Weaning: A Part of Life

The beef industry is more than just the tender and juicy steak that sits on your plate hot off the grill. It is more than just the baby calves running in the pasture or feeding hay to the mama cows; the beef industry is a connection of many different sectors and family farms all working hard to raise a healthy and wholesome product, so that at the end of the day we as producers, as well as consumers can enjoy a hardy cut of steak with both family and friends.

cow and baby

Calves spend the first five to seven months with their mothers receiving nutrients from their milk and learning to eat forages and grains

An essential sector of the beef industry is the cow/calf operation where producers’ birth mother cows and offspring are cared for. Caring for their babies is the top priority of the cow for the first five to seven months as the baby calves receive most of their nutrients such as protein from their mother’s milk. However, at the end of approximately 205 days, or seven months, calves are weaned from their mothers and begin living strictly on their own.

Weaning is known as the process of managing without something or someone on which a species has become dependent on, such as young dependent on its mother’s milk. The mothers need time to put weight back on and have a rest period before birthing another calf. The ruminate of the calf takes four months to develop and after this time frame, the older a calf gets the more mature it becomes and can eat other foods, such as grass, hay, and grain that will sustain its body. The weaning process can be completed in a handful of ways such as fence line weaning or gradual weaning. Both weaning processes allow the calves and cows to be in familiar surroundings, as well as see and smell their mothers during the process of learning to live fully on their own, without their mother’s milk.

calves at gate

Gradual weaning allows calves to be separated by gates from their mothers during the evenings and return with their mothers during the days for approximately 3-4 days

fenceline

Fence line weaning happens in one day with a fence separating the mothers and babies

During the weaning process, both the mama cows and their calves bawl because of being separated. The bawling is more of a psychological factor because the mother and baby are use to being together and bonding and being separated is a life change. As one looks at the process of weaning, mama cows seem to bawl more during the separation than the calves because as the calves get older and bigger, they spend more time away from their mothers playing with the other calves. Weaning is comparable to a mother sending her child to school for the first time, watching him/her get a driver licenses, or dropping them off at college. It is separation from what has been the norm, however it needs to happen and both the mother and child or calf has to learn to be on their own.

It is important that the weaning process takes place around the calf being five to seven months of age for the safety of the mama cows. The calves are old enough to function on their own, so if they are left with their mothers, they would continue to take the nutritional milk that needs to be reproduced for the next offspring. The bull calves would also begin to harass their mothers, which could result in stressful and unhealthy circumstances.

drinking milk

The older a calf gets the better it is able to care for itself. Weaning a calf at 5-7 months of age ensures the mother cow can rest and reproduce milk for her next offspring

Beef producers have the goal to produce a healthy product, on four feet or on the table. To produce a healthy product during the stage of weaning, the cows and calves need to have minimum stress and be closely monitored for injury and sicknesses. The stress level is also minimized when producers wean during adequate temperatures, meaning that the day of weaning is not too hot or cold and rainy which results in the least amount of stress and sickness which overall results in a better product.

calves eating grain

As calves learn to be away from their mothers full time, they eat grain, hay, and other forages to maintain a healthy lifestyle

Weaning calves from their mothers is a natural process that all (animals and humans) go through. For the overall health, safety, and low levels of stress on both the cow and calf, weaning is beneficial and is the beginning of another sector of the beef industry bovine timeline.

~Demi~

Lessons From the Passenger Seat of the Feedtruck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am blessed with the very best father and role model anyone could ask for. He is compassionate, dedicated, and doesn’t even know what a “day off” means. Dad and I share a very special bond. Growing up as Little Lyndon, I have always wanted to be just like my daddy.

dadandibigloop

Because of the millions of hours (okay, maybe not that many, but a whole lot) spent alongside my dad on a horse and in a feed truck, I have learned countless vital life lessons!

  1.  Respect your elders. If we have visitors on the ranch, you always offer them the front seat and you still get the gate. It is just one of the unwritten rules of respect.

    1925177_10203375984899796_1931154122_n

  2. Details matter. If there is supposed to be 101 cows in a pasture and you only count 100 cows, you better believe that we will not give up our search until the stray is found. Attention to detail is vital when animals depend on you to provide for them.   

    dadcounting.jpg

  3.  Lessons in listening. Whether it is a pause in conversation to listen to the 860AM market report at 12:00PM or to be briefed on the days plans, listening is imperative to ensure things run smoothly.

    This picture was taken around 1AM after we had finished processing a set of mama cows. Dad sure is a hard worker!

  4. Lessons in learning. Sometimes I just wonder if my generation was absent on the day in school when they taught us how to learn. Sometimes you just have to learn by example. I cannot tell of the many times I have depended on what I’ve learned by watching my dad. From roping cows, to tagging baby calves, I am a product of learning from seeing Dad do.

    daddy.jpg

  5.  Be flexible. Goodness knows plans have a way of changing instantaneously in production agriculture! Cows are out, a neighbor needs help gathering cattle, the weather acts up- any number of reasons- you have to learn to adjust and make things all work. 

    11018844_10205980937381980_441198633608433968_n

  6. Invest in people. There is just something about ranchers that makes them love talking to other farmers and ranchers. Friends, family members, neighbors, complete strangers- whomever it may be- my dad has taught me the value in investing in people. The dividends are much greater than the alternative!

    1377362_10205243287221187_8625720945135041359_n

  7.  Focus. Whether you are checking for sickness in the herd or traveling about from pasture to pasture, focus is vital to ensure you do your job well and are effective.

    dadcounting2.jpg

Moral of the story: I believe I am blessed with the World’s Greatest Dad! He has taught me more life lessons than I could ever say. He has encouraged and helped mold my strong passion for the beef community. I am who I am today, largely because of his influence in my life.Don’t forget to show your dad how much you care.  I love you, Dad!

1233364_10201838577385569_1142738_n

 

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

Beef Connection in the World of Ag

Beef producers work countless hours to ensure they are up-to-date on current beef products and practices. Raising their herd of cattle is their livelihood and depends on the current education and seeking out of answers. Beef producers however do not focus just specifically on successful beef production; they are also continuously gaining knowledge about other agricultural realms.

This past week I had the opportunity to travel with the Collegiate Young Farmers Club from The Ohio State University to take a 5-day road trip to Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to tour equipment production headquarters, southern plantations, and crop facility headquarters. At the end of the trip, I was very grateful that I, along with six other OSU students had the opportunity to gain more knowledge about different sectors of agriculture. Being a part of the beef industry and seeking out continuous education is important, but the world of agriculture is combined through many different pieces and parts.

One of my personal favorites was touring a tea plantation and learning about the tea making process, different equipment used to harvest, as well as the history. Although making tea does not directly correlate to beef production, production methods and innovation is directly compatible between tea production and beef production. As a tea plantation, it is most important to start the new cuttings, or seeds, off with the upmost care for production, which correlates to starting off a baby calf, making sure that it receives the appropriate nutrients and vitamins to grow healthy.

tea combine

The tea harvester ‘combine’- unique to only the production of tea.

Another educational part of the trip was the Phosphorous Mine. As an important part of growing crops all around the world for people and livestock alike, phosphorus is a needed nutrient. While at the mine we had the opportunity to learn about the mining process, as well as see the process in action while in the mine. Spending the morning at the mine learning about the process of mining and why phosphorus is so important to the world of agriculture proved to me the connection between phosphorus, crop production, and beef cattle. Without phosphorus being mined, crops would not yield a product and beef cattle would lack food and nutrients.

mine

Phosphorus Mine in North Carolina

machine

The phosphorus mining machine that scooped up the phosphorus ore

mine2

The part of the mine that loads the phosphorus onto both train and barge.

Learning about the world of beef cattle and beef production as well as promotions and educations is important to me and something that I continue to strive for through learning. However, being a part of agriculture means more than just feeding my cattle, it means understanding the world of agriculture and how different aspects, systems, and other lines of production all correlate and work in conjunction with beef cattle and beef production.

Monsanto

As a final stop of the trip, we toured Monsanto company and had the opportunity to learn and ask our questions about biotechnology corn and soybeans as a grain for livestock, including beef cattle.

 

.Demi

Every Day is Earth Day

Earth Day is this week! Farmers and ranchers were environmentalists before environmentalists started. Caring for the animals and the land is what makes working in agriculture so rewarding. You would be hard pressed to find a producer who is not working to improve the sustainability of their operation. We aren’t only concerned about our operation being able to produce for the next decade, but for several centuries to come. Measures such as planting trees, providing wildlife habitat, and rotating the herd to prevent overgrazing are just a few of the steps agriculturalists take to reduce their impact on the planet. These measures might make sense, but did you know agriculturalists are often avid recyclers? Here are some ways my family reuses and repurposes materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

  • Billboards: billboards are changed fairly frequently. After their life as an advertisement is over, they would typically be sent to a landfill. The material that billboards are made out of is very similar to a tarp. We use old billboard advertisements for several purposes. When we stack hay bales, we put a tarp (usually an old billboard) over it to keep the hay from being damaged by precipitation. If a stock tank is leaky, we line the bottom with an old billboard to save water and prevent the leak.
In action!

Leaky water tanks can even  be salvaged with the billboards!

Hay coverage

Billboards can be used as a tarp to protect hay bales from precipitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Rubber Tires: Ever wonder what happens when you need to replace a tire on your car? One way rubber tires are given a second life is by compressing them into “tire bales.” The main way we utilize these tires bales is by arranging them into windbreaks for our animals. Wyoming winds can be very harsh, so the tire bales help the cattle have shelter from the harsh winter storms that frequent our area.

 

The tire bales can be arranged to provide a way to store grain.

The tire bales can be arranged to provide a way to store grain.

close up

The tire bales are made of tires that are no longer usable.

JBS

Tires can be woven into mats that help prevent cattle from slipping when they are handled.

Shelter

These tire bales can be arranged to provide shelter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Mining Tires: Mining is big in Wyoming, and the tires used by mining equipment are not your average tires! These tires range in size from 6 to 13 feet in diameter! By cutting one tire in half, two water tanks can be made.
The cows love them!

The cows love them!

Yay

Repurposing materials doesn’t have to be complicated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Guardrail: We purchase used guardrail that can no longer be used for the highway system. The main use for this is to build very sturdy corrals that will not need to be replaced for an extended period of time.
babe

The guardrail and cable creates a very effective corral!

By no means are these the only recycled materials being used on our farm (or in all of agriculture!). Conveyor belting, sweeper brushes, barrels, pallets, and various containers are also materials that are often reused or repurposed in agriculture. The materials also vary from one location to another (just like feed does!). I would encourage you to speak to a local farmer or rancher to see how they reduce, reuse, or recycle on their operation, I bet their resourcefulness will surprise you!

Happy Meaty Monday!

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

Grazing Cattle: Helping the Environment

Cattle not only produce a nutrient-dense protein by converting forages humans cannot consume and producing beef products  that they can, but they also help protect and enhance the environment and animals within the environment. Approximately 85 percent of the United States grazing lands are unsuitable for growing and producing crops. Grazing cattle on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.

In southern Ohio, there are rolling hills and mountains that make it unable to plant and harvest crops, so as a result, farmers graze their cattle on hillsides. To utilize the land that cannot be used to produce crops on, it is beneficial to utilize it in other ways such as grazing cattle. Planting grasses and grazing cattle on rolling lands also help prevent soil erosion.

cows, hill, hay

Planting grasses and grazing cattle on hills helps to prevent hillside erosion.

 

Maintaining open space for cattle grazing in pastures allows lands to remain natural, free of debris, invasive species and plants.

cow on a hill

Farmers and ranchers are able to utilize hills unsuited for growing crops to graze their cattle.

 

Grazing cattle on grassy pastures benefit plant life. Open grasslands are generally dominated by invasive or non-native grasses and herbs. When left unmanaged, the vegetation of the invasive species tends to overpower the needed nutrients and water in the soil. Grazing livestock controls the growth of these invasive species which allows desirable grasses and herbs to grow and co-generate in pasture lands.

The introduction and maintenance of wild animals and habitats as homes for endangered species and ground nesting birds is protected through cattle grazing. The increase in diversity of species benefits from the vegetation management performed by livestock.

cow eating weed

Cattle herds maintain invasive species by eating as well as walking and laying on the invasive plants.

Grazing cattle on pasture lands also control weeds and prevents residue build-up on pasture land so it does not turn into hot and dangerous fires. Farmers and ranchers properly manage livestock grazing in order to reduce fire hazards by controlling the amount of distribution of grasses and other potential fuels.

Beef cattle can be called ‘dual-purpose’ animals. Not only are they able to take grasses and forages humans are unable to eat and produce a nutrient-rich protein we can consume, they also help maintain a healthy and productive environment. Cattle are utilized on lands unsuited for crop growth to help prevent erosion, wildlife and invasive species, and wildfires. At the end of the day, farmers and ranchers utilize their cattle herds as environmentalists and therefore are stewards of the land.

 

~Demi~

Why Beef Sustainability is So Hard

Sustainability is a big deal. Ranchers depend on natural resources to make a living, because in the end, that is what ranchers are: grass-salesmen. In addition to the environmental side of sustainability, there is another much more personal aspect.

The idea of sustainability is centered around the goal of making things better for the next generation; conserving natural resources, creating new, better management practices, preserving a culture, et cetera. As a fifth generation agriculture producer, it is sometimes assumed that I was born knowing the ropes- like I just hopped out of the womb knowing exactly how to manage cash inflows and outflows, when to plant certain feed crops and what to do when mama cows are having a hard time giving birth.

Even though I wasn’t born automatically knowing how to do everything that goes into running a ranch, I have had the opportunity to learn from the very best: my dad.

aaa

My dad is responsible for every thing I know about cattle, and more. I am very blessed to have him as a role model.

 

Here are a few things that I have found to make beef sustainability challenging:

1. Times change.

Things have a way of changing. Diet fads change, celebrity relationship statuses change, and fashion trends change (thank goodness!). Agriculture is no different. In 1960, one farmer fed 25 people. Today, one farmer feeds more than 150 people world-wide. Food production has had to change over the years to accommodate for an exponentially expanding population.

2. Demand changes.

In 1998, the most requested Christmas gift was the Furby,  a creepy little owl-like furry robot. In contrast, the most requested Christmas items of 2014 were personal technology gadgets, such as tablets, smart phones and laptops. It is safe to say that demand changes over time.

Over the years, demand for beef has changed also. Early twentieth century consumers preferred a higher-fat content beef. Today, consumers prefer a leaner beef. Each new generation seems to bring with it new ideas and things they find important. Beef producers have to follow the demands of consumers in order to survive. Demand causes supply.

3. Technology changes.

The horse-driven plow used by my great, great grandfather has been replaced by progressive, precise production technologies. Staying on top of changing technologies is imperative to insure that ranchers and farmers are capable of meeting the ever-changing needs of societies.

image

Learning what to do and not do can sometimes be a lengthy process, but it is worth every ounce of hard work in the end. Here’s Dad and I after working a set of cows at 2am, in 20 degree temperatures.

 

4.  Weather patterns change.

Drought stricken summers, blizzard blasted winters, soupy, soggy springs and blustery falls. Every season, every year, every decade brings with it weather challenges that producers have to over come. If producers do not find ways to get through the hard times, producers are sometimes forced to sell out of the business.

5. Motivation changes.

As with every profession, everything is not always roses and butterflies in beef production. There are hard times. Often, more hard times than great times. Producers are incredibly sensitive to externalities, unlike other businesses. Input prices can be high (and there are a lot of inputs!), markets can crash, weather can wipe out harvest and marketing plans, in addition to the tax exhausting hours can have in the home.

Despite passion, sometimes people get tired. Sometimes, people have a hard time getting back up after being knocked down countless times. Sometimes, people can no longer afford to do what they love to do. Ranchers are real people who face real, everyday challenges.

image

Learning is a never-ending process. Sometimes we have to learn from failures. I am thankful to have such a wonderful mentor who allows me to fail sometimes in order to learn from my mistakes.

 

Moral of the story: Agriculture producers are forced to adapt to ever-changing conditions. Dealing with the every day challenges in a successful way will help ensure the sustainability of beef production for future generations. AKA, learn from those who have traveled the path before us!

 

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

 

 

Conventional vs. Grass-fed Cattle

The beef industry prides itself on giving consumers a choice. Without our faithful consumers, there would not be the drive for demand of a beef product that our industry continues to see. As an industry, we listen to our consumers, and because of that, we not only ensure our beef is safe, wholesome, and nutritious, but also allows every consumer the choice in beef product they not only prefer, but also feel is best for themselves and their family.

Conventional raised beef and Grass-fed beef are both raised by producers to ensure a savory and enjoyable eating experience. No matter the way the animal is finished, all cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass and eating hay. This is also known as back grounding. After this stage in life, producers decided the best way they believe to finish or feed out their cattle to market weight. This decision is largely based on geographic location in the United States, primarily based on the weather and feed availability. A vast majority of farmers in the Midwest choose to finish their cattle on grains such as corn and silage, primarily because of the geographic location of the Corn Belt as well as the seasonal growing periods. Personally, it is not ideal for my family to grass-feed our cattle because of the cold and snowy winters which stunt the pasture grass growth, so it is not economical to choose to raise the cattle strictly on grass and forages.

cattle in grass

All cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass.

 

However, in warmer climates, such as in Sacramento, California, grass continues to re-germinate and grow which allows producers to maintain a grass-fed program for their animals. An abundant and array of grass growth as well as climate and water fall is important when a producer chooses to raise and finish his cattle out on grass.

lifecycle card

During the back-grounding phase of the beef cattle lifecycle, cattle graze on grass. The last 4-6 months determine whether cattle will be finished/fed out as conventional or grass-fed.

 

For our consumers, it is important to remember that conventionally raised beef cattle and grass-fed cattle offer a choice. There is a consistency of beef production, and our main goal as beef producers is to produce a safe, wholesome, and nutritious beef product that no matter the way it was fed out or finished, still provides the body with essential vitamins and nutrients. It is also important to remember that all beef cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass and it is the last 4-6 months, mainly based on geographic and resource availability that determines how the producer chooses to finish or feed-out his cattle to market weight.

The next time you visit the grocery store to make a choice on which beef to buy, remember, all beef is healthy and nutritious and offers your body an excellent source of protein!

steak[1]

All beef is an excellent choice of protein to include in your daily diet!

Above all else, Beef, it’s what’s for Dinner!

Demi

 

5 Things Ranchers Do To Protect Their Cattle in Winter

 

Since I am from the great state of Oklahoma, I have the blessing of experiencing all four seasonal weather patterns: winter, spring, summer, fall and usually every imaginable thing in between. I have an appreciation for all seasons. Each season seems to offer a different type of feeling “in the air”. For example, folks often associate new beginnings with spring and folks often associate winter with fireplaces, holidays and snow. For beef producers however, each season presents many unique challenges.

Winter

snow2.jpg

“Enduring” M-C Photography

 

 

Winter in Oklahoma as well as in many states is often unpredictable. One-inch snow predictions have a miraculous way of turning into two feet. It may be 20 degrees outside but feel like -3 with the wind blowing. And it is not uncommon for a 50 degree warm front to be followed by 10 degree temperatures and an ice storm.

Even though cattle are gurus at surviving many different climates, extreme temperature fluctuations can weaken their immune systems and put their health at risk. When it is warm one day and freezing cold the next day, respiratory problems are notorious for setting up camp in the animal’s lungs.

Ranchers do everything they can to facilitate the needs of their cattle in fluctuating temperatures. For example:

  • Ranchers break ice on ponds to make sure they have access to clean, fresh water.
snow5.jpg

Dad breaking ice in an ice storm last winter.

 

  • Ranchers can unroll round bales on top of snow and ice to provide a more comfortable surface for the cattle to lay on.
  • Ranchers can set out round hay bales to act as wind breaks before a big storm or when the wind is forecasted to be especially strong.

The mama cows were protected from the strong winds because of the round bale and the trees.

 

  • If the snow and ice arrive during calving season, ranchers often make more frequent trips into the pasture to check on newborns and make sure they are active and keeping warm.
  • To maintain body temperatures in extreme cold, cattle often require high-quality, balanced rations to meet their needs. Ranchers are very deliberate when it comes to formulating rations (or cow Happy Meals), to make sure the cattle are getting the nutrients they need, in the correct amounts.
snow4.jpg

“Resilient” M-C Photography

 

Please join me next Sunday as I review the weather challenges presented by spring. Thank you for reading!

God bless, folks!

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe