Monthly Archives: January 2014

Mess-Ups

I thought this would be a nice time to share a “mess-up” we had on the ranch. This particular cow and her calf have been a “mess-up” for the better part of 8 months. It’s important to share that, just like everyone else, we screw up.
Since I quit my full-time, town job last spring my Parents have been generous with giving me cattle to sell. They do this so I have an income, and I appreciate it greatly. Right now I am finishing some steers to sell as beef, and in the past I’ve sold shares in “hamburger cows“. A ‘hamburger cow’ is a healthy cow that for some reason did not get bred and/or have a calf, so she is “open“. Since she is open, she isn’t doing her “job” for us, therefore she us costing us money. Most people don’t realize, but it takes years for a cow to become profitable for a ranch. If enough cattle don’t do their ‘job’ and raise a calf, it could potentially cost a ranch a lot of money. As a cattleperson, it is one of your many jobs to make sure you don’t have many ‘open’ cows.
Most cattlepeople will just “cull” a cow that is open. Depending on the year, it doesn’t make economical sense to keep a cow a whole year when she isn’t producing and she isn’t guaranteed to have a calf the next year. When we have open cows, I like to turn them into a hamburger cows if I can. It breaks my heart to see a big, healthy cow that we’ve had for a couple years go to the sale yard, even if she isn’t doing her job.
Since I have many, many friends that are on the paleo diet right now, they want lean, grass-finished hamburger. Hamburger cows are exactly that – healthy, lean beef that has had nothing but grass and meadow hay to eat her whole life. By turning our cull cows into hamburger cows, everyone wins. My cow gets a quality death at home, my local paleo eaters get wonderful beef, and I get a paycheck.
This brings me to my story…..
Last summer, my Parents gave me a hamburger cow in celebration of me quitting my job. I was excited about it because in my head I was thinking that I would use the money to buy myself a shinny new horse! This particular cow was fat, and she was open, we were sure of it! When we moved the other cows up to the mountains,we cut her back and she lived in a field next to the house for a few weeks, until I called and made THE APPOINTMENT. In the meantime, I’d found a group of people that wanted to buy her for a hamburger share. They were excited about having great burgers to grill all summer and I was already imagining that new horse smell.
Right before I made the appointment, we noticed something one morning. A calf. My open, sold, cull cow had a bull calf! It was a problem on levels! I had to go back and explain to my hamburger cow buyers that I did not, in fact, have a cow for them. Then we had to worry about having a pair on the winter ranch, during the summer – the heat, stickers and predators are deadly. We figured we would need a replacement calf at some point during the summer, and we could use him (a replacement calf is when a cow needs a baby because for whatever reason her calf didn’t survive). Oddly enough this year ended up being the ‘year of twins’, he stayed with his Mom all summer.

It took us all morning to find this little bull calf and get him in.

It took us all morning to find this little bull calf and get him in.

Fast forward to now. This bull calf spent the past 6 months with little to no human interaction, he’s had no vaccinations, no brand, he still is ‘intact’ and he is wild! We felt especially tough last week and decided it was time to get this little bull calf in and in the words of my father “change his mind from @ss to grass” or castrate him. Since it was the year of the twins, we also had a house herd of bottle calves that needed to be vaccinated and branded. Last week was the perfect opportunity to tie up all of out loose ends, and “work” (work means to castrate, brand and vaccinate) these calves.

The bottle calves on their way to the corrals. My Mom refused to help because she got too attached to them.

The bottle calves on their way to the corrals. My Mom refused to help because she got too attached to them.

We were able to work the bottle calves with no problem. They received their vaccinations and were de-wormed. They also got an earmark and a brand so if they got lost or stolen, we could identify them and bring them home. Next up, the Hamburger Cow’s bull calf. Since this calf has had no human interaction, he was scary to be around. If I would have given him the chance, he would have gladly jumped on top of me and done a little dance on my head. Don’t worry, I didn’t give him that chance!
We dislike castrating calves when they are this old. We feel that the earlier it is done, the less stress is causes the calf. Unfortunately, because of the mess-ups we had with this cow and calf, we were left no choice. Luckily, he is a nice, healthy calf and he handled it well and is fine.
There are several ways to work  cattle. Some producers will use horses and rope their calves to work them, and some will use chutes. We feel like using a chute is less stressful for both our animals and us, so that is why we choose to use a chute and a corral systems instead of horses and ropes.
Our calf table catches and squeezes the calves to keep them calm. For the bull calves, we flip the chute/table on it’s side to preform the castration. The chute is built for this exact purpose, and it works well. HOWEVER, since our particular bull calf was a complete and udder mess-up, this didn’t work like it was supposed to. After our calf had been castrated and we tried to flip him back on his feet, but he just kept going. The calf table tipped the wrong way, WITH THE CALF STILL IN IT. I’d never seen that happen before, in all my years on the ranch.

The mess up. The calf table flipped over. The poor calf had to climb out.

The mess-up. The calf table flipped over. The poor calf had to climb out.

After it flipped, it took us a few minutes to get the calf out. But the calf was able to do it on his own, and was fine!

After it flipped, it took us a few minutes to get the calf out. But the calf was able to do it on his own, and was fine!

Thankfully, the calf got out fine. He was let back out into the field with is Mom and has since recovered from his ordeal. I sincerely hope we are done with mess-ups with this pair!

I check on my cow and calf today, and they are happy. Of course the calf wanted absolutely nothing to do with me, lol, poor guy, I can't blame him!

I check on my cow and calf today, and they are happy. Of course the calf wanted absolutely nothing to do with me, lol, poor guy, I can’t blame him!

This has been our epic mess-up. Despite our best plans, sometimes nothing works out the way we planned. In animal agriculture I re-learn that lesson everyday. Animals always make life interesting!

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Wordless Wednesday: Felfie

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Fun Ag Facts IX

fun ag fact of the day: Carrot production in the U.S. is highly mechanized and centralized. Only two Californian companies account for the majority of production in the U.S. In addition to California, Washington and Colorado are also important production areas.

fun ag fact of the day: California is the fourth-largest wine producer in the world, after France, Italy, and Spain.

fun ag fact of the day: Red wines are red because fermentation extracts color from the grape skins. White wines are not fermented with the skins present.

fun ag fact of the day: Approximately 208 million avocados will be consumed on Super Bowl Sunday!

fun ag fact of the day: The corncob (ear) is actually part of the corn plant’s flower.

fun fact of the day: Bananas float in water, as do apples and watermelons.

fun ag fact of the day: In the USA, a person consumes about twenty pounds of rice a year, with about four pounds attributed to the use of rice is for brewing American beers.

fun ag fact of the day: There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice that grow on every continent except on Antarctica.

fun ag fact of the day: Barley is highest in fiber of all the whole grains, with common varieties clocking in at about 17% fiber, and some, such as the variety called Prowashonupana barley, having up to 30% fiber!

fun ag fact of the day: Christopher Columbus brought the first orange seeds and seedlings to the New World on his second voyage in 1493.

fun ag fact of the day: The Meyer lemon, actually a cross between a lemon and possibly an orange or a mandarin, was named for Frank N. Meyer who first discovered it in 1908.

fun ag fact of the day: Buddha’s Hand citron contains no pulp or juice, so it’s used for it’s fragrant zest only.

fun ag fact of the day: It won its name after becoming popular in the Belgian capital in the 16th Century, but the Brussels sprout is ­originally thought to have come from Iran and Afghanistan.

fun ag fact of the day: Washington ranks first in the nation in production of processing carrots and fourth in the nation in production of fresh carrots.

fun ag fact of the day: The Hubbard squash probably originated in South America and first arrived in Marblehead, MA in the 1700’s aboard sailing ships from the West Indies.

fun ag fact of the day: The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of blueberries, harvesting a total of 564.4 million pounds of cultivated and wild blueberries in 2012.

fun ag fact of the day: the skin of winter squash is inedible.

fun ag fact of the day:  Pumpkins are orange because they contain massive amounts of lutein, alpha- and beta-carotene. These nutrients turn to vitamin A in the body.

fun ag fact of the day: A barrel of cranberries weighs 100 pounds. Give or take a few, there are about 450 cranberries in a pound and 4,400 cranberries in one gallon of juice.

fun ag fact of the day: There are enough peanuts in one acre to make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.

fun ag fact of the day: Canned mandarin segments are peeled to remove the white pith prior to canning; otherwise, they turn bitter. Segments are peeled using a chemical process. First, the segments are scalded in hot water to loosen the skin; then they are bathed in a lye solution, which digests the albedo and membranes. Finally, the segments undergo several rinses in plain water.

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Wordless Wednesday: Oink

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Beef Steers 2014

My last year of FFA.

My last year of FFA (it says ‘got beef?’ on my steer).

Back when I was a youth and heavily involved with 4-H and FFA, I raised market steers. It was a huge source of pride for me, that I would select, raise and show one of my own family’s steers. Our cattle are bred to be beef, not to win grand champion at cattle shows. Because of that I only won champion once in my whole 4-H and FFA career, HOWEVER I won or placed in the carcass contest (that is when the steer’s carcass is graded and judged) almost every year, and for a cattleperson, that values my final product, that meant tons more than a purple ribbon.

My cattle weren’t always “fluffly” at the fair (that means they didn’t have a lot of hair for me to style), but I was confident whoever purchased my calf was going to get a prime piece of beef that they would remember for years to come. I still have this same level of confidence when it comes to our cattle.

These are the steers leftover from our commercial herd this past August.

These are my steers leftover from our commercial herd this past August – they are a whisper over a year old here.

You remember that I quit my full-time job in town last spring. I am now living the dream on the ranch. Since I don’t have a steady income, my parents have graciously given me some steers to supplement my hog and sheep income. It has been a huge transition for me, to go from a salaried check every two weeks, to a couple of unknown checks a year. Budgeting is hard! These steers will be the majority of my income for the year – they will determine my quality of life, they will pay my bills. Because of this, because I know my current way of life depends on these animals, I want to do the best I can.

This is called a "tote" of grain. It is taller than my Dad.

This is called a “tote” of grain. It is taller than my Dad. I buy in bulk because I am feeding so many animals right now

I want my clients to have an opportunity to purchase “prime” beef. Prime is the grade of beef that you get in fancy, expensive steakhouses. It is delicious. To get prime beef you need to have several things:

  • good genetics
  • good feed
  • age (older calves tend to grade better than younger)
  • happy, healthy cattle (no stress and a great vaccination plan)

Since I have excellent herd genetics, I have access to grain, grass, protein minerals, hay and almond parts, my calves will be coming 24 months, and they are not stressed and are healthy, I know I can grow some great beef. I know it.

Good feed - this is rolled barley/corn, almonds and hulls, meadow hay (that we made), and a mineral block.

Good feed – this is rolled barley/corn, almonds and hulls, meadow hay (that we made), and a mineral block.

This week my Dad and I created a place for me to “finish” these steers. Since they already weigh around 1,150 pounds and are fairly fat, they will not take long to finish out. Basically by giving these steers grain, they will gain faster and the meat will taste less like grass and more like creamy, beefy deliciousness. If I had to guess, I will probably have them slaughtered around 1,400 pounds.

I took a felfie (a farmer 'selfie') while moving the steers into their new pasture.

I took a felfie (a farmer ‘selfie’) while moving the steers into their new pasture.

This is what the steers look like right now - it is going to be a blast watching them gain and finish.

This is what the steers look like right now – it is going to be a blast watching them gain and finish.

The only reason I am able to do grain finished steers this year is because the price of corn is low, so I can actually afford it, and the drought. I have no grass to finish cattle on right now – so I either hauled these guys to the auction yard or I feed them grain, and I have too many people that wanted to buy local beef this year to auction yard them. I’ve been after my Dad for a few years to let me finish some beef with grain, so this is actually exciting for me. The one thing I forgot to plan for was – I don’t get to keep one of these to eat. I am raising some of the best beef of my life and it’s already spoken for. It’s my secret hope that this beef is so beautiful (and it will be), that my Dad decides that I need to do this again next year! Come back soon and I’ll let you know how they finished!

For other local meat options check out:

Douglass Ranch 

Book Family Farm

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Wordless Wednesday: Driving the Feed Truck

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Recipe: Sour Cream Chicken Casserole

You know those meals that are seared into your memory because they are the ultimate comfort for you? Those meals that when something bad happens, your Mom would make them for you to feel better? I also call these meals, death row foods. They are just so good I would want to eat them for my last meal.

I’m going to share with you one of those recipes. Here is the caveat though, you must PROMISE me you won’t try and church this recipe up. No replacing greek yogurt for the sour cream, no fake chicken, no margarine, the only thing you can do it add more butter, more sour cream, MOAR (but seriously though, don’t mess with this recipe, just enjoy).

When I was on  my puking tour (I HAD super bad anxiety, being off the ranch was hell for me, and my body would respond by being violently ill) of the Oregon Country Faire. My vegan ex-boyfriend tried to keep me from meat (puking up tofu sucks, it doesn’t taste any better coming back up (and who in their right mind tries to keep a cattlerancher from eating meat?!?!?)) this is the one meal I dreamed about (and a steak). All I wanted in life was for my Mom’s Sour Cream Casserole (and a steak). In the end, I got my meaty casserole and the vegan ex-boyfriend was released back into the wild as a single, omnivore (it’s my catch a release program).

This is what you will need (plus shredded chicken).

This is what you will need (plus shredded chicken).

Sour Cream Chicken Casserole

4-6 chicken breasts or 1 whole fryer
8oz pkg. Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix (make sure you get the kind in the BLUE package, it matters, trust me)
8 Tbsp. butter
8oz container sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup

Shred your chicken. If you use chicken breast, you can just throw them in your Kitchen Aid mixer while they are warm, with the paddle attachment, and it will shred your chicken FOR YOU!

Shred your chicken. If you use chicken breast, you can just throw them in your Kitchen Aid mixer while they are warm, with the paddle attachment, and it will shred your chicken FOR YOU!

Cook chicken, pick off meat.

You are going to have a layer of stuffing on the bottom and the top - plan accordingly.

You are going to have a layer of stuffing on the bottom and the top – plan accordingly.

Melt ½ of butter and ½ of the stuffing mix in the casserole dish.

The "filling". It's so good.

The “filling”. It’s so good.

In medium bowl mix sour cream, soups, and chicken. Spoon over layer of stuffing butter mixture. Mix together remaining stuffing and butter and spread over top of chicken.

I want this in my belly.

I want this in my belly.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve with cranberry sauce (for reals).

Promise me you will make this. It’s excellent with corn on the cob too and green beans, or brussel sprouts, or salad! And you need to serve warm bread with it so you can wipe up all the creamy goodness left on your plate. AND it’s is glorious as leftover!

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Wordless Wednesday: Rice Fields

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Guest Post: Anjanette Shadley Martin

I’m a huge fan of guest posts. I always learn something. I get a new point of view. It’s all good stuff. I’ve been after many of my friends to write posts for me, and when they do I get all kinds of happy! Anjanette has been a long time commenter on thebeefjar.com but this is her first post here! Thank Anjanette, I appreciate your hard work!

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AgChat Foundation was started by farmers and ranchers and those in the agricultural community; throughout the United States, even the world, a “place” to tell their story, share and even dispel false and negative information to a broad audience that would not otherwise be possible.

When only 2% of the population make their living in agriculture the need to share their stories through social media platforms and engage those; who in this generation have probably never even seen a farm, becomes increasingly important to its future. I became involved in AgChat to tell the story of water and the environment. Similarly, northern California where we have an abundance of the water resources and the least population in the state, it’s become clear that we must share “our story.” The story of the Sacramento Valley as an essential part of California’s economic well being and long term viability must be told. Our local communities and water resources are intertwined as it supports healthy ecosystems, recreation and highly productive farming that support the region’s economy and communities.

Western Canal WD started a “Wildlife and Rice Farming” webcam to share the part of this “story” through multiple social media platforms i.e. Twitter, YouTube, Vine, Pintrest, and Instagram. Some we use more than others for various reasons; at the #AgChat Northwest Regional Conference in Portland at the end of January, I will be leading session on the pros and cons of each platform so you can decide which one(s) are best for you. There are other sessions led by today’s leading agricultural bloggers and social media experts to help farmers and ranchers to gain the skills to engage in and build social communities to tell their story of agriculture and #Agvocate for our way of life. To sign up for the AgChat Northwest Regional Conference go to agchat.org.

For local examples of Agvocates follow Megan Brown @MegRaeB and Jenny Dewey Rohrich @Jenlynndewey and of course Western Canal Water District @WCWDwebcam.

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Cold Blue Mountain: Winter 2014 Tour

One of my most favoritist people in the whole wide world is in this band (hint, coffee, piano, beard, super talented). Actually, if you really wanna get down to it, everyone in this band is kinda amazing, very nice and super talented. Guess what? They are going on tour so if you are into nice people and angry music, you should see them! I secretly want to see the Seattle show and if I wasn’t such a broke-ass, I’d book a flight and go. If you live there, you should go and tell me all about it. And  a fun fact for you? You know that show, The Amazing Race? Yeah, Brandon (the lead singer) was on it last season (Team Beard!). Anyway check them out if you can, you’ll be glad you did.

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