Category Archives: Ranch Journal

First-Calf Heifers

 

 

For regular followers accustomed to a short philosophical poem, I’ve been on a sabbatical from the blog for well-over a week, a vacation without one ounce of guilt for not writing or posting daily. All good. We’ve been busy on the ranch nevertheless, as we’ve begun to supplement our younger cows with hay and all our cows with protein licks as our first calves will be arriving in a couple of weeks.

We hauled the girls above to the pasture around our house yesterday, two-year old first-calf heifers due to calve in the middle of September. In years past, we would have driven them the two miles here through three different occupied pastures and across the road. We hauled 53 head instead, rather than risk any mix-ups with our neighbor’s steers. For whatever reason, the heifers were plumb silly, making yesterday one of my hardest loading experiences in fifty years.

Though we had hay laid out to the water trough to welcome them to their new digs, Robbin and I went out this morning to feed them again and to help them acclimate to the dry feed after having spent all summer on the irrigated pasture. Right now they’re lost, but have calmed down substantially since yesterday’s debacle.

I’m working on a longer poem for a documentary produced by the American Angus Association, having to change my style to fit what I perceive the film to be. Tough sledding as I keep adding notions and ideas to the piece. Meanwhile, I’ve been somewhat satisfied with shorter pieces scratched out in the evenings like:

 

                                             NAMES

                                             From kid
                                                  to boy
                                                  to son
                                                  to man
                                                  to pard
                                                  to dude
                                                  to bud
                                                  to boss
                                                  to SOB,
                                             I know my name.

 

Finally

 

 

Clear skies after three weeks of smoke trapped in the San Joaquin Valley from the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite, one of seventeen fires being fought in California in 100+ degree temperatures. Unfortunately, the winds that cleared the Valley also fed the fires. The Mendocino Complex, the Ranch Fire and the River Fire, nearly doubled in size over the weekend, 266,000 acres that is only 33% contained and has become the fourth largest in State history.

Overlooked by the pundits and politicians are the lasting impacts of our four-year drought (2013-2016) that will provide fuel for years to come. But for the moment, blue skies.

 

Circle of Seasons

 

 

Time flies, it seems, as we get older. We vaccinated these heifers yesterday for Brucellosis, though it seems that not long ago we branded them as calves. Averaging 725 lbs., most of these girls will join the cow herd when we introduce them to the Wagyu bulls in December.

As we chase the seasons, the circle seems to get tighter. With most of our cattle work done, we are seasonally at the end, while approaching the beginning, of our cattle year. It feels good to be done as we look forward to fall calving and a chance of rain again. In the meantime, we have plenty of repair and maintenance jobs to address, salt and mineral to keep in front of our cows.

It’s been a warm summer, thus far, well-over a hundred degrees since the Solstice. Despite the shorter days, we expect more of the same through September. With gathering, weaning and shipping our steers to town, we’ve been pushing to this point since April. It seems appropriate to thank our crew, Terri Drewry, Allie Fry and son Bob, here every morning at daylight with smiles on their faces, ready to get the work done.

(iPhone photo: Terri Drewry)

 

Video

No Wild Cow Poetry

 

I made a couple of videos of us working cattle in the new corrals in Greasy to send to my sister who owns the ground and financed their completion. Our cattle handling has evolved since the use of the Kubotas, finding it much easier to lead cattle than to drive them while gathering this steep and brushy ground. Over the years, the cows have become gentler and more cooperative, and having good facilities insures they remain that way. I thought some followers of the blog might be interested.

The first video shows the improvements to our loading facilities and the second demonstrates how we worm our cows for potential parasites—not the kind of action one might find in wild cow poetry, but the way we like it.

 

 

 

BEATING THE HEAT

 

 

Since the four-year drought when we had to leave the gates of each mountain pasture in Greasy open to secure water, we haven’t had a decent count on our cows. Drought-killed trees and limbs on fences haven’t helped us manage our numbers either. But we do know how many calves we branded in Greasy.

As we’ve gathered to wean and harvest our crop of calves, all but one calf was accounted for as of last Thursday, a calf that may have died sometime after branding. Nevertheless, Robbin and Terri left early Friday in the Kubota with a bale of hay, salt and mineral to look for tracks, to insure we got all the calves.

 

Evening wine, and
I still want to celebrate
the last marked calf

on the books, in
the weaning pen, out
of the brush and rock

with cows behind
the Kubota and a bale
of hay, Robbin and Terri

on the cellphone calling
for a gooseneck, for Bob
and I to haul him home.

Two frozen bottles of water,
four beers with lemons, cool
reward in an insulated pouch.

                         (iPhone selfie: Terri Drewry)

 

@ The Sip ‘n’ Dip

 

 

Though offerings from the blog have been meager while we’ve been weaning calves, we seem to have had lots of visitors in the last six weeks. Our latest, my niece Katy and four month-old daughter Lennon were photographed by her husband Neal Lett @ the Sip ‘n’ Dip with his iPhone Thursday afternoon. I couldn’t resist posting it.

 

Last Bunch

 

 

We hauled the last of this year’s calves out of Greasy this morning to ‘soak’ in the weaning pens before taking the steers to town next week. The heifers will join the rest on the irrigated pasture to be Bangs vaccinated and then sorted for replacements. Despite one of the driest beginnings to our rainy season, they’ve all done well due to our March and April rains. Including some late slicks that missed our brandings in Greasy, these calves averaged over 700 pounds.

We’ve done well, too, weaning our English calves in 30 days, 20 of which were over 100 degrees. It’s been saddle at 5:30 a.m. to beat the heat. Our thanks to Bob, Terri and Allie for their cheerful willingness to help get the job done. (iPhone photo by Terri Drewry)

 

MATURE

 

 

Perhaps age, or perhaps it’s the 100-degree heat, but my enthusiasm wanes for lots of things, including poetry.

I’m up early enough to write before we leave at daylight when it’s the coolest. Perhaps it’s the drama of the news, its incongruence, its self-righteous and self-serving players vying for the spotlight, for power or money—mostly bad-acting at best, politics has become so terribly transparent these days. Thank God we have work to do.

Yesterday, when we finished processing and doctoring a few eyes of the calves we weaned Tuesday, Terri pulled her iPhone out to document the Greasy calves—something I had planned to do, but didn’t. Thank you, Terri.

Perhaps the work, the satisfaction that comes with the jobs we do is where enthusiasm waits, apart from the distractions of the outside world beyond our ridgelines. Engaged and invested, each day is usually an adventure. So I’ve changed my writing habits to summer afternoons, glad to be inside and out of the heat hoping to find a little more enthusiasm then.

 

 

MATURE

We take sleep when we can,
welcome the dreams that dance
unsteadily from out of dark curtains.

Undisturbed, we are the playwrights,
shaping characters and editing lines
as we move towards an unknown ending

or a mysterious purpose, if any, on this planet
at odds with itself, and with humanity—
yet hoping that the visions we hone

subconsciously will bleed into the daylight
and become like ripe seeds planted
in our brains, waiting, waiting to mature.

 

Early Morning Sort

 

 

We’ve been looking forward to working cattle in our renovated corrals in Greasy, a project started by Earl McKee before our family purchased his ranch nearly twenty years ago. The work was completed last spring after we branded our calves in the old corrals. Today, we sorted cows from calves to be hauled down the mountain to begin the weaning process below.

In the photo, Robbin and the girls are sorting two gooseneck loads for Bob and me to haul, a two-hour round trip. While we were gone, they finished their sort and wormed the cows in our new facilities, pleased with all their options.

 

 

Paregien Ranch Steers

 

 

The weaned steers from the Paregien Ranch averaged over 800 lbs. and brought good money at the Vialia Livestock Market yesterday as we took a break from fixing fence with outside temperatures of 108 degrees. (Terri Blanke iPhone photo.)