Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Gophers!

There is a little rodent that runs around called a Richardson Ground Squirrel but I are most commonly referred to as gophers. They cause havoc and are a bit of a problem in the agriculture industry. We have thousands and thousands of gophers in our pastures and we do have to do something about it to control them. Some of you may not agree with killing them but I have to give you my side of this problem. Gophers do two things that cause problems:
  1. Gophers dig holes - They dig them everywhere, making mounds of dirt and tearing up grass. This is an issue in the well being of our cattle, they can hurt themselves if they walk in a gopher hole. It becomes more of an issue during breeding season when they ride each other, it's easier to hurt themselves if they step in a hole while riding.
  2. Gophers eat grass - They eat grass and pasture land, basically what our cows eat. Now one little gopher doesn't make much of a difference, but all together they do. A gopher weighs about a quarter of a pound, and will eat about seventy-five percent of their body weight. So, 0.25*0.75=0.1875 pounds a day. If their is just 1000 gophers together they are eating 0.1875*1000=187.5 pounds of grass. Now cows will eat about 1.4-4.0% of their body weight a day depending on the quality of food. So a 1200 pound cow would eat between 17-48 pounds of dry basis feed. So, just a thousand gophers, are eating about 11 or so cows feed a day! That is a lot!!
Image
So, we do get rid of those annoying creatures, and there are a whole lot more than just 1000 of them, we have one field this year that is really bad, with thousands and thousands of them. And it doesn't seem to matter how many we get rid of, next year there is always another million of them. They are like a never ending problem in our area that we try to take care of as best we can!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A little Supplementation!

As I've mentioned before all our cows are out on pasture for the breeding season and they have been keeping us busy with regular checks. Checking everyone on a regular basis is very important to make sure all animals are healthy and making sure they have pasture, moving them when they run out.

Salt (red) and seven way

On a regular basis we also fill up tubs with mineral and salt as a supplementation and is very important to the cattle's diet. We have three different types of mineral that we give the cows:
  • Our soil is extremely low in cooper and zinc so we feed them a hi-boot cooper and zinc salt that supplies them with the loss in the feed they eat. It also has traces of magnesium which is also a deficiency in cattle.
  • The mineral we feed with the salt is an ALT-GEN 17-17 Beef and Range Mineral which contains mainly calcium and phosphorus for the cattle's diet.
  • Some of our pastures contain alfalfa which is a legume plant that grows purple flowers and will grow several times during the summer if grazed down. One problem that alfalfa can cause though is bloat in animals, which is when the stomach becomes overstretched by excess gas content and if not caught and treated quickly the animal will usually die. So to prevent this cows in alfalfa pastures get seven way mineral which contains vitamins and minerals that prevent bloat.
These supplements are very important to a cows diet, especially during summer pasture and when lactating milk to raise their calves. So, it is very important to make sure that they have a constant supply of salt and mineral. And luckily the cattle absolutely love the stuff, it is usually a mad dash when giving them mineral to get to the tub first!


Monday, 27 June 2011

Invention Monday - Shredder

shredder3bales.jpg (9521 bytes)A truck with a mounted bale shredder that we bought because the prototype that they built took to long to iron out so we went ahead and bought a Brandt Bale Processor for the back of the truck. This wonderful truck has three uses, we can feed grain out of the box in front of the shredder, it can be used to feed hay to the cattle and it shreds straw which is what we probably use it for the most. Pretty much all winter long someone is shredding straw into the pens.

shredderworking2.jpg (10691 bytes)Another sweet feature that my relatives came up with is they added a fork to the front of the truck so that there can be three straw bales loaded on at once, one in the shredder, one at the back and one at the front. This tends to safe quite a bit of time, so then you don't have to drive to the stack yard and get another bale every time you run out but simply push a lever and the next straw bale goes into the shredder.

This invention is one that saves a fair about of time and one that we use a lot. I have never had the privlege of driving this big truck, I have however had the honor of opening gates in cold weather for the person in the shredder so that it would save even more time. Unfortunatly the shredder has been in the shop for a while now getting fixed, hopefully it willwork again soon because it is a pretty important part of the ranch, especially come winter time so the wonderful cows and calves don't freeze! Here is a little video of the truck in action.

video

 For more info on this great machine go here.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Numbers Galore

A few days ago I did a blog on ultrasounding carcass traits in animals and had mentioned EPD's, today I will go into a little more depth on EPD's.

EPD stands for expected progeny differences. Here is an example of EPD's for an animal. To some of you this may look like just a bunch of numbers, I will do my very best to explain what the numbers are and mean.

  • Calving Ease - is an EPD that has a multitude of factors that impact calving ease from gestation period, feed, climate, cow size to breed. Calving ease is how well a cow will calf, we want calving ease to be higher so that most of them will be unassisted.
  • Birth Weight is the EPD that gets calculated using the birth weights of the bulls and cows progeny as well as the calves birth weight. The lower the number the better. This bull for example has a birth weight EPD of +3.6 and he is used on cows. Our one heifer bull has a birth weight EPD of -1.1 which is low and part of the reason he is used on heifers because you want heifer's calves to have low birthweights so that they can easily calf and don't need assistance.
  • Weaning weight is based on the weight of the calf's and its parents weight at weaning (when we take the calves away from the moms). In this case it is the higher the number the better. For example if another bull at an EPD of 0.0 this bull with the weaning weight of +55.8 will sire offspring with an average of 55.8 pounds heavier at weaning then the bull with an EPD of 0.0.
  • Yearling weight is the same as weaning only it applies to when the animal is a year old.
  • Milk  is another one of those EPD's that you want higher numbers. You can't have a cow that doesn't produce any milk so you want high EPD's, it is a measure of the amount of pre-weaning performance gained by calves which can be attributed to the milking ability of a bull's/cow's daughters. The EPD is expressed in pounds of calf.
  • Total Maternal is half the weaning weight plus the milk of the mother.
  • Maternal Calving Ease is the calving ease of the mother.
  • Scrotal Circumference is determined and adjusted from the yearling scrotal circumference of a bull's or cow's progeny, in centimeters and again the higher the EPD the bigger the better.
  • Cow Weight is the EPD of the cow weight.
  • Stayability is the probability that a bulls daughters will stay in the herd for so many years.
  • MPI is maternal productivity index.
  • FMI is feedlot merit index
  • Fat is determined from the ultrasound measurements and the lower the number the less fat the animal has and the better.
  • REA is the rib eye area EPD also from ultrasound, higher numbers mean larger rib eyes.
  • MARB is the marbling of the animal also determined from the ultrasound with higher EPD numbers also meaning more marbling.
The middle row is the accuracy of the EPD's and is very important when looking at the EPD's. For example the calving ease EPD is seven percent accurate.
The row at the bottom is the average EPD's of all the calves born in 2009 of the Hereford breed. An average is made every year of the calves and is used as a guideline to compare an animal to the average. EPD's of different breeds cannot be compared because each breed has their own methods of calculating EPD's and they are simply not comparable.

EPD's showed graphically in percentiles.
EPD's are a lot of numbers but are very useful in choosing herd sires to breed cows to. Through EPD's breeders can also increase the productivity and characteristics of their herd. They are also used to decide which cows to put with which bulls, for example if one cow has a low milking EPD, then we would stick her with a bull that has an above average, high milking EPD and the calf should average out and increase in milking EPD. EPD's are useful in herd management and are starting to be used more by breeders in their herd and in selecting bulls. Please comment and let me know if you have any questions!

Credits: http://www.hereford.ca/performance.asp
http://www.hereford.ca/association_member/PDFs/forms/calving_ease.pdf

Friday, 24 June 2011

"The Selecta Belle"

Recently we received a very large stack of old Canadian Hereford Digests and I was looking through a couple of them today and I came across a little story that I found to be very cute and funny from the 1985 Digest that I would like to share with you.

The Selecta Belle
By: Delita Belle
About mid morning Max appeared in the doorway.... "Could you help me sort some bulls?" he asked.... I was up to my elbows in bread dough, but the thought of leaving the house for a few minutes seemed very attractive... Quickly I finished punching the bread, slipped into my coveralls and rubber boots and, like an obedient little dog, I followed Max out to the corral.

Sorting the bulls was always an exciting time... This was when we selected those animals that qualified for the 'Bull Market.' The 'Culls' were sold for beef... Max always made me feel as if he valued my opinion. As he extolled the merits of every animal, preparing me for a decision, I tried to point out some of the qualities I liked. Max listened politely, pausing briefly as he waited for me to finish, hen he would explain to me that maybe those long eyelashes and cute little curls in the bulls tail weren't so important in selecting a bull....

I really began to wonder why he had asked me for my valued opinion. Maybe he was felling sorry for me, since the last selection I had made turned out to be a fizzle... He was probably giving me one more chance to shape up... My thoughts turned to that fateful day.

The Five Star Sale was on and Max was having one of those days when the vet calls and the calving problems in our own pasture had put the cap on any chance of his leaving the territory for a production sale.... He must have looked me over and decided my inefficiency would perhaps be less noticeable at the sale...

So... armed with a list of careful instructions on how to select a female, I drove off to choose a heifer at the sale... I was so pleased that Max had such confidence in me. I was really going to make him proud of me...

After spending a glowing hour or so, visiting with other breeders and their wives, looking over a large selection of beautiful females from the herds of five breeders, I stuffed myself with delicious roast beef, apple pie and confidence... I felt I was well prepared for the important selection of a female for our herd...

I was filled with so much excitement and importance as I sat in the stand beside my friend, Doreen. We had so much news to exchange about the activities of our unbelievable kids.... We really missed seeing the first dozen or so females pass through the ring...

A scurry in the show ring suddenly snapped us to attention. One very nervous heifer had decided she had enough of the poking, tugging, and pushing, and was making her wishes known. At the moment her wish was to have everyone out of the ring.... Everyone! As the last man scrambled over the fence she snorted furiously and whipped around a few times to make sure no one was sneaking back...

"Well, now! There's a spirited princess for you!" bawled the auctioneer. "Isn't she a sweet, lively thing?" And as she stood their in the middle of the ring, her head high, her eyes bright with anger, her body in rigid defiance, I felt a kinship with her.... Yes! She was a sweet, lively thing!... And as her eyes met mine a spark of sympathy seemed to light between us... "What am I bid for this beauty?" begged the auctioneer. "Do I hear five? Make it ten?" Up went my catalogue and Princess was mine!

I drove home on cloud nine with Princess churning around and around in the back of my truck... Max met me at the loading chute. He peered anxiously into the back, not saying a word... Silently he opened the back gate and Princess tore out of the box like a nipped hound and never stopped until she hit the fence...

"What on earth did you buy that for?" whispered Max unbelievably. As my delight in my purchase faded and the weight of Max's disappointment settled heavily upon me, my mind darted around for an excuse...

"She had such beautiful eyelashes!" I whispered weakly...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ultrasounding

Last Saturday was a little bit of a unique one, we had two men from Kazakstan come to our place for an ultrasound demonstration! It was pretty exciting to have them over and to hear their language, it was my first time and it's very neat. They came over to Canada to learn about ultrasounding and how to do it because they want to introduce ultrasound for carcass traits, mainly marbling into their herd! I will do my best to explain the ultrasounding process in this blog post! 

We have been ultrasounding for carcass traits in our herd for about the last ten years, every year we have an ultrasound technician come out to our place and ultrasound all our yearling heifers and bulls, about two hundred and twenty head making for quite a long day!

The ultrasound measures and estimate of marbling, rib-eye area, back fat and rump fat at three locations on the animal, as shown in the diagram:

  1. Is where the percent of intramuscular fat is measured and is used mainly to measure the marbling in an animal. Marbling is the little specks of fat that is found in a steak and is what adds flavor to the meat. Marbling is also the measurement that will vary the most in an animal, marbling is what they will lose first if their living conditions deteriorate or they get sick.
  2. Is rib-eye area and back fat. Rib-eye is an estimate of the amount of muscle and lean product in the animal. Back fat is an estimate of the external fat on the animal.
  3. Is the rump measurement and is an additional measurement of the external fat on the animal.
Carcass traits measured through ultrasound are highly heritable and will be transferred to the offspring. Over the years we have found that the animals with extremely big rib-eye areas tend to be larger and suitable for terminal sire use, whereas the animals with extreme marbling tend to be a bit on the shallow side and maybe a little bit harder doing. For this reason we look for a balance in our carcass EPDs. It is also seen that if an animal has a huge rib-eye area their marbling usually is not good and vice versa which is another good reason to aim for balanced carcass traits with no major extremes.

Ultrasounding is a very useful technique that is becoming more popular, more buyers are starting to look at carcass traits when they purchase animals. It is also getting to be known around the world as is proof by the Kazakhstanians coming to learn about ultrasound, I know they did and I hope you did too! If you have any questions or comments about it please don't hesitate to ask.
Rump Picture

Rib-Eye Picture

   
Monitor




Ultrasounding










Credit:
The Cattleman October 2010

Monday, 20 June 2011

Invention Monday - Gate Latch

Closed
Today's invention is a fairly simple one. We have a lot of land which means we have a lot of gates and my wonderful family inventors came up with a very simple and easy way to open gates. We do have three types of gates, some have a simple chain around it which is a real pain sometimes to close as the chain will hook onto the barbwire fence. The newer gates are wire gates that has three handles to hook. But most of them are the gate latches!

When the latch is open it makes the gate loose so that it's easy to lift off and open the gate, no use of a wirer puller or to much strength, and then when it's closed the gate is tight. One of those simple inventions that makes gate opening easier and faster to do. For more info on how it was built and with what go here.

Open
   
Wire Gate

Chain

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Happy Father's Day!

I am so happy that many years ago my dad was born in the little country of Switzerland and had a childhood dream of ranching and being part of the agriculture world because otherwise I would not have grown up in the industry with the most amazing father ever being their everyday and doing so much.

So, he came to Canada and worked for my mom's dad on the ranch and became an integral part of the place and now is in charge of the amazing ranch. He has always been here for us kids as we grew up and then in our 4-H years he was on the end of the halter tying them up until we were old enough, rising bright and early to help us load for our Achievement Days and summer cattle shows.

I am so thankful for my great dad and what he has done for me over the years, always here giving the best of advice. An amazing dad, who deserves the best! So, a very Happy Father's Day to all the great dad's out their, you all deserve the absolute best!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Twine

Net wrap and Twine (blue is twine rest is wrap)
Quite some time ago, I did a blog post on one of the jobs that I don't really enjoy doing, well today the second lovely job of pulling twine that I could live without took place! I had been putting it off for quite a while, but dad decided it needed to be done, so I had help. There as four of us on the ground and one in the tractor cleaning the stack yards after us and within two and a half hours we had two stack yards free of twine! I must say I was very happy for the help because without them it would have taken me four times as long.

In the summer we do a lot of haying and we have four stack yards where we store the hay bales. The irrigation hay gets wrapped with net wrap and the dry land hay gets wrapped with twine. I personally prefer picking twine so you don't always have to tear up the whole ground to get the stuff out. In the winter months we feed the hay and when you lift the bales off the ground and they are frozen to the ground so when they get pulled away some twine and net wrap stay behind.

Daniel never ceases to amaze me, there he was yanking on
twine with all his might
So, we pick up the twine and net wrap in our stack yards for a few reasons. Twine can get caught in wheel bearings of vehicles, sometimes cattle, calves especially like to experiment and chew on things that they shouldn't chew on so they will sometimes chew on twine and it's not very good for them. It also keeps the stack yards clean and nice when people come to visit! It is one of those other jobs in the agriculture industry that isn't very fun but has to be done.


After
Before

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Road Trip!

Yesterday I took a road trip with my dad to deliver four bulls to three different places. Being in the agriculture business selling bulls involves a bit of traveling and a lot of visiting! We were delivering bulls down to the beautiful cypress hills country in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Of course when delivering bulls one doesn't usually drop the bull off and leave again, a lengthy conversation is usually held. And yesterdays topics consisted of the crazy bizarre weather, the industry, market, the happenings in each others country, cows and what problems have come about, it even consisted of talking about the hockey game last night, to many more topics. I love to sit and listen to conversations like these most of the time, it's a great place to learn about many different things and hear thoughts of other people in this great industry on topics of all sorts.

These four bulls were sold sight unseen meaning the buyers have only seen pictures but haven't seen the bull in real life before buying him, yesterday was the first time! So, we have never met them before and it's wonderful how we were invited into their home and started chatting as if we had known each other for years. And I think that just goes to show what an amazing industry agriculture is and how wonderful the people are in the industry!

It was a wonderful and long day but totally worth it, I love taking road trips to see other breeder's and country side. I forgot to take pictures of the glorious country side until it was dark so I snapped a quick one of the creek!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Tattooing!

Plier
As ranchers around the country complete the branding of their calves as the weather prevented some from getting it finished when they wanted to and it is why I'm glad we don't brand. We have never found it necessary to brand our cattle, their not on extremely wide range pastures and we are the only place with Hereford cattle for quite aways besides my Uncle but his cattle have red tags and horns so it wouldn't be that hard to tell them apart! We simply tattoo our calves for identification and I am going to share with you a little bit more of that process.

LBH
We tattoo our calves when they are at least three weeks old, so we end up tattooing about three, four times in the year. It takes about four people, one person tattooing, one changing numbers in the pliers, one behind calves pushing them forward and vaccinating in chute and one person out pack putting them into the alley. 

One part of the tattoo which is placed in the top of the right ear is the herd prefix letters, so for example Lilybrook Herefords cattle are tattooed with LBH meaning they are a Lilybrook Hereford calf, my calves have the prefix LBHR, and my two siblings are LBHM and LBHD. And the at the bottom of the ear we put the number of the calf and the year letter, this year being Y. After the tattoos have been put in, we rub black tattoo ink into the holes, so that it will be easily readable!
Numbers

 It is also at tattooing time that we vaccinate our calves by giving them three shots to protect them from various diseases and viruses.

RFID Tag
The final thing that we do while the calves are in for tattooing is insert an RFID tag that can be read by scanning machines showing the person the calves information and can be used to identify cattle.

Tattooing is a simple straight forward process that makes it easy to identify our animals if they ever lose a tag or something else happens! If you have any questions on the process please don't hesitate to ask.



A few pictures from past tattooing days!


Monday, 13 June 2011

Invention Monday - Chute

I'm always surprised and confused when there are other people at our place and they don't know how to run the head gate. I think that everyone has one like we do because we have never had a different one for as long as I can remember! But it is another invention that my wonderful relatives came up with. 

Now, the thing that sparked this invention was the fact that all our cattle used to be horned, we started dehorning heifer calves in 2001 but all our bulls still have horns, so we needed to come up with something that would open wide enough for the horns to make it through. With the scissor head gate we can catch anything from a very large bull to a little calf.

With a simple pull on the rope the head gate opens and you can control how far you want it to open and then it is closed by yanking on the longer rope, which is long enough to move behind the animal so that it will come into the chute better.

We have three of these chutes, one in each location that we use quite regularly for processing cattle, the green one is used the most and connected to our cattle handling system out back along with being located in a shed, it also has a lever that adjusts the width of the chute, if an animal is a little bit high strung and jumps around a lot we can tighten it so she can't move so much. It also has a little man gate at the back that once they are in the head gate we can open and go behind the cow to preg test, or for semen testing on the bulls.

We have had them for many years now, and they are still in good shape and have worked wonderfully! Every once in a while an animal will get away if the person on the rope isn't fast enough but it doesn't happen very often, it's a great system that makes little noise and allows us to process any size of animal, horns or no horns!

If you have any questions, comments or what type of chute your using, I would love to hear from you!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Happy Farmers Day!

As many of you may know today is a special day, it's Farmers Day. A day set out just like Family day or Victoria day to honor all the wonderful farmers and ranchers around that feed the world.

I am very happy that there is a day to celebrate farmers and all the hard work that they do, celebrations were held in many places, even the little town of Claresholm had a hamburger lunch, music, games, wagon rides, petting zoo, farmer's market and machinery displays at the local UFA. Farmer's don't get enough recognition for all they do, from helping a cow calf in the middle of the night to harvesting crops.

So, thank a farmer for all they do in this world, even though there is a day to celebrate farmers, they are working all the time, not eight hours a day but many more and sometimes at all hours of the day. So, to all the farmers and ranchers out their thank you for everything you do. Don't forget to thank a farmer today!

Happy Farmer's Day!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A trip down memory lane!

Daniel with his Heifer
Yesterday was a very long and wonderful day, it was the Willow Creek District 4-H Achievement Day, I got the honor of watching my sister's last 4-H Achievement Day and my little brother's first one, I spent most of the day taking pictures of the two of them and their cattle!






Michelle and her Heifer
Being at Achievement Day also brought back memories of my eight years in the Claresholm 4-H Beef Club! 4-H is an amazing program that absolutely changed my life. Throughout the 4-H year the club has monthly meetings to plan events, along with fundraisers, community service and activities. There is also a public speaking competition that every member has to participate in to finish of the year. The public speaking was a huge part of my 4-H years, at the beginning I was very scared of speaking in front of people and I cried during my first speech I was so scared, but over the years I got better and if it wasn't for that first step and 4-H, I have no idea what I would be doing today. Anyway, as a 4-H member you also need to do a record book for your project which records rate of gain and what we feed them and expenses of everything.

Daniel showing his steer
Well, after a year of hard work and preparation it comes down to Achievement Day, the big day where everyone shows and sells their steer after a year of hard work, and it is the day that I miss the most! In our district we always had the choice to have a steer and then females which could consist of a yearling heifer, a two year old cow/calf pair, a three year old cow/calf pair and a mature cow/calf pair which is a cow that is at least four years old. All the females have to be 4-H females, so for example a two year old cow would have had to be shown as a heifer in the previous year to be shown as a two year old. Then we have the option of entering in the Breeder's Herd class, which is at least three animals, usually members will do a cow/calf pair and their heifer for Breeder's Herd!

At the end of the day, the members sell their 4-H steers and thanks to all the support from buyers and the community the clubs do very well. Members get a fair amount more than market value which is always nice. My siblings and I never did get the full pay cheque at the end of the year, we always had to pay our dad for the feed, the animal and everything else that went with it. But I wouldn't have it any other way, through it I learned that life isn't free and it costs money, but I did make a little money over the years, and now I have a small herd of cattle that have been making me some money to.
Achievement Day was always a very busy day, especially as I got older I would have one of everything, a steer, heifer, two year old, three year old and mature cow calf/pair which made for a lot of work but was so totally worth it!

Headed to the Ring
I had an amazing time in my eight years of 4-H and I learned so much, from public speaking, responsibility and a little about life, the market and showing. 4-H is a great program and I am so thankful I could be a part of it, and sometimes I miss it but I also love to be on the other side watching the show, it was great to see my sister in her last 4-H, she did such an amazing job and it was also wonderful to see my brother's first 4-H Achievement Day and he has a lot more ahead of him so I can't wait to see him grow into an amazing young man.