Tag Archives: Calves

Branding: Paregien Ranch 2019

 

 

Despite local forecasts for rain, we made the trek up the hill with our neighbors to brand our first bunch of calves for the season. Over the years here, we’ve dealt with fog, rain and snow, but yesterday the sun broke through the gray to complete a beautiful day.

 

 

Additional hazards are these two Blue Oaks that Effie Hilliard incorporated when she built these corrals many decades ago, one of which is now a casualty of our 4-year drought. Though we’ve threatened to remove them, consensus has been that they remain.

 

 

Though we see one another individually throughout the year, the first branding of the year is always a special get-together for all of us.

 

 

One of the benefits of trading labor is that everyone knows how we want the job done, whether a horseback or on the ground. You just can’t hire any better help than our neighbors.

 

 

And one of the drawbacks, as we age, is that some of us have now outlived our horses. Finding a replacement gentle and trustworthy enough for old men is not easy, but Tony Rabb brought a young buckskin mare to the branding pen for the first time with impressive success. Robbin and I thank everyone for helping us get the job done.

 

HOMER COVE 2019

 

 

How I crave the feel
                    of an old soft rope
                    in my hand,
                    spoke-balance loop
                    like an open mouth
                    hungry for heels
in the branding pen.

                    Fifty years
                    I’ve marked calves
                    on this spot,

                                        chicken-coop corrals:
                                        bog in the gate
                                        that Giz built:
                                                            hog wire stapled
                                                            over a 2 x 6 rectangle
                                                            I drug through the mud—
                                        replaced and almost forgotten.

It’s hard to let go:

                    same horseback look
                    south down-canyon,
                    creek meandering a bowl
                    of fresh green feed,

                    safe and apart
                    from a hazy world
                    beyond the narrows—

the feel of my rope
among neighbors
roping calves around a fire—

reliving a dream
on a borrowed horse.

 

WEATHER REPORT

 

 

Up early, awaiting
confirmation of the storm
slated to rain out plans
to brand calves
without complaining,

                    feeding hay
                    on slick roads
                    to thin cows
                    as grass grows
                    against the cold
                    Winter Solstice.

Nothing on the news
but red and blue politics,
mass shootings
and fog on 99,
ads for fast foods,
wonder drugs
and old age—
not one damn thing
I want. Nothing

                    I can change
                    but feed more hay
                    to hungry souls.

 

GOLDEN HOUR

 

 

Bob has been waiting for this cow to calve for a week, checking her and her tribe of first-calf heifers in the evenings. I am impressed with the iPhone’s ability to capture a wide range of light, and if held still, its sharpness. He’s also captured the maternal instincts of this new mother #8118, a Hereford-Angus X cow, with her fresh Wagyu X calf – exactly what we’re looking for in replacement heifers.

 

IO

On the horns of an infant moon,
the creek shrinks and pools
between sycamores and live oaks

as babies come to first-time mothers
bringing the bear tracks downcanyon
on the scent of spent placentas.

Black progeny of the river nymph –
white heifer driven madly by Hera’s
gadfly Oestrus to cross continents

and populate Asia – find maternity
perplexing at first. Yet, lick and nuzzle
the stumbling wet struggle to stand,

suckle and rest that enflames instinct
in all flesh. Worthy timeless worship,
no better mother ever than a cow.

 

“IO” is included in POEMS FROM DRY CREEK, Starhaven, 2008.

 

Twins

 

 

Followers of the blog and and Facebook friends may be bored with our photographs of cattle, but it’s the most exiting time of year for us and our crew as the weather changes. It’s essential that we keep our eyes on our coming two-year old heifers that are having their first Wagyu X calves by recording their tag numbers and any other information that will help inform us as to whether they’ll make the cow herd or not—and to a less anxious degree, our second-calf heifers as well.

The twin bull calves from cow #3054, a mature six year old cow, appear to be sired by our Black Granite bull from Tehama Angus Ranch, spitting images of him at this stage of their short lives. We think that she can raise them both.

 

NO BETTER MOTHER THAN A COW

 

 

It’s early yet for rain,
for distant silhouettes
of cows and fresh calves
beneath oak trees
                    nurturing poetry
with murmurs and licks
on a young mother’s tongue.

A slow rhythm and meter
for weeks in the womb
that rumble clearly now:
                    single syllables,
                    grunts and moans—
a universal language
instinct pumps
forever between them.

 

Feeding in September

 

 

Though not short of feed in the flat below Terminus Dam, we keep plenty of alfalfa hay in front of our replacement heifers this time of year. The old feed is mostly filler without much strength and we want our yearling heifers to continue growing and be in shape to cycle when we turn the Wagyu bulls out three months from now. Protein licks and balanced minerals are also available.

In addition to the yearling heifers on the flat are some first-calf heifers bred last year to Wagyu bulls. Close enough to keep an eye on, all this special attention, (I’m afraid we spoil them), will help with the health of these coming first-calf mothers. It’s what we do before our rainy season begins, that time of year when it might rain.

This photo was taken Monday, September 16th as the clouds rolled in, confirmation of our second weather change of August, based on a thirty-day cycle.

 

weather cycles

 

On Time, 1st Wagyu Calf 2019

 

 

None of last month’s Wagyu preemies survived as the mystery lingers. This first Wagyu calf has arrived on time.

 

Early Morning Light

 

It was an easy gather this morning. Bob’s presence on this part of the ranch while irrigating and feeding with his Kubota has made these gentle heifer calves even more trusting and curious. I arrived by Kubota headlights with a couple of bales of hay ahead of the cowboys, Robbin, Terri, Allie and Bob, and had the bunch mostly gathered when the horses arrived to escort them to the corrals.

 

© Terri Blanke

 

© Terri Blanke

 

© Terri Blanke

Currently, female cattle can not leave California unless they have been vaccinated for Brucellosis, also known as Bang’s Disease. As a matter of course, we vaccinate our heifer calves to enhance the health of our cattle and the herds of our community and State. Hence, vaccinated cattle are more salable and presumably more valuable.

The presence of brucellosis in free-ranging bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), Yellowstone National Parkland, Grand Teton National Park and the area around those parks, threatens the brucellosis status of the surrounding States and the health of their cattle and domestic bison herds, which are free of the disease. (Brucellosis link above)

The calves must be vaccinated by an accredited veterinarian who also places a tattoo inside the calf’s right ear and an individual metal ID tag in the same ear. Because we want to limit the stress of cattle-handling on the calves, we use this procedure to revaccinate,  a booster to help protect against respiratory and clostridial problems. And while in the squeeze chute they also get a dewormer and a shot of minerals.

 

© Terri Blanke

 

© Terri Blanke

Robbin and I are placing a patch over an eye to keep the sunlight out to reduce the pain and to help it heal with a little Neosporin.

 

© Terri Blanke

And in this instance, the calf got a shot of antibiotics to speed the eye’s recovery.

 

© Terri Blanke

Dr. Ken Fiser applying the individual metal ID tag.

 

© Terri Blanke

 

© Terri Blanke

Lots of hands and lots of syringes and applicators with less than a minute in the Silencer hydraulic chute.

 

All went smoothly, the processed heifer calves on hay and no worse for wear. What a crew–what a day!

 

Rest of the Story

 

© Terri Blanke

We processed a nice bunch of steer and heifer calves this morning that averaged 700 lbs. yesterday after hauling them from the Paregien Ranch. The steers will probably weigh in the 750 lbs. range, the heifers lighter. Today’s market wants calves in the 650 lbs. range to turn out on Mid-West grass, and pays less/pound for the heavier cattle, essentially giving away the extra pounds of beef we’ve worked to produce over the years. But nothing stays the same.

Despite market conditions, the good news is that there are many very nice replacement heifers in this bunch. Robbin and I maintain that we’re raising cows and that the steer calves help pay the bills.