All posts by Kim Wheeler

Calf Crop #4

It’s hard to believe that Calf Crop #4 has already started on the Wheeler Lazy J Ranch. Buck was born at the end of December. Patches, his Mama Cow, had some health issues so we had kept her in the holding pen near the house. It was nice having Buck so close when he was born and for his first weeks. Buck is the first calf bred by Big Boy the Bull born on the Ranch.

A couple of weeks later, Rose, gave birth to Roy, a healthy bull calf also bred by Big Boy. Rose was not in the pen and hid Roy for several days before joining back up with the herd. We would find Roy and then Rose would hide him again. It was like a “Where’s Waldo” game!

It’s fun to watch these two bull calves. Buck is pretty laid back and likes to follow Joni (the white yearling in the herd) around. Sometimes he runs and plays, but not like Roy. Roy loves to run and frolic. He’s so curious about everything around him. He is beginning to explore the other cows in the herd.

We are expecting up to 9 more calves due in February and March for this Spring crop. We are looking forward to welcoming these calves. I must admit that the occasional harsh winter temperatures worry me with the little ones on the ground. We are so thankful that Jason isn’t afraid of the freezing temps!

God has created these animals to take care of themselves and each other in all types of weather. We are simply stewards of the land and animals. We are going to do the best we can to protect them and help them thrive.

To Market, To Market, To Sell a Fat Calf!

Well, the time has come for this crop of calves to go to market. Last Friday, we separated the ten calves from the mama cows and loaded them in the livestock trailer. The calves were actually pretty calm during the entire process. Charlie, Jason, and a friend separated them and I talked to the calves as they were loaded in the trailer in small groups. The calves were licking my fingers and letting me rub their noses. Once the trailer pulled out of driveway, Jason let the cows out of the pen and back into the pasture.

The cows left the pen quickly, but the ten mama cows came back shortly to inspect the area and find their calves.

Then they started calling for the babies.
Then they went into the pens to look for them.
Then they called out some more.
Then they came to the fence to talk to (fuss at) us.
Then they quieted down.
Then it all started up again.

The Jersey/Holstein (JoJo) and one of the other cows came all the way inside the inner pen looking and crying…I mean mooing for their calves. (JoJo was Tank’s adoptive mom after he was abandoned. She took really good care of him. She is a good Mama Cow and was missing her Tank!)  Charlie gave them all mineral cubes (Cow Candy) and ear rubs, but as soon as we walked back to the house, they started mooing again. Jason said that they were all going to be hoarse in the morning!

The next morning, those ten cows were still in the pasture around the pen. They had mooed all night long. By that evening, all but two of the cows had moved to the back pasture with the rest of the herd to the bales of hay that Jason had put out.  JoJo was one of the cows that stayed up front. By the next afternoon, all the cows had moved to the back pasture.

Charlie and I went up to the sale barn to check on the calves. They were all in their pen just as calm as they could be and happy to see us. We had time for ear rubs, chin rubs, and finger licks. Champ and Tank came right to us. Hannah was being her usual drama queen self and was laying in the feed trough! The calves had been like a mini herd inside the big herd here at the ranch. They played together, fought over the feed trough, and rested together and that appeared to make a difference when they were at the sale barn. The calves in the other pens around them were pacing and nervous. Perhaps having six steers and only four heifers helped the emotional level of the herd. I had one more talk with the calves about how big they were and how it was time for them to go into the big world! I know they listened to me!

Charlie and I are very proud of the way these calves look and act. They look healthy and have a nice body condition. They are calm and not skittish – very even tempered. It is evident of the good care they have been given here at the ranch. We feel like we have accomplished our goal of raising the best calves that we could. It will be an exciting day when they go to auction and we see how well they perform and how they give back to the ranch so more calves can follow their footsteps.

Welcome to the Herd!

Charlie and I knew that once the cows began calving that the size of the herd would explode. Well, that explosion began at the end of July. Since then, we have welcomed four calves to the herd. It is interesting to watch how the different cows act during pregnancy and then act as new mothers. It is also interesting to see how each calf has a different personality almost from the moment they are born!
Wheeler Herd Calf Album – Summer 2020

Calf #1 – Cosmos

Cosmos was tiny when she was born and loved to curl up on the grass. She has long legs and definitely has the Brahman influence in her body shape. She is a little shy but loves to play with the other calves.

Calf #2 – Hanna

Hanna was jet-black when she was born showing her Black Brangus heritage. She is curious about everything and everyone around her! When you talk to her and she looks straight at you and wiggles her ears! She loves to run and frolic with the other calves and yearlings.

Calf #3 – Champ

Champ is Calf #3 and a bull calf. He had a very difficult start having to be pulled from his Mama. But he toughed it out and has hung on to life. His hips were stiff from his rough birth, but he’s walking better now and even running. Now he’s having difficulty acclimating to heat. He’s a big boy with lots of fat and fur consistent with his Hereford father. He needs to be a champion to acclimate quickly to this hot and humid East Texas environment. Mama Cow is doing her best to take care of him. We are helping out also as we can.

This afternoon, Charlie found Champ in the woods unconscious but breathing. He was able to wake him up and he immediately went to his Mama and began to nurse. That was a good thing. Charlie contacted our cowboy and vet for advice on what could be going on. Both felt like it was heat stress causing the issue. They both recommended that we continue to watch and hope he acclimates to the heat soon.

Charlie spent the rest of the night reflecting on this and shared that he has gained a new appreciation for those that have worked in this industry for most of their lives. As he said, “You can do all the right things and try to be a good steward of the land and livestock but in the end it may not be enough.” We are working hard to help this little guy make it!

Calf #4 – Bess

Charlie noticed a little white face in the pasture this afternoon while looking over the herd and doing a headcount! We found Bess just moments after she was born. She was already up on her feet and walking circles around her Mama! When the other cows came up to see the new calf, Bess took off walking toward them to introduce herself to them. She is very outgoing! Her Mama was a nervous wreck trying to keep Bess reined in and close to her! She was relieved when Bess finally decided to lay down in the shade of one of the tree and rest. Mama was then able to lay down and rest also.

We are excited as we await the arrival of seven more calves within the next month with the possibility of three or more after that. It is a joy to see the additions to our herd and see how God created such nurturing instincts in these mother cows.

Stay tuned as photos of more calves are added to the Wheeler Herd Baby Album!

Memorial Day Fishing

What better way to enjoy Memorial Day than by spending time fishing. Here are some photos from our afternoon at the pond. (You can click on the photos for a larger view.)

The cows and Big Boy didn’t seem impressed with our fishing efforts since we didn’t have any cow candy to share with them.

The Growing Herd

After a month in the pen, we decided that the three calves were weaned and ready to return to the herd. When Charlie opened the gate to let them out, they just ignored him. He was able to get Genesis’ attention and she walked over to him and then out of the gate into the pasture. Annie followed suite, but when she walked through the gate she kicked up her back legs and jumped out. Joni must have thought that would be fun and she did the same though and kicked up her back legs to bounce out of the holding pen. I thought that I was going to have to get into the pen to coax Stevie out, but by the time I climbed over the fence she was headed to Charlie to walk out the gate. It didn’t take long for Genesis and the three calves to walk over to the herd and mingle right in. Joni was the only calf that tried to nuzzle with her Mama. Mama Cow was very quick to push her away and let her know that she was a big heifer now!

Big Boy has acclimated in well with the ladies in the herd. At first, when they wandered from the other side of the creek in the morning for cubes, he would stay over there. Now he wanders with them wherever they are going. Or may they are wandering wherever he goes. It’s interesting to see them at the water trough. When there are several cows at the trough, they will sometimes push one another out of the way. When Big Boy shows up, he walks up to the trough and they simply let him walk right up and make room for him.

Big Boy’s job has been to find the three cows that haven’t bred yet and take care of business. After watching him for a couple of weeks, he seems to be trying his best to do his job. We’ve noticed him spending time with each of the three. We’ll know soon if he was successful. Our calving time is expected to be between mid-July and mid-August. Hopefully, we will have 14 healthy calves.

Coming up on the ranch…hay baling! The pastures were fertilized and sprayed for weeds in the Spring and the grass is growing very well. So well in fact, that the pastures will need to be baled soon. This will give us hay for our herd as well as sell some like we did last year. Stay tuned for more details.

Big Boy the Brahman Bull

After working the cows last month, the discussion of expanding our herd came up. Cowboy J. was telling us about a nice-looking Brahman bull that belonged to one of our neighbors. Originally, our goal was to buy a black Brangus bull to lessen the Brahman look from our Brangus cows. Charlie had even done a lot of homework about where to buy and talked to several ranches. That plan was put on the backburner after we had two visiting (not invited) bulls during the Fall. Our goal changed to finding out which of the cows were bred and taking care of their prenatal needs. We had put the idea of buying a bull off for a bit, but now we needed to talk about it. Charlie and Jason talked about breeding the cows with a Brahman bull. Charlie and I talked about breeding the cows with a Brahman bull. Jason and Danielle talked about breeding the cows with a Brahman bull. Finally, Charlie and Jason decided to talk to our neighbors and meet Big Boy.

We knew that Big Boy was a full-blooded Brahman bull and that he was halter-broke and could be walked around the pasture with a halter and rope. So far, he has bred small calves that grew quickly after they were born. This is important because some of our herd will be heifers (first-time to be bred) and it is usually better if their calves are small. Of course, you don’t want them to stay small so growing and gaining weight quickly is beneficial. We found out that all of his calves have been heifers (so far) which is good for us since we are building our herd with heifers that will become cows which give us more calves. Steers go to the sale barn to buy more cows and heifer calves!

Today was the day of transition. A portion of our common fence was cut and a temporary gate put in and Big Boy was walked into our pasture. He came in and quickly found the “ladies of the pasture.” Charlie and Jason were able to work with him by giving him mineral cubes. Thanks to our neighbor for taking the pictures of him with Charlie and Jason!

We’re looking forward to what the future holds with Big Boy as part of the herd. His immediate task is to find the three cows that need to be bred which will ensure that all 14 cows are bred with hopes of 14 healthy calves being born!

Working and Weaning

Once again, it was time to work the cows and wean the calves. Charlie and Jason discussed the meds to use this time for the injections and fly control. Charlie purchased the supplies and gathered together the equipment. Jason checked over the supplies and grabbed a few more. It was a nice cool morning which made it more comfortable for us and for the cows branding was on the agenda. We had gathered all of them up in the pen the night before and, as you can see, they didn’t really suspect anything was going on…until the cowboy drove into the driveway. Could they really remember the sound of the motor of his truck???

Working the cows went relatively smoothly including the branding and palpating. 11 of the 14 cows are bred. (Plans are being made for the 3 that aren’t bred.)Once the cows were finished and let out to the pasture, the calves were taken care of and kept inside the pen. Stevie Nicks, Annie, and Joni Paycheck were the last three calves born and the time has come for their weaning. Looks like they were wondering where all of the cows had gone! The calves made their way to the trap in the pen where they had last been with their Mama Cows.

Joni and Annie came to see us at the fence, but Stevie (in the background) was already bawling. Joni found her way to the fence where her Mama was. Mama wasn’t happy that her baby was locked inside the pen! She has been a very good and protective Mama. In fact, the next few mornings she came to the fence by the house and moo’ed to us. In fact, the first morning after the other cows wandered off after their morning cubes, she laid down at our fence. Since we have three cows to breed still, the decision was made to add Genesis to the pen with the calves. She is a yearling and we aren’t ready for her to be bred. She has had a calming effect on the calves. For the most part she has been happy with the creep feed, cubes, and extra attention she has been given, but isn’t particularly happy to be locked up again. She will definitely be the leader of this pack!

All of the calves are eating cubes from our hands and we walk among them several times a day to help them become accustomed to us. Our approach to raising cattle is to take good care of them and treat them as gently as possible which is accomplished by handling them often with care and respect.

And the Cow Jumped Over the…Fence!

Last weekend as I was contemplating what to write about, I was coming up with a blank. The vegetables planted in the tubs were beginning to sprout, but with so much rain the strawberries and watermelons weren’t going to be planted in the ground.The roses are blooming.

The grass in the pastures is growing and the cows are happy to be grazing. What was I going to write about? And then it happened….

 

Charlie received a call from our neighbor that several of our cows had been out in his pasture, but had gone ‘home.’ I had been outside several times that morning and had not noticed anything odd. But as we walked down the fence line, 20200405_121510we saw Lily Cow out of our pasture. Remember that Lily is our visiting cow that jumped into our pasture after a different neighbor had unloaded her into his pasture from a stock trailer. Apparently, she jumped out of our pasture and during the process broke a section of the fence. 20200405_121508Charlie grabbed tools to repair the fence and our cows seemed curious about what he was doing. I kept telling the cows that Lily was bad and this wasn’t the place for them to be. The blooming honeysuckle on the fence line was telling them otherwise!

But back to Lily Cow who was grazing outside our fence. She followed me from the neighbor’s pasture, along the fence line, into our backyard (by the garden), along the fence line in the front yard, all the way to the gate at the road going into our front pasture. You should see all of hoof prints all through our property in the muddy grass! 20200405_123158Lily made her way to the spot where she had first jumped (and broken) the fence. The three calves had been following Lily around all week and we were afraid that she would teach them how to jump the fence! What an exciting afternoon!

Guess who we discovered out of the fence on Monday morning!! We coaxed her back onto our property to keep her safe until her owner could make arrangements to pick her up. He had already been there on Sunday afternoon and started making plans to pick her up in a couple of weeks. She wouldn’t go in our gate so we closed our gate at the end of the driveway. She was ok with that until our cows went across the creek and she wanted to join them. Lily Cow walked up to the fence at the road and jumped over that fence and headed down the road where our cows were. I walked down the road and she followed me back to our front yard. Thankfully, she was off the road. I went inside to get back to work and Charlie went to take care of his tasks. After about two hours, we walked outside to see our cows coming back across the creek to the pasture beside our house. Guess who was with them! Somehow and somewhere, Lily had jumped back into our pasture. 20200406_152524After all of that jumping and walking, she was exhausted and had settled down for a nap! We didn’t see where she came in and couldn’t find any broken fences.  Needless to say, Lily’s owner came over along with a cowboy to take her home. She wasn’t too happy being loaded into the stock trailer and taken home. I must admit that Tuesday morning, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her in our yard or pasture. However, she is now behind an eight foot tall wildlife fence. We’ll see if that can keep Lily the Jumping Cow at home!

On our horizon – working the cows for shots, treatments, pregnancy checking, and branding (of the new cows) AND weaning the three calves. Charlie and Jason will finish preparing the pens this weekend and everyone in the family is ready to come help with the cows and calves at the Wheeler Lazy J Ranch. Maybe when it dries out, I can finish planting the garden!

Time To Garden

20200328_115932It’s been almost a month since we moved the cows to the back pasture to give the front pasture time to rest, recuperate, and grow. And grow it did! With all of the rain, the grass was tall, green, and lush. The cows are enjoying grazing in the tall and tasty grass. They are also enjoying being closer to the house, so they can enjoy Kimmie’s Cow Candy at least once a day. Soon we’ll be ready to wean Joni, Stevie, and Annie. Those details to follow.

During this last week, I have found two bird nests on the back porch, a box turtle that Shadow pointed out to me, and a huge green frog hiding under a timber that I moved. I have worked on planting seeds for vegetables and transplanting seedlings that I started a month ago. Some of the plants are in the ground – cantaloupes, pumpkins, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, and watermelons. Others are in pots and large tubs that Charlie helped me move and fill with soil. I’m trying several varieties of lettuce this year, along with spinach, onions, carrots, and sweet peas. And last, but not least, sweet and jalapeno peppers. I’m hoping for lots of fresh salads and homemade salsa!

We’ve worked on the ‘front yard’ by adding walking stones for a walkway from the driveway to the front porch, added more roses to the front bed and rearranged the mums and calla lilies. The goal for this next week is to add stones to the front bed border. More grooming and “fixin’ up” coming soon!

Over the last couple of weeks, 20200328_120733we moved from hay pastures, to gardening, to cows and calves! Stay tuned to see what’s up next!

Grass Farmers

Sometimes ranchers consider themselves grass farmers. It’s important to have pastures that grow the best grass for your herd. Charlie and I have attended several classes on which grasses have the highest nutritional value for cattle. There is definitely a science behind forage – ask the Texas A&M Agrilife professors! Our focus this spring is on seeding and fertilizing our pastures so we will have the right forage for our cows. It’s also important to have enough grass for the cows as well as enough for baling for hay for future use.

Charlie and Jason moved the cows and calves to the back pasture several weeks ago to let the grass in the front pasture grow. With all of the rain we’ve had, the grass is really growing and getting green! It won’t be long until the cows can be moved to the front pasture to begin grazing. I can’t wait because I can walk out and feed them cubes whenever I want! Right now, they are a side by side ride away!

Several more things will happen when the cows move to the front pasture: they will be pregnancy checked and vaccinated, the three calves will be weaned, and Lily Cow will be escorted home!

 

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