Sunday, December 29, 2013

The weather has been cold then warm then cold again.  Every little snowfall accumulates some more snow.  The wind blows and the snow drifts.  This is the third trail I have plowed with the tractor to get to where the cows are.

We have had warm weather lately and this trail has stayed open for almost a week.

The sheep shearer called and had kids home from school that needed something to do and asked if they could come and eye our ewes.  This is the process of shearing the wool away from the eyes of the sheep.  The wool grows long around the eyes and when is snows or ice accumulates in the wool the sheep can't see.
So we shear it off and they can see until it is shearing time to cut all the wool off.  This won't happen till mid-April.

So Tammy and I went up and set up a catch pen and alley to funnel the sheep into to catch chute.

Tammy is driving some steel posts and I am setting up a wool pack to hold the wool that is shorn off of the eyes.

Here the crew is working  shearing keeping the ewes going down the chute.  They sheared over five hundred head in four hours.  That is like a  sheep getting her eyes shorn and getting let out and the next one caught every 30 seconds.

After the job was done the finished product looked like this.

Tammy was trying out her new camera.  I told her don;t take a picture against the sun and she said her new camera could.  Here is a picture of the sunset on all the ice on the snow.  It is not water.

I just found this picture.  Before Christmas we went up into the Black Hills and cut a Christmas tree. The boys enjoyed the fun of cutting their own tree.

Brooke was in school that day and she told Grandma she liked her Black Hills tree.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Just a normal winter time.

We are starting to get a lot of snow out in the pastures.  A week ago we brought the sheep closer to the house so they were close if a blizzard came up quick.  The grazing was snowed under for them anyway, so we had started to feed them hay every day.  Every day we feed them thirteen buckets of cubes and two bales of hay.

The grazing for the cows is getting tough for them to get to.  The snow is getting a hard crust on the top part of the snow.  We feed them nine buckets of cubes on these cold mornings and I have been taking two bales of hay down to them every day.

The other day it had snow a couple more inches of snow.  The snow layed on the backs of the cows. The snow on the backs of cows shows that the cows have a covering of fat under the hide and it holds the body heat in the cow.  If she were thin and lacking fat cover the body heat would be lost out the hide and would melt the snow  off of their backs.

I led the cows with the load of hay down the hill to a more sheltered area to feed the hay.  The cattle strung out in a line all the way down the hill.

The weather stays cold and icy.  The temperatures hover below 0 every day and may get up to 10 degrees above  in the heat of the day.  The one morning it was 13 degrees when we got up and it had rained during the night. Unusual !  It left a coating of ice on everything.  Here is ice on the gate stick and loop.

Then one chilly afternoon Grandpa got roped into decorating cookies with the grand kids. Lots of fun was had by all.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

winter thaw

It has been a long week of sub-zero temperatures.  The cold snap came so quick that we were unprepared and had not treated our diesel fuel with additives to stop the fuel from gelling.  Then it seemed to want to snow everyday and the wind blow.  So every morning the trail to the sheep and cows had to be a new trail, because yesterdays trail had blown in over night.  Each time it blows in the snow blows in harder than it was.

Now it has warmed up and the tractors are running again and the fuel is treated so all is well.  The cows are enjoying the warmer weather.  Here the cows are lined up with their bodies flat to sun to catch the maximum amount of warmth from the rays of the sun.

The snow is fairly deep in places and places it has mostly blown clear.  The cows are still grazing through the snow.  They are still getting their 2 pounds of grain cake every day to supplement the dry grass.

Here they dig through the snow to get at the grass to graze.

Then the other day we turned out 29 head of Rambouillet bucks out with the ewes .  We should have plenty of buck power so now we should get white faced lambs next spring.  We started feeding the ewes some hay along with their grain cubes.  We need to keep them in breeding shape.

Last night I had to help Santa Claus a little.  I needed to stand in for him at the Atall school program.  There was quite a crowd of parents and grand-parents and other to watch.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

As I write this article it is minus 28 degrees.  We now have six to eight inches of snow on the ground.  A week ago it was sunny and 55 degrees.  That is an 83 degree swing in temperatures.   Such an abrupt change in temperature is hard on everything.  Man, beast and machinery.  Tractors had their diesel fuel treated for cold weather, but not this cold.  So they are balky to run, until we get more fuel additive in them.

With the cold weather coming we had started to feed cake to the cows to give them a little extra protein.

We dump buckets of cake on the ground out of a moving pickup and the cows come running to eat cake off of the ground.

Then we needed to turn the rams or bucks out with the ewes so we get some lambs next spring.  We decided this year to use a black faced buck on the ewes and to give the bucks a chance to breed some ewes we turned our four black faced bucks out by themselves first. They will be with the ewes for the first week then we will turn out about fifteen horned rams.

Here I have opened the trailer door and the bucks are looking out at the ewes and the ewes are curiously looking at what the trailer has brought them.  The guard dog "Opal" looks on to check out the newcomers.  She does not miss any thing that goes on.  The bucks will soon meet her approval and be accepted into the herd.

Then we had to put another bale in with the ewe lambs to fill their hay feeder.  I use my ugly tractor to put a bale into the feeder.

The lambs await their new bale so they can eat on it.

Well the outside temperature has now warmed up.  It is now only minus 20 degrees, so I guess I can go out and feed every thing.  At least the sun is shining and the wind is not blowing.  I will go the Rapid City today and pick up Tammy at the airport.  She has been in Minneapolis to a meeting most of the week.  These pictures were taken with her new camera so hope you can see the difference.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

early winter

Well Thanksgiving is here and we have much to be thankful for.  Our sheep our back out on pasture and the cows have been moved to their winter pasture.

The ewe lambs are weaned and in the corral.  We feed them some cubes every day and they have all finally figured out how to eat a cube.  They are getting tamed down and are not so scared of us as we walk through them.

We think the ewe lambs look really good but then we have somewhat of a bias.

We started feeding the ewes some cubes to give them some extra feed  before we turn the bucks out next week.   Here we are feeding cubes to the ewes on Thanksgiving morning.

Here is a video of feeding sheep

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Starting to get back to normal !

It has been a month since we dug out from the storm "Atlas".  We have had a chance to reflect on the effects of the storm.  We have seen the loss that some neighbors have suffered.  Tammy and I have attended several of the Community Gatherings that were sponsored by most of the state's agriculture groups.  It was a chance for the Federal government to show their programs and the South Dakota Department of Ag was there to show their concerns .  The Church groups were there along with the Red Cross.

We were fortunate enough to visit with Sec Micheal Scuse from Washington D.C. and South Dakota FSA Director Schaunamen  next to a cattle burial pit that was some lease ground of ours.

Toward the end of the month we were able to get the calves sold.  The prices have been good and the calf weights have been surprisingly heavy.

Here are the calves going through the ring at the sale barn in Philip.  This group of steers weighed 577 pounds.
Then a week later we got the sheep in and sorted off the lambs .  Here I am sorting through the lambs to see how they fit together as a group.  Taking out any lamb that might be too small or one that might have a limp or anything else.

Then we run them up the loading chute into the truck.

Then they were hauled the forty-five miles to Newell.  We were able to get about three hundred head on a cattle pot.  A cattle pot is short the extra deck that would be needed to haul more lambs.  Right now the trucks are busy hauling calves so they don't bother putting the deck in for one load of lambs.  Ryan and the neighbor finished hauling the rest of the lambs to Newell.

After the short haul then they were unloaded.

At Newell the lambs arrived the day before the sale and were run down the chute and sorted then run across the weigh scale and then penned for the sale the next day.

Here part of the lambs were held in the ring to be sold.  There was 356 lambs in this group that weighed 88 pounds.  Fortunately lambs were up $7 that day so they sold pretty good.

So now the cows have had their calved weaned and are in the winter pasture.  The ewes have had their lambs weaned and they are in their winter pasture.   A load of cake was delivered so we can start feeding supplement when ever we think it is necessary.  I have a few hay stacks left to move, but the weather needs to cooperate.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lost month

October of 2013 was a completely lost month.  The snow storm called "Atlas" happened on October 4 and 5.  We were out of electricity for almost a week.  The first week after the storm it seemed we spent collecting cattle.  Ever day we collected more cattle.  They could be neighbors cattle or your own, but more stragglers kept coming in.  Fortunately the weather stayed mild, but the sun never seemed to come out.  It just stayed cloudy.

Our neighbor to the west had is cattle drift onto our south pasture.  Since most of the fences were snowed under, some fences were under four or five feet of snow, I told him to leave them there as they were content to stay.  Our cattle had congregated on the alfalfa field along the creek around our house.  They spend part of the winter there so were completely content.

This was the scene out our bedroom window one morning.  The cows grazing on the lawn by the house.
A week after the storm it still hadn't froze, so the grass and trees were still green.

Then we started dragging dead cattle out of the pastures and creeks and road sides.  Over here most of our cattle were lost in deep snow as they tried to cross the deep snow in the deep draws.  Some made it to the creek and the snow covered them.  So we had to wait for snow to melt so we could find them.  Then 2" inches of rain fell and brought the creek up and flooded everything.  So then we had to wait for the water to go down and the ground to dry out enough that we could get out on the prairie and the fields.  The carcasses lay rotting in the water and nobody could get to them.  There was a lot of frustration due the constant waiting to do something.

The Meade county emergency management called and asked if they could make a burial pit on a school section that we lease.  The county came in and dug a pit to put 350 head in and if they needed more room they would dig another pit right next to it.  The day the pit was dug we hauled about fifty head to it. About twenty head were neighbor's cattle that were laying on the school section.  Then we hauled from our fields and road sides to get the rest.

Last Monday Mr Micheal Scuse an under-Secretary in USDA that oversees FSA and NRCS came to Union Center and we were among those that met with him then we led him up to the pit on our school lease.  Also Mr.Craig Schaunamen , director of the state FSA was along.  The pit is filling fast.  The ground is drying enough that people can finally get out and haul big loads of cattle across the prairies.

Last Thursday over here at Fairpoint we finally were able to drag cattle out of the creek.  We had a big  crew and good equipment that we had access to so we drug and buried close to two hundred head.  A lot of them were scattered along the creek.  One group of around sixty head was stuck in a bend in the creek below a steep bank.  They must have stumbled over the bank and down into the creek and the deep snow and succumbed.

Suddenly half the month was gone.  All we had gotten done was gather cattle. Sort cattle.  Drag dead cattle and dig holes to bury cattle.  The City of Strugis and  most of the business came to Union Center Community Center and cooked steaks for the surrounding community.  They served steaks for several hours and fed over 600 people. Many people came one hundred miles to the event.  The Governor and Sec. of Agriculture from Pierre were even in attendance.

This last week we have been able to direct our attention to the living.  We sold steer calves in Philip on Tuesday.  They had one of the biggest sales they have had in a few years.  Finally ranchers could get their cattle out on to sale barn to get sold.  Next Saturday we will sell the rest of our calves that we run over here at Fairpoint.  Then we hope to sell lambs the next week.  The lamb market has been one bright spot.  We were going to sell lambs early in October, the price would have been around $1.45 per pound.  Now lambs are bringing over $2 per pound.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The snow storm "Atlas"

The last week has been unprecedented to say the least. Last Thursday with a reported storm coming I moved lots of hay stacks to get them moved before it got too wet to drive on the fields.  That evening it was starting to rain.  We went out and got the sheep brought into the corral just in case it was a bad storm.  Most storms this early in the year are just rain events with a few inches of snow that comes at night when it gets cold.  The cows and calves are still out in the summer range as we are three weeks away from selling calves.  The grass is green from all the fall moisture and weather is mild.

It rained all that night.  In the morning we had 1.50" of rain.  Every thing was soaking wet.  It started to snow about eight in the morning. It snowed all day and accumulated maybe 3-4 inches.  The Black Hills were getting more snow, but they always do.  The electricity went out about 10 AM that Friday.  The wind was picking up.   Tammy went out to look at her sheep.  They were a little wet , but not too uncomfortable.  The temperature stayed at 32 degrees all day and into the night.

That night the storm "Atlas" raised its ugly head and bore down on western South Dakota.  When it was over on Saturday over four feet of snow had fallen in the Black Hills and several feet on the plains were we live.  There were snow banks over six feet deep just in our yard.  We put the sheep in the barn to get them dried out.  As it continued to have snow flurries in the morning.

We started to pick our way around the snow banks.  We had not gone very far when we saw our first dead cow.  It wasn't ours so we felt lucky.  We continued our journey north and started seeing isolated bunches of cattle in the distance.  A lot of them we couldn't get to, the snow was simply too deep.  The sun came out and the temperature rose to the mid- 50's.

We got to the north ridge and started seeing some of our cows.  We broke a track to them and started them down to the creek by the house.  Then we went back up north and found some more and headed them down to the creek by the house.  All day Sunday we collected cows and calves and yearlings.  We started seeing more and more dead ones, some of ours and some of the neighbors.

Here is a bunch of cattle that we gathered.  There are at least four owners and maybe five represented in this bunch.  When we got them down to the creek and the alfalfa bottoms they went to grazing.  We tried to feed them hay but the grazing was too good and they just passed up the hay.  We will sort out the cattle to the different owners when the weather and conditions have improved.

I will spare the readers of this blog the gruesome pictures of dead cattle.  Anyone who has traveled the roads in western South Dakota has seen the sight many times over.  Facebook post are full of pictures.  We lost our share of cows and calves.  One bunch of cows had really no loss.  Our yearling heifers have survived the storm for the most part.  The way things are mixed up it is hard to get a good count.  The bulls over at Ryan's had not much shelter from the storm and all come through, although they were scattered.

The snow was deep in the corrals close to the barn.  We started cleaning out the snow so that the ground could dry.  We still have lambs to sell and calves to sell and cattle to sort.

The REA got the electricity turned on late Thursday afternoon.  We had gone almost a full week without electricity.  What we missed the most was news and weather on the television.  We also missed our internet.
Also you get tired of camp food after a while.  Beans and spam. Actually we eat better than that.  We have three Coleman lanterns so we have good light.  After a while you have read everything you care to read.

Now today it has decided to rain and the wind blow sixty mile an hour.  So the creek was flowing bank full the last few days and now with the rain it is flooding.

This is the lilacs next to the house to the west.  The creek has flooded all the way across the alfalfa field.

The guy from Black Hills Power and Light was on the noon news on TV and said that this storm was the biggest most costly event in their 134 year history.  Some neighbors of ours will not get electricity till into next week.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tammy and I went on a fly-in to Washington DC sponsored by South Dakota Farmers Union.  There were about thirty people from South Dakota and around three hundred Farmers Union members from across the country on the fly-in.  We attended briefings on the current status of the Farm Bill.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed our group one morning.  We broke up into small groups and went around visiting the offices of many Senators and Congressmen.

As we flew home Wednesday evening through Denver we got a view of the flooding east of Denver.  We flew through a rain storm on the way to Rapid City.  It was a rough ride for a bit, but we made it safely.  The next morning I went out and started baling sorghum.  The bales were really thick.  Four bales an acre.

All the haying we had done this summer we got about one bale an acre.  Once the sorghum was baled I moved to the millet and baled that field. Then I went up and stacked the bales into hay stacks to be moved with the stackmover.  I started moving stacks from Ryan's to over here.  A fifteen mile trip one way that take about two hours to complete.

Last April I got seven baby chicks.  I have taken care of them all summer.  They have just started laying eggs.  I had been checking the nests every day thinking there would be a surprise one morning and about two weeks ago I got my first surprise.

Now there are about five hens laying eggs every day.  It is kind of fun to gather eggs, but we need to find someone to help us eat all these eggs.  Tammy and I can only eat so many eggs.

Here is what was waiting one morning after we had gathered early one day and later the next day.  So more than 24 hours had elapsed.

Yesterday we started vaccinating the calves with their fall shots.  We brought the cows home from up north and sorted off the calves to give the shots.  We then sorted off the bulls and hauled them to Ryan's.

Here the calves await their turn at getting a shot.  We purchased some cows last year so that is where we got the Charlois calves. These calve for the most part are April and May born.  With the late summer rains and the pastures greening up they are sure doing good.

After we were done working the calves we headed back to the pasture.  They stopped for a cool drink of water on the way back.  The wind was blowing forty miles and hour making the ripples in the water.  The water was a nice clear blue color making a nice picture.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

We spent  the last of the week in Huron at the South Dakota State Fair.  It was over 100 degrees on Thursday.  I watched the Red Angus show that afternoon.  It was hot for the animals but the fans in the beef barn kept the air moving.  Tammy went to help serve lamb spread on a cracker.   The Governor of South Dakota Dennis Daugard stopped by to eat lamb on a cracker and liked it.

Saturday I helped the South Dakota Farmers Union serve a noon meal in a tent on the fair grounds.  We served around 1300 people, for a free will offering going to Make A Wish.  Tammy helped with the beef cook-off. We got home Saturday night and discovered that Peaches our dog had gotten into a porcupine.  She had about fifteen quills in her muzzle.  We tried to hold her down and managed to get 9 quills out, but couldn't get the rest out.  So we took her to a vet on Sunday.

I started cutting sorghum on Monday.  It has grown up quite tall.

The cutting was kind of slow going.  I did get all forty acres done in one day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Amazing growth

I have been wanting to get these two pictures on the same page.  The rain we have had in the last three weeks has been phenomenal.  The end of July we were thinking about calling the crop adjuster.  This was my forage sorghum before the rains.

Then we had five inches of rain over a three week period.  It has made haying a little difficult.  The hay won't dry out so it can be baled.  We now get a look at what eastern South Dakota producers put up with for their haying.  The high humidity and dewy mornings.  This is my sorghum field now.

Pretty amazing.  The growth in three weeks.

We have been pulling bulls out of the pastures.  This way we have an end date for calving next spring.

I cut some second crop alfalfa here on the creek last week.  It was some of the best alfalfa I have ever cut.  I am still waiting for the hay to dry out.  I turned it over with the rake this afternoon to help it dry out some.

We will be going to the State Fair this coming week.  Hope to get the alfalfa square baled and in the barn before we go.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It has been nine days since the last blog and we have had over two inches of rain.  This unsettled weather pattern just keeps us cloudy and foggy in the mornings.  It doesn't get  but about 80 degrees during the day and rains somewhere in the afternoon or evening.

The Sturgis motorcycle rally is over.  I guess they had a big crowd.  I haven't been to Sturgis in three weeks, so I don't know much what goes on.  The stop signs and traffic lights in Sturgis every block is too much for me to handle.  Tammy went to help the Cattlewomen promote beef west of Belle Fouche on the Wednesday of the Rally and went through Sturgis early and it took her 30 minutes to get through.

This is me standing in my field of sorghum before the rains started.  This is about as good as it was anywhere in the field.  I was thinking of calling the insurance adjuster to come and look before I turned the sheep in,
Now the sorghum has grown to about waist high and is a lush green.

I did manage to cut some hay and bale some little square bales.  Then the next day we loaded the bales on Ryan's trailer and unloaded the bales in the barn so they will be dry and ready to feed next calving season when we have cows in the barn.

This is me picking up little square bales with the hay head on the loader to gather them and bring them to the trailer where Ryan and Tammy stack them. The video is running at fast speed.  I don't go this fast.  Here I dump the bales on the load.

We ended up with about 180 bales in the barn.  This is Ryan holding his bale hook at the ready for the next load of bales coming in.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What a little rain won't do.

At the last blog we were worrying about starting a fire when we were haying.  A sickle section or guard striking a rock could cause a spark and ignite a fire.  With a strong wind blowing this could devastate the prairie in a few minutes.  A neighbor had this happen next to our pasture.  The fire burnt about fifteen posts.

Since this photo it has started to rain.  It is an unusual time for us to have a rainy spell, but we welcome rain at any time.  In the last ten days we have had 4.81' of rain.  The first rain ten days ago was 2.36".  It filled the cracks in the ground and softened the soil in the bottoms of the dry creek beds.  According to radar more rain fell just north of us by the second day the creek had risen.  

Tammy and I went out to check the cows that were enjoying the softened grass and the cooler temperatures.

On the way back we crossed Softwater creek and saw that it was running.  Kind of strange for this time of year.

During the cooler weather Ryan came over and we got the bulls out of the pasture with the yearling heifers.  That way the heifers will calve for only sixty days and be done.  The bulls were not impressed that they had to leave their heifers.  With a little trouble we finally got them out.

The cooler damp weather had put a stop to our hay making.  We have been stacking bales.  Then we took apart our square baler to fix the plunger and adjust the clearances.  We had to order some bushings so it is down for a few days.  With the additional rain at this time we could get a lot of second crop alfalfa.  We like to put this second crop up in little square bales for ease of handling in the barns.

I wanted to include a picture of how much my sorghum field has improved with the recent  rain, but with another 1.53" of rain last night this is what is greeting us this morning.

This is how the creek looked from our front yard of the house.  The creek was bone dry two weeks ago and now it has been bank full twice in the last ten days.  I may make it up to the sorghum field and get a picture this afternoon.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Busy haying

We have been busy haying since the 20th of June.  It has been pretty steady.  The hay crop is pretty short, but better than last year.  I run the hydroswing that cuts and windrows the hay in one pass.

Tammy has been raking most everything together.  She rolls two windrows together to make one.  Then the baler has to make only on trip down the field to bale two windrows.

I figured up the bale counts for the last three years over here at Fairpoint.  2011 was an exceptional year for hay.  We baled 619 bales in 2011.  Last year 2012 was one of the poorest hay years and we baled 61 bales.  This year we have baled 139 with a chance at baling some sorghum later.

My sorghum crop looked pretty bleak a day ago.  Here I am out admiring it.

But last night we had 2.30" of rain.  So hopefully this rain will perk it up.

Earlier in the month the yucca plants were really pretty.  They were in full bloom on the hillside up by the mail box.

For those of you who haven't seen a yucca plant up close here is a picture.  The leaves are actually spines, like a long knitting needle.

We will keep you posted on the progress of our sorghum crop with the recent rain.  We should be about done haying by early next week.