Pine Ranch’s 1st Calf

The day after Erika Fossen posted about their first calf of 2016 we had ours! Our first calf falls under the category of a problematic calf that Erika Fossen described. All our cows were down away from the calving area on about a 75 acre fields where they were getting fed. We like to keep the cows off the calving ground for as long as possible to keep the area as clean as we can before calving. The cleaner, less manure etc the less chance for spreading bacteria and diseases among the cows. Things like the scours (basically like diaherra) can be spread through manure and picked up by another animal and potentially cause them to become sick.

Dad was feeding the older group of cows yesterday when he spotted something a little different… (cue jingle “One of these things isn’t like the other”.

One of the cows my husband and I bought last year had calved early! She calved in the field about a 1km away from the barns. My dad and husband brought her and her calf into the barn. The calf they pulled behind them with the calf sled and the cow followed. Once they got the calf into the barn they put her (a little heifer calf) under the heat lamp to warm up. We could tell the calf was a bit premature as the cow had no milk and the calf’s hair was a bit short. Because the cow calved with no milk that is a huge problem. The calf needs to get colostrum, the first bit of milk that is full of antibodies to protect the calf from getting sick. We just went to a calving clinic put on by our local vets and they explained that a calf is born with no immunity to disease all their immunity comes from their mother (the cow) in the form of antibodies from the colostrum and they need to get that colostrum within the first 6 hours of life. This is super important, so if the calf is not going to be able to get the colostrum, that is where the rancher comes in, we need to ensure the calf gets that colostrum. We had some frozen in the freezer from last year, not ideal, but better than nothing. The other option is buying it from the feed store in powder form and mixing it with water and bottle feeding the calf.

That was our job last night to unthaw the colostrum and bottle feed the calf.

Well 2016 calving is under way. Nothing like the first calf being tricky to keep you on your toes and make sure you are organized!

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This is the bad mama who calved too early with no milk!

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Macy and I arrived to help after she got fed, just on time to see them shut the gate after putting the calf under the heat lamp and the cow in the pen with her calf.

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The calf under the heat lamp getting warm.

Our 1st Baby!

We were just having breakfast and the kids were getting ready to head out the door to catch the bus when I noticed three or four heifers all interested in the same patch of ground.  Often when they do this, it is because a new baby calf has caught their attention.  Older cows do not behave like this.  When a cow calves out in a herd of other cows, they do not congratulate her or congregate to take part in the party.  But heifers, or young females that are about to have their first baby, find other new babies SOO interesting.  It is not odd to have 10 or more heifers come over to a newly spit out calf and sniff it and examine what it is!  This is why we immediately, if not before the birth, remove the young mother and baby from the curious ladies.  It can be dangerous to have that many curious wanna-be mothers all vying to take a sniff.  So, Doug ran out and sure enough their was our first baby of the year.

It makes me so happy and thankful to start our calving this way; with a live, healthy calf, at the right time.  Often the premature, twins and problematic calves come at the beginning of calving.  These kind of calves take extra effort and care, and take the fun out of it.  Hopefully all of them come as easy as this one!

~Erika Fossen~

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This is the view from our dining table.  The calf was out past the power pole.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

I have been enjoying having my girls home the last week during their Christmas holidays.

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We have been riding almost everyday, as my husband is trying to keep up the training on our 3 year old horse (picture below).  Doug’s new favourite cartoon taken out of the Canadian Cattlemen’s magazine is:

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Thankfully ‘Cash’ did not do this!

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We moved our cows to our home place the other day.  Our girls are so helpful!  Here our youngest two were moving the herd all by themselves as the rest of us were fetching the last ones that had gone up to the water hole.  Way to go girls!

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When we caught up to them the job was almost complete!

We were feeding the cows hay the last couple weeks but now that they are home, we have cracked open the silage pit.  The feed looks excellent and they seem to be enjoying the silage.  I like it too as feeding silage is a lot less work for me (actually none other than opening gates.)

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Today we sorted the cows, 1st and 2nd time calves from the older girls.  It is easier for the younger cows to be in a group and not compete for feed with the older, bossy cows.

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My husband got me custom made Armita’s for Christmas.  He snapped this photo to send to other Erika’s husband.  They were cracking each other up as Doug texted: “Erika’s ready for a Buckaroo convention!”  Cyle replies, “Boy id say, I think u should just take ur colts to her!”  Then they both giggled at my expense!  Doug and Cyle want to have their own blog called:  “Living With The Erika’s!!”  I think it would be real goood!

Merry Christmas and wishing you all the best in the new year.

~Erika Fossen~

(Picture credit to Great Aunt Joan from England.  Thanks for coming to spend time with us Aunti Joan!!)

Tried For One More Day

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Yesterday we pushed the cows to the top of the mountain pasture they were in to try and get another few more days of grazing.

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It was kind of like pushing kids to clean their room:  they knew they had to go and it would be better in the end, but was very difficult to get them there!

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When they got to this point and saw other cows grazing they realized the point of it all.

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On the horizon you can just make out the cows where we left them. Unfortunately, with more snow last night, many came back down, so Doug went over and fed some hay this afternoon.  After 219 days of grazing,  I guess the winter feeding has begun…..

~Erika Fossen~

Erikas on the Mooooo…ve

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The Erika’s, along with their husbands, embarked on a road trip!  Destination: ‘Agribition’ held in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Agribition is a very large Farm/Ranch/Cattle Show, which has machinery and cattle trade shows, purebred and commercial cattle shows, rodeo, horse events, shopping, etc.

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I love driving through western Canada and seeing the diverse landscapes.  Starting in southern central British Columbia with the rolling grasslands and forests, then into the Rockie Mountains.  I always enjoy pulling out of the Rockies and seeing the sky open up into the Alberta Foothills.  We toured through a beautiful area in Southwest Saskatchewan near the town of Eastend, which I had never been.

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The pure bred show cattle are immaculately groomed.  I snapped a picture of this bull to try and capture his enormous size (you can just see the cap of the man walking behind him)!  This bull was the Grand Champion Simmental Bull from High Country Cattle Services.  (Thanks Deanne Young for this info!)

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A class of cattle are put together by first being the same sex and breed and then by age.  As a spectator it is good practice to judge the animals, then when the official judge places the class you can compare how you did.  This was a class of Hereford bulls.  On the other side of the ring was the Charolais show.

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The pure bred show cattle are on display in several huge barns, grouped by their bred.  In long alleys, all indoor, the exhibitors display their cattle.  They often have a ‘home away from home’ there (table and chairs, soup in crockpots) as this is  where they live for the week, have information on their farm/ranch, catalogs on cattle, information on their sales, etc.  Every evening after the days’ purebred shows are complete, the cattle are ‘Tied Out’.  This is where all these cattle (this year there were 1864 of them) are each lead outside to a bedded area for the night.  It is healthier for them to be outside for the night in their natural environment.  Also this is done for safety, as the inside displays are not as secure and need full daytime supervision.  Here is a short video I took of the cattle being led outside.  Every breeder and animal has a specific spot they go to.

Commercial cattle are also on display at Agribition.  Ranches bring pens of 5 and 10 commercial heifer calves and bred heifers.  These animals also show against each other in their respective age groups and are judged, then sold the following day.  Also in this barn are ‘Groups of 3 Bulls’.  This is where a breeder puts together a matched set (weight, size, comformation) of 3 yearling bulls.  It is good advertising for the breeder and ranchers may purchase the group as this will translate into an even calf crop.  Below is a picture of a group of heifer calves being judged.

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Each day at Agribition has a certain breed show.  Angus showed on Wednesday and Hereford on Thursday.  The ‘Supreme Show’ is held on Saturday and is when all the champions, regardless of breed, show against each other.  This was something to see as there were something like 48 females and 36 males in the ring at once.  This requires very well behaved cattle and talented show people.  Here is some pictures below.

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We had a great holiday.  We enjoyed visiting with fellow ranchers and people in the cattle and farming industry.  I was stopped out of the blue by a fellow from Manitoba who is a reader of this blog and recognized me.  One is reminded how small the agriculture industry is as somehow there was a connection to many people we talked to.

~Erika Fossen~

 

Christmas In November

Recently we applied for some provincial funding to improve our operation. First we applied for a cost share program to purchase a RFID tag reader. An RFID tag is a little yellow button tag that all cattle ranchers have to put in their cattle before they can leave a ranch in Canada. It is the major component to our food safety system. When you buy RFID tags all those tags in that box are assigned to your ranch and the specific tag you put in animal gets registered with CCIA (Canadian Cattle Identification Agency) and that tags follow the animal throughout all the steps in the processing chain, so if there was every a food safety problem it can be tracked back to its herd of orgin.
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We are really excited about having this reader because it will streamline our operation. Before I had a book at would write down calving information(when a cow calved, description of the calf, sex of the calf, and if there were any calving problems and other information about the animals like if they were sick, what we doctored them with and the withdrawal period. I would also have their RFID number beside their dangle tag number.
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On the left is the cows dangle tag number, the number we assign them like their name, the next column is information about their calf sex and colour description. the next column is their calving date, the next column is any information about them. If you look at cow U6Z I have written beside her that she didn’t clean and we treated her. Then on a separate page I write what we treated the specific animal with, the withdrawal date along with the animal’s identification.
The column furtherest to the right is where I put a sticker of that calf’s RFID tag number. So before we got this new technology it was all manual.

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Here is the other sheet where I write down the specific animal that was treated, what they were treated with and the withdrawal date.

Now, with our fancy new technology I can enter all that on a data collector an link the animals RFID tag number to their dangle tag number and have all their information pop up. This really helps because in the mountains the cows lose their dangle tags quite frequently and when they come home we are not sure which cows that is anymore, now with the RFID reader we can scan their RFID tag and it will bring up all the information on them. Their dangle tag is like their name to us, all my friends and family know me by Erika, we know our cows by their tag number for example R9B.

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Here is a picture of the screen of the RFID reader. It scans the RFID tag that is the 15 digit number that comes up and then I can enter their dangle tag number, the number we assign them and know them as this one was X 87C With our scales we are also able to enter their weight as well. 

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The RFID reader in action.

 

 

I think this new system is very important piece of the Canadian Food Safety system puzzle. This way we can be sure exactly which animal is which and of the vaccinations, medication we have given them along with the withdrawal periods.

What is a withdrawal period you ask???
If an animal is sick and we treat them with medication there is a certain amount of time before the animal can be slaughtered for human consumption that is the withdrawal period. For example, during calving season if we get a cows with a retained placenta (she hasn’t expelled her placenta after she has given birth to her calf). If she doesn’t expell the placenta properly it can start to rot inside her and she can get very sick and sometimes die or not be able to rebreed, so it is very important we treat her. If we give this cow Oxyvet the withdrawal period is 21 days, so we cannot sell that animal for 21 until that medication is out of her system and then safe for human consumption.

We also applied and were successful in our application for cost share funding for weigh scales and a data collector for our squeeze chute. We use a squeeze chute when pregnany checking, which I talked about in my last blog, when we are vaccinating, and if we have to treat a sick animal. Cows and bulls are huge animals our average cow would weight 1200+ pounds so if we need to restrain them to treat them we do this in a squeeze chute, which safely contains the animal and allows us to get very close and treat them.

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The data collector for the scale. This and the RFID tag reader “talk” and when we can an RFID tag the information will come up here. In the top left corner it says T11 that is the cows dangle tag number below EID (electronic identification or RFID tag number. We can also input a ton of different information, treatments and withdrawal dates, weight, breed.

The weigh scales are important because when treating a sick animal the proper dosage administered is according to the animals weight. Now we are able to get a precise weight from the animal and can administer the accurate amount of medication. Scales are also great to have we can collect a lot more information about our herd with them like how much weight they are putting on per day we call the ADG (average daily gain).

We are just so excited about our new tools and so thankful there are cost share programs available to help us streamline our operation and continue to improve our Canadian Food Safety systems because without the cost sharing programs we could not afford these tools.

Finishing Up

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Finally, the last two pairs caught in the corral!  (we think……)

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Now that the weaned heifer calves (our future mama’s) are in their winter feeding pen, we do a major clean of the corrals before it freezes solid.  This allows us to bring in fresh bedding for calving in February.  Fall is a good time of year to haul this manure to fields that need the benefits that manure can bring.

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Now that the cows are weaned from their calves they get moved off to their fall pasture.  In farming lingo, these cows are called ‘dry’, which means they are pregnant but not milking.  This is their holiday/recovery time.  A time to themselves.  A time to put on weight for winter.

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Once we got the cows gathered in the morning, we started the push across the canyon to our other property.  My daughter and I went ahead to usher the lead cows onto and across the bridge.  Doug and Adele pushed up and we had a crew of three more blocking driveways and directing traffic.

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The 300 cows use about 1 1/2 kilometres of the road.  It is crucial to have people ahead, otherwise they can go the wrong way and be hard to turn around.  This drive went a lot smoother then ‘Moos on a Mission’, where it took 6 hours instead of this hour and a half.

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In order for the pregnant cows to put on weight and grow a healthy calf in their last trimester, we like to put them into a pasture that has not been grazed.  We work hard throughout the year to purposely end up with un-grazed pasture that will supply the whole herd’s feed requirements until the snow pushes us out (approximately 6-8 weeks).  Roughly calculating, without this pasture we could use up to $20,000 a month in hay.

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It does our heart good to see our cows wandering off into the tall dry grass.  For us, this is where our ‘year’ ends and we relax.

~Erika Fossen~