My husband worked his way down the alley giving a nasalgen to each calf to protect them from the respiratory infection that some of the other calves have. The calves that were sick were given a shot to help them recover quickly.
I stood behind the last calf making sure they didn’t turn around and make a break for it out the back of the alley. It was a quick process and we soon had the calves back with their mama cows. It wasn’t long before we had taken the cows and calves to a new field.
Some days just don’t turn out as expected. We like to plan shorter rides for the younger kids to help out on such as, gathering this field of cows and calves, then moving them down the road to a new field.
The weather was perfect, the kids did great with their horses and moving the cattle. It’s so fun to watch them progress. My oldest son, who is eleven, ended up gathering a few of the stragglers and trailing them for a few miles by himself. He kept the cattle calm and let the calves set the pace. (There is no sense in pushing the cows to go faster; mama cows have a strong maternal instinct and do not travel far without their calf right beside them.) My younger kids don’t quite have the confidence yet to have done that. They still get a little flustered if their horse doesn’t do exactly what they think he should be doing. They are perfectly happy to hang out with Mom, so she can help them pick up ropes that they drop, tighten cinches as needed, lead them around trees, but mostly so they have access to Mom’s supplies: water, food, sunscreen and bandaids. Never leave home without them!
After gathering the field, we turned the pairs out on the road to trail them a half mile to their new field. They hit that road and came to a complete halt. No desire to move another step. The fun part had ended. At this point we were committed, we couldn’t very well leave the cattle in the middle of the road! We summoned our patience, fanned out our cowboy-kids, grabbed a water bottle and kept the pairs trudging down the road.
Eventually we reached the field and pushed the last of the calves through the gate. Before we left for home, we watched to make sure the cows and calves all paired up. We waited until each calf found his mama and the two of them set out to graze in the new field. Then, finally, it was time to go home for our (very late) lunch!
Antibiotics. What a controversial subject! There are many articles and a great deal of science to consider when discussing antibiotic usage, but today I want to share with you my perspective on this subject.
My husband and I are cattle ranchers. Our job is to provide for our animals. We provide food, water, supplement and care. In particular, we care for them if they get sick. This morning, we had two yearling heifers that were quite obviously not feeling well. After studying them we could tell they each had an infection and we needed to administer antibiotics to both of them. After a quick call to our veterinarian we gathered a bottle of Terramycin and syringes, placing them into our saddle bags and rode back to the yearlings. We roped each heifer and gave them the appropriate amount of antibiotic based on their weight.
You may be wondering why we would rope a sick animal? Roping is quick and easy. We can have the medicine administered in a matter of minutes and the heifer didn’t have to travel. If we had tried to move her to the corral, a couple of miles away, that would have compounded the stress she is under from the infection. We will monitor both heifers throughout the day, checking that they are walking around, eating and drinking. We are hopeful that the one injection of Terramycin will be sufficient to combat the infection and the heifers will return to good health quickly.
Here is a link to the medication we gave the heifers today. It lists the proper uses of Terramycin (wound infection is the case for these heifers). This FDA site also lists withdrawal time: 28 days before slaughter. We aren’t planning to sell these heifers until later this summer, so they will certainly meet the required withdrawal time.
As a Mom, I don’t want to feed my children food that is laced with antibiotics any more than you do. As a beef producer, I don’t want my animals to suffer and I will treat them with antibiotics, if needed. After much research into FDA requirements and learning that the US beef supply is among the safest in the world, I am assured that feeding beef to my children is safe and continues to be an excellent choice for many of their nutrient needs.
I love weekends, mostly because my kids are home from school and we can do activities together as a family. I realize these days are short-lived; my older boys are nearing their teenage years and will soon realize there are more exciting weekend options than hanging with mom and dad. But until that day arrives, we will continue to
put them to work on the weekends enjoy our weekend time together.
Last weekend we gathered a large field of cows and calves, then sorted the pairs into two different groups.
Sorting is a slow and steady process. We take the pairs to a corner in the field, then station all the riders around the perimeter of the herd. One or two cowboys quietly ride through the herd looking for the cows they want to sort into a different group. Once they have identified a cow to sort out, they watch her to determine which calf is hers. Then calmly and slowly, they work that pair out of the large herd. Once that pair crosses the perimeter, the nearest cowboys continues driving that pair to the smaller herd we are creating with the pairs we have sorted.
It can be a real test of animal handling skills. Remaining quiet, keeping your horse calm and not rushing through the job are the keys to easy sorting. The kids all did a great job; I was so proud of them. They held the herd, keeping the cows in the corner of the field and my oldest even sorted out a few cows on his own.
My youngest kept himself (and his mother) entertained. He trotted around and around with one hand thrown into the air. When he approached me, I asked him what he was doing. His response: “I’m a World Famous Buckin’ Horse Rider!”
Of course. I should have known.
Eventually, even bucking horse riders get tuckered out.
Rotational grazing is a ranch management practice that we use with our yearlings. We have several fields that we rotate the yearlings through, moving to a different field every few days. This allows the yearlings to always be on fresh green grass, which meets so many of their nutritional requirements. This system also gives the grass a resting time which encourages new growth. It’s amazing how quickly the grass regenerates.
Moving yearlings every few days provides many opportunities for the kids to log a few more miles in the saddle. It is an easy ride, perfectly suited to young kids and young horses.
Today was a windy day, with gusts that sent my daughter’s hat skipping across the field as we rode home. It was Dad to the rescue!
As much as we enjoy our time horseback, there are occasions when we use the Gator for ranch activities. It is unbelievably easy to throw protein supplement in the back of the Gator to take out to the cows. Or throw in a few fencing supplies and buzz around a field checking fence.
In our zeal of zipping around the pasture, we occasionally get the mighty Gator stuck. During the walk back to headquarters, we remind ourselves of the limitations of machines and the grace and majesty of our horses. When we return to the scene of the burial, with a truck load of kids, chains and shovels our good humor has usually returned and we set off on our mission once again, on the Gator, of course.
We set a new record this time: getting the Gator stuck twice in one day. For the second time today, cowboys walked back to the ranch. Not being the one who walked 5+ miles in wet boots, through rocky pastures, I found it hilarious.
Once again, we loaded the pick-up and set about on our second rescue mission of the day.
It took a little work, but eventually the Gator was out of the mud and on solid ground again.
On the way home, everyone agreed to park the Gator and use horses as our preferred mode of transportation.
Knowing my cowboys and their somewhat unreliable short-term memories, I took the liberty of stashing a shovel and a water bottle in the Gator.
Just in case.
Recently, I was visiting with a friend about raising daughters. Our daughters are in the same class at school and we were discussing the day in the (very distant) future when our girls will be teenagers. Specifically, we talked about our hopes that we can skillfully guide our daughters through those notoriously turbulent waters. She made the comment to me, “It really DOES take a village to raise children that become successful adults.”
As all parents, there are days when I am convinced I have completely failed my children and there is no hope they will become productive members of society. (What’s that you say? You don’t have those days? Hmm… well, according to my husband, there may be a slight chance that at times, I am just a bit over-dramatic. Anyhow…)
It was a small branding, just the few people who live in the area were in attendance. Throughout the day, whether we were roping, branding, riding, or entertaining the kids, I was struck by the amazing people that are in our lives.
Good people, good cowboys, good friends. My children are truly blessed to have these folks in their lives to serve as positive influences and role models. With these folks providing the village to help raise my children, I find myself more optimistic about surviving the
dreaded upcoming teenage years.
Back to the branding…
It was a windy, gusty day. Hats were flying, extra sweatshirts were untied from our saddles, and jackets were zipped up tight. This low-key event was perfect for my kids to throw a few loops. My nine-year old had a great day in the branding pen. He caught several calves and had a huge smile on his face the whole time.
And just in case you didn’t know, it’s very important to bring your own firefighter to a branding. Four-year old firefighters (with cute cowgirl sidekicks) are particularly in high demand this season.
No school this week! My kids were so excited to discover that they got a week off for President’s Day. (I believe it’s actually for teacher furlough days, but either way my kids are home this week!) My husband and I wasted no time in planning a full week of activities. We quickly loaded up kids, sleeping bags, horses and a few other necessities and hit the road.
First item on our list was checking cows and moving them to a different pasture. These are our fall-calving cows that we purchased last year. We have been pleased with how well the calves are doing and the mothering abilities of the cows.
On this ride, I was struck by how much my kids have improved in their horsemanship and animal handling abilities over the past year. I found myself preparing the typical comments (okay, lectures) for them regarding handling their horses or the cattle, only to realize that they were a step ahead of me. We still have a lot to learn, but seeing improvement is always fun, especially for a mom who is convinced that her children speak a different language than their parents.
Easy rides like this one provide an opportunity for the kids to observe how their horses respond to the movement of the reins and the kids’ feet. Also, how the cows respond to a posse of kids mounted on their favorite horses. My nine-year old could see that if he rode up close to the cows the cows would speed up, but if he kept some distance between the cows and himself the cows would stay calm and walk quietly with their calves. It seems like a simple concept, but the idea of applying pressure by moving closer to the cattle and releasing pressure by backing off is fundamental in understanding how to handle cattle calmly and without undue stress in all situations.
It’s always difficult to gauge how much he gleans from the discussions going on around him. I couldn’t begin to tell you if he is grasping the basics of animal handling skills, but I do know that he has perfected the art of entertaining his mother.
Three not-so-great things about living on a ranch:
1. Mud and muck everywhere. Vehicles are muddy, clothes are mucky and kids are both.
2. Mother Nature. Frozen fingers & toes. Sunburns. Howling winds.
3. Working with family. When we have a bad day at work, we don’t get to leave it at the office.
Three oh-so-great things about living on a ranch:
1. Animals. Wild and domestic. Spending our days caring for them.
2. Mother Nature. High desert flat lands, mountain peaks, grassy valleys.
3. Working with family. Taking our kids to work with us. Teaching them to respect and care for the animals. Teaching them to respect and care for Mother Nature.