As summer turned to Fall and Fall into Winter, we had a long list of jobs we wanted to do here on the Wheeler Ranch. Paint the chicken coop, paint the porches, paint the pipe fence – do you see a pattern here? Projects that began in the summer needed time to let the wood cure. Unfortunately, between rain and football games, no painting happened in the Fall. Winter arrived with more rain and painting was once again delayed. Spring is around the corner now and, while our list of tasks keeps growing, we’re looking forward to warmer and drier temperatures and being able to work outside. There are a few daily tasks to keep us busy including checking on the herd, feeding them, and surveying the pastures. Tuesdays include a trip into town for Charlie to go to the Sale Barn to look at the cows and calves.
Something exciting brightened our dreary winter days in January – our first calf was born. We weren’t certain if our heifers had been bred during their time with the black Brangus bulls. Since this is all new to us, we relied on books, the Internet, and experienced cattle raisers to help us learn all we could about cows and calving. Charlie and I suspected that one of the heifers was getting close to a delivery date but expected it to be a couple of weeks away. The way that she walked across the pasture reminded me of what it felt like to be nine months pregnant! One morning, Charlie went out for his morning check of the pastures and “the ladies” but quickly came back to pick me up. As he headed up the hill, he had noticed one of the heifers standing off by herself and, as he drove closer, he saw a little fuzzy black bundle on the ground beside her.
Although, I’ve been better about not naming our herd, I knew the first calf needed to be named! What better name than Genesis! This calf was officially the beginning of our cow-calf operation! We have watched her grow, play, and interact with the other cows in the herd. She was born a deep shade of black, but seems to have a tinge of red on the tip of her coat. We suspect that several other calves are on the way. It would be nice to have playmates for Genesis. She and Shadow are curious about each other but have yet to get too close to each other. It has been very interesting to watch how the cows and heifers in the herd have reacted to the new mommy and her calf. If they sense danger, they will circle around her. Some of them will groom her. As Genesis has grown, she seems comfortable snuggling up to the other cows. She quickly learned who we are and that we bring the hay and mineral cubes either to the fence or with the side by side. She loves to run around the hay bales and then jump head first into the hay bale!
Just a few more photos of Genesis from Day 1 to a few days ago.
Charlie and I are looking forward to what the upcoming months hold in store for us here on the Wheeler Country Road.
The last six months have been like a whirlwind for us. The last post on this blog was of our weekend long celebration of being landowners for one year. Since then Charlie and I have participated in several learning experiences to prepare us for a cattle business. We attended the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course first. This week of courses is said to be the “largest cattle educational event in the country.” There were over 1600 cattle producers there. Notice that we are “cattle producers” rather than just ranchers. The focus of the short course this year was the role that export markets play for cow-calf producers. That’s our plan – producing calves!We attended sessions on beef cattle management (health, nutrition, genetics, reproduction), ranch management, and forage management (that’s anything plant related.)
There were both classroom sessions and demonstrations. We chose to watch chute-side calf working, cattle handling (the safe way), beef carcass value determination, branding, and castration. (Yes, castration!) I figure that I need to know what is going to happen with our cows every step of the way. We’re already making plans to return to TAMU to attend the 2018 Beef Cattle Short Course.
Our next learning adventure began on a foggy morning. Charlie, Jason, and I attend the Cow Country Congress at the Santa Rosa Ranch in Crockett. Global trade impact on the cattle market was the main topic. Other topics included herbicide and forage management, strategies for winter feeding and bull selection. There were several demonstrations at this event also. We were able to participate in several bull selection activities. All of the participants went to the bullpens where the bulls were being herded into a chute being prepared for the selection viewing. The young bulls were not very patient with being herded into a narrow chute and being told to wait. There was a lot of pushing, shoving and bucking! One of the bulls was determined to climb out of the chute and had his front legs over the top of the pipe fence which was about 10 feet high. We felt a bit uneasy since we were standing inside the pen next to the chute! After that excitement, we were ready for testing our bull selection skills. Two bulls were released at a time into the selection pen. Using a reference page, we looked at their genetic background along with physical attributes. All of the young Black Angus bulls were very handsome but some of them did not appreciate being on display. There was just a single pipe fence between us and them and some were pretty aggressive. Even the speakers from Texas A&M at one point pinned themselves against the wall of the barn trying to stay out of the way! Such pretty and power! We met outside under a large tent which was a little warm with the unusual weather we faced during the Fall. It was fun watching the cook team preparing our lunch (rib eye steaks) and dinner (fajitas) all day at the outdoor kitchen.
There are so many resources out there and so much for Charlie and I to learn. We’ve both completed our BQA certifications (Beef Quality Assurance) both for Texas and at the National level. Charlie is currently enrolled in a pesticide course to prepare him for the state license test. He needs this license to be able to purchase pesticides and chemicals for our property and livestock. I’m working on finding resources to help with growing plants. I’m looking at raised bed gardening right now and what types of plants that I want to grow. We have quite a few pecan trees on the property and I need to learn more about how to take care of them. There is an East Texas Fruit and Vegetable Conference at the end of February but we may be in the midst of preparing to move to the property.
More on our preparations for setting up our new home in the next post…