Monthly Archives: October 2013

Shipping

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The majority of our calves are now gone… loaded on trucks and shipped to the buyer.   It was a glorious year for moisture and grass, and the calves sure showed it.  They were nice, big, healthy, and uniform.   I didn’t get many pictures as it is kind of a hurried and harried time, but did get a few snapped while we were gathering and sorting.  I love fall work and shipping days.

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Selling calves is always bittersweet.  We watched these babies grow and hate to see them leave, but know that the circle continues around and that it is time for us to get ready for winter and for the next batch of newcomers in spring.  We always have some that we watch extra close all spring and summer— usually because they came out of a favorite cow, but sometimes because it started its life in our entry because it needed some extra attention, or sometimes because we spent hours with it every day for the first couple of days getting it to suck or getting it to stand, or sometimes because we were there for every part of its birth and it made us laugh when it struggled to stand for the first time, or sometimes even just because the calf was always full of spunk and bucking around in the sunshine.

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On shipping days we gather everything in to a corral, sort the calves off of the cows (that is what the Big Guy is doing above and what Papa is helping to do in the picture below), load the calves on to trailers, haul them to town to the scale, weigh them all, and then load them on trucks to be hauled to the buyer.  It is always a little stressful as obviously we don’t want anything to go wrong, but also because we want our calves to weigh well and look good as we want to make sure the buyer gets the best calves we can possibly offer him.  These calves are our paycheck for the year– the whole year — so an important day it is.

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Along with everyone gathering, hauling calves, taking care of all the action in the alleyways, etc., someone is also inside with the guy weighing the calves keeping track of weights, averages, loads, etc.  The Wild Child was who I caught a picture of while walking through the scale house, but it is actually my mother-in-law who keeps things in line and the shipping books up to snuff.  She knows the value of this day better than any of us as she has taken care of business on the bookkeeping end of shipping for 50 years.  She knows that shipping time is our payday for the year.  She knows about the heart and soul that went in to the cows and calves.  She knows the work that went on all year long.  She just knows…  she is “just” a ranch wife, as well…  what a glorious thing to be!

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 Until next time…  JARW

 

Picture Time 10.21.13

A few pictures of checking out livestock last week and putting out mineral.  These were taken with my cell phone so they aren’t as good of pictures as they should be.  The Big Guy got to head out across the mud and yuck to check everything while I put out mineral.  He was checking for sick cows or calves after the stress conditions of the rain and snow.  We were fortunate in that nothing was showing any signs of sickness.  If there had been, we would have loaded the cow and calf in the trailer, hauled them home, and doctored them.  These pastures are 33 and 45 miles from our home place.  These are some of the summer pastures we use.

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This one, as you can tell, is right outside of town.  Our daughter drives to high school in this town every day.  It is 35 miles one way from home.

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This cow came straight down to the tank I was filling so I thought I would catch a little video.

Until next time— JARW

Shuffling Feed

I thought I would share some pictures of what it is like hauling in all the hay.  We are blessed in that we can haul 30 round bales at a time with the truck and hay trailer.  The bales this year, depending on what type of hay it is whether straight alfalfa, alfalfa grass mix, grass hay, or barley hay (those are the only types of hay we personally had this year), averaged anywhere from about 1,100 pounds each to 1,400 pounds each.  The Big Guy spent many weeks hauling hay to our South Place, which is about 100 miles round trip.  These are long days of hay hauling and the distance means that he can only get 3-4 trips per day.  Fortunately, all those trips are done and now he is just hauling to the home place…. the longest distance being about 20 miles round trip from hay field to hay corrals.

The loading has started.  He is working on the 10-bale row on the far side of the trailer.

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Picking up two bales to load.  Notice the bale on the back to balance the weight load and make it easier on the loader while picking up and carrying that much weight in front.

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Loading two bales in the second row of 10 bales on this side of the trailer.

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Starting on the top row of 10 bales.

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Loaded.  Now just have to strap down the bales for safety while hauling and he will be off with another load.

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After strapping he will then head for home where he will unload the hay in various hay corrals around the ranch.

I know this is old hat for lots of JARW readers, but something totally foreign to others.  Just more of what keeps us busy.

Until next time— JARW

 

 

Camaraderie

SD Sunrise JARWFirst of all, people have asked where they can help those who suffered storm losses.  Here is some information for you.  Thanks for all who have emailed looking to help.  May GOD bless you all abundantly.  To those suffering, please know we are praying with you, hurting with you, and will help in any way possible.  The sun will continue to rise. Please take care of yourselves and those you love.

Rancher’s Relief Fund on the web.

Rancher’s Relief Fund  on Facebook.

Secondly, this will be my last post regarding the negativity and the cruel comments that are circulating surrounding the livestock lost in the snowstorm.  I figure my time is much more valuable and better spent trying to educate about agriculture and what it is that we really do, rather than trying to understand the cruelty, lack of compassion, and lack of education being shown in the comments.  However, I am truly perplexed by some of the comments.  The negative comments posted on articles by those who don’t live our life and have no knowledge of agriculture I can understand way more than the negative comments posted by people who profess to “once being” a rancher or farmer.

I have seen comments by “I was once a rancher” passing judgement on who is a good rancher versus who is a bad rancher based on what livestock was lost.  Are you kidding me?  The storm didn’t chose where to hit the hardest based on whom Mother Nature deemed a bad  rancher. There were comments by “I was once a rancher” stating that all of THEIR livestock “back in the day” would have been in protection of barns, trees, wind breaks etc.  There was livestock killed while being protected in barns after the roofs collapsed from the weight of the snow.  There are pictures after pictures of animals who blew out from protected areas and later died many miles away after going through multiple fences, draws, etc.  There were comments from “I was once a rancher” stating everyone had enough notice and the cows shouldn’t still have been in the summer pastures.  The storm warnings changed from day-to-day.  It went from a couple of inches one day to several more inches the next, and so on.

Lastly, the craziest part of all of this is that all this time I thought there was shared sense of camaraderie among people in agriculture— whether those currently in agriculture or those “I was once-ers”.  Our world surely is changing as I never dreamed that fellow ranchers would be bashing each other over bouts of bad fortune.   I never dreamed that fellow ranchers would be twisting the knives a little deeper in the guts of those already hurt and suffering.  Here I thought we lived in the best part of the world, lucky to live the best life, and honored to be part of a time-honored way of life where you help out your neighbor, cry with them, pray with them, hurt with them, and do everything you can to help them.  Guess not.  At least not all of us.  Maybe I’m not praying for the right people.  I will add the “I was once-ers” to my list of people to pray for.

Until next time— JARW

Character

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The character shown by the Western South Dakota farmers, ranchers, and community members is a blazing example of what kind of people live this life.  Through all the devastation, heartbreak, and condemning words, they are trudging through and picking up the pieces.  May GOD bless each and every one of you dealing with the losses– whether your own loss or helping someone else with theirs.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

As for those condemning…  Animal cruelty?  Seriously?  These livestock losses were NOT because of animal cruelty or neglect.  I’ve read some comments posted on the internet on news stories about the storm and the storm losses.  I am NOT at a loss for words.  I have lots of words for these people.

First of all, to the person who posted that his family used to ranch and they never lost a cow.  Baloney.  That is like saying “I was once a member of a family and we never had a death.”  Phooey.  People die.  Animals die.  It is the circle of life.  We lost our old cow dog earlier this summer.  It was not due to cruelty.  He was  a member of our family, he was old, and he died.  The circle of life.  I believe this person also stated that ranchers should only have the number of cows that can all fit in their barns at one time.  Again… Baloney.  It is hard to make a living with only the number of cows that can fit in your barn.  In addition, there have been cases where livestock in a barn perished from suffocation.  So what comment would those passing judgement have in a case like this?

This is NOT the time for comments condemning these ranchers for their losses.  I would bet that many of these men and women were risking life and limb trying to find their livestock before and during the storm trying to make sure they were in safe spots.  I am equally as sure that as soon as possible after the storm had subsided that these same people were out looking for their livestock to try to make sure it was okay, to make sure that it had food and water, making sure that it was safe, and digging to get to livestock that was covered with snow to try to save it.  To those passing judgement, did you even do this for your next door neighbor?  To those passing judgement, did you push your way through snow drifts even 50 feet to make sure your neighbor was not suffering?  These people were traveling many miles, on foot, on horseback, on snowmobiles, on four-wheelers, to check on their own stuff AND to help their neighbor.  Is this what was going on in your community?  Is this what those condemning the ranchers and farmers were doing?

It is easy to sit behind a computer and pass judgement on someone else.  It is easy to stick a pen name on your response to really NOT put yourself out there and be judged.  Isn’t it funny that it is so easy to judge others behind a fake name?  These people suffering losses aren’t afraid to share their name and their story.  They aren’t afraid to put it out there and be judged.  They have broad shoulders and are carrying the weight of the world around on them most days.  They are proud people with LOADS of character and strength.  Their hearts are broken.  Many of them won’t make it through the financial hit from the loss and have to sell out.  Some of their relationships won’t last due to the strain from this event.  The stress of the losses and hardship will make some physically ill.  Still want to pass judgement?

Instead of passing judgement calling us “money-hungry cattle barons” why don’t you pick up a shovel and go help them?  You go help dig out the livestock and watch their heart-break with each new carcass they find.  You can dig through snow drifts looking to see if there is anything underneath all the snow.  You can cut out ear tags  and try to find brands to see if the livestock is even yours or if it is your neighbors.  You can go help pull livestock out of the dams and creeks and listen to the sobs of the world crashing down a little farther while they deal with the aftermath.  You can go walk a mile in their shoes BEFORE you so selfishly and so hurtfully question their character.  I guarantee you that these people would do all they could to help you if you were in a similar situation.

As my friend Mary stated:  “What the majority of America is not comprehending, is the fact that these farmers and ranchers have mortgaged their cattle and calf crop and probably their land (borrowed money using them as collateral) to pay for the things they need to keep their ranch going from day to day such as seed for the next crop, fuel, machinery payments, fence posts and wire, pasture lease payments, cake and hay for winter feeding, salt mineral and medicine for livestock, parts, repairs and supplies, payments if they have purchased cattle for replacements or expansion, bulls, ranch liability insurance, crop insurance, vehicle insurance, taxes..all this stuff costs thousands of dollars. I haven’t even mentioned any living expenses. Now that the calves and cows are dead, there will be no money to pay the banks. Hopefully the bankers will work with these people. We don’t have the luxury of raising our debt limit and we can not borrow our way out of debt. The next course of action if ranchers can’t make their payments is bankruptcy and foreclosure, which means the banks take the ranch away from their owners which may have been in the family for generations. Such an emotional toll as well as financial. My heart goes out to those that have lost darn near everything. It could have been my neighborhood so easily. I pray that the good Lord has his caring arms around these people in the days to come. They will need it. ”  Great words, Mary.  Thank-you.  

Also, for the people who think that they are not affected whatsoever by the loss, let me assure you that you and/or your loved ones certainly are affected.  There are a LOT more uses of cattle then just beef to eat.  I would venture a guess that those thinking this problem doesn’t affect them use beef products whether they think they do or not.  Let me show use some uses of beef.

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For all those asking how they can help, here are some resources.  May GOD bless you for opening your hearts and helping through whatever avenue you choose… whether through prayer, through labor, through encouraging cards and notes, through fundraising efforts, or even through donations of goods, services, or money.  I urge you to keep praying for all those who suffered losses.

Beef Magazine:  5 Resources for South Dakota Ranchers…

Black Hills Area Community Foundation:  Ranchers Relief Fund

South Dakota Cattle Locator website. 

Lost and Found Black Hills Blizzard

 South Dakota Stockgrowers

Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18  

To all those suffering losses, please know that you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.  Until next time… JARW

 

 

Death

20130925_143219There is nothing harder to deal with than death.  It is so final.  So heartbreaking.  Having to say goodbye to your friends and loved ones tears your heart out.  But so often we only think of that heartbreak when it applies to people dying, not animals.  When you have pets, or make a living in agriculture, the death of your animals is heartbreaking, too.  People often associate farming and ranching with blue skies, green grass, blooming fields of hay, sky-high crops, fat and friendly animals, but there is so much more to our life then sunshine and roses.  The storm this past weekend was not sunshine and roses for so many.  The losses are catastrophic… and they aren’t just livestock.

Farmers waiting to chop corn now find that there is too much snow still in their corn field to get in to get their corn chopped.  When the snow leaves there will be too much mud to get in to the fields.  Their options now stand at waiting for a freeze to combine the corn.  However, silage corn and corn for combining are two different corn types.  The comment from one of the wives “I guess we will see.  We will have to take our losses and move on.  There is not another choice.”  There are fields of sunflowers in the south central part of the state that are filled with dead cows.  In order to get the cows out of there they have to tear up their muddy fields with tractors and equipment… thus ruining their harvest, too.  It is a double whammy.

One neighbor in our community lost a shed to fire in the middle of the first night of the snow.  Another family in a neighboring community lost their entire house to fire during the blizzard when the fire trucks were unable to reach their home.  The utility companies are working night and day  trying to get everyone back with power and telephones.  My nephew works for one of these electric cooperatives.  The hateful calls his wife has received from people still without power is sickening.   There is only so much everyone can do.

Then there are the livestock pictures piling in.  I sat last night and cried reading emails from my friends and family telling about the loss that surrounds them.  I cried looking at the pictures of all the death.  Nope— it isn’t people.  That is a huge blessing.  But it is the animals that are part of these people’s lives.  It is the pony that taught many kids to ride.   It is the cattle and calves that you thought would be fine right where they were at and not trailing them for miles only to trail them back in a couple of days thus stirring everything up.  It is the calves, lambs, and colts that you watched grow all summer and watched their personalities grow with them.

One rancher stated how hard it was to see three generations of death— the cow, the calf at her side ready to be sold, and the unborn calf she is carrying that would have been born next spring.  What many outside of agriculture don’t realize is that many ranchers get one true paycheck per year…  when they sell their calves.  For people like us that calve in the spring and sell their calves in the fall this means that usually October / November is the fall run when a lot of us sell our calves.  Matter of fact, we will sell our calves in a couple of weeks.  We have small checks here and there like when we sell some open (not bred) cows in the fall, or when we sell some dry (have lost their calves and are no longer milking) cows in the spring/summer, or a crippled cow, calf, or bull here and there.  However, the lion’s share of our yearly income comes when we sell our calves.

My heart hurts for all of those that have lost so much… cows, calves, sheep, lambs, horses, colts, crops, buildings, equipment.  Each loss is heartbreaking.  Each loss has a financial impact.  Each loss makes you question the decisions you made prior to the storm and what you could have done differently.  Each loss brings more hurt and more work as you clean up the aftermath.  Silvia Christen, Executive Director for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, says ranchers are reporting to her that they’ve lost 20 to 50% of their cattle herds.  The numbers of losses are totaling in the 10’s of thousands.  Agriculture is a major industry in South Dakota.  These losses will effect everyone.

I am posting links to some pictures and some articles.  WARNING:  Many of these pictures are NOT for the faint of heart.  However, if you do look at them take the emotion you are feeling as a bystander and multiply it infinitely for those suffering the loss.  You may get a better idea of what they are feeling.

Cattle losses on Cherry Creek.

Rapid City Journal : Tens-of-thousands of Cattle Killed…

Bismarck Tribune article

Facebook post by Grand Electric Cooperative: STORM UPDATE: We have found over 2,300 broken poles as of Monday evening. Our aerial survey of the damage will be complete by Wednesday night. Areas from Shadehill to Highway 212 along Highway 73 and west to Reva were the most severely impacted by this storm. Office personnel are available from 7:00am-7:00pm to answer phones and questions. Our outside crews are working from 6:30am-8:00pm. We currently have nearly 100 crew members assisting with restoration efforts.

KOTA Territory News

MSN.COM Article

A post from my friend, Maxine:  There sure are times when words cannot describe how deeply felt our feelings are. “Thank you” does not cover the gratitude we feel when our lights come on. “Thank you, God” does not cover the gratitude we feel when we find our livestock and a 34 year old horse still alive and kicking. “I’m so sorry” doesn’t cover the heartache and hurt for the ranchers and others facing such devastation. I hope our prayers help.

Please… continue to PRAY.

Until next time– JARW

 

Blizzard Casualties

20130925_063458My heart is breaking as I sit and write this post.  So many in this area of the world had devastating livestock losses.  My prayers are split between prayers of thanks for sparing us from the brunt of the storm, and prayers of strength and healing for those that lost so much.  I find myself feeling guilty that we were spared when so many others were not.  I know how hard everyone works to keep their livestock safe and healthy, and to lose your animals is losing more than just your livelihood.  You are losing your blood, sweat, and tears.  You are losing your friends.  KBHB Radio shared the first news that made me cry.  There is so much emotion.

We lost power on Friday morning.  It had rained throughout the night and morning, and was followed by a heavy, very wet snow, and then wind.  The Big Guy got the generators going and I turned on the oven to warm the house a little.  We have cove heating and one heater pulls so much wattage that hardly anything else can use electricity at the same time.  It is much easier to just warm up the upstairs with the oven.  Fortunately, the temperatures never got too cold.  During the first day I went several times and cleaned off the branches of the trees in our yard to try to save them from breaking off.    That is really all we could do as it was snowing and blowing too much to get to any cattle.   All our cattle are still out on summer grass and the yearling bred heifers are the closest to our home place; they are 12 miles away.   We weren’t able to get to anything on Friday.

By Friday evening and early Saturday, most of the roads West River in South Dakota were closed.  A Rapid City Journal story reported that the interstate was closed from Murdo, South Dakota to Sheridan, Wyoming— a distance of about 380 miles.  The National Weather Service in Rapid City  shared that this was the most snow Rapid City has ever received in October, the most 1-day snowfall for Rapid City ever, and the second most 3-day snowfall (the first was in April of 1927).  Our area seemed to be hit by the least amount of snow compared to most other places West River.  It doesn’t really matter the amount, though, when the winds are blowing with gusts around 60 miles per hour.  It is white-out conditions with lots of blowing, drifting snow, and sadly livestock drift with the wind.

Saturday afternoon we had several blessings– the electric company restored power to our community and we were finally able to get to our cattle.  We were enormously blessed in that although we had some calves through some fences, overall we were spared losses.  We are the minority.  We have friends in other areas of Western South Dakota that suffered catastrophic losses.  We have friends that are still assessing their losses as they aren’t yet able to account for all their livestock.  However, as the livestock losses continue to pile up, please keep all these people in your prayers.  These losses are financially devastating, as well as emotionally devastating.  Pray for strength as they dig these animals out of snow banks and deal with all the carcasses.  Pray for comfort as their hearts break.  Pray for healing, both emotionally and financially.  Just PRAY.

Until next time– JARW

Digging for Bones

I saw an article in our local paper this week about the middle school students getting to visit a triceratops excavation site.  The site was only about 10 miles from town and the kids at the country school in my community (10 miles north) and the kids from the school in town (10 miles south) all got to spend an afternoon at the site.  What an amazing experience for them—- even more so in that it was happening in their own “backyard.”  The paper stated that because there were so few students, “the young people were able to spend much of the afternoon helping plaster some of the fossil.” (Nation’s Center News, Vol 35. No 07, Thursday, October 3, 2013).

This reminded me that I forgot to tell you about some women I got to meet last week.  Two business women come from California to hunt fossils at our south place, among other locations.  This is the seventh year that they have made this trek.  I have never had the honor of meeting them until this year.  When asked what draws them here they told me that it was the beauty of the wide open spaces.  I have to agree.  It is beautiful. This is some of the scenery at the south place.  Forgive me for phone pictures.  I forgot my camera in the pickup, which is totally unlike me. 20130925_081501

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 There is a lot of beauty is just nothingness.  Speaking of beauty– the day I met the classy California women we were preconditioning calves at the south place.  Those of you who know me know that I’m NOT classy, and I definitely don’t spend a lot of time fixing my hair on a good day.  This was not a good day.  I have thick horse hair.  It is not conducive to styles of cuteness.  Imagine my surprise to learn that one of these businesswomen owns a salon– a beauty salon.  Oh my goodness.  And there I stood with my “natural look!”  

I told her, “I bet you are thinking ‘for gosh sakes woman, fix your hair!’ ”  She laughed and denied it.  I didn’t buy it.  Her next comment was something along the lines of bringing her scissors next year.  I’m laughing thinking about it now.  If she is a miracle worker she would cut my hair into a style that I NEVER had to fix and just looked good straight out of the morning shower.   Unrealistic I know… but I’m good living in a fantasy world for a bit every now and then.  

Until next time– JARW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Black Hole

Sorry guys.  You probably can’t relate to this post, but you women probably can.  I got a new purse about a week ago so finally took the time to clean out my old purse and transfer the treasures to the new one.  What treasures there are.  It amazes me how everyone in my house complains about how heavy my purse is, but while cleaning out my purse I find items that are in there specifically for each of them.  I’m the pack horse, the mule, the proverbial bag lady.

My mom’s words of wisdom and constant reminding to wear clean underwear must have stuck.  Only I don’t pack around clean underwear for myself.  I have an extra pair of underwear for my wild child, along with an extra pair of socks, a pair of short, and a t-shirt.  You just never know where the blonde bomber’s antics might take her.  Plus I pack along grape Zotz.  These might be for me, too.  For the Big Guy I carry extra Excedrin, eye drops, the ranch checkbook, as well as spreadsheets on my phone to go over while we are driving down the road.  The girls ask me for chapstick, mascara, lip gloss, ibuprofen, gum.  There is also deodorant, perfume, hair ties, a comb, pens, paper, phone chargers, paperclips, safety pins, and a myriad of other things– all of which have been asked for at one time or another.

Then throw in my Kindle, checkbook, billfold, and some other odds and ends and there is a hobo bag full of treasures.  Yes my purse is heavy.  Yes I’m usually the one that carries it 95% of the time.  No it doesn’t bother me.  However, the day I decide to only pack a little billfold is the day the rest of my family is going to be very sad.  They will have to start being responsible for their own things.  Heaven forbid!

Until next time– JARW