Happy Cows, Happy Husband

It was a gorgeous morning to work with the cows!

Have you ever had to do a job with someone where it gets tense? Everyone’s walking around on edge, partially dreading the task at hand and you just know there might be a “bleepty, bleep, bleep” every other sentence while trying to get the job done?  Now that I’ve painted that picture, can you guess the two times that seem to fit this description at the farm?  You guessed it! Puttin’ up hay and workin’ cows! I’m not sure why these two jobs always seem to be so stressful when starting out, but for some reason they are. Probably because if anything goes wrong it could be a very big deal.  This weekend we worked cattle and I got to be the assistant.  I filled syringes, loaded the ear tagger and helped sort.  We only had a couple of minor incidents– including the one where a couple of the ornery girls scratched their backs on a gate and completely pulled it up off the hinge and knocked it over.  What the ??? Seriously, girls, get it together!

Working cattle meant pushing all of them through the chute– mother cows, heifers and the calves.  One by one they each got a shot of Vira Shield and Clostridium.  Both are common vaccines to aid in prevention of diseases and illnesses in healthy cows.  My job was to prepare an alcohol drenched cotton ball and the syringes each time for Jace, who would then inject them subcutaneously in their neck.  That just means they were injected under the skin.  Did you like my doctor lingo there? Just call me “Dr. Anderson”– haha!

tagging

Fly tag going in

Once finished I quickly handed over the ear tagger to my father in law who inserted a Dominator fly tag into each ear.  This is an insecticide tag that is used to help control flies.  As the animal moves it’s head backward to scratch, it spreads the insecticide onto it’s back.  Now, this is much later than usual to get a fly control program going, but the main thing is we got it done before the flies got too bad.

It’s so important to have a fly control program in place to help with limiting the spread of pink eye.  While in the chute being tagged, we checked their eyes.  We looked to make sure they weren’t droopy, cloudy or irritated– all signs of pink eye.  This year we are in good shape!  Flies can travel very far distances and can spread pink eye from herd to herd and multiple animals in a short amount of time resulting in swelling around their eyes to the point they cannot see.  If left untreated there are other more severe effects too.  The goal is to get a fly program in place just before the warm season starts. Of course with warmer temperatures comes more flies.

The last thing we did was to spread a fly powder over the back of the animal and it’s face.  We rubbed the powder down with a brush to help it get further down into the hair as added protection.  In addition to the fly tags and powder, we also have fly bags hanging out in the pasture that the cows can rub up against which releases powder onto them.  As you can see there are a few things we do to help combat against flies.  For the most part, it seems to work until cooler weather comes and they are all much more comfortable again.

After a couple pairs were moved through the chute (a pair is a mama and her calf), we sorted out a few more. One by one they went through until we were all finished, leaping out of the chute as happy as ever to be done.  It was so nice to have a few of us working them. Things moved quickly and efficiently– aside from the sorting part. In case you’re wondering, that’s probably the hardest part along with getting them into the chute which is really what makes things tense.  It’s so important to try to remain calm, though.  Animals can pick up on that stuff and it only makes it harder to work them.  When you’re working with an animal this large you definitely want to make sure they’re calm that’s for sure!

Going back to the pasture

You could tell they were all ready to get back to the pasture we brought them off of to be worked.  They balled like little babies begging to go back and eat.  We moved them up and over the driveway back to the pasture and they were all happy cows again!  The next time we’ll move them through the chute is in the fall when the calves have to be worked again. Until then… the ladies and gents are settled back into their favorite pasture for the time being and Jace is very happy we were able to safely and quickly move them all through.

*Side note- I don’t recommend trying to take pictures while working cows especially if you have a job in the process… Haha…

One Bale At A Time

As the weekend comes to a close I am reminded again (for the millionth time) how hard farming or having livestock is, but also how rewarding it can be. This weekend we spent the entire weekend putting in hay. We’re not finished yet, but should be tomorrow. Every year about this time, we put up around 1,400 bales to feed the herd through the winter. One by one, every bale is plucked from the field, stacked on the truck, taken up the road to the farm, unloaded at the bottom of the barn and put on a conveyor. Each bale makes the trip up to the loft to be handled one more time and stacked to perfection inside (stacked by Mr. Captain Farm Boss of course!)

 

 

Every bale weighs about 50 to 60 lbs. Add to that, the heat and the dustyness of the fresh cut grass and you can see why it’s not one of my favorite things to do. But when it’s all done and in the barn, it really is a great feeling.

Co-Pilot, Tucker

However, when it comes to hay I really can’t complain…. This time last year I was recovering from back surgery. Long story short, I got out of doing hay last year– obviously for good reason! This year, not a chance of that. There was no way I could milk that excuse again, haha! But… My help with hay is not what I described above and the real reason why I cannot complain. While Jace and our hay crew are out slinging bales and sweating like the hard working men that they are, I have the luxury of being the driver. I get to sit in the pick up with the windows up, air on full blast keeping me cool and my co-pilot by my side to keep me company– isn’t he so cute?!

My job is to drive the truck from stack to stack so the guys don’t have to do it and keep things moving right along. It is definitely the more glamorous part of the job and someone’s got to do it, so why not me? JK. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been the driver and left the heavy lifting and stacking to the pros.  Except this one time…

It was about five years ago… We had gotten a bunch of bales up to the barn that still needed to be put up inside. One of our friends, TJ, was on his way to help Jace put them in. While he waited for him, Mother Nature started gettin’ all sassy, acting like she wasn’t on our side. The clouds rolled in and looked like they were going to start dumping on the hay. Like anyone else who might stress out about this, Jace was clearly getting anxious. If it had rained, our hay would have gotten ruined and all he could see were dollar signs and hard work before his eyes going up in flames.

I had just gotten off the treadmill at the house and ran down to the barn to see what was up. I noticed Jace’s worry coming through (it was kind of easy by the choice words coming out of his mouth! Haha!) and decided I would help him until TJ arrived. Mind you, I just got done with a run so I was wearing shorts and running shoes– not quite the right attire for the task. ‘Whatever,’ I said. Anything to help my guy out, right?!?! I found a pair of his Muck Boots at the barn and put them on to help cover my legs a little more. They were HUGE. And it was hot. Ankle socks in huge, hot Muck Boots…. Gross. And, not the greatest feeling. Ugh. I know, I’m from Hawaii I should be used to the heat, right? Wrong! I’ve become quite the heat sissy since living in Oregon- hah! Anyhow, one by one I start slinging these bales onto the conveyor up to Jace. You guys– it was a shit show, seriously! First off, if you don’t get the bale on the conveyor right it will slide back down, make the chain rattle and cause Jace to yell down to you. “Flip it over!!” Imagine that happening for just about every other bale. Secondly, my outfit was a joke and totally inappropriate for the job.

I was thinking I’d help Jace for about a half hour or so and sneak out before our friend arrived. Talk about things not going as I had hoped… About 30 bales in and here comes TJ strolling in before I could sneak away and not expose how much of a dweeb I was to anyone else besides Jace. Of course, he was laughing at the scene he pulled up to (and probably thinking WTF Flyin’ Hawaiian?!?!).

You guys– my legs were alllll cut up! The next day they were seriously on fire from all the tiny little grass cuts because my crazy self decided it would be fine to put hay up in shorts.  Jace and TJ still bring that story up and I’m sure they will never forget it. It was a total ‘Wannabe Farm Girl’ situation.  Thinking back, it was funny (and painful). I’ve never worn shorts to put hay up ever again and definitely learned my lesson. There are other ways for me to be helpful on the farm or during hay season. It’s one of those things that is just easier if I don’t try to get too involved with, and I’m ok with that. I’m definitely ok with just being the driver.

For next year, you know where to find me during hay season. Come ride shotgun with me!

Sunday Scorcher

Oh man! The past week and a half has been a whirlwind of a time! So much to do and so little time.  Tonight I decided I need a break and I have found a few minutes to tell you all about this past Sunday…

TuckerLast weekend was a scorcher here in the valley.  It was going to be so hot that Jace and I both decided we needed to beat the heat on Sunday morning.  So we got up really early to get some things done at the farm before I headed out of town for work later in the day.

Being apart of the livestock world and a family farm means there is ALWAYS work to be done– whether its breeding, working cattle or facility maintenance.  Jace had the herd bred back in May and early June.  Unfortunately, we found that one of our girls, Miss Jana, was still open after her initial breeding.  If you’re wondering, yes, they’re all named– Miss Jana is named after a dear friend! And, for you newbies out there, being “open” means the female was not successfully impregnated.  

We were positive she was not pregnant because Jace had her blood tested to be sure.  He had been waiting for her to come back into heat, but was not able to catch it in action.  So, our first job on Sunday was to help jumpstart Miss Jana’s cycle by giving her a shot that would help that happen.  To do this, we had to get her into the chute. Did I tell you that I don’t run the chute? Well, not yet anyway. If you’re not good at it you could injure yourself or the animal, which I definitely don’t want to do and haven’t found the confidence to want to give it a try just yet. Second, if you let them get through and miss them, the joke is that you have to buy a 6-pack for every one missed.  With my luck, I’d be buying a 6-pack for every single one. Soooo, I just leave that to the pros and take on the assistant role by helping with the supplies- haha!

With my father in law working the head catch, Jace was able to get right in there and give the shot of Lutalyse. I helped with the Estrotect patches. These are patches he applied to Jana’s tail head that are basically heat detectors.  By applying the patches, he would easily be able to tell if Jana was in heat over the next couple of days. I will spare you the details, but I think you can guess what happens when in heat…

And just like that, our first task of the day was finished. Onto the next…

It seems like there is always a gazillion sections of fence that needs fixin’ at any one point in time.  It’s one of those ongoing things at the farm that with age needs repair and with just Jace working on it, it seems like its never ending.

Fence 1

Off we went to get a couple more sections of wood fence panels put up in one area of the corral.  Each board painted one by one were finally going up, making that section that much more useable.  We got it done quickly– teamwork makes the dream work, people! And just like that we were finished.

By 10 am it was over 80 degrees already.  We decided to call it a day when finished with the fence and thank goodness because the mercury was only going up from there.  It was a short day, but a productive one. I’m always happy when I can help Jace on a project at the farm. I feel like I’ve contributed just a little bit more each and every time.  And for a someone who this was completely foreign to a few years back, it makes me feel more and more like a farm girl at heart.

This weekend we’ll be putting in hay and the work will continue as to be expected.  Stay tuned to see how that goes and maybe I’ll throw in a funny story that involves me in shorts, Jace’s Muck Boots and whole-lotta hay!  It’s one of my fondest memories of learning the ropes of the farm- haha!

 

Farm Find- The Old Red Truck

Have you ever done a major clean out of something? Your closet? Or the kitchen? What about your guest room?  Normally it takes FOREVER as you go through every single thing and decide what to do with it.  Sometimes you might donate it, sell it, or secretly put it back until the next time you go through a big purge of “stuff.”  Often times you remember the first time you wore that sweater or the last time those jeans fit.  Regardless of what you’re cleaning out, it usually doesn’t happen without some nostalgic feelings throughout the process.  Now, imagine having a family farm to clean out… One that has been collecting things for the past 60 years!  Let me tell you– it’s a lot of stuff!  And not just old stuff, but cool stuff!

Over the past several months Jace has been working through much of the buildings, the barn and other equipment that has piled its way up at the farm.  One of the main projects he wanted to get started was to see if this old GMC would ever run again. As long as I’ve known Jace, this little gem has been tucked away in one of the tractor sheds, never run and just looking like it wanted to make a comeback. So, on Father’s Day, Jace helped his dad get this old red beast out of the shed and ready to get towed to the shop to see if it’s worth saving.

I hope that it will be worth fixing up.  It is the cutest truck. I love the color, the shape and everything about it.  Not to mention it could be another great hay hauling truck for us!

Remember when I said that cleaning things out likely comes with some memories?  Well, as we celebrated Father’s Day dinner at the farm, Jace filled me in on the memories of the old red GMC.  This was the rig they used to transport some of their cattle between properties when he was a kid.  They were days spent with grandpa Jack, his mom and his dad hauling and moving cattle, doing things they loved.  Believe it or not, it was also what Jace learned to drive a stick shift in on the farm!  Whether this old girl stays around or not, the memories will always be there.  Memories of time spent riding in the cab of this sweet old truck and lots of hard work. FullSizeRender

Times like this remind me that a good days worth of cleaning things out isn’t so bad! Especially if you can dust something off and make good use of it again.  Sometimes the saying “out with the old, in with the new” should be “out with the old, back in with the old.”  Fingers crossed!

Back to The Beginning

Well, I figured I’d give it another go! Thanks to everyone for the texts, comments, shares and follows after my first post last week. It’s so great to know there are people out there who support me on this new endeavor…You guys are the best! Ready for #2? Here goes…

In order to fully understand why we have cows or how we even got to the small herd we have today, I’m reallllyyy going to have to take you back…And not just six years this time!

Everything with the farm and pretty much the two people responsible for Jace having a passion as deep as he does for cattle all stems back to his parents.  His grandpa, Jack, purchased the home place, what we know today as “The Farm” back in the 1960’s which is where Jace grew up.  Jack had a love for the red and white and operated a commercial and registered herd of Herefords, a breed known for it’s docile mannerisms and excellent beef quality.

Jace_0006

Baby Jace feeding baby Hereford ❤

He ran the farm with Jace’s parents until he decided to exit, taking a back seat to the cattle business.  My mother in law grew up with the cattle and my father in law studied livestock nutrition so it was a natural fit for them to continue managing the herd.  Jace loved being apart of this and couldn’t help but be bummed when he went off to college and the herd was then sold off. Understandably so, when he’d been used to waking up and walking outside to these gentle giants for his entire life.

When the herd was sold and he went off to college, Jace knew that he wanted to continue raising cattle. It was something he was born into, something that ran deep in his blood. Heck, he even took his first steps as a kid at a cattle show at the Oregon State Fair- hah! Whatever he did, he just could not shake the idea of not having them in his life.  It was then that he decided to build his own herd starting with the matriarch who we lovingly refer to as Marie, a purebred Hereford.  Marie was Jace’s official first heifer purchase his senior year of high school.

Jace

Jace showing Marie at Marion Co. Fair. Circa 2005.

For the next decade, Jace continued to pour his heart into the farm and Marie.  One by one he has grown the heard each year, reviewing and experimenting with what bulls to breed to next all while making improvements to the farm, taking risks and keeping up with the cattle industry.

Fast forward to 2017 and we’ve been blessed with a current herd of 10 cows– all thanks to Jace’s hard work. It may not sound like much, but it’s about all that we can handle with Jace being the primary person responsible for these “Ladies” while working full time.  I know it sounds crazy, but there has been a time or two when I have raised the idea of selling the herd off due to some other crazy idea I came up with or because I could only imagine what we could do with all the time we’d have if we didn’t have the responsibility.  Each time I’ve been faced with a big, huge, fat “NO” and I quickly get over it.

It’s not that I don’t love the cows– because I do!  I see the joy they bring and the feeling of accomplishment, the satisfaction of hard work.  The only way I can explain it is, it’s the same way when Jace comes home to Hawaii with me. He will never fully understand why we do what we do, why we say what we say, the way we speak, live, operate.  You know what I mean? It’s the same thing here on the farm– there are cultural differences if you will. I “get it,” but I will never truly, truly understand the emotional connection to the cattle the way he does.

Jace Work Cattle

Tagging and weighing cattle at the Marion Co. Fair Beef Weigh Ins.

But, each time, I think back to the two people who planted the seed for Jace and the cows and I can’t help but be thankful. Thankful for the skills, qualities, dedication and passion that have been drilled deep into him. As a wife it is something I am truly proud of.  Like any good husband, Jace has learned to roll with it (more like roll his eyes– haha!) when I’ve suggested such crazy ideas and keeps trudging along.  Thank goodness for that because I can’t imagine Jace without some sort of livestock following behind him, a 6:30 am call to re-breed one of them or coming home extra late during calving season.

One day when we are lucky to be blessed with a little one of our own, I can only hope that he or she will find the joy in these creatures as Jace has.  Until then, I’ll continue as I have for the past seven years joining him on the farm, rolling with the punches and taking it all in– understanding more and more each day about raising cattle and this thing called “Farm Life.”