Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, and happy birthday to Jesus! We have had a wonderful Christmas at our house! Hope yours is merry and bright and filled with God's love too!

 There were uniquely wrapped gifts

 We always give a lot of practical, usable gifts.

Had to share the Double H Photography mugs I got!

Fun gifts.

 The latest in sleepwear fashion.

 Sadly the one of all three of us was blurry.

My sister makes sure each dog gets a Christmas present too. Emmie thinks hers will be nice to nap on rather than rip apart.

My sister got a wii, and it was a big hit. We looked like this for hours today.

and like this...

and even like this.
Merry Christmas to everyone! May you all enjoy the blessings you have, and remember the true reason for this holiday.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Heartwarming Trucking Tale

My dad and brother have a trucking business, and haul a lot of hay this time of year. A few weeks ago, on a cold, windy, nasty day when the temperature was around 0 degrees and the wind was making it feel much colder, my brother pulled into the Belle Inn, in Belle Fourche, SD, where he often parks overnight and/or eats on his hay runs.
As he got out of his truck, another trucker pulled in, and my brother heard his airline break. He flagged the guy down, and told him about his airline. He said the guy was tired and a little grumpy, and doggedly told my brother thanks for letting him know. My brother went on inside to eat.
Partway through his meal, this same guy came in, practically blue from the cold. After warming up a little, he asked the restaurant patrons, of which a large percentage were truckers, if any of them had a particular tool he needed to get his air hose off. Nappa was right next door, but didn't sell them. My brother had the tool, and piped up that he would help him.
Outside they both went, and upon seeing what had happened to the air hose, my brother realized he had all the parts necessary to repair it right there. He is very mechanical, and prepared to make any number of minor truck-related repairs in any situation. So, my brother rooted around in his stash of parts he keeps on-hand in his truck, found all the necessary parts and tools, and helped the guy fix his air hose right there in the parking lot. This prevented a lot of rooting around in the frigid temperatures to get to the other end of the air hose, and saved the time it would take to wait for it to be fixed, and the guy was very grateful.
The next morning, there was a gift card on my brother's semi windshield to the Belle Inn for his breakfast, and a thank you for his help the night before.
: )

Monday, December 19, 2011


I am having a fantastic, wonderful Monday! Here are the reasons why:
One article completed and emailed off, two additional interviews done, and the Internet cooperated.

My sister and I rearranged the gifts under the tree, and now it looks pretty and balanced. Every year I "organize" gifts, so they're evenly distributed around the entire tree. Yes, I'm a perfectionist. Yes it puts me in a great mood, and reminds me how blessed we are to have so many gifts.

I ran out to my "storage unit" a.k.a. an old enclosed semi trailer, and ended up bringing in a box of my own Christmas decorations, and putting them up.

The mail arrived, with not one, not two, but three wonderful surprises for me. First was a handmade, and baked, gift from the editor of one of the publications.

How cool is this? And kind and thoughtful!

 She included a note that said this is great over cream cheese with crackers, or on a sandwich.  Can't wait to try it.

I love homemade, crafty cards! 

and baked goods : )  I am eating one of these guys right now and drinking tea.

Second was the Tri-State Livestock News 2012 Horse Edition, sporting one of my photos on the cover! It was so exciting to see it! I'll look into finding a full size version of the image to show you. I am so blessed to have so much success in my work life these days. This was another cover I have been super excited to see on the actual magazine, and they didn't disappoint as it looks great!
The Tri-State is a regional, weekly newspaper I freelance for. They cover a big area, and the people are fantastic to work with. In fact, the editor, who I primarily deal with, is who sent that wonderful gift! If you are interested in what happens in ag in Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, or parts of Nebraska, Montana and Colorado, they reach into all those areas. They also have all the markets for those areas.

Third in the mail was my prize from winning fourth in the American Angus Association's Holiday Photo Contest, which I forgot to take a picture of. Thank you everyone who voted! The prize include a koozie, knife, magnet, notepad, key chain and calendar all sporting Angus logos. Lots of useful stuff, and I do like the breed!

I had another order on my purchasing website today for a large print, which is always nice.

I read a couple blogs that did a great job putting what this season is really all about, which is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

I'm linking this up with Miscellany Monday over at lowercase letters.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Hello everyone! Hope you're enjoying the weekend before Christmas. I have had a couple more questions (thank you!), and am going to dive into one from Ryan over at the RA Ranch.
 Have you written anything on heterosis? ...or more so where I'm now-what to cross on these angus/hereford cross heifers I'm keeping? That's the short version of what I'm wondering.

Thanks for the question Ryan.

I have an example of angus/hereford (black baldie) heifers shown above. There is no "right" answer to this question. But, we're going to run through some stuff on heterosis, and some of the more common choices people in Ryan's situation make.

First, for anyone who is wondering what in the heck is heterosis, good ol' Webster defines it as: the marked vigor or capacity for growth often exhibited by crossbred animals or plants - called also hybrid vigor.
Still a little confused?

I've given this a lot of thought, and one way I've come up with to explain heterosis is with paint colors. If you have purebred animals, it's like having one color of paint. Say yellow. Then there are other purebred breeds, and they are also single colors. Say blue and red.
So long as you have one breed, it's like only having one color of paint. It can be a beautiful color that you love, but it's still just one color. If you crossbreed, that's like adding the paint color from another breed. You suddenly have the ability to make more colors, which can make your painting better, or worse, depending on your opinion and abilities.

When you crossbreed with two breeds, you have yellow, and red, and all the shades of orange you can make by mixing the two. Is it better? That's up to you to decide. Maybe you like just yellow, or maybe you like the result of combining paint colors.

This is where Ryan is with his black baldie heifers. He's crossed two purebred breeds (Black Angus and Hereford), which is like the mixing of yellow and red.

You can add yet another color through crossing your yellow and red with blue.You can still make orange, and have added the potential for purple and green, and all the original colors too. Now you're getting a lot of colors in your painting. Again, whether you like all that added color or not is a personal choice. It's also important to remember that as you add more colors, less of any one individual color will be seen.

But, another thing to keep in mind is if you keep adding colors and mixing them, eventually you'll end up with that ugly shade of brown we've all seen in art class that nobody wants to use for anything.
The same is true in crossing animals. Some is great, a lot usually isn't. Each breed of cattle offers different strengths and weaknesses, and by crossbreeding them you have the potential to maximize the good aspects of different breeds and minimize their less desirable traits. But if you go too far, the result can be an inferior animal instead of the superior animal you were aiming for.

Now that we've covered what heterosis is, and how it works, we can cover some options for "paint colors" for Ryan's heifers.

Both the Angus and Hereford breed are strong maternal breeds, and black baldie cattle are great mother cows. He has heifers that are a combination almost any commercial cattlemen would be happy to own.

One option would be to breed to a strong terminal breed, such as Charolais or Gelvbieh, which are known for their ability to increase rate of gain, muscle and yield grade. Calves that are half terminal and half maternal will technically retain some maternal traits, while also having increased growth potential and muslcing ability.

It's not maternal breeds don't do well in these areas, and you can't have heavy muscled, fast growing cattle that are maternally bred, it's that terminal breeds are known for doing better overall. Back to the paint idea, if you're selling pretty paintings, why not use more colors. In the livestock business, commercial producers are selling pounds, so why not use breeds that will give us the most pounds in the least amount of time?

Now you may be thinking, well gee, if you're selling pounds, why bother with any maternal breeds after what you just said? Well, because maternal breeds excel at things like mothering, milking, fertility and marbling. That great big calf won't do you any good if he never happens because his mother wasn't fertile, or she didn't care for him and he died as a baby, or she didn't have enough milk and he didn't get big because he didn't have enough to eat as a calf. Marbling is also a key part of producing a great tasting beef product. So, as with paint, the different breeds bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table, and deciding what you're going to breed is much like selecting paint colors for a painting.

Another thing to consider is whatever one sex of the calves has for traits, so does the other sex. So, yes it's great to have a bunch of great big, heavy muscled, fast gaining steer calves that are just massive and impressive. But, their sister's will probably be much the same, and if you're keeping those females to put back in your cowherd, you have to consider her mature size, what size of calf she will have, if she will produce enough milk, keep in good enough condition to breed back, how much she will eat, etc...

It's a fine tuned balancing act to produce a calf crop that does everything you want on both the steer calf side and the heifer calf side, in your location, and there is no "perfect recipe" that works for everyone.

You can also have maternal bred cattle that will gain as well as terminal bred cattle, and terminal bred cattle that will be moderate and fertile, depending on the specific cattle within a breed you use. There is a lot of variation within any breed, and as I said above, there is no set "right" way to breed cattle. People are very successful, and very unsuccessful, with any number of breeds and crossbreeding combinations.

Another option is to breed those heifers back to either an Angus or Hereford bull, and increase the influence of one of those breeds. We have a lot of cows that are 3/4 Angus, 1/4 Hereford, and I really like them. Since these are both maternal based breeds, that's the strength of the calves. But, these are also two of the most popular breeds in the world (Angus is the most popular), and they didn't get that way by just being maternal. Both breeds offer a lot in the area of gain, carcass quality and growth in addition to producing heifer calves that will breed back, be a good mother, produce milk, etc...

Or, Ryan could inject the influence of another maternal breed, like Red Angus, and increase his heterosis with that third maternal breed.

Another thing to consider is how cattle are bred (with bulls, or AI), and in how many pastures? It takes a lot more managment to keep everything strait when you start crossbreeding if you use bulls. If you just have one breed of bulls, then everyone can be together. For each additional breed you add, you often need to add another pasture during breeding season. Management can be a big factor in how much, or little, crossbreeding to implement on your operation.

Our family has done a three-way cross, where we bred for black baldie cows, and bred them to Gelvbieh bulls. We had to maintain three cowherds during breeding - all Hereford cows would be bred to Angus bulls (to get the black baldie cows), all Angus cows were bred to Hereford bulls (also to get baldie cows), and all baldie cows were bred to Gelvbieh bulls to get that three-way cross. We didn't want to keep any Gelvbieh influenced heifers, because they were often too big and coarse for us, so we had to have both Hereford and Angus cows to get our own replacement heifers, and the black baldie cows to produce the steers and market heifers we wanted.

The three-way cross were great cattle, and performed well whenever we marketed them. But, our situation changed, and it became much harder to maintain three cowherds. And, our straight Angus calves gained as fast as our crossbred calves in the feedlot, and we could run a single breed of bulls, so we're now all Angus.

There's a lot that goes into breeding cattle, whether you're crossbreeding or using one breed, and no two ranches are the same, so there is no one perfect way to breed cattle for the best result.

That was the long answer. The short answer is that in today's world, you can't go wrong if you turn out a high quality Black Angus bull with them, however they're bred.

Good luck Ryan, and hopefully I covered a few options for you to consider.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yes, it's for sale

I had a comment yesterday asking if I sell my pictures. The answer is yes! I sure do. I have a purchasing website you can check out here. How I typically work things is if people have photos they're interested in buying as prints, on greeting cards, etc..., they email me at and let me know which photos they like and I get them uploaded to the website. I don't upload all my photos simply because that would be all I got done each day.
From there purchases can be completed on the website, and whatever you purchase can be shipped directly to you. I manage the website, and if there is anything specific you want to buy and it's not offered, I can usually add it as a product.
I also tried a Christmas Bazaar this year, and it went well, and hopefully I'll have those products listed on here next year for ordering. I tried photo cutting boards (and I do have a couple left if anyone is interested), my calendars, which are still available, greeting cards and coffee mugs. I got a lot of great feedback and will be tweaking things for next year.
Thanks for question, and if anyone would like a fine print of one of my photos, or something more casual, please don't hesitate to ask!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Feeding in the Fog

Some people take hundreds of pictures of their kids, and understandably so. Others of their pets, city, etc... For me it's ranching and cattle. Today we had a fantastic, heavy frost, and it was a feed day! Here are a select few of the several hundred shots I snapped over four hours of feeding in the fog.

Winner Winner!

I am so excited to announce the winner of my Christmas giveaway! I did it like so: I counted the blog comments first, then counted the Facebook comments, then went to, and let it do its work. The result it came back with: Number 1 - congratulations farmer!

She answered with:
Well that would have to be spending all that time with my darling Husband.
It's so nice to enjoy quiet quality time with one another.

If you will email me at with your address, I will get your calendar and greeting cards in the mail.

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest, and I hope your Christmas season is going great!

Speaking of contests, I would appreciate it if anyone interested would swing by the American Angus Facebook page, and vote for my picture. Here's the link, and it's the same photo that was used in my blog header. You have until this Thursday to vote. Thank you!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Photos

Today I checked the water for our yearling heifers and two-year old cows, who are wintering together. Here are a few photos from my "trip." It's about three miles to their water, and it takes over 30 minutes one way to drive the two-track, very rough road, if you can call it a road. In the winter, our primary responsibility is feeding and checking water for the livestock, and I enjoy the job a lot! Hope you have a great weekend.
Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway if you haven't yet!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Types of Fence

I recently had another great question, that asked this:
Looking at your posts I had a question. Is there a reason that so many different types of fencing are used? Sometimes it is prefab metal units, sometimes it is all wooden and other times it is wood with wire between the openings. Since it appears that it is all for cattle, I was wondering why it seemed to change style randomly.
First, thank you for your question! There wasn't a name with the comment, so hopefully you check back, and I am able to sufficiently answer it. If anyone else ever has questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I am happy to answer, and it lets me know what you're interested in reading about that I haven't previously covered.
Second, be warned that this is a long post.
We're going to split the types of fence we use into two categories, line fences, which are those we fence large pastures with (what was referred to as the wood with wire between the openings in the question), and corral fences (that would be the prefab metal stuff and wooden stuff), which are those used in the areas we work our animals in. Line fences are just to keep animals in specific areas, which are hundreds or thousands of acres in size, and corral fences are in small, concentrated areas that receive more stress. It's like the strength of materials you would need in a high traffic area, like an airport, versus your own home.
There are many different kinds of fence for a number of reasons. My photos will include fences from multiple ranches, which is part of why you've seen many different types. Another reason is the wire used for line fences lasts a long time (sometimes over 100 years where I'm from), so as people rebuild, different materials that are most available and affordable at that time are used, and then they last for several decades. The result is a variety of fences on a single ranch in many cases. It's not economical, or timely, to just change it all at once, especially when you consider there is around 25 miles of fence on our place alone.

We use three primary kinds of line fence on our ranch.  The first is called a barbwire fence, which is shown here. If you were to see the wire up close, it has barbs on it to cause discomfort if an animal tries to crawl through it. We use either wood or steel (T-posts) fence posts, and they are planted in the ground at carefully and evenly spaced intervals when the fence is first built. Then, as the posts decay from things such as termites or wind in our area, new posts are put in until enough are bad, or the wire is so worn out, that the boss decides it's time to rebuild it.
These fences are described by the number of wires they include. Different people string a different number of wires depending on how much stress a fence will receive (if it's a high or low pressure area), or if they have sheep or just cattle (with sheep, there are usually more wires),

 So, this is a four wire fence. Different ranchers also use different combinations of wood and steel posts, depending on area and personal preference. Wood is more solid, and it's much easier to stretch the wires on a fence with wood fence posts because of the way the wire is attached to the post. Steel posts are faster to put in, and are less susceptible to wind and termites, but you have to detach the wires from steel posts when you stretch it, and they're not as tough as wood if a cow or sheep decides to try to run through the fence.

Here's a barbwire fence that's older than me, that needs some attention. Can you spot the new post? Note that the new post is nice and round, and was purchased, whereas the other posts were likely cut on the ranch by the rancher, then used as fence posts. But, it costs up to $5,000 per mile, in materials, to completely rebuild a fence like this one, which is another reason you don't see every ranch sporting all new fence.

 The second type of line fence is called woven wire, and is a wire twisted into several small squares that you roll out, stretch, and hang from either wood or steel posts. This is great stuff for sheep, and calves, because they have a much harder time getting out of this than a barbwire fence. It is often topped with one, or two, strands of barbwire, as seen here.

The squares come in varying sizes, and the rolls of fence in varying heights, depending on what you want. There is a lot of this fence left over in the part of Wyoming I live in from when almost everyone raised sheep. It also works well in areas that may receive a little more stress, like by a gate.When we replace this kind of fence on our ranch, we typically put in a different kind of line fence.

This photo is from my boyfriend's place. His fence posts are a lot closer together than ours due largely to the amount of snow they get where he lives. Snow is heavy, and hard on fences. Having more fence posts helps keep it standing through winters with lots of snow.

The third type of line fence we use, and like in a lot of situations, is electric fence. It's just what it sounds like, a fence that will shock you if you touch it when it's plugged in. We have both traditional electric fence chargers, and solar chargers that run off the sun. Why is this around, and used? Because it's cheaper to build than conventional fences - you use lighter wire, fewer strands of wire, and fewer posts because the animals aren't going to challenge it physically more than once or twice - it's a lighter fence so things like wind and snow don't affect it as much, and the posts are fiberglass, so no termites.

Here are some of the fiberglass posts we use next to some normal wood posts, to give you an idea of how they compare in size. Since they're so straight and slick, they don't do a very good job of holding the fence down in low areas (We stretch fence wires on all line fences tight, so a post has to hold it either up, or down, as you cross hills and draws). To hold the fence at the proper height, we bury a deadman (don't know where it got that name), which for electric fences is that steel thing with the hook at one end and the flat square at the other laying across the posts. We  bury that in the ground, and hook the lowest fence wire to it, which holds it down. The wire pictured is smooth wire, and that's the size of barbwire. Electric fence wire is much smaller in diameter, and is a single strand instead of two wound together. The coffee can is holding the pieces we use to connect the wire to the fiberglass posts, which is like a big bobby pin in shape. You put the wire in the middle of the bobby pin, then thread it through the hole in the post, then bend and wrap each end of the bobby pin back around.

Okay, now that we're clear on line fences, lets move on to corral fences. Again, materials last a long time, and are often used based on what's available in an area, and what the cost is. New parts are added, or old parts repaired, in small increments in a lot of instances. Ranchers are also huge on recycling, so in areas where there are oilfields, many use pipe, cable, or sucker rod (part of ours is made from pipe and sucker rod) no longer useful to the oil industry. Likewise, others use old guardrail, old bridge planks (part of ours is made from this too), sheets of steel, railroad ties (again, we use this material) and about anything else sturdy and durable you can think of. Other parts are purchased, or built, to suit a specific ranch's needs, and it's all combined, added on to and rebuilt, as time passes.

Here is part of one set of my uncle's corrals. He purchased this place with these corrals as they are now. The solid wood fence helps block the wind and snow, and it's also good to have solid aspects in corrals where you don't want animals to see out. This can reduce stress for the animals, create a flow through the corral, and a number of other things. Ranchers don't just throw up fences and make it work, a lot of thought and effort goes into designing and building corrals to make it work best for the livestock, and around the landscape.

Here's the alleyway at my uncle's other set of corrals. My great-uncle set all of those tall pitch posts by hand in the late 1960's or early 1970's, after cutting them down, and they're still solid today. This is a high stress area, as animals go down this single file, and those posts were probably the sturdiest thing my family could find at the time. It's about like a bunch of elementary school kids in the lunch line - anything can happen, and as many things as possible are worked into the design to prevent any bad things from happening, with adjustments made over time. For instance, that top board was added to the alleyway after a cow jumped over me when I was baby right where my camera bag is sitting.

In contrast to my uncle's place, we haven't been on ours for generations, and the people before hadn't been big on corral repairs from the look of the place when we bought it. The solid tin area closest in the picture is the only part of the original corral left, and it's slated for replacement next year. The wood in the pen they're putting the sheep into is made from a combination of recycled bridge plank and oilfield pipe. The alleyway the sheep are coming out of is oilfield sucker rod and pipe, and at the opposite end of the alleway is our tub and single file alleyway. The back pen is a combination of wood and pre-fabbed, heavy duty hog panels (same design as woven wire fence, just heavier duty), with recycled railroad ties for posts on part of it, and railroad ties and pre-fabbed steel fence panels called continuous fence on the rest.
Although we do only run cattle today, we did run sheep for over a decade. Several aspects of our corral still reflect the presence of sheep. For instance, the wood fence on the left has a small steel bar running between the two bottom pieces of wood. We left this after selling the sheep because it doesn't hurt anything with running cattle through the corral, and would take a lot of time to remove, so it will stay until that piece of corral is replaced.

This is a brand new fence we rebuilt this fall after our calves ran through the old one just after being weaned, and is our preferred type of corral fence to build. The railroad ties are super-strong, and last a long time since they're treated. The continuous fence panels are also tough, and fast to put up. Each continuous fence panel is 20 feet long, and you screw them onto the railroad ties, and insert smaller pieces of pipe between each panel to create the entire fence.
It's also probably the most economical way we can build corral fence right now,and what you see here cost about $1,200 dollars in materials.

Here is our working tub, and alleyway. Trees are a little harder to come by on the plains we live on compared to the black hills my uncle lives in, and we needed something "now" when we replaced the dilapidated wood alleyway that was here we bought the place. So, we bought a steel, solid-sided tub, and adjustable alleyway. You can see on the left that we also made the moving gates of the tub solid, so the cattle can only see up the alleyway, and theoretically want to go in that direction. The bad part about this setup is the gate at the back of the alleyway is terrible - it's loud, heavy, and cattle don't like going under it, so it's also on the replacement list.

Here are the corrals where we summer our yearling steers, and ship them each fall. These are made from what I'm calling hog panels, with wood posts and reinforcing boards. The side of the barn is also used as a fence for part of these corrals.

And, last but not least, here are the corrals at the grazing association my family belongs to. Again, they're a little closer to the oil and gas industries, which shows from the use of pipe. Having a membership based grazing association means a certain allocation of funds went toward building a nice set of functional corrals that can hold a large number of livestock, and the members most likely voted to build the corrals out of pipe.
So, part of the reason you see so many materials is I take pictures in multiple sets of corrals, and each one is different. Different materials are found in a single set of corrals because it's uneconomical and not time efficient to replace it if it isn't broken.
There are also portable corrals, which are a whole different story...