Friday, February 25, 2011

Close enough to perfect

Today is one of those days when I really feel lucky to be part of this industry and friends with the other people in this industry.It was not perfect but it was "close enough to perfect for me" As Alabama sang so perfectly.Which is I am sure what my wife thinks daily about me!

Today was another day of decision and marketing that can sometimes be scary yet the fact that it is a challenge and can sometimes be profitable makes it all worth while. Four lessons from today were prominent in that tenacity wins the day, do not over think or worry too much about things you have no control over and feel lucky to be part of an industry that is engaged and truly cares, and you cannot ever afford to rest in that the day is really never done.

I had several factors to consider in what I was going to market today. Short term and long term considerations to the ranch and profitability, current market dynamics, what I actually had for inventory, and then what it would mean in both a positive and negative sense as I made those specific marketing decisions. The cattle market is very strong at the current time and just about anything you would choose to sell would be profitable. At the same time I have to consider the big picture because I am in the “business” and have been for many years and plan to be for the rest of my natural life. I could sell everything tomorrow and make a nice profit but then where would I be as far as using the resources of my ranch? (water, grass, cattle, infrastructure etc) I am not in this business to make short term financial gains, I am in this business because I absolutely love what I do for a living, I am pretty good at it, it is a great way to raise a family, I provide an important service to the country as far as food production, and to be honest I would rather run a grizzly bear artificial insemination business and scrape by financially to be outside enjoying nature than being paid $5000 an hour and sit in an office and have every financial whim at my feet.

I was very conscious of the finality of my decisions today and how that affected individual cows. In a perfect world I think most cattlemen would keep every single animal and be able to find unlimited pasture and feed resources and die with a million plus bovines of every age and size. Reality dictates that you plan, be open to changes in resources and markets and stay in business. When you get to a time like currently has manifested itself in good prices and ability to have the freedom to market and have long term sustainability it is a welcome and rare situation. I sold 6 older fall calving cows today, 6 spring yearling heifers, and one each of a fall steer calf and a late fall heifer. Each and every animal from a personal standpoint had an argument that merited continued ownership and yet each given today’s price structure merited its sale. What I marketed today needed to total $8,000 to validate my decisions and my gross check was over $10,000.

That being said the mother cows sold today had many memories accumulated over the years and you always question selling calves and what their future production may mean to your bottom line. You know the market is good when I come home with an empty trailer and am also very happy with the prices received for what I sold. I never regret my days spent at the auction barn and seeing friends and interacting with others in this business.

When I got home tonight and got a charge on my cell phone I found out I was 30 minutes late for a conference call related to (ADT) animal disease traceability here in Washington State. I joined the call and I want to thank all of you that participated and trust in my leadership of carrying forward what we feel as an industry is appropriate. Tomorrow I have a face to face meeting with my Congressman to discuss “The endangered species act” and I better get some research done and have my facts straight for the meeting. No rest for the wicked, the farmers or ranchers in today’s fast moving world. Today was not perfect as I got home to a spring calving cow with milk fever and one fall calf that was quite sick. I will say that with today’s market and how things came together in general it was a pretty wonderful day in the mind of a cowman! I am off to do a heifer calving check as we are going down to the single digits temperature wise the next two nights with strong north winds and a newborn calf can use every advantage I can give it when it is this cold. Eat beef and thanks for supporting this blog, myself and our industry.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the prickly pear aka Opuntia polyacantha.

Today’s picture is cow #9198w with her 10th calf this fall that was raised here on the ranch and much appreciation for all she did as a terrific calf raiser. She was sold today and was the very last cow branded from an old partnership I had in the late 90’s.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This ain't no thinkin thing

I had a great week last week and got so many things accomplished. I need to have another great week of accomplishments again and I can be somewhat “caught up” again. So far this week has gone pretty well but it looks like winter is going to give us at least one more shot before the month ends. All things considered it has been an excellent January and February for calving considering the rough late November and December we had weather wise.

I spent the first part of the morning finishing my article for our Washington Cattlemen’s monthly publication the “Ketch Pen”. I also spent some time updating my cow records and deciding if and what I might market over the next few weeks. If only I had the crystal ball that foretold the future it would be so much easier to make those choices. I have never actually seen a crystal ball before but I did go see a psychic/palm reader when I was in college. I should have known that she was a fraud the moment she was willing to take a check in payment and she could not guess my name. She did however say I was going to disappoint someone in the near future so who knows.

Dakota was home yesterday for Presidents Day and she helped me put up and take down lots of hotwire fence. Thanks for the help Gus. Today I finished some fencing at a new cornfield where I am going to move some cows to this week. The sun was out and it was a productive and fun day. I know pounding in fence posts in the wind does not seem like fun to some people but I really enjoy building fence when the ground is frost and mostly rock free like it was today. It gives you time to mull over and think about many things. Some of those things are useful and productive and some are just wasteful and trashy but still time to think is mostly a nice thing.

I guess for lack of other blog material I will share some of those thoughts that crossed my mind this afternoon. Why did “yellow” win in the contest of most popular corn color? Corn comes in all types of colors and even mixed colors like Indian corn but today most corn is yellow. Is that because yellow tended to be the most productive? Or was it because people just felt purple Fritos would be so wrong? Maybe the guy that invented the section of the phone book with business listings had something to do with the decision on the color? Maybe it was because the Chicago Mercantile Exchange did not have a contract for #2 red corn. I think I took some ibuprofen about the time I finished mulling this issue. Awwww, show me a sane man and I will quickly cure him of his disease!

Next I went to a whole different thing wondering about the name origin of things like cow, bull, heifer, steer, etc. I took that a step farther in wondering why there has to be a difference in terms between a steer, a wether, a barrow and a gelding. That led me to wonder what you call a castrated tarantula. I mean besides just saying a nut less tarantula of course. I have no control over how my mind works clearly as my next pondering was if anyone has ever contemplated if they can afford to buy a safe? How come people never write a “self help” book for themselves? You know the nice thing about living in my own little world is everyone knows me here and agrees with me!

I went in to the local Wal Mart this evening to purchase a few items. I needed a few new extension cords and purchased them, a new stereo for Griselda and one box of butter. The clerk looked at me like I was a real freak but I think I know why. How many Caucasian males above age 9 without tattoos purchase butter on a Tuesday evening at a Wal Mart?

On the way home I saw an ambulance and that led to a thought. If the Red Cross blood mobile was in a terrible accident with many injuries would that be tragic or handy?

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the common nighthawk aka chordeiles minor.

Today’s picture is cow number 1901G enjoying her afterbirth. Now I am wondering if cow placenta could possibly taste like chicken.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oh shit

So in my last post I caught up until Friday and Saturday of this week. Today’s post will deal with some of the joys and frustrations of the last two days. Be sure and look back as I did 2 posts tonight. The joys have been more prevalent but the frustrations weigh heavy on my mind. Friday morning after checking on everything and tagging a few calves I headed for Pasco to do some errands and deal with some issues.

While sorting cattle on Thursday my cell phone slipped out of the ripped pocket of my Carrhart jacket pocket and landed in the manure in the corrals. My phone seemed to still work but the screen was totally blank. Arghhhhhhh, just what I did not need, the inability to scan contacts or screen calls. I headed out to town about noon in Griselda and my first stop was at the bank to deposit the nice check I had received on Thursday at the auction. That went fine and then I went to my veterinarian’s office to get some vaccine, wormer and stuff for myself and my uncle Fred. That went mostly well other than the fact of how high the cost of things are. I walked out with two small paper sacks with a total price tag close to $2000. Anyone who thinks keeping animals healthy is inexpensive should offer to pay my bill.

My next stop was my local licensing agency to buy the plates and pay the sales tax on Griselda. I found it amusing that the only two letters on my new Washington license plate are “BS” with several numbers as well. Next I stopped at our county courthouse and after stripping down to get through security and giving up my “weapon” of a 4 inch folding pocket knife I did the business there I needed to do. I was presented with my “weapon” when I left that was carefully wrapped in a Ziploc bag. *eye roll*

I then went to see about getting my cell phone fixed. I am not making light of those that have actually been assaulted but it is curious to me that the “Sexual assault response center” is right next to the cell phone store. I know every time I leave the cell phone place I feel quite “violated” myself. Cell phone companies really should at least kiss us on the neck before they “service us”. Long story short I will not have a functional phone until late next week. Arghhhhhhhhhhh! I got home a bit later than I wanted and then to top it off I locked myself out of Griselda. I want to thank Christine and Dakota for helping me find my other set of keys before they drove off to Leavenworth Washington for Dakota’s volleyball tournament. Congrats to the O town girls who took second place but did beat a team that has beaten them several times previous to get into the championship!

I had some frustration last night trying to find a heifer of Dakotas that was ready to calve. I eventually found her and her new bull calf thanks to a full moon clear night here in the Columbia Basin. I checked everything early this morning and all was well except for one huge disappointment. I found one dead calf that had been absolutely decimated by coyotes. As best as I can tell is this possibly was a twin but tomorrow I need to do a full inventory. I don’t usually fret coyotes too much as good cows can usually ward them off but this particular calf was nothing more than a spine, some legs and a partial head. This was certainly the work of a group or pack that needs some attitude adjustment. The weather has been clear and there is no reason the coyotes cannot find enough gophers, other rodents, corn and apples to keep them full. I am going to have to do some coyote population control over the next few weeks around here. Arghhhhhhh.

After checking and feeding this morning I headed back to Pasco to help my uncle Fred haul and work his fall pairs. That part of today went extremely well but the wind was howling out of the north at about 30 mph all day making it very annoying and cold. It was so cold that my nipples were at least 20 minutes ahead of me all day. His cows and calves looked really good and his crew did a great job helping today.

I got home this evening and did some more cows and calf checking. Things looked ok but I have been back to the spring calvers twice so far because of the coyotes. I plan to go out at least once more and check them and the heifers before turning in tonight. I am hopeful that tonight and tomorrow morning go well as I would really like to watch the Daytona 500 in the afternoon. I hope I did not jinx my chances by saying that.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Thread waisted wasp aka Ammophilia spp.

Today’s picture is a video of cow 16y and her newborn calf, as I was taking this video the cow decided she needed to charge and from the audio and end of the video you can tell what I did in response!I also added a picture just to make up for the 4 second "oh shit" video.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Caution,hay bales in roadway

As an example of how fast this life moves and how so many things are different everyday I will give you an example. I was trying to remember what I did on Wednesday, I mean it was not that long ago but I was drawing a total blank. When I realized what that day entailed I can hardly believe I had forgotten. The morning was spent checking cows and calves and getting ready for a move of the fall calvers and first calf heifers home.

I had planned to take some pictures for you of cows moving down the county road but in the seemingly multiple mini train wrecks of that move I failed. It started out perfectly with the group following the black Dodge with 3 Japanese quarter horses mounted by modern cowboys gently pushing from the rear. On this particular move the usual danger is in getting up out of the pasture and onto the bridge. Once a few cows start across the bridge it is usually a race down the road to the corrals. In the beginning it happened just like that but when about 2/3 of the cows were on the road the others balked at the bridge and turned around and 30 cows went 245 different directions. I was in the Dodge and decided I better continue on to the corrals with the 120 other cows and calves. We made it down the road and into the corrals all the while I was watching the other cowboys trying to gather the petulant group with their 4 wheeled steeds.

I moved the first group into an inner pen and then hurried back towards the desperate vaqueros. By this time there was some traffic from the orchard over the hill on the road and so I needed a distraction to slow them down. I cut the final string on a one ton hay bale and left 3 large chunks in the road and this seemed to do the trick. Apparently lowrider Honda Accords do not climb hay bales very efficiently. We eventually got all the cows and calves home and as I shut the gate I realized something. Almost exclusively the cows that had given the problems were the fall pairs I had purchased in October and they had never been part of this particular cattle drive and they had never crossed the bridge. Live and learn and be sure and clean your hay off the pavement the old timers will say. I spent most of the rest of Wednesday sorting first calf heifers out into the home place pasture and deciding what I was sending to sell on Thursday. Thanks to Loren, Smiley and Moley for being persistent and helping me get the cows home but I must remind Loren; you don’t judge cows on their ugly or pretty factor, but on their profitability factor ; ) ! Because of this setback in timing I missed a local beefcounts food distribution event but I want to thank all that did make it another huge success.

Thursday morning I kept Dakota home from school for a bit to help me sort cows for the auction. She did not want to miss the whole day but I did not want her to miss out on a chance to be educated by going to school too early in the day. I will give a caveat here as our school district has many great programs and I do appreciate all they do to educate our children. I once again headed to Toppenish with the black Dodge pulling the stock trailer as I have not yet gotten a fifth wheel ball in Griselda. I will have to say that from a monetary standpoint the day was absolutely awesome. Anytime I can take 8 cull cows and 8 light calves to the sale and come home with a check totaling $13k is a good day! I hauled a few cow calf pairs home from the auction for Loren and was happy to do it considering his help in moving my cows Wednesday. I am feeling pretty great tonight and I think I will end this post and try and do another telling the tales of the last 2 days a bit later.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is common mullein aka Vebascum Thapsus.

Today’s pictures are a testament to my lack of tagging due to protective mommas and my inability to embrace suicide. In the one on the bottom you see calf later to be 1502w who I call Billy “white shoes” Johnson for you former Houston Oiler fans and the other one on top is 3 other calves yet to be tagged. Clicking on pics allow them to be seen in full size.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Leaving the nest

This is pretty great, I am posting another blog post and it has only been 2 days since I last posted. I finally got some new pictures and I am going to share a few today that I took yesterday. Today I traveled to Ellensburg for a WCA Board of Directors meeting which I felt was very productive. Good attendance, great participation and awesome discussion today ladies and gentlemen. You people are truly incredible and a great inspiration with your unselfish donation of time and effort for the betterment of this beef industry. I am very grateful to be in this business and share it with so many hard working dedicated individuals.

Usually when I am away for a day to serve industry I feel guilty or that things are potentially failing at home. Today I actually felt pretty excellent. I had a very productive day yesterday building fence and moving cows to some new feed. I had such a good day I almost did some much needed paperwork and record keeping last evening. I say almost because I ended up pushing manure in the corrals with the loader tractor instead. I do not know what it says about your mental state when you reward yourself and the day’s accomplishments by pushing manure in the dark with a 30 year old tractor but I am not going to mention it to my mental health professional. It is not like I worked all night as I did take my bride to a local tavern to have their Valentines Day dinner special of a steak with all the extras. The “Brunswick” tavern in Othello Washington does steak and prime rib as well as any big city white table cloth establishment and last nights meal was outstanding. You could also not beat the ambiance of classic rock blasting from the jukebox and the click clack of pool balls being broken in a building full of stuffed game fish and mammals on the wall! Hey when you are in love all that really is just fluff, enjoying a nice steak dinner with my bride was very nice.

I mentioned the other night that I shipped my yearling calves last week. Even with the excellent prices we are enjoying in the cattle business it is always bittersweet to see calves leave the ranch. I still have 24 replacement heifers here and Dakotas 3 show steers and one odd ball steer from last springs calf crop here on the ranch but the rest are all gone now. I guess the fact that I was likely the first human to see each of these calves when they were born last year and spent the last year watching them grow is why it is hard to see them leave. As each calf walks up the loading chute onto the semis you have some specific memory of almost every one of them. Knowing all their mothers and many of their fathers and the history of each makes you reminisce of the past and dream about the future.

A few of the specific memories of each calf are things like the weather on the day they were born or maybe a particular marking or attitude one of them displayed over the summer or fall. To see them as 700 pounders now when they entered the earth a few short months ago at 60-85 pounds makes you inspired and proud. A few of them have new sisters or brothers already born this year and those connections are prevalent in your mind as well. In the end to see a years worth of work and effort and a lifetimes worth of decisions and preparations is hard to let go of. It is almost like seeing one of your own kids leave the nest but there are many of them and it happens year after year. I was very happy with the 2010 spring calves and I felt Dad was watching and smiling seeing how they had turned out. Knowing I had raised these calves, vaccinated, fed and cared for them to the best of my ability so they were prepared to be off to be “finished out” and in turn would provide wholesome, nutritious, and sustainable protein to help feed a hungry planet made me very proud to do what I do for a living.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Red three awn grass aka Aristida longiseta.

Today’s pictures are all from of a particular cow family here on the ranch and I will try to explain the connections and the family history. In the top photo to the left you see a black brockle faced bull calf number 1154w, he was born to cow number 1154w on January 18th 2011 to the red cow facing away from the camera. Are you with me so far? In the lower picture is cow number 9154w which is the older sister of the previously mentioned calf. She was born on February 5th 2009. She in turn is standing next to her FIRST calf, which is also a black brockle faced bull number 1154w born January 18th 2011. In human terms an uncle and a nephew were born on the same day.You see any resemblance? You got that progression right? Good. Remember ALL pictures can be viewed in full screen by clicking on them.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

That's Real

There are many times when I like to say that there is no issue that manifests itself in my life that cannot be solved with time or money. Lately the issue of time and having enough of it seems to really be prevalent. Yesterday I put over 500 miles on Griselda across the state of Washington in my capacity or lack thereof as Washington Cattlemen's Association president. I went over the cascades to Sedro-Woolley Washington for the Skagit County Cattlemens annual banquet. I want to thank them for the invite, hospitality and evening and assure them that the lighting flash, thunder clap and hail downpour that accompanied me as I walked in the door was total coincidence!

As I drove yesterday afternoon and late night early morning returned my mind was spinning like a bucking bull in Vegas in early December. I was fretting about all I had not accomplished over the last few weeks and all that the next few weeks had in store. Just when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed I came to a realization that made me feel better. What if I had no life to live or what if the life I did live was lacking in things to do. BORINGGGGGGGGGGGGG! I talked to a gentleman in a tavern as I waited for last nights meeting to start. The guy has been without steady work for close to a year and said other than a callous developing on his finger from changing television channels he felt like his life was dead and empty. There is nothing like a little reality check to bring you back to earth and understand a busy life is a full life. Speaking of reality checks I wanted to share a you tube video of a song that I am really loving these days. James Wesley sings about what "real" life is all about and I find it very inspiring.

Lately when I feel life is presenting just a few too many things to face I think about the alternative. I am going to make the rest of this post a speed overview of all that has been going on since I was last here.

On February 2nd Chris and I hopped on a flight from Pasco to Denver for the National Cattlemens Beef Associations (NCBA) annual convention.When I say "flight" that is a loose term as it was more like a Volkswagen with wings. This event has become somewhat of a working vacation but it is something I really enjoy. Spending a few days with people from all over the country that deal with the same issues I do on a daily basis makes you appreciate life. It was a great convention and I was too busy to post while there but I wanted to highlight two things. Karl Rove was a speaker at one of the general sessions and no matter how you feel about his politics the man was amazing in his recall of facts and numbers. He was also very gracious as he donated a weekend get away at his vacation home in Florida for the Political Action Committee fund auction. A very generous and thoughtful gift. The final night party was started with Larry the Cableguy and his takes on life. I was admittedly lukewarm about what the show would be like thinking it would be a re run of the whole "git er done" shtick. It turned out to be almost two hours of constant laughter of material I had not yet heard. I wish I could remember more of it but his take on the dangers of the tiny "smart cars" and how a friend of his had been badly hurt when he was driving one. He said it was a terrible accident when his smart car had hit a deer..............actually a deer tick! That there is funny, I don't care who you are.

We returned last Sunday and it was nice to be home to some warmer weather and many new calves on the ground. I want to thank my friends Scott and Loren for keeping things fed and covered and also to Dakota for all she did to keep things running while we were away. After getting things checked Sunday afternoon I was once again off to our Washington State capitol in Olympia to our WCA legislative days. I felt we had an excellent turnout and got many issues covered as an association. Thanks to all of you that put in a very long day representing our industry. To be part of a group that hits the Capitol campus in boots and hats and every legislator, aide, staff and lobbyist from every sector knows EXACTLY who we are and what we represent makes me very proud.

The rest of last week was spent catching up with fencing, tagging calves, I shipped out my yearlings and damn if I know where a week disappears so rapidly. I did catch one of Dakota's basketball games and watching her play at age 14 when it seems just yesterday I would come in the door to a little girl with outstretched arms saying"hold me daddy, hold me" makes me know the weeks just fade into months and the months fly into years more rapidly than my hair migrates from the top of my head to my ears and back.

I did have a few moments of excitement in the past week in the calf tagging department. I have a few cows that I don't even bother to try and tag their newborns because although I take pills to keep me sane I know I don't want to get pummeled by a protective momma just to place an ear tag. For some reason this past week it seemed almost every mother had some issue with me and my tagger. I even had a first calf heifer blowing snot on me as I tagged her kid on the flatbed. Festus was able to get her attention long enough for me to nimbly (yeah right) jump down and get back into the safety of the pickup cab. The closest call I had this week was with a mother not known for being any particular danger. As I pulled up to her she was enjoying her afterbirth and I was able to catch her calf but the tag was not quite in correctly and as I fiddled around with the calf between my legs it let out a loud bawl. 1140y immediately spit out her placenta and made a rapid charge. I was in front of the pickup and had no where to go but under the front end. As I dove under she was right on my butt and she helped me go a bit farther under than I had originally planned. After catching my breath from fear and laughing I crawled all the way under the pickup to the back, onto the flatbed and slowly slid in through the back window. I knew that sliding rear window was a good idea, as I drove away I spit a large phlegm ball on her forehead in return for the cow spittle she had plastered all over my Wrangler clad ass. Ahhh, the joys of having something to do each and everyday of life!

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Barn owl aka Tyto alba.

I finally found my camera and even the charger that goes with it and promise to take many new calf pictures the next few days. Today's picture is cow 4914g and her heifer calf from back in January.