Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From Start to Finish

Perhaps you've heard that it takes a long time for ranchers to raise the product we sell, which in our case is beef. This post covers the timeline from start to finish for you. I realize some of the photos aren't my best - I wasn't planning this post for the last two years, and my photography has improved since 2009. My hope is to follow this post with one of photos of our calves over this same time period, so you can see how they change and grow.

 Today I am showing you the timeline for the steers we sold in September, 2011. We started planning for them in June of 2009, when we turned the bulls in with our cows. This was the first time we managed specifically for the following year's calf crop.

In late 2009, we poured all our cows for parasites, and preg checked them. All pregnant cows were kept, and given a shot to protect their pregnancy. We fed them every other day all winter to ensure they had enough energy to produce a healthy calf and stay healthy themselves.

Nine months after we turned the bulls in, around late March and April of 2010, the calves were born. We were still feeding at this time because the grass hadn't turned green yet, and the cows were using more energy to produce milk for their calves.
When born the calves weighed between 70 and 80 pounds.

In May, 2010, we branded all our calves, castrated the bull calves, gave everyone an ear tag, and a shot to protect them against common diseases in our area. Then we turned them back out with their mothers on grass for the summer to grow.

Around October 1, 2010, we gathered all our cows and calves back up, and weaned the calves from their mothers. At this time we kept them in the corral for a few days and monitored them closely for sickness. Then we turned them back out on grass, and fed them cake and hay for the winter. Our calves weighed between 500 and 525 pounds when we weaned them.
Lots of ranchers where I'm from market their calves at weaning, or in the months following. Theirs may weigh more than ours at that time because calves are sold by the pound, and ranchers work hard to make as much money as possible, as all good business people do.

Winter, 2010. Here is a photo from feeding over the course of the winter. We fed them every other day, and checked their water every day.

We also weighed every calf when we weaned, and again in January, 2011 to determine how well each calf was gaining. During the second weighing, we sorted the heifers from the steers and turned them back out in separate pastures.
In early 2011 we also bangs vaccinated all our heifers, which is required by law for all replacement heifers (those we kept for breeding)
In March of 2011 the calves were one year old, and weighed between 600 and 700 pounds. Around this time (there's no set date) they went from being "calves," to "yearlings."

In May, 2011, we poured our steers for parasites, counted them and hauled them to their summer pasture.

In June, 2011, the heifers were turned out with a bull for the first time.

Meanwhile, the steers were happily grazing and gaining on grass for the summer.

Then, on September 17 we sold our steers after managing and working with them for 26 months. They weighed just under 1,000 pounds, and went to a feedlot to be fed a high energy diet for a few months prior to entering the food chain.
We received our one and only paycheck for the steers on that day too, after carrying the expense of growing them for those 26 months. During the time we owned them, we saw them almost every day, and never went more than a week without checking on them for their entire life.
Their sisters will take another two years to start earning income, when we sell their first calves. That's four years of time and money invested prior to seeing any return. Now, I don't want to you think I'm complaining, because I love and enjoy what we do. I'm just explaining.
Ranchers all love what they do for the most part. People who are just in a profession for the money don't typically choose this one. It takes a certain mindset and love for your work to put an animal's well being before a regular paycheck. This is also why you'll often hear ranchers call our profession a lifestyle - because it transcends the definition of a job regularly.

So, to recap quickly. We started in June of 2009, when we turned the bull in with the cows.

Nine months later the calves were born.

And a year and half after that, we sold the steers.

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