Thursday, December 20, 2012

Feeding cows with little dogs

 My two little dogs LOVE to go feeding. The mere question of, "you guys ready to go feed," results in racing around the house, whining, jumping on you as you put your gear on, and shooting out the door like two hairy rockets when it finally opens. The same act begins again when we reach the pickup, and sometimes Miss Weenie has to run several circles, tail wagging profusely, until she calms down enough to stop and let me toss her the cab. Emmie can get in herself, thank you very much, through an opening roughly half her actual width.
What is so exciting about the prospect the feeding, you may wonder. Well, the highlight is when, upon nearing the feedgrounds, or a two track road we're going down that day, I stop, and let them out. Yes, that's what it takes to be the best master in the world : )
Their happiness and excitement is unmatched, and they leap, growl, and charge through the sagebrush, literally blowing off steam. After the initial rush wears off, about a mile in, serious sniffing, exploring and excavating ensues. It's almost more joy than they can handle at once.
This all may have something to do with me turning them loose into this:

Do you see Emmie?

 There she is. Chasing rabbits, climbing rocks,...

crawling in and out of holes, racing around...

 and investigating what Miss Weenie may have found.

You may wonder if there is anything that can ruin this. The answer is yes, and the worst part about feeding is when the excitement exceeds intelligence, and the return to the pickup is postponed...until after the cows arrive.

 This is especially troublesome if we're feeding the heifers, who love feeding not only for the food, but also for the chance to chase the hairy toys that I sometimes bring for their entertainment.

I bet there's a rabbit on the hill, laughing at the irony.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Prayers for Connecticut

Praying for all the families affected by yesterday's tragedy in Connecticut. I cannot imagine losing a child, especially so close to the holidays. Also praying for the families of the person responsible, as that has to be an unimaginably difficult position to be in as well.
Feeling very blessed to have all my family safe and sound, and to have our home well protected against such violence through owning and knowing how to operate our own guns.

Photo: :'(

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Winter Feed Program

An incredible amount of time has been spent on the getting cows fed this winter in the part of the country I live in. The summer was hot and dry, and the usual feed suppliers were lucky to produce enough to meet their own needs. There is very little leftover forage for the cows to eat over the winter, and we're basically feeding them every bite they consume this year. It has taken more time, money and planning to get a winter feed supply delivered, and more time than usual on the feeding end as well.
What do I mean when I say, "feed the cows?" This post is on what we're actually doing every single day around here to make sure our cows are not only fed, but provided the right feeds to meet their nutritional needs and energy requirements.

First, we did a lot of research and determined what feeds were the best combination of price and in meeting our needs in terms of nutrients, filler and quality. Since we have a hay hauling business, we ended up deciding on a combination of various types of hay, including (very) low quality grass hay, medium quality grass hay, high quality grass hay and high quality oat hay. We are feeding this in combination with a cake protein supplement (you can learn more about what cattle cake is here).
Before we can feed any of this to our cattle, it has to be delivered to our ranch. The cake comes from the company that produces it, but the hay is all delivered by my dad and brother. Usually they haul each load between 100 and 200 miles. But, this year that has more than doubled, and a load hauled 450 miles is considered a short trip. This has meant a lot of extra time on the road for the haulers, which has consequently limited their ability to haul for other people. So, we're spending more on feed, spending more on fuel to deliver it, and making less with the business as a whole because we aren't hauling for other people. That's a challenge lots of ranchers are facing this year.
Since the guys are so busy, their end of the feeding program has primarily been the delivery end. From there, my mom and take over, and are usually the two in charge of making sure the right amount of each kind of hay, and the right amount of cake, is fed every day.

Feeding is done on a set schedule, regardless of what else may be going on, the weather, how we're feeling or what other tasks we have to accomplish that day. Here is mom filling the cake feeder out of our cake storage bin. Our cake feeder is set on a scales, and each cow gets a specific amount of cake based on her nutritional needs, the protein content of the cake, the temperature, and a few other varying factors. We know how many cows are in each bunch we feed, and if we're in doubt as to whether we have them all or not, we will count them and adjust how much cake we feed accordingly.

Meanwhile, if there are two of us around, the second person (me) is loading two bales of hay from specific piles within one hay corral. If there is just one person, we feed cake first because it is the most palatable to the cows (it tastes the best).

 The person feeding cake typically arrives in the pasture with the cows first, since they're going to be feeding first. We use sirens to let our cows know it's time for breakfast, and they start the trek to an area of the pasture that is pickup accessible. Different ranchers use different sirens, and cows know the difference and respond to "their" siren from several miles away in some instances. The reason for sirens is some of our pastures are very big (we measure them by miles long and wide), and the sound of a siren carries over long distances much better than a horn. They also last longer than horns, and are easier to hear in wind.

 While the cows make their way to the feeding area, the cake feeder heads down to check the water tank. We have at least two water sources on in each pasture our cows are in, and are sure to check the primary source every other day while feeding. This water tank has the overflow set to drip continuously this year, which prevents ice buildup like in the above photos most of the time. But, water is critical for cattle, so regardless of how reliable a tank is, we check it.

 On this day the hay feeder checked the water, and is headed back to where we will feed for the day. Since it's so dry this year, we are being careful not to feed in the same location because the cows are tromping the grass worse than normal, and basically churning it to dust if we feed in a spot twice. It usually isn't snowy here like in the above photo, which was a welcome bit of moisture a couple weeks ago!

 Eventually everyone arrives. It's important to wait for everyone so they get equal chance at feed, especially the cake. This can mean sitting for over an hour some days. Only a few pounds of cake per cow meet her nutritional requirements, and the cake is also what makes low quality hay work. A cow can eat cake at approximately 30 mph, and is like a bovine vacuum cleaning house. If you're not there when it hits the ground, you're probably not going to get any. The same is true with hay, but since several more pounds per cow are fed, it does take longer to consume it.

 When everyone shows up, the cake feeder begins feeding, watching the scale head located in the cab as they go. The cake feeder has a control that is also wired into the cab that turns it on and off. It's what you would call a "customized" cake feeding system, seeing as how the entire thing was homemade.

 Here's an up close view of the cake feeding out onto the ground. Speed is somewhat important here - you don't want to feed it too fast or it's all in a small area and the less aggressive cows won't get very much. But, you also don't need to spread it out over miles of prairie - that would take a long time to eat and waste your time feeding.

 Meanwhile, the hay pickup waits, preparing to role out a specific amount of hay following the cake feeders run.

 Here's a closer look at the combination of hays we're feeding this year (the red door is another story).

And an even closer look. The one the left is an oat straw bale, and you can see the oats in it. This would be considered a high quality winter forage. On the right is CRP grass hay, which ranges from awful to decent in quality. We've actually been very surprised at how well our cows are doing on the lower quality grass hays we're procured.
There is technique involved in feeding the hay too. The oat straw bale is left for last. This is primarily because, while we did have it tested and it didn't show anything of concern, there is always the potential of Nitrate poisoning in grain hays. To reduce the risk even more, we feed all the grass bales first, which means the cows eat on them for at least a few minutes, before we give them the option of the oat bale. Since it is a higher quality feed, they will all go eat it as soon as you give them the chance, but with additional grass already in their rumen, the chance of toxicity is reduced. Just a management practice we do in an effort to make sure there is never a problem in this area.

 This cow would like her oat bale, please.
We do that for two bunches of cows (the mature cows and the young cows/yearling heifers) every other day. This day is known as "The Big Feed Day," and on averages takes from 7:30-10:30, if the cows are close at hand and the weather is reasonable. But, we always plan on all morning, and it can easily turn into that.

Here is the second bunch, which are the yearling heifers and coming three-year-old cows. They are kept separate from the older, mature cows because they have a hard time competing with the older cows for feed, and won't winter as well if they're expected to compete. It's like high school sports, and comparing freshman to seniors. Some will do just fine, but most freshman will struggle when up against a bunch of seniors. It's also worth making sure these cows stick around at this age because they represent our best genetics, and we have a lot of money invested in them at this point, without a lot of return.
We feed this bunch hay every day, and cake every other day. We went to every day on hay because we noticed they weren't doing a great job cleaning the hay up, despite not being fed any extra. My dad wondered if it had something to do with them not having the physical capacity to eat and store such a large volume of hay at once - they're getting more than most years because we're having to feed them everything they eat this year instead of relying on grass for part of their filler. He was right, and since we've switched we've upped these girls' consumption, and they've improved considerably on cleaning up their feed.
This is how we're doing it this year. We make changes and tweaks every year, and sometimes even within a feeding season based on the available grass, condition of our cows, cost of various supplemental feeds and the condition of our cows going into winter. It takes a lot of advance planning, careful watching, and knowing what a cow needs in a variety of situations.
This is also one of those aspects of ranching that will probably be at least a little different, and often a lot different, from ranch to ranch. Year-round management decisions will vary between ranches, and will result in different needs and concerns over the winter months. There are a lot of feed options, weather, water, grass and terrain differences, and numerous other aspects of wintering cattle well that come into play when designing and following through with a feed program. What works best in one location may not work best next door, let alone across the state or country.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

One Foggy Evening

My favorite photos from a spur-of-the-moment drive a few nights ago as the temperature dropped 20 degrees in a few minutes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How About that Election?

Yes, the presidential election. I realize it did happen a while ago, but seeing as how the impacts of it will likely last at least through my lifetime, and quite possible beyond, I feel as though it's worth that I've had time to think about it.
I maintained my puzzlement that has been in place the last four years throughout this election on how someone such as Barack Obama ever got the opportunity to run, much less be elected. Then, bam, he is elected again. Well crap. Not that Romney was a home run Republican candidate in my book, but then again I was one of those people of the opinion that just about any candidate would have been a better bet than our current president.
But, reality check, he is here to stay for the next four years, with his cabinet of cronies, vacation loving wife, lack of business experience, and socialist mindset.
I guess what has given me most pause since the election got over was the sheer impact this particular election had for our country in my opinion. It is the first time the American people have willingly gone with a socialistic candidate. I mean, the first time around they weren't sure how Obama would really pan out, but this time they knew all about his spread the wealth mentality, and they voted him in again. To me, this is a pivotal, conscientious turning point for us away from our roots of working for what is yours to the more socialist ideal of working toward the common good.
Oh goody.
What makes me think even more is the role my generation played in the election, how many of them there are and how long they will be voting. They truly cannot think beyond subjects such as him saying he will pay for their college education. Perhaps if they did they would realize that means they will have to pay for someone elses, with inflation, at some point in the future, and it will cost more than just paying for their own would have. They also do not think of the fact that small businesses foot the majority of America's bill - that's just how it is. And, if they're busy paying for your college education today, they will not be able to pay you a salary for a job tomorrow. I could go on, but you already are either cheering me on or calling me an idiot.
But, as with any time of great challenge and change, there is also great opportunity. I think this is particularly true for agriculture. Sure, there are going to be some big bumps for us, no doubt there. I've already heard speakers talk on the impact of not having a farm bill, the estate tax is a real killer (haha), the rules and regulations are astronomical and ridiculous and not slowing down, and the environmentalists are already gobbling up their insane portion of government money and our time.
But, all people, regardless of how they voted, will still have to eat.
Perhaps we could only send our food to those who voted our would be educational for them.
Anyway, back on track. As rough as it's going to get, and I am one who believes we haven't seen anything yet, I also believe our industry is in a unique position. We have a basket of goods and services that are necessary. We do not produce a want, we produce a need. Plus, we do an exceptional job of producing that need. To me, that is the best form of job security and something to capitalize on in the upcoming months and years.
So, while we are certainly in new and uncharted territory politically, in a negative way, ultimately God is still in control, and that is comforting. I can relate to those who are incredibly upset, and actually think it's a good thing that people have strong opinions about political events. That's much better than not caring in my opinion. I realize some go about it in ways most of us wouldn't, but hey, HSUS also goes about things like we wouldn't, and they get a lot of attention and backing.
The current political situation is certainly not ideal, and definitely a challenge, but I believe it is something we can handle as an long as it rains, which politicians don't control (thank goodness).  I also wonder if perhaps God wanted all the farmers, rancher and small business owners to pray more in the upcoming years.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ag themed Christmas presents

 Tomorrow I am off to the annual Christmas Bazaar in my little hometown. Preparing for this event is one of the things that had been keeping me busy the last few weeks. But, today you get a sneak peek at some of what will be for sale tomorrow : ) 
If you see anything that would make a perfect Christmas gift for someone in your life, I will be placing another order this weekend or next Monday, and will take orders online. Just email me at with questions or orders.

Up first are these fun ag-inspired notepads. From left to right they read, Ewesful Tidbits, Udderly Ridiculous Lists, Hoo Called?, and Hogs and Kisses.

Inside, they are blank, with a photo on the bottom that coordinates with the cover. These are $15 each, and if you order them in sets of 2, they can be shipped directly to you.

 Up next are cards. I love sending cards to people, and always have a stockpile of blank greetings cards with a photo on the cover. These are a few examples of the images that made the new order of cards for this year. Above is a sheepwagon camp photo I snapped in central Wyoming.

"The Hands that Feed You." A Wyoming farmer's hands, showing his year's crop during an interview.

 "Branding Day." Taken on my family's ranch a couple years ago.

"Range Rams." Taken along the county road of our next door neighbors registered Rambouillet rams, which happen to be among the best in the country.
Cards are $2 each, and include envelopes. They are printed on either a linen feeling paper, or on a slick, high gloss paper, and are blank inside.
Shipping will depend on where you're located. If you live near me I am happy to deliver also.
If you live in Eastern Wyoming, Western South Dakota or Western Nebraska, I encourage you to stop by our local Christmas Bazaar and check out all the fantastic goodies the local folks make around here. Everything from soap to food to decor, and of course photography based gifts pack our local fairgrounds.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cows of Note: Little Red

 Hello from the long lost writer on this blog. Life has been busy around here, and as a result some things had to give, the blog being one of them. But, I am back, and kicking things off with a "Cow of Note" post. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, these posts highlight specific cows that are noteworthy for some positive or negative reason. This all started when I picked up a PETA magazine, and read that ranchers do not know one of their animal's from the next, and don't care either. This is far from the truth, and these noteworthy cows are one way I highlight individuals from our herd.
While most of our cows are black, or black baldies, today's noteworthy cow is "Little Red." Thus dubbed because of her size and color (we're very original namers). We purchased Little Red as a calf, and you may be thinking that she is a cow of note because she is our only red cow. Nope, that is not the case.

Little Red is a cow of note because she is a fence crawling machine. We could not keep this cow anywhere. She isn't wild, flighty, scared or even concerned. In fact, the above picture is about as excited as she gets. But, in her calm, steady way, she will crawl up cutbanks that are over five feet tall, worm under nicely stretched wires, and navigate around cracks and crevices to find the premier pasture spot within her traveling radius.
This made her noteworthy in a bad way as soon as we discovered this habit, which showed up just after calving this spring. The issue with cows like this is they develop friends, and lead their friends astray. It's like when your child starts to hang out with someone that's a bad influence. This cow is the equivilant of that bad influence. No matter what approach we took to putting her back, she was out again in a matter of hours.

This fall we weaned Little Red's calf, number 28. After the day spent weaning, I glanced out the window and saw calves in our calving lot, which caused a skyrocketing shot of concern as they were supposed to be locked in the correl. Guess who was in the lead. Yes, number 28 and two of her buddies had carefully crawled under a cow panel that was chained to a fence, and were calmly working their way around our calving lot in search of the best escape route.
That was the final straw, and Little Red was culled based on her wandering ways when we preg checked. She was a moderate cow who raised a good calf, was very calm, bred back early (these sorts always do), and otherwise had no vices. But, choosing to exhibit such behavior on a dry year when everyone is overstocked just because of the lack of moisture was a bad decision on her part. I am still dealing with the influence she had on the other cows her age, who now require a pretty good fence to keep them in after taking a class or two from her. Hopefully whoever purchased her enjoys fencing, or gathering.
If you would like to read about other noteworthy individuals in our herd, here is a post on Number 2 and another on a cow who became a mother at a young age.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Finishing Fall Cattle Work

We are finally finished with our fall cattle work as of Nov. 8. This run of weaning, shipping, preg-checking and hauling off drys usually takes 3-4 weeks. It took three months this year. Above is a photo from August 27 - the day we weaned our first calf heifers. Also the earliest my father ever remembers weaning April born calves.
Why is it all so spread out this year? The response typically starts with, "this is an odd year," and I'm sure people who don't understand ag, and even some who do, are sick and tired of hearing farmers and ranchers say that around here.
Perhaps a better way to say it is the unusual weather resulted in altered management practices in an effort to do what was best for our livestock and land longterm.
For example, we did not wean in August, when it was over 100 degrees, just for kicks and giggles. We did that because we had very little grass for the cows to consume, and with the increased energy they use to produce milk for their calf, we thought it may be most effective to wean the calves and feed them a high quality diet, rather than expect the cow to feed him on a limited, poor quality diet. This was also thinking ahead because if the cow doesn't have enough nutrition, she will absorb her new pregnancy before she stops producing milk for her current calf, and we didn't want to reach that point and have a bunch of our young cows come up open (not pregnant) which means they're sold on our outfit.
We also started supplementing the cows in August, which is also incredbibly early, to help them get as much as they could out of the available grass. By "we" I mean my mother and I. The other half of the "we's" around here were already booked solid hauling hay over twice as far per load as last year, trying to get as much accomplished as possible before winter set it. That is also unusual, and a direct result of the weather. All ranchers are concerned about winter, and want to make sure they are in a position to care for their livestock regardless of what happens in the next several months.
Then, as September rolled along, we were feeding the weaned calves every day. As soon as possible after pulling the bulls out their mothers were preg-checked, and any that were open were immediately sold to conserve as much grass as possible for those that were bred. Our yearling heifers were also pregged as early as possible, via ultrasound, and turned out with the other young cows. The guys literally took those days off, then climbed back in their trucks - either to haul hay or have repairs made.
From there we dove into the older cows, who spent the summer on far better grass 200 miles north of our home place at a grazing association. This always involves a day of gathering, weaning and shipping calves home, followed a few days later with gathering and shipping the cows home. This is all done for two separate bunches of cows - my father's and my uncles, so you can take that list and double it.
The calves were all shipped to the feedlot, in two separate bunches because some were at home and some went straight from the grazing association. Hay was also hauled to the feedlot. The last two yeras we haven't gone to a feedlot, and that switch took extra days to vaccinate the calves based on the feeder's health program and to load them out. Prior to that our management resulted in the calves all being together, which meant one day of shipping, not two.
Then, I called the vet, and scheduled our last pregging based on his next available date, which was three weeks out at the time. So, from the time the cows were hauled home from the grazing association until last week they were fed every bite they ate. This was because it was a toss up which was more efficient - feeding them near the house where there was no feed, or trailing them to the far end of the place, then gathering and trailing them back a week later. We chose to feed them, and on a nice morning with lots of help, we finished up the last cow, shipped off the last drys, counted out the last bunch, and trailed them to their winter home.
One thing I've noticed this fall is that for taking so long, I don't know how it could have gone any better. I don't remember ever having better weather for every single day. With a couple exceptions it was sweatshirt weather. Just last year I was hobbling around on my first, and very well done sprained ankle, on days with freezing rain and dust all at the same time. Plus, I have doctored a significantly smaller percentage of calves than in recent years, which always makes me happy.
Did all our plans to do what was best for our land and livestock work perfectly - no. The early weaned calves looked tough when they headed to the feedlot and we came to the conclusion that we would rather feed the cow with the calf on her than wean early and feed the calf. However, for the most part we consider the extra time and effort well spent. Things look rough around here, and there aren't any fat cows on this place this year. But, there aren't very many overly thin cows either, and those that are thin are picking up fast. Plus, we have managed to stretch what we have to the point that we're going to make it work for this winter, much like our friends and neighbors.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Details, Painted Nails and Deer Skulls

 Here are the details, painted nails and deer skulls I snapped while covering the country during the fall work run. Have a great weekend!

P.S. I am happily linking this post up with Fresh From the Farm's Farm Photo Friday : )

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Our thoughts and prayers are with all the folks affected by Hurricane Sandy on the east coast. As I write this I am watching the news, which includes considerable coverage of the storm's extensive impact. It clearly devastated millions of people, and the news also interviewed many of them. I found it interesting that every single person on the news tonight said, "I need," or "We need," and asked for something from their neighbors, countrymen or government. Not one person said thank you to the National Guard, cleanup crews, or individuals handing out supplies during the news segment. It was much the same last night. One man was at a loss that his two homes were both affected. No said how they were going to rebuild, but rather how with enough help they would rebuild. I realize this doesn't represent the entire population, but it seems to be the general response of most towns, neigborhoods and people the media has come across.
I couldn't help but think back to this summer, and the weather related disasters that occured closer to home, including the over one million acres burned by wildfires in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. These fires consumed homes, generational businesses, livelihoods, livestock, and took numerous people's lives. These people also dealt without power and other modern conveniences, for weeks in some cases, in the middle of a record breaking hot summer As with the hurricane, they will take years to recover from.
One surprisingly common response to my posts by people who live in eastern, more urban areas of our country was that mother nature was taking back what was rightfully hers, and what had been mismanaged for too long by people like my family. To say it politely, such disrespectful and uninformed comments were frustrating, irritating, and hurtful. I can't help but wonder if those people feel mother nature did the same thing in their backyard, but find it doubtful they would respond the same way about their own home, possessions, businesses, animals and family members.
I also interviewed a lot of people affected by the western fires, and every single one of them began by giving heartfelt thanks to God, followed by thanking friends, neighbors, firemen, strangers and anyone else that had helped and aided in putting the fires out and rebuilding afterward. Each one also stated that they would rebuild, and help those around them rebuild. No one asked for anything but prayers.
I find the contrast in our country concerning, and very noticable in light of the multiple weather related incidents that have affected various parts of the U.S. in the last year. We are all keeping the east coast in our prayers out here in the west. But, we're also well aware of the implications of their response in comparison to our own. This isn't a difference that is going away anytime soon either, and that is also very concerning.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My first attempt at chores

 A couple weeks ago, I offered to do my boyfriend's chores for him because he had to get up really early to unload a load of hay for one of his neighbors, that my father was hauling. Clear as mud?
Anyway, key point here is that I said I could handle the chores, and expected it to be easy, seeing as how I had helped numerous times by this point.
I watered everyone, then began gathering up buckets, keeping mind I had been to the chiropractor the previous afternoon, and was supposed to avoid any heavy lifting, jarring activity, etc... for at least one day. No problem, he had a wheelbarrow right next to his barn, and it would be no problem to wheel the buckets of grain around instead of pack them on this particular morning. Problem solved.

I approached this grain bin, positioned my bucket just so, and tried to open the sliding door, which is on an angle. It didn't budge. I wiggled and maneuvered and used my single-cup-of-coffee fueled brain to try to figure this farming related contraption out, knowing it had to slide up. Then I got a little irritated and gave it a big yank down to jar it loose. The door came open, all the way open, and jammed that way since I had not yanked it straight down.
I went from no grain to a flood of grain in a snap, and was desperately trying to now get the door to close with much more vigorous wiggling and yanking, to no avail. The first bucket filled and began to run over. I stopped to switch buckets, then went back to trying to close it, knowing my hand was not large enough to stem the flow. With the second bucket near the overflowing stage, I finally got the door to shut.
I sat there in the dirt, stunned, realizing I had ground grain in places it would definitely stay all day. Then I glanced up. There stood his two horses, clearly amped for amateur day at the ranch, practically licking their lips in anticipation of me failing at getting that door shut.
I glared at them, crawled out from under the grain bind and loaded a bucket in the wheelbarrow. I located a shovel nearby, and returned to find one horse, his name is Garfield, in a carefully executed yoga position, on one and a half hooves, two-thirds of the way under the grain bin, licking the grain that had overflowed. After getting him out of there I scooped up the excess, thinking no one had to know about my rough start and obvious lack of experience with grain bins.
I wheeled my load over the below pens, where the gilts and boars are housed.

I grabbed a bucket, balanced it on the fence, stepped over, and fell. And fell and fell and fell across half the pen. I landed with a thump, the knee torn out of my jeans and a nice rug burn on my knee. The bucket of the grain flew through the air, and ironically landed in one the of feed tubs in the pen. The hogs all managed to avoid my crash landing in their pen, and carefully eased around me on their way to breakfast.
More than a little irked at this point, I gathered myself back up, and headed back to the fence. There, just inside the pen, was one of those compacted high spots I had gotten wet while watering earlier, and which was very slick.
I finished chores and my second cup of coffee just in time for my boyfriend to arrive back home. I had to tell him what had happened, partially because I could see the humor, and partially because I looked like I had lost a fight with a mud-covered corn cob. A couple days later I had to go back to the chiropractor to get everything straightened out a second time. I am in hopes my second attempt goes much better, funny as the first one is in retrospect.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Feeding Pigs + a Giveaway!

My boyfriend, who recently said I could put him on my blog, happens to be the largest hog producer in western South Dakota. Now, you may be thinking that it probably doesn't take much to acquire that title in that part of the state, and you would be correct. But, he does markets several hundred hogs a year, and uses them as a means of diversifying his operation. He describes them as an FFA project gone mad.
They are not in a confined, super disinfected building, but are instead housed in an open-faced shed that provide shade and protection from the wind, with pens that run out into the sunshine. When sows get close to farrowing, they are put inside a specially designed building, into a farrowing crate, where they remain until their piglets are weaned. Then they return to the open faced shed pens until they farrow again.
I love them, in a "I do not deal with them on a daily basis, nor am I responsible for their continual care, feeding, or upkeep of their facilities" kind of way. He thought I was crazy for taking such a liking to them, then he met a few of my friends, who REALLY like hogs, and I'm sure he now wonders what is up with these Wyoming girls and their interest in loud, smelly pigs.

One thing about his operation is he has to feed his breeding sows every single day. Pigs mean chores, and lots of them. He, has calculated numerous rations based on what he grows on his farm/ranch, and what is most affordable and available to buy each year. We're talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 possible rations he has figured out, stowed in a 3-ring binder one of his tractors.
Every week or so he grinds another batch of feed for the breeding sows, adding various grains, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals to ensure their dietary and health needs are met. He puts the ground mixture into the above grain bins, which are miserable to operate alone (more on that later). Each morning he fills a specific number of buckets for each pen and farrowing crate, and each night he returns to feed the sows in farrowing crates a second time. 

His sows and boars are nice to be around. I know this because I cannot toss the grain 6 feet across the pen, and must climb over the fence and wade through the masses to deliver the feed to the various pans in each pen. He also currently waters each pen twice a day with a garden hose, as this setup is relatively new and the automatic waterers are not set up yet.

Here's what greats him most mornings. It's an eccentric crowd, but nevertheless happy to see him coming with his bucket of grain.
Now for the giveaway part! Enter your best caption for the above photo of the pigs and horse for a chance to win a photo cutting board or 11x14 Double H Photography print of your choice! My boyfriend and/or father, neither of whom spend a lot of time on the Internet, will be the judges. I will anonymously read them each entry, and they will select a winner. You must be a follower of my blog, and can enter in the comments section of this post. If you like my Double H Photography Facebook page, you can also enter there for a second chance to win. The contest will close at midnight on Nov. 1, and I'll get a winner selected as soon as possible after that date.
Good luck, can't wait to read what you come up with!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting Bigger

I have had a lot of new people commenting on posts, liking my Double H Photography Facebook page, and emailing me about topics they saw on Facebook or here. Thank you to everyone! I really appreciate it, and truly enjoy hearing from people.
To celebrate and help say thank, I'm planning a giveaway when my blog reaches 80 followers, or my Facebook pages reaches 250 likes. Not sure what the prize will be, and there may be multiple choices.
So, share the word, like the Facebook page if you're a blog follower, and stay tuned on how to win!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Going to the doctor

You know when that day comes and you need to go to the doctor for your annual, or bi-annual, or 10-year checkup...

You get up early, gather up everyone that is going, and make every effort to beat the rush.

But, despite your best efforts, it seems like everyone has decided that this is the day for annual checkups, and it's like a stampede has converged on the doctor's office.

 You finally get in, are given a number,

 and get settled in the waiting room, where there is at least one crying kid.

 The nurse is unimpressed with something that day, and does nothing to calm your nerves, which are fried by the crying kid(s), uncaring mothers of said kid(s), long wait and general ambiance of the doctors office.

The doctor finally shows up, naturally a half hour to hour later than your appointment was scheduled for, and drags in all his equipment from the previous patient.

 You have to hop onto/into the uncomfortable patient table,

 And the doctor performs "unintrusive, minor" poking and prodding to ensure you're in good health.

 You get updated on any of your shots if you need them,

 and discuss any other medications you're taking.

 You leave exhausted, wondering how in the world you managed to pick such a busy day...again,

Then go home and eat comfort food to console yourself until next year.

Ya, my uncle's cows completely understand this week.