Ranch Horses, Ranch Kids & Ranch Trucks

Two of these things you would never hesitate to buy or hire, but the third should be left at the dealership!

DSC01617

Our ranch horses have seen it all.  They get caught, then jumped on bareback and rode into the yard for saddling.  Or, they get caught and are lead in, trotting beside the Gator.  Sometimes they are quickly saddled and roar off to work, or they are made to stand, getting dressed up in braiding and paint.  They might have the lucky draw of the light, eleven year old girl riding for the day, or the endurance-building ride from the obnoxious rancher who won’t let the cow get away (no matter how steep the ground or thick the willows.)  Just when the trail ride comes to an end, that last-lone cow is spotted far off on the horizon: and the chase starts again!  After the ride, they get loaded last into the trailer, which is already filled with cows.

IMG_2162DSCN5050

We pick our horses for their brains (trainability), kindness, and conformation.  The one thing that all ranch horses have in common, and why they are so amazing is because they are used:  often and hard.  They are expected and trusted to get the job done.

DSCN5892

There is nothing cuter than seeing the retired, seasoned Ranch Horse trotting along, babysitting his precious cargo.  We put our childrens’ lives in the saddle of these trusted work horses.

DSC01089

DSC01299

Ranch Kids!  When we were in college, the ultimate prize for a bank or farm dealership, was to hire a educated ranch kid.  Ranch kids are invaluable because they’ve learnt to work at an early age.  They have learnt to problem solve.  Five years ago, when Douglas crashed our plane, all adult family members were gone, and our eight year old rode around with the neighbor and explained how much feed all the different groups of cows were getting.  Ranch kids know whats going on!  Sometimes in more detail then you want to know!  Like when the kids explain to a stranger on the phone the latest calving disaster in detail.  We ask, “Who was that?”  They say, “I don’t know.”  Our ranch kids are there in the easy times and the tough times and that’s what makes them strong.   When a ranch kid hear’s, “LOOK OUT!”  Instantly they are perched on the top of the fence like a cat chased by a cow dog.  Only the experience of being chased out of the pen can give you this life-preserving reaction.

IMG_1758

IMG_0553

Ranch Trucks!  Need we say more?  When you are roaring around a switchback, driving backwards at 80 km/hr over a water-bar, to stop a galloping cow.  Or when both of us are blaming each other, questioning why the bumper is hanging like an old man’s pants.  Sometimes dings and dints appear and we both honestly do not know how they got there!

DSCN1417

One time we were sure we could make it through a washout, but the 10 km walk afterwards, assured us we could not!  Thankfully G & G came to rescue the 5 of us so we didn’t have to walk the full 25!  Here is a picture of the side of the truck after the dog realized she was still chained in!

IMG_1672
~Erika Fossen~

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:

IMG_2102

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.
DSC01579

We use our airplane to spot cattle so we can then go with our horses and capture them.
DSC01590

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!
DSC01592

Spotting them’s the easy part, catching them is a whole other blog!
DSC01600
DSC01601

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!
DSC01604

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.
DSC01602

In the end, it was a productive day!
IMG_2114
~Erika Fossen~

Once More Time…….with feeling!

IMG_2050IMG_2063

 

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!!!

IMG_2049 IMG_2060 IMG_2055

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.

Alfalfa/Grass:

-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.

Oats/Barley/Peas/Triticale:

-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.

Corn:

-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.

IMG_2065IMG_2074

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.

IMG_2080

 

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.

DSC04253DSC01520 DSC01521

~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.

IMG_1883

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.

DSC01292 DSC01299 DSC01302 DSC01309

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.

IMG_1407DSC01313 DSC01318 DSC01326

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,

IMG_1922

 

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

IMG_1926

 

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.
IMG_1793

IMG_1795
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.
IMG_1808
IMG_1815
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.
IMG_1818
IMG_1823
With daylight disappearing fast, we said goodbye and started our decent back to the truck and trailer.
IMG_1827
IMG_1834
IMG_1844
With just the 2 of us coming down, we were able to make better time, reaching the truck at 5 pm.
IMG_1848
IMG_1858
IMG_1871
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~
IMG_1877

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.
IMG_1997

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

IMG_1214
IMG_1219