Tag Archives: Paregien Ranch

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.)

 

Harvest of Grass

 

 

No small accomplishment, we hauled the calves from the Paregien Ranch to our weaning corrals yesterday, nine gooseneck loads over an old four-wheel drive, bladed track—a slow-going, two-hour, 2000-foot descent off the mountain as the dirt gets looser with each successive trip. Nerve wracking, to say the least, we started early, and weighed the last load at 2:00 p.m. in 102 degrees before yesterday’s high of 107.

Robbin and I are pleased with the calves, the same calves we branded in early January. Some nice steers that will average about 775 lbs. and help offset some of our annual expenses, but we’re really looking forward to our sort of heifers, most of which will make our first cut for replacement heifers.

It all seems so rudimentary as we begin weaning our English calves, our harvest of last season’s higher elevation grass. Our special thanks to Bob, Allie and Terri Drewry who provided this iPhone photo.

 

SAME OLD GROUND

 

 

Same old ground this time of year,
gathering grass-fat calves and steers,
pasture by pasture, to the corrals
to weigh and exchange for cash—

to do it all over again—a collage
of seasoned stories where details blend
within the bronze and brittle stems
between canyons fenced like funnels

down to flatter ground. Cattle gentler,
better bred to routine and for the hook
on these same old hills they graze,
when and if it rains in time for grass.

Habit after half-a-hundred years,
no two the same, we circle back
in the same old tracks, just
to see what we’ll never see again.

 

Dragonfly

 

 

While making preparations to wean the calves on the Paregien Ranch, Bob and I spotted a dragonfly at the Windmill Spring neither of us had ever seen before. After a cursory quest to identify it on Google, the closest I got was the Male Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa), not a native of this continent, but specifically Europe and England. Photo through the telephoto of my Canon point-and-shoot.

 

A couple of calves we’ll be gathering Sunday.

 

To Brand or Not to Brand

 

 

Our dilemma back in March after so much rain was whether we wanted to brand our calves that were averaging over 500 lbs. With only 45-60 days left of our grass season, we knew that castrating and working the bull calves would set them back for at least two weeks as they recovered from the branding pen, two weeks of no gains in weight plus always the risk of losing one or two in the process. A live bull is better than a dead steer.

A big part of our consideration was the neighbors we needed to get the job done, most old riding older horses if we could put together a younger ground crew. In the bigger picture, we trade labor, so most of us were facing the same dilemma, all trying to get our calves branded at the same time.

As the steer calves bring more money per pound than the bulls, we had to project the sale weights and difference in price to calculate the net return for each. We figured a discount of $15/cwt, or 15 cents/pound, on 750 lbs. bulls against 700 lbs. steer calves as a place to start. Then we had to calculate the cost of branding, the vaccine, the gather and hired labor, etc. I came up with $44/head and ran the figures by one of neighbors to see if we were being realistic.

We decided not to brand our calves, but had a few steers that we branded with our Wagyu X calves in our first load of bulls that we sent to town three weeks ago, encouraged that the bulls brought as much money as the steers because they weighed more. Not branding your calves is tricky business, but our neighbors are all honest.

 

 

The bulls and heifers in the photographs are from the Paregien Ranch, the biggest calves we have. Most of these heifers will be replacements in our cow herd. After a 5-day wean, the bulls sell today and will average around 800 lbs., heavier than the buyers will want. But we can’t go back, yet satisfied that we made the right decision. Half-way through weaning and harvesting our crop of calves, we have another bunch gathered ready to haul off the mountain on Thursday.

 

Almost Stuck

 

 

While I was blading a dusty firebreak along Dry Creek Road, Terri and Robbin went up to the Paregien Ranch in the Kubota to corral some dry cows that we’ve earmarked for town, when and if we can get to them with a gooseneck. Roughly 2,000 feet higher in elevation with 25 inches of rain, it’s still wet and boggy in places under our tall feed. They corralled the cows, but had to turn them out into the gathering field because it’s still too wet to load them. Afterwards, while putting out salt and mineral, they found a loblolly in the middle of the road that we have driven over several times this season with no problems.

 

 

Short of boasting this year, we’ve been fortunate not to have gotten stuck somewhere on the ranch considering our many close calls and all the ‘stuck’ stories we’ve heard from our neighbors. Sharing her iPhone photos, Robbin was quick to refine the definition of being stuck as when you have to walk home, or call someone to pull you out of a mud hole. Down on its frame, luckily they found an oak close enough to winch the Kubota onto hard ground.

 

 

With four years of drought fresh in our minds, we’ve not complained about our near-record rainfall, but it has presented a number of new problems, including not getting our upper-country calves branded before we wean in a few weeks—when and if we can haul them off the hill. Hard to believe it was 95 degrees yesterday. Careful what we wish for as we deal with a very different year, we’re looking forward to something a little closer to normal.

 

Picnic

 

 

We’ve been sharing ranch life with our dear Canadian friends Denise Withnell and David Wilke from Cowboy Celtic for the past few days, exhausted as they head home to Victoria. Like kids, we’ve been having way too much fun while getting very little work done. Taking them on a tour of the Paregien ranch to put out salt and mineral while assessing the practicality of branding our bull calves, we found roads still too wet in places for a pickup or gooseneck.

 

 

With two saved from oak tree entanglements, they had to endure my rant about why mylar balloons ought to be illegal.

 

 

Thank you, dear friends for helping to prove that you’re never too old for a picnic.

 

Paregian Ranch Cows and Calves

 

20170126-img_0406

 

So hampered by the wet ground, we were only able to see a few cows and calves on the Paregien Ranch. The cows are producing lots of milk, there’s plenty of grass and the calves are really growing. Right now they would be handful to brand, and who knows when we’ll be able to get up the mountain to get that job done.

 

Windmill Spring

 

20170126-a40a2872

 

With little creeks running either side of the dirt track to the Windmill Spring, we were surprised to see so much water flowing from the spring box to the trough, a full 3/4″ pipe full (click to enlarge). Quite a change from the weekly maintenance and a quarter-pipe full or less for the last four years. We’ll see how long it lasts.

 

Ridenhour Creek

 

20170126-a40a2879

 

At the top of the watershed, the Paregien Ranch feeds Ridenhour Creek on its way to Dry Creek. The higher ground is saturated with springs popping up out of cow trails that become small rivulets adding to the seeps to contribute to its flow. It’s not often that we see Ridenhour run this much water at about 25% of its flow, judging by the high-water mark, during the height of our storms of two weeks ago.