Saturday, October 20, 2012

Planning, failure and why it is ok

Plans are a great thing, as long as you are comfortable that those plans are subject to change and that a planned life is rarely a reality life. Yes my calves are still not weaned, well at least the bulk of them are not weaned as planned but I am ok with that. In reality the moderation of the temperature extremes and some much needed moisture to some parched earth will make it that much better next week as calves are weaned. 

I really should have kept a closer look at mileage this past week as I put many miles in without leaving the great state of Washington.I am pretty confident that I put in over 1000 miles as I spent my days doing what I do this week. On Monday Jack and I along with another guy named Jake headed to Elma,Washington to sort and wean calves. The plan to go over and make the 250 mile one way trip was planned but the rainy weather forecast for western Washington was not. We got lucky that day as we were able to gather cows and calves horseback, separate cows from calves, send cows back to the pasture and load calves just seconds before a massive downpour of rain greeted us. I made it home shortly after dark and Chris and Dakota helped me unload bawling calves in the corrals at home. 

Tuesday was my last meeting as the Washington Cattleman's Association President to conduct a meeting at our headquarters in Ellensburg Washington. Over the last 2 years I have really enjoyed these meetings surrounded by great people that all have not only a passion for this industry but also know what it is like to deliver a calf in less that perfect circumstances. These meetings, relationships and debate will always hold a special place in my memories.

Wednesday as I should have been building fence around a corn stalk field was instead spent BBQing Tritip for 1300 team members from Tyson Fresh Meats in Wallula Washington in appreciation for all the hard work they do to make sure our beef products make it from our ranches to the dinner plates of not only Washington residents, not only residents of the USA, but also to dinner plates of consumers all around the world. 

Thursday again I should have been building fence but I spent most of my day documenting potato harvest here on the ranch. I was once a part of this industry but now am only involved as a landlord. It is a huge part of agriculture in this state and I will share my perspective of this industry and how it now manifests itself on this ranch in pictures and video in a future blog post. The Easterday family has been a wonderful partner and great supporter of our community and watching their efficient and focused potato growing on my land has been stunning. They are an excellent tenant and partner and I am glad to call them friends. I also watched online a local livestock auction market  right here at home with the wondrous spectacle of the internet Thursday. I rounded out the day watching and enjoying Dakota and the rest of the Connell Eagle ladies volleyball team continue their undefeated league season as they beat the Kiona Benton lady bears in 3 sets. Here is a short video of potato harvest which I will explain in a later post. 

Friday was spent weighing in, vaccinating and working bulls for our Washington Cattleman's Association bull test and sale. I spent the day with wonderful and dedicated people, some of the best bull genetics available in our state and honestly anytime you can spend the day working bovines you are truly blessed in my humble cowman opinion. Tonight I spent the evening with my beautiful bride watching my home town Eagles get shellacked in their homecoming football game, but the whole evening wasn't wasted as we enjoyed the last half from a local tavern listening to some classic country and classic rock on the jukebox. Today was "crazy purple and gold spirit day" and as Dakota left for school this morning she did a tremendous job of representing the sophomore class at CHS. 

Yes, I still have fence to build, calves and cows to wean and this week did not go completely according to plan, but I am a very lucky man, in a very special industry and I  am proud to be part of it!

Remember all pics can be viewed in full size by clicking on them. Today's Cowman YouTube music selection comes from the VanZant brothers as they sing "Help Somebody if you can" which really captures the values my grandparents on both sides of my family instilled in me.  "If you wanna hear God laugh tell him your plans." Take a listen!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kickstart my Heart for weaning time

Although I do not get to this blog as often as I would like to, when I do it is like seeing an old friend that you have not had a chance to BS with in awhile....exciting! I have found that the more I open myself to social media including Facebook and Twitter there are some positives and negatives to my blog. The positives are much more traffic and new contacts when I do make a blog post, negative in that as you gain "friends" and "followers" you become more interactive that in turn gives you less time for blog posts. In the end I am still just really amazed at what the internet and social media offers us in terms of access to information and entertainment.

One reason I am here today is because today was a really great day. I had made plans that this week was going to be focused on securing winter feed and making weaning and marketing decisions for the spring calving cows. The week had not gone badly by any means, but it was not having a whole lot of things fall in to the "tangible" category. Now cattlemen are some of the most independent homo sapiens on the planet. We could work together for the benefit of all parties but then our egos would miss out on that satisfaction that comes from going it alone. As I have spent the last 23 months as the President of the Washington Cattlemens Association I have both admired and cursed this condition numerous times.

Today I got a call from a friend and former employee about some corn stalks he wanted to graze off. This was as timely as could be and I traveled down to Eltopia to check it out. What I found really made me smile. 102 acres of corn stalks that had been harvested at high moisture. This was exactly what I had been looking for and will be a great place to send "dry" cows after they have been weaned from their calves.
 I could not believe my good fortune as last year I had things like this lined up and then for a variety of reasons( high spud rent mostly) things fell apart and I ended up feeding more hay than I wanted to during October and November of 2011. Weaning conditions have improved if not perfected this week. I really hate to wean calves when there are 40 plus degree temperature changes and even more so when conditions are dusty and dry. If you want to make a weaned calf sick just give him or her some dust to breathe and some wide temperature swings no matter what your vaccination program is.

Next week we will wean calves but do it much differently than we did just a few years ago. We used to bring the cows and calves into the corrals, let the mommas back into the grass and put the calves "on feed" in a dry dusty lot. Now days we will bring them in, let the calves back out onto the grass they have grown up on and are used to eating and keep the cows in the corral. The cows will cry for their kids for a few nights especially in the evening as their udders get full. The calves will make a few trips to the fence line daily each day looking for milk but will get over the separation long before the mothers do. This method of visual and nose to nose contact without ability to nurse has greatly reduced our incidence of calves with respiratory issues and weight loss from stress.

After 4-6 days the cows will be hauled away to graze cornstalks. This crop aftermath will provide "dry" cows with plenty of nutrition as they enter their last term of pregnancy.If managed correctly dry cows will even gain a bit of weight and body condition leading up to calving time. Sure there will be some costs involved with fencing and transport but these cows will graze for around 50 cents a day compared to close to $3 a day if they were fed exclusively hay. Weather can be a factor but considering that here in the desert of eastern Washington we rarely get much snow and especially snow that stays around for very long it works out well. Cows will amazingly find the grain first, then the husks, then the leaves and lastly will eat the cobs and stalks. I try and estimate how many acres are needed for 2-3 weeks of grazing and then give the cows a new section of pasture. This way they always have some access to enough grain and husks to meet their nutritional needs. I have some older cows that actually can walk 100's of feet and then find a corn nugget like the one left behind shown in the picture. The grain has much more nutritional value than the husks or leaves. When the cows are down to cobs and stalks it is time to move to a new section.

It is always bittersweet at weaning time as you watch the separation of mothers and children.On the negative side you get to see just how strong a mother bovines love is for her offspring. The plus side is you get to see the fruits of another year of working your ass off to keep these kids alive. There is also the joy of knowing that many of the heifer calves will eventually become mothers in their own right and the steer calves will eventually leave, be fed out and provide wholesome, nutritious and safe protein for hungry humans all around the globe! Here is an example of the amazing growth these calves see in the few months they are here on the ranch. Here is cow #1054w with her newborn bull calf 2154W weighing about 70 pounds in early February 2012, and with her well raised steer calf weighing about 550 pounds in late August 2012. When you spend your days watching the wonder of Mother Nature as I do you have a innate respect and appreciation for life and the circle of life! Remember all pictures can be viewed in larger size by clicking on them!

Today's Youtube Cowman music selection is Motley Crue singing "Kickstart my Heart" I know this kind of music is not embraced by all my cowman friends but as a rocker kid from the 80's this never fails to put me in the same great mood that I am in tonight! Just try and not shake your booty!