Behind that lazy V lazy J lazy rafter there is more than a career its a lifetime of hard work, family gatherings to work cattle, stories, memories and love. Our animals are part of our family. You may wonder if we actually can pick a cow out of a herd of 400 and know her personality but believe me we can. When we ride by its a "hey 302" or "hi 562" or "good afternoon 666". Most of our cows have numbers for a name but for a few special cows they get a name like Kelly. Kelly is the kids first cow given to them by Grandma Bunny aka Kelly Jo Bail. The numbers actually have a significance, the first number stands for the year the cow was born. We like to know this so we can decide what pasture or herd they belong with for example older cows may stay close to home in winter for extra care, heifers (first year moms) will be moved into a smaller pasture close to the house just before their first calving season, etc.
Our ranch is small, owned and operated by Jesse, myself and the kids. However, Jesse has spent his whole life ranching along side his parents, sisters, grandparents and aunts and uncles. We are just lucky that he saved rodeo earnings and was able to purchase his grandmothers ranch when the opportunity arose. We raise black Angus cows. Did you know black Angus is the most common beef breed of cattle in the United States? According to Ag Daily (www.agdaily.com) Black Angus require little maintenance, are good mothers and feed efficient. Black Angus is known for its finely marbled beef.
Our cows enjoy a lifetime of natural protection from the weather in our draws, along hillsides and man made wind breaks. They graze on green grass in beautiful pastures throughout our ranch. We have a rotating schedule and pastures are designated for a season such as Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.
The kids are actively involved with everything on the ranch including trailing cows to new pastures, tagging calves and putting the cows and calves inside a barn in bad weather. Therefore, it is crucial to our program that cows have a good disposition. We spend a lot of time riding around our cows via horseback. When we select replacement heifers (calves we will raise to be mommas) we bucket feed cake and oats daily to gentle them down. When selecting replacements it is very important to have cows with a moderate frame, great disposition and temperament.
Our cows typically start calving on April 1st. We wait until a newborn calf is healthy and up and nursing then we give him an ear tag to match his momma. Our calves are mostly born in the pasture so we usually tag off a horse. Its amazing how a cow who has had a lot of time being gentled down as a calf herself will allow you to ride up on a horse and step off carefully (not to spook her calf) and tag the new calf. Heifers are tagged in the left ear and bull calves in the right. This tag helps us identify who the calf belongs to in case he gets separated from his mother, this comes in handy many times but especially in a storm. At the same time calves get a 7 way (C&D) shot to prevent certain life threatening diseases and we band the bulls therefore making them steers. We find banding them upon birth is less stressful than at branding time. However, we often miss some and have to cut them during branding especially if his momma is being overly protective that year. Disposition is mentioned many times because it would not be safe for us to keep wild cows around not only because the kids are with but its not uncommon for Jesse or I to be alone tagging although we usually go out together. One person can write the tag while the other gives the shot and then places the tag in the calves ear.
After the calf is tagged everything is recorded in a book. We like to know if the cow had a bull or heifer calf, mostly so Jesse can keep track of how many heifers verse bulls we have. How the cows temperament was and what the calf looked like. We make notes like nice calf, or had trouble calving on her own or has a nice bag with a lot of milk, anything that will help us improve our operation next year.
Cows raise their calves from spring through fall. We don't use growth hormones. If we do doctor a cow or calf it is recorded in a book but they are only doctored if it is necessary to save their life. We still utilize herd bulls and natural mating, it seems a lot of ranches have moved towards artificial insemination but not us. In order to start calving April 1st the bulls join the cows sometime in the end of June. Jesse looks at a gestation chart each year to find the exact date. We sell a semi load of steer and heifer calves every year, the calves leave our ranch and ship to their next home in the end of October. Until this date its our job to raise happy heathy calves that will go on to make the next rancher happy.