3 Feb 2020 – Snowing, Blowing and 15 degrees
Oh, January….where have you gone? And why did you take all the warm days with you? January lulled us to sleep and February snuck up behind us and smacked us in the head. It is a real blizzard out there right now, but I guess that is to be expected here in the Dakotas.
We had been taking advantage of the warm January days, having coffee on the deck in the mornings, grilling out in the evenings. Even though we have been sitting outside in the sun, it has been cool enough to keep a stocking cap and winter coat on, but we were outside nonetheless.
We couldn’t sit still too long, though. We went out several days to stock up on our firewood stores, and it looks like we did just in time.
One particular day we were cutting wood from a slash-pile in the National Forest, and the Sheriff was poking his nose in every hole he could find. Eventually, I called him and told him to quit being so nosy. He came running over with a few porcupine quills in his nose. He had found the dead critter and decided it would make a good snack, quills and all. Fortunately, Dave was able to pull them out pretty quickly. Sheriff Joe is such a tough dog; I don’t think he understands pain. He never yelps or cries and he just sat there as Dave pulled the barbs out of his snout. Then he ran right back to the porcupine carcass and had to get scolded to leave it alone. Silly mutt.
The cows have been loving the warm weather. We are planning ahead for the summer and trying to line up a bull to rent for July through September. We sold our bull in the fall because we kept some of his heifers and we don’t want any inbreeding. We have been talking to a rancher just across the border in Wyoming about leasing a pure red angus bull that will be small enough to service our heifers and big enough to take care of our older girls as well. We invited him to come see the herd and make sure everyone looked healthy and that our facilities would be good for his bull. We will take a trip in the next week or so to look at his bulls and maybe pick out who will be a good fit for our ladies. These arranged marriages are a lot of work! Anyway, he liked our place and it looks like we will be able to work something out for the summer.
It is amazing how much we have learned about cattle in the last few years. It is also amazing how much we have discovered that we still have to learn. One thing of interest is that you have to be pretty careful selecting a bull. Just like people, bulls can get venereal disease and you have to have them tested before you put them in with your herd. One bull is typically expected to service about 25 cows in a season, so I guess the V.D. isn’t too hard to understand. The other thing you test them for is fertility. That sounds like an interesting job, right? No thanks. Well they go to the vet for that test and the vet tells the rancher what percentage of success (breeding) they can predict from the bull as a percentage. For example, they will give a result like the bull is 82% fertile. Other factors to consider are the size of the calves that the bull has historically produced. If you are breeding a bull that throws large calves to smaller cows, you can expect some birthing trouble. Another thing to think about is genetic traits, including general health, disposition, horns, and conformation. It is a lot to take in, but ideally the more research we do the better the outcome for our herd in calving season. The bull we are looking at is a young virgin bull, so some of the factors like calf size will be unknown. Again, we still have a lot to learn.
Meanwhile, we will take a big blizzardy snow day to stay indoors and catch up on some of that research, write a blog, do some tax preparation and maybe just read a good book. This morning, the cattle are fed and the ice is broken on the stock tanks so they can get a drink. The wood stove is burning and we will probably hide away inside until it is time for evening chores. Thanks for reading….we hope everyone out there in the real world is enjoying the roaring 20s so far. I know we are!