Often times on the ranch, the work comes in waves. Most of the winter months are spent maintaining the herd, maintaining machinery, and dodging the weather. This year in particular has been quite busy.
Our initial source for our piglets had a really rough winter and all the piglets we had sourced and planned on for the 2023 year either got sick or didn’t make it at all. Its always a hard position to be in because on one hand, from one ag based business to the other, we pray for them in their time of trouble. On the other hand, their loss also affects us and the plans we had. Our USDA processor books out a year in advance, so piglets have to be born and received during a small window to meet the processing date. Any deviation to this schedule has a domino effect potentially leaving us with pigs but no processing date.
As we have said before, ranching is comprised of moves and counter moves. We had to move on from them as a source for our piglets and through lots of work and phone calls we were able to find another source. We are happy to say that those piglets are scheduled to arrive at the end of April, and will be ready for our customers come October. It never ceases to amaze us how plans can change in the blink of an eye. We have learned that one of the greatest tools a rancher can have is the ability to traverse through the chaos and to be able to roll with the punches and continue forward. Its hard to see fellow farmers and ranchers going through hard times. There are so few of us left, and it really makes a person think about how we as a country expect to grow and prosper when so much of our farmers and ranchers have to sell to survive. God has blessed us, and we thank Him every day for the ability to continue to do what we do.
The winter has been brutal. High winds have dominated the season along with record amounts of snowfall. At one point we were snowed in for ten days. Highways were closed and the main road into our house could not stay open. The more we moved the snow the more it filled in. As with most hard weather, afterwards is always a touch and go time for the livestock. We have to watch for pneumonia, and this year we have had a couple cases of water belly. We have explained this some in past blogs, but for those who may not know, water belly is essentially kidney stones that affect yearling steers. Managing for water belly comes down to minerals, and water. We always try to make sure our animals have adequate mineral supplements to give them the nutrients that are lacking during the winter, but when weather is bad and water is frozen or in this case buried under feet of blowing snow, the animals don’t always drink as much as they are supposed to.
This caused a couple of our steers to come down with water belly.
Warning signs for this condition include, lethargic movements, swishing the tail, looks of discomfort, and kicking at the belly. Sometimes the stone can pass, but more often then not, the animal needs emergency surgery to remove the stone. Luckily we were able to save both steers, and they are currently doing well back out with the herd. While dealing with the weather now is hard, and hard on the livestock, payoffs will come this spring when water tables and reservoirs are restored. It sure is nice to see so much moisture nourish the land.
The best and busiest time of year is coming upon us very soon. Our heifer mommas have been showing their pregnancy, and by the end of April they will start calving. This time of year is full of late nights, early mornings, and a rise in emotions. However, its all worth it to see the next generation of calves filling up the ranch. We will do our best to document this time and to keep you up to date on how things are going.
Stay tuned, and please keep all farmers and ranchers in your thoughts and prayers. It’s a hard life, often romanticized by T.V. and movies. However, for those of us lucky enough to be a part of it, we will continue to live the legend.
Until next time,
West Cattle Company