Foggy RoundUp!

Just when we thought our job of gathering cattle in the mountains and trees was tricky enough: FOG.
Right now on our ranch we are busy gathering our cows, calves and breeding bulls off of government range. We have 3 ranges we are gathering cattle off of this year. This area is approximately 25,000 acres of rugged B.C. mountain terrain. If we have done a good job during the year, we have a pretty good idea of where the cows should be.

So we go out, enthusiastic about a productive day of gathering and were greeted to this:


With the pressure of a looming date when the trucks will arrive, a morning like this really tests your patience.IMG_2106

Everyone gets to help this time of year.

We use our airplane to spot cattle so we can then go with our horses and capture them.

The runway gets a little poopy, so a quick clean up is in order. It is much easier to chuck a 1/2 dozen paddies off the runway then wash the splattered plane off every flight!

Spotting them’s the easy part, catching them is a whole other blog!

Our girls were left with orders to chase the cows off the runnway when we came back: if we buzzed the house more than once!

On the first pass, the girls were up the Maple tree, rescuing a cat. By the 3rd pass they were shooing off cows, along with grandpa in his housecoat.

In the end, it was a productive day!
~Erika Fossen~

Once More Time…….with feeling!



This is the 3rd time this year we have pulled the plastic and tires off of the silage pit!  Thankfully, it will be the last until we start feeding in the winter.

We put in 70 loads of alfalfa/grass into the pit at the end of June, then 140 loads of Oats/Peas/ Barley/Triticale in the end of July/beginning of August, and now another 100 loads of corn.  As explained in a previous blog about silage in ‘Whef!! We made it’ and ‘Silaging'; to ensile, the feed needs to be without oxygen.  So the feed cannot be left for more than a couple days without either adding more feed on top, or covering the feed and starting the ensiling process.  So, because each of these times we put up feed was farther apart than a couple weeks, we had to cover it to keep from molding and loosing quality.  Thus why I say, “One more time with feeling!”  because when we make new feed, we have to roll back the cover and pull off all the tires again!!  It is a lot of work, and we are looking forward to not doing it again this year!!!

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You may wonder why ranchers utilize many different crop and field options.  Variety is the spice of life, and there are many pro’s and con’s to the different crops.


-Only needs to be reseeded every 5 to 10 years.

-Alfalfa fixes (makes) nitrogen in the soil, so does not need as much fertilizer.

-Depending on area, grows 2 to 4 crops per season.

-Really loves heat and water.

-An awesome season in our area would yield you appx. 7 tons of dry matter per acre, 1st cut – 4 tons, 2nd – 2 tons, 3rd – 1.  But this takes a lot of water and requires you to run over the field 3 times with equipment.

-A Disadvantage is that it can ‘winter kill’ if you feed cattle on it in the winter, and you need to keep it watered well through the growing season and into the fall.  On our ranch, many of our creeks are seasonal and we do not have ample irrigation water into the fall.


-Grows a high volume in one cut.

-Short season, 60-90 days from seeding to harvest.

-Grows well on heavily manured land, like calving grounds.

-Is an annual crop which we plant every spring so we do not have to worry about it dying in the winter.

-Peas also fix nitrogen.

-An awesome crop will yield you appx. 6 tons of dry matter per acre, and requires only one pass with equipment.

-Disadvantages are that you have to plant it every year and it does not provide as much fall grazing.


-Grows an even higher volume in one cut.  A large feed volume can be produced on small acreage.

-Annual crop, have to plant every spring, with a slightly longer growing season of 180 days.

-Needs regular water all season long.  We have grown corn and watered it with a big gun, but now would not grow it without our center pivot irrigation system. (too much work/labour)

-An awesome crop will yield you appx. 9 tons of dry matter per acre, and requires only one pass with equipment, although it is strictly a silage crop, or grazing.

-Corn is a high nitrogen user, needs a lot of manure or chemical fertilizer.

-Corn is planted in rows which are spaced 30 inches, this means until the crop grows tall enough to compete, the weeds have to be kept down with chemical.


All these different types of feed, layered on top of each other will make a very nice feed ration for our cattle.  Each having its own highlight in protein, carbs, etc.  Just like people, our cows seem to enjoy a variety in their diet!

I found the root system of corn very interesting!  Here is a picture of one, the very top of the little tentacle-roots are seen out of the ground.



The 1st picture below is what our Oats/Barley/Peas/Triticale silage looks like (green), the next 2 pictures is what the corn silage looks like (almost like sawdust!), although even they would be the same moisture levels.

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~Erika Fossen~


A Picturesque Fall

Lately we have been busy with moving our cows around and 4H with the kids.  Middle of September is our community’s Fall Fair.  This is where locals bring their produce and animals to showcase it to the area.  It is also where our 4H Multi Club has it’s Achievement Day.  That means the members are ‘tested’ or ‘compete’ and receive scores that go toward their year end mark.  Here is our daughter (in burgundy) showing our heifer calf.


Along with the 4H members: Beef, Horse, Clothing and Photography projects; the kids also got to bring: 2 Hens and a Rooster to the fair.  If you remember back to a post in March, these were the chicks we incubated, hatched and raised for fun with our Club.   The 4H members just LOVED showcasing their ‘prized’ heritage chickens at the fair.

We have also been busy keeping our cow/calf pairs all where they are supposed to be.  Here are some pictures of us gathering and moving our cows around.

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This is gathering cows from ‘The Love of The Land’ post and moving them to our private land down the rail grade.   It is really fun that our whole family can now go out together, each on our own horse, and move our cattle.

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This is a picture of our 3 girls ‘holding the herd’, as Doug and I dug them out of the far corner.

The next 3 pictures are of different cattle drive, when my co-blogger and her husband came out for a visit to our ranch.  Yes, we put them to work!  (the good thing is when you love what you do, you enjoy riding on other people’s ranches too!)  Here is Erika on our horse,



And then Cyle, Erika & Doug.  (I was there too, just I am usually taking the pics:)



Happy Fall everyone.  Hope you also are enjoying the beautiful colors that creation brings.

~Erika Fossen~

A Rancher’s Day Off

Today my daughter and I were hired to wrangle two hunters into the high country for a friend of ours who is a Guide Outfitter.

We saddled and loaded up our four ranch geldings, along with anything we thought we may need (leather punch, extra leather, farrier supplies, etc.) then headed out. We drove north for 2 & 1/4 hours, then mounted up. The hunters, who admitted to riding only a handful of times, settled right in. Although when they climbed off their trusty steeds for lunch, there were some groans.
After riding for just short of three hours and climbing 2800 feet, we reached camp (6800 feet). The high country was absolutely beautiful with large open meadows. The weather was great, +9 and sunny.
With daylight disappearing fast, we said goodbye and started our decent back to the truck and trailer.
With just the 2 of us coming down, we were able to make better time, reaching the truck at 5 pm.
After the horses had a much needed feed, we loaded up and headed back for home, arriving at 7:25 pm.
It was an awesome day hanging out with my super, capable daughter and putting our geldings to work. It is great when our horses can earn their keep doing ranch work, but also spectacular when they can make a little extra doing something like they did today.
~Erika Fossen~

No Cows, BUT…

Today we got skunked. This doesn’t happen very often, but it happened today. Yesterday we went up to the range to put out salt blocks and fix some fences and on our way we saw a group of cows that had come down off the mountains towards home too early. We had a pretty full day ahead of us salting, checking and fixing fences, so we figured we would saddle up the next morning to move the cows back up, so they didn’t come home too early. We like them to stay out on the range for as long as possible, into the middle of October, so we can save the grass at home to hopefully extend the grazing period as long as possible at home before we have to dip into our winter hay reserves and start feeding the cows. However, this morning those cows beat us. We couldn’t find them anywhere, so we figured that they must have really travelled the day before and were way in front of us. We finally decided we were not going to catch up to them, so we turned our horses around and started heading back towards the truck and that’s when we saw a pretty amazing site. Along the ridge beside us was a mother bear (sow) and 3 cubs, she must have had triplets. I have never seen that before and it was really neat. The bears did not smell us nor did our horses our dogs smell them, which was nice because we just stopped our horses and watched them for a bit without them noticing us. Finally the sow saw us and hustled her cubs into the safety of the trees. Even though we didn’t accomplish moving the cows back up it was a pretty great day.

A Race Against Time

Cutting our hay crop for a second time (second cut) is always difficult. It is generally near the end of August beginning of September and the weather is never really stable. This year we were able to get most of our second cut of hay off during the second week of August, which is another record for us at Pine Ranch. This is because we were able to get our first cut of hay off way earlier than usual due to our new rotary mower and the weather. (See my blog post from July 2014 titled In Record Time) This is really beneficial because you are not battling the weather in September and because it is cut that much earlier there is a longer period for the grass to regrow and therefore giving the cows more grass to graze when they come home. Therefore, ideally extending their grazing period (depending on the weather) and hopefully allowing us to start feeding them hay later.
We finished most of second cut early, but then it started to rain, so the weather held us up from finishing everything early. My husband and I just finished our last 50 acres this past weekend. I headed down to the field at about 11 with the rake and my fingers crossed it wouldn’t rain. This time of year us ranchers and farmers are constantly checking the weather updates, on Saturday morning both weather apps on my phone were telling me completely different forecasts. One clear and sunny and the other had a forty percent chance of thundershowers. We looked at the sky and debated for a long time, but in the end we went with the more optimistic forecast. As I was raking I kept watching the sky and about every hour a big black storm cloud would make an appearance, but it was very windy and the wind seemed to blow it east, so the rain kept missing us, thankfully. Once I was done raking Cyle, my husband, came down to the field and we decided the hay was dry enough to rake the other way and put 2 windrows into 1. Usually we leave it for longer, but we surmised because it was so windy it sucked the moisture right out and dried faster. Then we looked at the sky and decided if I was going to rake the other way he was going to come down and bale it. We had set out that morning with plans of only raking the one way and then going to our local rodeo that evening. However, we figured that our luck was running out with those big black clouds so we kept going and got all the hay baled before it rained. It never did end up raining that night, but we are sure if we left it and went to the rodeo it would have rained!

For a better explanation about raking read my blog post from July 2013 titled Bug Bites and Dirt Tans: The Haying Series Part II: Raking



To go along with my last blog post ‘Pulled Out of Semi-Retirement’, here is a video of picking up a load of the Oats/Pea/Barley/Triticale silage crop.

(Should have cleaned the truck window so the view was clearer!)
The tractor pulls and powers the silage chopper, which chops the crop and blows it into the HighDump wagon. The HighDump wagon then dumps it into my truck and I truck it back to our ranch and dump it at the silage pit. That is where another tractor pushes the load onto the piles that are already unloaded and the tractor ‘packs’ it or drives over the feed, over and over, in order to remove the oxygen. Then when the pile is covered in plastic and old tires (for weight), the feed is preserved.
I’m thankful that I feel comfortable driving big equipment, probably because I started young. I started driving a truck like this when I was 15 on my childhood grain farm. Between high school and college I worked for a farm equipment dealership and drove large equipment, combines and large 4×4 tractors, from the dealership out to the farms. They are good memories and they all prepared me for my job now.
~Erika Fossen~