Cowboying in Canada – River Mitchell

Wow, what a summer it has been! It’s back to the university for the last semester of my college career, trying to get back into the swing of studying and feeding cows. I thought you guys might like to hear about what I did this summer!

Highs in Saskatchewan were in the mid-40s when Mitchell arrived.

Highs in Saskatchewan were in the upper-40s when Mitchell arrived.

I had the opportunity to spend most of summer in Canada with family friends, the Slades, who ranch in south central Saskatchewan. It is always neat to go see new areas and different ways of doing things, so I jumped at the offer to go stay with them for the summer! Let me tell you the first thing I noticed when I arrived was even though it was nice and balmy in May in Oklahoma, in Canada it was still in the upper 40’s for daytime highs! You can bet the long handles came out pretty quick! Lucky for me I was only there a week and it started warming up. (I will stick a picture in of when I arrived where you can barely see any green grass and some snow in another. Also a cowboy with sheepskin chaps standing on a porch, don’t see that real often in Oklahoma!). There is so much I got to do, learn, and see this summer! I will start with the Ranch.

Tall grass due to frequent rains.

The Slade’s ranch is 12,000 acres, half of which is deeded and the other half is owned and managed for Ducks Unlimited (DU) Canada as a Conservation Ranch. In the summer operation, the ranch custom grazes about 1000 cow calf pairs and 800 yearlings. The cattle are grazed in a rotational system in 160-acre paddocks (a quarter section of land). Stocking rate is about 30 pairs per paddock and half that on DU land. Typically around 200 pairs in a herd and the cattle would be left in the paddock 5 to 10 days depending on grass and cattle condition. The paddock is typically grazed twice through the summer. One of the neat things about the rotational system on the ranch is that no fertilizer is being used on the grazing side. (The picture of jeep is really tall grass!) Alfalfa makes up 20 to 50% of the forage in the fields, giving a nitrogen boost to the surrounding grasses. Also the herd sizes are big enough that the fields gets a decent stomping and manure and urine put back into the ground, which has an enriching effect. The ranch custom-grazes herds from May through October and retains a small herd of cows for the winter. (Notice the pictures of the cowherds, predominantly Angus influenced)

Michell9-4-14StormCloudsThe Slades also cut about 3000 acres of hay that is imported into dry areas of the U.S. Haying normally begins around the middle of July and goes to end of August. Rain is a big factor in putting up quality hay, it rained on average 4 days a week for 6 weeks straight, starting June 15th. Let me tell you I am from Southwest Oklahoma and didn’t think I would ever see that much rain!

Branding on the Slade Ranch.

Branding on the Slade Ranch.

Some of my favorite times this summer were the calf brandings! I was used to processing (vaccinating, branding, worming, etc.) cattle through a squeeze chute, but that is sure not how they do it up north! The calves are sorted off their mothers into a pen that is about three times longer than it is wide. Then cowboys on horseback rope them by the heels and drag them by a Northfork (hook that goes over the calf’s head) that is tied to a rope and staked to the ground and the calf is stretched and held by the horse and heeler (I will put a few branding pictures in of brandings). This immobilizes the calf allowing him to be processed without the use of a chute. All that is required is a cowboy skilled with a rope! The neighboring ranches all help at each other’s brandings. It is a social event as much as work, with lots of food and storytelling going on after the brandings. There is also a competition factor to see who the top ropers are and lots of pointers being given to the younger guys. It was really neat to be around such talented cowboys.

So basically it was an awesome summer! Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Be Blessed,
River Mitchell

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Out like a lion – The Wilcox Family

A #Felfie (Farm Selfie) with Ichi Mav

A #Felfie (Farm Selfie) with Ichi Mav

I think it’s safe to say March is leaving like a lion! Remember back to grade school when they told us that if March came in like a lamb it would go out like a lion? I think my first grade teacher Mrs. Rose was on to something there!

We have been very busy with our crop insurance business this month getting our farmers spring and summer planted crops insured, and short rating any acres of wheat or rye that they want to hay or graze out (harvest on the hoof). All the farmers I talked to out here in Western Oklahoma said the same thing; please send rain! I can definitely sympathize with them.

Farmers, ranchers (and their animals are ready for green grass again!

Farmers, ranchers (and their animals are ready for green grass again!

I checked the Mesonet on 3/19/14 before I spoke at the Dewey County Conservation Districts Annual Meeting/Banquet – it’s been 119 days since we have seen over .25” of rain in a single rain event here in Fairview! As bad as that sounds, it’s been 150+ days in many other places across Western OK. No wonder our wheat price is up… As the wheat has started to break dormancy and grow, more and more blue tint is showing up in fields. This is not a good sign – it means that the moisture needed to grow the plants is in short supply. The fields of Canola that escaped this brutally cold winter are also starting to really green up. Canola seems to do a little better job finding the moisture in the subsoil than wheat does, but it could use a drink too.

Spring calves on the Wilcox farm.

Spring calves on the Wilcox farm.

We are over halfway done with our spring heifers calving. It’s been a mostly uneventful calving season so far – and that’s just fine with us! I can attest to the fact that there really isn’t much in life cuter than calves.

We are hopeful that rain will soon start falling on our farms and fields, but if it doesn’t we know that it isn’t in our control and it’s just another bump in the road of farm life. Happy Spring y’all!

Making it through the snow with happy cows – The Wilcox Family

The good news about black cows and white snow? It’s easier to count the cows!

The good news about black cows and white snow? It’s easier to count the cows!

We have finally seen the last of the recent snow melt up here! Moisture is always welcome in our part of Major County, but we were really getting tired of constantly checking tank heaters, draining hoses, and drudging through the snow!

Isn’t it funny how our perspectives change as we grow older? As a child, snow meant no school & a play day with friends; nowadays it just means a longer (& colder) day of doing the everyday chores on our farm. Still, I always look forward to the first significant snowfall of the year – it’s just the second and third that get a little rough.

Cow “Cake” or Cubes

Cow “Cake” or Cubes

We always feed plenty of extra hay to our cattle before a forecasted snow storm, but we still need to check for new calves (this time of year) daily and break ice on ponds in the few pastures that don’t have rural water and tank heaters (These also can burn out/quit so they also need to be checked daily). When the temperature drops, it is important that the cattle get some additional protein in the form of “cake” or “cubes” to help them combat the cold and keep their energy up.

The good news is that the moisture brought by this snow combined with the warmer temperatures should help bring on the cheat & ryegrass. Green grass = happy cows! “Happy cows” come from more than just California! They are found in pastures just like ours all across Oklahoma.

See you next month!
Clint and Jessica Wilcox

Video feature: Feeding cattle in the snow: The Emerson Family

We took a morning and rode along in Josh Emerson’s feed truck as he fed and checked cattle near Checotah, Oklahoma. Josh took the time to explain how winter storms complicate the task of animal care and why ranchers make animal care a top priority, even in sub-freezing temperatures.

Down to southeast Oklahoma – The Bain family

The Bain Family

The Bain Family

Hello fellow bloggers! We are the Bain family, your district 5 representatives. JT and Sara, along with three growing girls Mattie, Mollie,and Maccie. Here are some things we would like you to know about us. We live in Southeast Oklahoma where JT is a Farm Loan Manager for the Farm Service Agency in McAlester. He services 4 counties, and loves his youth programs! Sara is employed by Stuart Public Schools where she works as a tutor and bus driver. We are very active with our local 4-H and FFA chapters, along with our Church and community.

Feeding cattle with a tub feeder.

Feeding cattle with a tub feeder.

We run a 250-head cow/calf operation and 300 stockers. We also bale hay, wheat, and silage.  JT owns a semi tuck and cattle trailer that he rents to a friend when we are not using it. Our ranch keeps us plenty busy. We are either planting a crop, spraying weeds, harvesting a crop, calving out our mamma cows, hauling cattle or straightening out our stockers.

On the other side of our family, the girls keep us very busy as well! Mattie is a 5th grader, and is very involved with 4-H, for which she has a heifer named “The Funk,” in addition to enjoying basketball and softball. She loves messing with her calf and enjoys helping move and stack hay.

The Bain girls: Mattie, Mollie and Macie.

The Bain girls: Mattie, Mollie and Macie.

Mollie is a 2nd grader and loves her sports. She plays basketball and softball. She also enjoys taking care of our orphaned calves and helping feed with Dad.

Maccie is a kindergartner. She is full of questions about everything her Daddy is doing. She loves going in the semi to haul a load, feed with Dad, or mix feed! She is also involved in basketball and softball.

We look forward to showing you a little bit each month of what our daily operation consists of! Thanks for taking time to learn about our family!!

Getting through winter, planning for the future – The Emerson Family

As we are nearing the end of January, we realize how time truly does fly. We hope to give you a look at our operation each month for the next 12 months. The agriculture way of life is one that changes not only every month, but every day. Dealing with freezing temperatures, highs and lows of cattle prices, and drought conditions are just a few that we are facing every day. We are honored to be involved in the greatest industry, an industry that puts the clothes on your back and food on the dinner table. It is awesome opportunity to serve on the YF&R State Committee. It is a true enjoyment to look back and reflect on our operation, we hope you enjoy our “snapshot”.

The stockyards at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.

The stockyards at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.

Hi, we are Josh & Kim Emerson from Checotah, which is located in McIntosh County in Eastern Oklahoma. We are serving as the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers District six committee members. We have operated a diversified cattle, hay and order-buying operation since 1998. Our cattle consist of registered Angus, Simmental, Maine-Anjou, club calves and commercial cow/calf. January has been a whirlwind with battling cold temperatures, chopping ice and getting cattle fed. We just finished up our FFA/4-H Trophy Auction and Chili feed and now are preparing for the upcoming stock shows.

Kim is the Vice President for Armstrong Bank in Checotah and serves on many community and livestock boards so January tends to get crazy in trying to prepare for upcoming spring stock shows. We just returned from a trip to the National Western Livestock Show with Zac & Amy Harris, the district two committee members to check out the up-and-coming genetics that breeders across the nation have to offer.

The vertical feed mixer that allows the Emersons to create custom feed mixes.

The vertical feed mixer that allows the Emersons to create custom feed mixes.

Due to the cold weather most every day this month, after feeding and checking cows I spend time in the barn getting equipment ready for spring. During the drought we purchased a vertical mixer that allows us to produce a total mix ration that helps the cattle produce more pounds of beef while lowering our input cost by allowing us to feed by-products and lower cost commodities.  We just this week started getting semi loads of chicken litter that will be spread on the pastures for fertilizer. This weekend we will be working and moving spring AI calving cows in and fall calvers out, our calving season starts February 15th. The majority of our spring calving cows are bred to bulls with maternal traits; our goal is to keep the best heifers out of our spring herd for replacements. Kim and I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of our operation, let’s see what happens next month!

 

Calving and catching up in wintertime – The Crain Family

Derek and Mary at the 2013 Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers conference in Arizona.

Derek and Mary at the 2013 Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers conference in Arizona.

We, Derek and Mary Crain, are a young family getting started in agriculture.  Currently, we are running a small herd of cows in the Woodward, Oklahoma area, working on making a larger operation.  We both have off-farm jobs to make ends meet and to and aid in providing some of the needed funds to expand our farming operation. We are currently serving the final year of our term as the District 1 representatives on the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers State Committee. Derek also volunteers for both the Taloga Fire Department and Taloga EMS.

For us, January is a time when we are making preparations for calving. This consists of moving our cattle to pastures that have good shelter for both cows and calves in preparation for cold winds and severe winter weather that likes to make an appearance around this time in Oklahoma.  This is typically the time we also get to catch up on maintenance and work on projects that were started but never finished in the past year.

In our spare time we enjoy spending time with family and friends and also being involved in our community. We are looking forward to a great year and letting you get to know about us and our operation.