cattle, cows, grassfed beef

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch 3

#3 of a series about life at the EO Ranch by Barb Harr

 

So, as I was saying, keeping the “easy keepers” is the goal!

 

To us, that means cows that get busy and graze without being too picky, calve every year, provide enough milk to give their calves a great start, and are just docile enough that they work with us (not against us).

 

As stated in my last post, “We just gotta be careful that we don’t . . . . . let our cows put the squeeze on us.”  Disposition is one of those traits that we could easily carry too far, ending up with a lot of ‘nice’ cows that may like our attention but don’t perform well.  We have some that are so ‘nice’ that at times it seems they would rather hang with us than do the ‘herd thing!’

 

But as things turned out, having ‘nice’ cows was the only thing we COULD think about on the day we made our first cull!  Here’s that story…

 

 

 

 

. . .  Our herd started with the purchase of 14 local crossbred heifers that we intended to move from their native pasture to our leased acreage about 30 minutes away. Only 13 of them got moved as “the SANITY trait” compelled us to send one to the local sale barn right then and there.

As we began to pen our new little herd to make the move, we quickly found we had acquired a heifer that must have spent a former life posing for cartoonists.  She looked the part of the classic comic strip bull – curly hair on the top of her head, flaring nostrils, big round belly, and hooves stomping and pawing the ground as she took stock of us.

image credit: dreamstime

 

 

 

 

 

Well, we took stock of her body language and quickly exited the pen to regroup – and she quickly exited the herd!!!

 

 

Apart from that incident early on, it has proven really hard for us to cull (fancy way of saying “send to the sale barn and get less than what you’re sure a cow is worth”) while we have been trying to build our herd.

 

The 13 from our original 14 are still around!  As we take notes and observe, we have identified two or three of them that will eventually be removed from the herd.  We’ve been threatening for a while, especially when we have felt threatened ourselves, but beginning the process is a process in itself!  Even our neighbors, who have been cow people for years, lament that culling is something that is hard to do – you always want to give that cow ‘One More Chance!’  Since we hope to be in this for the long haul, we will be needing to make some “Cull Calls” soon. In the meantime, we’re moo-ving along, watching carefully and learning as much as possible about cow behavior, genetics, perfomance on grass, etc.  Hopefully, we will get good at choosing “easy keepers” as we forge ahead.

 

By the way, speaking of choosing (unless you’re going to go the AI route – which we’re not),  no herd can be built on just a bunch of females!

 

We had to choose a BULL for our 13 girls…

 

Now that’s another story…

 

Return to main BLOG Page

January 5th, 2018

Posted In: Livestock

Tags:

Leave a Comment

cattle, cows, grassfed beef

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch 2

#2 of a series about life at the EO Ranch by Barb Harr

 

Expanding on our lessons…learning from cows and cow people…

Cows are pretty self-sufficient – and in our case, they need to be.  We live 3 1/2 hours south of the pastures they call home, and we get up there to check on them about every 7 – 10 days.  My husband has assured me they will be all right, and with the landowners living onsite and neighbors all around, I know that is true…yet…I still whisper a prayer each time we pull in that half-mile long driveway.  And, you know what?  They’ve been ok – maybe a tad bit lonely – but ok.  It is amazing how glad they seem to see us when we pull in – they come running!  And we are happy to see them as well.

cattle, cows, grassfed beef

Earthwise Cattle

Ask any cow, and she’ll tell you “I really don’t need my humans to help me be a cow.  I eat and drink what I need as long as my humans make sure it is available and I tend to my young’uns (and/or other young’uns if their moms don’t seem to be doing a very good job).  I stand up to the bull – and for the bull – so he can do his job, and when I relax and chew my cud, I’m thinking life is good!

 

Leader of the Pack

 

 

Now, we don’t ask just the cows; there are plenty of knowledgeable humans that have learned how to work with nature to raise cows that can take care of themselves.

 

One of the email groups that has become a “go to” resource for us strongly encourages building your herd into one filled with – LOW INPUT/LOW MAINTENANCE – “I don’t need your help” kind of cows.  In other words, “you don’t want any of those ‘High Maintenance Ladies’ in your pasture!”  The thinking is that with the right genetics, you can bring a lot of the good into your herd –  increased milk quality, improved maternal instincts, reduced horn fly attractiveness, reduced internal parasite pressure, increased docility, etc.  You name it, you can select for it – that’s the theory.  But putting that theory into practice and deciding which of our girls to get rid of, that’s the hard part!  Watching carefully so that we can make the best decisions as to which cows to keep and which ones to cull has become one of our big jobs – lot of notes and lots of time spent just walking in the pasture.  We just gotta be careful that we don’t bring in too much of one good thing and squeeze out room for any other good traits.  What we’re after is a well-rounded cow – an “easy keeper.”  If a cow is not an “easy keeper,” life is not so good for them or us!

 

We learned this early on…

 

 

Return to main BLOG Page

December 6th, 2017

Posted In: Livestock

Tags:

Leave a Comment