October on the Ponderosa

Ranch land with cattle and pond

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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. 😉

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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.

 

Happy Halloween!

*ASpottedHeart

Contact Me: aspottedheart@gmail.com or leave a message in the comments.

 

Branding Season

I’m a few weeks late on this and I apologize. Hope you enjoy!


Let me be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of branding season. When I was a kid, being the youngest, I guess you’d say I had….ahem…certain privileges. Ha! I didn’t have to go out in the early morning when the rest of the crew went out, I was able to go stay with my Grandma Smith, and help her get lunch ready to take to the crew at noon. 

I loved to watch her pack her pretty picnic basket with homemade sweet pickles, homemade ground beef sandwiches, chips, and always some kind of yummy dessert, homemade of course. We’d go out and they’d gather around sitting on buckets, barrels, and tailgates ready for lunch. That was always fun to me, sitting in the shade, eating lunch with everyone.

After everyone was done eating, it was time to continue branding. Grandma always wanted to stay and “watch them brand a few.” Much to my dismay, we’d watch them brand for a little while. 

 As I got older I was enlisted to help. I did things like drive the feed pick up to help gather, fill the shots with medicine, and every now and then try to give the shots. 

As most of you are aware, I’m an animal lover, and it’s more than just an “oh I love how cute and fun animals are,” I almost feel like it’s a sort of calling. My depth of compassion for four legged creatures is deep. So you can probably imagine that branding isn’t always the easiest road for me.  There’s a lot of calves bawling, sometimes blood, and a pretty terrible smell to top it off! But branding  involves a lot more than that. There’s of course branding and tagging the cattle but also making sure they have their vaccinations and it also gives the chance to look over each animal to make sure their over-all being is doing well. The vaccinations we give helps fight disease and bacteria in each calf. It helps boost their immune systems and helps them stay healthy. In all reality, it’s one of the best things we could do for our cattle; making sure they’re at their best and none of them need any special attention. 


These days I usually end up giving part of the shots and helping make sure the syringes stay full of medicine. On occasions I get to stay at the Ponderosa making lunch and taking it out just like Grandma used to. 


Something occurred to me this year at our branding– I end up physically touching every single one of our calves during this yearly occurrence, why not try to say a quick prayer of well-being over each calf as I quickly lay my hands upon them? These animals are a vital part of our daily lives, so why not?

As I’ve grown older I’ve realized branding isn’t just something we go through the motions of each year. There’s a reason why One Cute Cowboy gets so excited when branding season rolls around, it’s because it’s a time of gathering together and all pitching in to help. It’s a time for family and friends and working hard and laughing and making traditions while practicing the old ones. It’s living out our heritages. For centuries cowboys have gathered together to do this very same thing. So it is amazing to think we’re just doing what our great-great-great-great grandfathers and grandmothers did before us. It’s pretty cool to think about being a part of something big like that. 

Maybe I’ve found some silver lining in branding season after all. 
*ASpottedHeart

A Rancher’s Wife

I’ve  been around horses my entire life. I’ve loved and brushed, and fed cake out of my hands to the beloved horses of our family for years. Some may read this as I’ve ridden horses my entire life…well, not quite. As I have, for many years ridden, I’ve always been more of a lover of the animal, then the rider. *insert my whole family nodding at this statement.* haha


As a kid, I was a bit, ahem, strong headed. I did a lot of things in my own time and in my own way. With this said, after being drug to what seemed like every rodeo in the country during the summertime for my two older sisters to compete, the last thing I wanted to do was start rodeoing  myself. So naturally I didn’t become as skilled a rider as my sisters. There was one horse, and I do only mean one horse that I would confidently ride by the name of Billy Anna. She was a sweet, gentle little roping horse that pretty much did whatever I wanted. Except for the one time I tried to run barrels on her, that she would not do! But she was a great horse, that I got along with and felt comfortable to ride. Once Billy Anna passed, it was hard for me to feel real confident on any other horse. I didn’t feel like I was in control like I did on her, so as the years have gone by, I’ve ridden less and less.

Then out of nowhere comes this irresistable cowboy that is the real deal. He ropes and rides, lives in boots and a hat, and can wear a pair of leather chaps like this girl didn’t know was possible. So as you might imagine, I’ve ridden a bit more in these past few years.

This is a picture I took the very first day Riley and I met.


Yesterday was one of those rare times I got to go with him and just simply ride through the cattle, and check to see if there are any to be doctored.                                                                           It was a cool, overcast day, ideal horseback riding in my books! We had 3 pastures of mamas and babies to check.

Boone and I looking at the cattle.


Riley loaded me up on his Red Roan, Boone, and he rode his little Sorrel mare, Mazie. This was my first time on Boone. He’s fairly gentle and likes to go slow, and so do I, so we were a good pair. 

We started to ride through the cattle, looking to see if all the calves looked healthy. We look for scours, calves with their heads looking “droopy” and just all in all making sure their mobility and all look okay. When one needs to be doctored, Riley has to rope the calf, and gives it a shot of medicine. A lot of times the mamas don’t really like for someone to be getting so close

to their babies, but it only lasts a matter of seconds and their

off again. 

You hear people talking about the “Great Wide Open” well, I live right smack in the middle of it. 

Riley doctoring a calf while its’s mother stands by.


It turned out to be a really good day. A day that I was thankful to get to go horseback for awhile and thankful to be a ranchers wife.