Moving the Cows Closer to Home

Well calving is almost done and we are starting to get caught up on sleep.  Over the next few weeks, I will post some photos of the past couple months.

In late January, we picked a gorgeous day to move the cows down from the top fields closer to the home ranch.  Not only was the weather nice, but the cows were definitely feeling good so I only have a couple photos to share. They ran straight down, passing the tractor and ran to the bottom hayfield where we had already rolled out a bale of hay for them.

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About 2 weeks before calving starts, we vaccinate all of the cows with a scour vaccine as an aid in preventing calf scours during the calving season. Our calving started around February 28th this year, so early in February we moved the cow herd up to the home ranch corrals in order to vaccinate, sort out the first year calvers and any cows that are starting to get close to calving.  We sort out the first year calvers so that they can be fed in bale feeders and therefore have hay available 24 hours a day.  Since they are 2 years old, it important to ensure that they get as much feed as possible so that they can give their calves the best start possible and maximize their milk production after they calve.

Walk to the Cows

Earlier this week, we walked up to the top hayfields to check the ice where the cows are watering.  It has warmed up considerably; therefore, we currently don’t need to cut the ice every morning as we do when it is colder.  The hay supply in the top hayfield is almost finished so we will be moving the cows down closer to the home ranch later this month. Check back for a post on the move next week.

View from the Top Gate to Water

There is an old building near the water source, which was built long before my grandparents starting ranching in 1967.

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It was a gorgeous day to get some exercise in the fresh air. Our son is always so happy when we are outside, especially if he can see the cows.  Cowboy in the making!

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Our Christmas Tree Tradition

Yesterday morning we went Christmas tree hunting in the backquarter.  Since there is a lot of snow this year we weren’t able to get the pickup trucks up the road, so we took our Polaris Ranger. The Polaris Ranger has become an important vehicle for getting around the ranch as it can almost go anywhere and it is relatively cheap to operate.  However, it can also get stuck in the snow, but at least it is usually easy to get unstuck!

Too much snow!

Before we started looking for our trees, we fed the cowherd.  We feed the cows in a different location each day so that the cows are eating on clean snow and it helps to fertilize the hayfields.  The cow manure and urine helps to fertilize the fields, and any of the hay that is not cleaned up by the cows also adds nutrients to the soil.

Feeding Time

 

Rolling Out Hay

We use the bale feeder on the back of the tractor to roll out each bale.

Rolling Out Bale

My grandfather selectively harvested the trees in the backquarter about 10 years ago and some of small spruce and fir trees are getting to be a perfect size for Christmas trees.  Not only did we find our trees within the first two hours, all three trees were within a 3 minute walk of each other. Some years, we spend a good portion of the day looking for our trees.

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While we were looking for our trees, we found a cache from a rodent preparing for winter.

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Once all three trees were found, we used the Polaris Ranger to haul them home.

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Some years we have used horses, trucks, other years the tractor and this year we used the Ranger.  No matter what method is used, we always have a great family day on our property looking for the year’s special Christmas tree.

Winter Feed Grounds

We moved the cows up to the winter feed grounds on Monday, after the cold weather subsided slightly.  The cows were grazing at a lower elevation in Kamloops on some alfalfa/grass hay fields until early this month, soon after the first big snowfall.  Now that there is quite a bit of snow in the fields, we must feed the herd hay for the rest of the winter season.  They are currently being fed in the fields above the home ranch and we then move them closer to home in January ready for calving season in February.  Our winter feeding season usually ends towards the end of April to the beginning of May, depending how soon the grass begins to grow.  On a ranch, we are very dependent on the weather, and as such we follow the weather forecast daily.

December and January are quieter months on the ranch as the main task each day is feeding the cattle.  It is also a good time to catch up on paper work and other odds and ends that can be done in the winter.

 

 

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The New Ram

When I was young, I showed sheep for a few years at the Provincial Winter Fair in Kamloops which gave me a basic introduction into the sheep industry.  The start of my own sheep flock started in 2009, when I was given two bottle-fed lambs from a local rancher.  To enlarge my flock, my husband purchased 2 more ewes for me as a gift last Christmas.  Now that I have 5 ewes and 1 ewe lamb,  I decided that it was time to purchase my first ram so I purchased a Corriedale yearling ram from Clearwater, BC.  Corriedale sheep are a dual purpose breed, which means that they are used for both meat and wool.  It originated as a cross breed between the Merino and Lincoln.  I turned the ram out with my ewes on October 24th which means that the ewes should start lambing towards the middle to end of March.  I am looking forward to seeing the resulting lambs next spring.

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Snow is Falling

Today is the first snowfall of the winter, with at least 4 inches of snow and lots of wind. Once the calves are weaned and shipped, we devote our time to getting the corrals, machinery and animals ready for winter. We must put all of the summer equipment and supplies away under cover before the first snowfall and before we get too much frost. This morning we moved the replacement heifers and small steers into separate pens and started each group on a grain ration.  It usually takes a few days for all of the calves to start eating the grain ration well.   We like to keep the small steers and replacement heifers separate so that the little steers won’t get pushed out and so that they can be fed a few more pounds of grain compared to the heifers. We feed our heifers only enough grain to help them reach their growth potential ready for breeding in May.

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Beef and Lamb for Sale

We sell natural, hormone-free beef and lamb. The grass fed lamb and beef are both available each fall, and the grain fed beef can be purchased throughout the year.  If ordered in advance, we have a cutting instruction sheet where you can choose how you would like your beef or lamb cut and packaged.

The beef can be cut into a mixed 1/4 or 1/2. We charge $3.75 per lb, for the carcass weight.  This works out to approximately $550-$600 for a mixed 1/4 of grass fed or
$600-$650 for a mixed 1/4 of grain fed beef.   Currently, we have some grain fed beef
available and the grass fed beef will be ready in the end of November/beginning of
December.

The lamb can be cut into a 1/2 or whole. We are sold out of lamb for this year but if you are interested, we can put your name on the list ready for next fall.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or are interested in purchasing some beef or lamb.

Fall Time on the Ranch

Fall is always a busy time on the ranch.  We have been busy bringing cows home in order to weigh and sort the calves.   On our ranch, we weigh each calf so that we have a record of what their mother has produced each year.  This helps us in selecting which cows should be sold.  After weighing each calf, we pick the heifers that we are going to keep as replacements.  These heifer calves will be kept over the winter and bred next May. We also sort out any small calves that we will background over the winter and sell the following year, usually these are any calves under 500 lbs.  We market most of our calves at the BC Livestock Producers Co-operative in Kamloops, as well as a few by private treaty. This year, we sold the calves on Oct 8th.

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Soon after the calves are sold, we preg check all of the cows so that we know which ones are bred, with a cut-off date of April 15th.  This helps us decided which cows should be culled and sold.

After preg checking, we vaccinate and wean the replacement heifer calves and small calves by putting them in a clean, dry pen with lots of clean water and hay.  They learn quite quickly how to adapt on their own and within a couple days, they are settled into their new life.  Once the calves are settled, we put them on grass pastures until the snow arrives.

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The cows stay on our hayfields to graze in the fall and then we haul them to a lower elevation hayfield so that they can graze out longer into the winter.

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Fencing on a Sunday

Some days on the ranch, including weekends, do not always go as planned.  Yesterday our neighbor mentioned that he saw our 5X bull in one of his pastures fighting with his black Angus bull. First thing this morning, we went up to check the fence in case the bull fight had taken out some staples or pulled down some wires.  Needless to say, the bulls did not only take out some staples but they actually completely took down 160 feet of the 4 strand barbed wire fence that was between them.DSC_0622

Our cow/calf pairs and yearling heifers that were in that pasture also decided to follow our bull so we had to sort out our cows from the neighbors.  Luckily, it had just recently happened so our cows came back through quite easily. My mom and I, with my son in a snuggly, were able to get all of our cows and calves back in with the exception of 1 cow

and 2 calves that were left for us to bring home later in the afternoon.

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Five hours later, the fence was back up and we were able to sort out a couple yearlings from the group and check which animals were still missing. DSC_0665One of the things that I enjoy about working on the ranch is that every day is different and you don’t always know what your day will look like.  My son and I were able to enjoy the fresh air and outdoors on a Sunday morning with my parents while fixing the broken fence.  Family time can always be special, no matter what you are doing.