Questions and Answers January 2019 Edition (part three)

Big Post… sorry, it took me two days to write!

From Marilyn:

Non ranch-work question! Do you get the station DIY? If so, have any of you watched “Barnwood Builders”?? I am enjoying and learning things about old tools and barn construction that are very interesting!

<Ooooooh, yes! I do watch Barnwood Builders! Ranchers are big on reusing things… so, I think it’s great!>

From Kathy:

 I saw your diary in Working Ranch (Magazine) and have been reading your blog since. How many cows do you calve?

<Hopefully, all of them. ;-)>

From Bert:

What kind/brand of winter boots and sox do you guys wear when not riding on hooves or tires? I see pretty much the same style on almost everybody when working around the cattle, muck and mire… Do they keep the feet dry, warm and toasty?

<Everyone used to wear pacs… with the felt liners and heavier than all get out… then along came Muck boots. I think we all have 2 or 3 pair, lightweight Chore or heavier Arctic versions. Socks are usually wool blend for winter. Dry, yes, warm, yes, toasty????? I don’t think there’s anything that would keep my feet toasty – even in the house they get cold! But yes, we could advertise for Muck Boots around here. The kids even have them!>

From Joan:

Can the heifers get bangs from eating grass in fields where elk have grazed? In other words, how is it transmitted?

<“Bacteria are shed in milk or via the aborted fetus, afterbirth, or other reproductive tract discharges…Cows may lick those materials or the genital area of other cows or ingest feed or water contaminated with the disease-causing organisms. Despite occasional exceptions, the general rule is that brucellosis is carried from one herd to another by an infected or exposed animal.” That’s a quote from the USDA. Cows are curious, so if they see something different, the only way they check things out is with their eyes, nose, and tongue. Unfortunately, that will get them exposed to the bacteria.

From Ellen:

Based on your family’s experience, can small beef ranchers be successful enough that the huge feedlots might be phased out? Now that we recognize the societal costs of feedlot beef production, can you see the US embracing a different way?

<No. That’s my simple answer. This is very complex! First, what is a small beef rancher to you? The average size of a beef herd in the US is 40 animals. That’s not us! Many places out here run their calves until they are yearlings. They will be only spending their last few months in a feedlot, getting that extra feed and marbling in the meat that makes it taste so good. There are just as many that sell their calves after they are weaned, so they will be spending a year in the feedlot. It is what works for each operation. If you are considering “success” as selling straight to the consumer as “grass fed”… you are adding a whole different realm of complications! Even as yearlings, we wouldn’t sell as “finished” because they haven’t hit the desired weight for slaughter. That may take another six – nine months on grass give or take. Feedlots meet the need to finish cattle… and they do it efficiently and at low cost. That helps provide quality beef at a low price for everyone. I’m honestly not sure what you mean by “societal costs of feedlot beef production”. Has it been made unpopular? Yes. Unfounded, in my book. I will recommend Ryan Goodman and his multitude of articles on feedlots and the beef industry for those who are interested. It would be much more unpopular to have high beef prices like most countries that import much of their beef. Can I see the US “embracing a different way”? I think the US is very lucky because we can have it all different kinds of ways right now. If one doesn’t like the idea of straight feedlot production, you have the option and money to find a “farm to fork” enterprise to buy from. If you like grain finished or grass finished, you can find them. If you like cheap burgers at McDonald’s, you got it. You can join a CFA, some have meat options. With a couple of acres, you can grow your own. Americans often forget all the options they have to embrace right now!>

From Pam:

why did you give up breeding the dogs?

<Oh, Pam, I did not give up breeding English Shepherds! I’ve just had years of rotten luck. I tried to breed Dally twice to different studs as Lucas was her father, and I didn’t want to line breed. Since I much prefer summer litters to winter, that meant I would only try on every other heat. Neither time worked. Then I decided she was too old, and I brought in Eden as a mate to Lucas. Well, I waited two years for her to grow up and so I could test her hips to make sure she was a good candidate for breeding, plus finding out about her personality and temperament. Again, I tried breeding her to Lucas for summer pups. He couldn’t do it so I tried Artificial Insemination for them. I had just returned from a session when he hurt his back and had to be put down. Hopefully, when she comes into heat soon, I can take her to Montana to one of Lucas’ sons and FINALLY have puppies in the spring.>

From Dawn:

Who has the cradleboard now? It would be great to see a closeup and learn more about how you made it!

<I have it. Look forward to another blog post… great idea!>

Questions and Answers January 2019 Edition (part two)

From Sandy:

A couple of questions for you: What is involved in “prepping” the heifers? And another term you have used — What is meant by “sustainablity”?

<For us, prepping the heifers for calving season means worming them. Anything that grazes can get worms. Cattle wormer is applied to their backs. Thankfully, we don’t have to stick anything in their mouths like you do for dogs and horses! We also hope to help prevent scours, which is diarrhea in calves. By giving the moms a shot, we hope it carries onto the calf through the placenta, and keeps the babies healthy after they’re born. We also give a mineral shot… like a dose of vitamins.

Ah… sustainability… the current buzzword of agriculture. What does it mean? I guess it changes some with who is asking whom! For most people, it means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future. So, are we doing anything now in our production that would adversely affect the future? In other words… are we, for instance, overgrazing our pastures? NO. That would be STUPID. Are we breeding to poor examples of bulls? NO. That would be STUPID. My general answer to this is that the Greet Family has been in this part of Wyoming since 1891. We’re still here. We’ve got some experience with sustainability!>

From Joanne:

Although I live in middle England we do have cattle on nearby hills and a very good TV show called country file. Yesterday was all about farm vets and the stress on farmers when having the cattle tested for TB. If any are found to have TB they are taken away and the farmer cannot move/sell his cattle until more tests and negative results. So my question: do you have similar tests in the US. Info for UK can be found at: tbhub.co.uk.

<Joanne, I had to research this because I hadn’t heard of bovine TB. There has not been any in Wyoming, but there is some in Canada and South Dakota. Something else to worry about! Most of our neighbors don’t bring in that many cattle that they haven’t raised themselves. We are awfully grateful for that! Beef cattle don’t get it as badly as dairy, since ours are not so confined to the same areas. Our worries are more about brucellosis and trichomoniasis. >

From GD:

Ok…when it comes to beef and antibiotics/hormones…what are your thoughts and what would you refuse to eat. What should a consumer look for that would be true labeling and not misleading?

<All antibiotics come with withdrawal warnings… which is to say, if you use this, don’t send this cow to slaughter within the next 60 days… or whatever. They have been tested to see how long the antibiotics stay in the system, and, yes, I trust that. We sell our cattle saying they are not treated with antibiotics, so if we have to doctor one, and why wouldn’t we if they are sick?, we pull it from the bunch and sell it apart from the big bunch. Hormones, we don’t use them; our calves grow into solid looking steers because they have good genetics behind them. Honestly, we will often eat a broken legged steer because his sale value will be nothing. I never even think about the fact that we might have given him antibiotics. I do realize some people have concerns in that way, and we are trying to meet that concern by selling our steers to that group through Global Animal Partnership. We have to be certified – we are GAP Level 4 – and our buyers pay up for that. If that is your concern, look for the GAP label on beef. The steers are also Verified Natural Beef (VNB) and Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) through IMI Global. I’d really like for there to be Country of Origin labeling, as well. My personal belief is that the U.S. has the safest meat supply out there, but there isn’t COOL labeling by law. Ask your local store if they know where their meat comes from! Here’s my question back at you… What labels do you see on meat in your store? I’d really like to know because we don’t have any except for the price and weight! Misleading labels would be “non-GMO” and “gluten free”.>

From Paul:

Do you sell cattle based on your scale weight or haul’em to an electronic scale ? Or do all your calves,steers & bred heifers, go thru the sale barn-

<Our scale is a certified scale, tested by the state every year. We sell our yearling steers off of our scale and right onto the buyer’s trucks. We don’t sell any calves, they are at least yearlings when we sell. The bred heifers we don’t keep get hauled to a sale barn and sold there, same for the old broken mouthed cows and open cows (not pregnant) we get rid of.>

OK>>> still not finished! More to come!

Questions and Answers: January 2019 Edition

WoW! I guess not having many Q&A sessions last year let you stock up on questions!

From Dawn:

I’m learning a lot from the Big Trails blog about ranching, but I do have a few questions! 

<For those of you who don’t know or remember, Brandon has a weekly blog over on his website BigTrailsBeef.com. You should go look at it! His photos are great, and it’s fun to hear his version and mine of the same topic!>

First, do you ever end up bottle feeding calves in the house? My mom talks about that happening when she was growing up on the farm in Iowa in the 40’s. 

<Oh, yes. It happens. We’ve all had them in the house, I think, though recently Daniel seems to get more since he lives closest to the calving shed. It’s not something we want to do by any means, and our calf warmer has helped with that situation quite a bit, see that here. You might enjoy this video with a bottle baby… there’s a sweet cameo at the end by someone I loved…>

How often do you make a grocery store trip, and do you buy things in bulk, since you live so rurally? Any tips? 

<I don’t have a set schedule for shopping, it revolves around what parts or supplies we need! Plus with four families, (Johnny, us, Daniel, Brandon), it seems like there’s always someone headed to town. It’s pretty standard policy to say, “I’m headed to town, need anything?” Even with our neighbors and friends… We buy stuff for each other all the time! I do buy in bulk. I also really stock up twice a year when my local store has their case lot sale. It’s pretty hard to beat those prices! They would order case lots throughout the year for me if I wanted… and I did that once, but now I’m in a rhythm of buying the case sale, so that works. It’s quite a drive to a big box store, and I’d rather support the local guys if I can. I’ve bought from the local cleaners and local industrial supply stores, too… Vernon is big on buying his gatorade and snacks from online stores. I’m not shy about buying pork chops or bacon or similar items in the family packages, and then repacking them before I freeze them! Much cheaper! Don’t forget freezing and canning my garden.>

What are some of your family’s favorite ground beef recipes, aside from the obvious summer burgers on the grill?

<Maybe I will make this a separate post in the near future! I hope that’s ok!>

From Denny:

Questions: Do you have a problem with predators killing the calves? Do you practice controlled burning on your land? Are there still cattle rustlers? Do your sons have other jobs or are they full time ranchers? Do you push your cattle to the stockyard or do you have cattle trailers haul them there? What’s your biggest problem, gov. interference, market prices, weather, disease, etc.?

<Holy cow, Denny! Way to ask some good questions! OK. a)No, thank goodness, we don’t have a predator problem with our calves. Honestly, I could see it in our future, but for right now, Wyoming is trying to handle the predator problem as best they can. b)We have been in a drought period, so there hasn’t been much controlled burning going on. We’re still scared of fire getting away, so we fight it. We’ve used it in the past, so have our neighbors and the BLM. It’s a good tool if conditions are right. c)Yes, there are still cattle rustlers. Again, thank goodness, we haven’t had that problem. d)My sons are full time ranchers with us on this place. e)Buyers send trucks for our steers when they buy them. When we ship to local sale barns, we hire semi trucks to ship them for the few hours drive. f)MMMMMMM…. Our biggest problem????? I suppose all those you listed could rotate depending on the year… 😉 . I’d have to say… Price. Market price versus the consumer price is very different. It’s not like we can store steers in a silo until the price goes up… I’d love to get some high prices like those direct to consumer people can get some places, but without a USDA certified meat processor, it’s not possible. That would be a government regulation problem… ;-). Actually, the price has been decent for the past couple years… but if I can’t wish for more money, and who doesn’t do that?, then the hardest thing we have to deal with is probably Mother Nature. Drought, blizzards, wildfires… those are what we battle against the most in our situation we are in right now.

<to be continued>

#TBT: Cradleboard

I made a cradleboard for Victoria, oh, so many years ago! By looking at this photo… she wasn’t the only one that looked so very, very young!