Category Archives: Cattle Information

The Best Help on the Farm

 


I have been moving cattle, strip grazing every day and in conversations it usually goes something like this; “isn’t that a lot of work” or maybe “man how do you get anything else done”?
Normally I move the temporary fence and the cattle move themselves. As they get used to this they will meet you at the fence just waiting for you to move it. This goes really well until you get a day like yesterday. About 25 head got out. These are calves and they were wild and free! I called and they didn’t come, so I went and found them and they took off like they were wild, tails up running nine-o. Nearly anytime I’m out on the farm I have the dog with me because she loves to go.

I got around them and got them turned and they headed in the right direction for a beat and then turned took off again. About the third time we did this the dog was ready for some action, she starts with a kind of whine and then goes up to a bark to move the calves before I actually let her work them.

I am not a dog trainer and this dog has had no training other than what she does by instinct and a few commands that I have taught her. She will occasionally be in the wrong spot or bust the group make matters worse but more often than not she knows where they are supposed to go and can’t wait to get at ‘em. These calves headed for some thick trees where I couldn’t go so I let the dog out to do her thing. About 30 seconds later she had them turned and back in the area where they were supposed to be. I’ll tell ya, watching a good dog or a horse or both work and be helpful and productive on the farm is really a joy for me!
I didn’t get any pics yesterday but here she is when she was a puppy helping me get a cow in that was not interested in being caught. The cow went to the pond so I couldn’t get to her.

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Nature at its Finest

 

Here is a short video of the calves a few days in to managed grazing on the sudangrass.

 

I think as we take a holistic look at how we do things on the farm we really can’t deny that cattle really enjoy grazing. These calves have had access to this patch for about 3 days and they are really doing well. They are picking up trace minerals from the soil through the plants they eat and really balancing their own ration. You can see toward the end of the video where they were the day before all grazed down and tromped into the ground. This creates a residue from the crop that shades the ground (which keeps it cooler), smothers weeds and stops the erosion from wind and rain. Another great benefit is all their manure deposits they leave behind is like money in the bank! This will break down and help build organic matter and decrease the need for commercial fertilizer. 

One benefit for the cattle is by moving them to fresh grass everyday they enjoy a clean environment, their parasites go down and there is less chance for sickness. The cattle love it!
Pastured to perfect.

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How to Make a Great Steak

Everyone wants to eat a great tasting steak, but where does the flavor come from? Once you select your cut you can marinate it, if you type that in on Google you’ll get a jillion recipes, or you can have it cut to a certain thickness, or aged a certain way.

You can slow cook it with low heat, fast cook it with high heat, eat it rare or well done. You could boil it, fry it, sear it, broil it, or grill it and the list goes on and on.

However I think the recipe for a great steak starts long before you select your cut of meat. It starts with the animal! Really a lot of things about the animal come into play but today we are just going to consider a couple.

I think one of the single most influences on your steak is what the animal had to eat both while it was in the growing phase and the finishing or fattening phase. I have to admit the first grass finished beef I raised was not very tasty. When I looked into it a little bit I figured out why right quick, this calf had a diet of only one kind of plant all through his finishing stage. Can you image eating the same exact meal day in and day out every day for 14 to 16 months? Yuck!

So when you add variety like multiple species of grass and legumes and other forage you actually are creating a flavorful steak. If you add to that nutrient rich plants, thick and green and lush with no chemicals on them, that adds to the flavor of the meat as well.

If you think about it, a calf was not created to have a grain based diet anyway. They will adapt and learn to eat it and do well on it but they were created to eat grass.

The other thing that influences flavor and tenderness is the way the live calf was handled. If he was spooked very easily and always panicked or shied quickly away from things then no matter what you feed him him he is likely to be average tasting at best. I’ve found that when I have a young calf that is a bit shy of people or equipment if I will spend some time on several occasions walking thru the herd and not really trying to do anything with them but just getting the accustomed to being moved and handled they settle right down. Some calves this may only take a couple trips and others maybe several, but then when you need to handle them or move their pasture they are much easier and safer to be around.

So the secret recipe for a great steak starts with knowing your farmer/rancher and how the calf was raised and what it was fed and how it was handled.

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Healing the Land

I have been trying my hand at multi species cover crops for regenerating the land and providing extended grazing into the fall for for our livestock.

I cleared out this small lot of overgrown weeds and cedar trees about 1 month ago. I broadcast Sudan, Austrian winter peas, forage radishes and ryegrass.

This is what it looks like today!
It has been a great fall with mild temperatures and plenty of moisture but I am really impressed with the growth here! This will actually be for the pigs and chickens because its too small of area for the cows.

This is some Sudan that regrew after I baled it this summer and I went in and planted peas and radishes for the cattle. The idea is to allow the cows on a small amount of the forage at a time with a temporary fence. I am using about 1 acre for 65 head of yearling calves. They will graze everything down and redeposit the nutrients back on the land which will lower the need for commercial synthetic inputs like fertilizer. I have been moving them daily to keep plenty of forage in front of them but it should cut down on hay and grain that we normally supplement with.

You can see where they have been on the right and where I just let them in on the left. The white posts you see are the temporary fence. They love it and seem to be doing really well on it. This actually mimics how the buffalo roamed in the wild years ago. Predators kept them bunched up and they moved all at once in large herds to new grass and ate everything there before they moved on.

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Is the Food We Eat Good for Us?

 

I’ve been looking into and learning about regenerating the soil, mainly farm ground, on our farms. What I am finding out is that most of what is considered “modern farming practices” is really bad for our soil health.

When I eat fresh vegetables from my own garden they do taste good, but the same produce grown in soil that has high organic matter, high carbon and high levels of micronutrients actually tastes a lot better. Those nutrients will then be in your body to bring health and healing to you as well. Our ancestors had some really wise traditions that we should consider getting back to.

Same thing with the cattle grazing, if they are eating plants that are grown in healthy soil not only are the cows more healthy but they produce more nutrient rich meat and milk. This is a picture of some full size cows that I turned out on a fresh meadow in late September.

This management style is going to be different for me and require me to get off the tractor more and look closely at the soil to see whats happening. Seems like I am starting to question everything to find out exactly why we do it that way.
Should make for an interesting year!

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The One Thing I Couldn’t do Without on my Feed Truck

When you fix up your feed truck with a hay bed and a cube feeder on the back, your whole back window is blocked.

Trying to hook up a trailer or load a bale of hay all of the sudden becomes a major ordeal. The gooseneck hitch is by far the hardest for me because I can’t tell how far back I am I wind up getting out and looking about 5 times while trying to hitch up. If I am lazy and don’t get out I run the risk of backing too far under and running into the trailer or feed box. I decided to install an RV camera which I purchased from Amazon for about $200.00 that had two cameras. I installed one on the feed box focused on the bed and gooseneck hitch and the other on the rear hitch.

You can see the small camera in the center of the feed box.

This is the monitor with the bed camera on. I just have to toggle the video button and it switches to the rear camera.

You can see I’m lined up easy enough.

Here you can see I’m exactly where I need to be. Only have to get out once and no guesswork about how far back I am.

This is the second truck I’ve had the camera in and its about 8 years old and I’ve never had an issue with it. The cameras light up the bed if its dark in order to be able to see and the monitor has several adjustments to tailor the image to your liking.

If you have a truck with something blocking your view or if it’s hard for you to turn around and look this is a great investment.

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Tonganoxie Kansas

Well when the residents of Tonganoxie woke up yesterday morning they learned of a big announcement for their little community of about 5000. Yes it seems that the local and state dignitaries in all their wisdom had been sworn to secrecy about this big news. I can’t imagine why they were told to keep the deal hush hush? It had a code name “project sunset”, I think all great industries need a code name before they actually break ground. I mean it is going to create 1600 new jobs which I’m sure the hard working people of Tonganoxie will be able to fill. Why they were probably just having a town hall meeting trying to figure out where 1600 of their residents are going to work (snark snark). The article doesn’t say what wages these new jobs will pay but hey, a job is a job right.

What was it that the small community found out yesterday? Well this project sunset facility will cover 300 acres and cost 320 million dollars to build! It will have a feed mill and a processing plant that will process 1.25 million chickens per week. That’s over 178,000 birds per day if they work 7 day weeks.

Tyson said one of the reasons they chose Kansas was because of their “top notch transportation network” whatever that means? I’m not sure which way the wind blows in Tonganoxie but I’d guess that if you are within 10 miles of this roughly 1 mile by 1/2 mile “project sunset” you will know by the odor that you can’t seem to get away from.

I have heard people talk about “factory farming” and to me that is what Tyson is building in Kansas. I think you all know that I believe in animal agriculture. I farm and raise cattle and a few chickens and really do all that I can to produce a top quality healthy meat protein for my family and others to enjoy. When we have to sneak in with code names and keep everyone in the dark until the deal is done, well that is a little sketchy to me. I think this country could use more family farms and there are some really good things happening with farm to plate programs and knowing your producing farmer rancher. We still have a long way to go but I think deals like “project sunset” will get people to thinking a little more about selling and buying locally and knowing where our food comes from.

Oh and just to be fair I do have a code name for some of my projects.

So what do you think?

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3 Reasons You Should Spray Those Weeds

The first of May I sprayed our pastures for weeds as most cattlemen in this area do. Whether you own a ranch or just a lawn in town it’s a good idea to get rid of those pesky broadleaf weeds.

Here is our spray rig.

My top reason for spraying is to get more and better plants for the cows to eat. Most weeds are undesirable and the cows won’t eat them anyway so they are taking up valuable real estate. I think in the cattle industry we are just as much grass managers as we are cattle managers.

We use an inexpensive GPS to get an even application to avoid skips and overages. The spray is not cheap so I don’t want to over apply by driving to close to the last pass. It also gives you speed so you can fine tune your application rate.
In this picture the GPS is telling me to get over to the right 1.3 feet.

And here is a picture today of what it looks like to have a skip.

That brings me to my second reason, see how much taller the weeds are than the grass? When a cow puts her head down to graze those weeds will poke her eye and cause all kinds of problems. Not to mention the pollen that gets all over their face and in their noses from the mature weeds.
All those strips are a result of skips from wind or a nozzle not up to par or driving a bit off the line.

The third reason is competition. Weeds compete for moisture in summer and take away from your good grasses. They also spread seed like cockle burr and thistle that gets in the hair of an animal irritates the snot out of them and they spread all over your pasture and the neighbors. Just like in your yard they really don’t look good either.

I saw this quote today and I really like.

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Rainfall and Cowboy Wisdom

It’s Raining

We got 2.8 inches of rain today and it was really a good deal. When you have outdoor plans or hay down it’s not so great but our ponds have been really low since last fall.

This is actually our county road.

So what does all this mean to someone who is not a farmer or rancher?

First, by receiving a good heavy rain like we did today it soaks the pastures and fields. This causes a really good moisture base and allows the crops and pasture grasses to put down deep roots that will help sustain them when it gets really hot.

Second, it causes runoff that fills the ponds and reservoirs. Besides fish, wildlife and most domestic livestock depend on this for drinking. If the pond isn’t fenced off the cows will get in for a cool down and to help fight flies in the hot weather.

Third, there is a certain amount of water that leaches through the soil, which cleans it, and gets back into the water table that is then pumped through a well for human consumption and crop irrigation.

Fourth, the rain cleans everything! I’m sure you’ve noticed how much brighter the tree and plant leaves look because it cleans the dust and pollen off them. Did you know that the rain even cleanses the air we breath? It helps take out the pollen and pollutants that are often thick this time of year.

Finally, it nearly eliminates the risk of wildfires as the lush green grasses overtake the dry dormant grass from last season.

Sure I’d rather have a nice mild sunny day with a light breeze and a pleasant temperature, who wouldn’t? But free life sustaining water that just drops out of the sky every now and then is exactly what we need. I’m sure there are a lot of other benefits that I didn’t think of so feel free to chime in! I’d love to see your comments about how the rainfall benefits you.

’Til next time, keep your rubber boots handy!

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3 Steps to Start Growing Your Own Food

For those of you who are interested knowing where your food comes from and how its produced, you can raise at least some of it yourself. Following these three easy steps is a proven way to go about it.

1. Get to know someone who is doing it right.
Whether you choose chicken, pork, beef, gardening, or some combination find someone who is knowledgeable and see how they do it.
I used to haul my horse to an indoor arena to practice moving cows on him. Come to find out the owner of that arena was rally sharp about handling cattle. It didn’t matter if you were on foot or horseback, he had ways of doing things that were totally foreign to my thinking. That old man taught me more about low stress cattle handling than I could imagine and I thought I knew how to handle cattle! Turns out that even though I’d done it all my life that I didn’t really know what I was doing.

2. Make sure you have the resources.
You’ll want to have a plan about your endeavor before you start. Not only will you need to make sure you have enough money to fund it but you’ll want to be sure you have enough land and feed and time. If you are raising animals they will likely need to be cared for every day! Do you plan on being home every day, no vacation or weekends away? If not do you have a friend or helper who can step in and care for them while your gone? Do you have adequate facilities to house and protect your animals from predators or to keep them from getting out and endangering themselves? Take time plan it all out and you’ll set yourself up for success!

3. Buy your animals or plants from a quality supplier.
This is probably the most important step and it’s often overlooked. Say you’ve decided to buy a calf and feed it out so you can have your own beef. If you go to your local sale barn you are likely buying everything that calf has come in contact with from the auction. The calf may have been healthy when you bought him but was exposed to all kinds of sickness and viruses while he was at the yard. That is a recipe for disaster! Instead find a local cattleman in your area and buy a calf right off their farm. If you don’t have a trailer they will probably deliver it for you and the animal will likely remain healthy. Even with plants for your garden you’ll need to find a quality greenhouse and it will make a world of difference when its time to harvest.

Remember a little extra work going in to your project will really set you up for success and pay off greatly in the end. I hope this helps you and as always if you have a question contact me, I’d be happy to help.

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