by Tammy Taylor
I’ve been asked before what it’s like to live and work on a NE Texas ranch. It’s wonderful, it speaks to my heart, and it’s hard work. When I had a job in the city my working environment was climate controlled – cool in the summer and comfy warm in the winter. There was no mud or weeds in my city job. No ticks or snakes. And I didn’t have to report to work until 8:00 a.m., and any time after 5:00 p.m. was my own to do as I wished. Oh, and weekends. And HOLIDAYS! All of that has changed… for the better! Yes now I may be up before dawn to move some cows or out after dark mowing pastures by tractor headlight but DANG I love my life here! Why don’t you come along and see what a typical day on the ranch is like?
RancherMan & I have been trying to align several tasks into the most opportune time to complete them all. Two of our mama cows have calved once but we haven’t been able to get them rebred in a timely manner. We don’t want to offer those animals to our customers if they aren’t stellar breeders so we’ll haul them to the sale today. And another heifer is not breeding at all – a trip to the vet a few weeks ago confirmed she has one ovary missing and one ovary abnormally small. Since she’s apparently a freemartin, the breeder we bought her from has agreed to accept her back and replace her with a breeding heifer. But the breeder is over an hour’s drive away from our ranch, how will all of this come together? How about this: We’ll get up early, sort and separate the cattle, load the freemartin in the front of the trailer and the other two in the back, drop off two at the action barn on the way to the seedstock breeder’s location. RancherMan & I set up the times to meet.
New Problems Surface
Now all of that sounds good but as you country folks know, nothing works out the way you plan it. We got up early and prepared the loading chutes, hooked up the trailer and got everything ready, but when we went to the pasture to bring the cattle up we see our bull on the far side of the pasture fighting with the neighbor’s black bull. Hummm… fences must be down somewhere. And here comes a black mama cow with about 5 black calves. (sigh) We strive for a closed herd so this is a big deal for me. We contact the neighbor and find out this is his new bull, but he is at work and can’t come fetch his animals until he gets off. We’re under a time constraint ourselves so there’s not much we can do right now. With a sigh we decide a few more hours won’t matter in the grand scheme of things anyway and we separate the three cows we’re hauling today and load them up. It’s already hot and the humidity is rising fast.
Traffic is heavier than normal since there’s a huge craft fair in one of the adjoining cities, but at last we get to the auction barn, pass along the cow’s information, receive our ticket and unload the first two cows. Then a quick call to the breeder and we’re off to his location next. We meet with his business partner and he leads us down many bumpy winding country roads until we finally get to the pasture holding our new heifer. We back the trailer up to the fence and release the freemartin into the breeder’s pasture and then pull to the barn to load up our new heifer. She’s arleady about 3 months bred so we’ll expect a calf from her in the spring.
Finally we’re on the road again. We’re both starving but there’s no time to stop & eat, it’s almost 100 degrees and we have a long drive home – we need to get this sweet girl unloaded and to some water as quickly as we can.
Welcome To The Ranch
Finally we get this heifer to her new home we unload her into a pen and make sure she’s comfortable. We’re still starving for lunch but there’s no time to eat – we need to go check on the pasture fence and figure out how to push the neighbor’s cattle out of our pasture while keeping our cattle in. RancherMan noticed most of our cattle were now in the corner by the gate so we opened the gate to a small pen and moved them out, but one was missing – our bull. I’m really hoping he didn’t chase that Angus bull back home and follow him there. The temps are about as hot as they can be already and the humidity is about a million, but I start walking the perimeter of the pasture looking in the treeline where they like to stay in the heat of the day. Waaaaay up in the north end I find ‘The Boy’ under a tree looking guilty for his tussle with the neighbor’s bull. The hot wire that divides the north from the south pasture is half intact and hot, half disconnected and completely mangled. So I walk him down to the end of the intact hot wire fence and call him back over to the south side of the pasture where he belongs. He follows me and does exactly as I’ve asked him to – love this big boy!
We pull him into the pen with the others – at last we have all of our herd separated. But where are the black cows? They are nowhere to be seen but the fence to our neighbors pasture shows the apparent bovine superhighway. RancherMan sets out repairing and replacing all the mangled hotwire while our neighbor will repair the broken perimeter fence. It’s good to have good neighbors!
Now time for a quick lunch and some time inside cooling off. RancherMan begins calling around trying to secure enough hay to see our herd through the winter. He also calls a man about building us several concrete troughs and I get busy doing blog work and some cattle record maintenance.
Coffee Break’s Over, Back On Our Heads!
When we’re cooled off we go back outside and bring the herd to the barn pen and sort out the calves we’re about to wean as well as the yearling bull we have listed for sale since a buyer is coming to look at him tomorrow. We also decide to keep back a yearling heifer, we’re planning to A.I. her in November and we want to build her up a bit with extra feed. Plus we’ve found it’s helpful when we’re weaning to keep a calm animal in with them to teach them the ropes and today I think we’ve found our grouping. We move the rest of the herd to an adjoining pasture so mamas and calves can fence-line each other. It eases their stress if they can see, hear and even touch noses with each other and we want to make weaning as stress-free as possible.
Time for Supper
The rest of the afternoon is filled with feeding chickens, feeding calves and working on fences but finally it’s time to start thinking about supper. I cooked a whole chicken in the slow cooker the other day and I had pulled all the remaining meat from the bone, so I used that meat to whip up a quick meal of chicken & dumplings and we sat down to enjoy supper together. Nothing special but hearty and delicious.
Typically when our supper meal is on the meager side I like to ramp things up with a special dessert. My aunt recently shared apples from her tree and I made and canned some apple pie filling. So tonight I’ll quickly whip up a homemade flaky pie crust, pour in the canned apple pie filling and slip it into the oven. Bada, bing, bada BOOM! Homemade apple pie in a snap. (Now THAT’S my kind of convenience food!)
Now as the sun starts setting low in the sky, RancherMan & I retire to the back porch to enjoy a glass of wine together and watch the sunset, sharing thoughts about our day. It was a busy one, and it wasn’t without its troubles. But he & I both agree that there’s no place we’d rather be!