Friday, March 30, 2012

Baldie Baby

 This guy was happy and rearing to go - literally! Hope you're all leaping into a wonderful weekend!

P.S., I'm linking this post up with Fresh from the Farm's Farm Photo Friday link party!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lean Finely Textured Beef, NOT pink slime

Have you heard the pink slime buzz that's been going on for the past several weeks? I have a little (how could anyone miss it all) but have been pretty caught up on calving.
Above is a great video that tells the real story on what is really Lean Finely Textured Beef, not pink slime.
I'm embarrassed for mainstream media, who got it so very wrong.

Print Winner!

I'm just leaping with excitement to announce the winner of my 11x14 print giveaway. I counted all the comments on my blog and Facebook page, entered them into, and it came back with number 8, which correlated with Tricia Millers comment, "College rodeo, general spring work, just enjoying this great weather!! : )," in response to what March Madness is at her house.
Tricia also happens to be from the same area I am from, and operates a soap business from her house. You can check out her Miller Soap Company Facebook page here.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter, and good luck to you all. It sounds like everyone is super busy this time of year, and I really enjoyed hearing your responses. Keep your eye's pealed for future giveaways throughout the year, and if you have any specific ideas or suggestions of what you would like to win just let me know!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pulling a Calf

When calving heifers, you inevitably have to help one now and then. This year we are pulling a few more calves than usual, which is a bull related issue. We aren't the sort to wait around several hours for a heifer to have a calf, which some people do. If she isn't progressing in a timely fashion, we like to get her in and get the calf pulled before the heifer is worn out from trying to have her baby, and the calf is exhausted from being squeezed. It's a system that works well for us.
Below is one such example, and I must admit that as far as getting excited about pulling a calf, this is as close as I've ever been. Getting to pull one in the daylight, with lots of help present so I could take photos, isn't the usual story of how it goes.
Just to let you know, I'm going to show you everything. If you don't want to see everything involved in pulling a calf, now is the time to leave.

This is typically what it looks like when a heifer is calving in general, and often the stage she ends up at when she needs help, although the sac is often broke, and you can see one or two feet sticking out. One reason heifers sometimes have difficulties is because the calf is backwards, or in another awkward position. Just like in humans, most come the "right" way (feet and head first), but not every one. One of the first things you note when observing a heifer calving is how many feet are out, and if they are pointed up or down. You want to see two feet, toes pointed down, because that means the calf is coming the right way.
Another reason we might need to pull a calf is because the heifer is a little lazy, and just won't work at it hard enough. Or, sometimes the calve's head, shoulders, hips, or all three, are too big to pass through the birthing canal with ease, and assistance is required to help get the calf maneuvered and pulled out of the birthing canal. With modern advances in breeding, size related issues aren't as prevalent as in decades past, but it does still happen.
If you don't pull calves in these instances, the chance of death greatly increases for the calf, as does the chance of physical injury or health related problems for the cow. In some cases, the cow will also die. Best case scenario for a heifer that experiences calving difficulties, or dystocia, and doesn't receive assistance is a longer interval following calving for both mom and calf to return to optimum health. But, usually the turnout is much less optimistic than that. 
We watch our heifers 24-7, and there is always one member of our family on-hand during calving to provide any assistance needed by these first-time mothers.

Upon deciding to pull a calf, we move the heifer into our calving shed, and pen, making every effort to keep her calm. This little pen at the front of the photo is our calving pen, and consists of an automatic head catch, which you can see on the left, and is designed so one person can do the entire job alone, and efficiently. We like our calving pen!

Using the swinging wing, you maneuver the heifer until she sticks her head into the head catch. The wing has that red arm at the top that catches in a specially designed contraption and holds it in place. That guy is my dad, who has been pulling calves for decades. She is in fine hands with his help.

This is where our system varies from most I've seen. Dad grabs that rubber strap, and pulls it under the heifer.

Then he hooks it to a cable, which is connected to a wench. My dad and brother are mechanical gurus, and they incorporated this component.

Then he uses a control (the read handle) to pull the rubber strap up, until it is snug under the heifer's flank. This is used to keep the heifer on her feet while pulling the calf, and keeps her back straight, which reduces the chance of her being injured. It also prevents the chance of her sitting down halfway through pulling her calf.

Now the mother is ready. Her back is supported, but her feet are still on the ground. The wing is pulled back out of the way at this point.

Then he gets his sterilized OB chains, makes a loop with one end, and holds it in one hand. With the other hand he reaches into the heifer, and locates one front foot. He also feels for the head, to make sure it isn't turned back.

He positions the loop above the hock (ankle, or like a dewclaw on a dog), and pulls it snug. If you don't get the loop above the hock, you can pull the hoof off the calf while pulling it. Newborn calves hooves are very soft, and not hard like mature cattle hooves. It's very important to get it positioned correctly

He grabs his handy little hook, and gently tugs/pulls on the calf until the other hoof shows up.

He makes a loop with the other end of the OB chain, and positions it on the other hoof. Like so.

Then this tool comes into play, which is called a calf puller.

You position the calf puller like this, and rest the other end on the ground.

He pulls the chain, and hooks it onto the calf puller, like this.

Then he pushes down on the handle, keeping it angled down like you see above, and starts very slowly pulling and releasing the handle. You don't just crank on the handle and pull the calf out as fast as you can.

When the heifer pushes, then you crank. When she stops pushing, you stop cranking.

When the nose becomes visible, we make sure the sac isn't covering it. If the calf is really big, you have to be careful as you work the calf past the heifer's pelvic bones. If a calf is really big, or a heifer's hips are really small, they can get hip locked, which is when the heifer's hips get stuck on the calve's hips as he tries to pass through the opening. This is a bad situation, and often the heifer and calf get hurt. We haven't dealt with that issue on our place for a long time because of genetic selection, and while this guy was husky, she was plenty big enough to have him with our help.

He continues working with the heifer, cranking when she pushed and stopping when she rested, easing the calf out. Sometimes, once you get the head and shoulders out, the whole calf just comes out. Sometimes you have to continue to work the entire time. Each time we pull a calf it's a little bit different.

Dad had to continue helping all the way with this guy, but he wasn't overly hard to pull. He was big, but shaped right in that he was a long, smooth calf, not a wide, overly stout one.

Once the calf comes out, he immediately unhooks the chains from the calf pullers, sets the pullers aside, and pulls the calf to opposite side of the pen. He does this because when the cow is released, she has to back up, and we don't want her to accidentally step on her calf and hurt it. So, we get it out of the way. Sometimes the new mothers are a little excited too, which is another reason to get the calf out of her way.

He lays the calf on its side and removes the chains.

This is what a very brand new calf looks like. Dad gets the rest of the afterbirth off of him.

Then he grabs a piece of straw and tickles the calf's nose with it. This causes the calf to sneeze, start breathing, and clears the nasal passages and lungs. It also usually gets them to sit up and realize they are no longer inside mamma.

When the calf is alert, the OB chains are rinsed thoroughly in a specially designed livestock disinfectant, and hung up for the next patient.

He returns to the heifer, lowers the cable, and unhooks the rubber strap.

Then releases the heifer. The moment she shows interest in the calf, we leave them alone for a while so they can bond. Causing distraction at this moment can cause big problems in the bonding process. She will lick him off, and he will be up and sucking in under an hour.

Here she is with him about three hours after he was born, up and at em, just the way we like it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Do you know: Where your food dollars go?

Did you know that farmers and ranchers received only 16 cents on average out of every retail dollar spent on food that was eaten at home and away from home in 2011? In 1980, farmers received 31 cents out of every retail dollar spent on food in America.

Off-farm costs (marketing expenses associated with processing, wholesaling, distributing and retailing of food products) account for 84 cents of every retail dollar spent on food in 2011.

(Information from publication found here)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First day of spring!

 Three new babies have arrived to help celebrate the first day of spring on our place!
P.S. Don't forget to enter my giveaway for an 11x14 print of your choice! Only five more days before it's over.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Boyfriends and baby calves

I feel like a personal update is in order, particularly in the area of my no longer existing love life. Yes, that's right, Adam and I are no longer together. Thank you to all the ladies who sent me the nice comments and emails about him. Since I drug his presence onto my blog, I feel honor-bound to give him a proper exit. 
That, and I would hate for there to be confusion when I introduce a new guy at some point in the future, should I decide to include my significant other on my blog again. 
That being said, the last month has been an interesting adjustment back to single life. I've enjoyed attending a surprise birthday/going away party for a friend of mine, and catching up with several girls I attended college with, and their significant others. I'm telling you, I have some smart, ambitious, beautiful friends, and it is so fun to visit with them and hear what they're up to these days : )
Also had a chance to spend a weekend with my brother, his girlfriend, and a number of our mutual friends, and that was also nice. On another weekend I met a high school friend of mine for a Josh Gracin concert, and did some more catching up with her and other friends from Casper, in addition to some dancing. 
I was feeling a little friend-deprived, to be honest, and it has been so much fun seeing and hearing what so many of mine are up to. 
Now we are into calving, with baby number three having just arrived this morning, and number four on its way right this moment. With their arrivals comes a screeching halt to the vast majority of any socializing on my part for the next several weeks, which is fine by me. Calving season, and spring in general, is a favorite time of year for me.
But, I won't stay in isolation forever. I have an Ag Books for Kids classroom presentation lined up for mid-April. As a member of our state Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher (YF&R) Committee, part of my responsibilities are to read an ag-based book to elementary students, and help them complete an associated activity. One added perk is the activity meets state and national teaching standards, so it helps the teacher too. I'm excited for my maiden solo presentation!
I am also planning to attend a bull sale or two, will be off to a YF&R Committee meeting in April, and am very flexible when it comes to being asked to dinner (I jest...sort of). My parents are actually beyond flexible when it comes to me being asked to dinner, and I have to watch them closely for fear of the caliber of eligible bachelors they will find on my behalf, lol. They're scared stiff me being single will prolong their advancement into the era of grandparenthood. Thankfully I can now pass the heat of that topic off on my brother and his girlfriend, and happily so : ) 
In case you missed it last week, I am also hosting a giveaway for an 11x14 print of your choice. Swing over to this post to read about how you can enter!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

First Calf of 2012!

 Our first calf of the year arrived yesterday afternoon, healthy and without assistance, and nine days early. As of today, she has been tagged, and is patiently awaiting siblings/cousins to arrive so she and her mother can be turned out of the calving lot with some company.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness Giveaway!

March Madness is upon us. Whether that means a college basketball tournament or an increased farm or ranch workload in your household, it's a great time for a giveaway.
I polled my wonderful Double H Facebook followers last week, and they said an 11x14 Double H print of choice is what they most want to win. I am in a position to make that happen, and here is how you enter:
You can comment on this blog post, answering what March Madness is in your life. Calving, farming related practices, work/life in general (maybe you didn't even know they only call it madness in March), or the basketball tournament. If you're a basketball fan, I would love to hear who your favorite team is too!
You can also like, and comment on my Facebook page, answering the same question.
For an additional chance to win, you can refer someone to my blog and/or Facebook page. If they become a blog follower, or like my Facebook page, answer the question, and say that you (your first and last name) sent them, they will be entered and you will get a second chance to win.
Make sense?
The giveaway will be open through midnight, March 25, MST. We are due to start calving that day, and while it will most likely happen a few days early, it seems like an appropriate cut-off date : )
Good luck!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pregnant Cows

 Our cows are starting to get heavy, drop, or in generic terms are nearing their due dates. The official date we are supposed to start calving is March 25. But, we use low birthweight bulls, which means we use bulls that are known to sire calves that weigh less at birth (I'm talking calves that weight 70-80 pounds instead of 90+ pounds). The way you get lighter calves at birth is through a shorter gestation period, and yes we measure gestation periods in cattle, and select bulls on this trait. Just like people, some bulls will sire calves that are born sooner, and some will sire calves born later. Fewer days inside mama means less time to just grow, as babies are known to do in the last few days prior to birth. 
So, while March 25 is the "official" date based on when the bulls were turned in, we will start before then. This week we have been cleaning up the calving shed in preparation. We are also sorting our first calf heifers off from the three-year old cows they were wintered with on Wednesday because we only bring the heifers expecting their first calf into a smaller lot to watch. By the end of this week we will be ready for the first arrivals.
Other preparatory actions taken prior to calving include purchasing and writing on new ear tags for all the babies and making sure any vet supplies that may be needed for calf-related health issues are on hand (c-section needle, thread and necessary drugs, disinfectant, scour pills, boluses we use in case a cow doesn't clean, etc...). We also always have a couple large dog coats on hand for cold days and/or babies that aren't warming up very fast. I passed on leopard print for teal this year. We're thinking a zebra print would really cause issues with anyone driving by, and I'm on a mission to find one for next year! A few heat lamps are also stocked with new lightbulbs, and kept close at hand in the shed for cold weather days, and chilled calves.
Calf record keeping books are located and organized, ear taggers are checked and snow fence is strategically applied to the normal fence to block wind and provide additional protection.
When we get done with all that, hopefully we have a day or two to just wait. For now, the expectant mothers looks like this:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DOL Child Labor Law Revisions

Chad, from Texas, emailed me and asked if I would let you know what I know on the Department of Labor's (DOL) proposed changes to child labor laws. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here is a link to what the DOL is proposing.

Or, in case you skip the link, here are some of the proposed changes:

The proposed updates include:
  • Strengthening current child labor prohibitions regarding agricultural work with animals in timber operations, manure pits, storage bins and pesticide handling.
  • Prohibiting hired farm workers under the age of 16 from employment in the cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco.
  • Prohibiting youth in both agricultural and nonagricultural employment from using electronic devices, including communication devices, while operating power-driven equipment.
  • Prohibiting hired farm workers under the age of 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment. A similar prohibition has existed as part of the nonagricultural child labor provisions for more than 50 years. A limited exemption would permit some student-learners to operate certain farm implements and tractors (when equipped with proper rollover protection structures and seat belts) under specified conditions.
  • Preventing children under 18 years of age from being employed in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm-product raw materials. Prohibited places of employment would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions. 

What I know may not be any more than you know on this subject, which is incredibly serious and potentially life threatening to many farms and ranches across this country. Basically, this is another attempt by our government to over-regulate its citizens so that they can drag us down to their preferred level of mediocrity through controlling our ability to work. It is ridiculous, frustrating, and completely shocking to me that anyone would even consider proposing these changes.

If you aren't familiar with agriculture, allow me to make a couple points. First, the family structure on a farm or ranch is rarely kids and their parents. It typically involves cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, distant cousins, and neighbors who you might as well be related to. Part of the proposed rule would limit a youth's ability to work with anyone but his parents, and maybe grandparents, on a farm or ranch. 

Second, tasks like not being able to drive a tractor, not coming into contact with a bull, ride a horse, or be allowed to transport raw farm materials is comparable to saying your child may not come into contact with flour until he/she is sixteen if you own a bakery. Literally is at that level of overkill, with about the same amount of reasoning to back it as you can imagine they would have to keep kids out of contact with flour. Actually it is much the same thing, except it's contact with flour before it's in your kitchen.

I recently sat next to a man who is heavily involved in fighting this proposed rule, and he taught me lot on the subject. First, whoever came up with this idea knows something about agriculture, in his opinion. Why? Because they put the proposed rule out for comment on September 2, which is one of the busiest times of the year for America's farmers, and ranchers, in many cases. They knew our industry wouldn't have time to immediately respond as a whole because we were busy harvesting, weaning, etc... So, as we move forward with this, be aware that timely updates, any future comment periods, and other pertinent information is likely to be released at times when farmers and ranchers are exceptionally busy working, ironically enough.
He also said that one thing he hears a lot in D.C. is that it's okay, they aren't really going to enforce these, but just want to have them updated and current. Really, is anyone buying into that??? No. Don't worry, he isn't either.
He and I also discussed just how safe, or unsafe, our industry is to kids. He had a whole pile of great statistics that I cannot remember, or find at the moment. He mentioned that Hispanic youth who are part of immigrant working families are something like 50-75 percent less likely to suffer an injury working on a farm than they are if they move to an inner-city. So, gangs and other kids are far more likely to result in injury than driving a tractor or riding a horse. He also told me that the most dangerous industry for youth to work in based on data is acting.
In response to eliminating youth under 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment, he quoted that stock car circuits allow youth to compete, at far greater speeds than a tractor ever dreamed of going, at significantly younger ages. In regard to a component that states youth are unable to manipulate cattle from horseback (ie, ride and move cows). His response is that numerous equine breed organizations, in addition to numerous youth organizations, host contests that prove otherwise.
I apologize for not remembering any more of the very interested and well thought out pieces of information this man had to the rule. The key points here are that there is a lot of data showing agriculture is safe for youth to be involved in, a lot of their proposed rules have no precedence when looking at facts and figures, and basically that it's as ludicrous from that viewpoint as it is from the more emotional standpoint producers often take. The man noted that as a part of the American Farm Bureau Federation, he is fighting on the facts and figures side of the fence, and leaving the emotional side of the battle to the producers. 
You can read some additional information on how the ag industry feels about this issue at these links:

Article One

Article Two

Article Three

This is going to happen, in some form. The DOL has mostly ignored the thousands upon thousands of comments sent in by agriculture producers around the country. But, I do feel better after meeting one of the men fighting this rule face to face with our country's lawmakers.

As for the emotional side of this, here's my personal take. I grew up on an operation that included my parents, aunt and uncle and grandparents. We had a lot of work to do, and not a lot of help. So, at a very young age my siblings and I worked, and worked hard. We had our own horse, knew how to drive a manual pickup, the tractor and various other pieces of equipment, and held long hours some days. We were competent children that could be sent to complete a task, and would. Our level of success was questionable at times, but it was never for a lack of trying.  I didn't just work with my dad either. On any given day I was as likely to be working under my uncle's supervision as my own parents. People also trade work (kids a lot of the time) with neighbors during certain times of the year. 
This law, as currently proposed, would have significantly altered my family's ability to run our operation successfully, not to mention the impact it would have had on me as an individual. Those tasks taught me what work ethic really is, how to be self-sufficient, how to plan, implement and complete a task by myself or in a group setting, and how to work under and/or with a variety of people in both calm and high stress situations.  A person's youth is the cornerstone to their adulthood, and lessons learned early tend to stick. I find it frightening to think out government doesn't want another generation to know how to work.

What can we do? There is still time to submit comments on specific sections of the rule, and several of the links I've provided have information on how to do that. I would also suggest contacting your state representatives, especially if they are unfamiliar with agriculture, and the impact this will have within the industry. You can also offer support, comments, and in some instances your time, through various ag affiliated organizations, including your state stockgrowers/stockmans groups, your state and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) to name a few. I know the USCA is currently looking for participants for their latest D.C. Fly-In, where you can travel to our nation's capital and meet and discuss current issues, like this one, with various groups and individuals involved in our government.

If you would like to send me an email at with your respectfully written thoughts, comments, personal experiences growing up, or anything else relevant to this rule, I will accept them and do a post of what everyone has to say in a week or so. My thoughts are we can't publicize this enough, through enough venues, using enough concerned people, in our attempt to get the federal government to see reason. If a few people do email me, I too will take the time to write up a much shorter something to include in the post.

Hope this helps Chad, and thank you again for writing me in regard to this issue.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Did you know: trucking statistics, rules and regulations?

Last week I wrote an article from a presentation given at the Wyoming Farm Bureau Legislative Meeting, on current issues in the trucking industry. The lady had a pile of facts and figures included, and since trucking has a major impact on most industries, agriculture included, I feel they are relevant.

The trucking industry is a major U.S. employer, with 7.3 million people employed in the trucking related jobs in 2008. Nearly 3.4 million of those people were actual truck drivers.

Ninety-six percent of trucking companies operate fewer than 20 trucks, and 88 percent operate six trucks or less. It's a small business industry.

In 2011, over 69 percent of Wyoming commodities relied exclusively on trucks to move their goods, and more than 80 percent of the commodities in the U.S. depended solely on trucks for the delivery of their goods.

Truck movement of manufactured freight at the national level is 81.76 percent. In 2010, Wyoming saw 16.3 million tons of inbound manufactured freight, and trucks moved 13 million of those tons.

In 2009, commercial trucks accounted for about 10 percent of all vehicle miles driven nationwide. In Wyoming, trucks drove 2,064,000 miles, about 22 percent of all miles driven within the state that year, and paid 66 percent of all the taxes and fees owed by Wyoming highway users.

The trucking industry deals with anti-trucking groups. The one that stood out the most to me is called "Parents Against Hired Truckers." This group, along with several others, has been causing serious efforts in the Department of Transportation's (DOT) efforts to revamp the Hours of Service Rules, a critical component of any trucking business, for years.

Monday, March 5, 2012

More Cow Tattoos

We bangs vaccinated our heifers on Friday. This vaccination is required by law in Wyoming for all breeding heifers, and must be given prior to one year of age. Our heifers were born starting in late March, 2011, so we were fine in the age department.
I went over the actual process last year, and you can read that post here. Today, I'm going to give a little more information on why we bangs vaccinate, and why it is a law in Wyoming.
The shot must be administered by a vet, who will also give the heifer a tattoo her in ear, and an official bangs vaccination tag. A bangs shot protects the heifer, and her future offspring, from the disease brucellosis.
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that can affect cattle, elk, bison/buffalo, and humans. In cattle it will cause abortions, and there is no known cure for infected animals. Here are a couple links to some information on the disease in Wyoming
While it has been eradicated in most of the U.S., the elk and buffalo populations, especially in the Greater Yellowstone Area, mean we still have to be very diligent in our fight against the disease in Wyoming. Cattle can contract the disease by coming into contact with an infected elk or buffalo placenta, and this is the most common means of a cow contracting the disease. The most critical time of year is coming up in late spring and early summer, when these wildlife species will have their young, and potential infect cattle herds. This isn't a very big concern in Eastern Wyoming, where I'm from, but causes a lot of issues for ranchers in the Western part of the state. However, as the elk populations continue to explode, and inhabit new areas, the level of concern will also increase where I live.
Personally, I feel that the government should be held to the same standard of disease control that we as livestock owners embrace and practice to ensure our herds remain disease free.