Over the past two years our ranch has been involved with two fires. In 2017, the Cherokee Fire burned our ranch destroying homes, trees, barns, out buildings, water infrastructure, fences and corrals. It caused almost $4 million in damage to our home ranch. The Camp Fire happened in 2018. Although we were spared from flames damaging our property, the evacuations, water infrastructure damage, smoke damage and stress to ourselves and animals is still causing major problems.
The home ranch still burning the morning after the Cherokee Fire.
Living through several natural disasters I’ve become accustom to answering questions about what we do, as cattle people, to mitigate damage from fire. For six generations my family has lived in this area, running cattle with little change. Fire has always been part of our plan, however the past few years it seems like it has been excessively different.
In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to show you one big benefit of grazing cattle; fire fuel load reduction.
The two photos below were taken one year apart. The top photo was our ranch un-grazed spring of 2018. The Cherokee Fire destroyed all of our fences so we were not able to run cattle on this side of the ranch during the winter of 2018 like we normally would. The result was grass that almost grew taller than I. The fuel load was massive and we were so scared we were going to burn up, again.
The second photo shows what healthy grazing looks like. The grass is managed and healthy (as are the cattle). The cattle also release nutrients back into the soil with the poo and provide us with food and fiber. Cattle play an important role in fire prevention in our area.
As we enter the 2019 fire season, I’d like you remind you, your local neighborhood cattle are working hard to mitigate potential damage around our communities. They are doing this without using pesticide, electricity, loud mowers or fossil fuel, just a four chambered stomach. Help support them by having a lovely hamburger or steak for dinner this week?
I did not grow up raising piglets. Of course, I raised hogs in 4-H and FFA as a child, but I only finished hogs. Starting a farrow to finish business is something I got into in my adult life. I had to learn a lot about farrowing (birthing) piglets, rather quickly. Like anything, to be good, you need to keep learning. I have been incredibly lucky to have lots of pig experts in my life. Again and again I have reached out to them with basic questions and they have come back with thorough, knowledgeable answers.
This is the eponychium on a brand new piglet.
In an effort to pay it forward, I decided to share something I find interesting and an average person might not know. The piglet slippers! Let me be clear, piglet slippers is not the correct term, it is the eponychium or the deciduous hoof capsule. Piglets are born with these to prevent hurting the sows reproductive tract. As soon as they are born they dry up and fall off.
The same piglet just a few minutes later. The eponychium is totally gone.
It’s not just piglets who are born with eponychium, all animals with hooves have them. Unfortunately, I tried this summer to get some good shots of a baby calf’s capsules but the time I wiped the afterbirth off my hands and got my phone out, they were gone. That’s how fast they dry up. I’ll try again next calving season.
And a shot of a piglet in it’s sack demonstrating how the eponychium works. This was a healthy, alive piglet by the way.
This is a really fascinating part of birth. Oddly, I can’t remember ever being taught about this in my animal science classes, it was one of those things I had to ask about. I hope I was able to pass on some hog knowledge to you today!
This is the before and after photo of the masks I’ve been wearing to protect myself from the smoke and ash in the air. The Camp Fire has made the air toxic here. My eyes, skin and throat feel so dirty and heavy. We’re on day 10 of this horrific fire. I’m attempting to share what I can on all my social feeds, it’s helping with the emotions I’m experiencing. I’d like to thank everyone for the support, love, prayers, juju, you’ve sent. We’re Butte Strong and we will get through this.