Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sheep and shearing

Last week we finished number branding Ryan's heifers.  The weather has been really nice for January.  It is cold for a couple of days then warms up into the fifty degrees.  The day we did these heifers it was nice but a little windy.  Here some of the heifers await their turn in the chute.

The one day it snowed all day with light fluffy snow.  By the end of the day we had almost 4 inches of snow and by morning it had settled down to about an inch.

Then our attention turned to the governmental scene.  Last summer our Congressional delegation visited the Belle Fouche area and we were there to help tell the story of the unexplained drop in the sheep market.  When the staffers got back to Washington the Senators and Congresswoman called for an investigation into the drop in the sheep market.  They along with other Senators and Congressmen from the region were able to have GIPSA (Grain Inspection/Packers and Stockyard Administration) start and investigation.

The GIPSA people from Denver came to Ft. Pierre to have a hearing.  They gave those in attendance an overview of what they could do and could not do.  They told of the procedure and what their investigation would entail.

The crowd was not large but the players were prominent in the South Dakota sheep scene.  There were several lamb feeders that sell to the packer and some from the auction barns and several lamb producers.

The testimony was given individually in private, and took most of the afternoon till after five PM.  The meeting was held in the Casey Tibbs Center in Ft. Pierre.  So as we were waiting for our turn to testify we could browse the interesting exhibits.  There is really a lot to look at and would be well worth your time if you are interested in rodeo.

Then Sunday at the Black Hills Stock Show the National Sheep Shearing contest was held.  I believe they said there were over fifty shearers taking part.  There was a junior division and intermediate and professional division.  The winner of the professional division can go on to represent the United States at the world Shearing contest to be held in Ireland next year.

Here they are getting ready to start on of the preliminary heats.  They were shearing 3 to 4 head in early rounds.  The professional division had eight finalists that had to shear 10 head.  I don't remember the fast times but they averaged about 1:15 per head for ten head.

Here is the guy that runs the sheep shearing crew that shears our sheep in the championship round.   He didn't win but was one of the faster times.  There were shearers from New Mexico, Wisconsin, Canada, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.  As well as many from the surrounding states.  They had three shear sheep with the hand blades in a contest.  The guy that won that contest was 67 years old and  had come from Massachusetts.  There were three young ladies in the contest.  One in the beginner and two in the intermediate division.  A nice crowd stayed around for most of the day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Number branding heifers

Last week we number branded our coming first calf heifers.  I got started doing this in about 1982.  I was having trouble identifying cows that lost their ear tags.  In needed to know their number for record keeping.  Then I had to rope or get them in a head-catch to read the tattoo number in their ear.  Once I started number branding I could always read the hip brand number.

Here is some of the heifers awaiting their turn in the chute and being branded.  I have a bunch of black heifers.  We had bought some cows a couple of years ago and they had some black calves.  I kept them as I needed more numbers and this is a way to do it.

 Here is a heifer in the chute and ready for her turn at a number brand.

As you can see the irons are hot.  They brand much easier when the irons are hot.  We read the tattoo and see that is the same one as the ear tag.  Then brand the same number as the ear tattoo.

As you can see the smoke gets thick.  When the wind doesn't blow much the smoke hangs.  We have four numbers to put on each heifer.  The first number is the year they were born.    They were born in 2011, so the first digit is a one.  In 1981 the numbers were like 100's then in 1991 were had to use 1000's and 1100's.  Then in 2001 we used the 1200's so now we have worked up to the 1300's

Here is a good brand of 1361.

Then the snow storm was predicted.  The weatherman was predicting 4-6 inches of snow and 45 MPH wind and falling temperatures.  So when a snow storm is predicted we get the sheep in the lot close so that they don't drift into a fence corner and cover over in a blizzard.  Sheep have their heavy coats of wool and just lay down and let the wind blow.  They all bed down in a close group and if the blizzard is bad enough they let themselves cover over with snow.  We bring them in close to the barn for shelter.

It was really nice that evening and the sheep didn't want to come in.  We didn't have much snow as it had been like 50 degrees that day.

We didn't get much snow just wind and colder temperatures.  Here I am feeding the sheep in the lower lot.  I fed them about three bales of hay for the day.  Tammy opened the gate so the sheep could go and eat.

They spent the day in the lot and ate hay.  The next morning we let them back into the pasture.  I started feeding the cows in this cold weather.  Their grazing has about run out, so giving them some hay  was a good idea.  Right now they are content with about a half a feed of hay every day and they go out and graze the rest of the day.  The other morning the cows weren't even coming for their cake.  So I said they get no more.  The rest of the cake will be fed as they get closer to calving.  With the high price of cake there is no use to feed it if they don't want it.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 rainfall totals

I was looking through my book that I carry in pocket, to write all the stuff I need to remember.  I was looking and rainfall totals.  I wanted to add up all the rainfall totals to see how much rain we had had during the year.
January - none.
February - none
March  -  0.11"
April  -   five different rains that totaled  1.89"
May -  three rains  for  2.14"
June -  six rains for  1.43"
July  - four rains-  2.51"  late in month, didn't do much good
August - one rain  0.27"
September - none
October - one rain at 0.30"
November - none
December - about five inches of snow for 0.20"

All totaled about 8.85" for the year.  I think our annual total is somewhere around 14-16 inches per year.

It has been so dry on the "gumbo" that there has been no antelope for antelope season.  No deer for deer season.  No coyotes for coyote hunting.  I saw the first coyote two week ago.  Then I started carrying a rifle.
This morning while we were out caking the cows Tammy saw a coyote way down the draw.  Then we got to watching and saw another and then another all slipping down the draw.  I said tomorrow I will have to bring my longer range rifle.

Just had a call from KOTA radio wanting to have the name of someone who raises winter wheat.  He was wondering about the concern of lack of snow cover for the winter wheat crop.  I give him a couple names.  We do not raise winter wheat.  But the concern of lack of snow cover is very real.  Alfalfa is susceptible to lack of snow cover.  Also the lack of moisture in the ground is a concern.  The wind can suck the moisture out of the ground with the low winter humidity levels.

Now that the holiday season is over, we are starting to look at going back to work.  We need to number brand the first calf heifers.  Then get the sheep in and clip the wool from their eyes.  Then finish putting the loader on the Belrus tractor.  The weather will be nice for most of the upcoming week.