Category Archives: Featured

8 Months

The search for a permanent home for 7 Ranch and my herd of Miniature Herefords had been long….very long….but at long last had come to pass! I was full of plans and even more excitement. The first order of business was fence repairs. I attacked the fencing project with a laser focus! Finally, after 2 weeks, it was completed and the Minis were moved to their new home.
All went well on the new ranch…. for the first 3 days. There was peace and tranquility in the herd. I was happy. Little did I know that this idyllic scene was abruptly about to change. On day 3 however, first calf heifer, Fancy, went into labor. I knew the delivery would be dangerous. This heifer had been bred to a full sized Red Angus bull renowned for throwing large calves. I’m talking 70 – 80 pounds. The discovery of this breeding came too late to initiate any methods of terminating of the pregnancy. My vet, Dr. Harry Baxtrom, had been alerted that Fancy was in labor. Immediately Doc was in route to the ranch. I began moving the heifer towards the barn. Fancy was nervous. The calf’s feet were visible. I sensed that the heifer, along with rest of the herd, was growing nervous. Nostrils were beginning to flare. Ears were forward. The cattle were all on red alert. The heifer was beginning to pick up speed in the pasture. Oh no! All of a sudden the whole herd broke into a run. My vet had just driven in and had parked at the barn. He jumped out of his truck in an attempt to head off the stampede and try to get the heifer in the barn. The herd was now stampeding at breakneck speed. They busted through every new fence on the ranch at least twice…sometimes 3 times….then the stampede changed direction and headed north to the line fence with Todd McMenimen’s 100 acre hay field which was bordered on the north side by….you guessed it….thick, deep Rocky Mountain timber….and…wait for it…the mighty King Irrigation Ditch which runs fast, deep and wide. There was no stopping these cattle. It was now an old fashioned, wild west stampede! Meanwhile, back at the barn, we managed to get the calving heifer in the barn plus had captured Rayna Sampson’s heifer calf. We would use Rayna’s baby to lure Rayna back to the barn (being an outstanding Momma) and hopefully she would bring the rest of the herd with her. This plan worked…..well…sort of.
Delivery of the calf was horrific. Dr. Baxtrom needed some serious manpower to deliver this calf and save the cow. Neighbor Bernie Gurule, and other neighbors I did not yet know, had heard about the Mini stampede to the woods and showed up to help. Bernie was assisting Dr. Baxtrom with the delivery. It took both men to deliver this calf! At one point I had gone to my truck to get my gun. I was prepared to put the heifer down to spare her more agonies and terrible pain.
The calving drama in the barn was still at fever pitch, but under control with Doc Baxtrom’s considerable skill and Bernie Gurule’s capable assist. At the same time other neighbors heard about the stampede and they also hurried over to help. This kindness and generosity to a new neighbor they did not know was and continues to be so very humbling. Some were on 4 wheelers. Some were on foot. Others came over to offer horses and skills with roping. The hunt was on and in high gear to capture these cattle. Many of the folks on the 4 wheelers would roar up with an encouraging “No worries ma’am. We’ll get ’em”, or “No worries ma’am. That ditch will stop ’em” or “No worries ma’am, they’re Mini’s ….how far can they go?!” Well…pretty far so it turned out and no, the ditch didn’t stop them.
Back at the barn the calf had been born. First believed to be dead I saw the faintest little movement of the white eyelashes. The other eye had red eyelashes. The calf lived! Wonders of wonders! My daughter and I started drying and stimulating the little fella until he stood up on his own. The neighbors had spread out like a flood of ants around the 100 ac. hay field, were scouring the woods, searching up and down the King ditch, going from house to house of surrounding ranches alerting ranchers, asking for their help or to put the herd in their corral in event they showed up, or just to let me know if they were seen. My name, phone numbers and description of the Minis was spread up and down these county roads. Most of these folks had never heard of Miniature Herefords before now!
The great Miniature Hereford hunt evolved into groups. There was the ‘4 wheeler brigade’ headed up eventually by Bernie Gurule. Then the ‘On Foot Trackers/Trappers’ headed by Troy Yates and his sons Austin, Tristin, Cole along with other good hearted neighbors, and the ‘Cowboys’ with horses and ropes which included Austin Yates and his cowboy friends. But there was one cattleman/cowboy in particular, a true professional cow man, with fast trained cow horses, smart savvy cow dogs that finally out witted, and out smarted the wiley Minis!
Barn drama with the heifer and the calf was continuing. Momma was not having anything to do with her new baby. So bottle feeding the little guy, now named Norman, began with life giving colustrum from a bottle. Norman, of course, liked all of this attention and had seriously imprinted with our voices. When we called his name he responded with a gusty Bwaaaah!
During the night though Rayna Sampson had swam back across the King ditch, crossed back over the 100 acre hay field then proceeded to turn barn door into a pile of splinters and took off with her calf to parts unknown. So, as you see, the calf hostage plan worked….with adjustments for cow ‘thinking.’ For the next many, many days, that stretched into months, we all searched, walked, 4 wheelered, horsebacked, and foot tramped through the woods everywhere imaginable trying to find the cattle. We talked, telephoned, called authorities, brand inspectors, ran ads and offered rewards. Word would be sent from somebody that the cattle had been seen here, or there, so we loaded up, rushed to the spot, only to find they were no where to be seen. The band of escapees would drift in and out of the woods to nibble in the hay field, then would drift out of sight into the woods again. Then I received a call from neighboring rancher, Dean Cundiff. The cattle were at his place hanging out with and visiting his mules. Dean opened up his corrals so we could push the cattle to them. We rolled in to Dean’s ranch excited about putting an end to this fiasco. We eased up to the herd. Heads shot up, nostrils flared, and they took off again like they had been shot. Only this time, they didn’t break through Dean’s fences….they jumped the things like Thoroughbred horses. Those big bodies on top of those short legs sailed over those fences with that to the ‘side crooked cow kick’ as they launched themselves airborne. They were feeling pretty darn cockey about themselves. They knew they were giving all of us a run for our money! Dejectedly we packed up our gear and headed back to the ranch with an empty stock trailer.
Sometime later my phone rang again. It was a resident of a subdivision named Twilight. The lady told me that a funny looking Hereford was hanging out on her front yard with her calf and they might be what I was looking for. It was Rayna Sampson and her calf. She was 5 miles from the barn. Now we know just how far a Mini can travel! Apparently, being the good momma that she is she did not take her calf back across the ditch but traveled to the green, lush and manicured yards of the residents of Twilight Subdivision and settled in. Smart girl!
By the time Rayna and calf were brought home to the ranch, all the other cattle had been rounded up except for 3. Those 3 would elude capture for another 7 months. The ring leader of the group was a cow named Easter. (Yes, that’s the day she was born. Yes, I know how un-creative that name is). Number 2 was a bull named Mr. Magoo. Number 3 was a heifer calf #46. The gang of three had hooked up in the woods with a black, Longhorn Bull that belonged to local Chiropractor, Dr. Andy Lake. Dr. Lake had told me that his bull had been loose in the woods for 2 years and he had never been able to catch him. My heart sank on this bit of news.
All during the next 7 months we attempted to catch, lure, shoot with dart guns, whatever might work, baiting with sweet feed, drive, track, rope, run down, anything anyone could think of to catch the last 3. In the meantime, I had learned that the Minis had made themselves all comfy and ‘to home’ at the ‘Bob’s John’s Port-a-potty’ storage lot. They had opened doors, nosed around, and just generally helped themselves to whatever tickled their curiosity! I was getting desperate to end this bizarre adventure and at one point I seriously considered taking my rifle and shooting the 3 in the woods myself. Finally though, logic and a wee bit of reason prevailed and I hired locally renowned cow man/cowboy, Dave Thomson, his cow savvy, fast horses and his cow savvy, fast dogs. The Minis put that cowman to the test challenging his considerable skills! Dave though was more than up to the task. And the Minis had met their match for sure. One by one he and his 4 legged team tracked the Minis down. One by one they were roped and dragged, stiff legged and resisting, into the stock trailer. It took several days and trips into the woods to catch them. After a short cooling off period (in secure pipe corrals of course) the 3 were returned to the ranch and the herd. They were examined by Doc Baxtrom and pronounced to be in remarkably fine condition. It turned out however, that Easter was carrying a calf of an unknown papa who could be a Miniature Hereford OR a Longhorn! I got a wierd visual image of a Miniature Hereford born with huge long, curved horns and got a big knot in the pit of my stomach. But otherwise things were returning to normal on the ranch and in due course Lucky Lady was born a perfectly attractive and lovely, purebred Miniature Hereford heifer!
As I ponder about all of the events of the several months of the Mini’s escape, their escapades, eventual capture and return, I am struck at how a ranching community, with no knowledge of Miniature Herefords except to point fingers and chuckle at them, is now taking a second look at these very special animals. The great escape of the Minis provided a crash course for me in my new environment, a crash course in introductions between neighbors, and of course, a crash course in Miniature Herefords to a large section of the county and livestock officials! Oh yes, Norman went to the LaPlata County Fair last year. He was ably shown by my 6 year old granddaughter Gracie in the Bucket Calf Class. He ignited a flash mob of fair spectators who just wanted to touch the little guy! Perhaps it had something to do with that winsome face with the foot long white eyelashes on one eye and red eyelashes on the other. My Miniature Hereford ‘Cinder’ was named Reserve Grand Champion of the Show against really powerful competition from other breeds. It was a significant achievement for the Miniature Herefords, especially considering it was won in a land of hard core big cow ranchers. The ‘Great Miniature Hereford Escape’ did more for awareness of the breed locally than any advertising campaign I could have dreamed up. It promoted an awareness that these short legged Herefords are a legitimate part of every ranching community. I am, and will forever be, grateful to all who worked, helped and encouraged me so tirelessly and generously to bring the herd home. Thank you.

Early Weaning: Nutrition and Cost Considerations

Chris Reinhardt, Extension Feedlot Specialist
Reprinted from www.asi.ksu.edu/beeftips

The nutrition of the early weaned (90-120 days of age) calf is not greatly different than that of the normal age (~205 days) calf; however, there are several key factors to consider.

Whether or not you’ve ever fed calves, you’re more qualified to wean your calves than anyone else, provided you’ve got some quality feedstuffs and appropriate facilities. The reason? If you can simply move the calves or cows to an adjacent pen or pasture from one another, the stress of weaning is nearly eliminated. And this greatly reduces the risk of subsequent disease.

Many ranchers have instituted fenceline weaning, in which the calves are placed in a pen or pasture adjacent to their mothers, and can have nose-to-nose contact with them. Or the cows are placed in a pen and the calves are allowed to graze in an adjacent pasture. These systems have proven highly effective at reducing stress on calves. Oftentimes the cows create more noise after weaning than the calves. After a few days, the calves can be completely separated without additional stress. This speaks volumes about the nutritional needs of the calf; it needs only some occasional, short-term contact and proximity from the dam, but nutritionally, the calf is ready to be on its own.

When the calf nurses, a groove closes, shunting milk from the esophagus, bypassing the reticulum, rumen, and omasum, straight to the abomasum. But, when a calf either grazes or eats solid feed from a bunk, feed enters the reticulo-rumen and begins fermentation. Once the rumen has been ‘inoculated’ (usually very soon after birth) with bacteria and protozoa from its environment, and has been ‘fed’ through grazing, the calf is a functional ruminant—this is the normal scenario for beef calves.

The rumen and the calf are both accustomed to grass and the rate of energy release from forages. So the first feed offered to the calf during its weaning transition should resemble what they’ve been consuming up to this point– that is, good quality forage. Good quality hay from either grass, grass/legume mix, or annual grains will work well. This hay should be spread out, either long-stemmed or very coarsely chopped, in the very same bunks where the calves will be fed. Provide all the hay the calves will eat in a day, which will normally be about 10-15 pounds per head per day.

It is counter-productive to train the calves to eat from a bale feeder only to later try to re-train them to a bunk, and the attraction of good quality, loose, long-stemmed hay in the bunk is the best way to accomplish this. Also, on either the first or second day after weaning, place about 2-3 pounds per head of a nutrient dense starter ration on top of the loose hay. This ration should be a mix of 25-35 percent ground hay, and the remainder made up of a blend of cracked or ground grain and a source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Byproducts such as dry distillers grains, wheat midds, corn gluten feed, and soy hulls work well to provide both energy and protein, and can be used to
replace all or a portion of the grain in the diet. With the inclusion of byproduct feeds to supply all needed protein, a commercial source of
vitamins and minerals can be used to balance the diet.

If the calves are healthy, vigorous, and eating well, the loose hay can be reduced and eliminated over a period of 3-4 days, but if
health and intake of the ration are poor, continue to place 3-4 pounds of loose hay in the bunk until health and intake improve.

Economic return from early weaning is driven primarily by ensuring future productivity of the cow herd, but proper management of the calves can contribute as well. Plan to have feed and space for these calves for at least 30 days, and 45-60 days may be even better. That will give the calves time to recover any lost weight from the weaning transition, recover from any respiratory disease they may have endured, and fully respond to the vaccination protocol given at weaning time.

Another benefit of feeding these calves for a time is that given their young age and lean stage of growth, these calves convert feed to gain very efficiently (often in the range of 4:1); therefore, the cost of gain can be very economical, compared to commercial feeding, depending on the cost of your local feedstuffs.

Based on current estimated Kansas costs of alfalfa hay, cracked corn, dried distillers grains, and a medicated mineral/vitamin supplement, calves can be fed for approximately $1/day (not including yardage or labor). If no major health challenges occur, we should expect the calves to gain at or above 2 lb/day. This results in a feed cost of gain of about 50¢/lb, while current commercial feedyards are experiencing feed costs of gain of about 80¢/lb for finishing cattle.

There are many ways to effectively manage these special calves. The most important thing is to get them the needed nutrition, preserve the cow, and preserve the range.

Successful Early Weaning: Consider Water, Weaning Method, Vaccination Program and Animal Handling

Larry Hollis, Extension Beef Specialist
Reprinted from www.asi.ksu.edu/beeftips

With the hot, dry Summer currently being experienced in many parts of Kansas, traditional weaning plans may need to be significantly altered. Cows are out of grass in many areas, and grass is extremely short in others. Early weaning of calves should be strongly considered. Considerable research has shown that it is a much better use of resources to wean the calf early, and either sell or feed the calf, than try to feed the cow enough to sustain lactation through a drought. Doing this will hold feed costs down both now and this Winter when you are trying to get cows in condition to (1) survive the Winter, (2) calve successfully, and (3) be in reasonable body condition score (BCS) to breed back next year. Many cows may be close to drying up on their own because of the lack of feed, so the primary thing they may be providing is merely companionship for the calf.

Consider these factors when early weaning.

• Water. Freshly weaned calves need plenty of fresh, clean water, especially if weaned during the heat of summer. Hopefully they have had access to water alongside their mothers, but if their mothers are drinking from an elevated tank or tub that calves cannot reach, they may need to be provided with a readily-available, closer-to-the-ground water source so that they are trained to drink from it prior to actual weaning time.

• Weaning method. Research has shown that “soft” weaning methods such as fence line weaning or nose clip weaning result in better maintenance of existing calf weights or subsequent calf performance than traditional “hard” weaning methods (abruptly separating cows and calves and placing calves in a drylot or unfamiliar pasture situation). When calves are weaned with either soft method, calves have the benefit of knowing their way around the pasture, including where shade, water and feed are located. If facilities permit (calf-proof fences between 2 adjoining pastures), fence line weaning is preferable over nose clip weaning because it does not require running calves through the chute twice to install and remove the nose clips. Hard weaning methods always result in greater calf weight losses than soft methods. Also, hard weaning, especially when calves are weaned in dry, dusty pens, almost always results in more respiratory health problems.

• Vaccination program. If some of the better calves need to be held for replacements, or calves are typically marketed through a value-added preconditioning program or marketing system, they will benefit from the same preconditioning and vaccination program that would be utilized if they were held until normal Fall weaning time. Feeding programs following weaning need to be adjusted to meet the needs of these lighter calves. When processing calves during the hot Summer, be careful to make sure that vaccines are handled properly, because heat can spoil vaccines rapidly if they are not kept refrigerated during transit and chuteside while working calves. If modified live virus vaccines are used, it is imperative that they also be protected from sunlight. Over 60% of viral particles in the bottle or syringe will be inactivated by only 1 hour of exposure to sunlight. Keeping the vaccine bottles and syringes in a cooler except when animals are actually being injected will help protect the product from both heat and sunlight.

• Working cattle. Try to gather cattle into loose grass traps or large pens near the working facility where they have plenty of space prior to
being worked. If possible, this should be done the evening before working the cattle. Try to have all work completed by 10:00 in the morning. Also, fresh water needs to be available both before and soon after working through the chute.

We can’t escape an occasional drought, but we can manage our way around them and reduce their negative impact. With a little advance planning, early weaning can be accomplished and the herd set up to recover more quickly once it finally starts raining again.

For Ranch Wives Everywhere

Reprinted – Source unknown

This time of year, when the cattle are being worked and shipped, is usually a time of high stress on ranch marriages – not unlike calving, lambing, planting, haying, combining, feeding, and all of the other seasons of ranch wife life.
Julie Carter of Carrizozo, New Mexico, whose ‘Cowgirl Sass’ articles sometimes appear in Agri-News, wrote these Ranch Wife 101 Guidelines, which seem very appropriate to share during shipping season. She is obviously a genius because these are good enough to hang on the refrigerator!

Never – and I repeat never – ever believe the phrase, ‘We’ll be right back,’ when he has asked you to help him do something on the ranch. The echoing words, ‘This will only take a little while,’ have tricked generations of ranch wives and still today should invoke sincere distrust in the woman who hears them.
Always know there is no romantic intention when he pleadingly asks you to take a ride in the pickup with him around the ranch while he checks water and cattle. What that sweet request really means is that he wants someone to open the gates.

He will always expect you to be able to quickly find one stray in a four-section brush-covered pasture, but he will never be able to find the mayonnaise jar in a four-square-foot refrigerator.
Always load your horse last in the trailer so it is the first one unloaded. By the time he gets his horse unloaded, you will have your cinch pulled and be mounted up – lessening the chance of him riding off without you while your horse tries to follow with you hopping along beside it, still trying to get your foot in the stirrup.

Count everything you see – cattle especially, but also horses, deer, quail or whatever moves. Count it in the gate, or on the horizon. The first time you don’t count is when he will have expected that you did. That blank eyelash-batting look you give him when he asks, ‘How many?’ will not be acceptable.

Know that you will never be able to ride a horse or drive a pickup to suit him. Given the choice of jobs, choose throwing the feed off the back of the truck to avoid the opportunity for constant criticism of your speed, ability, and eyesight. ( How in the $@*!&* could you NOT see that hole?’)

Never allow yourself to be on foot in the alley when he is sorting cattle on horseback. When he has shoved 20 head of running, bucking, kicking yearlings at you and hollers, ‘Hold ‘em, hold ‘em!’ at the top of his lungs, don’t think that you really can do that without loss of life or limb. Contrary to what he will lead you to believe, walking back to the house is always an option that has been exercised throughout time.

Don’t expect him to correctly close snap-on tops on plastic refrigerator containers, but know he will expect you to always close every gate. His reasoning is that the cows will get out, but the food cannot.
Always praise him lavishly when he helps in the kitchen – the very same way he does when you help him with ranch work – OR NOT!

Finally, know that when you step out of the house, you move from ‘wife’ to ‘hired hand’ status. Although the word ‘hired’ indicates there will be a paycheck (that you will never see), rest assured that you have job security. The price is just right, and you will always be ‘the best help he has’ – mainly because you are the ONLY help he has!”