Breakfast Rudely Interupted

Yesterday our breakfast was rudely interrupted. We noticed that 17 pairs (cows with their calves) 2 replacement heifers and a bull were walking down the old rail bed in front of our house! So all 3 of us ran out of the house and scrambled to try and set gates to get the animals in. They got in front of us but luckily our dogs got in front of them and brought them back, so we could get them in the corral. This year we have had so much rain that the grass on the range is great, so they didn’t come home on account of not much feed left, we think it’s been getting so cold at night it feels like the end of September, not the end of August, so their internal clock is probably a bit confused and telling them to head home early. Regardless, we hauled them back out to the range.  That took up a lot of the day because it took 3 loaded in the stock trailer and the haul was about one a hour and a half round trip. Where we dropped them off there was lots of grass, so we hope they will stay there for a bit and not just keep walking back home again. We are still allowed to have our cattle grazing on our crown range tenure until October 15, so we take them back up there, so we can save the grass at home for when they come home in the fall. We don’t have much grazing at home, so we have to manage the grass we do have very efficiently.

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They beat us going up the road and didn’t turn into our yard, but our dog Milly got in front of them and turned them around!

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Our young dog Newt pushing them up.

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Macy in the corral with her breakfast still in her hand!

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This is where we dropped them off on the range! See you in another month girls!

We have been up to many things since I have blogged last. Summer time on the ranch is a very busy time filled with many different jobs. Like I last blogged about one of the main jobs is silaging and haying. This is very important to have feed during the winter months to feed our animals. Since we switched to silaging we still put up some dry hay to mix in with our silage to add some more dry matter to the cow’s ration. This year we put up 160 round bales and have 272 loads of silage in the pit and that equals 1632 tonnes.

The next thing we are busy with in the summer is moving cows on the range. We have     100 000 acres of crown range tenure that we have to take care of and ensure our cows are not over grazing. To do this we move them to different areas of the range. It is also important we are out on the range often to see where our cows are and to make sure as much as we can that everything is fine (no predator or people problems) . A major freeway, The Coquihalla cuts right through the middle of our range, so that causes some grief we have to go out there and make sure the fences are up and gates are shut.
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The next component of our summer work is irrigating. We actually hire this job out because it takes about 5-6 hours every day, so if we have to irrigate we don’t have much time left in a day to ride or silage. However, this is a very difficult position to fill and this year we have went through 3 different irrigators, so we are spending a lot of our time moving irrigation pipes. Everyday we have to move lines, so the water gets over the entire field. Some of our lines are wheel lines, so there is a little engine on the mover and we roll the entire line 4 rolls which equals 60 feet, so everyday the lines get moved 60 feet. We cannot run all our irrigation at once because according to our water licence we can only pump so much water, so there has to be a system of which lines are running and which ones need to start next. Some of our lines our hand lines, so we have to manually move each pipe which is 40 feet in length and move in over 60 feet to ensure the entire field gets water. We like to refer to irrigation as irritation because it can be a pain, but it is essential without water and irrigation we wouldn’t be able to grow any crops in our area of BC!

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One of our wheel lines and hand lines that are both shut off and in the distance a wheel line that is running.

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Hand pipes. For these to get across the field it requires you to pick them up and move them 60 feet!

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Here is a picture of the wheel line mover. The engine sits on this move and chains move the wheels, which moves the line. 

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When the crop gets high like this it is a pain to change irrigation pipes, you get soaked!

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My irrigation helpers Milly and Newt. When we are not chasing cows this is the concellation prize!

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Lastly, I also just got back from the inaugural Canadian Beef Industry Conference in Calgary! It was such a great conference and I learned so much, so stay tuned for an update about that!!! So that is a little snap shot of what we have been up to!!!!

Puddles In July

What a glorious sight is it WE HAVE PUDDLES IN JULY! Usually at this time of year it is scorching hot and we’ve had at least a couple weeks of 30 degrees with no rain in site. This year however, it was really hot in April and we have had some sporadically hot days, but nothing intense AND we have been getting rain. Friday night it rained over an inch. On average Merritt only gets about 7 inches of rain a year and we got 1/7 of that in one night and more during the rest of the week.
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This is such a great thing for our crops, the ground which now has a great saturation of water and the grass on the range . We have gotten enough rain to actually turn our irrigation pumps off. Which is great because that means our crops have gotten a good even distribution of water and we are not having to pay for hydro to keep our irrigation pumps running.

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Wheel lines turned off (on our terms) what a beautiful sight! This means we don’t have to move “irritation” pipes! BUT everything is still green!

 

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That’s A Wrap

We finished our first crop of silaging last Thursday! We ended up with 157 loads in the pit and that equals 942 short ton of feed. We are super happy with this and are off to a great start of storing winter feed for our cattle.

Once all the silage is in the pit and packed our job is still not quite over. Lastly, we need to cover the pit with heavy plastic to ensure the pit is anaerobic (no oxygen). If we just left the pit open the oxygen would cause the silage to rot and that rot would be wasted feed. Next, we put tires on top of the plastic to weight it down, so it doesn’t blow away. That is quite the work out! There are obstacle races that are all the rage right now and I have done one of these we did a 12km race with obstacles and one of these obstacles was packing tires. Well if anybody is interested in doing one of these races do I have a deal for you for second cut when we are tapping the pit you can come out and pack tires and you don’t even have to pay…we might even pay you!!!

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In addition, we get our feed tested to know exactly what the nutritional value is. Each field has a sample taken out of it and we give that to our nutritionist who sends it away to a lab to give us feed back on the nutritional analysis of the feed we are putting up. Ideally a beef cow requires 12-14% protein and as much energy as possible.

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This way when we know exactly what is in our feed we are able to supplement with the minerals or other feeds to balance their diet. For example, like last year our feed was low in energy for the second and third cuts, cut we added GSP’s (grain screening pellets) to their winter feed ration to increase the energy the cows were getting from their feed.

Still Silaging

We have been going strong for 2 weeks now and have 145 number of loads in the pit. The first week we started we were a little slow because our irrigation pump was broken down, so dad was spending most of his time trying to get that up and running and we were silaging in between working on the pump.

We also rented a bit of our neighbours land and got 12 loads of silage from there.

It has been a super busy week we have been getting up at 5am to get 3-4 loads before Macy wakes up and then working until dark most nights. Cyle said the other morning it is funny because there are more hours between breakfast and lunch than supper and breakfast.

Macy has been a trooper either being shuffled between tractors or with my mom.

Like I said in my previous blog, this is only our second year silaging, but so far there are some major benefits we see to silaging compared to haying

– It is better feed, because the silage undergoes a fermentation process and a lot of the break down that would happen in the cow’s rumen is already done, so they are able to utilize the feed better

– It is way faster to put up than hay and that means we get water back on the fields faster, so it doesn’t dry out as much

-We get more tonnage of feed

– It is not as weather dependant as haying. This past week the weather has been awful and Saturday it was even drizzling and we were able to keep going. If we were haying we would have been shut down and our quality of hay would have decreased substantially. This is because silage is put up wet between 60-70% moisture and hay must be less than 30% moisture. In order to do this the oxygen has to be removed, so that is why we pack the pit (run over it over and over and over with the tractor) and then cover it with plastic.

The downside to silaging is it is expensive initially to get all the new equipment, but we took the plunge and we are so happy we did!!!

I took some videos to show everyone what we have been up too! Please check them out!

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The tractor pulling the chopper and high dump. The chopper picks up the windrow (cut grass), chops it and then blows it into the high dump. When the high dump is full it gets dumped into the wagon and the wagon hauls it to the pit.

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Pulling up to the high dump. There are only a few inches to play with, the wagon has to be close enough to the high dump, so silage doesn’t spill on the ground, but far enough away not to hit the high dump.

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The wagon unloading silage in the pit.

 

 

Silaging 2016 Is Underway

We started silaging on Thursday and so far have 55 loads in the pit, that is equivalent to 330 tonne.
Here is a picture of the first load of 2016 being dumped into the pit.

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Here is our very first load of silage for 2016 being dumped in the pit.

All went very smooth our first day we got the first field cut and off the field and packed in the pit in one day and could have had the water back on that field in the same day, BUT that would mean things were going way too smoothly, so there had to be a wrinkle in there somewhere and there was. Our pump for our irrigation stopped working, so in theory we could have had water back on the field, but now we have to fix the pump first.

To get done in one day like this is HUGE. It means that the field will not dry out and will start regrowing much sooner. We switched to silaging last year. It was a very expensive year, but we think it is totally worth it. We are able to get more tonnage of feed, it is better feed for our cows, the fields don’t dry out as long and it gets done way faster!

Everyday since Thursday that is what we have been doing. Some body swathes (cuts) the field and we let it dry for a few hours.

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These are the windrows, what it looks like after it has been swathed.

Next, we pull into the field with the chopper and high dump. The chopping runs over the already swathed windrow picks up the windrow and chops into into fine pieces, this makes it easier to digest for the cows and then shoots it into the high dump which is pulled behind the chopper.

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The chopper chops up the grass into smaller pieces and blows it into the high dump.

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Macy helping dad run the chopper and high dump

When the high dump is full it gets dumped into the wagon, which goes to the pit, there the load of silage is dumped into the pit and the person on the packing tractor spreads the load around the pit and drives over it as many times as they can to pack it down and get all the air out to prevent rot.

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Packing in the pit. In my opinion the worst job because it’s boring, but the most important. The packer has to just drive over the silage, back and forth all day long to make sure all the air is out to prevent rot. If this job is not done properly the silage can rot and then it looses its nutritional value and if it is really bad can be harmful to the pregnant cows.

On Friday we moved to the next field. Once again things were going great and we were nearing the end of the day when disaster struck! I was driving the silage wagon to the field from the pit. This is a really old wagon and in pretty rough shape, but it worked for what we needed it to do. I was just bringing the load into the pit and turning around when I noticed the reach for the hitch looked a bit funny…. The combination of an old wagon, heavy load of silaging and turning in the pit bent the reach for the hitch. The old wagon with loose tie rod ends was hard enough to back up, it kinda had a mind of its own and now this did not make things better.

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Broken wagon😦

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The transfer! All jacked up and waiting for it’s new undercarriage.

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The “new” wagon all ready to go to work!

We decided to take the box off the old undercarriage and transfer it onto another wagon under carriage we had that was in better shape. My husband, dad and brother did the mechanicing and we have a “new wagon” that is way easier to back into the pit. However, that afternoon of mechanizing put us behind schedule. There really is never a dull moment as a rancher.

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Silaging is tough work for a 1 year old!

This Is Bull

Last night at half past eleven, just after we had fallen into a deep, lovely, drooling sleep, we were abruptly awoken by the ring of the telephone.  Still groggy, Doug listened as the RCMP Constable introduced himself and started to explain the situation.

The constable said there was a “cow with a SH brand on her side’ on the highway.  The SH brand is not our brand, but a brand that is on some of our cattle that we purchased from ranchers in Lumby. The police had been given our name as a contact person.  Doug’s mind did a quick inventory of where all our 320 cows were at the time and was perplexed as to how one of these cows could be by Bridesville!  But then, just as fast, he concluded it could be our bull that he had rented out to one of our neighbours, so he quickly asked, “Is this animal a red white faced bull?”  After a pause the constable questioned what red white face meant, and said, “Ill check to see if it is a bull……..and then laughed and said, “Yes, he’s a bull alright!” Now Doug was able to affirm in his head where this animal was from and why he had gotten out!  There were many enticing heifers across the highway and up a couple kilometres, calling him over!

This story reminded us of a time when our neighbour was driving with our daughter, who was four years old at the time.  The neighbour came around a corner and saw cattle on the hill and to make small talk asked our daughter, “Oh look, are those your cows?”  Our daughter firmly said, “No…..”  So our neighbour thought, “oh well, maybe she doesn’t know that those are their animals…..”  Then our daughter promptly piped up, “Thems my heifers!!”  If you still haven’t gotten the humour, let me explain, not all cattle are cows!  There are bulls, which are the intact males, heifers are females that have not yet calved, cows are females who have had a calf and a steer is a casterated male.  Same as this, when the constable said ‘cow’, Doug’s mind immediately went to ‘cows’ as in females with calf at side.

So we raced outside, hooked up our trailer and tore 12 kilometres up the highway.  We came upon the bull, walking in the ditch with his police escort.  It was quite funny because when he heard the squeaking of our trailer, he stopped, looked over and it was as if he said, “Oh good, I was hoping you’d come!”  With the help of a flashlight, I guided the truck and trailer back into an approach, we flung the door open, sweet talked our 2200 pound bull and thankfully he jumped into the trailer.  The RCMP constables seemed relieved to be finished babysitting the bull and have him loaded safely where they were no longer responsible!

~Erika Fossen~

Here you can see our Bar 7 brand on the bull on the left and the SH brand on the bull on the right.

Here you can see our Bar 7 brand on the bull on the left and the SH brand on the bull on the right.

The highway cuts through the centre of our ranch.  We have a 45 kilometre stretch of highway where it is possible that our cows could show up!

The highway cuts through the centre of our ranch. We have a 45 kilometre stretch of highway where it is possible that our cows could show up!

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A favourite quote of ours from Baxter Black is:

One of the greatest feelings in the world is to see a cow loose on the road and realize it’s not yours.