Cows trailing in to eat. The snow visible on their backs is a sign that they are in good shape and have a layer of fat protecting them. If they were thinner the snow would melt as more body heat escaped.
Reading Bell of the Blogs latest post got me thinking. As an individual who is knowledgeable about certain aspects of the agriculture industry, what can I do to provide accurate information to people who don't know about our great industry?
This lead me to the idea that I love reading about people whose lives are different than mine. Someone from Hawaii could write 300 words about sitting on the beach and I would be enthralled and take their every word to heart. With that in mind I have decided to explain what my family does daily on our ranch.
I have time to do this because I have a desk job these days. But I have spent the better part of my life at our ranch, and it's what I love to do, so sharing the experiences should be easy. Furthermore, if you happen upon my blog and don't know about ranching, this will be the real deal straight from someone whose family has been doing it for multiple generations. Feel free to leave comments, questions or ideas.
First a little background information. My family is from the most rural part of Wyoming, on the eastern side of the state. Lets just say it doesn't get much more remote than where I'm from and it's wonderful there. Our closest neighbors are 2 1/5 miles away cross country. If you have to drive to their place its about 5 miles. It is 56 miles to the closest high school and about 200 miles to a Starbucks, Walmart or hospital.
We raise commercial cattle that are mostly Angus with some black baldies. We also raise commercial Rambouillet sheep. Ultimately we market pounds of beef and sheep raised. We work hard every single day of the year to take care of our livestock, our land and the lifestyle we live.
This time of year we spend a lot of time feeding our animals because the snow and cold temperatures increase their nutritional requirements. We feed hay and cake (not the birthday variety, please scroll down on the link to see the photo and info.) to ensure livestock get enough protein and energy to meet their daily needs.
We have special feeders on pickups, the hay feeder looks like this, that are used to feed and the entire process takes from seven or eight in the morning until noon roughly. Sometimes it turns into an all day event if something unexpected happens. While feeding we also check water, fix water problems and chop ice. We observe the livestock to make sure they aren't getting too thin and that each one is healthy.
If there is a problem we determine a course of action, such as increasing how much we feed. Much as humans can count calories to lose or gain weight, we can monitor how many pounds each cow is eating and how much protein or energy is contained per pound of feed. We can make adjustments to her ration based on the weather, her body condition or if she is nursing a calf.
One of the things that really baffles me is how animal activist groups call ranchers hateful people who don't care for their animals. My family spends more time with our cattle and sheep each day than most people spend with their pet. My dad and I have been known to sit on a hillside for hours watching the cows trail in to the feed ground, commenting on each one and taking note of anything we aren't satisfied with. We even have cows we call "cake munchers" because they will eat right out of our hand.
We want them to be healthy and happy and work hard to ensure they are. If we don't take care of them they won't perform and we will go out of business. There are a multitude of reasons for us to care for our animals, and we do care for and about them.
More on winter ranching activities next time.