Thursday, May 24, 2012

WOW! Just Wow! on a variety of things....

I have to say again how humbled I am by all of the love and support my farm family has shown. You are all Just amazing!
We're getting things ready for the new crop of grow out pigs here at the home farm, they will be Hampshire crosses this round as they do well in an outdoor setting, I looked into some Yorkshires, but the Landrace influence does not lend itself to outdoor production, These Types of hogs have been bred for decades to live indoors in confinement and are too delicate for our pasture based system. The Hampshire cross hogs we are getting this year are from an outdoor breeder of show hogs and will do well in our climate. The Mule foots are just getting ready to farrow and won't be ready until fall. The Red Wattles are being reserved as breeders to help improve the critically small population.
The steers have been ultra sounded and marked for re-checking as they approach Market weight on the irrigated pastures and the lambs are growing well despite late lambing this season due to the weird weather.
Baby Jesse is being weaned and her mama is definitely ready for the brat child to have her own space!

The squash, melons, tomatoes, and peppers are going great guns in the garden and we have some wacky heirlooms for you all to enjoy this season. The lettuces... well they became Dawg Food! The little brat got out and had a wonderful time chomping them up! Darn that Goat anyway! Nan-e is going to kid any day, with Floss, Floretta, and Baby G not far behind. Bill-e will be going to a new home and a replacement Buck is on his way from Kansas. We have registered Boer Goats and percentage Market Goats available.

The mini cattle for our research project are doing well but I can tell already that at least for us, these tiny guys just don't add up as profitable alternative. (they would work great as a family project though!) Their daily gain is about 1.5 lb compared to the Simangus at 3.2 and we won't even mention the dairy cross steers. Big Boned and definitely not designed to forage! They all had to come in and be supplemented and summer isn't even here yet!
Comet, the new guard Llama is AWESOME! He really takes care of his sheep and gets along with Lorenzo who is getting up there in age. Tony still lives with his horses and cows, he is just too pushy for sheep work.

The BC's are all tuning up for the season and Tweed seems content to just work the Granny's on the home farm (at 12 all day in the field is too much for his old bones) Gracie (aka The Land Shark) is solidly working the flocks, and Wallace is our Cow Dog extraordinaire! Cricket, Sweep, and Monk are all going to stock dog boot camp with auntie Robin for the summer so by round up time we'll have a great team! I tell ya, a good horse and good dogs really can do the work of 10 people, without the stress of chasing! Just a step and a look makes those critters turn for the chutes or holding pens. A brace makes moving an entire herd or flock a breeze, and there is nothing more beautiful than well trained dogs working healthy stock.

We'll have 8 steers that look like they will be ready to go by the end of next month so hot season orders shouldn't be a problem. We have tentatively scheduled our branding and gathering party for late October and I will keep you posted. Last year's party was a blast and those of you that came out sure got an education!

Until next time, thank you and see ya at the farm!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Good thing they called us first!

As some of you know I am part of a group that offers consults for small startup farms, We received a call from a very nice man wanting to start raising a few calves for finishing and he asked us to come evaluate his pastures before he brought in any livestock. What we found when we got there was a tragedy waiting to happen! He had a toxic Garden on that 5 acres! Oleanders along the fence, Nicotiana(Tree Tobacco) near outbuildings, Locust and Chinaberry trees, Nightshades and Star Thistle in the pasture itself, not to mention salt cedars, ragweed,  and Fiddle heads. We showed him how to remove the biggest hazards without the use of poisons and suggested fencing off some of the trees so that the animals could not gain access, He is blessed to be able to irrigate so we gave him a few suggestions about what to plant and how to maintain healthy pasturage year round, Nick Volunteered to go out and plow for him and bring in some well cured mulch from the dairy, NICE!

I'm sure glad that he called us rather than just jumping right in blind! he could have ended up with some very sick animals or worse!  Here are some stock photos of some of the toxic species I mentioned, so that those of you considering doing some small scale farming yourselves know what to watch for, some of these plants and trees are beautiful, but your livestock will be just as dead! UC Davis has a very comprehensive list of toxic plants that you can review at your leisure as well.                                                                                                                       

tree Tobacco       locust  nightshade     ragweed                 Fiddlehead                                                                                                         salt cedarStar thistle, there are both yellow and purple varieties.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Well hello!

I just came back to find a surprise in the sheep pasture! A new ram lamb! Mom must have skipped her preg check because he is definitely a surprise!
 It has been an odd day that's for sure! Running to the post office to verify that shipments actually went out because there is no on line data, Yep it's all on its way!
I got grilled by the cutest lady in the parking lot about Beef production! Her name is Addie and she used to live on the Vail Ranch when she was a girl and knew my dad!  After telling me some neat stories about what he and Mahlon Vail did back in the day she started asking me about the cows. I figured that she was just curious about how things had progressed in the last 40+ years, but Nope! Addie wanted to know how we were breeding, what improvements we had made over the years and if our White faced calves were Hereford or Simmental crosses. (If a breed of cattle does not have the genes for white faces, the offspring will never have a white face) I told her all about our breed-up program and she was delighted and approved! She also wanted to know if I had a horse kind enough for her to ride out with me some time. I better put a few miles on Red! He's a good boy buy I think Miss Addie will definitely expect better manners! (and a 87 years young she has a right to expect them!)
She is coming by the house in a few days with some pictures and I will be sure to share them!
 On another front, I've been talking up a storm since completing the Masters of Beef Advocacy course through the checkoff. I am constantly astounded at the disconnect between consumers and producers. People genuinely don't know where, when, why, and how their food, and especially their meat is grown.  Some of the biggies are Why Grass finished takes longer than grain finished, What the differences are, and the questions to ask when thinking about buying meats directly from the farmer or rancher. (I'm working on a printer friendly list of questions for folks to use as a guide.) I do think folks are starting to take a keener interest in their food and appreciate the food choices that are out there, but they don't know quite how to get exactly what they are looking for, or more accurately how to ask for it. If a place seems too good to be true, sadly, it usually is.
Farming and ranching aren't always pretty professions, some facets of production can be downright unpleasant in fact, and we need to show our customers both sides of process. The good and the bad, the miracles and the failures. If they only pet the babies and never see the end result, how are they going to know what actually goes into producing meat for the table?
 Some of my best stories come from when families come out on custom slaughter days! The kids are asking what every part is and why it looks the way it does, Mom is wringing her hands wondering if she has scarred her kid for life, and many of the big tough dads are hurling behind the barn! The kids are amazing! So curious, and the butcher takes the time to talk to them and explain each step. Our  future foodies getting a first hand lesson in where their food comes from. Just remember, Keep it real, do it right, be humble and beyond reproach, practice transparency and folks still may not like what we do, but they have to respect it!