Saturday, March 12, 2011

Morning Symphony

While checking the heifers this morning at sun up, I was struck by the Symphony of Nature in the Good Lord's Surround Sound that I was blessed to hear. While I'm sure I've heard it many times before, I was especially pleased to hear it today. It went something like this....

As I walked to the lot from the south I could hear the constant stomping of the prairie chickens to the north. Their background for the symphony is what I would call a low pitched sound like "ah-ooooh, ah-ooooh" with an occasional high pitched "he-HEE, he-HEEE, he-HEE" thrown in. An occasional chirp or twitter from little tree birds is thrown in at various times from all directions. From the west comes in a gobble from one of the seven tom turkeys that live behind Dad's barn, followed closely by a big round of gobbling from the other six. This seems to almost cue the coyotes to the northwest. Starting first as a distant howl from one dog and then the rest of the pack joining in almost as if trying to outdo each other with their yips and barks and a little howling. Then.....almost complete silence as if everything is counting their "rest" just like in a music score. After a few seconds, back comes in the prairie chickens "ah-OOOOH, ah-OOOOH" and so on.

Sometimes, it seems we are so busy with "life" that we fail to acknowledge all the wonderful things God has put on this earth for us to enjoy. Just like my morning symphony, which I have probably heard thousands of times, but never took the time to really listen and enjoy it until today. God wants us to be happy and while I realize it takes different things to please different kinds of people, I believe there is always something that we can take the time to enjoy and be blessed by if we choose..... A child's laugh, a dog wagging its' tail happily to greet us, the warmth of the sunshine on our face, the smell of the air after a rain..... Whatever of God's creations it might be that could bring you joy, try to take a few minutes and allow yourself to find it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Full Circle

Once again my world has come full circle. A year ago at this time, we had selected the heifers we would keep for cows and purchased the bulls we would put with those heifers. Now those heifers are starting to calve. So now I have the opportunity to see whether or not I made the right decisions a year ago.

There are only three calves on the ground just yet. Three very fine, strong, healthy bull calves. Their mothers are making fine cows, being good mothers and spitting their babies out like they'd done it all their lives, protecting the calves from predators (like Lily, my Boston Terrier) and keeping them safe.

This is one of the things I love most about ranching. I have the opportunity to breed good cattle. It's a good feeling when I realize my homework paid off. When I see that the time I spent pouring over EPD's (estimated progeny difference) in the bull books is bringing forth the genetic traits I want in the next generation of calves, when I see the time and money spent is paying off.

To me it's not really about the money. I wish ranching didn't have to be about marketing and strategizing. I would much rather raise good cattle and have the satisfaction in knowing I'm doing that, but unfortunately, it IS about money. Everything costs an arm and a leg (and maybe a couple other body parts too) so I have to work to make our cattle competitive in the marketplace. And a big part of that comes down to genetics.

Not long after I was born, my dad stopped buying females for his cattle herd. That is called "closing the herd". The only outside genetics that comes into our herd now is from the bulls we purchase, so that is the only place for change. There's no law that says we have to stay closed, but I kind of like knowing what we already have and building on that. Dad did a lot of good things with the cows he raised and I have been trying to improve upon that for the last twenty years or so, since I came home from college and he started letting me choose the bulls. I'm proud of what we've accomplished with the last crop of calves that were born in 2010. I'm working toward more efficient calves, both steers and heifers, that will gain better on less feed, making them more desirable for a buyer and for me when I keep heifers to breed for the next generation.

So now, we have already chosen the heifers we will keep for next year. I'm proud of the crop of replacements we have and think they will be a great asset to our herd. I've purchased several new bulls that will be turned out with the cows come June. Again, I think they will do some good things for next years' calf crop. But it's a wait and see thing. I'll let you know how I did come this time next year.