Open Letter to my Readers

Dear Friends,

I am writing this letter to answer the number one question I have received from many of you over recent months: “Kim, have you abandoned blogging?”

I can hardly fault you for asking. There is no denying that my blog is suffering from neglect. I have so enjoyed sharing photos and stories from my family’s ranch with all of you over the past five years. I have tried to be transparent with you, sharing the good times and the tough times. But, there is a part of my ranch life that I have kept from you.

In the beef industry we have a national checkoff program that requires cattle producers to pay $1.00/head each time a bovine animal is sold. That $1.00 is used to promote beef, educate consumers about beef and conduct beef research on both a state and national level. Many years ago, I was involved with the Idaho Beef Council which manages the checkoff program throughout the state. On the national level, checkoff programs are overseen by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and I am currently chairing that Board. It has been a significant time commitment for me, requiring travel to various meetings each month, not to mention the weekly conference calls or the daily emails and phone calls. In other words, the time that I used to spend on blogging is now consumed by my CBB work.

It is a tremendous privilege and honor to be serving in this position. It may be the most humbling job I have ever held (next to motherhood, of course–nothing is more humbling than that!). As I travel the country and meet with cattle producers from all walks of life, I am reminded that the decisions my officer team makes this year absolutely must be in the best interest of all the cattle producers in this country. It’s a little overwhelming at times.

Initially, I made the decision to not talk about my CBB work on this blog, because frankly things were a little contentious in the checkoff arena for a while. I didn’t want to have BeefMatters dragged into the fray. Now I realize this was a mistake. I am proud of the work I have done over the years and I want to share with you the last few months of this journey with you.

I hope you will forgive me and still take the time to read BeefMatters. I will do my best to keep you up to speed with life on the ranch and also fill you in a little on my CBB work. No time like the present, right? Let me tell you about the meeting I attended over the weekend.

I was invited to speak at the Georgia Cattle Association’s summer meeting. I have been to a number of other southeastern states, but never to Georgia and I was looking forward to the trip. I was not disappointed. Let me assure you that Southern Hospitality is alive and well in the great state of Georgia. Those folks were kind, gracious, unfailingly polite, and made me feel right at home. They were a wonderful audience–listened attentively, laughed at my jokes (thank you!), and asked many questions. We discussed the impact the checkoff has on consumer demand for beef, not only domestically, but also in our foreign markets.

The afternoon was spent touring Georgia farms and taking in the beautiful scenery of the Chattahoochee National Forest. My hosts picked my brain about cattle production in the high deserts of Idaho and patiently explained to me the struggles they face in their hot and humid environment, combined with the obstacle of the tremendous distance to the feedyards in the Midwest.

I left Georgia with many new friends, a (slowly) developing taste for grits and the knowledge that the cattlemen and women in the southeast understand the value of the checkoff to their own farms and ranches. And, once again, I am humbled by the dedication and tenacity of America’s cattle producers.

It was a fantastic trip, but I am anxious to get home. My husband reminds me that there is work to be done–horses to ride, cows to move and salt to be hauled out. And, yes, I am looking forward to all of that, but mostly I miss my kids. The best part of returning home is the moment I walk through the door and instantly have four kids jostling around me, all trying to be the first to hug Mom. Everyone is talking at once, telling me what I have missed and asking about my meetings. It’s noisy and chaotic and messy–it’s exactly what I love most.

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Loading Trucks with My Top Hand

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For the past couple of weeks we have been shipping our cattle from our winter ground to our summer ground. The grass up north is ready for cattle and, trust me, these cows are ready to see green grass!

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Loading trucks is a group effort; my whole family helps gather the cattle and bring them to the corral. Then my husband, oldest son and I sort the cattle in preparation for the trucks’ arrival.

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This boy is twelve and loves being a cowboy. He can’t wait to get home from school so he can saddle his horse and get some “real” work done. It has been so fun watching him develop into a good hand on the ranch.

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I’m not sure the day will ever come when this little hooligan claims the title of Top Hand!

Hard at Work

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My family hard at work.

Or is it play? Branding is hard work, no doubt about it. But, it’s also fun. We invite family and friends to our brandings. People get to rope, visit, and eat lunch together. We look forward to it as some of our favorite work days all year.

And I love that my young family enjoys working and playing together.

Moving Day

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Perfect day for moving heifers on my favorite sorrel gelding. It’s a slow process. Takes time for these first-time mamas to gather up their calf and join the others trailing by them. Inevitably, a calf will fall behind and it takes the heifer a couple of minutes to notice her calf isn’t right beside her. She turns around looking for her calf and the calf is sniffing every heifer he comes across, checking to see if she is his mama.
Soon they find each other and once again join the trailing cattle–only to repeat this process every fifty yards!

Coyotes & Calving

It’s calving time! Baby calves everywhere. It’s one of the most rewarding times on the ranch, but it is also an increase in our work load. We check heifers several times throughout the day and for the most part all is well with the heifers and the baby calves. Yesterday was an exception to that.

My husband was riding through the heifers and came across a heifer with a brand-new calf, but the calf wasn’t standing up yet. A calf that’s standing up and moving around will warm himself up and quickly start looking for milk. So, when my husband saw that this brand-new calf wasn’t standing, he got off his horse with the intention of lifting up the calf and standing it on it’s feet. What he found however, was that a coyote had found the calf first. Typically when a coyote finds a newborn calf, they kill the calf. Surprisingly this calf only had wounds on it’s leg. Big, gaping, nasty wounds, but they didn’t look fatal.

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My husband came back to the house at a high trot. He came into the house and went straight to the phone to call the vet. Walking to the phone, he asked if the kids’ homework was done and could I please help him? After checking with the vet to see if he would wait after hours to help this calf, my husband jumped in the gator, I climbed on the horse and we set out to save this calf.

We were concerned that time was working against us. The calf was bleeding and we weren’t sure if the calf had gotten up to nurse from her mother before the coyote struck. We needed to get the calf to the vet and then back to her mama as quickly as possible. My husband put the calf in the gator and wasted no time turning around and driving the three miles back to the ranch. After transferring the calf to his pickup, he set out for the vet. I trailed the heifer back to the ranch and got her set up in a corral pen with hay and water.

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The vet determined that the coyote hadn’t damaged anything vital on the calf, so he stitched her up and placed a drain tube in the wound. After giving her a shot of antibiotics, he sent the calf and my husband home.

The calf needs a couple more days of antibiotics and we will remove the drain tube in a week, but so far she is doing great! She is walking around, nursing and showing no sign of infection. Success!

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Coyotes. I understand how the food chain works and coyotes need to eat, too. I can even understand how some people consider them a beautiful animal and I realize they are a necessary part of our ecosystem. But, when it is a choice between a coyote and one of our animals, we will do all within our power to protect our animals. Every time.

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