Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A doggone good time

Here's a little update on Emmie and Pearl. If you don't know about my dogs, you can check them out here.
Since they tag along with me 99.9 percent of the time, they have been wracking up the miles this month too. Their update is more of an "us" update.

As mentioned, we've traveled a lot, and made it home for Thanksgiving, where we ate a lot and enjoyed the family. Pearl also enjoyed attacking the parent's new house cat, and is under strict watch around "Kitty" now. (I find it amusing that she can whip a cat bigger than she is...which probably doesn't help the situation). Emmie, always the polite one, avoids any conflict, including cats when possible.

We made several trips to the Black Hills to then boyfriends house. We have since parted ways, and by that I mean he left me, so that little drive (about three hours one way) is no more. Emmie and Pearl did enjoy chasing deer and turkeys on his place, and Pearl loved chasing ping pong balls in his unfinished basement. But neither one appreciated being confined to the basement. This was because I wasn't about to let my two hairy, smelly (the smelly part is coming up) dogs in the upstairs of his brand new house, complete with tan/beige carpet. Long, black dog hair just doesn't blend with beige carpet.

While home we also partook of some feeding activities. Like I said, they pretty much go everywhere with me.
However, I did meet my dear father on the side of the road in Casper last week and threw them in his semi with him. This was to prevent them from having to sit in my car the entire following day while I was at a Beef Production Convention in Torrington.
When I lived in N.M., I frequently drove back and forth to Wyoming with both Emmie and Pearl. They can handle a 12-14 hour drive with no issues, so a few hours is no biggie for them in a vehicle.

But there are times they enjoy being in the back too, supervising the feeding activities, snapping at any calves that get too close to the back of the pickup, and just being the little rockstars they consider themselves.

They are also happy to supervise just about anything else, including ice chopping, food preparation, cat partol (Pearl on that one), bone chewing, rabbit chasing, sniffing of anything interesting, motorized vehicles, strangers, strange dogs, and dead animal control...

Which is what lead to a few of these over the past few weeks too. Pearl doesn't really mind, and doesn't have enough hair to make washing her much of a job anyway.

But Emmie is a completely different story. In the amount of time it takes to get Emmie wet you can Pearl completely done with a bath. Emmie also hates baths, and while she is a very well behaved dog, getting her to stay in the sink for bath was one of the hardest things in her training.
If you have never spent a three-hour drive in a car with two little dogs that have rolled in dead sheep, dead rodents, and anything gross and disgusting, then run around in the snow to get slightly damp (to further enhance the scent I think) you are missing a critical life lesson.
I may, or may not have, sprayed Emmie with the FeBreze Pet Odor control I keep in my car....

We have also done lots and lots of this. And by we I totally mean them this time of year. Since the winter months hit my running schedule has ground to a total halt and been replaced with indoor workouts. Pearl and Emmie do not support this decision.

In pastures, on roads, chasing rabbits or following a vehicle, they really cover the country.

This is all they ask for on a day-long trip. One to two miles jogging down the road between interviews and they're set. They don't usually go on interviews, but this particular day I was coming from then boyfriends house because it was 2 hours closer to my 8:00 am interview than my house is, so they were along.

If I stop to take pictures they know the drill and continue on. Occasionally they will stop and check to see that I am indeed still snapping away, or have started towards them again. They typically stick right to the road, following a few lessons on proper etiquette when running near cattle your master doesn't own. However, should an unexpecting deer, or even better, an antelope, cross their path, they toss etiquette out the window and give serious chase. Nobody ever told them they were "little" dogs.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sub-zero H20

The other half of feeding livestock in the winter where I'm from is making sure they have access to water. This often involves chopping ice. There are certainly places that get much colder than eastern Wyoming, but we still do our share of this chore during the winter months.

This isn't an uncommon site this time of year. These tire tanks are popular where I'm from, and are a great form of recycling as they are made from worn out tires that can't be used on tractors and machinery anymore. The center cement ring is where the float is, and it rarely freezes in this tank. There's enough additional insulation for it to keep above freezing for most of the winter.

Sometimes the ice isn't very thick, especially on this tank because all our calves drink out of it. Having more livestock drinking out of a tank results in more water flowing into it, and it doesn't freeze as fast as a result of that. We also have overflows on a lot of our tanks, and will adjust the floats so they continually overflow just a little, which also results in more water flowing through the system, and less freezing.

But other tanks don't have as many head drinking out of them, or don't have an overflow, or both. This tank doesn't have a covered cement center ring, and you have to chop around the float most days.

After making sure the float is free, we chop a hole for the cattle to drink out of.

Then grab out shovel and scoop out the chunks of ice. We throw them away from the tank so ice doesn't build up around it and cause our cattle to slip and hurt themselves.
We check every tank we have livestock drinking out every day, and if it's frozen we go through this process to make sure all our livestock get a drink. It's just another aspect of ranching in the winter.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Feeding calves cake

By cake, I am referring to the stuff seen below... Cake is a livestock feed we use to supplement protein to our cattle during the winter months. They rely on grass, and sometimes hay, to fill up on, and we feed them cake to meet their nutrient requirements.

This cake is 5/8 in diameter and contains 20% protein. We calculate a ration for our cattle based on their weight, the weather conditions (it takes more feed when it's colder), and how much we want them to gain. Cake is made from a variety of grains like barley and corn, other filler feedstuffs and usually a little molasses to make it stick and taste good.
You can also buy 3/8 cake, and you can choose from 12, 14 or 20% protein, depending on what you're feeding and what your feeding goals are. There are probably other cake choices out there, but where I'm from the ones I listed are most common.

Our cake is delivered by the semi-load, and stored in this aptly named cake bin. Our cake feeder, seen on the back of the pickup (it's in other pictures below too, if you want a better angle), sits on a scales so we can feed a specific amount of cake depending on how many come to eat, what we're feeding, etc...

You turn a lever, and a door in the bottom of the cake bin opens, and pours cake out. You can control the flow by how far you open the door. You want to be parked just right, or you'll pour cake all over the back of your pickup, or on the roof.

You want the handle you turn to open and close the door to be up-wind of the actual door. All that silt coming out is like sand, and when the Wyoming wind gets to howling it will sandblast your face if you're downwind of it. We had to switch our handle after learning this the hard way.

There is an auger in the bottom of the cake feeder that a little motor turns, and that spits the cake out here. That big wheel serves a number of purposes, one being that it prevents the cake from spewing out in a wide arc. You want it to be in a fairly narrow row when you feed so the cattle can find it and aren't tromping half of their ration into the snow and mud.

Now that the feeder is full, we're ready to feed something. These are our calves, and I fed them this morning. They love their cake, and if you aren't on the ball they'll all be waiting for you at the gate.

There is also a siren on the cake feeder that is controlled from in the cab. In larger pastures it's necessary to alert the cattle you are there to feed. Cows recognize different sirens, and pickups, and will come when "called" with a horn or siren. These guys are in a small pasture and can hear and see you coming easily, but I still turned on the siren a couple times in case any weren't paying attention, and to train them for the future.

Another thing that occurs in larger pastures is cattle have to wait for those that are still walking to feed. It's important to give everyone equal opportunity at feed, or some will get too much and some not enough. Calves can get impatient, but cows will stand around the feed pickup like this for over an hour while waiting for the rest to arrive at the feedground.

Then you feed. I took this picture one-handed, while feeding, and apologize that it's crooked. But it gives you an idea of what's going on. On the left the cake can be seen pouring out onto the ground, and the calves are falling in behind to eat.

We feed our calves in a circle, because if they're uncertain and wonder around and you have fed in a circle, they will hit the other side where their buddies are eating away. Calves are curious and give in to peer pressure, so when they see all their buddies eating off the ground, usually their curiosity kicks in and they try it too, and before too long you have everyone eating cake, or any other feedstuff. I did say usually, because as with all things involving livestock, there are always exceptions and the occasional unpredictable outcome.

These guys are getting on the cake pretty well. Not as fast as last year, when at this time I had one calf who wouldn't eat. This year we still have about 20 who aren't real interested in it. We are contributing this in part to the nice weather and abundant leftover grass this year. They have plenty to eat, and cold weather always generates more interest in cake, hay or other supplemental feeds. This week has been our first cold spell all winter, and no one is complaining about that : )

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Johnson County pictures

Here are some pictures from my second and third trips to Johnson County for Winter Cattlemen's interviews. Hope everyone has a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 22, 2010


"I love the deep sense of satisfaction in the fall, when all the hay's in and you know you have plenty of feed for the winter. The cows are where they need to be, and you know they will be fed well, and winter can bring it's worst and we'll be just fine." Shelly Ritthaler, who I recently interviewed for the Roundup, summing up why she loves fall.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Inaugural Weekend

This was my first weekend spent helping the boyfriend's family with cattle work. This is always a potentially tense situation..bringing a girl, or guy home to help out. It can make for a funny, maddening, frustrating, hilarious or great day, and has helped me realize, at times in a matter of minutes, whether the relationship will continue forward or not. Fortunately our families have known each other a long time and they had a pretty good idea that I knew what to do, and it all went very well and neither of us will be dumping the other for our cattle working skills....yet.
I also took my camera along, of course, to document the events.

So the bf (I should ask him if he minds if I use his name on here. I did ask about putting pictures up), his brother, dad and I gathered a couple bunches of cows, moved them, sorted them, and just did general preparation for weaning this coming Friday.
His family lives in the Black Hills, and recently moved their calving date back to May and June so it's warmer when the calves are born and they don't have to feed the cows as much. That's why they are weaning in late November, a month or two later than many producers.

Part of the first days job was trailing cows down the road about 2 miles. We had to go up this big hill first. The bf's house is just off to the left of this photo a little ways.

We stopped a few cars and trucks, mostly hunters, and several people took our picture...ironically enough : )
This is something I did a lot as a little kid, when we lived in this same general part of the state. Today our place is about 20 miles from the nearest highway, so trailing down or across the pavement isn't something I do anymore.
It can present a unique set of challenges. Yearlings, colts and calves tend to have serious issues with the yellow center line. We've had to role out straw before to get yearlings to cross the highway. It also gave little kids a job, and at 2, 3, and 4 years old my job was often to drive (yes drive) or ride ahead of the bunch of cows, waving a flag or flashing the car lights to alert motorists of the cattle clogging the highway just over the next hill.
These cows are used to it and trailed right along.

Then we went down the other side of the big hill,

and cut out across a pasture to the home place to sort, doctor and continue our day.
The bf's dad always has a marker cow in each of his bunches, and that's the gray cow seen here.

The last leg. I love the Black Hills, and enjoyed myself immensely. I also let out a big sigh of relief when all went well and I realized they work cattle in a similar fashion to my family.

Once in a smaller lot, we sorted everything a couple different ways, then doctored a few sick calves. This is a 3 or 4 year old colt the bf is on, who I've been told can really buck. He did great the two days I was there. He would rope a sick calf, and his brother would hold it down....

While their dad doctored it. Newt is the bf's dog and he was there to help too. My dogs sat in the back of the pickup, out of the way. My camera battery died early, which is why these are the only two pictures of anything occurring in the lot.
Maybe when it's not my first weekend helping I'll bring my nice camera along.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterns Day

I would like to take the time to thank all our past and current troops for the sacrifice's they have made to keep our country and its people free.

I am proud to be from the state with the highest number of people in the military per capita of any state in the nation (I didn't check the validity of this statement, but have heard it spoken as a fact by numerous times by several distinguished speakers around the state)

I can think of people from my high school class, of which there were 34 students, who were and still are serving in the military. Numerous other individual's from classes before and after mine, and people throughout my very small community, have fought for our country, many doing multiple tours of duty.

My mom asked one of these young men why he kept signing up for additional tours of duty, and he said that it was because he didn't have a family, and if he went back, that might keep one more person with a family here.

I remember the parades we had when convoys of troops drove through my hometown on their way to be deployed, and the flags we waved and their happy waves as they cruised by in their loud trucks, hummers and other green and black vehicles.

Both of my grandpa's fought for our country, at the expense of getting their college educations in both cases. One was a mechanic in the Navy, and the other was a pilot in the Army.

My grandfather that's still alive lists a college education as one of the most important things you can do with yourself, and will tell you all about his grandchildren's degrees and other accomplishments.

I have a facebook friend from college whose husband just returned from a tour of duty. It gave me a new perspective on military families as I read her posts throughout his deployment. They have two small children, and she made a lot of sacrifices too.

Thank you to all our military for what they do!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thankful November

Lots of people have been mentioning things they're thankful for throughout the month of November. I like the idea of taking the time to mention and note these important things, and am planning to do a few posts listing some things I am always thankful for in my life.

To start, I am thankful for God, who sent his son to earth to die for our sins. I am very thankful for my family, friends and boyfriend. I am grateful to live in a country where we have things like freedom of speech and religion, and I am thankful for the people in the military who fight for our freedoms.
I'm very thankful to have been raised where I was, in a way that I love! Nothing beats wide open spaces, good cattle and nice weather!
In addition to that I am thankful to have a father who embraced having a daughter who loves cattle, and who encouraged and challenged me in my interests! My mom was right there too!
I love having a brother who is smart, athletic, witty and one of my best friends. I love having a special needs sister who constantly reminds what's important in life, and who is so much like myself it's eerie sometimes.


Holly can drive a 4-wheeler by herself these days. This is the perfect solution to keeping up while I take pictures!
While I drove it most of the day, once we had our cows in the lot and it was obvious everyone else had it under control, we switched and Holly cruised down to the corral while I snapped away.
I'm planning to have more photos up in the next couple days from gathering our cows!