It is not lost on us here at West Cattle Company that we have not been keeping everyone up to date on the happenings of the ranch as much as we would like to. That being said, we will do our best to catch you all up on what has happened this summer.
It’s a busy time on the ranch. The end of June brought about the end of calving season. Calves are vaccinated, branded, and turned out with their moms to larger pastures where they will spend the next 4-5 months growing and living their best life. Our later calving schedule does not allow for much time in between calving and haying, so the beginning of July brought about haying season.
Our lack of summer moisture negatively affected our hay crop this year producing approximately fifty percent less than normal. While this is not optimal, that is just one more variable that cannot be controlled in this lifestyle that has to be managed for. Ranching is about moves and countermoves. You plan for one thing and if weather or market changes occur, you have to change the plan and accommodate for that change. Nothing is consistent when it comes to livestock and nature. It does not matter how much planning you put into the year, there will always be things that come up that can not be controlled, but must be managed.
Around the same time of year that we begin haying, we also have to prepare our yearling heifer calves to be Artificially Inseminated (AI). These are the calves that have been selected to go back into the herd and it is their first time getting pregnant. Not all of our cows are AI’d, however for their first calf, we like to match them with specific genetics to give them an upper hand when calving. It’s a multiple step process that begins by getting the group on the same cycle, and ending with them individually manually bred immediately upon entering heat. The hope is to get the group of heifers bred up around the same exact time, which we call synchronized. This should help us come the spring when they begin calving. There should not be a large gap from one heifer to the other. More calves per day equals less total days of calving, reducing labor and effort. The heifers that don’t breed up via artificial insemination are introduced to a specifically selected bull for what we call “clean up” breeding. The overall goal is always to get them bred.
Calving season brought us three orphan calves this year. Sometimes you do not end up with lonely calves and sometimes you have one or two. Three is uncommon but we have been happily bottle feeding them to make sure they keep their health up. Our first calf Minnie was not getting enough milk from her mom, therefore it was necessary to remove her from her mother so we could provide her with the nutrition required to live. The other two calves (Daisy and Goofy) were twins that had been abandoned by their mother. This is typical of cattle who birth twins. The quickest calf to get up and nurse usually is accepted by the mother. The other is left behind to fend for themselves. Rarely does the mother care for both, and even in those instances, once they are moved from one pasture to the next, the unclaimed calf usually must be brought in to be taken care of. If you were wondering who was in charge of naming the calves, that job was given to our 5-year-old daughter, hence the Disney names.
August is usually the month for catch up. Haying is finished when all the bales are removed from the pasture and placed into the haystack where they will be stored for winter use. At that point our equipment is prepped to be stored for winter. Maintenance is done on tractors, bailers, and mowers so that when haying season begins next year, they are ready to go. Our calves born just a couple months ago are videotaped and auctioned off via a video sale. This year our calves were sold with an anticipated shipping date in early November. Also this time of year is for catching up on fencelines that need maintained and repaired. It's also our best window to take a break and try to catch our breath.
September picks back up in terms of work and scheduling. Our calves must be prepped for shipping in a process called “pre-conditioning”. This is when every single calf is run through our coral and given the booster vaccination of what was provided to them at branding. This helps keep them healthy going into the winter months and on the trucks when shipped. While busy, we always want to take time to be with family. Our annual Labor Day party was packed full of family, friends, West Cattle Company beef, and horse rides! We also took time to visit family in Ohio where the kids enjoyed time running around the Columbus Zoo, bouncing at the trampoline park, picking apples, and riding bicycles on pavement! Ohio is always fun and relaxing and it is a great opportunity to show our kids how many other people live and all the possibilities there are in this world. Its also good for Brandon too!
West Cattle Company has had a very successful year at the farmers markets where we have been able to reach out to many more customers and meet new friends. The best part of this job is to meet people from all over who are seeking out high quality humanely raised beef. To bring a smile on their face is a feeling that can not be matched. We are going to continue to grow this business to the best of our ability and will continue to provide glimpses into our lives here at the ranch. If you want more updates in real time, we invite you to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. God bless. Until next time, Live the legend!
West Cattle Company