Wednesday, April 11, 2007

British White Cattle and Early Spring in East Texas

Well, it is time I got back to blogging and sharing what's happening here at the ranch with my herd. (and to Taylor and Alana, all the photos can be clicked on and enlarged. . . and of course you both are so up on things, you no doubt realize that!) It's Springtime, and it is looking to be a beautiful Spring here in East Texas. We did have a quite odd Easter, with Easter morning requiring one to hide Easter eggs beneath a thick layer of sleet from the night before, we even had lots of snowflakes the evening before! Butt, Taylor's Mom, Catheryne, hid some candy filled eggs for Taylor and Alana in the house late morning and they had quite a hunt.

My niece, Taylor, and her friend, Alana, were thrilled with the change in the weather and the snow and sleet, having nothing on their minds but the uniqueness of the experience -- which we all should, how boring if the days and months of the seasons of the year were always the same. I realize it creates difficulties for many, these odd turns in the weather, but all the same it is our life, and without these seasonal changes and oddities . . . I don't know, I think I would miss them. I spent most of the winter indoors on essentially numbers and book work, and felt like I'd missed the winter;this last bit of winter suddenly appearing in the Spring made me happy, and certainly ready to let it go and get on with the Spring. Taylor and her good friend, Alana, really enjoyed the weekend 'joy-riding' as they termed it in my new Ranger, but judging from the quite apparent track through the center of my best back pasture that ends with a few berms that lead down to a ravine, (no doubt quite fun to roar through) they will not be having free reign with the Ranger in the coming seasons until they realize the damage they can do.

Besides buzzing around in the Ranger, the girls took turns trying to blow an old horn made from a cow's horn, or maybe a bull, who really knows! The photo above is of Alana giving it one last try on the Eve of Easter with the weather turning very windy and cold. The cows were coming up for a look and a listen, not accustomed to hearing the quite odd sounds Alana managed to make with the old horn. The next picture is of Taylor, suited up in my coveralls again (and yes, I'd dearly love to find some feminine coveralls from someone manufacturers please listen!) We newby cowgirls would like to have a more ....feminine and better fitting coverall for cold days working the cows! And even some very light weight ones for the summer....

Note how Taylor is able to approach this two day old calf without it's dam, who is just to the right in the photo, having not any problem with Taylor's approach and touching of the newborn, beyond being . . .watchful. That's what is so wonderful about this breed, their trusting and docile nature. This particular cow is actually a British White half blood, her dam was an excellent registered black Angus cow who would have done much more than appear to glare a bit at Taylor's approach or touching of her calf -- her Angus dam would have knocked you down.

My newborn calves weathered the cold sleet quite well and all were fine on Easter morning, with one cow, J.West's Madison, calving late that morning just in time for Taylor and Alana to see the newborn bull's birth before they left to spend the rest of that special day with their families. We didn't have the camera going, one of those moments when running back to the house seemed the wrong thing to do, we might all miss the big event, but the girls were able to watch from a close distance, and were quite enthralled to witness their first complete birthing of a calf, and Madison the cow was quite fine with her audience.

The following photo is of J.West's Wanda Mae, an outstanding heifer, who found herself a cozy spot in native clover and wasn't much interested in moving with the rest of the herd, including her mama, through this pasture to the next pasture this past week. I think the heavy native clover growth must surely be due to all the rain this area has had the past several months, and perhaps as well to my haying of the cattle on this once red muddy hilltop these past few years, adding much needed organic matter to the soil -- as well as scraping top soil from other areas and spreading it somewhat thinly across the surface a few years back. The combination of those efforts and this very wet Spring seems to have paid off.

If I could post a video or photo that allowed you to smell the sweet scent of this pasture of clover I would. It has been quite a beautiful early Spring pasture, buzzing with the hum of bees and smelling like Spring. It's all the more amazing to me knowing that it was nothing more than a barren red hill top a short 4 years ago. The prior owner had scraped this hilltop completely down deep into the clay soil that lies beneath the sandy layers of usually about 3 to 4 feet. It has taken much time to bring this pasture back to productivity, and this Spring has seen it at it's best for certain.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

This British White Cow By the Name of Beauty Looks to be Asking, Just Where Have I Been?

The past weeks have been busy with Holiday commitments and now a TxDOT deadline for a ROW acquisition looms that seems to occupy all of my time. Mike snapped this picture today of a British White cow that's been called Beauty since pretty much the day she arrived. She's one of ten of my first British White yearling heifers, and she looks like she's not just real happy with my lack of attention of late. That's her bull calf standing behind her. Beauty is the Dam of Mazarati, the bull running with my big herd right now, so she's hanging out with my Spring '06 heifers in the north pasture beside the house.

Hope that Christmas and the New Year were enjoyed by all, and Sincere Wishes to everyone for a great 2007.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Have a Great Square Hay Feeder Now - With More on the Way

Take a look at this square hay feeder. I keep wanting to call it a square 'hay ring'! Maybe I'll just keep calling it that instead of trying to call it a square hay feeder. Anyway, it's great. It's built extremely well, great craftsmanship, nice and heavy, but not too heavy. The cows left little waste behind after their first try with eating a nice bale of alfalfa, and I was happy to see that.

If you'd like one of these hay......... feeders, check out this link for Avery Welding in Pennington, Texas. Brian and Vicky Avery are nice folks and the Avery's have been welding reliable farm and ranch hay rings, gates, and more for a few generations and it shows in the quality products they fabricate.

I'll be posting a photo of the cows feeding at the 'ring' -- can't help it, ring just seems to be the right word -- after I get in a few more of them. Right now, all the cows mob this one, and it's pretty impossible to get a good photo of the cow's feeding. I'm putting some higher grade alfalfa in this ring, and it was a good choice, as it has done it's job of containing waste and resolving the dilemma of putting a square bale in a round ring and providing good access to the hay for a maximum amount of hungry cows.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

British White Cattle - Let's Keep "Chasing" Pursuit of Hard Data to Present to the Beef Industry

As British White breeders we daily face lack of acceptance in the mainstream Beef Industry as our cattle are white hided and haven't been the subject of University studies. We are likely perceived by some in the beef industry as "chasing" a goal that is unwanted or unnecessary as there are some closed-minded industry perceptions about what works and what doesn't when it comes to beef breeds and beef production, and know-it-alls such as described in the article excerpt below, think they. . . know it all.

As British White breeders we know we have cattle with excellent maternal traits, fertility, hardiness in wide ranging climates, calving life longevity upwards of twenty years, well set udders that withstand the rigors of years of suckling calves without "falling down", excellent carcass quality, genectically gentle dispositions, and more. But, we do need to pursue or "chase" documenting those outstanding qualities through some or all of the following -- Conscientious recording of growth trait data such as weaning weights and yearling weights; establishing Ultrasound Guidelines for the breed and pursuing the capture of yearling bull and heifer carcass ultrasound data by certified technicians; adding to the growing pool of DNA data for the currently identified markers for Marbling and Tenderness; establishing an annual Feedlot test for crossbred and purebred feeder steers and heifers; seeking out Bull Performance tests in our local areas for our bull candidates.

The following is an excerpt from "CAB Cattle Update: The “C” word". Click the Title link above for the text of the whole article.

". . . It’s usually better to lead than chase cattle, but one calorie-counting authority estimates a moderate walk in non-strenuous cattle chasing burns 238 calories per hour for a 150-pound person. At that rate, it would take more than three hours to walk off a Big Mac.

You may be thinking of another idiom: cut to the chase, or get to the point.

Some beef industry pundits proclaim ideal pathways for all logical producers. Dissenters are deluded and must be “chasing” something.

You can sense the judgment and condemnation in the cliché warning, “don’t chase single-trait selection.” It’s such an obvious no-no that the only surprise is that we keep seeing the warning. There is usually an agenda, such as to imply that if you so much as include some popular trait, you are off on a rabbit trail. If you know the phrase at all, you know it’s like saying, “don’t chase your tail.”

Some intense cattlemen lash out with the “c” word. They may include their goals and aspirations, which never include so much as a stray glance at what they own as a senseless pursuit. However, those who see things differently are condescendingly lamented as chasing an illusive and impractical dream.

The most chased-after end seems to be genetic selection that would add value to the beef we sell to consumers. One might as well chase ping-pong balls or a cure for cancer. Critics include the range of those who see any attention to post-weaning traits as silly, to those who see it as a noble, if impossible dream.

When the rhetoric starts flying, a critic may deplore “chasing” something or other. He will usually balance that by pointing out the further errors of “ignoring” and “sacrificing” other things. The implication is that those slighted pursuits are at least as worthy as that being chased after, but the chaser is too blind to see.

It all boils down to bias in the critic. Look at their cattle, their field of study, perhaps their life’s work. They may not realize their bias or the condescending nature of their chase to enlighten others. Or, they could be using loaded words in a calculated manner to sell something. . ."

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Square Bales in a Round Ring - Not Quite a Fit! For People or For Hay..........

Southeast Texas just had a few days of temperatures reaching the freezing point, seems unusual for this time of year, but fortunately no pipes burst and the ice in the troughs was minimal, but then lately I've got water leaks on what seems a daily basis, that's surely as effective at preventing pipes from bursting as setting a faucet on drip!

I've been feeding alfalfa as a supplement for my British Whites some years now, but it was only this past winter that had me wishing for square hay feeders. Prior to last winter I fed the alfalfa in flakes on top of their round bales of coastal and that worked fairly well. But last winter saw a shortage of hay and the coastal I had lined up didn't work out. With greed running rampant in the hay business, the price of good coastal hay per bale plus delivery to my place was equal to and sometimes more than the cost of shipping in cow grade alfalfa from Nebraska. Thus I chose to ship in nothing but alfalfa last winter, and my cattle thrived like no other winter.

Shipping costs ran higher this year, but the total out of pocket cost per ton for Dairy Quality alfalfa was still equal to or less than buying a decent quality 20% protein grain by the ton in 50 lb bags. So this year I'm feeding coastal baled from my pastures as well as crabgrass hay out of Louisiana, and providing alfalfa as their supplemental protein, but feeding it by the bale rather than topping round bales of regular hay forage with the alfalfa.

As you can see from the photo , the big alfalfa squares barely fit into my rings and I have to bust up that middle once they've eaten down enough of it to make it doable -- to make the hay accessible all around the feeding area of the ring (also, these girls are getting alfalfa from last summer that went through a 20 plus inch flood, thus the dark bottom side that you see!). I'm hoping a welding shop in Pennington will be able to make some square feeders for me. I've looked around online and most of what I find is very very heavy square hay feeders from up North that look more functional as stationary objects in a feedlot, which will not work here. I try to move the haying area all around my pastures to avoid excessive manure build up, and follow up with busting up the manure with a drag harrow. In the second photo you can see the adjoining pasture where my big herd is being fed and that it's time to move their hay rings to fresh ground. I try not to feed more than twice without moving the rings to clean ground, and so really heavy feeders aren't practical.