Tag Archives: Cattle ranch
My first memory of Leo is my Dad telling me he found a new horse. My Great Aunties used to raise all of our own horses on this ranch. Of course, as a small child I didn’t realize how amazing that was. I just knew their were lots and lots and lots of pretty horses for me to play with and look at. My Dad promised me that soon, he was going to take me to meet this new baby horse that was to be his.
When I was a little girl all ranch work was done on horseback. This was back in the early 1980’s, we didn’t have polaris and 4-wheelers like we do now. If you wanted to check on your cattle, you had to saddle up and take off at a high trot come back, get lunch, get a new horse, and take off at a high trot*. Everyday (it’s not as romantic as it sounds, trust me, there really is something to be said for a 4-wheeler). But that was why we had a lot of horses. Plus every time my Dad would get a horse good and broke, the Aunties would sell it. It was a point of contention for my Dad.
When Leo was born, my Dad decided he liked him. My Dad kept an eye on the colt as he grew up, and would occasionally go feed him an extra flake of hay, just to say hi. As yearlings, all of our colts were put in this field called the Century Plant Field. They were put there to ‘make them into horses’. This field has rocks, cows, wild animals, mud, streams, hills, basically a great place to learn how to be a worldly horse. And that is where I met Leo for the first time.
It was a grey winter day, and I remember I got to spend the day with my Dad for some reason. As a treat, my Dad took me out to meet Leo. As we drove the hay truck out into the field, Dad told me to stay in the truck until he opened a bale of hay because Leo didn’t know me yet and I would scare him. I remember thinking that was absolutely ridiculous because every horse that I had ever met in my short life just loved me! I was the official ear scratcher and treat giver on the ranch.
My Dad parked the hay truck and the colts came trotting over. I couldn’t stand it and popped out of the cab and into the back of the truck with my Dad, causing a lot of snorting and shying away of the colts. My Dad was right, they didn’t like me. But he opened up the hay bale and started tossing flakes out and they came back over again. Leo even allowed my Dad to scratch his ears and rub his neck.
Since my Dad knew he was going to keep Leo, Leo got sent to an actual horse trainer, instead of being started here. The trainer fell in love with him too. She even entered him in a few horse shows before she would give him back, and he did really well. Once Leo got trained and people were normal to him, he turned into a big love-bug.
Leo and I became good friends as well. He liked to be loved on and given treats and that was totally my thing! I found out that if you sat on the top of the fence (which I wasn’t supposed to do), he would come over and put his head in my lap for pets! To a five year old, that is pretty much zen.
Leo was my Dad’s horse for the first 10 year’s of his life, they roped, they cut, Leo was the ultimate cow horse. Indeed if a cow or calf started falling behind Leo had no problem reaching over and biting that cow. Even out in a field, if a cow got too close to Leo, he would bite or kick. Leo took his cow-horse job very seriously.
My Dad has slowly become the bionic man (ranching is tough work, kids), and riding is no longer comfortable for him, so Leo slowly become a guest horse. He was the type of horse you could let a greenhorn ride and they would generally be ok. Leo’s only vice was if he knew you would let him get away with something, he would. But once you became friends with Leo he would be your pal and take good care of you.
Leo had some accidents during his lifetime, his hoof almost got cut off when he got stuck in some wire. He had pigeon fever really bad, he gained a lot of weight really fast in the spring, always causing us to panic. And an accident involving a nail and his chest – some ugly stuff. But he made it through and soldiered on for 30 years.
Leo died today. My Mom came and got me this morning because Leo was in distress and couldn’t get up. He went very quickly after we both said goodbye. He seemed to have waited until we were all able to acknowledge he was going. We had a scare with him last winter. That’s why we knew we needed to get Joe a friend, so Sue got adopted. We knew Leo didn’t feel good yesterday. But it really seemed as if this morning he wanted to be with us as he went. What a honor, but that was the type of horse he was. He thought of his people and his pasture friend before himself.
Leo is the last of a golden era on this ranch and for this family. As I look through pictures of this family dating all the way back to the 1800’s our horses have always been very prominent and proud. Leo is the last horse from that era that was bred, born and died here. Thank you Leo. Thank you.
We were very lucky to have Leo in our lives for the past 30 years. I have so many wonderful memories of him and my family. Right now it feels a bit like we have lost a family member. Thank you Leo, you will be missed very much.
*So my Dad says.
WARNING! This might be considered by some to be gross, inappropriate, or tragic, but I think it is extremely important share the how’s, what’s and why’s of our food. If you have any questions about anything you see please ask – I love to share about the ranch.
I got some feedback from the California Beef Industry that apparently my blog is offensive. To be honest I’m pretty upset about it. Jake Dewey from Chico Locker and Sausage called me this morning to say a representative from the California Beef Council called Chico Locker to make sure they knew about it. I’m upset because the CBC couldn’t contact me directly. I’ve known many of the people that are on that council for years. I’m upset because I caused Chico Locker drama. I’m upset my own industry can’t talk to me. I’m upset they feel like we must hide a major part of our industry.
My intent with this photo essay is to share my life on a commercial cattle ranch. I feel like most of us are so far removed from our ag roots, and that makes me sad. I hope to offer a glimpse of what less than 2% of our population does for a living. Ag is not pretty. It is not easy. Agriculture – is dirty, hot, cold, bloody, messy, hard – I have no wish to sugar coat it for my readers. I want to you to know what it is really like, I want to provide transparency. And I’m heartbroken my OWN industry doesn’t want me to.
That being said, this slaughter is CUSTOM EXEMPT. That means it will not be in the retail market place. This beef is for my family’s consumption and no one else’s. The reason we choose to slaughter our beef in this fashion is that I think it is better for my animals. It’s less stressful for them. We don’t have to take them anywhere, they can stay in the environment they are used to. Again the health, safety and welfare of my animals in the most important thing to us – and the California Beef Council should recognize that on ranch customer harvest plays a part of that. If you look farther back in this blog you will find a prior posting (https://megraeb.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/inside-gasp-cargill/) that shows how beef that goes into the retail market is processed.
I received an e-mail from the California Beef Council after I twittered them the following:
“MegRaeB: hey did you guys have a problem with my blog yesterday? I just got a call from the Locker that you guys contacted them.”
This is the response:
Hi Megan, I want to apologize how this has spiraled. I didn’t mean to ruffle feathers with anyone. I was forwarded your blog by another organization that saw your twitter message directing your followers to your blog about slaughter. I would like to make the point clear that we are not trying to sensor personal blogs, Twitter or Facebook messages. If that’s the way it came across, I apologize. My concern is that pictures like the ones posted would turn people away from eating beef, or meat in general. Yes, consumers are too far removed from agriculture and our practices and it’s our duty to try and connect the consumer to modern production. However, I do think there may be a better way to convey to consumers how on-farm slaughter occurs, and a better explanation of custom slaughter versus federally inspected slaughter facilities, etc. It’s also important to get the message out to the consumer that as an industry, our collective goal is to produce wholesome, safe beef using the best science and technology available. Research has shown that consumers are concerned about food safety, more than animal handling and environmental issues. The pictures are not only graphic to a consumer, but they also don’t explain the science-based practices and regulations that the industry follows – and the millions of dollars we spend each year to produce safe beef – All of these messages have proven to resonate very well with consumers. Again, I want to apologize if it looks like we have an issue with the post. I’m just concerned about the message consumers will get from the pictures. As an industry representative, I have to be prepared for any possible feedback from consumers, media or other beef producers that might read the blog. I do want to applaud your outreach efforts, I believe we need more producers like yourself doing that. Instead of taking your blog down, why don’t you add a line about “This is how we do in on-farm, to learn about federally-inspected facilities, visit explorebeef.org.” Please call me if you want to talk about this. I don’t have your phone number. Shannon Shannon Kelley Public Relations Coordinator
You can tell they didn’t read my blog before they e-mailed me. Bums me out. Like I said before I’ve already posted links to retail harvest, I’ve addressed the science and technology that they industry uses. You can see that sort of information of the website they recommend going to – explorebeef.org. I’m very active on both my facebook and twitter explaining modern beef practices. But how often does a consumer get to see a custom exempt harvest? Never. You know what? I’m not sorry I posted these pictures and I’m not changing anything. Shannon – next time we do a custom exempt harvest why don’t you come watch, come talk to me, I would love to explain to you that consumers want transparency, they don’t like it when we hide things from them. And there are many stories in agriculture – not just the shinny, pretty, edited ones on explorebeef.org.
Oh and P.S. I already had explorebeef.org linked to blog. Again might want to read a blog before you attack it. Thanks!
Being bled out.
Attaching her to the kill truck so he can process her.
The skinning process.
Removing the legs so he can hang her.
Opening the chest so he can remove the guts.
Notice how the carcass never touches the ground?
The guts coming out.
Liver flukes, a common parasite in natural and organic beef.
Guts removed, skinning almost done.
Sawing the beef into halves.
Now it will be loaded into his refrigerated truck. It will be transfered into the locker where it will hang for a couple of weeks. It will then be cut, packaged and frozen.
The skinned skull, people want them for projects and landscaping.
UPDATE: because several people did ask for more information I’m updating this blog by adding some videos. Again if you think you are going to be upset – don’t watch.