Category Archives: FARM

June Grazing

Pretty good article by Hugh Aljoe, Director of Producer Relations, Pasture and Range Consultant at the Noble Research Institute as published in the June 2019 (Issue 6) of Progressive Cattleman entitled, June:  The most critical forage Month of the Year.


Many of his pasture preparation ideas i would not implement, but his final thought is well said and quite possibly all that needed to be said.

Keep Past Seasons, predicted weather in mind

Recent weather trends – featuring more-frequent fluctuations and greater intensities of extremes across the country (USA) – should influence our management toward a more conservative and intentional approach to our pasture and grazing management.  The greatest probability for a successful forage season comes from preparing operational strategies based upon predicted weather conditions as well as adapting our management strategies to address issues or opportunities carried over from the previous seasons. 

With June being the most critical forage month for most of us producers, our pasture and grazing management strategies should be fully implemented early in this month to capture the full potential of our growing season.

All the best!

tauna

One Millimeter At A Time

One of my favorite storytellers is Paul Marchant, who publishes short essays in Progressive Cattleman magazine, amongst others.  His May blog is apropos for our time as a reminder to take one day, one moment at a time.

His tongue-in-cheek humor may not relate to someone not familiar with raising, calving, caring for cattle, but for the most part – his messages are clear and straight forward.

A note i will add is that we often make decisions which make life more difficult than it should be.  Calving in the winter is not a good decision for neither man, nor beast.  In nature, those calves will largely die due to cold – when do the bison calve?  Mid-April to June in north central Missouri.  Where ever you live observe natural processes.  This will also demonstrate that huge calves will also result in pain and death.  Pain and death is a sad part of our fallen world, but there is no reason to encourage or perpetuate bad situations and decisions.  (bearing in mind, that nature being what it is, sometimes big calves just happen, but usually not).  Part of the flooding (much is just too much precipitation all at once) is also bad decision making, much of it out of the hands of we the people, but rather those made by government ‘professionals.’  But, all we can do is govern our own selves and decisions.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

 

 

Irons in the fire: One millimeter at a time

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 April 2019

A happy and healthy post-prolapse pair enjoys an evening meal.

It was shaping up to be a good spring day. The snow was pretty much gone, and the mud was drying up. It was one of the first days of the year that dared me to attack it without the aid of muck boots or snow packs on my feet.

The light gray clouds in the sky danced with the wind and the sun, a ballet that enticed me to leave my coat in the pickup if not in the closet back at the house.

We were a couple of weeks into calving and were getting several calves a day. For the most part, luck had been on my side. Apart from a couple of bitter cold nights to start things off, we’d survived to that point without anything I’d classify as a wreck. I’d doctored a few for scours, so I was a little on edge, but we weren’t losing them.

I stopped in at the house for a quick lunch before we set back out to string up a hot wire around a corner of the southwest pivot where we were keeping a little bunch of heifers. Before we started with the project, I figured we should make a quick trip through the biggest herd of cows just to see if we needed to tag one or two new calves.

As the old pickup bounced across the ruts and brush, my eye was drawn to the far corner of the field, where an ominous scene was unfolding. I’d noticed the big old Simmy-cross cow earlier in the day. I expected her to calve that day. What I didn’t expect was what I found. She was one of the marker cows: big, black, white-faced with the old traditional Simmental markings you don’t see much of any more. She never raised much of a calf, but I kept her around, thinking she may someday produce a show-worthy 4-H calf.

As we approached, I could see my anticipated yet unwelcomed wreck had arrived. The old cow lay there on her left side, legs outstretched and a 120-pound calf shivering behind her. What distressed me was the full uterine prolapse that accompanied the calf. My heart sank as I beheld the scene.

“Do you want to call the vet?” my dad asked.

I answered in the negative. It was Saturday afternoon, and I figured Trevor, the ever-patient vet, would be at a roping in Pocatello or anywhere else where he could catch his breath and a break from his country vet dream life. As much as I wanted to outsource this burdensome project, I figured I could at least save a dollar or two, since I figured she’d die anyway.

There is no metaphor or simile or analogy to properly describe a full-blown bovine uterine prolapse and its treatment. It’s what you use to describe some other unfathomable task. When Sir Edmund Hillary asked what ascending Everest would be like, his Sherpa guide no doubt told him it was akin to fixing a prolapsed cow.

I raced back to the barn to fetch the umbilical tape and a needle. I had nothing to give for a spinal block, so I could only hope the old girl wouldn’t fight too much. I needed a little fight in her but not so much it made the job more impossible than it already seemed. She did indeed have enough fight in her to stand up and try to trot away. I roped her, got a halter on her and tied her to the back of the pickup. At least she could stand. I’d at least have a little bit of gravity to help me.

Two hands are hardly enough to start the job, so my 82-year-old father gloved up and dove into the fray with me. All you can do is start the job and practice a little faith and trust in what you’re doing. You just keep working, a millimeter at a time, and amid the doubts, anxiety and fear, you eventually see some progress. Really, though, it doesn’t seem like you see any progress until somehow, miraculously, everything is back in place.

The clock said 35 minutes had passed. It was an eternally long half-hour, but we got the job done. The working conditions were just slightly less than sterile, so I loaded the cow up with antibiotics and stitched her up, all the while praying everything didn’t go inside out again. I wouldn’t have bet the farm on it, but the old girl survived. So did the calf. As desperate as the situation seemed, we all came through it.

I couldn’t help but think of this miniature personal struggle as I’ve watched the massive and tragic devastation in the wake of Mother Nature’s powerful theatrics in Australia and America’s Heartland these past months. I’ve been hesitant to mention it in my insignificant prose because I am vastly underqualified and overwhelmed. My finite ability to comprehend the tragedy of it all hardly allows me to lend any commentary at all.

Yet I hear of and see people who have been ravaged and deeply impacted by these catastrophic events rise up and take their own brand of fight to the battle before they’ve even had a chance to put on a pair of dry socks. It gives me hope. Hope in not only their recovery but in all of us and our ability to overcome devastation, weakness and pettiness. They’re fighting on, one millimeter at a time.  end mark

PHOTO: A happy and healthy post-prolapse pair enjoys an evening meal. Photo by Paul Marchant.

Paul Marchant

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The Art of Balance

The best for animal husbandry and land stewardship is often a balanced decision.  These past two years in north-central/northwest Missouri and a bit of southwest Iowa makes grazing management decisions tough to call.  Two years of unusually dry and hot summers each followed by severe cold and long winters has left our pastures and pasture management in tatters.  The following article printed in Midwest Marketer magazine is from Iowa State University Extension beef specialists Erika Lundy and Denise Schwab offers some ideas for consideration.  We live in toxic endophyte fescue country, so it is not a best practice to encourage its growth with the addition of any type of applied nitrogen.  Legumes planted can mitigate the effects by replacing the poisonous grass, but must be managed with proper grazing.

Make Forage Growth A Priority After Hard Winter

 

Forage Growth A Priority - Iowa State University - 2019.jpg

Meal for the Men

Allen is working his calves today and Monday (mine are tomorrow) – it’s time for their second round of vaccinations and some fall calving cows need pregnancy checking.  Weather is perfect except super windy.  My job is to prepare lunch for the guys for whenever they arrive.  It’s ready now (11:30), and i was notified that they’ll be in probably about 1p.  Hopefully, all will go smoothly.

For lunch:

  • Beef short ribs offered with BBQ sauce
  • Homegrown slow simmered green beans with onions and garlic
  • Paraguayan Corn Bread (this is a new recipe for me i’ve made a few times this week – adding this one to my lineup and will post recipe soon)
  • Deviled eggs laid by our silly old hens
  • Blackberry cobbler
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Paraguayan Corn Bread (Sopa Paraguaya)
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It was a challenge to fill a plate with neatly peeled eggs.  Although i set a couple dozen back, it was still not long enough for them to peel easily.  In other words, they are too fresh!
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Home picked blackberries with fresh ground wheat berries for the batter.  Yeah, and sugar, and honey, and butter, and milk, and baking powder, and cinnamon.

 

Experiment with Soils

What is wrong with me that i have to have some sort of experiment going nearly all the time?!!!

Here’s the one i started today:  Start and plant date:  6 APR 19

Four containers which previously held Portabella mushrooms

Two containers are filled with soil from my garden.  One is unamended, the other is mixed with 2 teaspoons of Thorvin Kelp from Iceland which i keep on hand for my cows.  Each amount is approximately 2 quarts of soil.

Two containers are filled with ‘Magic Dirt’ organic potting soil.  One is unamended, the other is mixed with 2 teaspoons of Thorvin Kelp from Iceland.  Each amount is approximately 2 quarts of soil.

The purpose is to discover if the Magic Dirt is better than my soil (probably!) and if how it compares to each amended with Thorvin Kelp.

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On the left are the two garden soil with the one at the bottom being amended with 2 teaspoons of Thorvin kelp.  On the right are Magic Dirt  with the one on the bottom amended with 2 teaspoons of Thorvin Kelp.  I placed 4 seeds in each container of Squash Zucchino Rampicante- one of our very favourite winter squashes.

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What a landowner looks for in a lessee

What A Landowner Looks For in A Lessee

Helpful article in the April 2019 Issue (4) of Progressive Cattleman.

Online article.

 

What a landowner looks for in a lessee

Jenny Pluhar for Progressive Cattleman Published on 25 March 2019
Frank Price (left) and Grant Teplicek

“Is this Jenny?”

“Yes. …”

“This is John Q. Public. I heard you have a ranch available for lease, and I run some cattle. …”

That opening line pretty much guaranteed I was not going to consider that offer to lease. Most likely John Q. had a job in town. He may have been the pharmacist, owned the hardware store or been a schoolteacher. But in my neck of the woods (Texas), “running cattle” is the ultimate sexy, cool, cowboy thing to do.

The mere fact so many think it is easy offends me. That fellow on the other end of the phone hoping to lease from me needs to be managing a complex ecosystem and ensuring sustainability into the future. He is running a business where profitability is closely linked to stewardship of the land. He is not just “running cattle.”

This was not my first rodeo. I have changed lessees for these owners twice before over 24 years. We tend to choose carefully and hope to have long-term relationships. I have been threatened: “I will pay more than John Doe; aren’t you supposed to make the most money possible for the owners?” “You’ll never find someone to go along with all your stipulations.” “If I lease your place, I will decide how to operate it.” “Give me the owner’s number; I will tell him I will pay more.”

Nope, yep and nope. By all means, call the owner. He will hang up on you, guaranteed. My goal was to find the right lessee, someone who wanted to manage that complex ecosystem, strive for sustainability, make a profit. The happy ending is: Although I received the above-mentioned phone call probably a hundred times, I had four outstanding candidates to lease the ranch, and another four queued up if the first four opted out.

Serious about stewardship

What to look for in a lessee? How to find the guy or gal who can manage a complex ecosystem and steward the rangeland resource while still making a profitable living for their family? Face it, if we don’t take profitability into account, the goal of stewardship becomes just another buzzword.

Of the calls I received, only one was actually a credible possibility – and only because I had lost touch with the young man. I knew and respected him but was out-of-date on his progression in the ranching industry. The viable candidates were people I contacted, folks I knew from field days, ranch tours, word-of-mouth. I knew them to be serious about stewardship, profitable, eager to learn and progressive-type operators. I had observed them in action, often at Texas Grazing Land Coalition activities, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers School for Successful Cattlemen, local workshops.

My initial concern was that none of them would want to consider this property. It is remote and, frankly, was beat up – continuously grazed, overstocked, infrastructure needing attention, definitely a ranch in rehab. Lucky for me, I had four respectable land stewards who were interested.

After a bad experience with past lessees, the owners and I were determined to make a good selection. We were in no hurry, which was key to a successful process.

I spent a day on the ranch with each potential lessee. We climbed on the side-by-side and attempted to see as much as possible. Thirty-thousand acres is a lot of ground to cover, but I wanted them to see the good, the bad and the ugly. And I wanted to gauge their goals. The owners and I have some specific goals, focusing primarily on improving rangeland conditions.

It is a mighty challenge, and I needed to know if the candidates were up to the task and aware of the degradation of the resources. Those hours on the ATV allowed me to quickly assess their mettle. Did they know the plants? Did they know how much water a cow-calf pair or a stocker needed daily? Were they savvy on stocking rates, animal unit equivalents, grazable acres and harvest efficiency?

Then I turned the tables. I asked to see country each candidate leased – in my book, that’s the “résumé” of a rancher. What does the place you operate look like? So I spent a corresponding day with each of them, riding around, looking closely at how they conducted business.

Following the days on the ranch, I asked each to tell me what they saw. I developed a few questions. What did they see as the shortcomings of the ranch? And how would they overcome those obstacles? What about the advantages? How would we collaborate, communicate? How would they handle the necessary labor?

Why would we care about the labor? The ranch is remote. School is nearly a 50-mile bus ride away with the potential for the ability to transfer to the school district only 20 miles away. Sadly, substance abuse is a real problem among ranch cowboys in the Texas Panhandle. This location is not for everybody. Leasing this ranch and putting someone out there with a young family or a fast crowd of friends is not going to get the job done. “Cowboys” who have limited skill sets and want to drive around or spend aimless time horseback are a dime a dozen. We recognize the need for the labor to be able to manage the resource, not just cake the cattle in the winter and ride a horse all summer.

Up for a challenge

By now you are thinking, “Man, she put these potential lessees through a bunch of hoops just to ‘run some cattle’.” It was exciting to find four candidates who found the opportunity to improve the conditions, something that excited and challenged them. They provided potential solutions to our challenges, grazing and monitoring plans, communication plans and really showed off their eagerness and enthusiasm. Anyone who says there are not young, enthusiastic ranchers wanting a chance to get started or expand in the business hasn’t looked around very hard.

Finally, the owners and I interviewed them together. That face-to-face meeting is important. It also allowed the potential lessees to gauge if they wanted to enter into a challenging ranch rehab and do business with the owners. These things go both ways. Our extensive process allowed for plenty of time for both sides to assess the situation and evaluate the potential.

The best advice for folks looking to lease land is really pretty simple. Think of it as a job interview. What do you bring to the table? How will you work with the landowner? Plan to forge a relationship, stewarding the land for the good of the owner and your own profitability. If you are just looking to “run some cattle,” put that phone down and go look for something else to do.

Ranching is the management of a complex ecosystem, grazing animals all with the goal of economic and environmental sustainability. It’s not rocket science. Literally. It’s way more complicated.  end mark

PHOTO: Frank Price (left) of Sterling City, Texas, explains the improving forage conditions on a lease property to Grant Teplicek of USDA-NRCS. Photo provided by Jenny Pluhar. 

Jenny Pluhar