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~

Pulled Out Of Semi-Retirement!

Yes, I’ve been pulled out of semi (summer) retirement!!
It all started at the very end of June I went to my home country of Northern Alberta with my children, to visit my family and childhood farm. We had a wonderful time!
After being away for two weeks, we were home for a weekend and then we headed out to the Grassland Conservation Tour, which I blogged about last, and then to Erika’s wedding. After getting back home from that trip, we had a lovely bout of company, which kept me from work!
A few days ago my husband nicely took me aside and said, “Semi-retirement’s over Erika!” So the last week has been filled with swathing and trucking, trying to get our silage feed put up. I have been either swathing (cutting the crop into rows) or trucking (the chopped feed to the pit), with a little bit of riding thrown in (moving cows on the range).
~Erika Fossen~
Here are some pictures:
IMG_1558 Swathing down Oat/Pea/Barley/Triticale Silage Crop
IMG_1628IMG_1634 Pulling irrigation pipes out of crop.
IMG_1637 Waiting in truck to be filled with chopped silage.
IMG_1572 Moving cows to next pasture with my dog and 3 daughters.

Keeping Us On Our Toes!

It was very honouring to receive this award last Wednesday at the Grasslands Summit held at the Douglas Lake Ranch. **(Click on the blue ‘Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia Award’ to read write up and award)**
When we got home from the ‘tour’ we were quickly reminded of the constant challenge of managing livestock. A group of twelve cows with calves and a bull that we had in a small pasture, were overdue in being moved out to a new pasture! With the past 3 weeks being extremely hot and dry, their pasture was completely done! We were able to quickly check the next pastures’ fence, open the gate and move them on to ample feed.
It was a great reminder of how grass management is a constant battle and always needs attention and improvement. With rest until next year and ample rain, our ‘overgrazing mistake’ will be remedied.
~Erika Fossen~

Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia Award


In Record Time

We finished cutting our first cut of hay last week. That is the earliest our ranch has ever been finished first cut it the 53 years our family has been here. The stars all aligned this year. The weather cooperated for us and another huge factor that helped was we bought a new rotary mower. This purchase probably cut our cutting time in half. It is quicker than our older sickle mower because it can cut faster and also it is a center pivot. Our old swather was fixed to the left side of the tractor, so we could only cut one direction, so you would cut up one side of the field and then when you got the end you would have to pick up the swather and drive the headlands and you weren’t cutting until you got to the other side where the swather was in the hay again (because it was fixed to the left side). With our new center pivot you cut up one side of the field and once you are at the end you can simply swing the swather around to the other side, so there is not a time when you are driving and not cutting. It is so much better!!!!! I am also very thankful for this new piece of equipment because I am getting married in a week and was really nervous that I would be trying to juggle finish haying with finalizing a wedding. My dear old dad was very supportive in the matter his response was “Well you won’t be up to much in the morning the ceremony doesn’t start until 1:30 you can sit on the tractor for a bit in the morning!”

I am really glad that didn’t have to happen!

A huge reason our ranch was able to purchase the new swather was due to the new Cattle Price Insurance Program that my co-blogger Erika Fossen blogged about in her blog “Game Changer”. For the first time we were able to go to the bank and say we are going to make this much money this year. Apparently that makes them much more willing to lend money when there is a guarantee and not “Ahh well I sure hope the markets are good the day we sell!”

It’s amazing how much cross over there is in our industry how one thing transfers to another! 

imagejpeg_2 photo-5



Here are some pictures of our new awesome rotary mower. We had to put a screen at the back of the tractor because it cuts the hay with discs that turn, so if it picks up a rock it can fire it out and can break the windows in the tractor.

photo-5 copy

Here is a picture of our stack yard. For our first cut we got over 500 bales that are each 1200 pounds. We are off to a good start to making enough of our own hay to feed our cows this winter, so we don’t have to buy any.