Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Scenes

Here are a few pictures I took over the weekend. A couple were taken near or after sunset, and I enjoyed plyaing with my flash to capture fall colors at dusk. Hope you had a wonderful fall weekend too!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


My little dachshund, Pearl, died in an accident yesterday. She was only three years old or so. She was and incredibly unique, smart and fun dog, and I've spent more time with her than most people in the last few years.

She came back to Wyoming from New Mexico with me, and became a family favorite in no time. She hated birds, and could be seen daily barking and chasing them around the yard. She also loved to play with balls, and shred them to pieces. She had no fear, and dove into every situation full force. In the winter when she didn't want to get up and go outside she would hide her face under her blanket. She would put her paws on my feet when I was getting dressed to go somewhere and growl at me in an effort to keep me home. She would also put her little front paws on the couch and make her eyes look big and hopeful and wag her tail when she wanted cuddled.

Gosh I miss her. But, I also know that having her around for a few years was worth the pain of losing her.

I'm sure there will be another mini dachshund in my future. I just think they're the coolest dogs. But, not right now, and there will never be another Pearl

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where I've been

We've been busy shipping steers the last several days. Here's a brief glimpse into our activities. More to come when we get a little more caught up!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ultrasounding Heifers

Last week we preg-checked our heifers, using ultrasound technology. You can read more about why we preg-check our cows here.
We chose to ultrasound the heifers because we wanted to be able to sort them based on when they will calve. Using ultrasound can also tell ranchers the sex of each calf, and is accurate almost to the day of when a heifer or cow will calve. If a vet is "arming" (using his hand) to preg-check, he can only tell you if she's pregnant or open, and if she's early or late. Exact calving dates and calf sex aren't possible that way.
Here's what we did:

We gathered, and loaded about half of them in the alleyway. That bright yellow extension cord provided power to the ultrasound machine.

About six at a time were brought down to our tub. That stick on the right side of the picture is my uncle bringing a bunch down.

From the tub they were loaded into a single-file alleyway. This alley is also adjustable, which means you can make it wider or narrower, depending on what you're working on a given day.

The view facing the other direction. From this alley they are loaded into the chute, where each heifer is preg checked and worked.

Here's my mom loading one into the chute. The lady in the blue is the vet, who was really nice to work with. Our heifers were really loose (that means their manure had a lot of moisture in it, and made a big mess). You can see how much of a mess they made on the vet. Once in the chute, she would open that door in front of her to gain access to the back of the heifer.

Here comes one. My dad and brother converted our old Powder River chute to hydraulics, which are run off a feed pickup that has a hydraulic hay feeder on it. Holly was holding the vaccine gun for dad, who was running the chute. He just had surgery about three weeks ago, and has to be careful how much he lifts and strains.

He caught each one, like so...

and the vet quickly and efficiently went to work. First she opened the gate, and secured it so the next heifer in the alley couldn't run her over. Then she inserted the reader tip of her ultrasound machine into the heifers rectum, and looked at her computer screen (it's in that black box by the chute), to see if there was a calf in the heifer's uterus.

Here is the reader on her ultrasound machine, and how she holds it when preg-checking.

She covers the cord to prevent manure from getting on it. The cord is attached to her computer screen...

Which looks like this. She would slide the tip around until she saw the picture she needed, then she would call if the heifer was early, late or open. We gave her a set of dates, based on our breeding dates, and that's what she based early or late on. Open means the heifer wasn't pregnant.

My mom and I swapped out between pushing them up the single-file alley and recording each heifers information. Here's mom writing down a heifers ear tag number and when she will calve.

We were all very interested in how everything worked, since this was our first year ultrasounding. Here's my dad watching the computer screen and asking the vet about different things that were showing up on it. A good vet is a great source of information for ranchers.

If a heifer was called pregnant, a flurry of activity occured. First, she was given a shot to protect her pregnancy against multiple diseases. The ones we're most concerned about are Vibrio (Vibriosis), a sexually transmitted disease in cattle, and BVD.

Second she was given a number brand to indicate the year she was born.

These heifers all got a big "O" on their left shoulder, so we know each one was born in 2010. With a year number brand there is never any guesssing on a cow's age, even if she loses her ear tag. We sell any cows over a certain age. This is done for a number of reasons - in part because as cows age they lose and wear out teeth, and cant eat enough to stay in good condition.

After she's branded, dad pours her. Pour-on kills numerous internal and external parasites, flys and other "icky's." You can read more about pouring cattle here.

You do not want to breathe the fumes of this stuff. We had a member of our family almost die from breathing pour-on fumes all day when he was branding and pouring yearlings. Brand first, then pour!

Then the heifer is let out, and the next one comes into the chute. It took us between 2 and 2.5 hours to do 100 heifers, to give you an idea of how long this process takes.

If a heifer is open, she gets a bright yellow "O," for open, on each hip. She doesn't get a number brand, or a pregnancy shot. These heifers will be sold. They failed their first test as a future member of our cowherd, and are the bottom percentage in the area of fertility. The picture shows both a bred heifer, and one that was open.

Following preg-checking, the open heifers were sorted off, and put in another pasture for a few days prior to being taken to the sale. The pregnant heifers were trailed back to their pasture, where they'll stay for another couple months.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Rest of the Story

September will mark six months of working for myself, and it's been a fun, challenging few months work-wise. Finding the balance between all the different things I have to fit into a given day has been stressful at times and very rewarding at others. I currently primarily write for one regional, weekly ag newspaper and two nationwide ag magazines, and also maintain my photography business. I do help as much as possible on the ranch, and have also added landlord to my list of jobs since renting out my house.
One question that still lingers, and I am still asked with surprising frequency, is why I left my job as Assistant Editor of the Roundup. That question then leads to others surrounding my experience at the paper, and a lot of people have heard some humorous, but incorrect answers. Well, lets set the record straight, and get this off my chest.
First, I quit. I wasn't fired.
Second, I quit because of a co-workers attitude, and the impact her attitude had on my ability to do my job.
Third, her attitude's impact on my position lead to the job being very different than it was outlined to me during the interview process in a some key areas, and I couldn't make it work in the way she demanded, either financially or emotionally.
The story I've heard over and over through the grapevine is that I just couldn't take being away from the ranch any more, and longed to return to the ranch and that lifestyle. People ask people I know if I'm doing okay in concerned tones, as if I was near the brink of something awful as a result of being off the ranch. It's an entertaining story that makes me sound like an idiot, but it's not the truth.
Did I miss the ranch, yes very much so - what ranch-raised kid doesn't? As a 25-year-old with my own house and job I thought was perfect for me, was I longing to move back in with my parents and leave that job and house I had bought and loved - heck no!
Furthermore, as the job was described when I was hired, I was to have adequate time to help out on the ranch so long as it didn't interfere with my ability to complete my Roundup job in a quality and timely manner. That was the most important part of "being on the ranch" (aka, helping out during busy times of the year as my schedule allowed) to me while I had a full time career. I was satisfied with the arrangment, and not so "homesick" I left a job that was supposed to allow me (it depended on if you asked her or the owner) to go home and help, and which was located a mere 2.5 hours from the ranch.
Prior to leaving I did call several meetings in an attempt to figure out what exactly her problem with me/my work was, and in an attempt to reach a mutually beneficial solution. The result was her telling me my work was great and always on time, and asking me to be more compassionate toward her. This was followed by her choosing to only speak to me when it was absolutely necessary from the time I gave my notice until I left, which was longer than the standard two-weeks because I opted to stick around and help write and put out a special edition (aka, I stayed to help her).
I should also note that attitudes like that just piss me off, and are one of my big pet peeves. I was not impressed with her refusal to act like an adult and try to work, and talk, in an effort to improve the situation for both of us. Today I get a chuckle out of her silent treatment, and try to take what I learned from it and leave the rest.
I loved a lot of things about the job, and really didn't want to leave. It took God sending some pretty strong signals, primarily through her I suppose, for me to realize I could no longer handle working that job with her. Needless to say, she and I didn't leave on good terms. But, in answer to another question - I really like the people I worked with, including her on a personal level if not a professional one. It was a good office to be a part of, and I really liked my co-workers.
Today I am considerably happier and more relaxed, and still able to do the aspects of the job I enjoyed most through freelance writing. I learned a lot during my time at the Roundup, and have a lot of fine memories, but am also very glad I'm no longer there. I am not a destitute, unemployed wreck on the verge of collapse, but rather someone who mindfully chose self-employment over a less than desirable job going broke and crazy working for someone else, and who has made the choice not to work for someone else since - and I'm loving it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Calendar

Hello! Things are really starting to happen around here. Spring and fall are particularly busy on our ranch, and the calendar is reflecting that. If you want something done, or a day to do something specific, you better write it on the calendar, in a bright color, where everyone can see it. Pencil at the bottom of a date won't get you anywhere this time of year. You'll have to step up to pen or marker to get noticed around here!
These are our next few weeks, and this is just the ranch work. In addition to the ranch related activities, we have three other businesses running out of our home (a trucking company, record and document destruciton business and my photography/writing). That calendar just reflects the ranch/livestock dates for the this month. Somewhere in there my mom will have to schedule her paper shredding days, my dad and brother have several thousand ton of hay to haul (over the course of the entire fall/winter), and I have multiple stories and a couple potential photography jobs to get done.
It looks pretty hectic, and it is. But, it's also a fun time of year when we see the results of our hard work over the last 12 months. We wean calves, preg-check our cows, sell and deliver our yearlings, ship cattle home from summer leases and a variety of other necessary jobs. We're also trying a couple new things this year I'll do my best to tell you all about!
By the way, if any of the jobs I just listed, or you saw on the calendar, are something you would be particularly interested in hearing about and seeing pictures of on here, just let me know (I have connections with the people in charge of this blog) : )
Another reason there's so much stuff on there is this is a family operation, which for us means that we help my uncle's family with all of his fall work (he ranches a couple hours from us) and he helps us with ours.
My cousins are both currently in college, and my dad just had surgery, so my brother, uncle and I will be swapping help even more than normal this year to ensure everything on both of our operations gets done. We've always done this, and the result is a close-knit family that can work exceptionally well together at just about any task we're presented with. The longer I live and more I see, the more I appreciate that about my family.
This also means we spend several evenings with our calendar out on the table, scheduling dates for two ranches, and writing it all down. Then, after cattle buyers schedule delivery dates, truckers are lined up for hauling pairs home from summer pastures, vet's are scheduled to preg-check and other necessary arrangments are made on each place, we sit back down and go over it all again, making any changes that may have occured.
Most of the days start early, take most of the day, and leave you exhausted in a way only physical labor at something you love does. It's a very wearing, but also very rewarding time of year. I'm starting to get excited about it, which is good because our first round of preg-checking is tomorrow.
I hope you're all enjoying the summer to fall transition too!
Also, just in case you thought fall work only lasted one month, here's a glimpse at what we've got scheduled for October as of now...