Arctic Plunge!

Indeed we had a huge drop in temperatures and windchill numbers. Outdoors went from ‘what a blessing!’ to ‘ooh, winter is getting even.’ Above ‘normal’ to ‘well below normal’ which evens out to ‘normal.’

Is there climate change? i haven’t lived long enough to know whether that is a permanent change or just ‘normal’ shifts in weather patterns. I have noticed a shift in having nicer weather almost to the winter solstice, but lingering bitter weather until spring equinox. Annual rainfall tends to arrive in ‘events’ rather than scattered throughout the year and the timing of the rains have changed. But that’s only been the past 5 years – it could be ‘normal’ in 2022. But if the cultural upheaval is any indication, there won’t be normal.

How does total grazing look when it gets this cold? Not much change, except,

  1. i am leaving a bit more residual so the cows and calves will have more ground cover to lay on for protection from the frozen ground and provide better footing on the snow and ice.
  2. Access to more forage allows them to fill guts more easily and completely – the super cold really makes them hungry!
  3. On my farm, there is little need for trees or other windbreaks because the land is quite undulating and there is typically somewhere the cows can lay out of the wind but would be a consideration if one had flat land.
  4. I’m only providing 1 to 2 moves per day. It is so cold, i simply cannot handle being outside. Also, as the ground continues to freezer harder and harder, even that protected under tall forage is becoming more difficult to install step in posts to set up fence. So far, so good on that though.
  5. Keeping the water available has been a challenge as well – even with the leak valve full open, the rising water level forms an ice sheet by the time it reaches the overflow pipe and with not enough pressure to keep it flowing then it doesn’t flow over. The float freezes ‘up’ in the ice sheet as well, thereby keeping that higher flow from entering as well. Thankfully, the intake pipe from the pond has not frozen.

Having the cows run low or out of water has caused great problems with the cows getting out of their prescribed paddock since the mob the tank and push through the electric rope. This is frustrating, but understandable. So, i’ve had to check water everyday for sure.

Another observation is that with nonselective grazing, keeping stock focused on their work and not escaping to ‘greener’ pastures is more difficult than with selective grazing. Even with brown looking stockpile, the calves and sometimes followed by the cows, will find the smallest break in the fence such as a new washout under the hot wire and nearly every animal will soon find it and escape. I’ve had to bolster the paddock they are in to fix this situation. Bad habits are easy to start, harder to break. There are even a couple cows who seem to suddenly want to jump the hi-tensile fence to get to the other side even though what they have is exactly the same – they just are ‘free’ from being next to their mates.

Here’s a sample of forage the cows and calves have now to eat. This paddock has actually been rested since May 25, 2020. It is more mature than the real wealth ranching/total grazing protocol, but it’s what i have. Hopefully, this coming grazing season, i can do a better job by having more livestock – unless we have a drought. Who knows what the new year will bring. I’m thinking of keeping this good steer calf and growing him up as my lead steer/nanny for future calf weaning events. An adult in the room always seems to help youngsters learn the ropes of growing up and accepting new responsibilities. They can’t learn well from their peers.

Lesson for This Week

Oh my, ranching and managed grazing can be completely frustrating and discouraging. That was my week. My plan was to total graze from the corral through part of the timber, then on to the ridge to the south before moving them to the northwest paddock of the Buckman 80. The plan went along fine until they hit the timber. I was using a polybraid and step in posts (white line on map) of about 1000 ft. The turquoise line is another reel.

The fuchsia lines are my proposed fence changes. I’ve already shifted 1/2 mile of 2 wire hi-tensile wire fences and my plan is to finish up this winter with the remaining fence changes. But i’m old, so we’ll see how i get along. Driving even fiberglass posts is starting to wear on me, but it sure builds muscles in my back and shoulders.

To the far right of the photo (this map is from 2015), you can see the white line which is the temporary polybraid which the deer took out 4 times this week, releasing my cows from their confines. The turquoise line represents polybraid as well, but was primarily used to guide them to the paddock on south with the red line drawn east to west (700 feet). Between it and the yellow line south of it are where the cattle are now. That little patch is about 3 acres – by allowing the recovery period to be over one year, there is at least 6000 lbs of forage per acre (about 18,000 lbs total). For my 135 cow/calf units eating about 30 lbs per day (about 4000 lbs) there is more than enough to provide them with quality forage for Shabbat (saturday 11F), Sunday (too cold for me 13F), and Monday afternoon (i might survive being outside). I’ve already strung out the next allotment so i won’t have to be outside for long, although i will have to allow time to drain and winterize a water tank i forgot to do before the cold temperature plunge. UPDATE (8Jan22) temperatures have entered the arctic zone and it is important to leave more residue for the cows to lay on so they avoid resting on short grass and have better footing over the snow and ice. Additionally, the cows have increased their forage intake to combat the brutal cold.

So what was the discouraging parts. DEER! I spent about 8 hours this week chasing cattle back into their appropriate paddocks for total grazing of the their winter stockpile and repairing broken poly braid and replacing busted step in posts, and straightening the metal probe on those posts that were bent. I still managed to finish up driving all the fiberglass posts and re installing the wires on the fences I’m changing (my back, neck, shoulder, ribs, hips, feet, skull adjustment appointment is Wednesday, so i was really wanting to finish that beforehand, so i can rest and recover from the physical pounding).

As it turns out, since i gave up chasing cattle, i moved them all to the Buckman 80 and drove them to the far south of that paddock. I plan to total graze them away from the water. Winter time, i don’t have to worry with regrowth, so with even my few number of cows, this is a workable plan. The move was perfectly timed – we are now in snow, cold, ice, wind. the day before was 51F, today (the 1st) the high is 12F. The cows and calves have plenty of belly deep grazing and access to wind cover so that my next trip will be Monday afternoon when the temps rise above freezing and hopefully a bit of sun.

The other silver lining to my deer problems is that i went back to the drawing board on Google Earth and rerouted my proposed new fence placement to go around the timber. Deer on the run will not respect electrified fences no way, no how for any number of years the fence is there. It’s weird, but that’s the way it is. Since i don’t want to be fixing fence everyday, i will simply not put it in there. Now, that is not to say that i won’t have to fix fence. There will be plenty of that because the deer take down all the fences eventually, but to avoid their favorite runs seems to be wise.

Grazing Winter Stockpile

My plan was to muster in the cattle, sort off the randy bull calves (they are about 8 months old now) to wean. Also, my husband has a few cows i’m grazing for him and one of them i noticed had been in heat a couple times, so took her out (she is without calf), and earlier in the year, I’d purchased some large frame heifers to breed then resell.

Normally, the freshly weaned calves would be fence lined weaned for about three days but with only 7 weaned, i didn’t want to mess with setting up feed bunks and feeding so far from our house. I don’t feed grain, but do like to get them started on high protein alfalfa pellets (or better, quality alfalfa hay) since stockpiled forages or hay could be too low in quality for young growing animals.

The remaining cows, calves, and first calf heifers began winter grazing on December 18. There is a bit leftover from the growing season they could grub around on, and as they winter graze, i might let them back to those paddocks if it is convenient, but for now they will move forward on the grazing plan. It is also important that they graze the particular paddocks they are on now because I’ve hired a fence crew to come in and replace a quarter mile of perimeter fence between my neighbor and me. If the cows graze down the grass, then it won’t be destroyed as the contractors move equipment in and, the shorter grass will allow the soil to freeze harder for easier access as well.

In the meantime, here are some snapshots.

Total grazing allows me to manage my livestock’s forage intake through multiple moves, though often i end up with moving only once a day. However, mostly I have enough time to move them 2-3 times. It depends on the weather and the time i have available to spend away from home. Step in postshttps://powerflexfence.com/collections/portable-fencing/products/obtp-white-obrien-tredaline-post-white-temporarily-on-back-order and polybraid electric fence make this a mostly easy task.
Total grazing encourages the cows to eat all the forage and not be participating in selective grazing – i’m effectively teaching them to clean their plates. By removing less desirable forage species along with the ‘ice cream’ more ‘ice cream’ can grow. Before allowing the cows to move forward, I encourage them to get up and do their evacuations on the grazed areas so they don’t foul the new break. Total grazing is not just forcing cows to eat everything, it is a plan to keep cows, plants, soil, water, and wallets fat and healthy. This photo illustrates a very nice nutrient distribution.
A cow manure pat indicating good digestion and a properly balanced diet.

Lessons Learnt

Honestly, every entry I write could be entitled ‘Lessons Learnt.’ Usually, i learn things by bad experience which is unfortunate, but those are the ones most remember, right?!

As you know, i’ve been practicing Jaime Elizondo’s Total Grazing/Real Wealth Ranching technique now for over a year (wow! went fast) and even with my few cows and decidedly unevenly applied practice, there is a credible improvement in nutrient distribution and sward thickening.

Lesson 1 from this past week.

Even with proper paddock width, have at least 850 feet of poly braid on your reel.

One of the tenets is to design paddocks no more than 650 feet so that a reel of poly braid is easily managed and doesn’t take long to set up. However, not all paddocks measured out will be less than that due to undulating lay of the land, ditch crossings or going around ditches, draws, fingers, etc etc ad nauseum. I came up very short on one of the reels i’m using on paddock #15 and had to scrounge through all that i had in the back of my Gator. Thankfully, i had a couple long bungee cord with gate handles already attacked plus a bare piece of narrow poly braid i could tie on. About 40 feet all together to make it to the other side of the paddock. Good grief – lots of extra work. Gonna add the extra length as soon as i get a chance and put an end to extra work.

Lesson 2:

Bolster ditch gap fence!

Jaime had an excellent podcast/blog just this week about making and keeping those fences ‘hot’ (electrified). Although my fences were boasting 6.9 kw, that was not enough to keep the cows from pushing the single strand electrified rope blocking the ditch.

My previous type of managed grazing would have usually let me get away with this, however, when I’m pushing the cows/calves to graze older and perhaps less sweet grass – the stuff that really needs grazing and fertilizing to improve – they will push the boundaries if there is young green grass just on the other side. Total Grazing

Normally, the poly rope is sufficient, that is the one you see looped down through the ditch. I’ve already bolstered this one by adding the poly tape, but they blasted through it pretty sure as soon as i left
So, i grabbed a 50 foot section of poultry netting and stuck it in just before dark, made it hot and had to leave. Cows were out again next morning having once again trampled it into the ground.
Once again trying the electrified poultry netting but bolstered with 1.2 inch fiberglass poles driven into the ground.
Using a gate handle designed for electric fence is a quick, easy fix to attach fences. This orange polycarbonate has been my favorite style for decades. The wide hook allows me to hook onto just the 1.2 or less inch fiberglass posts when i need to keep fence tight but not hot.
I also moved this Speedright S1000 to a location previous set up for a much larger system which i had removed since i’m no longer trying to power all the fence on my property at the same time now. At this location, the energizer is better grounded to ten 6 foot buried ground rods which are located in the pond bank so they stay damp year round. I also unhooked a section of fence which was not longer necessary since the cows could water out of the ditch. Both of these practices made a better ‘snap’ and bumped voltage to 9.2. The good news, all these efforts paid off! The cows were in place when i checked on them Sunday afternoon.

Lesson 3 – Check paddock fences occasionally during growing season

Since i’ve moved the cows to start grazing on their winter stockpile, I’ve discovered that my 2 wire hi-tensile fences are largely ‘down’ and/or sagging badly. This is mostly if not entirely due to the large numbers of white tailed deer in our area. The deer cause not only damage to fences but also graze out a lot of the tender grasses and legumes. The work comes in at having to repair all the fences and allow the forage loss when calculating the amount of feed available to one’s livestock.

Since choosing total grazing, one half of my farm has been allowed to grow nearly an entire grazing season so it is beautiful, thick, with fat roots, and seed production. A fence that is down will be buried beneath the grass and entirely ineffective as a psychological or even quasi physical barrier. Pulling the wires up from underneath the mass of forage is a bit of a struggle and time consuming. I plan to stay ahead of that by keeping an eye on deer damage during the growing season and repairing fences so this doesn’t happen.

Ceiling Light Find!

Well over a year ago, my husband wanted to clean out his dad’s basement – so i helped out (although he never quite finished and it’s a cluttered mess once again) and i found and set aside an old etched glass cover for a ceiling light fixture. I forgot about it until this past month i decided to paint two rooms – daughter Jessica’s room she sleeps in and the kitchen – from Tuscany historical colors to farmhouse white.

Both rooms turned out fabulously – the kitchen i had painted Lenox Tan from Benjamin Moore and although a good color, it was always darker than i liked in that room. (LRV 43.52) So, it is now painted Chantilly Lace (LRV 92.2), also from Benjamin Moore. You can tell by the Light Reflective Value difference is huge that the white really brightened the room. It is the same color used in Jessica’s room. Hers had been some sort of yellow in the same heritage color scheme but i never liked it though i chose it!

Knowing that Jessica never liked the chandelier style fixture i purchased for her room, i decided to change it out and thankfully, i remembered that old light fixture i found over a year earlier.

The finished product took a while, but i found the base from Vintporium in San Jose, CA, then the screws to attach the base were too long so i bought some slightly shorter at a local hardware store. The reason is that the electrical box is extremely shallow – about 1/2 an inch deep – not blaming the electrician who rewired our entire house from knob and tube since this old house had absolutely no room to install a deeper more typical box. Then the old down rod was far too long, so i e-mailed Joe at Vintporium once again and he knew exactly what i needed and sent it. These items are not easy to find, thanks so much Joe for all your help! (the boards on the floor are to be attached to the platform bed i just built. Trying to get this project done of painting, building a new bed, and replacing the light fixture in amongst working outside because we’ve had splendid weather)
Here was the first try with the down rod which came with the fixture far too long for this application. The only place i could find this 8 inch 2 light bulb base is at Vintporium. It was satin nickel finish which i thought i’d have to paint white, but it worked just fine.
This photo isn’t very good, but isn’t the etched glass just lovely with the splaying out patterns on the ceiling?

Hauling Hay With Ease!

This entry was written late summer of 2019 and it’s now December 2021 and the weather patterns have continued with rain in spring and into early summer – seldom coming as gently slow rains, but ‘rain events,’  In other words, we receive 4-8 inches in a few hours or a day.  Then it completely dries up from early August until late October or even into winter – this is the critical period in which we depend on voluminous growth of grasses for winter stockpile grazing.  In summer of 2020, I decided I would no longer feed hay – it’s too much work and very expensive.  At nearly the same time, I was introduced to Real Wealth Ranching developed and taught by Jaime Elizondo and this was the direction I’ve embraced this past year (fall 2020 – fall 2021) and plans are in place to graze through the winter using Total Grazing protocol.


Last winter (winter 2019) was a nightmare of feeding hay.  We knew that winter stockpile for grazing was in short supply because we’d had two years of drought followed by wet weather AFTER the growing season in the fall.  We sold about 30% of our cows and had a normal supply of hay yet that wasn’t enough because winter began much earlier and wouldn’t let up until late May.  This was the second severe and harsh winter in a row.  Cows came out of it this spring in pretty rough condition.  Not wanting to ever get in that spot again, we researched inline hay trailers to help us haul hay home from local purchases.  After watching a lot of Youtube videos and learning about the various brands and what to look for, we decided on a Missouri built model Freedom Hay Trailers that we purchased from a Raymer Farms Sales & Service near Green City, MO.  (Actually just accidentally found them on Craigslist whilst searching for more hay this past spring (2019))

Allen purchased another 270 bales here just a couple weeks ago and the weather was perfect for hauling on gravel roads and dumping into pastures, so i got crackin’ and ended up pulling 11 loads to my farm about 13 miles from the hay field to my farm and includes mostly narrow, uneven, hilly, bumpy paved roads followed by 2 miles of steep single lane gravel/dirt roads then pulled into the pasture.  Except for loading, i handled the pulling, net removal, and dumping by myself.  Allen had hauled several loads from another location earlier this year.  I don’t know how we got along now without it!  Very convenient time saver.

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I’m sitting in the pickup watching Dallas load 7 bales on the 36 foot hay trailer.  My first couple loads on such rough and narrow roads with a trailer that is 12 feet longer than i’m used to, i tended to be pretty cautious.  After that, seeing how the trailer is reliable and able to handle the conditions (and i got used to how differently the longer trailer took corners and handled), it was business as usual – roll on!

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When loading and hauling by yourself, you’ll need to cut a length of 2×4 to hold down the foot brake; the parking brake will not hold when the tractor is shoving the bales on from behind.

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With the board holding down the brake, I can jump out and snap a photo of Dallas loading the last bale.  It takes Dallas 6 minutes to load this trailer with 7 count 1400 lb bales.

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Upon arrival at the dump site, I cut off the net wrap because i’m going to put this straight out for cattle to eat.  Slice through the net wrap on the side opposite of the dump mechanism.

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Once cut, then go to the other side and pull the net wrap over and down from the bale.

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Remove the red safety bar, then it’s ready to dump the bales.  We purchased the hydraulic mechanism.  Yeah, it’s a bit more money- just get it.  I took Dallas on this trip so i could take photos.

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Remove the net wrap and ball it up on the pickup.   Never leave nylon strings or net wrap out in the pasture.  Here the cradle is reset and red safety bar back in place.

Pregnancy Check 2021

For decades, we’ve always had the veterinarian palpate our cows for chute-side determination of pregnancy. This year, i decided to try blood testing, so i contacted our veterinarian and asked him about the process. He said he’d never done that for an entire herd, but has used the process for individual animals.

There are some reasons for the change, primarily because i thought it would be less stressful for the cow and the vet and i think that is an important issue. If there is opportunity to reduce stress and physical labor, then the option should be explored – especially as we ranchers, farmers, veterinarians, and others are getting old. We break more easily, don’t move as fast, and get tired more quickly.

Pregnancy Tips from Beef Magazine

My cows and especially yearling heifers are smaller frame than many owners’ and the rectum is just not large enough to comfortably accommodate a big arm. Damage to fetus, rectum, and vet’s arm is more likely.

In just a few days, the results were ready and my vet’s office sent them to me via e-mail. The results: (i was very well pleased – especially since 3 of 4 bulls went bad at some point during the breeding season!) Overall, the pregnancy rate was 93% bred not counting 6 first calf heifers i bought (5 were open!). They did milk pretty heavy and are not adapted to managed grazing, so giving them a pass and will keep them another year.

  • Yearling heifers (born in 2020) – 73% bred
  • 2 year olds bred for the first time – 100% bred
  • 3 year-olds – 85% bred
  • 4 year-olds – 87% bred
  • 5 year-olds – 85% bred
  • 6 year-olds – 80% bred
  • 7 year-olds – 100% bred
  • 8 year-olds – 100% bred
  • 10 year-old – 100% bred
  • 20 year-old – 100% bred

After the work, receiving the bill and test information, followed by a chat with my veterinarian, i came away with the following points:

  • Blood testing is similar in accuracy as palpating
  • Blood testing is a bit more than twice as costly to implement
  • For the veterinarian, there is about the same work, but is far less physically demanding
  • Palpating allows chute side call and decision making based on pregnancy check – blood testing takes a few days
  • Palpating at 50-60 days can cause embryonic death due to a fragile time for the fetus. Blood testing would not cause this.
  • Blood testing is far less uncomfortable to smaller framed cows and young heifers.
  • Cows palpated around 4 months pregnant have a higher incident of being called ‘open.’
  • Blood testing takes about the same amount of time in the chute as palpating.

The actual out of pocket cost for blood testing was:

  • Veterinarian charge – $3/head
  • Blood testing – $4.50/head
  • Shipping/Processing – $ .60/head

By Comparison, only the $3/head would be charged for palpating. So, what will i do next year? i haven’t decided, but it could be a combination of blood testing the small/medium frame cows and the 2 and 3 year old heifers/cows, then palpating the remaining. This would greatly reduce cost but would require sorting the cows into two groups before pregnancy check. Is that extra labor worth the savings over just blood testing all?

Here are my new thoughts on processing my cows and calves going forward, but will discuss with my veterinarian to see if it is reasonable. My biggest concern is changing to dates in the winter – our winters can be unreasonable cold and miserable, but usually there are a few days which are nice.

  • 6 August – 20 September – Breeding season
  • 15 May – 30 June – calving season
  • Mid November-Vaccinate calves and preg check dry cows. Hold bull calves in pen to pair up, then wean them.
  • Mid March – Preg check 3 years and older cows i plan to keep (maybe?)- no need to preg check first calf heifers since i would hold them over if open anyway. WEAN CALVES.
  • Any cows which have developed a bad attitude or other reason for culling no need to preg check – they’ll need checking at sale barn.

Faith, Family, Farm

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