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Slaughter Trucks

A year and a half ago we were on vacation when I noticed a bunch of gooseneck trailers all turning the same direction at an intersection. I told my wife to follow them and they lead us to the local salebarn and it was auction day. My wife waited in the café while me and my daughter, who was three at the time, went out back to view the cattle. We walked back across the parking lot to the café, and my daughter asked me “daddy, where are all the Peterbilt’s?” I told her that calvies don’t ride to town in Peterbilts in that part of the country. “Well, if we buy some calvies today we will need a Peterbilt to get them home.” Was her reply

Everyone calls livestock haulers a different name. Some common ones are, Bull hauler, cow mobile, punch hole, bull rack, pot, and evidently as we saw around Christmas time slaughter truck

First lets make one thing clear, slaughter does not take place on these trucks, just in case there is someone gullible enough to think that. There is no refrigeration to cool the meat which would be essential for the slaughter process. Second, livestock have to walk off that trailer in order to be sold. If an animal can not walk off that trailer under its own power, by law, it can’t enter the food supply.

There will be that one fateful day in every critter’s life when it will take that ride to a packing facility. Most of the hauling these trucks do, does not end at a packer’s door.

Most of the hauling that is done in the cattle biz is transporting the cattle to different phases of production.
On my operation in particular, these trucks haul cattle to my place from an auction where I purchased the cattle. Some of the cattle will stay in the home pens and some go out to pasture for the growing phase. I will sometimes hire a big truck to haul them to pasture for me. It would take me ten or more trips with my pickup and a big truck can do it in two. This gets it done quickly and greatly reduces the stress on the cattle, since they don’t need to be sorted off into small bunches all day long while I haul them.

When I decide its time I will load these cattle onto a Pot again and have them shipped to an auction where they will be sold, and then loaded again to go to a feed lot.

Think about this. These cattle have been hauled several times to different locations and there has been nothing but growth and promotion of life.

Some people use these trucks just to haul cattle out to summer pasture and back home in the late fall.

The trailers have many different features, all designed for the comfort of the livestock, convenience for the driver, and safety.
Since its winter time I’ll start with the panels the drivers add to the side of the trailer. These panels are made of plastic and are corrugated like card board. They simply slide into holders on the side of the trailer that hold them in place. This keeps the air warm inside the trailer. Their body heat warms it up. Even when it well below freezing, you will have to take your coat off once the trailer is half loaded. They are that effective! The driver will stop and check on the stock from time to time, and if need be he can add more panels to make it warmer, or if he determines they are getting to hot he can remove some panels to regulate the temperature better, and make it more comfortable for the stock.

This load came
 in at sunrise on a cold morning.  The driver used panels to insulate the trailer and keep the cattle warm

This load came in at sunrise on a cold morning. The driver used panels to insulate the trailer and keep the cattle warm


The truck and trailer has an air ride suspension, which makes the ride smooth and comfortable. To help make the rid more comfortable the driver will avoid braking hard. Show the animals some respect and don’t cut off a livestock truck, okay.

Drivers will often times put down some wood shavings or saw dust before loading. This does two things. One it reduces the noise of the animal’s hooves on the aluminum floor, and second, it helps to absorb moisture. This prevents the floor from getting slick, so animals don’t fall down. A good driver can feel it when an animal lays down, and he will stop and get the animal back up, so other animals can’t step on it and cause injury.

There are ramps on these trailers to get the animals into the different compartments. The guys that haul most of my stock have ordered these ramps to be a little longer. These longer ramps are less steep, which is easier for the stock to get up and down. There is also funnel gates inside the trailer to guide the animals where to go.

Each compartment has a gate to close it off. Some of the bigger compartments have gates in them to make them smaller. This allows stock to be kept separate for ownership, or to keep bigger animals separate from smaller ones. This prevents the big ones from injuring the small ones. All these gates have a slam latch. What that is, is a latch that automatically locks when the gate is slammed against it. This is for safety, so an animal can’t hit the gate and cause it to come back and hit the driver. Think about it, if a 1400# steer hits that gate hard it can seriously injure the driver. I’ve even seen trailers where there is a release latch on the outside of the trailer so the driver never has to get in to open them.

Some trailers have roof hatches. They will open these, to help let the hot air escape out the top of the trailer. Again this is for the comfort of the animals. On chilly mornings I have seen steam coming out the top of those roof hatches. By allowing the steam to escape it won’t settle on the animals, which may cause them to get a chill later, if they get soaking wet and then cold.

One outfit that hauls most of my cattle, has sprinklers on their trailers. They use these mostly for pigs. On a really hot day they can hook a hose up to the sprinkler and cool down the inside of the trailer. If you know pigs you can bet they will find the sprinkler and get a drink while they wait. These guys have pulled over and hooked up a hose to cool down loads of stock. Sometimes they do it while waiting in line at a packing facility. Think of that. The pigs are waiting to be unloaded at a packer, and the driver is still doing all he can to make them comfortable, even in the last hour.

I recently saw a trailer that had an airline going inside the axels. Then it goes to the rim so the driver can pump air into the tires. This is convenient for the driver and is a safety feature for him, other drivers on the road and the livestock being transported.

I am now at 1200 words and I have not even written of the safety features that are in place for the drivers protection. When you stop and think of all the thought that has gone into the design of these trailers from a safety and convenience standpoint it seems silly to call them slaughter trucks.
As one final thought, I have seen the videos the animal rights groups have put out. Most people get distracted with the point of the video, and never really look at what they are watching. Most of those trucks are old models, and the people are often times wearing clothes form the sixties or seventies. Both the trucking industry and livestock industry have made huge strides since that time period

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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AgProud Q1

Some time ago Ryan Goodman made a list of blog topics. I thought this was one heck of a list, and thought, if I started blogging again that I’d take a swing at it. My finger tips are back on the keyboard, so here goes. (Not all 88 of these are applicable to me, but most are)

Question 1) What is your role in agriculture?

The simple, broad answer is “the growth and promotion of life”. That is what anyone in production agriculture does.

To be more specific, I own and operate a backgrounding/stocker operation, as my main enterprise. What this means is I purchase young calves, most of which are not weaned, and I take them through the growth phase of their life. The calves are then sold to a feedlot.

While the calves are here the main focus is on their health and well being. I will give them two rounds of vaccinations, make sure they are free of parasites, and address any other issues they may need. Other issues may be dehorning, castrating, or just making sure they get the vitamins and minerals they may have been lacking prior to coming here. It may be a surprise to many people just how many calves are lacking in something. For example, the hair around a calf’s ears can tell me if it’s copper deficient or not. It’s my job to identify this and get them what they need. Getting their nutrient requirements in balance gives their immune system what it needs.

Receiving a load of long haul bawling calves.  I immediately begin taking the stress off them

Receiving a load of long haul bawling calves. I immediately begin taking the stress off them

Part of the regular routine is to make sure all the animals are drinking, eating, resting, and exercising like they should. If the cattle do those things the likely hood of a problem is slim, and they will perform better.

Some of the calves I buy will stay in a feedlot pen. Others will go out to grass during the spring to fall months. I use a rotational grazing system, using temporary electric fence and a portable water system. Without getting specific here, this system plays a vital role in the health of the environment. When properly managed grazing is in place it compliments the natural cycles, such as the water cycle and mineral cycle. I have only been using this system for a few years, and have already seen species of plants come back without being reseeded, and I’ve seen an increase in forage and wildlife, such as deer and game birds, in these pastures.

One got on the wrong side of the wire

One got on the wrong side of the wire

An important role I have in agriculture is to get my little girl involved. She just turned 5, and like any other kid her age, she wants to learn. I feel it is essential to pass along knowledge, skills, and life lessons to her, as she is ready for them. Since agriculture deals with life cycles, we have a great hands on classroom for her.

A December pasture walk with my little girl.

A December pasture walk with my little girl.

Another role that I oddly find myself in, is a teacher. It seems like every year more people reach out to me for advice on something, most of whom I’ve never met. I’ve been contacted by custom grazers, feedlot managers, cow/calf producers, college students, and even extension researchers. And if I can’t help them with their questions I know who can. I was even asked to contribute to Chip Hines’ latest book “Cow Country Essays”

A seminar I was asked to speak at

A seminar I was asked to speak at

There are other roles that I play in production agriculture. My dad is a crop farmer so I help him, when he needs it and I am free. I have a haying enterprise, and sometimes do some order buying for other cattle feeders, and stocker operators.

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Due to a recent event that happened here I am going to do some agvocating, so there’s that role.

A tour I hosted for the local Chamber of Commerce leadership program

A tour I hosted for the local Chamber of Commerce leadership program

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Wordless Wednesday

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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Pitfalls of Good Stockmanship

I can’t ever stress enough the importance of great stockmanship. Over time as I have improved my skills I have noticed there are a few pitfalls

People will get mad. I was helping a registered cattle breeder prepare for his bull sale. He wanted to catch a special cow to have on display for customers to look at while they were selecting the bulls they wanted to bid on. A group of us consisting of myself, the owner, two hired hands and his daughter set out to gather in this cow. I evaluated the circumstance I was in. Most were athletic and in great shape. Since he thought he needed all of us to get this cow I just knew this was going to be a track meet. I was right. When they finally gave up and decided to head in for lunch I slipped behind them all to get the cow. No one noticed I did this since they were too busy complaining about her and hatching a plan to catch her after lunch. They were all eating when I came in the house. When asked what took me so long to get there I informed them that I got the cow in. Man, the boss and his daughter were upset. My actions were not mean to one up them, but it appeared to be taken that way

You will do things by yourself. When people figure out that you are capable of doing it yourself, or that you can do it better by yourself they will just stand back. I have one driver who does not get out of his truck anymore when he comes to load
You will gain weight, and get out of shape. Before I met Bud and Eunice Williams and learned from them, I used to have problems getting cattle to go where I wanted them too. This lead to me running and getting a lot of exercise. I no longer get all that exercise and started to put on a few pounds. I now have to commit myself to using a treadmill that I strategically placed in front of the TV so I can watch Netflix

Bud Williams and I

Bud Williams and I

Your vet will suffer. After improving my stockmanship skills, I have fewer pulls. Fewer pulls means I use less antibiotics. This reduced my vet bill. I wonder if I should be concerned, he has three kids to support after all.

You lose bragging rights. People who do not have good stockmanship skills get hurt. They are always telling some story of getting run over or kicked. Some even love to show you their “badge of honor”. With good skills you will not have a cast or bruises to show off.

People will think you are lazy. When you own more cattle than the other guy and he notices you take your little girl fishing on a regular basis, he begins to think you are lazy and do not do much work. He does not realize fast is slow, and slow is fast. I work my cattle slow. That is why I have time to go fishing.

It’s boring. My daughter does not have much interest in riding along to rotate pastures. She is 4 and thinks we need to drive the 4-wheeler fast. It’s boring to just sit there on the wheeler only applying pressure on occasion. For her rolling up poly wire is more fun

It makes you abnormal. Cattle will get out. When they do I guess you are supposed to panic, get mad, and get in a big hurry to get them back in. My neighbor called one morning to tell me I had one out. He called back again in about 20 minutes, because I had not shown up yet and he wanted to make sure I was coming. When he called I was walking up the road with a cigar and a cup of coffee. I didn’t want to spill by being in too much of a hurry

You’re backwards. This one comes from my good friend JG. For years his family did things the same way and had the same problems. He realized the problem was how they were going about moving the cattle. He tried it a different way and it worked. No one else cared that it worked, and saved time and energy, they were only focused on the fact he was doing it differently.

People think you lie. Myself and others that I know who learned from Bud and Eunice, or Dr. Tom Noffsinger, buy a lot of long haul high risk cattle. We do not have near the problems most people would expect. One friend even went more than a year without having one die. Since most people have difficulty weaning their home raised calves without some kind of problem, and pull rates in a big feedlot can range over 40% they conclude you are lying when you say that your pull rate is around 3% to 8%.

To learn more visit these websites

Stockmanship.com Stockmanship.com

Hand in Hand Livestock Solutions Hand in Hand Livestock Solutions

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Own Up to It

I came home one night, when I was in high school, and went straight to my room. My mom for some reason came to check on me.
“Have you been drinking?” she asked
“No” I mumbled
“Look at me” She commanded
“I just don’t feel good. I need to sleep”
“Look at me” She commanded again
I rolled over, and sat up. My eyes rolled back in my head and I got sick.
The next day my parents were nice and let me skip church and a family dinner, to sleep it off.
The next Monday at school, my peers gave me a hard time about how hung over I must have been. I denied it. I never admitted to my parents that I was drinking. Everybody knew I drank way too much and lived to survive one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had.

I never owned up to it. Just took the consequences and moved on

Many cow/calf operators exhibit the same behavior. They suffer the consequences of their actions, move on and repeat them year after year. They never own up to the fact the problems they face year after year are a direct result of their management decisions.

I’m talking about winter calving specifically

Last year there was the story circulating around social media, about the producer who saved his calf from certain death by jumping into the hot tub with him, to save it from hypothermia. Many haled this as proof cattle producers will go to any lengths for the wellbeing of their stock.
If a producer really cares for his stock he will never put them into a potential situation that may cause them harm.

To clear up that statement, let me tell you this story. Last year after the hot tub story circulated, I was in a local salebarn. A couple was there and the husband half was bragging how hard they worked to save a calf from hypothermia. The wife didn’t share his enthusiasm. They had the calf in the bath tub, then in the kitchen for a while. I imagine her lack of enthusiasm was because she had livestock in her house, and it created a livestock kind of mess, and her heroic hubby didn’t help clean up. I went into the office where I know an ABS rep has some calendars stashed. I handed her one of those calendars. I showed her how each day on the calendar shows that if your cow is bred on that day it tells you approximately the day you may expect her to calve. I whispered to her “You can turn your bulls out later, and skip all this mess”. She looked at me like it had never dawned on her before.

During the conventional calving season, the cow/calf guys get up in the middle of the afternoon and leave the salebarn, to go home and check cows. You never know when you will have to intervene, in what should be a natural process, to save a calf. This costs the salebarn money, because they have to turn the heat on when all the hot air these guys expel leaves. What hot air? I can refute any talking point they may have to defend calving in winter. I used to calve in winter and made the change. I used to believe all the same things many of those who will defend it do.

I used to chew Copenhagen. I had a bad habit. One day I had to stop baling hay to run to town because I was out, and couldn’t stand it any longer. A few months later I decided it was stupid to let it have a hold on me like that and just quit. It was extremely hard. Many of you have let your cows do the same thing to you. Or it may be peer pressure from some fool. Either way if you refuse to examine a change you are trapped

I used to follow Ann Barnhardt’s blog back when it was mostly about cattle markets. She had a link to Pharo Cattle Co. I clicked every link on her page, so this was the first time I was exposed to Kit and his ideas. This was the first time I was exposed to the idea of calving in synch with nature. I had all the same ideas many of you winter calvers do and I thought someone really ought to clue this fool in. Funny thing is, ten years later after I changed to calving 1/3 of the year later, at grass time, Kit got smarter. To be clear Kit didn’t change, I did.

Now I’ve stated I can refute any talking point there is. There is one that never comes up. I stated earlier in this post that you are trapped. These talking points you so weakly defend are only in your head. You are a prisoner of your own mind. The hardest thing I had to overcome when changing my calving dates was to let go of the old ideas. Learning the new way was easy.

I can post another blog later if there is a demand for it to refute the common points to defending winter calving. I will give you this to ponder in the mean time. I posted last week that it was 20 below here. Several of my neighbors are calving. I drove by a couple of them. There were dead calves at each place. Imagine if you were wearing summer clothing and were soaking wet after coming out of a room that was 102 degrees. That is exactly what the baby calf experienced. It took only a matter of minutes for that little guy to freeze to the ground. It took a little longer for death to overtake him due to the cold. Like I said if you really cared you would not put your stock in that kind of position.

I know my neighbors worked their asses off during the night. They got cattle into their barns, and got the calves dry and started. They had to kick them out into a pen to make room for another cow in the barn. They bedded the new pairs well. Problem iscattle will bunch up and the calf they worked so hard to save may stepped on by a cow. If it steps on them in the wrong place the calf will be killed.

I know the heart break this causes. You and your stock do not need to go through this. I do know someone who is thrilled. I have not seen a coyote for over a week. I assume they must be eating well, and are sticking close to their new food source, those dead calves.

To wrap it up, I buy cattle year round of varying weights. I know there will always be a supply of cattle for me to bid on. What you may not realize, since you left the auction early to go home and cuddle your cows, is the discounts I get. When you get your check in the mail from the salebarn, you will notice that several of your good calves sold for considerably less. When your nice group of calves walked into the sale ring a guy like me will motion to the auctioneer to hold 3 for example. They sell the group then ask which three I want sorted off. I will point out the two with the froze off ears and the one with the froze off tail. I will then counter, that I will take the whole group and skip sorting if they just adjust the price on them. The discount on those three sure helps cheapen up the group. I know that you’re stunned and upset when you see the price on those three got adjusted. I know you think it’s just a dumb set of buyers who do not know quality. Maybe you’re right. I do not feel sorry for you that you worked so hard to keep them alive, only to turn around a year later and give me a discount. I am thankful.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Posted by on January 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Light the Furnace

The weather has been very challenging here to say the least. 2015 was the fourth wettest on record. Between Thanksgiving and New Years we’ve had close to a foot of rain. That just is not good since it doesn’t dry out that time of year. When that is coupled with temps that are 50 degrees on Thursday and 20 below on Monday it can create a lot of stress on cattle, and the care giver.

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So what is a guy to do? The main focus is to take the stress off the cattle.

When it gets just terrible cold I typically will not rush out to feed. In 17 years of experience I have learned it’s not necessary. On a typical nice January day I may head out around 7 a.m. When it gets 0 degrees or colder I may wait until 8 or a bit later. The reason is I have noticed that the cattle don’t care to get up and move much at that time. Sunrise is usually the coldest part of the day, so it seems to be to their liking to wait a little while and let it start to warm up a bit.

I will start the tractors and let them warm up. While they are doing that I will walk all the pens. This walk will be over a mile in distance. It is not the most fun you will have when bundled up in all that heavy winter clothing. I will not move to fast so that I won’t begin to sweat. If that happens I will begin to get cold rather quickly.
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I will go in every pen, and chip ice off the water tanks if they need it. Water is the first limiting nutrient for cattle, making it the most important. They need water to help with digestion, which in turn helps keep their furnace running. Let me explain that. When a calf ruminates, he is acquiring nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, through microbial actions. The process typically requires the fermented cud to be regurgitated and chewed again. The process of rechewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is called rumination. Rumination helps them generate body heat. This process can cause them to elevate their body temperature above normal by a few degrees. Couple that with their winter hair coats and that heavy leather hide and they handle the weather very well.
While I am in the pens I will make sure each and every single calf gets up. This is critical. Each critter may be feeling just fine. They may be ruminating, napping or just chilling. They will have a good spot picked out that is out of the wind and be very comfortable. I get them up because they may just stay there other wise, and not come eat when I feed them. When it gets that darn cold they will consume more feed. If one calf doesn’t get up and go eat his pen mates may eat it all leaving him none. This will cause him to get stressed. First off he is hungry and second he will not have the fuel to ruminate. These two stressors can cause him to not feel well, and this could be a problem. We do not want stressed cattle because they may get sick. Just the simple task of getting them up can prevent a lot of problems.

Breaking the ice off the drinkers

Breaking the ice off the drinkers

getting everyone up bofore feeding.  Note the bales in the background.  they are there for wind protection.  The dirt pile on the right is from scraping pens to make a nice place for them to lay down

getting everyone up bofore feeding. Note the bales in the background. they are there for wind protection. The dirt pile on the right is from scraping pens to make a nice place for them to lay down

Later on in the day I will take the cattle for a walk. Exercise is good for them. When the ground is frozen solid they will move slowly because it is hard on their feet. I will apply enough pressure to move them around but not so much that they feel like they need to get away from me quickly. A precaution to prevent them from injuring themselves on the rutted ground. Sometimes I just move them around their home pen a bit but usually I get them out in the alley ways. This gives them the chance to walk 3/8 of a mile one way and also they get to see cattle in the other pens. This will stimulate those cattle as well.

Out for a walk

Out for a walk

Upon returning to their home pen the cattle will usually eat a little or get a drink.
The three most important things a calf can do for optimum health is exercise, rest, and eat and drink. We just did all three of those things. Simple stuff. I have learned that if you want to manage for healthy cattle you must do healthy cattle things.

Keeping the pens maintained is important too. I keep a portion of the pen scraped to keep the mud and manure down to a minimum. When you get as much rain as we did in December this can be difficult to do, just because of all the slop, but the best attempt to do it must be made. As I said rest is critical for the cattle so we must provide a good area for them to lay down.

If the weather gets really bad for a period of time I will bed them. This means I will roll out a bale of some kind of cheap forage that is really not a good feed source. This bedding helps give them a barrier between wet ground, or just an insulation layer between them and frozen ground.

Yesterday morning when I did my normal routine it was 20 below. When I fed again in the evening it was in the teens. My cattle were running around their pens, bucking and sparring with one another (more exercise). This is a behavior of healthy, happy, stress free cattle! Mission accomplished. Thing is we start it all over again the next morning.

Fueling the furnace

Fueling the furnace

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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