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Monthly Archives: January 2016

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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Wordless Wednesday

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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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