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  (Fort Walton Beach, Florida)
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Big Daddy

This year's calving season is running later than usual.  Most of the time, all our babies have arrived before the leaves start to turn.  We bred back more heifers this year though, which makes for a less predictable calving schedule as the young mothers do not re-impregnate as readily after calving.

 There are several things we could do to make this less of an issue.  We could more carefully insert and remove the bull so that we would have a more specific idea of when our cows conceive.  We could also remove the calves sooner from their mothers.  With the market so far off productive this year though, we have actually been just as happy not to have the females breed back, so thus far we have kept our herd all together in one pasture- bull, cows, yearling calves, and now new babies.

This has given us the chance to see what natural herd behavior looks like.  We find our big herd sire- Time Bandit runs a tight ship.  While there is plenty of horsing around and rough-housing, there is no fighting.  And we have two two year old bulls in that pasture also.  They have grown up there and for the brief time we seperated them, these two were unhappy and started fence jumping to get back into the main pasture.

Everyone defers to Big Daddy and Africa, his herd queen.  I have been amazed at how much Time Bandit has to do with the calves.  They usually stay fairly close to him- frequently laying up on him, he grooms them regularly, and at the sign of any threat, the youngsters all flock to him.  At this point he has more to do with them than their mothers do. 

If we pen the calves to work them, Bandit paces about outside the arena, bellowing and fussing until we give him his kids back. He checks each one over to make sure it is unhurt.  This degree of paternal care has surprised me. So much of our animal handing is disruptive to the normal behavior for the species concerned. 

Watching this bull-calf interaction has made me contemplate other aspects of our animal handling to look for ways we unnecessarily disrupt natural relationships.  Our animals are happiest and easiest to work when we follow natural herd dynamics as much as possible. So this has become the 4B way.


Noisy Day and Nights

Weaning is stressful for everyone at the ranch.  [Read More]

Last Calf Has Arrived

Whew!  We just had the last calf of the season arrive on Saturday.  We had eight this year and that is a big jump from two.  That bumps our herd to twenty-three head of cattle.  We had three bulls and five heifers.  All are healthy and playful and settling in well.

We are most pleased with our bull Time Bandit's performance as a herd sire.  Not only are his calves beautiful but he has been the most gentle, devoted partner and daddy as each was born. We could tell when each cow was in labor as he deferred eating to stay by her side through labor.  Then he helped lick and get the calves up to standing and nursing.  Come nightfall he makes sure the whole group of new babies is at his side when time to lay down for the night.  Amazing to watch.

All this and he bucks too!  We held our annual Buckin' Buckley event on June 20th and Bandit was the feature.  He bucked well and even had a pretty nice spin before his eight seconds were up.  The star of the day was Little Miss Fancy Pants.  She had an event winning out showing her double bred Mossy Oak Mudslinger bloodlines through and through.

All the animals we bucked looked great. We will be bucking the bulls again shortly so they get more practice in.  We are getting ready to move the three bulls into breeding positions.  Time Bandit will breed back his same herd.  Sirocco will go in with Little Miss Fancy Pants, Tink, and Dream Girl.

Buster will take on Red Baroness, Red Contessa and Cali Rae along with White Lightening.  We will AI Nessa to Fandango and Cali Rae to Ricky Simmons Ozzy so Buster will be clean up pasture bull for them.  This all means next calving season will be even busier yet.  Ya Hoo!




Avoiding Medication Errors

The recent deaths of elite polo horses due to medication error makes all of us that work with animals cringe.  If you work with livestock, you typically use medications and supplements in the course of caring for your beloved animals and we all worry about this kind of mistake occurring.  There are practices that can help make sure that this never happens at your farm.

We ask our vetrinarian about any supplement or medication we consider for our herd.  She is not always familiar with alternative therapies but this is a good place to start.  We verify dosages and potential side effects with her.  We then do a review of the agricultural literature for information about the practices again looking for evidence for and against the intervention and about the use protocols.

Everything we administer systemically we get either from the vet or a commercial preparer.  We calculate the dosages of all medications for the animals based upon prescribing guidelines even if they have been prepared by the vet or pharmacy to try to make sure no error has been made.

We do most all of our own administration but we have two people verify dosage, drawup and then have a system of placing anything to be given to an animal in a bag with it's name on it when we head to the pasture.  All syringes are marked with the medication contained.

Prior to administration again, dosage, administration recommendations, animal are all reviewed for match.  Then we give the vaccine or medication.  Now, on a larger scale, this is not all practical if using a dosing gun, but we do recommend a review of the supplement, routes to be given, side effects, etc prior to use by two people, then verification of dose for each animal, usually based upon weight or age before administration. When mass immunizing or medicating we do one medication at a time.

It does take a bit more time to do the double checking, but better safe then sorry. We do use a slapshot for our parenteral medications and vaccines and that makes shots even for our high strung cattle less stressful for all of us. Our hearts go out to the players, owners and fans who lost thse beautiful horses this week.




Craving Calves

Though it was still below zero last night, today is it a screaming sunny day and all the cows and bulls are less interested in eating today, than they are in sun bathing.  There is a frenzy of grooming going on out in the pasture.  I helped by brushing everyone who wanted brushing this morning, and got lots of mud off some of those big round bellies.  the ice shells have even melted off the donkeys.

If we have too many more days like this, I will start to believe that spring really is on its way.  Dan has been mooning around saying that he is ready for new calves to come. Last years babies are so big they are not really calves anymore. They are looking more and more like yearlings.  One of the farm catalogues arrived with a picture of a red Mom and newborn on the cover and that had us cooing and getting all nostalgic for calving.

 We have a bit to wait this year because we bred a bit later to try to assure that the last of the ice and snow would be gone by the time the calves started to drop.  That means we have to be patient though and it won't be till May instead of April for our first ones to arrive.  So two more months, instead of one at this point.  Ah, well, we can make it.

We will have chicks, ducklings and baby turkeys very soon so we will have some little one to help mark the arrival of early spring.  As far as chickens go, we are going to start Buckeye's this season as well as Auracanas and Buff Orphingtons.  I am going to try to breed the Buckeyes as they are endangered. 

We have not had a breeding flock before so that will be a new endeavor for us. They will go in the trailer and out in the enclosed back pasture, so we hope they will be a bit more protected from predators. They will have the cows and Time Bandit to defend them.  And my gun is cleaned and ready.


Racing Like the Wind!

AH..... Sunday afternoon.  My secret vice- movies on Lifetime Movie Channel.  Yesterday I was in the middle of a nice, juicy one when my husband came rushing in and yelled, "Baroness got out when I was feeding them and she's running wild, and won't come back in for me!"  Red Baroness or "Nessa" is our herd queen, a four year old daughter of Spotted Fever. A big high horned, 1000 pound Brangus Page cow.

 I pulled on a jacket and some boots and ran outside to find Dan in the drive with a grain bucket lure, and Nessa ignoring him and visiting the back pasture cattle through the fence.  Kisses all around and some special nuzzling for her two sons, Time Bandit and Sirroco.  She hadn't seen Time Bandit since he was 6 months old and weaned.  Bandit had been at Creek Bend Ranch in Ohio till this past September, and when we brought him home Nessa was gone being bred in Big Rapids.  What a happy reunion!

Gathering up the grain bucket, I started calling Nessa and she, good girl that she is came running.  At full tilt right down the frozen two track.  She came racing up to the car park and I thought my Chevy was going to be toast but that gal can stop on a dime.  She peered in the car windows then turned and took off again.

This went on for about 20 more minutes.  Nessa zoomed up and down the driveway, bucking and snorting as she passed her herd on the other side of the fence.  She squeezed past the truck and partied in the road for awhile.  Nessa is about 7 months pregnant now and showing. It was something to see her charging back and forth, front legs spread wide to maintain control and support that great swinging belly on the snow and ice, comparatively little backside tucked tight underneath so she could buck.

She was breathing hard at this point and her breath was freezing and grizzling her whole face with ice. Then she sauntered up to me for a pat and we slipped back into the front pasture, exercise and visiting done.  She poked her head into the grain bucket ready to have a snack and reunion with her herd. That's my girl!



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