Last Bunch 2014



It’s been a long, dry year, but we’ve begun to breathe easier now that our last bunch of calves is in the weaning pen and headed to town tomorrow morning. Born last fall, they are averaging about 100 lbs. lighter than normal due to the drought, but current prices more than make up the difference.

The country we graze is cross-fenced into pastures. We gather each twice a year to brand and wean while culling the cows that don’t fit our program either due to age or late calving dates. It takes about six weeks for us to wean all our calves, but longer to brand when it rains and while we’re helping our neighbors. We try to keep our cows in the same pasture their entire lives here, familiar ground where they can make homes and the gather becomes routine. Because of our terrain, rotational grazing is impracticable—so we understock to meet most feed conditions instead.

This second year of drought, however, has reduced our cowherd by 40% while feeding 500 tons of alfalfa since last fall. Because of the time and feed required for a heifer to have her first calf, we kept no replacement heifers this year. It’s disappointing for Robbin and I to see them go and the efforts of the past twenty years reduced so drastically, but we hope to take advantage of this heavy culling by improving the genetics of our cows into the future. We are encouraged with a good base to work with, as our cowherd now is fairly young, a third of which are first and second-calf cows.

Near term, we concentrate on improving stockwater until it might rain again this fall.


7 responses to “Last Bunch 2014

  1. You’re doing a great job, John. EJ would be so proud of you! Kudos to you and Robbin; keep up the good work! I’m living my best years vicariously through you.
    Sophie B


    • Thanks, Sophie. If ever there were a year to live the cattle business in California vicariously, this is the one! Any other way is/has been a test, but we’re breathing a sigh of relief right now, nonetheless.


  2. Another interesting and informative post about real ranch-life – from the comfort of my home 🙂


    • Much less demanding from the comfort of your home, Spike, we’re moving closer to the time of year when it might rain, though we’ll have to survive the summer months and the near term water issues that come with them. We have a plan that we think will be adequate and now have the time, 30 days, to concentrate on getting that work done. I’ll post our progress as we go.


  3. Keep the faith. This has had to have been hard.


  4. Sorry to hear of the drought impact, hope it eases soon.


  5. Having always lived a very urban life where the influence of the weather is kinda on a continuum from “oh good, let’s go to the beach” to “bother, I’ll have to put the washing in the dryer” it’s fascinating for me to read about a life lived IN the natural world. I’d like to think it helps me appreciate not only what you do (and the food I eat), but be a little more grateful for my existence. 🙂


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