Tag Archives: cow

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


Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, food, Know a California Farmer, meat, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: Mama Cow


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Video: Roping a Calf From the Polaris Ranger

Don't wear flip flops to doctor calves. This is why I have the most hideous feet you've ever seen. Boots, socks, pants - they are your friends!

Don’t wear flip flops to doctor calves. This is why I have the most hideous feet you’ve ever seen. Boots, socks, pants – they are your friends!

Our friend Pete Neer came over for dinner, but ended up being put to work! We’ve had a really aggressive strain of pink eye hit our cattle. We’ve been very pro-active, treating them for flies (that helps prevent the spread), giving them minerals (healthy cows are happy cows!), and staying on top of the sick ones.

Despite our best effort to prevent illness in our cattle, we’ve had to treat some.

We used antibiotics on this calf because if we wouldn’t have the calf would have been in a lot of pain, and lost his eye. He’ll be sold separate from the rest if our herd, but that will be next year. By that time, no residue will be left. I use AB’s as a last ditch effort, very carefully, and very respectfully.

When we use antibiotics it costs us a lot of money. Not something that a ranch wants to do. It’s costs us to treat the calf and after it is treated, it’s not worth as much money because we can’t sell it as ‘natural’. That is why we work so hard to keep our cattle healthy. Quite simply, our consumers demand it, and we want them happy.

That is me screaming because my Dad wasn’t paying attention when that cow was in front of us! I thought he was going to hit her!

The calf is now fine. He can see, he feels good, he is healthy. It’s really amazing how one little shot can save a life.


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Wordless Wednesday: I Shall Call Him Mini-me



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Putting Out Salt

It’s Fall and it has finally rained a few times. That means our cattle can come home from the high country. My Dad has already shipped a load down, so today we went out to check fences, put out a mineral salt block and move the cattle into their field for the winter.

This happy dog is going to start coming with me into the office once in a while. She has to have a job or she gets sad.

Ranchie had a health scare earlier this week. She is an old dog, around 9. She is a wonderful cow dog and loves her job, so she gets used a lot. However we realize it’s time for her to start to retire, little jobs like this is going to be her new normal. She was so happy to be back with my Dad, after her scare earlier in the week, she got sent home here in the Valley for some TLC. She loves us, but she knows who her master is.

This is what the Ranch looks like during this time of year. Last year’s old grass with new green sprouts starting to grow.

No horses this time! The ranger make this job a lot faster and easier for us.

This “bridge” has always made me nervous. I used to swear it was going to break when we would drive the hay truck over it.

Cottonwood Creek.

The cows.

We “pushed” the cows against the fence until they saw their gate into the next field called The Cottonwood Range. They know the drill.

Ranchie was ready in case any one got out of line.

My Dad putting out the mineral salt block.

Cattlepeople give salt to our cattle in block or loose form. We like the block because it is easy, and it meets out needs. Cattle should have this available to them at all times. Some salt blocks have phosphorus, magnesium or other supplements added to them to prevent conditions like grass tetany, poor growth rates or to prevent certain deficiencies.

We try to prevent diseases and conditions in our cattle, this makes both our and  their lives much better. Making sure our cattle’s basic needs are met and exceeded is just one of many tools in our “tool box” that ensures we do this. Any questions?


Filed under Ag, agriculture, Beef, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Glossary of Beef Terms

This is a very broad overview of terms I use on the Ranch. I will add more as I think of them.

A.I. – artificial insemination

Average daily gain – pounds of liveweight gained per day

Balling gun – a tool used to discharge pills into the animal’s throat.

Birth weight – the weight of the calf taken within the first 24 hours of birth

Birth weight EPD – The expected average increase of decrease in birth weight of a bull’s calves when compared with other bulls in the same sire summary.

Bloat – abnormal conditions characterized by a distention of the rumen, usually seen on the left side, due to the accumulation of gas.

Bloom – a haircoat that has luster that gives the appearance of a healthy animal.

Bolus – a large pill for treating cattle; you use a balling gun to administer.

Bos indicus – zebu (humped) cattle, including the Brahman breed. They tolerate heat and insects well.

Bos Taurus – European breads that tolerate the cold, such as Hereford, angus.

Brand – a permanent identification of cattle usually made on the hide with a hot iron or freeze brand.

Bred – a cow that has mated with a bull and is pregnant.

Brucellosis – a contagious bacterial disease that results in abortions; also can be called bang’s disease.

Bull –  a male bovine, usually of breeding age.

Bulling – when a cow is in heat or estrus.

Calf – a young male or female bovine under 1 year of age.

Calve – to give birth.

Castrate – to remove the testicles

Cod – scrotal area of a steer remaining after castration.

Colostrum – the first milk given by a female cow following the delivery of a calf. It is high in antibodies that protect the calf from invading microorganisms.

Conditioning – Treatment of cattle by vaccination and other means prior to putting them in a feedlot.

Cow – an adult female

Cow/calf operation – a segment of the cattle industry that manages and produces weaned calves.

Crossbred – animal produced by crossing two different breeds, for example a Brahman and Angus is a Brangus.

Cud – bolus of feed that cattle regurgitate.

Cull – to eliminate one or more animals from your herd.

Dewlap – the flap of loose skin under the chin and neck of cattle.

Direct sales – selling cattle directly to one ranch to another, from ranch to feedlot, or ranch to packer.

Dressed beef – carcasses from cattle.

Ear mark – a method of permanent identification by which slits or notches are placed in the ear.

Ear tag – a method of identification by which a numbered, lettered, or colored tag is placed in the ear, like an earring.

EPD – expected progeny difference, one-half of the breeding value in the sire or dam. The difference in expected performance of future progeny of a sire, when compared with that expected from future progeny of bulls in the same sire summary.

Embryo transfer – transfer of fertilized egg(s) from donor female to one or more recipient females.

Eviscerate – the removal of internal organs during the slaughter process.

Feed bunk – trough or container used to feed cattle.

Feeder – Cattle that need further feeding prior to slaughter or a producer that feeds cattle.

Feedlot – a segment of the industry in which cattle are fed grain and other concentrates for usually 90-120 days then slaughtered.

Finish – Degree of fatness of an animal or the completion of the last feeding phase of slaughter cattle.

Finished cattle – Fed cattle ready for slaughter.

Freemartin – female born twin to a bull (usually these heifers will never conceive).

Grass tetany – Disease of cattle marked by staggering, convulsions, coma, and death that is caused by a mineral imbalance (magnesium) while grazing lush pasture.

Heifer – a young cow, one that has never had a calf.

Hot carcass weight – the weight of the carcass just prior to chilling.

Ionphore – antibiotic the enhances feed efficiency by changing microbial fermentation in the rumen.

Liver flukes – parasitic flatworm in the liver.

Marbling – flecks of intramuscular fat distributed in muscle tissue.

Mastitis – inflammation of the udder.

Natural beef- beef that has not been fed growth stimulates or antibiotics.

Open – non pregnant females

Offal – the organs and tissue removed from the cattle during the slaughter process

Pasture rotation – the rotation of animals from one pasture or field to another so that a field or pasture have no livestock grazing on them during a certain period of time.

Pay weight – the actual weight for which payment of the cattle is made. Usually the actual weight minus the shrink.

Polled – naturally hornless

Preconditioning – preparations of feeder calves for selling and shipping, can include vaccinations, castration, training the calves to eat from a feeder or drink from a trough.

Primal cuts – the wholesale cuts of beef. It can include: round, loin, flank, rib, chuck, brisket, plate and shank.

Progeny – offspring, calves

Quality Grades – grades used in the beef industry to rate the beef; for example – prime, choice, select.

Ration – the feed fed to an animal in a 24 hour period

Replacement heifers – heifers, usually between the ages of 10 – 16 months, that are kept to replace old cows in the breeding program.

Ruminant – a mammal whose stomach has four parts – rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum Cattle, sheep, goats, and elk are some examples.

Scours – profuse, watery diarrhea from the intestines.

Seedstock – breeding animals like bulls. Used interchangeably with purebred.

Shrink – loss of weight. Usually expressed in percentage of liveweight to account for fill (food and water). It is usually around 3 to 4%.

Steer – a male that has been castrated before puberty

Subcutaneous – an injection below the skin of an animal.

Tagging- when we place tags in the ears of the cattle for identification purposes.

Vaccination – when we administer a vaccine or shot.

Weaner – a calf that has been weaned or is near weaning age.

Weaning weight – the weight of the calf when it is removed from the cow.

White muscle disease – muscular disease caused by a deficiency of selenium or vitamin E.

Yearling – animals that are one year old.


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Back When We Had Herefords…

We made the transition from herefords to black angus in the early 1990’s. The black calves simply brought more money at auction and they seem to have fewer health problems, like cancer eye. We have one or two old black baldy cows left, but, for the most part all that’s left of our hereford herd are old pictures like the one below. I enjoy looking at old pictures of livestock to see how breeding trends have changed. This guy below reminds me of a buffalo!


Breeding trends are especially interesting in reference to sustainability. My Dad often shares how he remembered selling calves that were two years old and 800 lbs., now we sell our 12/13 month old steers at a base weight of 850 lbs. (in a good feed year). How did we do this? Genetics, an awesome vaccination program, good nutrition, using modern technology that was available to us. In addition to improving our herd, we also improved our land. I mentioned before we laser leveled our fields to improve production. We also leave each ranch empty for 6 months out of the year. We practice rotational grazing and attempt to mimic a natural cycle.


I’ve been told that it takes 19% less feed, 12% less water, 33% less land per unit of beef produced today as compared to 1977. By looking at old pictures it really helps me to “see” the comparative advantage. It seems like animal ag has made some pretty big advance in the past 30 years. It’s exciting to see what the next 30 will bring!


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How Do You Know if a Cow is Pregnant?

By feeling of course! I’ll add more pictures to this blog when I go home. But this is Dr. Randy Walstrum preg checking our heifers.  It looks gross, I know – but don’t panic! It’s organic! ha ha ha
It does not hurt the cow. It does not hurt the unborn calf. Dr. Walstrum is very good at what he does and it just takes seconds.



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