Pair ’em Up!

Unlike some producers, i choose to ear tag the calves at the first processing – vaccinations, dehorning, castrating, etc. (About 4-5 months) Many producers tag at birth but i find that unnecessary, stressful, and dangerous to me.

This means, however, that the calves need to be paired with their mommas as an older calf meaning ya need to catch them nursing. Not standing close to one another or being licked on by a cow. Nursing – that is the only for sure way of knowing who is raising who. Granted there is the exception of a cow allowing another calf to nurse, but usually it will be when her own calf is nursing properly at her side, whereas the robber will be nursing from behind.

Best times to pair up calves is after an extended time of separation. If time allows after sorting and processing, this is the most excellent time to pair up since nearly all of them will be looking for momma’s comfort, security, and food. I usually don’t get this done because it seems it’s nearly dark before we get done. Second best is the very next morning at dawn just as they are waking up. In my opinion, it is worthwhile to schedule this time for pairing since it will be the most effective time. (Greatest number paired for time invested) After that, it’ll be hit and miss during the day – late evening is another good time, but my experience that is almost too dark to see tag numbers. Perhaps my eyesight is just getting poor.

I found it important to pair up the calves so that i can make cow culling decisions based on the quality of their calves and just as importantly, is to discover any cow without a calf – write down any dry cows that should be pregnant or showing signs of estrus. It’s easy to let cows slip if you don’t have information. It’s far too expensive to keep an ’employee’ as a freeloader.

An important shortcut, if time is really short, is to just pair up the ones with dink calves and sell those.

Happy Pairing!

tauna

This newborn calf should be left alone to properly settle in and bond with momma – no use disrupting his young life nor that of momma as she adjusts to motherhood once again and dealing with all the hormonal changes associated with giving birth and nursing.

It Might Have Happened

With the continuing rain, it’s too muddy to drive in to shift my cows to a new paddock, so once again, I’m ‘hoofing’ it across the previously ploughed ground to their paddock.  Today, as I walked across the muddy ragweed and cocklebur infested paddock, I spotted something very white and roundish on the ground.  Nothing to do when finding something so unusual, but to stoop and pick it up.  Alas, nothing but a broken piece of porcelain, which –  guessing –  was once a drawer pull or door handle.  Not one to just toss away such treasure/trash, I contemplated about the story it could tell.  Possible, if my Grandma Falconer was still alive, this little bit would bring memories – good or bad – we’ll never know.  I found it just back of where the old house, yard, hen house, and cellar once held sway on the Bowyer Farm at which Grandpa and Grandma ‘went to housekeeping’ back in 1940.

 I trekked on down to the little creek (crick, as we say) and washed it off a bit, but carried it to the cows, shifted the cows, and brought it back.  As I passed where the old homestead once stood, I imagined my dad and his younger brother dashing out the door to catch up with their papa on his way to milking cows, with momma hollering out ‘DON’T….. slam the door” as the screen door bangs shut behind the two boys.  Momma sighs…

Of course, I don’t know that any of that happened, but grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads, and children are much the same – we say the same things to each generation – some of it sticks and is good and sometimes it seems they/we hear nothing.  And, sadly, too many times now, there is no mom or dad to instruct their children not to slam the door.

Shalom!

Bowyer Farm

Previous entries have referred to the Bowyer Farm in regards to the management or, mismanagement, i’ve allowed on the property. Though i am no longer leasing it out and have begun low input, high animal impact to bring it to better production than before (the goal was to reduce the amount of toxic endophyte fescue and i believe that will be accomplished but it could have been done with much less invasive practices i have since learnt), it will take years.

This entry, however, is to report some history and memories i have put together. It is interesting to me that the bulk of the farm (the exception was those 10 acres which exchanged hands at extremely high price – this is a mystery to me) has stayed in my family since January 29, 1878 to my 3rd great grandparents.

History of Bowyer Farm, Linn County, Missouri

US granted to State of Missouri – June 10, 1852

State of Missouri patented to Hannibal & St Joseph Railroad Co – Sep 20, 1852

Hannibal & St Joseph Railroad to Spencer P Bowyer and wife Sarah A January 29, 1878 for $656.08 (82.01 acres) $8.00/acre

Spencer P and Sarah A Bowyer family to Walter M Bowyer, Sep 1, 1898 for 72 acres $1575 ($21.88/acre)

Spencer P and Sarah A Bowyer to Price Bowyer, Nov 27,1899 for $5440 for 10 acres ($544/acre)

Price Bowyer  and his wife, Malinda Bowyer to Lester Phillips and his wife Floy Phillips Mar 27, 1908.  $3000 for 10 acres ($300/acre)

Lester Phillips and his wife, Floy Phillips to Dallas A Falconer Oct 26, 1914.  10 acres for $4500 ($450/acre)

Dallas A Falconer to Walter M Bowyer Dec 21, 1914.  Ten acres for $900

Walter M Bowyer and Edna, his wife, to Dallas Falconer and Hermia (Bowyer) Falconer, his wife, on Jul 18, 1940.  82 acres for $4000.  ($49/acre)

Dallas and Hermia to their son, Virgil Lee Falconer and his wife Virginia Pulliam

              June 13, 1946 the east half of the northeast quarter (82 acres +/-) for $4000 ($49/acre)

              August 31, 1946 the SW quarter of the NE quarter (40 acres +/-) for $1500 ($37.50/acre)

Virgil Lee and Virginia to Tauna M (Falconer) Powell upon his death in 2009.  Appraised to stepped up basis of $1200/acre.

Unfortunately, I do not know much history of life on that farm.  Why do we take interest after everyone who was involved has died?  I do remember working calves and yearlings in the smaller of the two barns left on the property – the one which has the home-built head catch.  Quite rudimentary, but it worked.  Grandpa had feed bunks in a large fenced lot just to the south and east where he fed Silver Moon Grain Plus pellets to his heavy grass yearlings for a couple weeks before selling them at Milan or Green City sale barns.  Until livestock trailers became affordable and popular, we used a ramp to load into 2-ton trucks fitted with stock racks out the south door of the barn previously mentioned.  Up until I took over in about 2011, cattle were still loaded out that south door but in livestock trailers.

When i was a little tyke, Grandpa would let me ‘drive’ the pickup in super low, while he threw small round bales off the back to the cows. Of course, he would put the pickup in granny low even when i wasn’t there, but it made me feel helpful and involved – it is a good strategy for piquing the interest of the next generation.

There is an old cistern/well to the west of the dairy barn which was set up with a very slow electric pump which supplied water to a tank for the yearling cattle when they were shut up the night before load out next morning or whenever it was needed.  The pump took a very long time to fill the tank so we’d turn it on before feeding the cattle or taking out hay or whatever needed doing.  Later, he set some home-made poles in the ground to the windmill in the center of the field and cattle watered out of the Ritchie fountain.  Later, we set up a tire tank with more holding capacity since refill is slow out of the old pond on the west 40.  The windmill and well have long been abandoned by 2010. The west 40 had always been a brome hay field in my memory, but i incorporated it as part of the grazing programme.

In the big dairy barn, we kept our horses for riding out on the farm to check cattle when I was up visiting.  It was handy place to keep them instead of hauling them every day.  I don’t think Grandpa rode as much when I wasn’t there.  He certainly indulged my passion for horseback riding and getting to check the cattle whilst riding with my grandpa was pretty much the top of my life at that time in the 1970s.  It was sad to return to my home in the town of Mexico vs the freedom of the farm, cattle, and land.

I don’t know for sure, but I think my dad, Stanley (b. 23 Sep 1940-d. 04 Sep 1962), and his brother, my Uncle Stephen (b. 23 Mar 1942-d. 15 Jan 2016) spent their earliest years at this house and farm.  I remember Grandma saying that’s where they ‘went to housekeeping’ after they were married on February 10, 1940 (which is also my birthday in 1962!), so that would make sense.  But did my great grandparents also live there before them? When were the house, cellar, chicken house, and barns built? Sadly, i simply do not know.

There was very little of the house to explore even when I was young.  In 2011, I had the old house razed, the well and cellar filled in since all were hazards by this point. My son, Nathan and family friend, Christian Finck picked up and loaded all the old chimney bricks which are in storage and i hope to find another use for them.

Clean Up, Clean Up

Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!

(i found this entry in the draft files – guess i forgot to post it a year ago. Dallas and i loaded more, but sadly, farm scrap metal is now worth only 3 cents a pound.)

The weather has been very cooperative in allowing machinery to get near ditches and draws for decades old farm scrap removal. So, we’ve taken advantage of that and my husband and son have pitched in and helped me remove trash so that now another 40 acres have been cleared of sharp old metal tin, farm equipment, old metal water tanks, molasses lick tanks, rolls and rolls of brittle woven wire, windmills, milk cans, even a washing machine.

At 7 cents a lb, we hauled enough to pay ourselves $6.40 an hour. That doesn’t include the cost of fuel and machinery use. If the government was serious about cleaning up the environment, it could incentivize recycling by increasing prices for rubbish. However, i don’t want the government to step in and screw up something else.

This is after Dallas and I had cleaned out – by hand! – this ditch by 2/3rds and there is still a lot buried in here. The bigger stuff, we use our tractor and front end loader and sometimes 5 long log chains to reach the big stuff at the bottom of my deep ditches. It’s hard work packing chains and climbing the ditches, but it’s a good feeling to have made my pastures safer for people and livestock and removed such an eyesore. There is much more to do, but it will take the rest of our lives to find the time to clean up all the scrap previous farmers pitch away.

Thoughts on Heifer Development

I didn’t think i’d ever go back to calving out 2 year old heifers (exposing to the bull at 13-15 months) since calving out as 3 year olds is so incredibly stress free on the heifer and myself. A high percentage of 2 year olds will become pregnant and zero will need assistance at calving.

Since beginning total grazing and recognizing that i need to grow my herd numbers significantly and quickly (due to being understocked), i decided to take a chance last year with the 14 yearling heifers and have them bred alongside the main cow herd. As shared before, these heifers had a pregnancy rate of 76% (vs 90% + as 2 year olds) and one heifer died, along with her calf, at calving due to difficulty (front leg was back) and another heifer had her calf fine, but it was dead (don’t know why).

It will be interesting to see how many of those will breed back this year. However, I have discovered that those which calve first time as 3 year olds don’t breed back at much higher, if any, rate as the 2 year olds. I don’t know why, but that has been my experience.

This year, to hopefully avoid more calving difficulties, I have kept the 21 yearling heifers separate from the main cow mob and they are joined with a 2 year old 1/4 Corriente x 3/4 Red Angus bull out of one of my good adapted cows (#433) and a 1/2 Corriente x 1/2 Red or Black Angus yearling bull out of my good purebred 21 year old Corriente cow (#160). This should eliminate any calving difficulties but will reduce the value of each calf because of the Corriente influence. This should be less of a hit than dead heifers, calves, and/or having to assist.

After, the bulls are removed from both the cow mob and the heifer mob, the two groups will be put together into one group for grazing through the winter.

Another thing i may do is wean the calves off the first calf heifers and feed the weaners through the winter allowing the heifer to rebuild body condition better for her next calving event. Haven’t decided on that yet. Sounds like work.

Considerations:

Pros for calving at 2 years

  1. selecting most fertile stock
  2. entering production a year earlier
  3. open heifers can be kept for trying again the next year or selling as grassfinished beeves.

Cons for calving at 2 years

  1. keeping a separate mob before and during breeding season
  2. possibly having to wean/feed calves
  3. increased incident of calving difficulties

Farming and ranching are dynamic businesses requiring flexibility, creative planning, and constant learning. The ability to identify a problem is a must as is adjusting the plan and expectations to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. Finding and purchasing cattle to graze and perform in a managed grazing (in my case now total grazing) is next to impossible. Growing the herd size with your own adapted animals is a slow process, but has shown itself to be the better answer for me in all animal groups; heifers, bulls, and cows.

Shabbat Shalom!

001 is not the fanciest bull in the land, but this 2 year old has shown himself prolific as a yearling, sound on his feet, and clear eyes. He is out of now 8 year old cow who has been a consistent producer. He is quiet and easy to handle. He is 1/4 Corriente and 3/4 Red Angus.
This yearling bull seems to be whispering sweet nothings in this heifer’s ear!
Here’s theyearling bull i chose to join with the 2 year old bull. Although it’s likely the 2 year old can easily service 21 heifers, I’ve had a bad experience having only one bull with a mob – they ALL came up open (not pregnant) That was a very expensive mistake. This 102 bull is also home raised and not fancy, but out of my 21 year old purebred Corriente cow – so adaptation, longevity, and soundness are built in. He is also clear eyed, slick hided, of good disposition, and healthy from birth. He is 1/2 Corriente and 1/2 Red or Black Angus (his coloring makes it tricky to call). His mum is solid red.

Cows Grazing Weeds

We know that goats and sheep are excellent for eating weeds and brush and cows – not as much.

However, with adapted, trained cattle in a nonselective grazing protocal really do a fabulous job with a whole lot less labor and infrastructure (ie – fence that will hold water)

Compare these two photos taken before and after mobbing with total grazing principles.

Shabbat Shalom!

To Mow or Not to Mow

Basically this is a math problem. What is the cost of mowing (brush hogging) a pasture vs the benefit of doing so.

Consider the fuel (which is expensive now), wear and tear on machinery, depreciation, and man hours. Now, ideally, one would not own or operate the machinery and therefore would avoid the depreciation (although John Deere tractors actually seem to appreciate in value as the dollar recedes) and hire someone to mow it for you. However, my husband has a lot of tractors and equipment, so we might as well use them, though it still takes someone to sit in the tractor.

So, i don’t know the numbers to make a math decision, but there is absolutely no doubt that the Bowyer Farm, which was cropped for 4 years with soybeans, wil hugely benefit having those suffocating weeds (ragweed and cocklebur) removed as a thick canopy preventing desirable species of grasses and legumes to take hold.

This paddock was the last to be grazed on the Bowyer farm, and like a couple others the results are the abundance of ragweed. The second photo below shows what is left after grazing then brush hogging. For perspective, there are 160 cows, 7 mature bulls, and 90 spring born calves in this photo!

With two tractors going, one with a 15 foot brush hog, and the other with a 20 foot brush hog, it did not take long for Allen and my son, Dallas, to finish the job. It’s particularly a good job these days of intense ragweed pollinating for Dallas because he can sit in the air conditioned tractor cab and get along well. My husband has to do all the fueling and greasing, however.

These side by side photos are important in that they illustrate the difference between a paddock that was grazed in a more timely manner and the ragweed and cocklebur were removed by cows grazing, thereby opening the canopy and allowing an abundance of clover and lespedeza (poor man’s alfalfa) to flourish. The second photo shows that very little is able to grow under 4-6 foot tall thick ragweed. Even cocklebur and foxtail couldn’t get a toe hold in that mess.

About five days ago (21 Aug 22), i moved the cows/calves across the road to a paddock which had been previously grazed (13 Jun-23Jun 2022) via total grazing protocols. We’ve had more than plenty of rain, so regrowth was fantastic and the forages in this paddock are at the peak of grazing readiness to provide the cows a well balanced diet. I’m convinced they’ve gained 100 lbs in just those few days due to superior diet. Clearly, one can see i’m not mobbing them for best pasture results. This is due to my severe allergies and not being able to be outside. If not for a/c in my Gator, I would turn them out in large paddock and not see them for a week or more.

Oh, the ragweed pollen!!!

Shabbat Shalom!

Faith, Family, Farm

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