Thursday, April 29, 2010

Can't Catch Up!

The fall born calves have grazed their paddock down to nubbins and I need to move them to new grass. Our lawn is getting kinda tall, hmm, I wonder. And the new lambs are breaking out of the barn and just looking for trouble. How come they're so good at getting out and so mystified as to how to get back in? Need to finish one half an acre of corn planting to be done before the big rain comes tonight. On top of that, the wagons we emptied and left parked on the nearby ridge last night apparently thought it was a good day to go for a trip. Because of high wind gusts, one of the wagons is straddle of the road ditch fence and the other is tipped over on it's side in the ditch.

And, basically, I would classify this as a good day.

Grass is growing, good grazing to you. Bill

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Recital

This past Sunday we had the privilege of traveling a long distance to attend the First Communion Celebration of our grandson Chase. That event was followed by a second important function, Chase's first piano concert. We are very proud of Chase and thank his family for their usual hospitality whenever we visit.

I do hope that the fondest memory of the day for Chase was not the unique duo performed by his grandfathers at the piano concert. After setting through a long church ceremony, then watching around 20 or so gifted children perform at the piano concert, both grandfathers simultaneously dozed off. My wife watched in horror as Grandpa Jerry dropped his program and began leaning forward eyes closed tightly while at the same time her husband, me, off in ga-ga land, began to list sideways. Both of our grandsons watched this event with great enjoyment. Anyway, after some elbow jabbing and dirty looks, we were both wide awake for the rest of the concert. There is no truth to the rumor that startled, I stood up and cheered or that the other grandfather actually fell clear out of the church bench.

We've had a good rain in southern Iowa and now some warmer weather so let the grass grow and good grazing to you! Bill

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22, 2010

New life is coming to this farm every day. The ewes are half done lambing. About one third of the cows have calved.

I spotted two fox hungrily looking into the lambing pen the other day. Yes, they will try to sneak in there and snatch a baby lamb or two for lunch. I chased them off and was pretty sure they were denned up down in a junk pile south of one of our ponds. I went back to the house, grabbed my shotgun and fox call and got upwind from the junk pile, hidden behind some old machinery. After a couple of toots on the call, a fox appeared and darn if the thing didn't start running right at me. I prepared for the shot! However, I'd forgotten about the 22 yearling beef heifers out in the pasture behind me who had been observing the drama unfolding. Acting like a bunch of teenagers, they decided to get in on the fun and came stampeding up behind me. Scared the dickens out of me just as I stood up to take a shot. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I killed a fence post, two dandelions and a dried up cow pie. The fox, unscathed by the incident and scared to death ran like the wind for parts unknown. Well, maybe they'll leave my sheep alone.

Good grazing to you, Bill

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 20, 2010

Planting corn today. Every which way I look, I see work that needs to be done. Such is the problem in spring. Best to take a deep breath and continue to prioritize and move ahead.

One of the projects that needs attention is our "quail habitat plot". We have designated about two acres of one of our pastures to be used as a demonstration plot for quail habitat and grazing. We killed the sod last fall and now will drill in a number of plants that are conducive to quail and their brood hatching needs. I'm told that the first year it will just look like a weed patch. That should entertain the neighbors! Anyway, the goal after establishment it is to quickly graze it for short periods of time with cows or sheep, then get off of the ground for a long period letting the forbs and grasses regrow and continue to allow some habitat for wild quail.

At the turn of the century, I'm told that Iowa was covered with coveys of quail, especially southern Iowa. Modern row crop agriculture has all but destroyed most of the habitat needed for these little birds to survive. The Conservation Reserve Program served as somewhat of a "band-aide" for a period of years but since the government decided to promote ethanol as the new fuel for America, the amount of quail habitat has gone straight downhill. And a lot of topsoil has gone with it, a sad state of affairs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010

We had our first new baby lamb yesterday and she's a cute little critter. Just a single lamb but her mother is just a year old so that's all I expect from her. I need to improve their lambing facility today to protect them from predators. I've seen a local fox prowling around and we know there are coyotes all over the place, not to mention the neighbor's dogs.

A couple of years ago my wife, Mary, heard an animal crying out in distress out in our wheat field. When she went to investigate, she met a fox running out of the field carrying a brand new baby deer. Who would have thought that could have happened? The next couple of days we could see a young mother doe walking around looking for her baby. Nature can be cruel.

New calves are arriving daily, we've planted our oats and now the pace really picks up!

Good grazing, Bill

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April 7, 2010 Blog

This morning I freeze branded 48 head of breeding heifers for Hugh Whitson, brother of Peggy Whitson, the famous astronaut. If you don't know who Peggy is, you should google her name and find out why Southern Iowans are so proud of her. Seems kind of strange to have two cattle producers branding calves and discussing the space program at the same time.

Tomorrow I have the sheep shearer headed our way to give the ewes their yearly clip. I'll try to film a segment of it and offer it on this blog or on our website. Always fun to watch the shearing process. The ewes are suppose to start lambing in two weeks and I'm looking forward to that.

The other big news it that my printed books are suppose to arrive by UPS this afternoon and I'm looking forward to actually seeing the finished product and begin marketing them.

Good grazing to you, Bill

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 6, 2010 Blog

When I started this blog, I pledged to make an entry each Tuesday and Thursday. Well, I already missed last Thursday. That day I was very busy running our spring calving herd through the chute, clipping freezebrands to make them more readable, replacing ear tags, scoring the cow's body condition and taking note of how close to calving they were. I should note here that even though we went into last winter with more feed then usual and fed more supplemental feed then we ever have, the cows now show the poorest overall body condition we've ever experienced at this point in the production cycle. People may get tired of hearing it but it was just the most horrendous past six months for taking care of cattle weather-wise. Of the 54 head I scored, I judged 34 to be in good condition or better, 15 head to be fair condition or better and 5 to be in poor condition. It should come as no surprise that all of the "poor" and most of the "fair" were coming with their second calf. This is a very vulnerable group to begin with and the problem at our farm is that these heifers were sired by a very popular AI sire who has tremendous growth numbers and a 6.7 frame. Maybe the right bull for a lot of other farms but not the right one for this farm.
The good news is that I delayed onset of the calving season by nearly 3 weeks for our 2010 calving season. The weather has been very nice the last two weeks and we don't start calving until April 12th so that is taking some of the strain off the overall spring calving program.

Keep those cow frame scores down and select for easy keepers. Shoot for cow longevity, keep as few first calf and 2nd calf heifers in your herd as possible, they are the most costly and hard to maintain. 9 out of 10 cow calf producers could increase their profits by delaying the onset of their calving season into warmer weather. Research shows that baby calves found dead in the snow or mud just don't perform very well.