As of right now, #707 is back in the pasture. We were coming back from Round Top when I got the call about 6:00 pm. We were about 30 min from the house so I had to book it to get home, changed, hook the trailer up, and get down the road, before it got dark.
I was amazed that they caught that cow in only a day. Boy was she still crazy. He said he would just take her straight to the sale barn if it were him. I figured I will give her one more chance. She is very pretty.
So we got her loaded up and I brought her home. I backed her into the pasture where all the other cows were and opened the door. Out she went into the herd. I thought score......point for Yonder Way.... but then she took off toward the back of the pasture. Still in the same fence but trotting like a horse. I thought for sure she was going to jump out again. But she didn't. She came back and got in the middle of the herd. Hopefully tonight and tomorrow, she will calm down and settle in.
I have to work in Houston tomorrow so prayerfully she will be ok and Lynsey won't have to do anything major. If so, I might be coming back home. That is one of the perks of being a Fire Fighter, we all tend to help each other out.
For more information on our farm and to order our products, please visit our website at www.yonderwayfarm.com or click on the link to take you there.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Today, possibility became reality. We officially purchased our first 10 heifers and bull for the beginning of our closed herd. But that statement in itself sounds so simple, for the easiest part of the day by far was the writing of the check. Lets start from the beginning.
These are Red Brangus. I love Red Brangus and all the characteristics they possess so that is what we went with. We are 100% grass-fed, grass-finished so long lanky legged cows that finish out at 1300-1400#'s is not for us. So I want smaller framed, easy fleshing cows. These 10 heifers I have will probably max out at 1000-1100#'s. The bull is a 5.2 for frame size which is considered really short. However, his ribeye area and ultra sound info was pretty good. I feel really good about Pete being our starter bull. He is registered Red Brangus so he even gets some fancy papers with him. But then the craziness began.....
Loading them was a breeze. Got on the road, they are only 20 miles from the house, and got to the pasture. Well, the first load, I brought 7 heifers. I backed the trailer in and opened it up and off they went like white lightning. I mean, gone. There was one that was especially whiley. She got to the fence and just jumped over it. Like a show pony or something. The other six didn't know what to do so they took off the opposite direction.
Well our other herd of cows waiting to be moved were all the way across the pasture waiting patiently. The whiley one took off towards them running all the way. She got to them and jumped the poly wire that was keeping them in. They didn't know what to do. They knew I didn't open the gate so it seemed they were confused on whether to leave or follow this strange new trick cow.
I figured she would stay with the herd now knowing where she is probably suppose to be. So after the other six I went. Well they successfully ran through all my poly wire that was dividing the eight paddocks in the pasture they were in then proceeded to the pig pasture. Over that fence they go. I mean these girls can jump. I figured at least they can stay in there and calm down. So I divert my focus back on the main herd and the whiley heifer.
Lynsey and I go down the alley way that is suppose to bring the cows to the new paddocks. This always works but with this new creature in play it seemed like it was going to be disastrous. We finally make it to the top of the hill, which is pretty far away, and our herd starts lining up. It seems this is the order they were looking for. At this time, 5 of our original herd are out of the paddock, but they are next to the others wanting to get in the alley. Then all heck broke loose.
Whiley heifer just took off to the corner of the pasture and over the electric fence she went. Then over the barbed wire fence after that. Yep, she is officially rogue. Down the road she goes with everyones dog's barking. I wanted to throw up. I jump the fences and she is already about 200 yards down the middle of the road, sprinting.
So I holler to Lynsey, but it was windy and I guess all she could hear was wind. So I keep hollering. Then the cows think I am telling them to come to me so they start leaving Lynsey and coming towards me. Well, I at this time am running as fast as my worn out boots will go. I can't much say it was sprinting cause I bet it didn't look that way. Lynsey took off across the other two pastures towards the highway just in case she might try and come back towards that way. I headed back towards the Ranger to get in it to chase. However, the Ranger was all the way back at the end of the alley. I ran fast down the hill and then thought I was going to die going up the hill. Really, once again I almost barfed, just not the what am I going to do barf like above but rather the my body thinks I have lost my mind and knows I will have to stop if it throws up. But I made it.
So in the Ranger I go, flying in the grass along the highway, and out pops Lynsey. Man she was fast. Rubber boots and all. So now we are like Luke and Bo Duke driving down Waesapape Rd looking for this rogue heifer.
We go and go. Looking in all the pastures just to see if maybe she went over again. Then eureka, we notice a herd of cows all starring in the same direction. Yep, there she is in someones front yard. So we pull in and think maybe we can get them to close their gate to keep her in. After all, they had a mesh fence with 2 strands of wire on top. Surely she wouldn't try and get over that. Ha, think again. Over she went but this time, she caught her foot and it flipped here over. Her foot was caught for a moment in it but she quickly freed it. Then she was off across this guys pasture. She finally went to the corner of his place and chilled out.
So what to do when your new heifer jumps every type of fence possible other than 8' game fence? I guess you just leave it there. I called a friend and he said the best thing to do is just let her calm down there and get use to that herd. Then in a week or so, maybe she will come up with their cows and then we can pen her and bring her back. So I talked to the owner later in the day and he said that would be fine. He was such a nice person.
Well I went back and got my other 3 heifers and a bull. My original herd came down the alley way and went into their new paddocks. This time, when I unloaded them, they saw the other cows and stayed where they were suppose to go. The other 6 actually felt left out I guess and got in the paddock with them. So now 9 of the heifers and the bull are in with the original herd. I went out there several times and they really seemed to have calmed down. My original herd is use to us so I think they put them at ease not being skiddish.
I drove back by the other mans pasture and our heifer was lying down in there. She got up when I drove by so I guess she knows I was inquiring about her. Then I noticed that he had a Black Angus bull so who knows, she may end up bred. Wouldn't that be fitting. I don't even get to breed her to my new bull.
Oh what a day. I am pooped.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Well, I thought I had these little boogers contained, but boy was I fooled. They cooperated for a while, leading me to feel like I was in control. Then they all at once decided to show me that at any moment, they could have gotten out. And boy did they ever.
Not only did they escape, they began destroying the chicken wire that had kept them in for so long. They would stick their horns in the mesh and begin to jerk making bigger holes in it. Then they would stick their heads through and push their way through until there was this perfect hole about 10" in diameter. So day after day, I would round them up (more like chase them around) and repair the holes, wiring them back together. They would stay in for a bit, then do it again. Finally, I gave in.
The whole reason I can't stand them being out roaming where they want to go is the chicken feed. These four would sit and run the chickens off and literally eat a couple pounds of food twice a day. This is not very cost effective. Plus, they use to try and eat the pig food. Well, I quickly devised a plan to foil their efforts. At least for the chickens, the pigs are big enough to handle their own battles.
With two stock panels, their appetites would have to be filled with grass and other browsey things because, "No chicken food for them!!!"
Now the goats can be the free spirits that they so long to be. They are so cute, roaming in their little group all around our central area. When they get real excited, they bounce instead of run, kinda like the skunk on Bugs Bunny. (Pepe Le Pugh) sp?
However, they have really been doing some really funny things lately. I knew they had some funny personalities, but this has taken it to a new level.
Yesterday, I go out to the barn in the morning, and Billy is standing on the cows back. This cow is separate because he is not doing so well right now. But in an effort to help him out, Billy decided to get on his back and scratch it. Yep, he stands on his back and paws at his back. The cow loves it. Then, the cow would stand up and Billy would face him. Billy would put his horns under the cows neck, and go to town, scratching the underside of his neck. And who said animals couldn't communicate.
And today, I was doing my morning routine when I notice Billy staring up at the bottom of the chicken coop. I could see stuff falling from the floor to the ground, but I figured maybe the cat had gotten in there. Boy was I surprised. Inside, no other than Anna Belle. As you can tell, she is back to her mischief. I have to admit though it was very cute. She is really doing great after losing her kid a few weeks ago.
I have chickens setting everywhere. If they are setting when I go to collect eggs, I usually get the eggs out from under them each time. If they continue to try and set after several days of doing this, I will put about 14 eggs under them and let them go at it. Currently, I have three setting on about 42 eggs total. Who knows how many will hatch. I have two bantam hens setting on eggs but they set in the same box. I don't know how many eggs are under them, but it is a bunch. They are suppose to hatch next Monday. We'll see.
The cows are doing great in their rotation. Our native spring grasses are coming in great. The cows really enjoy all the tender weeds and wild flowers right now. If you make your cows eat these things, they really will eat them and enjoy them. At least they look like they do. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be putting out our warm season seed, Texas Tough, and Crabgrass. I can't wait to see how they do. Rain baby Rain.
Our 300 chicks that were suppose to come in the morning have been delayed. I was so aggravated. Their house is fully set up and ready to go and then I get the dreaded phone call. They were going to be short 27 Americanaus so I could either be short those and get the order tomorrow or wait till next week and get them all. So I chose the latter. I love the green and blue eggs and so do our customers so I want to have them available.
Thats it for now but a lot has happened this week so I will have lots to write about. Peace out from Yonder Way
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I have been searching for Red Brangus everywhere. Most people around here run Black Angus or Brangus. We are looking to establish a closed herd, using our calves for replacement heifers for ourselves or feed out our steers and heifers for 100% grass fed beef.
When it comes to grass fed beef, you don't want what almost all commercial or registered breeders are genetically looking for. In a time when size is everything, genetics is allowing for taller, longer legged cows that are large boned and weighing in excess of 1500#'s. Thats for cows while bulls are weighing in excess of 2000#'s. Well, we don't want that. I'm looking for a medium to short frame cow, smaller boned, wide body with easy fleshing. I think I finally found the place that will start us off close, but it will take us years of breeding down before we get where we need to be.
The farm we are looking at is Triangle K Farm located in Chappell Hill TX. This is awesome because it is only 25 minutes from our farm. These cows are living in the exact conditions as our farm with summers of high temperatures and high humidity. Conditions that really keep the Black Angus/Brangus from doing well. Also, another benefit of buying from this farm is that they have daily contact with the animals because they do rotational grazing, they are use to electric fencing, and they predominately produce forage based cattle. Meaning that these cows very rarely ever eat grain. Our calves of course will not be allowed to consume grain at any time so they will truly be grass fed, grass finished beeves.
Here is a few picks of the prospective cattle. They have two smaller, compact, full bodied bulls that I think may be a possibility, and then they have 50 commercial Brangus heifers to choose from. These are all 3/8 Brahman, 5/8 Angus.
My favorite bull...You can see how much shorter he is than the same age bull next to him. I liked his fullness, coat, and color.
This guy is like a pit bull. I liked him too, he was even shorter legged than the top bull but his birthing weights were on the heavy side which makes me worry about ease of calving for the heifers.
I like them because the have heifer/cow heads on them. Some of the cows I was looking at you couldn't tell if they were steers or heifers.
These cows have been supplemented with very little through the winter. They are all full bodied. Granted this place has awesome winter grasses
Monday, March 17, 2008
Today was the 21st day of setting. I guess its that time of year, the warmer temps, the greener forage, I really don't know. I have so many chickens that are getting broody and trying to set. Well being the lover of life, and enjoying some of my mutt type chickens running around, I picked out a few and let them have a go of it. A couple of weeks ago, I had one hatch 4, but only 3 made it. I never found the 4th chick but I think it fell through a space in the ceiling where they hatched and probably got snatched up by a cat. Who knows. So this gal began to set and I could tell she was serious. She has some bantam in her which makes her a great mother. Initially she had three eggs under her so I added 11 more making it 14. I put a mixture of all kinds but mainly bantam eggs and a few other types. Who knows. Well who would have guessed she would hatch 13 out of 14 eggs. Thats a whopping 93% hatch rate. The bantam chicks are so small it is hilarious. But what an amazing mother she is.
Next Monday, this gal will be hatching her eggs. I think there is 10-12 under her. She is the sister of the first chicken that hatched the 4 chicks. They look identical except this chicken doesn't have as big a red thing on her head. Then the next Monday after that, I have another bantam chicken that is setting on 10-12 eggs. It will be nice having chicks hatching each week and with my new brooder house, I have room for about 600 chicks. Good thing since next Thursday, I will be getting my shipment of 300 in. Excitement.
I got my warm season seed ordered and it should be in any time this week. I am going to be seeding a Texas Tuff Bermuda mix along with Crabgrass. Tonight and tomorrow it is suppose to rain so that will help prepare my seed bed. I am going to be broadcasting over existing native grasses and allow the cows to press them into the soil. Our rye grass and Clovers, Durana and Bur, are coming up more and more with the warm weather. I need to get out and take pictures of that. I am experimenting with some new pasture applications so more on that later.
This week I plan to finish building our paddocks weather pending. I went to the NRCS Friday and got Mr. Dan Wilson to draw them up for me. Its so much easier to get approximate acreage sizes on their computer programs than for me to go out and estimate. Not only that, but at our NRCS office, I try to really push Mr. Wilson to see what all he can do. When I got ready to leave, I realized that I had locked my keys in the car. I have a Honda Civic that I use to drive to Houston and to putz around doing errands. It gets 35 mpg vs. 12 mpg in Big Red. But back to Mr. Wilson. We quickly put our heads together and rounded up the necessary tools to keep us from calling Pop-A-Lock. Some High Tensile Wire and a Flat Head Screw Driver. I held the door pried open and he worked his magic with the wire. Since it doesn't have power locks, we had to pull the trunk release so I could go in through the trunk. Within a few minutes, eureka, we were in. Thanks Mr. Wilson for all your help. If I had a pic of you, I would put it on here. (Lucky you, your daughter, Sarah Shalley, hooked me up.) He does smile though.
But this is what the remaining 8 paddocks will look like which will give us 40 paddocks total. I may try to get him to print a printout of how all my paddocks are situated. It looks like one pig puzzle.
What a wonderful week it will be. We always need the rain, lets just hope it doesn't get too soupy.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Today was extremely sad for us out here on the farm. We've been anticipating the birth of our first kid (baby goat) for a while now.
We thought that last week Annabelle, the momma goat, was ready to deliver. I was so sure that I sent KK running to the house to get her momma and her camera. Lynsey came running out of the house and we were all sure we were about to witness a goat deliver her first baby. We waited, and waited, and waited......nothing.
So time went by- four days to be exact. These four days have included many trips to the goat pen to check on her progress.
I worked in Houston yesterday at the Fire Dept. When I get home in the mornings from my shift, I make the rounds on the farm to check on all of the animals. I went over to the goat pen and noticed that Annabelle looked littler. But, I didn't see a baby goat walking around anywhere.
As I approached their shed I built for them to lay under, I saw the baby goat laying there on the ground in the hay lifeless. My heart sunk. I felt so bad for the baby and Annabelle. The worst part about being a farmer is seeing things like this happen. I know it is inevitable on a farm where there is so much life, because where there is life death is also a reality.
The momma seems to be doing alright. She has been crying for the most part of the day. I think she is looking for her baby.
I don't know exactly what went wrong. I think the baby goat was stillborn. When I found it, the goat still had afterbirth all over it and looked as if it hadn't even moved.
Man, this was a rough day. But, I learn and grow each time something like this happens because I dread it happening again. We were so excited and had been looking forward for this day to come for a long time.
KK asked me today at lunch time if Annabelle had had her baby yet. I told her that she did, but the baby didn't make it.
"Awe man, I wanted to hold it," she exclaimed cupping her hands together. That made my heart sink even more.
We have 3 female goats and 1 male. The other two females appear to be pregnant as well. So, hopefully we will get to experience another kid being born soon. We already have a name picked out for the little one......"Bib." Bib means- Born in Brenham. It seems to be a theme around this town. You are either a 'bib' or a 'bob', which means born out of Brenham.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
This week I have been doing some serious thinking and evaluating. When you start sustainable farming, teaching the land to be self sufficient and have your animals work for you, there are many trials and experiments that go on. One thing I have noticed and learned is that in this wet season we have had, you are going to battle parasite problems. By choosing not to use commercial dewormers, the battle you will face initially is a tough one. So here is where different experiments and techniques come into play.
We currently use apple cider vinegar (ACV) to help with the problem. After going to the TOFGA conference, we learned that ACV is so much more than a dewormer, it has lots of other internal benefits to the animals. However, ACV cannot come in and take out an already established infestation. It will however, keep an infestation from happening.
When we started, we planned on doing a stocker operation, buying only cows from one source. The individual I buy from has really good cows and has a closed herd himself. All his replacement heifers are from his seed so he doesn't go out and purchase sale barn cows. We get these steers/heifers (we were going to feed out both), when they were weaned and they typically weighed anywhere from 550# sometimes up to 800#. This seemed like a good route to go but then I began to get a little more educated on these things. Yes, if we go the stocker route, we will be able to produce more grass fed, grass finished beef for our customers, but at what cost to us. We do have to purchase each animal so that is a an initial hit but you can make up the cost because the turnaround on the animal is faster than coming from raising the animal calf to finish. But.....
After having the steers/heifers for several months now, I am quickly realizing that though they may all look good initially when they come off their mama's, not all cows are created equally. Just as people I suppose. In the Stockman Grassfarmer, I read that anytime you buy stocker steers, you will usually have 15-20% that are tail-ender cattle. These are cattle that are perfectly healthy animals, but just don't have the genetics and capability of converting forages and energy into the same results as the other 80-85%. How true they are. Then on top of that, these animals are going to be your animals that are more prone to sickness, parasite infestation, and inconsistent weight gains usually a direct cause of the other two. I can't truly try to teach my land to be sustainable if I am always bringing in and inheriting poor herd management and land management from someone elses farm. Essentially that is what I am doing each time I buy a set of cattle for stocker purposes. So what to do?
We have decided to go to a closed herd. Yes this will take more time but after doing research, it is undoubtedly the correct path to take for us. This way, we can control genetics. If they don't match our standards, don't keep them as breeders. We can keep cows that are more fly resistant, shorter, wide bodied, and flesh easier. Keep cows that have good maternal instincts, that have good nipples that aren't too large for the calves to nurse. We will be in complete control of what we keep on the farm and get rid of. In New Zealand, they cull 25% of their cows each year. Is that what we will do, probably not, but that is why they have some of the best genetics in the world for grass fed beef. We want to be able to produce the best possible beef we can on the most consistent basis as possible.
After much research, I think we are going to go to the Red Brangus. I initially was leaning towards Red Angus heifers, sired by a Devon bull, but then I found a local farm just 15 min from our farm that sells Red Angus and Red Brangus. The owner allowed me to come out and look at his operation and boy was it big. 1800 acres, 700-800 head of cattle. Their main product is producing great bulls for breeding stock. I think he said they produce 300+ DNA tested registered bulls on their place. This is where he started talking to me about the benefits of the Red Brangus over the Red Angus, especially for our area.
It is hot and humid here most of the time. We have great early falls and springs, mild winters, and usually hot summers. The Black Angus/Brangus is used extensively in this area. But why? I don't know and he didn't know either. He has been producing great cattle for over 40 yrs in this area and still didn't know why people used them so much. He produces them as well, but only because so many people around here buy them from him. Smart business. But back to the Red Brangus. He feels these are going to be the new movement in the future if people would wisen up. They are red, of course, which makes them much more comfortable, tolerant, and efficient in the hot summers here. Yet handle our mild winters exceptionally well. By having the Brahma in them, they get more heat resistance and better parasite and fly control through natural genetics. By purchasing through him, who puts out lots of heifers and bulls a year, he is constantly working on his genetics. He understands grass fed beef and rotational grazing. He currently rotates all his cows weekly on much bigger tracts and really relies on the forage aspect of the cattle. Very rarely does he feed grain unless his heifers have twins, which he has had 8 sets this last month. He has cattle that are shorter legged, smaller boned, wide bodied, smooth haired, and more fleshing than any I have seen. Great for me, I just have to get him to sell me about 10 of them now along with a great Red Brangus bull built good for grass fed operations. He doesn't want to let any of them go but I hope I can budge ol' Stone Wall. They have a large auction in Oct. so hopefully then, we will be able to purchase a good number of our starter heifers for the beginning of our new herd. Then the fun begins.
But back to the thinking. I know this post is long, but I haven't done one in a while. I also am really wanting to use companion animals more. (ie) chickens and goats.
I ordered 300 layers yesterday so they will be in the end of the month. I have my house ready to use as a brooder for a while until I can get them big enough to go out on grass. They will still stay in that house though for a while with it being open for them to roam around freely. While they are in there, I will hopefully get a good size mobile house built that I can move around in the pastures with the cows. So I have about 2 months there. This will help spread manure and for horn flies and face flies.
The goats I want to help with browsing weeds and other unwanted forage, but also for parasite control. Cattle, goats, chickens, pigs, dogs, pretty much all animals have parasites, just as humans do. In our healthy state, our bodies know how to keep these numbers in balance and we are virtually unaware that we have them. However, in my case with the tail-ender cattle, these guys aren't growing as fast as my good looking healthy thick beeves. So these parasites know that and really vamp things up in their systems. Now I am fighting a battle that is very hard to fight naturally but it can be done. So this is the route we are going to try:
1.) Brix test. This tells you how sweet your forage is and is a good indicator of the parasite loads your pastures naturally have. If you brix is around 3-4, you will have a bad parasite problem. Brix of 7-8, things are much better and the parasites will have a hard chance of survival. Once your Brix gets to 11-12, you will virtually be parasite free. I have no idea where we are but I am going to get a refractometer to do a test. Very important.
2.) Never allow our animals to graze below the two inch height of forage. Currently we don't have this problem because our rye grass is up pretty good and they move daily. But this area has high parasite loads.
3.) Plant more forage so that the animals are able to keep their systems constantly going. We are way understocked at this time but in the summer, this will be big for us. I want them to always have more than enough forage so that when they move, there will be around 20% residual.
4.) Goats. These guys are a deadend host to cattle parasites so what enters them, dies there. No eggs layed, no larvae hatching, drastic drop in numbers quickly almost to the point of extinction over time.
5.) Continue on ACV. This keeps healthy cows healthy and can help turn your slightly infested back on the right track. I will continue to give this 3 days out of the month.
So this is what I will be working on here in the next 2 months or so. Sorry this is so long but maybe this will help others out. Good thing, is that I have 30 or so grass fed beeves that are doing great. I can't wait to be able to finish them out on our good spring grasses and see how the results are.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
The cows are on their final two rotations this weekend. We have had a couple of glitches but nothing major. Most of them were from careless mistakes I made that either confused them or allowed them to break rank. Cows may look dumb and lethargic but at nights, I think they turn into ninja panthers and find ways to get out. I suggest to always have a couple paddocks up ahead of the one being grazed so that if they do get out, they don't take off to the other side of the pasture. Usually the only reason they bust through the rope is if they are chased. I think some coyotes or maybe some deer spooked them the other night and they broke loose. This is part of the new pasture we purchased last year. I seeded it in almost pure rye grass in late October just to see how it did. Not too bad. Mid March I will be putting some warm season grasses on it. I think once it is cleaned up a bit, I have about 6 burn piles to burn and 2 trees to cut up, it is going to be very pretty.
This pasture has lots of huge trees on it. Something our main pastures lack
We now use only organic grains for our pigs. It is amazing the difference of it vs. commercial feed. The pigs also highly prefer it. They use to pick at their food, now they take huge bites out of it. This is what the grain looks like inside of the feeder. I put about 200#'s in at a time. We will go to all organic grain for our chickens but I am waiting to get my new chicks in so that they will be organic from birth to death. Can't wait