Tag Archives: life

Death on the Range

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.

The trucks loading our cattle.

The trucks loading our cattle.

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.

The hardest place to get to on the ranch. There is a creek with one, very treacherous crossing.

The hardest place to get to on the ranch. There is a creek with one, very treacherous crossing.

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.

I'm sorry cow.

I’m sorry cow.

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.

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

My Top 13 Cattle Working Tips….


  1. Wear comfortable and supportive underwear and socks. There is nothing worse than getting an epic wedgie while running up and down a catwalk of a chute.
  2. Well…as long as we are on the subject…..Invest in a really good sports bra. The rocks + ATV’s = giving yourself a black eye.
  3. Bring an extra jacket because it’s always colder than you think, especially on an ATV. A beautiful, balmy morning can quickly turn into hypothermia and snotcicles.
  4. Wear short sleeves underneath because it gets hotter than you planned and boob sweat in your fancy sports bra is not your friend.
  5. Try and get as far away from the boss as you can, this lessens the likelihood you’ll get yelled at.
  6. Bring Chapstick, it’s wonderful for many uses. You never know when you’ll need to lube up a gate that is stuck or when your lips need moisturizing.
  7. Wind burn is as bad as sunburn. Wear lots of sunscreen and a big hat, you’ll thank me when you’re my age and you still get carded.
  8. Check all gates for hornet’s nests first! Those suckers hold a grudge and will get you at all costs. It’s like getting punched, it’ll ruin your day.
  9. Bring toilet paper. It’s a long way back to the house, there is no shame peeing in a stock trailer. Dripping dry is not time efficient.
  10. Keep your mouth shut as much as possible. I swear the cows get great joy flicking poo at and on you. Cow poo doesn’t taste good.
  11. Shut and lock and double check that you locked every gate you pass through. You do not want to be the one responsible for accidentally letting the cows out.
  12. Wear boots that are comfortable. There is nothing worse than breaking in a new pair of boots during a work day. You’ll be so busy, you won’t notice your blisters until they bleed.
  13. Bring your sense of humor.  Sometimes things will go wrong, people will get snapped at, and you will get poo in your mouth – it’s life, you just have to spit it out and keep moving forward.


Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, family, History, Humor, Know a California Farmer, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

No Consumers Were Harmed in the Making of This 4-H Meeting

The pictures posted below are of a 4-H meeting, we are between the ages of 13 and 16. The same processor from my previous blog is custom exempt harvesting a heifer for us. Funny story about this particular heifer – when this same group of kids came out that fall to pick up their 4-H steers, this heifer tried to kill us. It was extra funny because the boys literally ran screaming for the fence leaving me all alone to deal with “Margo”. We tease them to this day about their lack of chivalry. However I did go on to run track…. coincidence?

It’s important to note that these young kids were not adversely affected by seeing a custom exempt slaughter. If I recall, my Mom fed us all hamburgers after we watched this.  We all grew up to work in agriculture. One is a large animal veterinarian, one works in swine reproductive medicine and surgery, another is a deputy ag commissioner. And then there is me and we all know how I turned out.

Point is, if kids can handle watching a slaughter in real life, the beef industry should be able to handle a personal blog about a family run ranch.


Mr. Dewey pointing out liver flukes.


The organs coming out.


More liver shots.

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Filed under Ag, photos, Rants


“I no longer want to eat that big ass steak I wanted seeing your pictures last week. I think it’s the poop and the blood and stuff together. I mean, I can blow someone’s head off in a video game and be fine, but this makes my stomach turn. Which means that you posting this is a good thing, because I feel like the reverse should be true”… – James Wall

I’m glad my friend James agrees with me. Again I think as a society we are removed from all things gross, unless it is in the movies, on TV or in a video game. Since we dealt with death last week, we deal with life this week, here is my Wordless Wednesday.

Again – if you have questions, please leave me a comment or drop me an e-mail. I will answer anything you want to know.


Cattle sometimes need help giving birth or “calving”. This happens for a variety of reasons – from using bulls whose EPD’s are too high, or simply a baby calf gets twisted around. Often time heifers or – cows that have never given birth – need the most help. Remember the blog post I did a while back about how we check if a cow is pregnant (https://megraeb.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/how-do-you-know-if-a-cow-is-pregnant/), this heifer is from that same herd.


This heifer needed some help giving birth because the calf was twisted all around. My Dad is a champion calf puller – he’s been doing it his whole  life.


He reaches in and adjusts the calf. Then he affixes “calf pulling” chains to the calf’s front legs. If he didn’t use the chains both he and the calf risk more injury. When the cow has her next contraction and pushes, my Dad pulls and the baby is welcomed into the world.


We place the cow in the squeeze chute for two reasons. The first being it keeps the cow still so my Dad can help her, without getting killed. Second is the pressure from the chute calms the cow. The cattle are not being mistreated here. This is standard industry practice and if we didn’t intervene chances are very high both Mama and baby would die.


Concerned Mama waiting for her baby to come out of the chute.


My Dad picks the baby up and places her in the pen with her Mama so they can bond.


She loves her baby!


Right before my Dad starts dry heaving (one would think that after 50+ years he’d stop that).




The nursery field. Cows that have new babies are all put in a field with short grass (so we can see them), that is not being irrigated (so they don’t get sick) and they are all together so we can check them easily. It’s probably one of the cutest things ever – a whole pasture full of racing, Angus babies.

Photos from Sharon Brown


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