This entry was posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2009 at 10:23pm and is filed under Local, ranch life, Meat, Ranching, Agriculture, Food Production. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
I’m trying something new: Once a month, I’m going to attempt to outline an entire day here at the ranch, no holds barred. Here’s the last day in February at Wild Type Ranch:
We woke up to howling winds and a drop of 50 degrees from yesterday’s unusually warm temps of 85 degrees. The winds here blow with gusts to 25-40 mph, sometimes stronger, and if you spend a day out in them, your ears hurt for another day. Today the wind blew the door past where it should comfortably go on the new tractor. My wonderful husband, Ralph, spent an hour welding up a suitable repair, in the middle of too much other work. [note to single women–if you are planning to live a rural life, I strongly recommend finding a husband who can weld AND cook].
My first chore (before coffee!) is to check for heat in our yearling heifers. Nothing happening, but I note a case of pinkeye, so that changes the entire day’s priorities.
After a cup of tea and a discussion of the day’s battle plan, we begin to move cattle around. We were planning to “synchronize” our heifers for breeding starting next week, but the pinkeye outbreak means we have to bring all the heifers up to the barn to check them out and treat the affected ones, so we move that plan ahead by a week. In retrospect, it works out, as we were hoping to be able to go back to Illinois for my sister’s annual Christmas caroling party, and to do so, we need to avoid calving between Dec 18th and 28th, which means avoiding breeding between March 12 and 27th. We take duties as stewards of our animals’ welfare seriously, and check our cattle at least twice daily during calving season. Consequently, vacations are planned a year in advance.
Before we can work with our heifers, we need to free up some space in one of our smaller paddocks. We have had a few older cows out with our bull for 30 days. These girls didn’t breed last spring, but were put in with a young bull, so it may not have been their fault. Each one of our cows is an individual–it’s hard to make the decision to cull them, but we also have a responsibility as producers of registered stock to make sure that the genetics we are selling are sound in every way. We decided to give them one more chance before we let them go, but if they aren’t bred now, they will have to go to the sale barn.
Next, we gather our heifers, weigh, check for pinkeye on each one and move them to the paddock outside our kitchen window, so we can detect estrus if they are ready to be bred. To help us determine which heifers are ready for breeding, we put a patch on them so we can detect any “mounting” when they come into heat. The patches are kind of like scratch-off lottery tickets, with a silver coating over the brightly covered base. One of my boys used to tell me “look Mom, that cow won” when he would notice a rubbed patch after a cow had come into heat. We A.I. (artificially inseminate) most of our cattle in order to get the best genetics into our beef and registered Angus and Red Angus herds.
Once the heifers are moved and patched, I water the 250 feet of potatoes we planted yesterday along with the rest of our spring garden (mostly greens, peas and carrots and the first rows of beans) while Ralph cooks up a quick lunch to get us through the afternoon. Breakfast was a piece of toast with vegemite, so lunch is really welcome!
I’ll ‘fess up to taking a 20 minute nap on the couch after lunch. After that necessary refresher, it’s time to sort off the cows that will be having embryos implanted on Monday and Tuesday. We work closely with Dreamcatcher Ranch on embryo transfer and selling our bulls. Ralph puts out big round bales to the various paddocks in advance of tonight’s expected freeze. Cattle need full bellies to stay warm in windy or wet weather.
Once cattle work is done for the day, we start on the other end of the production chain: beef. We picked up beef last week, but because the local farmer’s markets haven’t started for the year, our freezers are unusually full. We’ve got a few orders and a quarter to fill, as well as inventorying what we have on hand before markets start April 1 (we sell at the Georgetown Farmer’s Markets all season). That takes both of us the better part of 2 hours. Ralph leaves as the sun goes down to cook us up a wondeful supper, while I finish reorganizing our portable freezer trailers for next week’s delivery points and orders.
I come in after dark, and am glad to find that Ralph has gathered the eggs (usually my job, if I am here) and has a glass of wine waiting for me. 18 eggs today! Spring is definitely on its way! Supper, a much needed shower and e-mails back to family in other parts of the country and world finish out the day.