It's safe to say that "s**t happens". And on a cattle ranch, it happens A LOT!
You can tell a lot about your herd, with just the cow pies on the ground. Our daily pasture walks provide a variety of health indicators. A healthy poop looks different each season. Color and consistency change along with it. Spring is the simple loose stool, brighter green in color. This "splatter" is normal consistency with the high protein but low fiber from the tender, young grasses they are eating. As the grass begins to dry in the Summer the color becomes more brown. Summer stool shows more bio mass but less protein.
As Summer spills into Fall, the grass becomes less nutrient. This causes the poop to have more of a dough consistency as seen in the second photo. As the protein levels drop, it is a good idea to add additional supplements. In order to decrease the dependency of hay and supplement, we keep a multi-species planting plan, allowing the food plots to stagger seasonally. This is also beneficial with our rotational grazing.
Illness can also be determined from cow pies. When you see a chalky white, tan, or grey, it can indicate some form of illness. This is important to keep an eye on the herd due to spreading as well. The biggest factor we look for is diarrhea. Runny or liquid poop requires our immediate attention for determining cause and treatment.
These cow pies are only one way we monitor the herd health. We love staying up to date with them and that's why we never miss a day of walking through the herd and kicking some cow pies! Hey, s**t happens!
Rotational grazing is the base of our system in keeping a grass-fed, grass-finished herd. The object is to give the herd a more condensed feeding area at a time. There are so many benefits in this system, not the least of which includes available food source. In the colder months, we provide hay that we harvest right here on the ranch. In order to keep a good supply of hay for the coming season, the herd moves back over to grass feeding in the Spring, Summer and as much of the Fall as possible. As it is a natural instinct for the animals to graze, this also benefits their well being.
Another major factor of rotational grazing is the weed management. When given a larger portion or pasture the herd will overlook a lot of the weeds available. With the condensed sectioning, we see them eat more around them and trample everything else. The stock density also gives the land increased fertility with the natural fertilization the animals are providing.
Perhaps the biggest benefit we see is the increase in forage per acre. In just under a week the grasses have already been able to bounce back about half of their original growth. Managing their grazing time and a rest period for the grasses while giving the natural fertilization from the animals allows a strong reproduction. This in turn makes the grasses more effective not only during the grazing seasons but for the collection of hay. Happy cows (and ranchers) all around!
Have we mentioned how much we love what we do? As the days have gotten longer, so has the chore list. Our favorite chore by far is checking the pasture for new calves.
As we stay in the Spring calving cycle, we also keep a condensed calving time frame. We welcomed this little one along with 4 more the very same day. Unique calves like this really help in paying attention to which calve belongs to which momma. The cows continue on rotational grazing through the calving season, making sure no babies are left behind in a pasture is a must. This is made easy with the herd mentality but cows tend to keep to the motto of "it takes a village" and often leave all the calves with just a couple of momma cows at a time.
To ensure we keep a good count of calves and cows, our pasture checks increase. Typically, we find ourselves checking cows about 3-5 times a day. Spending this much time with them also gives them a sense of calm and familiarity with us. This in turn produces a less stressful environment. We love our cows and every new calf.
It's that time of year again, calving season! We love this time as we get to spend more time among the herd, getting to know the new calves as they arrive. With each pasture check, we have hope of seeing a new baby in the field. Currently, we have 50 momma cows who will calve through approximately a 60-day window. Starting at the end of March, our aim is to have all the new calves by early June. Giving a short and succinct allows us to keep a strong record of each new baby and their growth.
Every ranch is different in their calving practices. We prefer to keep our cows on a Spring cycle for multiple reasons. The biggest reasoning is the weather. Due to our grass-fed program, the grasses are much richer come Spring, giving our momma cows the best nutrients during nursing. This also improves rotations on the pastures. The grasses ability to bounce back increases as does the days length. While the weather warms, there is less risk of sick calves or exposure to the elements. Keeping newborn calves out of wet weather boosts a healthy start to life.
Take a look at one of our newest members laying in the clovers! We just love our herd. If you enjoy seeing each new calf, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Interestingly, cows and humans share the 40-week gestation. Spending more than half the year pregnant is just the beginning of the process. Maybe more interesting is the terminology used on ranches everywhere that gets a little lost in translation. A cow is referring to a female bovine only after she has produced a calf. Before her first babe she is called a heifer. For males, it changes based on if they are kept for production or slaughter. Once a bull is castrated, he becomes a steer, the true form of “cow” that you eat.
Before the steer can become beef, he has a full life. These calves graze beside their mother for roughly 7 to 10 months. Here at BFT Ranch we then fence line wean these calves. Allowing both mother and calf to stay close, gives less stress to the animals as they continue to be able to see, smell and talk with each other. These calves then have the next 20 months to graze and grow. Being AGA Certified means they are never given grains or corn. Additionally, they have no exposure to pesticides or herbicides, living a full chemical free life.
As steers are ready for harvest starting at 27 months they are brought into their in own pasture. As they live their whole life with our family, they are again more comfortable and less stressed as they moved by us. The ability to keep their stress hormones low throughout their lives gives the meat its fresh, natural flavor. Once a steer is brought to the butcher, they are processed into the many cut options you see at the store. The process of the slaughter is about two weeks and once pieced apart the meat is flash-frozen and ready to be sent to your door.
In total, we spend nearly 3 years tending to these animals. Our commitment to keeping happy, healthy animals is our privilege. Our hope is that our cows and our story can provide your family with the best beef on the market.
We co-hosted an event with NRCS and the Noble Foundation. Controlled/Prescribed burn workshop in July 2016. We had a morning of information and then burned 24 acres of pre-chosen pasture. A controlled burn is safe and effective in many aspects; eliminates undesirable plants, clears overgrown land to increase fertility of land. Will post one month post burn pics soon!
Wow! Time flies. Things have been rolling on here at the ranch. We purchased our own hay-ing equipment. We hosted a controlled burn here at the ranch with the help of the Noble Foundation and the NRCS. Our last calf delivered in June; the next group should begin calving in September. We are currently nursing one heifer calf who has pneumonia- bottle feeding is a chore! I will expound more on each topic since I am currently recuperating from a blown disc in my lumber spine! Pictures to follow as well!
Momma cow #121 and her newborn calf. We had a friend visiting the ranch and she was able to witness the labor and birth! So exciting when we can share moments like this. We now have only 4 more to calve this season for a total of 35 babies!
The weather man has predicted a week of heavy rains and my phone keeps getting text messages about Flash Flood warnings. We completed morning and lunch chores and no rain- and then it began, the deluge. We have one dog, Grover; brave, loyal, protective but scared to death of thunder storms! He's hiding in the shower now (normally, all of our dogs are full time outside dogs, but we make an exception for Grover). The cows seem to bed down before storms, they all lay about, chewing their cuds and wait to see what falls from the sky. I've always heard a tale about turkeys being so stupid that they will turn their heads to the sky in a rainstorm and drown?! I have not yet (thankfully) had that happen here at the ranch. I wonder if it is true......
Welcome to the BFT blog! Here you will read about our day to day adventures on the ranch. We are new to ranching so be prepared to share our ups and downs, rights and wrongs! I begin my day with sunrise and fall into bed when I finish evening chores. Some days you'll have short posts, and on rainy days, well, grab a cup of coffee and be prepared to be caught up on ranch gossip!
Enjoy the ride!