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Showing posts from November, 2015

Back to School

I haven't told very many people, but I've gone back to school - I'm enrolled in an online master's program through Colorado State University in Integrated Resource Management.  It's a hybrid degree, combining animal science, range science and agricultural business - kinda what I've been doing for my entire career.  So far, I'm enjoying the program (I'm just three classes in) - and I'm looking forward to starting my research project (a survey of cattle, sheep and goat producers regarding their drought management and recovery strategies).  In just over 2 weeks, I'll also start a new job as the assistant rangeland specialist at UC Davis (working with extension specialists Ken Tate and Leslie Roche).  The new job will allow me to focus on rangeland and watershed issues while completing my master's - I can't wait!

I'm finding there are several advantages to going back to school in my extreme middle age.  First, I don't feel the pressu…

Calving Journal - November 18, 2015

No new calves today - I was surprisedDiscovered a possible tagging mistake - found calf 245 by itself.  Cow 309 was hanging around.  This afternoon, calf was still in the same place.  Searched for cow 245, and found her with calf 309.  Went back - tried to get calf 245 up and cow 309 to notice him - no luck (calf seemed week).  Just went back a few minutes ago, and calf 245 was up and nursing on 309!  I'll sleep better tonight.  Not sure how we messed up the tags.

Calving Journal - Novemver 17, 2015

6 new calves today - the beginning of the first big wave, I think!  The cows are testing my faith in them - found a calf outside the fence today with no mama around.  Found another that mom forgot - she was glad when I brought her calf back to her.  And a third wanted to eat my lunch when I went to tag her calf.

Looks like we'll have at least 5-6 more tomorrow...

That'll Do, Taff - Good Dog

Last night, we had to put down my old border collie, Taff.  At 12 years old, he'd been retired from sheep work for better than a year.  While his health had been declining, he was still a happy dog - he'd follow me out to do chores at home and greet me at the gate when I returned from work.  Yesterday was different, though - he was obviously in pain.  Sami suspected that he had tumor in his abdomen.  Last night, he couldn't get up, so we decided it was time.  With Sami, Lara and Emma gathered around us, I scratched his ears until he took his last breath.  Before Sami administered the euthanasia solution, I told him, "That'll do, Taff - good dog!" - I wanted him to take some comfort in the words I'd used when we worked together (for those of you who don't work dogs, "that'll do" is the traditional signal that the work is done).  And his life was a job well done.

I got Taff when he was 4 years old.  He'd failed as a sheep dog trial pr…

Calving Journal - November 14

I had to be here at 5 a.m. this morning to open the facility for a public bird hunt.  I've made two passes through the heifers - found a new calf each time.  The heifers still seem to be starved for salt - I put two new bags out and they went right to them.
Much like the sheep, I need to learn to trust the cows.  They'll hide their calves and act like they don't know where they are - but they always know!

Germination Day

Say the title of this post out loud - Germination Day....  To me, when I hear it, it sounds like it should be a holiday.  I'm willing to admit that this may be because I'm a sheepman who relies on annual rangeland to feed my sheep - and because we've been in a prolonged drought - but I like the idea of taking a day off when our annual grasses finally germinate in the fall.  I certainly celebrate when our golden Sierra foothills turn to green!

Our annual grasslands need 0.5-1 inch of rain to germinate in the fall.  For the 40 years (or so) that folks have kept track of such things at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center (SFREC) in Browns Valley, CA, a germinating rain has arrived sometime between late September and early November (on average).  In other words, a soaking rain is needed to get the seeds of our annual grasses to sprout.  The required amount depends on soil type, aspect, topography, and other factors.  For most of the lands that we graze near Aubu…

Calving Journal - November 12

I'm responsible for caring for 160 first-calf heifers that are part of an experiment at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center.  The goal of the experiment is to develop a vaccine for foothill abortion - a tick-borne disease that causes late-gestation abortions in unexposed cattle.  Some commercial producers can experience more than 50% loss rates.

These heifers were synchronized and Wagyu bulls were turned out on February 14, 2015.  The bulls were removed on March 9 - a 23-day breeding interval.  Theoretically, this means calves should start arriving in the third week of November.  Wagyu bulls were used because they typically "throw" low-birthweight calves, perfect for first-calf heifers.

Over the summer, we had a heifer die for unknown reasons, leaving 159 heifers to calve.  Beginning in August and continuing through the end of October, we started seeing a few abortions.  As part of the project, we try to recover aborted fetuses so that they can be evaluated…