Category Archives: Beef
The shit my Dad has been giving me lately, about not having kids, is reaching rather remarkable proportions. Why, you ask. Because our new neighbors have one of the cutest little boys, ever. Wyatt is 3, soon to be 4. His Parents, Megan and Jared, moved next door to our summer ranch in the mountains and I just got to meet them this spring.
I was already a fan of these neighbors before I even met them because they wanted pigs. They had some of my heritage pork last summer and knew they need to raise their own. This just tickled me because, as you all know, promoting heritage pork is one of my pet projects. The first time I met them in real life was when I delivered 5 pigs to their house. Since then our pig plans have grown, but that’s for another post.
They’ve been a huge help around the ranch, we tend to get really excited about that. My Dad and I both have really enjoyed getting to know them, and hanging out with Wyatt, which has lead to my Dad’s grandpa fever. I’ll even admit, Wyatt is starting to even make me think about dating again (DO NOT TELL MY DAD I SAID THAT!).
As I mentioned before, Wyatt has a birthday coming up, so it was decided that he needed something special. Something that he could grow with, teach him stuff and maybe eventually make some money from (you know, for school). Obviously, the answer was a little heifer bottle calf.
We always end up with a few bottle babies every year, some we sell to neighbors that need to graft a calf and sometimes I keep them to sell as a beef. We started looking for just the right calf for Wyatt, one that would make a good cow in a few years. She also needed to have a nice attitude. We had a poor old cow die during birth, it does happen once in a while. The little heifer that was born, that now had no mama, was sweet and calm, perfect for the birthday boy. Wyatt named his calf, Sally.
It’s important to my family that we expose kids to production agriculture. We know we live a unique existence and we want to share that with people that have an interest in what we do. We’re also being terribly selfish because in just a few short years, Wyatt is going to be amazing help on the ranch!
Wyatt is going to feed this baby all summer. When we move down to the valley she is going to come down with the rest of the cows and enjoy a mild winter with lots of grass. Next year when it’s time for Sally to have a bullfriend, we’ll make sure that happens so Wyatt can expand his herd.
We’re excited to watch Wyatt and Sally grow up together. We can already see it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship and hopefully a long line of black angus cows and delicious meat!
Social media makes a small world even smaller. This past January my friend Jesse Bussard, recommended I become friends on facebook with this guy named Steel. Steel was coming to Chico State, from Montana, for a semester exchange. We became facebook friends and made plans to meet for a beer and a tour of Chico when he got here.
We met up at the world famous, Sierra Nevada Brewery for a beer and a beer cheese pretzel. I figured I’d have a beer with this guy, introduce him to some Chico people and that would pretty much be it. He would find his niche in Chico and my life would be no different. I was wrong.
We met, had our beer, and started talking about what it was like to grown up on a ranch. It was a good time, we had a lot in common. We both had similar childhoods, we had interests in politics and agriculture. He mentioned that he was looking for stuff to do while he was in town, preferably ranch type stuff. That got my attention. We are always looking for part-time help on the ranch – but it’s impossible finding someone with the needed skill sets. Ranch kids have a tendency to either work on their own ranches or not want to be ranch kids anymore.
Steel started coming on out to the ranch pretty regularly. He worked hard. I tried my best to keep up with him while we were working, but I’d have to give it up after a few hours. My prideful pride wouldn’t let me admit that I couldn’t keep up, luckily I was able to say I had to take a break so I could start cooking dinner (I’m pretty sure no one knew, so shhhh). Steel would work all day, doing gnarly ranch jobs like building fence, taking down old barns, and teaching me to weld, for only dinner and beers.
I, in turn encouraged him to start a blog. Agriculture needs all the advocates we can get and I knew Steel would have an unique and educated voice that we so desperately need. I also gave him some cooking pointers and seasoned a cast iron pan, so when he went home he could do more than grill. I also tried to educate him on the finer points of Californian Mexican Food, because Taco Bell does not count. At all. Not even a little.
Then, as they do, something bad happened and I thought the light had left my life forever. All I wanted to do was lay on my couch watching Gilmore Girls, crying and eating burritos (I did for a week too!). Steel, in no uncertain terms, told me to knock that off. He came over and picked me up and took my on a little day trip to the snow, giving me a pep talk and a chance to get out of my head and see the big picture. It was just what I needed.
Then he made me a ranch hot-tub out of a watering trough and barrel. It’s really hard to be sad when you have an awesome hot tub in your yard.
Despite my best effort to introduce him to a lovely Chico State student here so he’d stay, I had no luck and he went back home to Montana. It was wonderful getting to know Steel and I am a better person for getting to know him. However I am now looking forward to delivering a Boo puppy and some pork to him this fall, when I go visit my Montana friends!
Keep an eye on this guy, friends. He’s a wonderful human that is going to do some great things.
This is the time of the year where we load up our cattle onto cattle trucks and ship them to our summer ranch. We do this for many reasons, you can go here, to get more information about why.
Needless to say, shipping the cattle and moving all of our tools to the other ranch is a stressful time, even though we do it twice a year. Due to the major drought we are facing in California, this year feels especially scary. It feels like we are being forced by mother nature to do everything sooner. It has not helped with the stress levels that we were experiencing.
However Saturday we finished shipping most of the cows. That means the hardest part was over. Everything had gone well. No animals or people got hurt. No one got yelled at too badly. We got cattle trucks when we wanted them. Only two were cows missing, a good shipping season by anyone’s standards.
Sunday was a day to enjoy some calmness and relax. I had a pretty nice little day planned in order to celebrate being done. I had brunch with my girlfriend. Worked in my garden. Did some writing and I was hoping to catch 60 Minutes, and call it a day.
I almost had my calm day, I made it to the writing part. Then as it so often does in production agriculture, my personal plans had to change. Since we were missing two cows, I took off on my trusty Polaris to look for them. I successfully found one! But I unfortunately came across a cow that had an accident. She couldn’t get her legs under her, she couldn’t walk – somehow she broke her back (maybe she tripped on a rock, maybe she got in a cow fight, we’ll never know). She happened to do it at the worst possible place on the ranch, there was no way we could reach her to help or to slaughter, it was hard enough reaching her on my ATV. I had no other option but to euthanize her and walk away.
It was a hard thing to do. Even if we have a worst case scenario like this, we can usually salvage something so the cow’s death is not a waste. As long as an animal is healthy and we observe any withdrawal times for vaccinations, an animal that had an accident can be slaughtered for our personal consumption. Old cows make great hamburger, hot dogs, snack sticks and jerky and I am always glad to have that stuff in my freezer.
If the animal had recently been given a vaccination, we can donate the carcass to our local animal sanctuary to be used as feed so at least there is some use. To just leave a cow in a field for scavengers is a difficult, difficult thing, just a total waste. In a few months, after the bones are clean, and the coyotes, scavenger birds have had their fill, I’ll go back and pick up the bones so there will be no mess.
This is the bad part about my life. Death happens here and not always in a meaningful way. As a cattlewoman the best thing I can do is be compassionate, ease pain and suffering as quickly and as best as I can and take solace in that. But it never, ever get easier.