Thursday, November 15, 2012

Montana Farm Bureau Convention

This week I've been in Billings at the Montana Farm Bureau Convention. This was my first convention and I really enjoyed myself. The purpose of the convention is to get all of the counties together. The first day we did a few classes, but after that pretty much the rest of the time was dedicated to policy development. On the county level I had put through four pieces of policy. They were:

We support legislation that designates acquiring a job under false pretenses as an illegal activity.
We believe it is the responsibility of the state, federal, or local government to clearly mark all boundaries and fence lines surrounding public lands.
We support legislation requiring that any boundary or fence line not specifically marked as public land shall be presumed to be private land and illegal to enter without the consent of the owner(s).
We support legislation that requires any allegation of animal cruelty to be reported within 10 days of the incident.

As many land owners know, especially those in areas with good hunting, your land is very easily trespassed upon. A lot of people around here own section after section and they can't possibly keep an eye on everything. I was hoping to use the second and third resolutions as a way to punish trespassers more harshly as well as create responsibility for the federal government when it comes to clearly labeling public lands. Unfortunately, neither of those passed on the State level.

The other two resolutions were in regards to groups such as PETA and the Humane Society of the United States. Both of these animal rights groups and many others have began the practice of sending members to obtain jobs on farms and ranches in order to "catch" animal cruelty. They may video tape or take pictures of the farmers and ranchers working. Then they are known to photo shop the pictures or make new videos that can be easily misconstrued as  animal cruelty. In reality, these groups are not actually worried about the welfare of animals. They truly want to hurt agriculture, especially in the areas of dairy, meat, and eggs.

 Only the last piece of legislationg was passed on the State level. Mostly they disagreed with the wording of the policies, so I think I will put them through again next year with different wording. At the county meeting a few months ago I was actually voted on the Policy Development Committee as well as the Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. At the convention I met some new people, learned a lot, and was given some great ideas on policy for next year.

Every year at convention, a few of our young farmers and ranchers compete in a discussion meet, which is basically an informal debate. They are given a topic, usually a problem facing agriculture, and they talk about the problem. The winner wins a trip to the National Convention to compete in a discussion meet with fellow state winners. I decided to be a spectator at the state discussion meet this year but I'm definitely going to compete next year.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Preg Checking

Preg checking is, you guessed it, checking the cows to see if they are pregnant or not. You also look for late cows or early cows. An early cow could calve too early in the winter and lose her calf in snow. A late cow will have a smaller calf at shipping and the next year she will probably breed later again. Preg checking is something most, if not all, ranchers in Southeastern Montana do. Let's face it, we don't need anymore dead weight around here, especially with our drought-like conditions and all of the grazing lost to fire. Oh yea, we haven't talked about the fires yet, have we? Alright, that can wait for another day. Anyway, because we have a spring calving schedule, we preg check the cows and heifers in the late fall or early winter. This is the best time for the vet to get a good idea of due dates and for everyone not to freeze their butt off too much!

The first time I had the pleasure of preg checking this year was with my boyfriend's family. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about six months now and he comes from a ranching family too. Anyway, the first time we EVER worked cows together was actually about two weeks before we preg checked. We were helping his family pre-condition the calves that were to be sold. So let me tell you, my boyfriend has never even considered raising his voice to me- he's not that kind of guy. But.... let me tell you something else. His family apparently gets just a little crazy around cows. And yes, I know first hand about getting crazy around cows. I come from crazy family numero uno. We yell, we fight, we get over it. The thing is my brother can yell at me and I'm like "Oh duh, there's a cow right there trying to escape" or something. However, when my boyfriend yells at me I think in my head, "Is he talking to me? Why is he yelling at me? What am I doing wrong? HOW DARE HE YELL AT ME!!?!" So... as you can imagine, the first time any cattle-related yelling involved my boyfriend and I, one of us was just a teeny bit upset. *cough cough* In his defense a calf was trying to jump over the alley, and he was worried for my safety. Still, I was upset. And I may or may not have told him that I was never working cows with him again because he's mean and terrible. Okay I definitely told him that. Then I pouted for the rest of the day.

So when he told me his parents wanted help AGAIN my first reaction wasn't no, it was heck no. Then I reconsidered because I didn't really want to spend the day without him and he promised he would be nice and not terrible. So we did round 2, and there was the same amount of yelling, although less directed at me. Everything turned out alright, and we lived happily ever after. Or something like that ;) All in all, his parents' cows tested well. I think they had around 10 open from about 350 head. Those are good numbers on a normal year, and really great numbers for the dry year we've had.

A few weeks ago I preg checked with my parents. We used a tub, which is possibly the best invention, like, ever. A tub is basically a half-moon entrance into an alley with a swinging door. You open the door, push a few cows in, close to the door behind them and push them up into the alley and into the chute. BAM! Super efficient. It's a lot less stressful for the cows and it just goes so much smoother than a regular alley and chute. All in all the herd of my parent's that we check were good. We had a few lates and then maybe 5 opens out of 175 head. None of my cows have been checked yet, because they were in another pasture and we are doing them separately sometime this month. I hope they all check alright, but I'm a little worried that my coming 3 year-old might be open since she aborted after jumping the fence last year. I guess we will see huh? Well anyway, it's past my bedtime and I have about a kazillion things to do tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Branding 2012

Just like most ranchers in the area, my family has a branding in the spring to brand and vaccinate calves. We had our branding on May 16th. So yes, a very, very long time ago. And the last time I posted was at least a week before that. It's official. I'm a slacker. Lately I moved to town to get a job, working on the ranch wasn't really paying any bills. I'm working full-time (still) in town, going to school online full-time for Business and still working on my real estate license. It seems like I should be done with that last one by now, huh? 

Anywho, I thought I'd post some pictures of the branding... like I promised many moons ago. Anything we do at a branding is for the health and safety of our calves. We would never do anything to harm them or decrease their quality of life. After all, they are our income. So, we vaccinated them with the usual 7-way which vaccinates for Clostridium chauvoei, septicum, novyi, sordelli and prefrigens Types C & D. A mouthful eh? Basically it, you know, keeps a calf healthy. I wish I could elaborate but I'm not a pharmacists or a veterinarian. We also vaccinated with Bovi-Shield Gold IBR-BVD which (yes I know what this one does!) vaccinates against Infections Bovine Rhinotracheitis or IBR. IBR can cause diarrhea, influenza, and other respiratory problems. I know, I'm so smart. And I can google the crap out of things. But mostly I'm smart... We also poured all of our calves with Ivomec. That's the brand name, but we actually used the generic kind because we're cheap. Ha. Anyway, Ivomec is basically a pour on bug repellent. It keeps insects off the cows which can cause serious health problems, not to mention be annoying as heck. We branded the calves. We used 3 different brands, mine, my parent's, and my oldest younger brother. We also used growth hormones this year. We implanted the steer calves with the hormone in the ear to help them grow faster. We have never done this before and wanted to experiment with it. Unfortunately its been an extremely dry year and our calves don't actually weigh any more than they did last year because the grass didn't have as good of food value as usual. The bull calves all mysteriously become steer calves. Alright, we cut them. It's a pretty simple process that the average person would not want to see, like ever. So yea, I'll leave it at that. It is sanitary and the safest way to castrate bull calves. Banding can cause infection and once the infection reaches their guts there's pretty much nothing you can do. Also, most people will tag as well, but we tag our calves as they are born so we can match up the calf to the mama and track our herd a little better. Well, to the pictures. 

The next 6 pictures are a pretty good example of how to wrestle a calf as demonstrated by the professionals, my sister and I.   If I had known I was going to be photographed I might have made fewer funny faces!

This is what the Ivomec looks like. 

A good shot of my dad branding. 
If you can see, my cousin Matt's girlfriend, Tyler, is vaccinating.
She has a vaccination gun in her right hand . 
Me (left) and my sister (right) wrestling while my cousin Tyler is cutting. 
My brother Joe working on his loop while roping. 
My cousin, Matt and brother ,Jared enjoying some
Rocky Mountain Oysters. Yes, calf balls.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My First Branding

I would like to recount to you the tale of my first branding. Not many people can probably remember their first branding. Because, let's face it, if you haven't been branding for so long that you can't remember your first one, then you probably won't ever go to a branding. I, however, do not fall into this category. I remember my first branding as clear as day. Probably because that was the day my hopes and dreams of my parents' wild west ranching experience just being a phase were lost. Completely lost. They were serious about all this ranching stuff, and were dragging me along with them.

So in late spring of my eight grade year, we went to a neighbors branding. These folks are from Minnesota as well so they sort of took my family under their wing for a while. At most brandings you show up early and gather cows, but at this time my horse and I weren't on speaking terms so I decided the safest thing would be to not ride. Anyway, I didn't want to embarrass myself at my first branding by rounding up the wrong way!! I laugh just thinking of a time when I didn't know how to gather cows. Sometimes I wish I could pretend I don't know how. Riding in rough country still is not my favorite, so I usually have some sort of engagement or a disagreement with my horse when I'm asked to do so. Anywho, I showed up at the branding with my mom and sister just as the others were bringing the cows into the corral. My dad and brothers were a little more gung ho about gathering so they had gone along and helped. Sometime around this time I got handed a vaccine gun and a wax marker and was told to vaccinate. Oh, great. Now I just knew I was gonna stab someone or hurt a calf. Possibly both. After the guys had sorted off most of the mother cows is when the complete and utter confusion began. There were horses trotting by, guys wrestling, other people vaccinating, my sister ear tagging along with the daughter who lived on the ranch, bull calves being cut, and calves being, believe it or not, branded! So now I was not only worried about the pain my little tiny needle was inflicting on these calves, but also the pain they experienced when they were wrestled, dragged, cut, poked with another needle, ear tagged, and branded. Now I realize as long as everything is done properly, the calf will suffer the least amount of pain, which will probably only last a minute or two. I was doing pretty well vaccinating, but a friend of mine was not doing so well wrestling. He had wrestled the head of a calf and I ducked down to vaccinate the calf in it's front arm pit. Just as I pushed the needle in, the calf kicked, my friend let go of the leg, and I got kicked straight in the nose. Now I lean way out when vaccinating a calf he wrestles, just for good measure. Oh, and the smell. At a branding there is always a slight aroma of cow poop with the smoky smell of searing flesh. This smell made me almost nauseas at my first branding, but now it smells like summertime and a sense of community.

Since that first branding, I've learned to actually mix my own vaccine (it's harder than it looks), ear tag, and even wrestle. I can't believe there was a time when I had no idea what a branding was, but I'm glad I do now. I can't imagine a year of my life without at least one branding, and I hope I never have to know what that's like. I always look forward to branding season and I'm looking forward to my family's branding on Friday. I will take pictures and post about each job and the reasoning for everything sometime this weekend.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away

When I lived in Minnesota, rain came as regularly as the phases of the moon. I remember it would rain almost every evening in the summertime. Sitting out on the deck and listening to the thunder was something that we loved to do as a family. I never even knew a place existed that it didn't rain at least once a week in the spring, summer, and fall. Then we moved to Montana in the middle of a drought. The dry climate was so hard on me that I had nosebleeds almost every single day at first. It was such a shock to me that people could live in a place with no rain. Thankfully, every year since I've moved to Montana the rain has been increasing gradually as the drought has declined. Last year the spring rain was so dramatic that all across Montana dams were overpowered, roads washed out, and acres and acres of farm land were flooded. This year it has been a bit of a dry spring, with very little rain to speak of in my corner of the state. Then, when it did rain it seemed to stop just 10 or 15 miles south of us. So we've been praying for rain, and asking the rain gods to smile upon us, and, yes, even doing rain dances. My rain dance was answered and it has been raining, and raining, and raining. Since Friday evening, it has literally been nothing but nonstop rain here. I'm not even joking. Sometimes the rain comes down in sheets, but mostly it's been a slow drizzle. Now, here I am, in the first time since I've moved to Montana, wishing the rain would let up. Ya know, just stop for one beautiful summer day. Then it can go again for as long as it wants, within reason. It's a little bit sacrilegious around here to want rain to stop. People just don't do it. And, don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the rain. I'm thankful that our alfalfa crop already looks like it has grown taller and greener since Friday. I'm thankful that southeastern Montana is not in a drought anymore. But c'mon.

Rain, rain, go away. Come back another day.
How's next week sometime? Kay, thanks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bedtime Thoughts

You know when you're laying in bed and your mind is just racing? Good. Me too. Tomorrow I'm headed to town to do an ABCs of Farm Safety demonstration for 2nd and 5th graders. This is a program done through the Farm Bureau Federation. You know how I was saying I was just going to jump in and see how it goes? Well, I wasn't kidding. Now what could possibly cause me to be restless about that, you may ask. Well... a few things. Firstly, I have dreams of one day owning a dairy cow and naming her Pam. Oh never mind. That has to do with my love of dairy products, not the ABCs of Farm Safety. Okay, do over.

Firstly, I dread public speaking. It's making me a little nauseous thinking about it right now. Why is it so hard? I'm a naturally shy person and this is something I've battled my entire life. Oh, how I wish I could be like those outgoing people who can talk to anyone and speak in front of a thousand people and not get nervous!! But, I'm not. In high school I decided that I was no longer going to be shy. I joined Speech and Drama. Yes, I was a Speech and Drama nerd. I say that affectionately. Was I any good? Heck no. Three years I did duo acting, serious and humorous, depending on the year. On year I did expository speech. I was terrible at all of it. But I still did it, to push my boundaries and hopefully cure my stage fright. Then I did this crazy thing and I tried out for the cheerleading squad. Formerly being a basketball and volleyball player, this was no easy step. So, I made the squad and cheered for three years. By the time I was a senior I didn't bat an eye at being out in front of everyone. I guess dancing and cheering were just different than public speaking. Yes, that was all in explanation of the first reason. So, now I think I'm less shy than I used to be. Public speaking doesn't freak me out quite as much as it used to. And, let's face it. They're 2nd and 5th graders! They're going to be happy just to get out of class! Besides, I love kids. I'm really looking forward to it.

The second reason is that the woman I'm doing the presentation with is also helping me coordinate the Young Farmers and Ranchers event that I'm putting on in May. So this means that I'd like to have some information to show her. The only thing is the other young lady we are working with has been very busy with other things. She works in Wyoming and has a 5 year-old son, so it's not really her fault that she doesn't have time. At the same time, if I would have known this was going to be the deal, I could have taken on more responsibility to make it easier for all of us. But, unfortunately, I can't really do what I need to do until she does what she needs to do. I like to be prepared. I like to be in control. So, this is causing me major stress.

Anyway, those are my bedtime thoughts. Now I'm going to actually go to bed. Big day tomorrow. I think I'll have a nice little dream about Pam and all the delicious milk she is going to make for me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

DJ the Ferocious Cattle Dog

I've talked a little about DJ in the past. He's my four month old half Australian Shepherd, quarter Blue Heeler, quarter Hanging Tree cattle dog. I'm proud to say that DJ has officially had his first taste, literally, of being a cattle dog. I have been introducing DJ to working cattle since he was just a little guy. The other day I saw some of it actually pay off.  My two brothers, DJ, and myself were out sorting cows- moving the cows with calves on them to a different pasture and what not. There were two cows towards the back not wanting to get moving. I went behind them to get them going, with DJ at my side. I thought maybe if I showed him I wanted them moved, he'd understand. Well I made the noise we use that tells our cattle dogs to grip and guess what! He grabbed right onto the rear cow at the back of her leg. She wasn't expecting it, so she turned around to go after DJ. He wasn't letting that happen and he actually bit her on the nose! I have never, in my life, seen a dog do that in person. He didn't cause any damage. Just hurt the cow's pride, I think. Later we were moving the bulls from one pen to another. They were taking they're sweet time and I asked DJ to help them get a move on. He actually used his grip on the hock of a bull. I can't explain how excited I was. Seeing him progress so well made me feel a little bit like a proud mama. Sigh. My little man is growing up. I always had this goal in mind, that I wanted him to be a working cattle dog by the time he was 6 months old. He just turned 4 months and I think he's well on his way! He's been getting so much praise and loves lately. What a smart little guy. I say little, but I just know he's going to be huge already! The biggest problem about this is that he's convinced he's a lap dog. I blame that on my brothers since they always let him sit on their lap or on the couch next to him. Now if he sees you sitting on the couch he will come barreling at you and just about take you out to sit on the couch with you.

Well, enough of my gushing. Just thought I'd let you in on how his training is going. Next I'm hoping to get him to bring the cows around, sort, and all that. I know that will take a lot of work for both DJ and me, but I feel confident that we can do it.

DJ at a few weeks old. Look at that face!
The happy family: Wiley, Duke, and DJ.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Farm Bureau Federation

I just recently joined the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. Yesterday I had my first meeting with two other members to begin planning a social for Young Farmers and Ranchers. In order to stir up a good turn out, we are planning on having a dance with a live band and a late dinner with a speaker. I don't know a lot about the Farm Bureau Federation yet, but I think the best way to learn is just jump in. I'm hoping to be very involved in MFBF, especially YF&R on the local, state, and national level. I will keep you updated on my involvement in the Farm Bureau Federation!