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Welcomed weather problem!

March 24, 2013

Sorting stick knocking off snow from poly wire.

Yesterday while my FIL was golfing in balmy Montana, here in NW Kansas it was a winter wonderland. I spent the morning fixing my temporary poly wire fence which had sagged to the ground and was no match for the wet snow.  Usually snow ends up in piles around here.  We did have some drifting, but I would guess at least half of the snow stayed level.  Weather service reported 15″ of snow with just a little over an inch of moisture content.  While this will help tremendously to get the cool season grasses going, we are still in an exceptional drought status.  I am still in drought planning mode, but cautiously optimistic for the start of the grass growing season….very cautious.


Wordless Wednesday: Bulldog~ WTH Did I do?

March 20, 2013


Why are you tagging calves?

March 6, 2013

Have you really thought about why you tag calves?  In my last post  “Calving Season” I wanted some ranchers to think about why they make calving so hard and how much more enjoyable it can be to calve in sync with nature.  Today I want to expand on that post and have two questions for you to ruminate over:  Why are you tagging calves?   Are you getting paid for that service?

I know I maybe infringing on that need to always be there at every birth of calving season with these ideas, but that cow doesn’t need you to be there.  Calving is her job, not yours.  If I was a commercial cattleman I would not tag my calves. The cow doesn’t need a tag to identify her baby. It takes time, is labor intensive and can be hazardous to your health.  I am sure there are many ranchers that get hurt every year while tagging calves.  I have had to jump in the back of pickup to escape from a pissed off mamma cow and been thrown over a 4-wheeler and knocked-out silly.  However, for the last 10 plus years I have developed the habit of not giving a cow a second chance if she exhibits any sort of craziness and hauled her to the sale barn.  This problem has been almost  completely eliminated in my herd.  I say almost because you never know with an animal.  I wonder why the commercial guy bothers?  Why take the chance of getting hurt?

You may be asking what do I mean by getting paid to tag calves.  As a registered seed-stock breeder I need to get birth weight information and to record other information at calving time.   While I am there I either tag or tattoo that calve for identification.  I get paid for that service by selling registered offspring that have the information recorded at calving.  However, if you are a commercial cattleman,  you are more than likely not getting paid to take the risk, time and labor involved with tagging calves.

You may say that you want to be able to identify certain individual calves, perhaps there may be a dink you want to trace back to the dam at weaning time.  These are valid reasons to tag a calve, but not necessary a reason to tag at birth.  You could tag the calves at branding  or tag the calves you want more information at weaning.  After they are tagged, hold them for a couple hours and then let them out.  They will go back  to their dam and you can make a note of who she is.  For every reason there is to tag at calving  there is a rancher who has found a better way.

I know some ranchers like to give vitamin shots, band or do various other procedures at calving time along with the tagging.  That’s fine.  If you have looked at the whole and the ROI shows that it pays on your ranch then proceed.  If you are calving in sync with nature I would question the necessity to do anything with the calf at birth, because most of your calf health problems will disappear.  The combination of minimizing the amount you fuss with the calf at birth and calving in sync with nature will make your calving season a lot more stress-free for both you and your cattle.

Next time you are face to face with an irate mamma cow because you are trying to tag her calf, ask yourself if this is a necessity, or simply tradition.

Calving Season ~ Why make it so hard?

February 25, 2013

This post has been sparked by several blogs and twitter remarks I have seen lately about people battling against nature while calving in the winter.  What is frustrating to me is some of these ranchers have a large following and several of their readers, particularly those who live outside of rural America might be inclined to believe that winter calving is the only way cattle ranchers manage their livestock.   I feel there is a need to tell the opposing  side of the story…that calving season can be more FUN and more PROFITABLE.  How? First you have to be willing to kick the winter calving habit.

I have friends and neighbors that are smack in the middle of calving, so I don’t mean to be insulting.   Instead my intent is to make you ask yourself  why you choose to calve in the winter and if it is really worth it?  What if you didn’t have to check your cows/heifers every 2 hours through the night to avoid calf-cicles.  If you can believe it there are actually people who brag about the winter calving woes and show pictures of newborn calves in the snow.   I am not so sure I would be proud of such a picture, let alone showcase it on a blog like some kind of badge of honor. This is how backwards and entrenched the winter calving tradition is.

You have to ask yourself a couple questions.  When did winter calving become so popular and Why?

Before I continue, I am going to back up to let you know I have been there done that.  I have had calves in my basement.  I have braved the cold checking on cows every two hours in the cold snow.  I have beat my self up after finding a dead frozen calf,  thinking that if I just would have been a few minutes quicker the calf would be alive.  I have always done my damnedest just like you to take care of my animals.  However, it didn’t take me very long to realize the craziness of everything I was doing.   Myself and many others  have chosen to not fight, but rather work with nature when calving.

Why make calving so hard?  Take a look at this picture below.  Why wouldn’t you want to do this?  Easy on the cow/calf and easy on you.  This was a bred heifer that calved in open-range on May 8th. She did this without me babysitting her. I am sorry if I am about to make you feel not needed, but your cows do not need you to be around during calving.  When left on there own in a natural environment and the right time of year they will be just fine.  Of course nothing ever goes 100% right all the time with animals. You may still have a problem occasionally, but you will find all of the work and problems that most people associate with calving seem to magically disappear when you calve in sync with nature.

May 8

So again, why do you plan to for you and your cows to fight through winter calving when it can be so much easier? Why do you accept the calving losses instead of moving your calving season? Generally there are two reasons that you have for winter calving. The first and most often heard reason is “I am to busy farming to be calving”.  The other reason I have heard is the need for bigger calves at weaning.  My friend Chip Hines addresses these topics in his books which I highly recommend. You can find Chip’s book here.   If you are on Twitter you need to follow Jesse Bussard  Jesse always has great ranch life information to pass along and has been great at sharing winter calving disadvantages and the benefits of calving later.  If you have a chance to attend a presentation with Kit Pharo of Pharo Cattle Company you will hear the benefits of calving in sync with nature.  While we may not yet be the majority, there are those of us who have found calving later can be much more fun and more profitable.

Of course not every ranch situation is the same. Each has its own unique advantages and difficulties. You need to find what works best for your environment. Generally you have to look no farther than when the deer and other wild ungulates have their babies to know when calving would be more in tune with nature.  In most of North America, the wild ungulates have their babies in May and early June.

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface, so I will need to make myself continue this discussion.  I can’t over emphasize how much fun calving in synch with nature can be.

Be safe everyone.  As I am writing this KS, OK and TX are fighting a full blown blizzard.  I hope everyone stays safe.  I know they will do there best to keep there animals safe if they are calving now.  But again ~ Why make it so hard?



Wordless Wednesday: Working Clothes

January 23, 2013
Wordless Wednesday: Working Clothes

912 In Her Working Clothes


Marathon Herd Quitter Tour

January 15, 2013

The Marathon Herd Quitter Tour is set. With the cost of land, feed, fuel and other inputs increasing at unprecedented rates, cow-calf producers are quickly reaching the point that they can no longer afford to follow the status-quo herd of high-input agriculture. Most producers, unfortunately, are afraid of change and afraid to break away from the herd. If you are not already a Herd Quitter and if you are within driving distance, I encourage you to join them and other Herd Quitters at one of these meetings.

Pharo Cattle Company has scheduled TEN meetings in SEVEN days – in conjunction with our Bull Workday in Missouri.  These meetings will feature Kit Pharo and Weston Walker who is a PCC Cooperative Producer in Missouri. Kit’s presentation will be entitled Ranching for Profit in the 21st Century. Times have changed; the era of cheap feed and cheap fuel is over.

These meetings will be FREE and open to the public. There is NO need to RSVP. Feel free to invite your friends and neighbors. PLEASE arrive early so we can get started on time. Call Weston at 1-800-735-7790 if you need more information.

* January 19 – Quitman, Arkansas
* 6:00 pm at Quitman H.S. Ag Building
* January 20 – Berryville, Arkansas
* 2:00 pm at Farmer Community Building
* January 21 – Murray, Kentucky
* 1:00 pm at Murray State Ag Expo Center
* January 21 – Goreville, Illinois
* 6:00 pm at United Producers Livestock
* January 22 – Jefferson City, Missouri
* 11:00 am at Lincoln Univ. Carver Farm
* January 22 – Kahoka, Missouri
* 7:00 pm at CARE Community Building
* January 23 – Warrensburg, Missouri
* 3:00 pm UCM Prussing Farm Shooting Range
* January 23 – Chilhowee, Missouri
* 7:00 pm at the Chilhowee School
* January 24 – Springfield, Missouri
* 6:00 pm at MSU Darr Agricultural Center
* January 25 – Billings, Missouri
* 8:00 am Bull Workday at Jason Salchow’s
* January 25 – West Plains, Missouri
* 7:00 pm at MSU West Plains Melton Hall

Following the tour, we will place the names of all the people who attended these meetings in a special drawing for a $1000 Credit toward a PCC bull in our first-ever Fescue-Country Bull Sale.

Herd Quitter

January 11, 2013

What is a Herd Quitter you ask?   Kit Pharo of  Pharo Cattle Company coined this phrase and it  basically means to think for your self.  Kit says “I use the term “herd quitter” to refer to people who have enough courage to break away from the status-quo, herd-mentality way of thinking.   Here is an article that Kit Pharo wrote describing the Herd Quitter mentality.  What is a Herd Quitter?

Last year I was fortunate enough to travel with Kit on our first Marathon Herd Quitter Tour. Our Herd Quitter meetings were about challenging people to think outside of their normal traditional practices – challenging the Status Quo.  We had 7 meetings in 6 days covering Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.  Kit described profitable ranchers as ones that make the most efficient use of their available resources. He gave the three keys to profitable ranching.

  • Planned Rotational Grazing
  • Matching Production Cycle to Forage Resources
  • Matching Cow Size and Type to Forage Resources

If you think you may enjoy this kind of discussion, you are in luck. Pharo Cattle Company is sponsoring  TEN meetings in SEVEN days in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri.  Kit’s presentation will be entitled Ranching for Profit in the 21st Century.  These meetings will be FREE and open to the public. There is NO need to RSVP.  I promise you will not be disappointed. Kit is a very good speaker and his Herd Quitter message is not only challenging but logical.  Stay tuned and next week I will give all the locations and time for the Herd Quitter Meetings.

I have some Herd Quitter Stickers. If anyone would like a sticker contact me.

Herd Quitter Stickers

Herd Quitter Stickers

Rotational Grazing Corn Circle Residue

December 20, 2012

I will start my first post off with some grazing pictures and techniques that I am using while winter grazing.  My goal is to be a Low-Input rancher and Planned Rotational grazing whether it be in the summer or winter can help me accomplish this.

If you have attended one of our Herd Quitter meetings or ever heard Kit Pharo of  Pharo Cattle Company speak he presents three keys to Profitable Ranching. Planned Rotational grazing is the first key to Profitable Ranching.  By rotationally grazing corn circle residue I am trying to make the most efficient use of the forage that is available to me.  This is part of my journey to being a Low-Input producer.

My winter grazing consist of residue left over after harvest on corn circles.  I generally start in October and run on them until February weather permitting.  Most every one fences the perimeter of the circle which generally is 120 acres and lets the cows have access to all acres.  I have grazed this way for many years.  This year I finally decided rather than talking about it I would actually do some rotational grazing.

Here are 2 simple tools I use to accomplish my rotational grazing.

This is my O'Brien 3:1 gear ratio real.  The spool will hold 1640' of twine.

This is my O’Brien 3:1 gear ratio real. The spool will hold 1640′ of twine.

Pigtail Step-In Post

Pigtail Step-In Post

Pretty simply right.  I am only dividing the circle into quarters right now.  You can get as intensive as you want to be.  It takes me less than 20 minutes to put up or take down.  Right away I see the benefits of rotational grazing on corn circle residue.

  • Cows will have a more balanced diet.  This will eliminate and/or reduce the need for protein supplement.  I think calving in synch with nature can be a  bigger player for eliminating added supplements.  I will post some pictures and benefits of calving in synch with nature while many of you are winter calving in the snow.  For another post.
  • Better utilization of residue.  When they are allowed to graze the entire circle they first search out all of the corn.  Then about half way through the grazing period of the circle the cows will begin to act unhappy and be stuck with leaves and husks.   As I watch them in this rotational system it is like an invisible fence, they will rarely go back to the previously used paddock.
  • An added bonus it looks like I will get a couple extra grazing days.  Any extra grazing days I can get will be very valuable.
  •  The cows just seem to be more content.  Simple as that.
Top left of the center pivot has been grazed

Top left of the center pivot has been grazed

Can you tell which is the grazed vs new paddock?

Can you tell which is the grazed vs new paddock?