As promised, I wanted to share what’s been going on this month on the ranch. As I mentioned prior, “Fall works” is the moving/weaning/vaccinating that we do in the Fall. It takes a lot of time and a lot of preparation to make it all happen.
At the beginning of this month One Cute Cowboy, my dad, and a few other cowboys started moving what cattle we had on CRP back to the ranch. CRP pastures (Conservation Reserve Program) are prior fields that were used for crops. The government has offered the farmer a program to put those fields back to natural grass; grass that either has to be mowed or grazed every three years. Ranchers and farmers will lease out their CRP pastures because if they don’t have someone graze it, by government rules, they would have to pay someone to come in and mow the grass. It’s a win/win situation for both parties. The grass is usually a good home for the cattle and it gives the grass at the ranch a “break” during the growing season to gain back growth so that we can rotate the cattle back on those pastures in the winter and spring; because we want to practice good land management. The cattle aren’t the only thing we have to think about as a rancher, you also have to think about the land and the wildlife and how to better our ecosystem.
Once everything is back in it’s respective pastures, it’s time to start weaning the calves off of the mother cows. Usually when you hear cowboys talking about weaning day, it’s a day starting at day break and not ending until sun set (and sometimes even longer.) It’s not just separating the mamas from their babies, it’s “working” the calves as well. This usually means giving them vaccines, making sure they’re healthy and don’t need any special attention. After the crazy snow storm in May, and all the rain we received (Praise the Lord!) this Summer, we’ve had an uncommon amount of what’s called foot rot. Foot rot is an infectious disease that occurs in the hoof/foot of the cow/calf. It can cause lameness and pain in the foot if not treated properly. Sometimes this is brought on by dampness, hence all of our snow and rain. This was one of the main vaccines we gave this month. The foot rot vaccine helps to clear up those that have it, and to keep the ones who haven’t had it from getting it.
The reason we wean the calves before marketing them is because buyers will pay more money for a calf that has been weaned for at least 45 day and received proper vaccinations before shipment to the buyers farms or ranches. We practice “fence-line” weaning. This is where the calf is kept on one side of the fence, and the mother on the other side. This allows for a lower amount of stress on the mother and calf, therefore lessening the opportunity for sickness. They’re still able to see each other, and “talk to” each other by touching noses and licking through the fence.
Fall works doesn’t end there. Because the calves aren’t used to having to go to water on their own, each evening, the cowboys have to go out and push each pasture of calves to their watering hole, so they’ll start to learn where to go to water. They do this for two weeks along with feeding them a mixture of cake and hay until the calves are used to everything and know where to go. Usually after two weeks, they more than have it all figured out. The cowboys continue to feed though, until “shipping day”. Next Month!
There are still other odds and ends that have to be done besides just the feedings. There are tanks to be moved, fence to be repaired, fence to be built for winter corn stalks & wheat pastures, and equipment to be kept up and baby doctor visits that have to be made. 😉
These last two images were literally taken not but an hour ago. One Cute Cowboy working in the shop, well after dark, repairing the wire roller so he can build more fence tomorrow. A cowboy’s work is never done.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my first edition of Life on the Ponderosa, monthly ranching series! Let me know your thoughts and any questions you have about life here in the Oklahoma Panhandle! The next ranching post will be at the end of November. I’ll tell you what all has been going on at the ranch for the month.
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