Ranch life in the Big Sky state through the eyes of one who has lived through it...so far.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Adding Some Color

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So today we're talking a little roping and a little cowology, and that place where the two meet. First, the roping. The last couple of years we lived in South Dakota, Greg and I did quite a bit of team roping. Then we moved to Oregon and there were plenty of tie down and breakaway roping jackpots to keep us busy, plus we didn't have space for both steers and calves on our two acre plot, so the team roping mostly went by the wayside.

Since we moved home to the ranch we've been trying to get back to it, but for one reason or another we never seemed to have the time. Now I've shed the town job and I have t

wo horses--Bailey and Vegas--who really aren't suited to anything but heading steers. And Greg finally got the heeling horse he's been looking for in Hollywood.

Now's where we get into the cowology. We keep a small herd of Longhorn cows specifically for the purpose of raising roping cattle. But since no one was team roping and the Longhorn bull was a tad difficult to have around, for several years we just bred the Longhorns to our Angus bulls. And because Angus bulls are polled--like most commercial breeds these days--and polled (aka, without horns) is a dominant trait, we had a whole string of Longhorn calves minus the horns.

Last summer Greg decided to change that and took five of our cows down to my cousin's place to breed to his Corriente bull. The result has added a whole lot of color to our herd:



You can also see why Corriente/Longhorn cattle are favored for roping. They're lighter and more agile so less prone to injury, and stay that way until they're three or four years old. Compare the two calves about to the one below, that's out of an Angus bull. Notice how much beefier he is? Also the reason Corriente/Longhorn cattle aren't favored for beef production. Basically, they're too skinny, and it costs too much to fatten them up. Which is too bad, because they never have trouble calving and have a natural resistance to most of the common diseases that make cattle sick. 


But dang, they sure are pretty.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dogie Daycare

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Out in the pasture today, I ran across this bunch, the only cattle in sight. Note the ratio of calves to cows:



Unless you've spent time on a ranch with large pastures, you may not realize that even cows need to get away from their kids once in a while. So they hire babysitters. No, really. Nearly any sunny afternoon you can ride through our pasture and find a bunch of calves being watched over by two or three cows while the rest of go off and graze or have a drink with the girls.

I've never checked, but I assume they take turns keeping an eye on the brats. Or possibly, like some humans, the same poor souls get stuck with playground duty every day. I do know one thing. The missing mamas are always within earshot, and will come on the run with one bark from Max the Cowdog.

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Friday, May 01, 2015

Now you can laugh at me in person!

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Time to start hounding all the Cut Bank area folks to come and hang out next week. Yes, they're turning me loose on the unsuspecting public again. Robbed of my delete key, it is entirely possible I will say something totally humiliating either for me or my family. In other words, pretty much like every time I speak in public.

Laugh at me or laugh with me, either way, we'll have a good time.



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Monday, April 27, 2015

Rock Soup, Duct Tape and Pineapple Pork Chops

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It's that time of year--checking fences to see what the wind and the snow have knocked loose or down before turning the yearlings out to pasture.

In the meantime, the latest edition of my mini-mag, Rock Soup for the Cowboy Soul, is hot off the press. And this month it's creeping closer to being a real e-zine, with stories, a recipe and of course, book news. Check it out here:  Rock Soup

And if you'd like to get the next edition directly in your inbox, subscribe here

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Montana Cliche

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I felt like a complete Montana cliche when I went out for my walk yesterday morning, all mountains majesty, big blue skies and eagles circling overhead.



Due to the increasing demands on my writing time, I'm looking to simplify a little, so in the future the stories you used to find here on my blog will be going out in something I call Rock Soup for the Cowboy Soul. I'll post a link to every issue here on blog, or you can hop over to my website to subscribe.

There will be new issue coming out later this week, with the latest fumblings and bumblings from here on the ranch, plus big news on the book front. For now, you can check out the inaugural issue, which features a free, only available here short story: Rock Soup for the Cowboy Soul.



Monday, March 09, 2015

You're Invited!

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Hey, everybody within driving distance of the Cut Bank, Browning, Del Bonita and surrounding area--I'm throwing myself a belated book release party on March 14th at the former Croff-Wren School, aka Address USA. Come to hear about my new book, come to hear a few of my stories and share some of your own, or just come for the dessert buffet. It's an old-fashioned community gathering and we want to see your smiling face and find out how the winter's been treating you.


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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Take a Number

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Each year as calves are born, they get an eartag, which is numbered to match their mother. In the event of a blizzard that separates mothers from babies, we can match them up again by number. Heifers get a tag in the left ear and bulls/steers get a tag in the right, which makes life much easier whenever we have to sort by sex.

If the calf is a heifer that we plan to keep as a herd cow, she'll get a new number when we Bangs vaccinate. (That's brucellosis, for those who aren't familiar. The vaccination is required if the cow is ever to be sold). The first digit of the heifer number is the year she was born. So a 2014 heifer has a 4 plus her mother's root number. Example: Cow 7587 (born in 2007) had a heifer calf last year.

The original calf tag in the left ear is the same as Mom's, 7587, but the daughter gets a second, permanent tag in the right ear with the number 4587. This tells us this new cow was born in 2014 and her mother was 7587, whose breeding history we know. This is important because the decision of whether to keep or sell a heifer sometimes comes down to her mother's productivity and personality. Was she a consistently early calver who never had trouble giving birth? Did she have a lot of milk? Take good care of her calf? Try to stomp us into the frozen ground when we applied the eartag in question? Is she a fence crawler who's constantly out in the neighbor's grain field and took her sweet, impressionable daughter along?



Obviously, the numbering system has limitations. There's only room on the tag for four digits if they're going to be large enough to read from a dozen yards away, out in the pasture. So if cow 7587 had a heifer calf last year and another this year, they would be 4587 and 5587, which is fine. But when 5587 has a calf in 2017 and it's a heifer, it'll be...7587. Assuming Grandma's still around, we have problem. And if 5587 and 4587 both have heifer calves in 2018, if we stuck to the system they'd both be 8587. That's when we have to assign a new number to the third generation and rely on our record-keeping to track her lineage. But since our books are in impeccable order...(cue uproarious laughter from anyone who's ever met us.)

Overall, though, the system works pretty well. Especially when it comes to good ol' 0001, who has a rather unique personality that she seems to pass on to her daughters and granddaughters almost without fail. And it's always good to know that the minute their calf hits the ground, these otherwise docile creatures are going to morph into The Pawing Cow.




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For more information on The Long Ride Home and to subscribe to my mini-mag Rock Soup for the Cowboy Soul visit KariLynnDell.com.

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