It Starts Here

After last week’s post, it occurred to me that between myself and my husband and others like us in the cow-calf and cattle-hauling industry….well, we’re at the base – the foundation (as opposed to “the bottom”] of the food cycle. The cycle that brings your food from farm to plate.

We raise cattle and keep them fed on grass and fresh water. We watch over the good will and nutrition of our breeding herd so they in turn bring forth healthy, thriving calves which later a cattle-hauler like my trucker-hubby loads up and takes on to a feed-lot….. so the cycle can go on and on.

I feel very privileged and honored to be a steward of this lifestyle…even on these cold, wintery challenging days. To be responsible for the well-being of these precious animals that in turn contribute to providing one of the most efficient and high-quality proteins around.

And so we tend to pamper our herd. Pampering – means keeping the feeders full, refreshing the straw bedding after a snowfall, vaccinating against disease and maintaining a watchful eye over all for any changes in behavior or signs of discomfort. I guess, in the end this isn’t necessarily “pampering”….just good management and we take a wee bit of pride in being part of the process to bring healthy and nutritious food to your plate.

A big cozy straw bed sheltered by trees and a wall of bales for sleeping comfort.

Weaning

You know…for years…we have weaned our calves on a busy weekend when the husby is home just long enough to get the deed done with whatever help we can muster up on said weekend. Then, he hops into the big old Kenworth and drives out of the yard leaving me and the dogs with a yard full of bawling, stressed out cows and calves trying their best to get back to each other through gates, and fence lines and corrals.

This year I was not worried about weaning day at all because husby was going to be home for the WHOLE day and not only that – the days thereafter!! He would finally see what chaos he leaves us with when he heads back on the road….back to the off-farm job.

So I took the time to take this little video of the calm and quiet of the last day our cows and calves would be together. I was planning this post in such a way that my video capture the following day would be loud and chaotic and full of bawling and howling moms and babes.

Well, the joke is on me…..guess these gals were good and ready to say goodbye to the children. Peace and harmony prevails on our ranch today already. The expected bawling usually goes for exactly three days straight…but all they can give up is what you hear on this peaceful little video.

When It Rains

There are numerous high-value assets here on the ranch. During my years working and living this amazing life I believe I have identified our top three – but their order of importance varies over the seasons. They are:

– a live healthy calf,

– a reliable, functioning tractor,

– a good solid three day rain.

As of last night, we are about to experience the latter and we are sure happy about that. (My regrets to the grain farmer at this time)

I also tend to unnecessarily stress a bit about those calves after a long rainy and windy night…that they’ll likely get separated from moms in the weather drama and when I hear the early morning bawling in the field it just reinforces my state.

Calves know best to lay low until momma comes a lookin’ for them.

But I have to remind myself yet again that the bawling is the seeking out for each other and a momma will always sniff out her babe. Peace and harmony soon returns if I just leave things alone.

It’s now a day to watch that rain gauge fill and listen to the grass grow…it’s a happy ranching day!!

Sometimes…A Little Help

There are times during calving season- actually many times – when the rancher has to step in and help Mother Nature along.

For instance, sometimes we have to teach the calf to latch on to momma’s teat, especially if she has a “big bag and big teats” that might be too much for the little gaffer to figure out on his own. But once he/she gets that first satisfying “pull” – well, there’s no turning back – off to the races and good health! That all important first suck from mom is the key to establishing a good dose of immunity against the hazards ahead.

That first “dose” is called colostrum and if a newborn calf hasn’t received this natural elixir within its first few hours of life, his/her chances for thriving dwindle fast.

We like to have this colostrum stored as a backup if we’re ever in a position where a calf is just too weak to even be coaxed to suck. I thought it might make an interesting story for the blog to share this all-important process and task that we undertake from time to time when we have a cow with an abundance of milk to share and store like good old Flopsie provided for us this year.

Husby steps up for the extracting task (after all, he grew up with dairy cows). I step up for the cleaning and storing task. We all have our roles.

I like to strain the raw milk from the natural blah that comes from milking the cow out in the corral.
I like to label who the colostrum came from and when and then it all goes to the freezer. I have a feeling not many folks bother doing that – but, it’s important to me.

Finally, our dear cats get the residual, a rich yummy treat…we all have our roles!

No waste!

Rock Star Fencing Team

I’ve been after husby lately to supervise and ultimately teach and correct my fencing skills. Like any ranch, there is always a string of fence to mend and thanks to the county snowplow during this past winter, piles of snow had been pushed vigorously enough to dismantle quite a few spots on our east field. Jackpot for me! Training ground!

We have never had the time to properly teach me this oh-so-necessary ranching craft so once again I am benefiting from this pandemic and the way it has slowed down the pace of our lives. So, out we trekked a few days ago and Fencing 101 Berg Style began.

Before this day, my main role in fencing was simply driving the staples into the post after the wire had been rejoined and stretched by The Mr. But when The Mr is away trucking for more days of the year than home…and the fences have the regular tendency to fall apart, then I have to be ready and proficient enough to return the premises to the same secure state as when he left the yard.

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The secret then, in fencing repair, is mastering “the eye”…. He tells me to wrap it around my hand and then wrap the end of the wire fence back around itself. Make sure both ends of the string of wire to be mended have these two “eyes” that will hold the strip of barbed wire that will be looped into these eyes, then stretched with the wire puller and voila!!! All repeatable steps for each area needing repair. What a revelation…to master the concept of these eyes!! 

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I think this blog post requires a sequel in the form of a You Tube type video depicting the classic repair of a broken ranch barbed wire fence….there are a lot of entertaining steps in the entire repair of such a thing as this, so be watching for it soon!!

My Day For Chores

 

The husby (rancher/trucker) got called to haul today so I get to run the corral routine my way for a wee while.

My dog Patty is always ready to assist and her “sister” Ruby is overly anxious to do so …younger, rambunctious and very assertive, so she requires a little more control. But between the two of them, they sure make chore life alot easier!

Now I know I’m not supposed to be proudful but I have impressed myself a smidge by my feed pellet rig-up. Before, the arrangement was to fill the chop pail and drag it towards me through the resistant ground under the bin and then haul to the trough. I felt there had to be a much easier and lower-back-friendly way to drag those old pails. Lo and behold – there is!! What better use for a couple spare plywood planks than this??

Let’s just say…I’m happy and back-healthy … instead of puffed-up proud.

Haying Hijinx

One would suppose that after dispersing (selling) almost all of our herd that this blogger would have all sorts of free-time to be posting stories and pictures and filling this blog daily! I’m here to tell you – finally here – that it just doesn’t happen that way.

Regardless, I’m still at it…the blog still lives and my stories carry on.

Right now, hubby and I find ourselves blessed with probably our best and most productive hay crop ever! After the copious beautiful rains during most of this summer, we are now in the fields along with our helpful neighbours,  gathering this bounty. The irony of course is we don’t have all those cows to feed. Seems when we had “all those cows” we were constantly facing possible drought conditions and seeking out ways and means to buy more feed. So, now….can it be….we are on the other side….we can actually SELL feed!!! It’s been a delight to be on the haying “crew” helping make this all happen.

We seem to have a gender-specific-duty thing going on too. Either it’s me or stepdaughter Shelby running the tractor and rake and the fellas are operating the balers. I had the unique experience the other day to drive her out to the field where the tractor and rake were waiting for her shift.  I call it “unique” because we had her daughter – our first grandbaby!!! – wedged (don’t report me to the safety people) into the back of the 3/4 ton truck and about to experience her very first Berg Adventure with her grandma.

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Wouldn’t you know it, I drove us right into a low-wet-spot and dug that old truck right into submission.

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Get ready Baby Jill….when out at the ranch with Grandma Flicka…well, stuff just kinda happens!!!

Fancy Fella

When this guy was born back on May 10, 2018, he sure caught my eye. Such a showy fella with his perfectly goggled right eye, his four shiny white socks and white-tipped-tail.

He got a name right away – Fabian – and I decided I would keep my eye on him as long as he was with us from the yard to the pasture and beyond. Because they don’t stay with us long, I rarely name the steer calves, but how could I not?

He grew up big and strong and so I know he ended up in the heavier group of steer calves that we sent to market. I watched that sale on my computer that night and although I noted who the buyer was it remains a mystery what feedlot he was taken to.

When I get caught up with my new set of winter chores and the farm books for year end, it is my intention to do the background work and research and find out where my big handsome Fabian is living, feeding and growing now. Wish me good luck!

My Chore Team

Here’s a couple of characters I sure couldn’t do without around here. Patty and Ruby….my chore team….and my cheer team too.

We keep each other company throughout the entire day. Ruby holds her post in the tractor at my feet.

And my dear Patty follows me everywhere else except the tractor. This rancher gal never needs to feel lonely with these two around.

Here is an example of them assisting me with returning our bulls back to their own pen after being out for watering. I have all my penned animals on a somewhat rigid schedule so I can keep up with the myriad of indoor activities on a farm gal’s plate…like bill paying, book keeping, meal planning and preparation, baking and sewing. (Notice that house-cleaning doesn’t always make-the-cut….hah-hah).

Needless to say, Team Patty-Ruby are invaluable to me and the entire operation on this ponderosa.

Making New Friends

Every year, post-weaning, I end up with a pen full of young heifer calves. These are the gals that didn’t go to market a couple weeks ago along with their brothers, the steers.

In this pen will be a few select girls that we keep to stay with us to grow up quiet and healthy and become momma cows amongst the rest of the herd.

The quiet part starts with me. Part of my daily tasks are to walk amongst them numerous times a day and get them used to me (and the dogs) and carry on quiet conversation and just general strolling around. The ones that already come up to me get added to my ongoing list of “Flicka Rancher Keepers” that I keep available in my smart phone tucked away in the pocket of my coveralls…always handy actually for snapping these pics and videos and posting to the blog on-the-fly.

I fear that list will probably end up including all of them because I can tell already they want to be friends.