Monday, December 31, 2012


Best Wishes for a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


Fall 2012 Carter Sired Calves from El Presidente Daughters

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Pair of Champions - British White Steer and His Showman!

British White Steer at 2012 Fort Bend County Fair in Rosenberg, Texas

Grant and British White Steer - Titus - Fort Bend County Fair
September 2012 - Both of these boys are champions. . . .

We all learned recently that the BWCAA board voted to award a monetary premium to kids who show British White animals and win champion in their class.  I have to say I find it a bit of an underwhelming and an ineffectual token effort at supporting or promoting the breed.  The fact is most kids take a huge risk of their time, effort, and money to show a British White heifer or steer.  So far as I'm concerned, these kids who stubbornly stick to their guns with their Ag teachers and parents and 4H advisers who vehemently counsel them NOT to choose a British White -- those kids ought to get an award of financial help from the BWCAA, not just a breed champion winner.  These kids are WINNERS simply by virtue of stepping out of the box and showing a British White animal!

Grant is just such a winner.  Grant took a grassfed steer out of the pasture and turned him in to a beautiful shining example of the breed.  Titus had been long since weaned, probably a good four months, and turned out to winter hay and alfalfa rations.  His counterparts in this steer competition most likely all came from grain backgrounding programs aimed at pushing their growth before they were even off their dams, halter broken at a young age, and made available as show steer possibilities right from the jump.  So that difference in background feeding was an enormous hurdle that Grant and Titus had to overcome and it was quite a challenge.  As for halter breaking - Titus was awesome about that, and Grant was quite happy with the ease of working with him and by all accounts Titus just loved all that attention. 

Titus was an American Fullblood sired by J.West's El Presidente and his dam was J.West's Brigit, a King Cole daughter.  While Titus did not place, the judge couldn't find a criticism to make of him that I could hear - except to say he would be a top contender in the group if he had had 60 more days of finish on him.  The judge did not even acknowledge that Titus was a British White!  Perhaps he did not know.  Hmmm....... Is that lack of breed awareness or respect my and my fellow small breeders' responsibility or fault?  Or is it the Association's lack of support in promoting our breed to the mainstream cattle industry?  If they don't find the cattle worth the monetary risk of supporting and promoting them - who will?

Titus in April 2012 at the School Barn
So far as I know there are no wealthy individual members who can hire a marketing firm for promotion and education or single-handedly orchestrate a steer test or British White show and sale for the benefit of all members and the breed.  And for certain, we small breeders can yak all day long about how awesome we find our British White cattle, put up nice web sites, take good photos, give away meat from our freezers, even practically give away bulls to get someone to try the breed - but that doesn't cut it in the long run because it is not data - real data - on the merits of the breed - and cattle are business - and successful businesses operate on supportable facts - not the fairy dust of words or opinions.  

Below is a video of Grant and Titus' big day at the fair. This was Grant's first effort at raising and showing a steer.  He learned a great deal in the process, and I did as well, as he kept me abreast of the feeding regimen and weight gain as things progressed, as well as shared lots of amusing stories of Titus' good-natured antics.  I was very proud of him and his steer.  Grant didn't get Titus until late in the game, and that no doubt contributed to the lack of finish the judge observed, and I didn't help any by trying to get Titus transitioned to grain from grass a bit too fast.  That was a disaster to say the least, and Titus looked woefully thin and not at all a show contender.  Despite how pathetic Titus looked when Grant picked him up, I think he and I both hung on to the picture of him in our minds of how he was just weeks before and what he could be.    

Youngsters like Grant with a strong passion for the breed who resolve to show them against all odds and advice are the future of this breed - and each one should be applauded and awarded for their efforts.  And no doubt devoted Mom's like Grant's mother, Darlene, would certainly appreciate the acknowledgement of the very special grit and determination of their kids who insist on showing a British White.

Back to this new premium for showing winning registered BWCAA animals - I would also add that most kids will only ever be able to receive the lowest "premium" of $100 that is designated if "breed consists of 1 animal" and they are blue ribbon winners by default, as you will rarely find a show with more than one British White animal.  And further, the fair authorities would have to give you your own breed category!  Of course, if it is one heckuva steer or heifer, perhaps they might when "Champion Other Breeds" - one can always hope.  And also, I noticed it had to be a State Fair.  What's up with that?  Showing starts at the ground up, just like a political race, and it would appear the smaller county fairs that lead up to State Fairs just don't cut the mustard.  Unfathomable....

If the BWCAA can afford to waste about $2K on a useless and wholly unnecessary compilation and review (there is no such thing as a "review audit") and now another $2K? on officer's liability insurance each year - then surely our BWCAA member fees can be allocated a bit more generously to these FEW youngsters across the USA who stubbornly take on the world to show their British White steers and heifers.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

British White Cattle Mugs, Shirts, Cards, Magnets and More - Unique and Original

British White Cattle Originals - Unique Gift Items

I have created lots of British White items on with cow photos, particularly my old Wanda Mae, an outstanding British White cow.  Below are a few examples of the items available, and I hope to have more in the future, so be sure and check back!

You can visit the shop at !!!  Thanks for having a look and let me know if you are happy/unhappy with the products, have suggestions, etc...

British White Cattle Herd - Large Mug
British White Cow Herd Behind the Fence - Mug Available on CafePress

British White Cow - Color #2 Large Mug
British White Cow  - Large Mug Available on Cafepress

British White cow at Pasture - #3 Women's T-Shirt
British White Cow T-Shirt Available on Cafepress

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ancient Kuri Cattle of West Africa & and the Park Color Pattern

This quite powerful and stunning image made me gasp and my jaw dropped with a stunned 'OMG'.  It was kindly sent to me by Andrew West of Cornwall, England.  Andrew tells me in regard to the caption for this image ". . . roughly translated it says they are `Gehornte Kuri-Rinder from the Buduma Area of West Africa`.

Kuri-Rinder from the Buduma Area of West Africa

If ever there was a photo or painting that made one immediately think of the kinship between the ancient auroch and both the polled and horned white Park cattle of today - this one would be it.  The distinct color pattern - which is commonly referred to as the Park color pattern by geneticists today - is a color pattern found across the world in highly distinguished breeds of great antiquity and tradition.  The Kuri is clearly another such breed, and I am pleased to have had it brought to my attention.

These Kuri Cattle have a quite mild demeanor (they are used for both milking and beef) about them in the image above and look to be moderate in size.  The average birth weight of Kuri calves is just over 50 pounds, with the females weighing about 950 lbs. Their horns are reminiscent of the depictions of the skeletal remains of aurochs.  Note the very large diameter of the base of the horns in this skeletal image.

Aurochs bull at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen from 7400 BC

 cattle are predominantly white although various colours are often present. Kuri owners seem to have a general preference for white breeding bulls. The distinguishing characteristic of the Kuri breed is its horns: they are immense, consisting of a lightweight fibrous material with a spongy interior and a very thin external shell."  (The unique Kuri cattle of Lake Chad BasinNtombizakhe Mpofu and J.E.O. Rege,  2002)
Today the predominant cattle type in Africa is Zebu based, or bos indicus. But -- it is widely held that the indigenous cattle of Africa were bos taurus.  DNA studies of a wide variety of cattle breeds in Africa, including the Zuri, confirm that the Zuri is in fact of bos taurus descent.
"African cattle are believed, from prehistoric artistic representations, to have been Bos taurus (taurine) in morphology. . . The indicine (bos indicus) allele was observed in all West African breeds (including taurine breeds like the N’DamaMuturu, Somba, Kapsiki and Namchi) except the Kuri and shorthorn Lagune breeds." ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)
The Zuri apparently have a unique adaptation to their native hot and humid environment.  They are excellent swimmers and often are led across portions of the waterways of Lake Chad by their herdsmen to reach new grazing areas, even grazing in water to eat fresh grass or sea grass, that tops the surface.  Their horns, while being massive and distinctive, are actually quite light in weight and thought to be an adaptation to their native environment of many thousands of years.
"Although the horns are generally very light, approximately 1% of Kuri cattle have such heavy horns that their heads are, to some extent, tipped up by the weight. It has been suggested that, by tipping back the head, the weight of the horns keeps the nostrils out of the water when swimming. The bulbous base and spongy interior of Kuri horns are assumed to be an adaptation to aid buoyancy when swimming. Some selection within the Kuri has resulted in other horn shapes such as lyre- or crescent-shaped horns."   ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)
"In the dry season, the animals follow their herdsmen in swimming through the waters from island to island in search of waterweeds as feed . . . There are tribes who move their cattle to upland areas during the peak of the wet season and return them to the lowlands in the dry season . . . Animals are generally divided into transhumant and non-transhumant herds. The latter are comprised of lactating cows (and their calves) which are left to provide milk to the children and older people who stay behind to fish and farm. Transhumance is, however, limited to the environs of the lake, probably because of the susceptibility of the Kuri to sunlight and heat and its limited ability to trek long distances."  ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)

I've read lots and lots of old articles from the early to mid 19th century and beyond that debated the notion, or myth, that the horned white Park cattle (primarily the Chillingham herd) that roamed the British Isles were actually some how a singularly pure and direct descendant of the 'auroch' race -- aurochs being the original truly wild and very large beasts that inhabited Europe, Asia, and Africa.   That old myth has been well debunked in the 21st century.  Even so, the color pattern was clearly present in both the European and African auroch.

The Zuri quite beautifully exhibit the Park color pattern, and particularly the recessive red that was the subject of the greatest portion of the first recorded European oral and written histories that reference both the milk-white polled and horned examples of white cattle bearing the Park color pattern.

Cave Painting in Lascaux ,France - c. 15,000 B.C.
I've run across representations of cave paintings over the years that included illustrations of white beasts, speckled beasts, and black ones with a white line down their back - which, as discussed in a February blog, has long been known as the Riggit pattern.  What I never realized is those cave paintings are considered to be drawings of the auroch - so I deserve quite a thump on the head for missing that!

Cave Painting in Lascaux, France
You can see in this first photo that the aurochs represented in this French cave painting are white, with darker noses, and actually speckled as well.  And this next one also shows a white speckled auroch, along with a horse and some other type of small animals which are portrayed as brownish in color.  The ears and nose are distinguished as a different color in both drawings, and in the first drawing you can see that the legs are dark - quite like both the horned and polled Park cattle of today.

In 2010 it was reported that an experiment had commenced to attempt to re-create an auroch from breedings amongst those modern day domestic breeds considered to be most representative of the auroch.  In this article from The Telegraph we are told that the Highland of Britain and the ". . . white Maremma breed from Italy," are two of the breeds being used in this experimental "back-breeding".  If you do a web search for images of the Maremma breed, you get results with both white examples and grey examples of this breed, also two different spellings:  Maremma and Maremmana .  Here is a photo of a "white Maremmana" . . . 

Maremmana Cattle
White Maremmana - by Amenon on Flickr

The inclusion of the white Maremma in this experiment certainly indicates that the scientific community considers the Park color pattern to be one of great antiquity that indeed was found in the indigenous aurochs of prehistoric times.  But then, I would think that most every basic, or root, coloration of modern day domestic cattle would track back to ancestral aurochs . . . What I find sad, inexplicable, and irritating is that clearly the milk white auroch of prehistoric times --  as well as the milk white cow of modern recorded history  -- were both highly revered back in days long long gone . . . NOW, they are generally found undesirable here in the USA by the commercial cattle industry . . .  thanks in large part to the promotional success of Certified Angus Beef  and the dominating USA demand for black hided cattle.

The future of British White Cattle continues to be in the hands of largely hobby farmers in the USA.  Their owners are captivated by their beauty and uniquely gentle natures, and of course the quality of the beef.  If you would like to help promote greater awareness and acceptance of polled British White Cattle in the mainstream cattle industry  - visit  the United Kingdom's British White Cattle Society web site for additional information.
Lascaux Cave Painting, France

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cattle of Texas - 165 Years or so ago . . .

This letter from President Sam Houston was printed Jan. 1846 in the American Agriculturalist & the Rural New Yorker, Volume 5.  I've included the two recipes that appended the page where I found this letter - just in case any reader is trying to decide what to whip up for dinner........

Indian Cakes.—Boil some corn meal, as mush, for five or six hours; then mix it as a batter, and add some wheat flour to make the cakes hold together and turn easily; and two or three eggs, with salt to season; bake on the griddle till brown.
Mush.—It is very common to make mush by boiling only a few minutes. This is all wrong. It should be boiled one or two hours, and if longer it will do no harm. It will be necessary to occasionally add some water to keep the mass thin and prevent burning.


"The following letter of President Houston was addressed to a gentleman in this city, and kindly handed us for publication. It is the best description of Texas Cattle we have yet seen, and we trust its publication may serve to call the attention of stock Breeders to this interesting section of our country.

Galveston, Texas, Dec. 1st, 1845.
No present to me at this time could have been more acceptable than a fine Durham, as it is my intention to carry out the object which first induced my location in this country—that of stock breeding. The present condition of our country, in consequence of annexation to the United States, will leave men free to pursue the more pleasing and profitable business of agriculture and herdsmen, than has been allowed for many years to our citizens, while under the various influences of excitement and uncertainty. Fortunately for us, we shall soon be at rest, when our natural facilities will be inquired into, and our resources developed, by those who have capital and possess enterprise.

   Doubtless no country on earth possesses equal advantages to Texas as a stock-rearing community. Stock here requires no feeding cither in summer or winter, and costs no trouble nor expense save marking and branding. Salting is not necessary, as salines or licks are in every part of the country; so that in fact, an ox weighing one thousand weight, or the most valuable cow, would not cost a farmer one cent in its rearing.

   Our prairies are clothed with the most nutritious grasses, sufficient for countless herds. Heretofore, the Durhams have not prospered in this country; but this, to my mind, is readily accounted for. They have generally come by water, and remained on the seaboard, where the insects are more numerous than in the interior; and where, too, the climate is not so congenial to the constitution as the rolling country, not only of cattle, but likewise of horses. Some Durhams have been introduced from Missouri, and remained in the interior, about one hundred miles from the seaboard, and they have done well.

   There is no good reason why blooded cattle or blooded horses should not do well in Texas, if proper care be taken of them the first year. The change of climate, from a northern to a southern latitude, will have an influence upon all animals, as experience has shown; this fact being known, should not be disregarded, while the animal is undergoing acclimation.  My opinion is, that November would be the most favorable month for the introduction of blooded stock, and that they should be fed on hay or corn-stalk fodder, with very little grain during the winter, and be kept sheltered. If this course were pursued, I am satisfied that there would not be more than one failure in twenty experiments.

Durham Bull, 1856, Purchase a Print Here
   The present stock of cattle in Texas is generally a mixture of Mexican, and cattle from the United States. They each show a distinctness of character. The Mexican (or Spanish) cattle are not so heavy or compactly built, but are taller and more active; nor do they weigh as well in proportion to appearance when slaughtered as the American cattle. They are more active than our cattle, with remarkably long, slim, and sharp horns : they are not so good for milk as ours. A cross of the breeds I consider an improvement, and for oxen decidedly so, for it blends the power of the American with the sprightliness and activity of the Mexican cattle. There is a fact in the natural history of Texas, which has heretofore claimed but little notice, and which seems to me not unimportant.

   When the first colonists, under Mr. Stephen F. Austin, arrived in Texas, they found herds of wild cattle on the Brassos and its tributary streams. There was no tradition of their origin, nor has anything satisfactory on the subject yet been ascertained. They have receded as the settlements advanced, and are now above the Falls of the Brassos (Brazos), and principally upon Little River. They are of a brindle or reddish color, and are represented by those best acquainted with them as more wild, and, when wounded, much more dangerous than the buflalo. The males have occasionally attached themselves to herds of tame cattle, and become very gentle. Calves have been caught by our pioneer settlers, and reared. The cross is said to be an improvement upon our common stock, imparting to their offspring an appearance, in color and proportion, of the wild cattle. The males I have been assured by hunters and other persons, are as large as the finest Durhams. I have seen work oxen, said to be half breeds, much larger than any others which have fallen under my observation in the United States or Texas.
Longhorn Cow in Texas - Wikipedia

   For years past I have endeavored to procure the full bloods; but in consequence of other duties I could not use the attention necessary to ensure success. I will now renew my exertions with increased interest, and I hope it will be in my power to produce a cross of the Durhams with the original Texas cow. Should I be fortunate in my efforts, I shall be happy to apprise you of the result."
Sam. Houston.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

British White Cattle for Sale in East Texas - Have a look at the Herd

Wow, talk about a drought busting stretch of rain!  It was odd to wake up this morning and realize the sound of thunder or rain on the roof had not woken me up all night - as that has been the norm for a stretch of days lasting almost a week.  Some days it seemed we were in the tropics, it would just gently rain and rain and rain all day.  I can't say for sure, but I think we've had at least 9 inches all together - our newly adopted dog decided to see how the rain guage chewed, so the only measure is from a 5 gallon bucket.  I do hope the rest of the country sees some relief soon from the drought, and maybe finds some hope in the pouring rains of the Texas/Lousiana coast that likewise suffered through drought last summer.

Here's a look at some very impatient British White cows, they had let me know a day or so before that they were somewhat irritated at the conditions in the adjoining pasture and were quite ready to move on - and they moved on in a hurry.  Can't say I blame them, the grass was looking mighty fine on the other side of the fence.

Most all the cow/calf pairs offered for sale are in this group.  If there's a particular cow in the video that catches your eye, give me a call, she may be available as well.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day's Long Gone -

No - It's Not a Pic of a Cow - Working on Finding
One That Would Be Appropriate!
I tend to recall this poem every summer about now, so thought I'd share it again . . . hope all those overwhelmed right now with drought conditions in the USA and around the world, have some relief soon and hear the welcome patter of rain drops on their roof tops.

Slip-N-Slide Junes

It’s hot as Hades in the noonday sun.
Sweat drips and runs and cuts through the dust
Of my reddened face, as my breath comes harsh
In the June heat that once was meant for fun.
I wipe my slick brow, my eyes sting with sweat --
and my hot mind rolls back to days long gone.
. . . in the days long gone of Slip-n-Slide Junes.

We slipped our bums down the wet yellow sheet -
no worries about a third degree burn.
Barefoot and bareheaded we ran through the woods,
no fear of a clearing causing scorch to our nose,
or our brains slow baking like a casserole.
Many miles we walked the neighborhood streets,
never a care that we’d blister our feet.

And mud-puddles! What a supreme delight!
Our bare feet splashing each puddle in sight!
Many’s the time we snuck soft out the door
While the thunder rumbled and the rain still poured.
Our giggles of joy, our screams at the glory,
seem a faint memory in the days long gone.

A rope we would string between two pear trees,
and a blanket we would pitch o’er the top.
And in our TeePee we’d camp for the night,
tell scary stories, play the old Ouija,
tryin’ our darnedest to stay up all night!
Seems a faint memory in days long gone.

Hot are the days, but as well are the nights,
like a smothering blanket of clinging heat -
a hot flash like yo’ Momma don’t need,
like an evil conjure from old Ouija.
It's hot as Hades in the noon day sun -
in the June heat that once was meant for fun.
In Slip-N-Slide Junes of days long gone.

Copyright ©Katie.Flippin 2010, All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thinking of Sprigging a new Pasture? Harvest Bermuda Sod with a Two-Horse Turning Plow Instead . . .

The health of pasture grasses this season, after the really hot late summer drought we had here, is a constant topic of conversation - even if only in my own mind with my own self.  I've seen lots more weeds this year, and some even look like new varieties to me, and some of the pastures are growing thinner stands of grass than last year.  I've been exploring having the back pasture plowed up and sprigged again with one of the new bermuda grasses.  But Ouch, it costs a lot to do, and I don't know that it can be justified except in a hay farming operation where irrigation is available - unless you are really good at predicting healthy spring and early summer rains.  Otherwise, there's lots of risk your money will go right down a dry drain.

Here's a look at an old-fashioned approach to establishing bermuda grass pastures in 1898 Mississippi. 
"You will find it growing well on the sandy soil of the piny woods, and on the red clay hills and on the black lands of the prairie belt.  Since Bermuda grass very rarely, if ever, matures seed in this latitude, the only safe method to propagate it is by transplanting the roots or the underground stems. This should be done in March.
After the land has been prepared as recommended above, then with a bull-tongue or narrow shovel plow open rows two feet apart. With a short spade shave off sod two inches thick; or, a cheaper and quicker method would be take a two-horse turning plow and set it to run shallow, and turn or edge up the sod.  
The sod can then be hauled in large pieces to the field and there be broken or cut into small pieces and dropped in the drill two feet apart, and covered with a light harrow;or, a better plan would be to go over the field with a heavy roller. This would firm the loose soil around the sod and at the same time level or press down the ridges left by the plow.  If the pieces of sod are entirely covered there will be no harm done - as soon as there is moisture enough in the soil the roots will take hold and the grass make rapid growth. In this climate Bermuda will furnish excellent grazing from the middle of May until the middle of November, and often as late as the middle of December."

From:  Winter and Summer Pasture in Mississippi, 1898, by Edward Read Lloyd

Here's a look at the cows in the back pasture a couple weeks back.  This pasture was once a dedicated hay pasture and received constant commercial fertilizers like clockwork in the growing season for probably 20 years.  It has been the poorest growing pasture for years now, and I have to wonder if it's not because of all that commercial fertilizer.  Cows never grazed the land to give it back more complex natural fertilizer, it just lived on N, P, and K. 


Friday, June 1, 2012

British White Cattle Association Annual Meeting in Snyder, Texas

Make plans to attend the annual meeting of the BWCAA on June 8th and 9th in Snyder, Texas.  Members and non-members alike are welcome to attend, and it is a great opportunity to learn more about the breed and meet breeders from around the country.  The BWCAA meeting events will be held at the Coliseum Ag Annex in Snyder.

The Western Swing Festival will be in full swing in Snyder that weekend as well, with lots of live entertainment and good food to enjoy.  For more information on the Festival visit . 

I'm hoping some rain will 'swing' our way while we are attending the Snyder meeting.  We're dry as a bone and the flooding rains of spring seem like a dream.  To remind me it was real, here is a video of the terminally low pond on our place.  It was brim full in April, the floating dock was actually floating for the first time in years.  Fortunately, it is still floating, but the pond level has dropped . . . . quite a few feet already.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cattle Are Sentient Creatures - And I wouldn't have it any other way . . .

J.West's Elsie Edna and J.West's Clementine, April 2012
Best Buddies, Born 4 Days Apart

There are times in this cow business when I find myself considering, fleetingly, becoming a vegetarian; when I keenly understand why some folks are so adamantly anti-meat.  Some particular event happens that makes me think a little deeper about the 'feelings' of my cows, or at least some of them.

I then mull over in my mind many of the fairly ridiculous stances of a lot of the extremist PETA types, most of whom no doubt have never stepped in cow manure or certainly never resuscitated a newborn calf -- but yet are emphatic that cows are 'sentient' creatures and therefore shouldn't be eaten.  Which leaves them in a sorry life in a zoo in some perfect future vegan world with zero meat consumption. Wait . . . That's also the FAO arm of the United Nations' long term plan! But I'm not going there this morning, discussing the FAO right now would give me a headache and make me nauseous, and my health care has already gone up 40% in the last two years, so I have to be careful not to go to the doctor, that might be an excuse to raise my rates another 20% next year. Oops, digressing . . .

Elsie Edna and Clementine, April 2012
I recently sent Elsie Edna and Clementine on to their new home in Oklahoma.  These two heifers are really bonded, more often than not found together, and I think would really have been traumatized to have been shipped off to separate pastures.  Eventually that strong tie they have now won't be so important, but at 2 years old the bond is still very strong.  Clearly, these two demonstrate that cattle are indeed 'sentient' creatures, as they have 'feelings' toward one another.

'had' two other heifers who were very much pasture buddies, born 7 days apart - J.West's Boopsie and J.West's Lassie.  Unfortunately, I never took a photo of the two of them together, but I do have a 'picture memory' of the two of them from last Sunday.  They both walked up to the cattle guard by the house, checked it out, looked at me, and presumably listened to me (okay probably not) when I told them not to walk that cattle guard.  But, they did promptly turn around and prance off together . . . and that's the last time I saw them alive and well.

Sunday night we were hit by the worst of thunderstorms and the lightning was very bad.  Boopsie and Lassie died under a grove of hickory trees, lying about a foot apart.  Fortunately, the rest of the cattle in that group were all fine, and so was every other pasture group.  I had moved this group in to the pasture by the house on Sunday so they could get shelter under the barn's big tractor shed, which they generally immediately do when the rain gets hard.  For some unknown reason they didn't this time.  The ground outside the shed was smooth and slicked off from the massive flow of water run-off from the barn roof (we had probably 11 inches or more of rain), so clearly the cows didn't exit the shed after the storm, they simply weren't there.

J.West's Boopsie in August 2011
Boopsie was Carter sired out of a Popeye daughter, bw 66 lbs.
Could it be something wasn't safe that night about the shed?  Oddly, when we finally got power back on Monday, all the power to the barns was still out, and that's never happened before.  Something caused the main breaker to all the barns to trip, and I have to wonder if it was a lightning strike directly to the barns or a hit to the ground around the barns.  They are metal pole barns, with tin roofs and walls of course, and I've not ever considered the possible danger to the cattle from being under a metal structure during severe lightning.  So far we haven't found a thing to indicate a strike on or around the barns, so it will remain a mystery.

J.West's Lassie as a newborn, her dam is J.West's Taylor Maid
Lassie was Carter sired with a bw of 37 lbs.
The sight of those two heifers lying dead and bloated under the hickory grove was a shocking sight.  Their walk to the cattle guard, their quizzical looks at me and down at the rails of the cattle guard, and that quite prancing turn and exit off to the pasture was all I could see in my mind, the contrast startling, the end of that life lying in the mud.  Rational or not, this became one of those moments when I question what I do, and think of the 'sentient' creature argument of vegans against eating meat.

But, even so, as the days have passed and I've thought about my own personal reaction to the loss of the heifers, I suspect it is me being too sentient of a human creature about my cows, or at least about some of them.  Yes, I do think cattle are 'sentient' creatures, many seem to make eye contact with us humans with something ticking in their brains and coming through their eyes that makes a total lie of the 'dumb cow' phrase for sure, could be their eyes are just so pretty I imagine it though.  Look at little Lassie pictured below - she had the sweetest eyes ever.  But sentient creatures or not, beef has been critical to the human diet since time out of mind.

J.West's Lassie, June 2011
So, I'll not be tossing out all the grassfed beef in the freezers, or turning the ranch in to a petting zoo, and for sure I also won't stop caring about the well being of my cows and trying to tune in to what they need in a 'sentient' way.  I'm glad I had that odd last encounter with Boopsie and Lassie; you have to wonder, or at least I have to wonder, about the timing of that and their death mere hours later.  I couldn't tell you one thing about any other cow or calf in that group from the afternoon before - just that picture memory in my brain of Boopsie and Lassie . . .

Yes, cattle are quite the sentient creatures, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 



Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter from J.West Cattle Company . . . and Happy Spring and Happy Ostera!

Happy Easter to Everyone!

Sandhill Cemetery's Oldest Unmarked Grave, cared for by
Colmesneil's Kenneth Brown, who planted the bluebonnets
 you see on the hillside.   (April 2012)
How fortunate we are that this most ancient and most revered celebration in the Christian world is still allowed to be celebrated publicly in the United States of America.

It actually strikes me as quite odd that it is still politically correct and unoffensive to say 'Happy Easter'.  I really can't imagine why we aren't already forced to say 'Happy Spring' - particularly in our public schools. 

Or has that already happened and I just don't know it?  In the pre-Christian era of the world, those happy heathens, the Anglo Saxons, celebrated spring by feasting to the goddess Ostera - so perhaps we could really trip up those spiritually bereft secularists by saying 'Happy Ostera'!  (FYI - Secularism Definition: ". . . a doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations.")

Perhaps the day is coming when we see politically unoffensive pagan festivals of the ancient gods and goddesses beneath a peaceful spreading oak tree in a farmer's cow pasture, or  beside the banks of a clear and beautifully flowing stream deep in the woods - all with a closely guarded secret of course - that it's a scam of the Highest Order - if you get my meaning? 

The mainstream media would have a field day with that - probably run massive news coverage with the headline:  Proof The United States is not a Christian Nation! or, Paganism Replacing the Pulpit!  Christian city dwellers could even camp out in the public parks for some pagan tree praying!  Hmmm, what would the media label them?  Occupiers!  Occupying for their right to worship nature . . . what conceivable argument could be found with that?  They would be hailed as 21st Century hippies who actually cleaned up their trash, and would likely be interviewed with fond tolerance on the Today Show or Good Morning America.

Below you'll find some really old sayings and superstitions about Easter that are amusing, but also informative.  I had no idea that getting my 'Easter dress' as a child was from traditions started hundreds of years ago; and certainly had no idea how far back the tradition of the Easter egg dates.  If I'd been asked that question, I'd probably have replied without much thought that it is likely something Americans got started - I've just never really thought about it.  Shame on me. 

Also, I've excerpted at the end a great deal from an 1859 printing of a 'Cyclopedia' on the topic of Easter.  I haven't stopped to check what a modern 'Encyclopedia' says about Easter, I just generally like to read the less politically edited versions of old topics.

Old Sayings that caught my Eye or Ear:

     If you find a little calf on Easter Sunday, keep it and raise it, for it will bring you a small fortune. (Darn, wish I'd known that several years back!  I've only ever had one calve on Easter, and I didn't keep the cow and calf!)

     On Easter Sunday blow a loud horn into the cattle-house, and as far as the sound is heard, so far it will wild beasts keep away for the year.  (Okay, I'm on board for this one, and will be blowing a fog horn through all the pastures!)

     Egg rolling on Easter day used to be practiced with the idea that the farm lands over which the eggs were rolled would be sure to yield abundantly at harvest time.  (I'm too old, not to mention clumsy, to do this one.)

Really old Red Oak Burned up by a Lightening Strike
 a few days ago; fortunately, no cattle were in the pasture - April 2012
     In Catholic times, in England, people used to put out their fires on Easter day and would relight them from a flint. It was thought that a brand from this fire was a sure protection from thunder storms.  (We might need to figure out how to accomplish a modern version of this custom!  Lightening strikes have been many and fierce this spring!)

"At Easter let your clothes be new, Or else be sure, you will it rue."  In many countries it is a very general custom to wear new clothes on Easter Sunday and it is considered bad luck to wear old clothes. In East Yorkshire is the saying, that the birds, especially rooks or "crakes," will spoil the clothes, unless the person wears something new on Easter day.  (I do look back fondly mostly at new dresses for Easter Sunday, mostly, as some of them were awfully stuffy and itchy . . . Note in East Yorkshire you wear new clothes or a bird might poop on you, but in Gloucestershire it was good luck if a bird pooped on your new bonnet!)

     It is lucky to put on a new bonnet on Easter day, and still more lucky if a bird leaves a mark on it. (Gloucestershire, England.)
In Devonshire, the maidens rise early on Easter morning to see the dancing sun and in the center of its disk a lamb and a flag.  In Scotland, superstition had it, that the sun even whirled round like a mill-wheel and gave three leaps. This unusual merriment of the sun could be seen in its reflection in a pool or a pail of water, the movement of which of course caused or strengthened the illusion.  An Irish woman declared that she had seen the sun dance for joy on Easter morning: "It gave three skips just as it came over the hill, for I saw it with my own eyes!"  (This is a very old belief, and maybe is the root of the modern day Sunrise Service on Easter?)

On Easter day the water is believed to possess many exceptional properties, peasants ride their horses into the water early in the morning to ward off sickness. Girls wash their faces with the morning dew, to improve their beauty. Water drawn with the stream and while the wind is due east, is supposed to have great healing virtue. Much importance is attached to rain or shine on Easter day:
"A good deal of rain on Easter Day Gives a crop of good grass, but little good hay."
     Who steps not barefoot on the floor on Easter day, will be safe from fever; and if you bathe with cold water on Easter day, you will keep well the whole year.  (I see no reason not to keep this tradition up, and it is so unseasonably hot these days a cold shower shouldn't be a problem at all!)

Vintage Easter Greeting Card - Quite Appropriate, and I have lots
of Newborn Kittens to Back that up - Need a Kitty Kat?
On the traditional Easter Egg: 
"The custom of the Christians to present Easter-eggs as a symbol of the resurrection, has been adopted from the peoples of the East, particularly the Persians, where the egg was since the most ancient times symbolical of creation, or the re-creation of Spring. In Christian countries the Easter-eggs were painted red in allusion to the blood of the Redeemer.
The usage of interchanging eggs at Easter has also been referred for its origin to the egg games of the Romans which they celebrated at the time of our Easter, when they ran races in an egg-shaped ring, and the victor received eggs as a prize. These games were instituted in honor of Castor and Pollux who came forth from an egg, deposited by Leda, after Jupiter had visited her in the shape of a swan.
Others allege that the custom was borrowed from the Hebrews who at the passover set on the table two unleavened cakes and two pieces of lamb. To this they added some small fishes because of the leviathan, a hard egg because of the bird Zig, and some meal because of the behemoth.
In some remote districts of France it is still customary for the priest of the parish to go around to each house at Easter and bestow on it his blessing. In return he received eggs, plain and painted.
In Italy an egg dyed scarlet like the cloak of a Roman Cardinal is carried by some for luck all the year round.
It is very unlucky to give away a colored egg that has been presented to you at Easter."

On the history of Easter as presented in 1859: 


"EASTER, the festival of the resurrection of our Lord, or the Christian passover. The English name Easter and the German Oitern have been supposed by some writers to be derived from the name of the feast of the Teutonic goddess Ostera (the goddess of spring), which was celebrated by the ancient Saxons in the spring, and for which the early missionaries substituted the Christian festival.

According to Adelung, both the English and the German words are derived from the old Saxon word otter, oaten, which signifies rising, because nature arises anew in the spring. According to the Mosaic law, the passover among the Jews was celebrated on the 14th day of the month Abib, afterward called Nisan, that is, within a day or two before or after the vernal equinox. The early Christians differed in regard to the time of celebrating Easter.

The churches in the West, taught, as they declared, by St. Philip and St. Paul, observed the nearest Sunday to the full moon of Nisan, without taking account of the day on which the passover was celebrated. The Asiatic churches, on the other hand, in accordance as they said with the tradition derived from St. John, followed the Jewish calendar, and adopting the 14th of Nisan as the day of the crucifixion, celebrated the festival of Easter on the 3rd day following, whatever day of the week that might be.

Saving occasional disputes, matters continued in this state until the time of Constantino, who had the subject brought before the council of Nice (A. D. 325). The question was fully discussed, and finally settled for the whole church by adopting the rule which makes Easter day to be always the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after March 21; and if the full moon happen on a Sunday, Easter day is the Sunday after.

By this arrangement Easter may come as early as March 22, or as late as April 25.—This sacred festival has been termed the queen of festivals; it has been observed from the very beginning, and it is celebrated in every part of the Christian world with great solemnity and devotion. The primitive Christians very early on the morning of Easter saluted each other with the words: " Christ is risen;" to which the response was made : " Christ is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon." The Greek church still retains this custom.

In nearly all Christian countries the recurrence of Easter has been celebrated with various ceremonies, popular sports, and superstitions. Among the best known is the English custom of making presents of colored eggs, called pasche or paste eggs, which were often elaborately ornamented ; and in a royal roll of the time of Edward I., preserved in the tower, appears an entry of 18d. for 400 eggs to be used for this purpose.

Colored eggs were used by children at Easter in a sort of game which consists in testing the strength of the egg shells, and this practice is retained in many places in England and the United States. In some parts of Ireland the legend is current that the sun dances in the sky on Easter Sunday morning. This was once a prevailing superstition in England also, which Sir Thomas Browne, the author of "Inquiry into Vulgar Errors," thought it not superfluous to declare unfounded."

For lots of old traditions and superstitions surrounding Easter and other events see:  Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Pg. 1515.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

British White Bulls - A Little Fighting, a Lot of Working, and a Bunch of Bull . . .

J.West's Elvis, British White Bull, March 2012
The past couple of weeks have been full of a lot of 'bull'!  I've had my three eldest bulls penned and handy for a few weeks now - handy for me to pen them, but also handy for them to quarrel and trumpet at one another, make big bull head sized holes in the so-called 'bull' fencing, not to mention dig holes along the fence line that could serve as small ponds.  But only one actual bull fight as happened.

Unbelievably, I actually left a gate open!  Me!  The neurotic gate closer and double chain it back even if you're coming back in just a few . . . I actually screwed up in a big way on that rule.  Below is a video of the latter part of a fight between Elvis and Tom Sawyer.  I shot the video with my cell phone after giving up on breaking it up by my puny presence and a leather whip - all my efforts were just irritating to them - and I felt like I might just get swatted like an irritating fly on their behind. 
J.West's Tom Sawyer, British White Bull, March 2012

About the middle of the video you can see them both pause and look up at the faint sound of the chain on a gate in the background.  Then they go right back at it, and Mr. Brown drives right up on them with the alfalfa truck.  It distracts Elvis mostly and the next thing I know he's almost getting himself flipped over by Tom.  I decided to be that irritating fly on Tom's behind again and maybe try to make that whip sting more like a hornet - and as quickly as possible, my imagination in over drive at the prospect of old Elvis getting stomped once he was rolled.  I popped Tom hard twice, he jumped back (and I jumped back!) and took off at a gallop to one of the open pens - I could hardly believe my eyes.


While Tom is the younger bull, it looks like Elvis must surely be the old and wise bull.  When you watch the video you see Tom pushing Elvis over a lot of ground.  Elvis is resisting, rather than being on the offense, which would be a lot more tiring I'd imagine.  I took current weights on all three bulls last week, and even with Elvis being underweight right now - he still outweighs Tom considerably. 

J.West's El Presidente, British White Bull, March 2012
Here are the results of weight and hip height measure on each bull:

Tom Sawyer, Hip Height of 50.5 inches, Weight of 1565 lbs, Mature Frame Score 2 Bull
El Presidente, Hip Height of 51.5 inches, Weight of 1745 lbs, Mature Frame Score 2.5 Bull
Elvis, Hip Height of just under 52.5 inches, Weight of 1715 lbs, Mature Frame Score 3 Bull

And here is a short video of working the bulls in the squeeze chute on my vet's first visit. Tom and El Presidente have been real good about being moved in and out of the chute - while Elvis, normally such a laid back dude, seems intent on letting everyone know he is still a Rock Star!  Elvis was also the lucky bull this breeding season, he's been with a large number of cows - Tom and El Pres have been on their own - so maybe old Elvis is just full of a lot of bragging 'bull'........

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cattle Economic Forecasting - Some Prescient Words from the Noble Foundation

J.West's Stella and her Tom Sawyer sired Heifer

The following is a full reprint of a Noble Foundation article published in September of 2008.  It certainly is pertinent to today's cattle business environment, I'd say even more so today than in the fall of 2008 -- and without a doubt the livestock industry is " . . . about as interesting as most of us can stand."  Cattlemen following the advice of Mr. Wells back in 2008, would have weathered the past year and more of Texas drought with less hardship to their bank account and their cattle herd.

Interesting Times for Cattle Economics (Sept. 2008)

by Robert Wells

"There is an old Chinese curse that says, "May you live in interesting times." The current era in the livestock industry is about as interesting as most of us can stand. I believe we are in the midst of a paradigm shift. The cattle industry of tomorrow will almost certainly look different than it has in recent years. During 2008, many ranchers did not apply the same amount of fertilizer as they have in the past. Thus, in combination with low rainfall, forage quality and quantity this fall and winter may be lower than in the past. The price of feed has increased by 20-25 percent compared to fall 2007; therefore, feeding the current herd size though the winter may not be economically justifiable.
So what can a rancher do to stay economically viable given the high input costs? Ranchers need to look at several aspects of their cow herd: mature cow size, milking ability of the cow and stocking rate.

Mature Cow Size:
There have been many articles written to advise ranchers that they may need to moderate the mature size of their cow herd. We should always match the cow with the environment and the bull with the market. If you are in western Oklahoma or the Texas Panhandle, the optimum cow for your operation will typically be smaller than a cow on a ranch in the southeastern U.S. If your stocking rate (without fertilizer) is in the double digits of acres per animal unit, you might consider using a moderate-framed (smaller) cow (i.e., less than 1,000-1,100 pounds). Using a calving-ease, terminal-cross, and performance breed bull could yield calves that will be 50-60 percent of the cow's weight at weaning.
J.West's MsRae and her El Presidente Heifer Calf

Milking Ability of the Cow:
If you have a moderate-framed cow, but she is a heavy milker, then her requirements are higher than those of a low or moderate milking cow. Granted, a heavier milking cow may wean a heavier calf, but if you have to supplement that cow to a greater extent for her to recover flesh before the next calving season, are you really making more money? A heavier milking cow has a higher maintenance requirement even when she is not lactating. Thus, she requires more forage and feed to maintain her body condition score.

Stocking Rate:
Stocking rates will have to be adjusted if you have changed fertilizer rates from previous years. This reduction should take place in September before the flood of open and old cows goes to market in the fall. October and November are typically some of the lowest priced months to sell a cow. With the high cost of feed, it will be difficult to economically support feeding all the cows if the herd is at a maximum stocking rate. Many producers will get to the first frost and then realize that they will be short on pasture and hay this year. We need to get out of the mindset that a particular ranch needs to have a specific number of head to support itself. If your current number of head requires a lot of inputs, the ranch may be more economical at a lower number of cattle with fewer inputs.
As input costs continue to increase, we may need to look back to our grandparents' era to see how cattle were raised before we had easy access to fuel, feed and fertilizer. With every change in the industry, new opportunities abound. Those who dare to venture out of their comfort zone are those who will stay in the business for years to come.
 By becoming more efficient today, you will have a better chance of weathering the storm."

Monday, February 27, 2012

British White Calves - A Look at Their Color

Last week I said I'd take a look at the color of my new calves out of Target on this week's blog.  Trying to reason out the why's of color is sort of an excercise in futility!  That said, as calving has progressed this past week, there really hasn't been a lot of surprises like I anticipated after the first few calves were born.  Target most definitely likes to make bulls, so far I've had only one Target sired heifer born, so there'll be lots of grassfed beef for sale here in the Spring of 2014!   Here's a look at some of them . . .

J.West's Target, son of Morgan
J.West's Morgan, daughter of Marie

Halliburton Marie

Target is a mostly blue-skinned bull sired by El Presidente, also blue-skinned, out of dam, J.West's Morgan, who has light speckling on her sides; and his granddam, Halliburton Marie, a Popeye daughter, had light speckling as well, practically identical to her daughter, Morgan.

This is a first calf heifer sired by Carter, J.West's Molly, whose own dam, Doc's Gal, and granddam Ms. Rae, and great grandam, CRAE 215G are all standard marked.  I was quite surprised to see this little guy present himself with these large splashes of black. 

Molly and her Target sired Bull Calf

This is a first calf heifer sired by Carter, J.West's Miss Marie, whose own dam, Merry Marie, is marked almost identical to her in color pattern.  Her grandam is also Halliburton Marie, pictured above, so she's a 2nd cousin to Target, and if any one of these three calves could have been expected to be speckled or spotted, it would be this calf. 

Miss Marie and her Target sired Bull Calf
J.West's Maude Rae with Target sired Bull Calf
This is Maude Rae, a daughter of Huckleberry Finn and CRae 215G, and an aunt to Molly above.  As Huck Finn has lots of spots, I might have expected her to have a very spotted calf out of Target if Molly did.  Not so, but he does have lots of black about the face, more than I generally see in my calves.  

J.West's Brigit 07

This is Brigit, a daughter of King Cole, who was a blue-skinned bull with speckling; and Brigit herself is quite blue skinned and lightly speckled, having very nice pigment in all the vunerable areas.  Her dam and grandam both have mostly identical markings, with distinctive neck and shoulder spotting.  Brigit's dam and maternal sister are pictured below.  This Target sired calf is very much like his dam, Brigit, but with some black about the face.
J.West's Blossum and J.West's Bountiful Brigit
Brigit's Target sired Bull Calf