Hard work. Big Rewards. Bigger blessings. Life on a South Dakota ranch.
Fall brings to mind a myriad of thoughts and images– colorful falling leaves, corn husks, pumpkins, canning fruits and vegetables, fall flowers (the mums are gorgeous!), fall festivals, school starting, high school sports, finishing up summer projects, raking leaves, cool nights… and for us, hauling hay, sorting pairs, preconditioning calves, weaning, shipping, pregnancy checking cows, moving cows off of summer pastures, and preparing for winter. The next six weeks will find us spending lots of time with the cows and calves, as well as combing through livestock records.
We have three separate places and we calve at each place. Thus each location has their own set of records that are kept all spring regarding birth dates, calf sex, maternal temperament, calving difficulties, etc. All these records are entered in to a database for each location. These databases are then combined in to one complete database housing all records for all livestock combined. From this database we garner lots of information. We know what every single cow on the place has done for her entire life. We know if she raises big calves, if she consistently breeds back in the first cycle, if she usually has replacement heifers or if her bulls are usually kept as breeding stock. We know if we need to be extra vigilant because she can be fighty when she first has calved. We also know if she needs to go down the road to the sale barn.
When we precondition our calves every calf comes through the chute to be weighed, ranked, and vaccinated. The database is used to have reports ready for each location where we precondition. We know what pairs are at which location. We know if any calf is missing and what calf it is. We can print sort sheets when it is time to sort out the light calves at shipping time. We print pregnancy checking sheets to keep track of data during those testing days. The database is also used extensively when deciding which replacement heifer calves we are going to keep not only based on their individual data, but also their score they received during preconditioning and also their mother’s data.
These aren’t days that everyone recognizes as “fall days” in their mind’s eye, but they are definitely some of my first mental images when I think of fall, and glorious days they are being surrounded by family and livestock, and all enjoying what we are doing from gathering, to sorting, to discussing, to planning for the future — Many of the things that make me proud to be Just A Ranch Wife!