What's Happening on the Ranch? - 5/16/2023
What's Happening on the Ranch?
May 16th, 2023
Life on a ranch this time of the year is always either super busy or super slow. There is no in between because there are a million things to do but the weather isn't always in a cooperative mood. We are busy cutting and baling silage hay and preparing our other two hay fields for summer dry hay. Of course all of the animals need looking after too. That particular chore never stops no matter how busy everything else is. This week we have received lots of rain. It is a blessing because we have spent the last three years in drought conditions, but this has been a cool and wet spring comparatively. We are finally out of drought conditions and have mud everywhere!
Silage Hay Production
What is silage hay? This is grass that we cut and bale while it is still green instead of letting it dry down to make what most think of as hay. These bales are then wrapped with a durable plastic wrap that prevents any air from getting into the bale. This allows for the grasses to ensile, or start the fermentation that will turn it into silage. Silage is a fermented fodder feed. Silage has been used for a very long time as a high quality feedstuff for ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc). The fermentation of the grasses reduces the nutrient loss that takes place during the hay drying process and also makes the nutrients more readily available to our cattle. It is essentially the closest we can get to providing our animals with green growing grass during the lean times in the late summer or late winter. Since we have started producing silage hay our animals maintain their condition much better during these months, calving is easier on our momma cows, and our steers are able to finish easier during months that we don't have ideal forage. Needless to say it has been a real game changer for our ranch.
We always like to use the highest quality forage we can for our silage hay every year. This forage is at it's peak nutrient density right now while the spring grasses (rye, millet, side oats, and oats) are in their boot stage. This is when the seed head has started forming but the seed is not mature. The nutrient value will only decrease as the seed head matures and the nutrients are transferred to the seed instead of contained within the plant. This year has been an exceptional year for our spring grasses, and we have as beautiful of a stand of silage ready grasses as we have ever had. Our silage this year should be outstanding!
What's happening in the pastures?
This time of the year is all about growing calves and bulls visiting with the cows. Our calves are now between 2 and 4 months old and growing like weeds. This year we have a great set of calves and it is shaping up to be a year of lots of bull calves. That is always fine with us; a good strong group of young bulls means we will have plenty of beef in a couple of years for our customers. Only about 1-2% of bulls born in a herd a year meet the standards to stay a bull and sire offspring. We have identified two ... maybe three ... out of over 50 calves that are prospects for keeping as a herd sire. We are strict about what makes for a good herd sire. This allows us to keep our herd improving in both efficiency and quality.
Bulls are out romancing the girls. And when I mean romancing I mean just that. These bulls have to work to impress the cows. The bulls spend their time doing all the flirty things that cows find attractive. This includes ... bellowing, pawing ruts in the ground, rubbing their foreheads on the ground or on trees, grunting at pretty cows, grazing side by side, sniffing, and scratching any itchy places a cow may have. This behavior may seem strange to us but it is the way cattle show they care and impress their mates. Our cows really make the bulls work for their affections.
What are the ranchers up to when not working?
Larry has started a new flock of chickens! He now has a small flock of American Bresse chickens. These birds are supposed to be an efficient dual purpose breed with very high quality meat. They are currently 1 week out of the brooder and thriving. Hopefully they will continue to grow and develop into a great flock.
Lynn is growing out four Idaho Pasture Pigs as part of an experiment on how pigs will fit into our production system. She would like to start producing seasonally available pork. The pigs are doing well and so far have proven to be a low hassle addition to the ranch. Be on the lookout in October or November if all goes well for an offering on pork!
Kim and Lynn have both started little home gardens this year. Our family loves fresh vegetables and we are looking forward to harvest time later this year.
If you are interested in keeping up with the day to day here on the ranch check out Lynn and Larry's TikTok Channels! Lynn is @mesquitecountry and Larry is @larrywatkins315. If you have anything you would like to see here or on our social media please reach out through email to email@example.com.
Until next week friends!