Tag Archives: Ranch Journal

First of December 2017



Thanksgiving seems a long ways away, doubling-up the feeding before and after, as the new grass greens, trying to keep the cows in shape to breed back, most with calves at their sides. We’ve also been busy getting the bulls out in our upper country.

We have a good start on our grass with nearly ¾” on November 17th, followed by a week of 70 degree weather and then another 0.60”—an ideal beginning as high-temperatures now steady in the mid-60s. The older cows are headed to the tops of the ridges where the soaked-in rain gets the most exposure from the sun, some changing pastures where drought-stricken oaks continue to fall on fences. Our emphasis now is getting them all together and exposed to the bulls as we think about branding.

Amid the political chaos, we’re thankful we have a job to do in a separate place where we must concentrate our minds and energy on what we hope to be productive. This business, as I’ve said many times, is dependent on three variables: the weather, the market and the politics—none of which have we any control of. In many respects, we’ve gotten used to it. Despite what appears to be global uncertainty, we carry on with all we know to do.

On a personal note, I haven’t had any inclination to write poetry or take photographs with anything more than iPhone. What poetry I’ve posted seems more of an exercise than fresh inspiration, while feeling that my art, for lack of a better word, may be on the cusp of something new and different. At any rate, I’m not holding my breath, too busy leaning toward the work before us, essentially distancing myself from any old habits or poetic styles, but rather immersing myself in the activities from where my poetry has come.


Cooling Down




Though warm temperatures persist, the days are noticeably shorter as the sun slides south down the ridge before it rises a little later each morning. We’re a couple of weeks to 30 days away from calving, depending on when we put the bulls out, trying last winter to keep our newborns out of September 1st heat by turning the bulls out two weeks later.

But to tweak our program slightly requires more than agreement between Robbin and I. The bulls have their own calendar, and we only wire fences to enforce our management decisions. Around Thanksgiving of last year, the bulls were ready to go to work. We were retrieving bulls and fixing fences daily, so we had to put a few out around the first of December to keep them away from the neighbor’s heifers that were to be bred to Wagyu bulls.

At 8:00 a.m., this Mark Beck bull cools down before retreating to oak tree shade.


Sunday Breakfast




Temperatures have eased off in the past few days, mornings in the low 60s, allowing our cattle a little more time to graze. The replacement heifers were undeterred by the Kubota or my presence this morning while the pump was filling their stockwater tank, intent on breakfast before heading to shade.

Though the highs have been just over 100 here, a good part of the day feels like fall, though we know summer is a long ways from being over, but a welcome relief from the highs of 113 at the end of July. Forecasts for the next ten days appear to be relatively mild, more of the same.


Summer Routines




With temperatures breaking into the teens, most all of us have routines that begin early. The Canadian Geese above have been spending the night on the irrigation pond, more nervous than most honkers that visit us from northern golf courses. They take flight with an urgent, splashing and flapping commotion at their first sight of us, raining feathers across the pond.

We have moved the second bunch of our first-calf heifers to the pasture across the creek across from the house, due to calve in 45 days. It will be their home until next May when we wean and ship their Wagyu calves. They are just getting acquainted with their new pasture of dry feed and developing their grazing routines that also begin early, but in the sycamore shade by 9:00 a.m. until they graze out at dusk.

Our new replacement heifers, now weaned for 60-75 days, are utilizing part of the irrigated pasture, with a pasture in between them and our bulls that we trust will act as a buffer zone, as they await the Wagyu bulls coming in December. These heifers graze out into dry feed in the evening, spend the night and graze back to the irrigated green by 7:00 a.m. before leaving for shade around 8:30 in the morning.

Our routine includes feeding these replacement heifers, currently once a week at a rate of 18 lbs. of good alfalfa to supplement our ample dry grass. We spoil them, actually, with 21% protein licks available plus dry mineral and salt. We will gradually increase the amount of hay we feed hoping to get the girls in shape and cycling before the Wagyu bulls arrive.

Our morning routine is centered around irrigating and pumping stockwater for the replacement heifers who have chosen to drink well water this year rather than drink from the irrigation pond filled from Lake Kaweah, more water than our solar pump can provide alone. It takes about 45 minutes for the 2 hp submersible pump driven by a gas generator to replace the 2,500-3,000 gallons each day. In that 45 minutes we check the bulls and fences and go through the replacement heifers to be sure the neighbor’s Corriente bulls haven’t caught wind of the girls and upset our breeding program.

Robbin is out early in the garden, checking her irrigation lines that are timed to run at night, augmenting where need be, then tending and picking fruit and vegetables before nine—currently the Elberta peach tree, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and squash. With a great tomato crop this year for a change, she’s made both green and red salsa as well as dill and bread and butter pickles from her striped Armenian cucumbers. Our garden is producing more than we need, giving us the opportunity to share and swap vegetables with our friends and neighbors.

By noon we’re normally done with outside activities, 102 at eleven this morning.


Our Future




According to my records, we’ve only had two days since the Solstice under 100°, but the mornings have been fairly cool from first light until 9:00 a.m. This morning was no exception, simply a beautiful Sabbath.

We’ve kept our replacement heifers close to the corrals since they were weaned in May and June, waiting for their Bangs vaccination for Brucellosis and second round of shots, deworming and fly control that has entailed pumping water daily. We’ve had a lot of eye problems due to foxtails and some foot rot due to bacteria encouraged by the wet spring. Having them close by has helped us gather for doctoring.

We think this year’s heifers are exceptional, both in genetics and temperament. They have gotten to know the Kubota since they were calves, and then again when it brought hay everyday to the weaning pen. So we utilize the Kubota when we gather—they come to it naturally.

Saturday, after Friday’s processing, I led the bunch off the dry feed and irrigated pasture, fed some hay, ready to open them to 300 more acres of dry feed and another source of water, our irrigation pond. By this morning, they were exploring the shore of the pond when I arrived to see how they were doing. Naturally, they all gravitated to the Kubota to discover tall, untouched green feed in the spillway of the pond where excess water flows back into the Kaweah River.

Followers of this blog know it’s all about the girls, our prejudice for females—after all we are a cow/calf outfit. Though we were quite pleased with our steers, it’s not about bragging rights as to how big or nice they were in the sales ring—just an annual dividend, they pay our bills. It’s about the girls, two-thirds of which, with a little luck, will be with us for ten years. They become our future.



Tall Feed




Doctoring eyes again this a.m. in our last big bunch of weaned calves, a problem exacerbated by tall feed. Temperatures have been running over 100 degrees, the creek’s quit running, summer’s here.

We’ve another small bunch of calves yet to gather and wean and then we’ll be done with weaning. Dark mornings and high heat have tempered my posting here. Not much in the mood for poetry or photography, but nothing stays the same ( I hope).