Thursday, April 28, 2011

Springtime calf shots

Here are a few calf photos for you to enjoy as the week winds down. The first one is actually of the yearling heifers, but I liked it so much I decided to post it today also.

This post is linked over at Farm Friendly/Farmgirl Friday, at Verde Farm


My Easter weekend was wonderful. Saturday morning Holly and I dyed eggs. Sunday morning we went to a daylight, outdoor Easter service, followed by breakfast at our church. Sunday afternoon Kyle (the Easter bunny) hid the eggs for Holly to find.

Holly liked dying eggs, but was very frustrated that the crayon didn't show up when she drew on the egg...

She had fun finding eggs around the yard, and ended up having some help too.

Lots of help, and the kind that required a little supervision so they didn't take all the eggs.

We finally worked out a negotiation, and Emmie and Pearl were allowed one cracked egg out of Holly's basket.

Which was a big hit, and allowed Holly to continue her egg hunt without some stiff, short-legged competition of the canine variety.

While Holly enjoys hunting Easter eggs, she is no where near as into it as Kyle and I were at her age. We would practice for days, hiding the eggs for each other. It often snows in Wyoming this time of year, and following an incident where we came up one egg short, in the house, following one of our practice runs, all egg hiding and hunting is strictly an outdoor activity at our place.

These two were just fine with that, and thoroughly enjoyed racing around the yard with their egg.

Then they ate it...and it was gooooood!

"There's another bit down here somewhere!"

While this was all great fun, and wonderful family time, we all know, and focus on the fact that the real reason we celebrate Easter is because it's when Jesus died, and rose again.
Our pastor said a great statement during the daylight service that went something like, "Jesus died that we may be forgiven, and he rose again and lives so that we may have reason to live."
That's the true reason to celebrate this amazing holiday!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spaying Heifers

Friday we spayed some heifers. Spaying is when you remove the heifer's ovaries, so she cannot be bred. We do this with our heifers of inferior quality, thus preventing the bulls from being interested in her, and her being interested in the bulls. Feeders also like feeding these spayed heifers because they don't ride each other when they're in heat and are more focused on eating than reproducing.
My family has spayed our heifers we aren't keeping to breed most years. This year the high cattle markets are causing some people who would normally spay heifers to keep their lower quality animals and sell them as breeding stock. We still chose to spay the lower quality females, which included some purchased heifers that we don't know as much about as far as what kind of cows they would be or how big of calves they would have as first calf heifers. For our operation it's currently the best management decision for our non-replacement heifers.

Our neighbor also decided to spay his non-replacement heifers for the first time this year. He trailered them over to our house so the vet just had to make one stop. This is one of the management practices a vet performs for us.
The above picture also shows the problem that will be eliminated by spaying the females - see the very interested bulls? They won't care after the procedure is completed, and these females won't have to managed separate from all other yearling cattle.

Our neighbor ran the alley, and brought them down to the tub a few at a time.

Instead of standing in the tub, like I do, he would simply close it farther and stand on the outside.

Our other neighbor ran the single-file alley that leads to the chute, and the action on this day.

Once in the chute, the heifer was spayed, given a shot, tagged, and her tail was wrapped in duct tape to identify her as being spayed.

Here's how it looked from the alleyway. As with all things on a ranch, we tried to do things in the way that was easiest and fastest on the animals, and also time efficient.

The vet would dip her hand in this jug of lube between each animal.

And her assistant would disinfect and clean the tool used to spay the heifer between each animal.
There are multiple ways to spay heifers, and this was the first time we had seen this method. One older method was shave a square on the heifers side, then make an incision and go in and cut off the ovaries, then sew up the heifers side. This method was obviously pretty invasive, and took some time for the the heifer to recover from.
Another method we've had vets do is to go in vaginally with a tool that consists of a pipe within a pipe. He would line the pipes up over the ovary, then twist them, and snip it off. From there the vet would pull the tool back out and drop the ovary on the ground.

This vet used something similar to the last method, except with a slightly different tool, that acts like a pair of open scissors. Her's has an eye, that she slides over the ovary, then she pulls it against the wedge cutters (open scissors) and cuts it off, then simply drops it. We were concerned about the possibility of them reattaching, but she said that would take about 2 years, and by that time these non-replacement animals are typically in the food chain.
We much prefer these newer methods because they are so much easier on the heifers, and are a very minor procedure in comparison to the older methods.

She puts one arm in the heifers rectum to guide the tool she inserts in the heifers vagina. She is very careful and makes sure she has everything just right before actually cutting it off. If she were to mess up and cut the heifer's intestine, the heifer will die, and we will be calling her.

She pulled a couple out to show us, and here's one of them. I think in this picture it looks like tonsils. This isn't like a full hysterectomy in humans where everything is taken out as only the ovaries are removed.

Her assistant holds the heifer's tail out of the way, so she doesn't slap the vet with it. Having a female vet with smaller arms also made it easier on the heifers. Most just stood here like this girl, and it didn't bother them at all.

The vet brought official Wyoming blue tags, and had us tag each heifers for identification purposes after she was spayed. While we try to be as efficient as possible, nothing is done during the spaying process so the animals hold still for the vet.

Here's Kyle putting the tag in one's ear.

Each heifer was also given 10cc of Penicillin as a preventative measure against an infection from the procedure.

The shot is given in the neck because that's one of the best places to give a shot, and it's easily accessible.

Then the heifer is released, feeling none the worse for wear.

After they're all done, we turned them out with our replacement heifers, since their tales and blue tags clearly identify them as being spayed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Clerking a Hog Sale

On the weekend of April 9 I went to Basin to see the guy, meet his mother (I was nervous, and she knows my family) and clerk a club hog sale. It's that time of year in Wyoming, when 4-H and FFA kids are buying their sheep and hog projects for the year.
Well, I was doing good on getting photos of the happenings, up until the actual people started showing up and the sale started...oops.
We will stumble through with what I managed to capture, and I'll fill in the blanks.

Hogs were provided by two places - the guy and his brother being one (club hogs were one of his FFA projects, and now his brother is taking it over), and another local family. As the pigs were unloaded they were tagged to determine where they came from, washed, and sorted into a number of pens we put sawdust in.

The pens they were sorted into are on the right. The alleyway the girl is in was what was used to bring pigs into the sale ring.

On the far left are where the pigs were penned back. So, the whole system was in the shape of a big U, and worked really well. Pigs would come out of their pens, into the alley, from there to the sale ring, then into the return alley and into another pen.

Pearl and Emmie were there too, and Pearl was in the midst of the whole thing, as usual. Emmie was patiently waiting and seeking affection from strangers during all this. Seeing as how the guy is an auctioneer, we put on a live auction (yep, imagine that). Here he is getting the table and his speakers set up.

We set up straw bales and folding chairs for people to sit on during the auction. One of the things I thought was especially neat was he had the kids bid on the pigs, as opposed to their parents, and gave them plenty of time to make up their minds. It was cute to see how into it some of them got.
Pearl was also a big hit, as she spent the entire sale pacing the fence line of the sale ring, turning back (nipping/biting) any pigs that got too close. Had I not been so busy clerking, and stuck behind the table, I would have put an end to it. But, she wasn't barking, or being too aggressive with them, and the entire crowd found her quite entertaining.
A sale, and a show I guess.

And just like that, when you forget to take pictures, the sale's over and it's time to load out the pigs. Most were packed like this..and no, that's not his car.

Animal Abuse

I just finished watching the Mercy For Animals video depicting animal abuse on a Texas dairy farm, and was disgusted. This is by no means the norm in animal agriculture, and several questions were raised as the three minute video progressed.
First, if Mercy for Animals truly cared for animal welfare, why did they wait weeks, then release a video? Why didn't they immediately report the abuse to the proper officials, and end the abuse their undercover person/people witnessed? I know if I had seen some of those actions firsthand my immediate thought would have been making a positive change for those cattle, not producing a sensational video.
Second, as I just mentioned, what kind of Mercy for Animals person can stand there and participate in those actions? The one man with a video on him was speaking Spanish, and I wonder if he was paid off, or truly a member of this organization? Either way, if they were truly interested in the animal's welfare, there are a number of different actions that would have been far more beneficial to the actual animals than a video.
Third, the video ends with a solution - to practice vegetarianism, which will in no way end animal abuse. I would suggest a different solution - get to know farmers and ranchers and ask them questions. Learn about where your food comes from and the actual practices that are used by the vast majority of producers in the U.S. Go see them and their crops and livestock, I'm sure they would be happy to meet with you.
As a livestock producer it is extremely frustrating and sad to see these videos that are toted as common practices on farms and ranches. My family and every family I know put their animals first, regardless of weather, plans, events and other work. I encourage you to look at the entire picture and not take one sensational videos word for something - especially one where the so-called "merciful" people stood by, and possibly even participated in animal abuse simply to get footage.

You can find a number of ag-related links in this post that tell the true story of animal agriculture, and discuss the use of videos by animals welfare groups tell a false story about animal agriculture.

Crystal Cattle also did a post on this subject, and provided a number of links as well, you can check that out here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Where I'm From

I spent the first 4 years of my life in this old farmhouse, located smack dab between Sundance and Upton, on the edge of the Black Hills.
I turned in across the highway from this landmark in my life on the way to conduct interviews yesterday, and couldn't help but stop and admire it for a couple seconds.
The upstairs window you can see was my parent's bedroom, and my brother and I shared the other bedroom located on the opposite side of the upstairs floor.

My family leased the place, and that's how we came to live there. We hayed the meadows, and would trail our cows to and from the home place, located a few miles beyond the pine trees in the left of the photo, two times a year.
Wasps would burrow into the carpet to stay warm in the winter, and would regularly sting Kyle on his way to bed (how I missed being stung is something I do not understand, but am nonetheless grateful for)
We learned to ride here, took toboggan rides in the winter and played in the creek in the summer. I burnt my hand really bad on the lawnmower exhaust pipe once, and more than a couple cows got out on the highway.

My uncle still leases part of if, and based on my best driving by and snapping a photo guess, these are his heifers.
It was a great place to live as a little kid.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Weekend!

A little bit of randomness for your Friday...
I am heading home, with the guy (interesting, fun, and descriptive term of reference to come...if I can think of one that does proper justice), to introduce him to the parents and help work a few yearlings tomorrow morning.
My new roommate for two weeks, and tenant after that, moved in last night and we got everything solidified, and I am super-excited/relieved/happy/breathing normally again now that I can check getting my house rented off the to-do list. Renting it to a great ag-gal who is really nice and lots of fun is just a great big bonus in my opinion.
I'm starting to feel my age again, and am just so thankful for how well everything is falling into place this month!
They do not make enough caffeine for months like this, or chocolate.
I enjoy architecture immensely, and as a result find myself snapping pictures of it from time to time. The above picture is a result of one such instantaneous whim to take a picture of an old house.
I know it's not exactly straight, but try as I might I couldn't get it to look "perfect" as far as straight goes, and finally decided to just leave it a little off kilter, and try to convince myself it adds to the run down, dilapidated state it's in.
I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, April 11, 2011

A New Leaf

Things are changing rapidly in my life at the moment.
Last Monday I gave my month's notice at the Roundup, and will be leaving April 30. There were a number of factors that played into the decision, and while I will miss a lot of things about the job, this definitely feels like the right move for me at this point in life.
What am I going to do is typically the next question asked, and what a good one it is. For the next couple months I will be home, helping get a few necessary things caught up on the ranch-God bless my family for offering that opportunity!
During that time I am also planning to get my photography business off the back burner and into focus again, and am going to pursue some freelance/correspondent writing opportunities as well.
From there we will see how everything shakes out.
Then there's my house, which I am in the middle of getting rented, and (partially/fully??) moved out of. That is also falling into place amazingly well, all things considered. God, and some quality friends, are definitely helping with this whole thing in big ways.
Things on here may be a little sporadic for a few weeks, but after everything settles into place there will be the usual ag pictures and stories posted on a perhaps not as regular, but often, basis.