This is our orphan calf ‘squeak’! She’s real cute. She is a ‘bottle bunter’ who lives in our yard. On our ranch we do not send twins onto the summer range with their mom. The range is much to tough for one mom to look after two calfs. A set of twins stay together with their mother until they are a couple weeks old and have had colostrum, and are well established. We then wait until a surrogate mother comes available to transfer one of the twins onto her. Although this year that did not happen and we ended up with two orphaned calves to keep around home! Our children love to feed ‘Squeak’ and ‘Squawk’ their bottles and lead them around.
This is a picture taken today when we were moving cows on the range. I thought this picture does a great job of symbolizing one of the big differences between ranching in BC and ranching in the prairie provinces. I am not saying our whole range is like this, but we definitely have our share of steep hills. This is important to take into consideration from a management perspective because we cannot have huge framed cattle. Their build is simply not made for climbing up these hill and they will fall apart quickly and not be able to stay in our herd for many years. Therefore, when we are looking to select replacement heifers (the female calves to stay on our ranch and go into our breeding herd) we look for size, ideally we are looking for a moderately framed cow. In addition, when buying bulls we are looking for a moderately framed bull who can move through the mountains. This means up and down steep hills and mountains, but also over and around deadfall. Due to the mountain pine beetle there are MANY areas of our range severely effected with blowdowns (trees that are dead due to the pine beetle, so when a strong wind comes around they blow over.
This is just a little glimpse at some of the differences in raising cattle in this beautiful, but sometimes difficult province!
Yesterday my dad and I were out on the range scouting for cattle. We do this because our range is HUGE 126 000 acres, so we want to spend our time wisely on horseback. We try to scout and find cattle and then the next day unload with the horses nearby, so we can most efficiently move cows to the next grazing area. On our scout I saw this little guy…..
I have seen plenty of fawns before when they are small and still have all their spots, crossing in front of us and I always reveal in how small and cute they are. However, this one was a whole new experience he was sooooo small and just lying amongst the dead tree and he never moved. I have definitely never seen a fawn that small before! Interestingly enough, we were just talking about fawns with a neighbour a few weeks prior and he mentioned that fawn’s have no scent, which I thought was interesting, but didn’t think too much more about it. However, when we stumbled across this little one, that proved to be true because we had our two cow dogs with us and they didn’t even know the fawn was there never barked or anything. Nature is truly amazing.
Came for the gold, but stayed for the grass was how the majority of the cattle industry was started in British Columbia. Loads of people were coming west for the Gold Rust and headed to Barkerville, BC to try and strike it rich. All these people needed to be fed and that’s where cows came fit into the picture. People started realizing there was a business opportunity because suddenly there was a huge demand for food with the influx of people. Once the gold rush was over the miners left, but the cows stayed because the cowboys who brought the cattle into the province realized first hand the abundant grasslands BC had to offer, and that is where the saying comes from. It is pretty amazing where we raise cattle, especially our summer range land it is up mountains, through evergreen forests and around lakes. Our cattle utilize so much of our provinces grass that would otherwise be untouched. Our amazing cows are able to turn mountain pine grass into a delicious and high quality protein source. Every time I am moving cows on the range I always am reminded how amazing cows really are at this process. In addition, I am amazed at how much grass is present in the mountains. Especially this year, we have been lucky enough to have had a lot of moisture, so the grass on the range is doing amazing. Our cows will have plenty of delicious green grass this summer. I was up on the range today and here is a picture of what the grass looks like already!
This was the monster wagan we towed 170 km. This wagon is 9 feet wide and over 14 feet tall. I say “whef we made it” because I was very, very nervous we would get stopped by the D.O.T. The Department of Transport is the governing group that monitors big rig transports, etc, on our highways. To most ranchers D.O.T. is ‘swear’ word because it always seems they show up at the most inopportune times. What we feel is safe to transport, the D.O.T. usually does not agree! Thus, we were so happy to get that monster home and off of the road! This was only a $7000 wagon, and if we hired someone to haul it, that could have added $3000 to the bill. As ranchers, we sometimes have no choice but to get the job done. Wether that is pulling huge wagons down the highway, or running full-out, down hill on a green broke horse. This is what we call ‘sporting’!
The piece of equipment is called a High Dump. We bought it from a Dairy, and it is one of the implements used for putting up Silage. Here is a picture of our old High Dump dumping a load.
Silage is fermented, high-moisture stored feed which can be fed to ruminants (cud-chewing animals such as cattle and sheep). It is fermented and stored in a process called ensiling, and is usually made from grass/alfalfa crops and cereals. Packing the freshly chopped forage and covering the pile with plastic, removes the oxygen which preserves the feed. Silage is made either by placing cut green vegetation in a silo, by piling it in a large heap covered with a plastic sheet, or by wrapping large bales in plastic film. We put ours into a bunker in the ground. Properly made silage smells sweet and good (to us), but silage exposed to oxogen turns to compost and stinks. Our 5 year old city friend Carter, gags when we comes to our ranch and smells it. If ensiled properly, there has been silage that has lasted for 25 years. Whereas, dryed hay looses its nutrients slowly over time, even when stored under roof.
It took 2 days for my husbands blood pressure to stabilize after pulling that thing home!
Yes, even ranchers have paper work! The paper work that I have completed this afternoon however, is very important paper work and will actually make our lives a lot easier!!! I have just finished our ranches application for an Environmental Farm Plan. The program is a government program, which assists ranchers to pick an area of their production practices to improve on. For example, some areas of improvement may include fencing off waterways from animals to help protect the banks and other species, or popular project and the one that our ranch is hoping to receive funding for is to decrease our water consumption. During the summer months ranches in BC need to irrigate hay fields in order to produce a crop and both Erika Fossen and I have lamented about moving the irrigation. It is quite a process. On our ranch we have 9 wheel lines and 3 hand lines that need to be moved everyday to get across water the entire field. In addition, to being time intensive it uses water. There are new systems designed to decrease the total water consumption, but still allow us to water our fields enough to produce a hay crop. These fancy new inventions are called pivots. Many of you may have seen these while driving past fields. They move around a central point (pivot) and water your field, so no manual labour is required! YAY! This is a real win win situation for ranchers, it gives us more time in the day to do other things like move cows, fix fence, make hay ect and it uses less water to help ensure sustainable ranching practices. However, the downfall is price! The pivot for our ranch with materials and installation was estimated at $75, 000! Let me tell you that is almost what our ranch makes in a year, so we cannot justify paying for one, but with the Environmental Farm Plan program they will help. The program pays for 30% and up to $20, 000 of the project. It is programs like this that are really helpful and necessary to the ranching industry. We do not make a lot of money, but I don’t know a rancher who is in it for the money, but we do need to be competitive in the sense of doing what is right of the land and our business and this program does both!
This is a photo of a section of our current system.
This is not our pivot, ours will be way smaller it is just a photo to use as an example of what hopefully will be in our field!
We went to Kelowna this weekend and stood in the grocery store meat department. It is always very interesting for us as ranchers to hear what the consumer is concerned about.
We were trying to get the message across that Canadian Beef is safe and a healthy choice to feed your family. There seems to be a misconception that huge factories are producing our beef. The reality is, beef starts on a family farm. When it does go to a feedlot for finishing, it is also well looked after. Our industry is made of families and family farms. The average herd size in Canada is around 50 head. There is nothing mass produced about beef!
Eating a diet consisting of Canadian food (beef, grains, vegetables and dairy, etc) from the outside isle of the grocery store cannot steer you wrong. We are extremely proud of the beautiful, natural food we produce. If we were not doing it for the love of the land, livestock and our family there would be no reason to stay in the business!