Occasionally, I get to stand in for my dad and play cowgirl on the family ranch. I love being outside, tending to the critters. When you are doing something, you usually can show something for it. Here are a few highlights from the last seven days. It demonstrates how extreme the weather cycle can be here in North Texas. 79 degrees down to 18 then back to 68, a dusting of snow, a light rain and one blustery day with winds gusting upwards to 40mph.
A week ago it was a very cold night on top of a light dusting of snow. The bitter cold nipped back even the hardiest of the winter vegetables.
A few days later it was sunny and 60 degrees. This is a funny picture of the cows at chow time.
A new baby in the pasture. It’s always so sweet to see a new calf, especially a pretty and healthy one like this. My boy named her Marney (like Barney but with an “M,” he says.)
Yesterday we got a little over an inch of desperately-needed rain. As soon as the rain stopped, the chickies went looking for waterlogged worms.
A week ago (Feb. 21, 2013) Jdubs and I were out feeding the cattle. As we were looking for our last herd, we came upon a momma cow that had just given birth to her calf. She hadn’t even delivered the placenta yet.
We approached the pair, very carefully, because you never really know how a new momma will react, even if you “know” the animal. Momma cow was looking a little nervous but settled quickly. We sat close to the calf and watched him for a few moments. Then on occasion the Almighty lets us see a little miracle… This newborn calf stood up and took his first steps and we got to witness it.
A few minutes later he stumbled over to his momma and took his first suckle of colostrum. It was a precious moment and one that was worth a thousand hours in a classroom. These are the things that can’t be taught. They have to be experienced, witnessed.
We couldn’t stay long because the rest of the herd began to show up, which made momma cow really anxious. And she was hungry too. Momma cow and the rest of the herd haven’t had much grass to eat– we’re at the tail end of winter, just as the spring grasses begin to grow, not to mention the long-standing drought. Our cattle really look forward to and rely on the high-protein cubes we feed daily.
We led and fed the herd a short distance from the pair. When we circled back around to count heads, momma cow and calf had rejoined the herd.
We departed the pasture double-time, no need to freak out the newborn calf, that can’t see with the loud feed truck and noisy, bawling herd.
At the gate, I asked Jdubs if he had thought of a name for the calf. He very nonchalantly said, “his name should be Sombrero Potato.” I asked where that came from. He said, “the name comes from Mexico, mom. And he has a Mexican name.” And thus, we have Sombrero Potato. (I declined to point out that the Spanish word for potato is “papas.”)
Today I was feeding cattle and found this little calf. He has a perfect and permanent milk mustache, and thus will be know as Milkstache. That little stache is the remnant of a genetically-dominant Hereford trait—the white face.
Our cattle are Hereford-Angus crosses, affectionately known as black baldy. As in, their hair is black and their faces are bald (white). The bald face of the Hereford is iconic. They are the cattle in all the western-themed art and photographs. However the Angus producers association has made the Angus breed a brand name– hence the Angus-branded packaged meat at the grocery store, and as noted on upscale steakhouse menus.
We used to be a pure breed operation. Herefords only. But the hybrid vigor of the crossbred cattle we have now is more suited to our climate and the economics of raising beef cattle. There is plenty of research in the animal husbandry world to support the complement of the breeds when crossed.
I do miss the pure breed Hereford, but have come to love the black and white, bald-faced cattle we have now. Pure Herefords or not, one of the true legacies of our Lazy J Ranch is the demeanor of our cattle. They are gentle and docile. Most of them will eat right out of your hand.
We select for that gentle nature when choosing which heifers to keep as breeding stock and which ones go to sale.
I’m thankful that caring for our cattle and my family’s legacy are part of my daily to-dos.