.9 Cummins diesel and hopefully with "low" miles. 100K or lower and hopefully 80K or lower. This was actually more difficult than finding an intelligent vegetarian. It was like finding an intelligent vegetarian that hated salads. I was undaunted though and searched almost daily and over most of this country. When I found a rare specimen it was either already gone, obnoxiously priced, had more miles than what I already owned or there was some "misprint" in the add and was not what it seemed.

I did find a few pickups I really wanted but it seemed I was always just a few hours late and someone else had beat me to the punch. I was really becoming cynical and feeling like I would just have to settle for something less than I wanted. When I returned home on Saturday night I did a quick Craigslist check around the northwest and found what I felt was a miracle but I had no faith that it may still be available. The add was from Friday and I almost did not even call because I was sure the truck would be long gone. I took a flyer Sunday morning and to make a long story a bit shorter today I finally drove home a "new to me" pickup. Dodge, longbed, manual transmission, 5.9 liter Cummins, year 2005 but ONE owner Carfax and ONLY 42,000 miles! I still feel there is going to be some catch at some point but right now I feel I found the proverbial "only driven to church on Sundays" pickup. Over the next many years I will let you know if I am as blessed as I feel tonight.

My daughter Samantha rode with me today to Redmond Oregon 270 miles away so I could pick up what I have named "Griselda". I do not really know why but the dark gray color and something about it looks to me like it is a tough old female of a pickup. I need to give a shout out to a great saleslady named Cheryl at Jim Somlich Motors in Redmond. I had an excellent buying experience and she was helpful, patient and best of all non pushy and did not try and sell me something I did not want. Samantha and I enjoyed a great dinner tonight in Terrebonne, Oregon at the Pump House bar and Grill and I highly recommend it to those traveling in the area. I also have to thank my mother who helped in many ways to make this short notice purchase a possibility.

This "short" post is rambling on so I will close. I will have to tell you about our trip home and how poor Samantha who was so helpful today seemed to be a favorite of every police force in the state or Oregon. Thank you for going today Sam, I really did enjoy the day and I miss getting to spend time with you on a regular basis and love you very much.

Today's real environmentalist species died because of emissions from a 2005 Dodge diesel motor without the proper EPA equipment! Just kidding, the species of the day found on the ranch is the Western Juniper aka Juniperus occidentalis.

Today's picture is 3 views of Griselda as a non ranch exposed, clean, dent free pickup! This too will come to pass!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The pot of gold?

I usually write out my posts on a Microsoft Word program, read and edit and then post it here. I was not really planning on posting tonight but I am here at the computer still so I decided I would post a little bit of something for today. Since I am posting this directly and am really in no mood to edit please forgive any failures of standard that you expect from this blog.

I have talked about the amazing life I am able to live here many times as well as the frustrations with this way of life at times. Today seemed to be a exercise in the far contrasts of both the good and bad. The day ended well enough and I am hoping tomorrow is going to be one of my "top ten" days of 2011 but that is a statement made with much caution. Tonight it is hard to talk about all aspects of today without giving away what I hope is a joyous day and surprise tomorrow but I will try. What the hell, at least I have a "hook" and a reason to come back to my blog late tomorrow night when I will hopefully be telling you about a great day.

Last year at this time the cattle market was in a very different place. It was not particularly bad by any means but it was a very average year in the income vs. expense arena. If you have been in this business long enough you learn that getting to the end of the year without actually LOSING any money has to sometimes be considered a success. Many years you pay the bills, you feed your family, you don't particularly live in poverty but at the same time you do not really do anything extra either. The nice thing about this business is even in those years where you slip backward financially or just maintain life is still pretty complete and full because you get to spend your days being your own boss, working outside and seeing some of the most glorious things that only Mother Nature can manifest.

This year has the makings of something very special in this business. Many classes of cattle are at record highs. Expenses are high as well and give some concern but all things considered it looks like a year that could be very satisfying from a financial standpoint. The last few years have been a bit more on the average to below average from a financial standpoint. I have been mostly lucky though because my live calf percentage, weaning weights and the ultimate standard of pounds of calf sold vs. cost of cow maintenance plus other expenses has been slightly positive. I have been very lucky over the last few years and have seemed to be able to save calves from certain death in an almost miraculous fashion. Although the cattle market is much better I struggle mightily this year from a mental perspective because I can't seem to catch a break with any calf that comes up with any health issues. A couple instances have been nothing but pure "shit luck" such as the very first calf heifer being able to birth a calf on her own but for whatever reason the calf was dead on arrival and I lost one calf that somehow fell in the canal and was not able to escape not as a newborn but at a week of age. These things can happen but my past excellent luck is making this year seem like hell.

In the calendar year of 2009 between spring and fall calvers I only lost 3 calves at birth compared to 234 live calves. In 2010 I lost 6 calves but over 248 births so percentage wise those years were really spectacular. Now granted it is early in 2011 but at the current time I plan to calve out about 264 head between both calving seasons. I have already lost six calves to date and am only about 50% through the spring calvers. From a percentage basis I am still above average for survivability but it still stings every time you lose one for any reason.

The calf I lost last night really is weighing on me from a sadness and frustration standpoint. 1440w was born to a first calf heifer 2 weeks ago on a snowy night but his mother seemed to get him up and nursing in a reasonable amount of time. That first nursing is critical for young calf health. Over the next few days I watched him as he seemed to always be on the edge of being a bit sick. Early last week on a rainy and cold night I brought him home to the house out of concern. He had a bit of fever and was breathing a bit "wet" but I gave him an injection of antibiotic as well as an oral sulfa based pill. The next morning he was much more spry and pissed all over the laundry room floor and his energy had Festus and Sadie worked up as to why a calf was in their home. I took him back to his momma and things went well. Energetic, nursing his mother, frolicking with the other calves was the norm for the next few days. I was sure I had him out of the woods and that keeping him inside that one night was the key.

I noticed he had a bit of a snotty nose last Thursday before I went on the tour so I gave him another shot and since it was not cold or too wet I thought he would be just fine. Even Saturday night when I checked on him he was still a bit slow but he seemed to be fighting off whatever issue he had. Sunday morning was a different story as his breathing had become very wet and he was quite lethargic. I brought him home and gave him some electrolytes to help his dehydration and a few other drug therapies and felt pretty good about his chances. I hoped he would be ready to go back with his mother this morning, unfortunately he did not make it through the night. To see his young mother follow the pickup bawling knowing that was the last place she saw her young calf really bothered me this morning. If we get a twin in the next few days I will try to make her a surrogate but I wont hold my breath.

As wonderful and inspiring watching life begin on a ranch there is always the other side of the ledger and although I know that is just life it still never easy to lose one. My Dad once offered me the best advice related to these joys and disappointments. He would say, "There is no way to enjoy the part of Mother Nature that is breathing and living without accepting dying and rotting as part of the circle." Good advice indeed. I guess I should focus on the 2 calves that were born today without incidence and what else I was able to complete today that I feel very blessed for. More on that tomorrow barring any disasters.

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Dalmation toadflax aka Linaria dalmatica.

Today's picture is a rainbow from today that oddly seemed to suggest there was a pot of gold in the bathroom of our home.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Young at heart

Leaving the ranch to serve industry is something with all kinds of positives but also a fair share of potential pitfalls. To leave for 36 hours right in the middle of calving season for anything is never easy. I want to thank Christine and Dakota for making it possible for me to be away. I have two of the greatest cattle women in my life and they take on way more than any women should ever have to just so I can continue to live my dream. Thank you for everything and doing a stellar job of covering ladies.

Despite a persistent cough she has been fighting Christine and I started Friday morning at 4a.m. We fed and checked the first calf heifers, the fall pairs, and the yearlings. I then headed out to Pendleton Oregon for the 2nd annual Pacific Northwest Young Cattlemen’s tour. The tour is for anyone “young at heart” and I went for several reasons. Being WCA President certainly is one but I also believe in this industry, youth and a bright future for this industry. Any “kid” that is willing to ride a bus and tour a feedlot, a dairy, a port, an ethanol plant, a seedstock operation and then spends the next day listening to speakers about issues affecting the industry has my support. Last year was a excellent tour, this year was even better!

I probably should have recorded the whole event from end to end. I give the kids all the credit in the world for their attentiveness, politeness and ability to engage and participate. Last year these traits were the most impressive to me mainly because I guess I had low expectations. I cannot say enough good things about these kids but I can tell you our industry is very lucky to have them in our corner. As impressed as I was with the kids both years I was overwhelmed by the “veterans” of the beef business and the incredibly pertinent, honest and valuable advice they gave these kids. I missed several astute and sage quotes from a verbatim point of view but I will do my best to paraphrase many that I found amazing. Even when it was not a quote, the advice and reasoning behind each and every point of view and nugget of advice was inspiring.

Beef Northwest ( and their feeding facility was our first stop. If any college aged kid involved in agriculture is looking for an incredible opportunity to get a valuable internship from a great company they should get in touch. What I felt was the most important part of their internship program is that the intern spends time at every facet of the business. From the feed trucks, the feed mill, maintenance, the processing and veterinary hospital as well as the office including commodity hedging, ration formulation and many other aspects of the business are all exposed to the intern. I can attest that learning any business from the shit scooper to the owner and everything in between makes for successful people.

We also toured Threemile Canyon Farms ( and their Columbia River dairy which has 16000 cows producing over a million pounds of milk per day for Tillamook cheese ( sustainability and management practices of this forward looking operation were amazing. We then visited the Port of Morrow ( ) where millions of dollars of farms products are shipped all over the world. While there we had a great tri tip lunch provided and sponsored by many companies in the beef industry. After lunch we visited Pacific Ethanol ( which was very informative and interesting from a beef industry perspective because of their use of corn and the resulting by- product of wet distillers grain used to feed cattle. Our bus also made a stop at the LGW ranch which raises purebred Black Angus cattle. Lon and his wife Sheri each gave unique and excellent advice to the kids about everything from working hard to finding a good partner in the business. At each stop I was very taken with the advice of the presenters and the focused attention of the tour participants.

After a somewhat icy ride to Baker City we were served a great steak dinner at the “party barn” at the Thomas Angus Ranch ( after dinner, rotating speakers with careers in the beef industry gave their perspective and insight into the opportunities and the future of this beloved business. On Saturday morning we reloaded the bus and headed back to LaGrande Oregon for a full day of speakers and information on different aspects of the beef industry. I want to thank all the participants, speakers, sponsors, and the tour committee for all they did to make this a tremendous success. I am already looking forward to next year!

Today was spent checking things and feeding and tagging the calves that were born. Everything went very well and we are very close to being half done calving. The weather has been fairly mild and I sure hope that continues. I need to get my camera clicking more often this week and I will continue to share those pictures here.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Black widow spider aka Latrodectus Hesperus.

Today’s picture is cow that we call nothing more than “number 2” this horned thing is a great calf raiser and lead cow. She knows how to use her horns to her advantage. I caught her awhile back after she had apparently decided a blowing and dancing in the wind clump of canary grass was some kind of threat to her new and still untagged calf.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On the road again

The last thing I should be doing right now is writing a blog but I am awake and excited. I knew that Wednesday through Saturday of this week would be hectic and busy. So far it has performed exactly how I suspected but so far so good and I am looking forward to the next two days.

Yesterday I headed over the Cascade Mountains to Snohomish for their county Cattlemen’s meeting. These are mostly smaller operations but also very important. These are often the first operations that face regulations and also the first to deal with issues related to “urban sprawl”. Thank you to Snohomish County for the great meeting, the hospitality and the nice dinner. I got home about 1:30a.m and did a quick heifer check and all was good.

Today I had plenty to do since I was away yesterday afternoon and in preparation for heading out again early tomorrow morning. Two more new calves came into the world today here on the ranch. At 4 a.m. I am going to check heifers and do a bit of feeding and hope to be out of here by 6 a.m. I am heading to Pendleton Oregon to catch a bus tour for the 2nd annual Pacific Northwest Young Cattlemen’s tour. Tomorrow we will be visiting a large feedlot, a large dairy, an ethanol plant, as well as a couple of purebred seedstock operations. Tomorrow evening we will have a dinner and speakers talking about issues affecting the cattle industry. I did a blog post last January 23rd about the first tour if you would like to go back.

Tonight I attended the Mid Columbia Agriculture Hall of Fame dinner. I was the presenter for one of the winners of the “pioneer” award. My good friend Charlie Card was inducted this year and it was an honor and privilege to speak for and present him this prestigious award. Congrats to all of this years inductees.

Saturday I will be attending a seminar related to the beef cow industry in the northwest. I will be home Saturday night to get back to checking heifers and feeding. I am always a bit afraid to leave but Chris and Dakota are steady and reliable hands that will keep things together during my absence. I will shut this down so I can get a few hours of sleep.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Northern flicker aka Colaptes auratus.

Today’s picture is 1489B with her heifer calf 1489w.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The joy of live calves

I could really get used to days as great as today was. To start out with the greatness of today I must go back to yesterday afternoon. Yesterday was a nice Sunday and Samantha came out to visit. It is amazing how much older kids who have left the nest are much more enticed to come home when there is a new puppy in the household! Yesterday one of my favorite cows calved. This particular cow was the mother to one of Dakotas’ fair steers last year and also to one she is keeping as a fair steer for this year. The cow is getting up there in age and her teats are getting a bit on the large size. I should have probably kept this cow home for a yearling babysitter but I sent her with the general group of spring calving mature cows to corn stalks.

Yesterday she had a nice black brockle faced calf standing next to her but she also had 4 teats that looked like pregnant corndogs. The calf had one teat all clean but I felt rather than exciting her we should just leave her and her new kid alone and hope that by today the calf had somehow got one of the swollen teats in his mouth and got some colostrum. If it had not sucked by this morning I was going to have to conduct a cowman intervention. This meant moving and setting up some portable panels, gathering the cow, hauling her home to milk her out and had all kinds of potential for a high pain in the ass factor.

This morning I decided to check the first calf heifers first. I reasoned that at least the future 12G2 calf was alive and I should focus on the calves yet to be born before dealing with one that at least had entered the world and was breathing. The heifer check went well but 9154W who I have been waiting on to calve still was just eating away with her sloppy beef curtains flopping in the wind with no sign of calving yet to commence. I then ran home to wake my teen who had today off to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day. I wanted her with me for a second opinion if I decided that 12G2 had or had not suckled his mother overnight. We found the cow fairly quickly and not only did she have one, but 3 of four teats that had been sucked down to a normal level and a happy calf with a full belly. Sometimes emotions are hard to explain but I would compare Dakotas and my euphoria to how you feel after a couple of whiskey shots and listening to “Rockstar” by Nickelback! For those who are lost you can check it out here;

No matter what the rest of today tossed my way I was going to be in a great state of mind. We tagged the calf and two others and just watched calves enjoying the sunshine and the 50 degree day. I was in such a good mood I decided that I would work on a project I have been putting off for awhile. I really need to buy a new, well newer pickup. A good cattleman and mentor named Steve Hailey taught me that you should upgrade your pickup every 13 years whether you need to or not. I had been shopping and researching online for sometime and had found two potentials that were within a 50 mile radius. I called on one and found out it had been sold just hours before. Some days that news would have bothered me but not today. There will be other pickups and other days. The rest of the day was spent doing odd jobs until it came time for the late afternoon heifer check. More good news as another heifer had calved on her own and had her calf up and sucking. To really make my day 9154W who I had been waiting on was finally in the early stages of calving. She had yet to produce a water bag but as the sunset I made a note of where she was and decided to come back to check on her a bit later.

About 6 pm Dakota, Festus, Sadie and I went back with our spotlights to see how things had progressed but ran into our first problem of the day. 9154W was not where we had last saw her and the search was on. This cornfield borders acres of thick trees and we could not find her anywhere. After close to an hour of frustration we finally found her on her side under a thicket of trees and brush. She had front feet exposed and was contracting hard. We did not want to unnerve her so we pulled away and watched the stars and the full moon in the winter clear sky for a bit and made sure the calf puller, OB chains, rope etc were all ready to go just in case.We then drove back to where we had found her. When we shown the 4 million candlepower spotlight on her she was standing over a living, breathing, clone of herself and we left her to tend to her business.I will check on her later tonight once again.

I don’t care how many times I see it happen, seeing Mother Nature bring a new life into the world is inspiring and makes me so thankful to make a living the way I do. There is hardly a day without a few personal struggles but days like today make it all worthwhile. When a day works out as well as today did there is only one thing to do, enjoy an obscure but great musical artist in Colt Ford with Jamey Johnson helping out.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the cow, or bovine aka Bos Taurus or Bos indicus depending on genetic background.

Today’s picture is 9027Y who is a first calf heifer that calved late last week.All pictures can be seen in full screen by clicking on them. Hope you all enjoy a great day!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fighting with the Estrogen Mafia

Darn close to a day of perfection here in the Columbia Basin. Yesterday was supposed to be the start of a nice warming trend. The warming came from the southwest and although it broke freezing here yesterday it was not the mid 50’s they were experiencing just 25 miles to the south. Finally about 11 p.m. last night that nice warm southwest breeze showed up and we gained 10 degrees in the space of an hour. By the time the sun rose this morning there was hardly any snow left to be found. I think maybe tomorrow I will once again be able to drive fence posts without cussing about frozen ground. Today was an absolute balmy day in the mid 50’s, very nice for mid January and a welcome change from the weather we have been having. It is amazing sometimes in this business how Mother Nature can offer a weather change and that change has the power of a mind altering pharmaceutical.

Calving continues at a steady pace of about 2-4 calves a day and has gone mostly well after a bit of a struggle at the start. I am checking the heifers about every 6 hours now but so far the ones that have calves have all done fine on their own. I have one heifer in particular that is driving me insane, well more insane than normal as I wait for her to calve. I have been just sure she was going to calve in the next 12 hours for the last 3 days. Once again tonight she was lying with the group but if her vulva opens any more I will be able to not only see her calf but possibly find Jimmy Hoffa. The parts of the day that are not spent either checking or feeding cattle seem to amount to very little time in a given day. The time there happens to be open for extras often is spent fixing something to make sure I can continue to check, feed and build fence for cows. The Washington state legislature is now in session so just making sure they don’t try to pass some idiotic legislation takes a part of each evening. Don’t even get me started on a Federal level. I really need to spend a day at my desk away from the computer and wrap up paper work from 2010. I also need to spend a few days at my desk getting things in order for 2011.

Cattle prices are good and at record levels for some classes. I just hope the expense side of the ledger does not get out of hand. It sure looks like fuel and in turn fertilizer and in turn feed prices could skyrocket and just put us in a situation where you have the same tight profit margins with higher inputs and increased risk. I am optimistic though and although I wish I had purchased more fall pairs back in October it looks like buying the cattle I did was a sound move for the future. Keeping those heifers last spring is going to work out pretty excellent as well. On the down side as soon as things improve or look like we might sustain some profitability something always seems to implode. I try to not be cynical but I remember all too well December 2003 and how devastating the mad cow that “stole” Christmas was.

I really had nothing else in particular to post about so I will ramble here about a few things that have happened lately that I have not blogged about. My bride and I celebrated an anniversary earlier in the month. I asked her where she would like to go and she answered “somewhere that she had not been in awhile.” I suggested the kitchen and got myself in trouble,HA!, just kidding. Actually, we had a night away in beautiful downtown Walla Walla at the Marcus Whitman after attending Walla Walla county Cattlemen’s annual banquet. Thank you to Walla Walla County for the hospitality. Dakota got a new female blue heeler aka Australian Cattle Dog puppy for Christmas. Festus is a red heeler and we decided he needed a blue girlfriend. I thought I had the perfect female blue heeler name with a western flair in “Bluecille” but I was overruled by the Estrogen Mafia and her name is “Sadie” but I usually call her Sadie Sue or Sadiecille just to be obstinate. I will dedicate a whole blog post with pictures to her soon.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Burrowing Owl aka Athene cunicularia.

Today’s picture is cow 4158W with her bull calf 1158w. I usually do not get to tag this cow’s calf because of protection issues but I caught her in a weak moment on Wednesday. Can you just see her saying “oh one of these days I am going to get you” by the look on her face.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter of discontent

Yes. Yes, Yes I am still alive and yes I am going to continue to blog, hopefully even on a regular basis. It was a little over a year ago that I started this venture. At the time I was thinking I would talk about part of each day and what life is like for me. I thought maybe a few freaks out there in cyber land might enjoy a post or two and it might be a good way to promote agriculture and maybe educate the general public and possibly shoot down a few misconceptions about the cattle business. Well the daily posting thing soon became very tough to complete. Often the days that offered the most or best blog material were also the days that I was dead to the world soon after dark. Some nights I had material but I just could not put it into a format that I found acceptable to post. There were many nights that I felt that if I prioritized my life correctly I would never have time to sit here and type stuff about a very ordinary person who is able to live an extraordinary life. In all honesty there were some nights that I did not post because I just ran out of “give a damns” for the day.

I did get 141 posts done in 2010 though and for the most part I am proud of what I posted and had lots of fun doing it. I really cannot believe the support I have received from all over the world which is a double edged sword. The more hits I get on this blog the more I feel I need to make it something special. I am going to continue posting, I no longer will strive for daily postings but will try to post 3 or so times a week on average like I did last year. Please keep the emails coming and I am really going to focus on getting the comment section fixed by the end of the month. I hope you all had a great holiday season. I certainly did but honestly I am mostly satisfied when it is over. There is just too much stress and pressure and commitments to keep during that time of year for my personal tastes.

So I suppose an update on the last 20 days of what has been happening in a general sense. One word would sum up most of the last month or so up and that word is WINTER. We had experienced several moderate winters with a few short term extremes over the last several years. It really spoiled me because I can handle the cold, grudgingly accept the snow but absolutely hate the short daylight hours. On an easy winter day it is not difficult to complete your chores at a leisurely pace between sunrise and sundown. When the winter is like this one it seems to take all the daylight hours and some of the after dark hours as well. I have no solid records to support this but I swear we have had more snow on the ground this winter than the last 5 winters combined. We have also had a fair share of cold temperatures. It is 17 degrees right now and we are supposed to go down to 11. The wind is from the north and has a really fierce bite to her. Other than last Saturday for a few short hours I swear it has not broke freezing in weeks. Tomorrow afternoon and night through Wednesday is supposed to bring 2-6 inches of snow, Arrrrghhhhhh. By Thursday we are supposed to be in the 40’s, if that happens I am officially declaring winter as OVER.

The snow and cold would not be so bad if we were not getting any calves on the ground. I usually have my spring calving cow’s start about January 25th or so and that was basically the plan for this year. Last March I brought home some spring calving cows in mid March and the only place I really had to keep them was with the fall calvers. This was really not an issue because they were only 30-40 days post partum and I did not feel they were “cycling” much yet. I really was not worried anyway because the only bulls they were around had issues that were going to keep the cows from “settling” One bull had failed his semen test and was only being kept around to gain a bit of spring “bloom” and then was off to become beef. The other bull had an issue with one of his rear legs and when he would try to mount a cow he was mostly unsuccessful and was awaiting the same fate of becoming hamburger. Well apparently they both had different ideas.

The spring calving cows are on corn stalks and other than a cursory look from my office window they did not need any real oversight until they got close to calving in late January. January 2nd I drove through them and found we had 4 calves already and we have been getting 2 or 3 a day since. It is not really the end of the world except for the weather and an alive calf is welcome around here most anytime. That being said I have already had more calving issues already in 2011 than I had all of 2010. Now that I am checking them regularly things are going pretty well but I did lose a couple of calves to weather issues and plain rotten luck. The first calf heifers have started this week as expected and so far so good but the twice a night checking adds just another load of work. These heifers are bred right and should be fine but just being heifers makes me check them about every 6 hours to check for any issues. It looks like if we can get through the weather over the next 48 hours then we will be in a better situation for awhile.

The cattle market is good with record prices for calves so that makes me happy. The downside is that in my cynical mind it seems that when calves are not worth much they all live, when they are worth record prices it seems that keeping them alive becomes more difficult for many reasons. The other issue is supplemental feed. When it is cold the cows need more supplemental feed which costs money. I will have fed more supplemental hay than I hoped to feed all winter by this time next week. Well it is about time for another heifer check so I will sign off. I will work to post more regular in the coming days.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the black field cricket aka Gryllus veletis.

Today’s picture is cow 4935G and her heifer calf on corn stalks.