“Tough Jobs” Complete … CHECK

The last of our summer “Tough Jobs” is cleaning out the fence rows. It’s amazing how quickly they get out of control. One day the weeds are barely visible, the next they are knee high, then waist high.

Our thistle population is almost unbelievable. They have invaded the side pasture, the back pasture and the cattle runs near the barn. We’ve kept them in check in the big pastures with the Woods 12-foot Batwing and we got into some tight places amongst the trees with the Woods RC6 Rotary Cutter.

This weekend, we needed a combination of the Rotary Cutter, Mow’n Machine and some good old-fashioned shovel work.

BJ fence rows DSC00016DSC00052

Finally after just a few hours of intense teamwork, the job was accomplished.

DSC00036To say “goodbye” to summer, we are hosting our club calf sale. Hopefully we’ll see many of these steer calves at the shows next summer. And, I’m sure we’ll have more tough jobs to tackle again next year. That’s one thing we always can count on, the farm jobs are never done.

steer 2014

Educating on Agriculture – The State Fair Experiment

No matter where we go, we always feel it’s important to tell the agriculture story and share our love for what we do. Last week we attended both the Wisconsin and Iowa State Fairs.

Sharing our love for cattle and agriculture is our main goal at the State Fair.

Sharing our love for cattle and agriculture is our main goal at the State Fair.

Both shows are held in the heart of urban areas and offer a great opportunity to reach out to people that don’t have any farm background. Most of the visitors have never seen a farm animal, or have only seen them at the fair. The barns in Wisconsin were packed with a constant flow of strollers and curious onlookers.

Now that our kids are getting older we want them to learn to be spokesmen for agriculture and help educate the 98% of the population that no longer has any association with farming or agriculture. So we arm them with a few facts and open up the stalls to kids and adults.

Here are the facts they shared and some of the more interesting questions we heard during our 10-day State Fair tour:

  • 97% of U.S. farms are operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.
  • Farm and ranch families make up just 2% of the U.S. population.
  • More than 21 million American workers (15% of the total U.S. workforce) are part of the US food chain.
  • Each farmer must produce enough to feed 155 people.

We get some of the same questions every year:

“How much does she weigh, eat, poop, etc.”

"Why does she sit like that?"

“Why does she sit like that?”

"Is that one dead?"

“Is that one dead?”

"Can I pet/touch/kiss one?"

“Can I pet/touch/kiss one?”

But this year there were a few that made the kids stop and think about their answer:

  • Could your cows survive in the wild?
  • If you love them how can you keep them tied up?
  • How can you eat something with such a pretty face?
  • Are they organic (or grass fed) because that is better?

The kids handled these questions like pros, highlighting the benefits of eating beef and the importance of treating animals well so they are comfortable and most productive.

We are so proud of how the kids can advocate for agriculture and educate the public. They are truly becoming skilled spokesmen for the industry we love. Though it can be exhausting,  the State Fair is a great place to help consumers get closer to agriculture!

"Being an advocate for agriculture is exhausting work."

“Being an advocate for agriculture is exhausting work.”

 

“Tough Jobs” Checklist

Where has the summer gone!?!

With all the “Back to School” ads and deals, I know the days of my dedicated labor force are coming to an end. We’ve accomplished most of the tough jobs on the list, but some of the toughest are yet to come.

So far, we have repaired the driveway, rebuilt a fence, planted a neighbor’s food plots and reseeded a pasture area, mowed the grass, fence lines and front pasture and tilled the garden. We also freshened our flower beds, cleaned out and added pea gravel to the playground area and added a fire pit to the back yard.

I guess we’ve done better than I thought.

IMG_1598 IMG_1599 IMG_1607

Next we need to mow the pastures (again), clean out the cattle pens in preparation for our Fall Steer Sale, trim along all the fence lines and cut down the wild grape vines that would trap all the snow on our driveway this winter.

Next week we’ll be doing the State Fair circuit and then it’s the quick slide to fall. Be sure to post your “Tough Jobs” and visit us on Facebook to see more pictures and videos.

 

The Greatest Show on Earth; Our Own Circus

hereford panaramicSix kids. Seven Herefords. Ten Days. Now that’s a circus.

No, that’s our annual trek to Junior National Hereford Expo, one of the largest youth events in the country. Last week more than 700 kids from 40 states converged on Harrisburg, PA. They exhibited nearly 1,200 head of Hereford cattle and participated in 23 leadership and personal development competitions. The event also brought in more than 3,000 spectators.

Cattle walked through the ring for three full days, crowning champion heifers, bulls and cow/calf pairs. We brought home the banner for Champion Bred & Owned Cow/Calf pair! This was even more special because it was our youngest daughter’s favorite heifer that she raised from a little calf.

JNHE 14 stalls

Though the cattle show is an important aspect of the event, we also focus on the many contests available to improve speaking and critical thinking skills. This year was an exceptional one, with two of the kids winning national speaking events. They also earned one Top Ten in showmanship, two leadership/activities winners in their age group and two Creative Arts winners. We are so proud of them all.

IMG_1474 IMG_1459 IMG_1469 IMG_1462Brett showmanship

So, when education officials talk about the lower quality of education and the lack of opportunities in rural school districts, I just have to shake my head. We know that rural communities offer some of the best opportunities for kids to excel with life skills learned outside the classroom.

 

A Farmer’s Family Vacation

To most people, family vacation means toes in the sand, splashing in the pool or relaxing by a campfire. To us, family vacation means hard work, short nights and a “togetherness” rarely experienced in most families. To us, family vacation is A CATTLE SHOW.

Part of getting ready for a show is washing them everyday.

Part of getting ready for a show is washing them everyday.

Since most of our friends are involved in the cattle business, it comes as no surprise that we prefer the crazy schedule of a cattle show – and most of them are here with us. But to others, it’s just plain crazy.

This week we will wash each of our seven animals once a day, typically well before sunrise. We will spend all day and into the night in the barn, including eating most of our meals with the cattle. We will try to catch naps in a chair, feed and water the cattle before we feed ourselves and comb their hair more than we comb our own. We will be visiting a spa, but we’re doing the work and the cattle are reaping the benefit.

The kids will participate in speech contests, talent contests, sales contests, judging, showmanship, quiz bowl and herdsmanship. They will walk animals through the ring in front of a judge for four days straight. We will finish our week on Saturday, only to wake before dawn on Sunday to drive 16 hours home.

Working together at the "cow spa."

Working together at the “cow spa.”

Many of our non-farming friends ask us why we put ourselves through this, and sometimes we ask the same question.

But then we see the confidence developed by speaking in front of a panel of judges, the entrepreneurial spirit ignited as an invention takes shape during the sales contest and the pride felt as they walk out of the ring, knowing that they’ve done their best. And though they might not always enjoy it, the work ethic developed through showing cattle can’t be topped.

We know this is how we want to raise our kids. This is how we were raised. We just hope someday our kids will thank us for these early mornings, late nights and beach-less vacations.

Only time will tell.

Fun and games at the show.

Fun and games at the show.

 

Weeds are as High as a Cow’s Eye

The weeds were taking over the pasture.

The weeds were taking over the pasture.

On our farm, every decision and delay has a direct impact, and domino effect, on everything else. Our fencing project was delayed due to the wet weather, which meant the cows couldn’t go into the front pasture, which led to the back pasture being a bit overgrazed, which caused the front pasture to grow too long. Wow!

 

These flowers are easier to pick than the thistles.

These flowers are easier to pick than the thistles.

Now we’re dealing with blooming thistles and weeds taller than the baby calves. The little boys think the thistle flowers are beautiful and even tried to pick some to accompany my dandelion and violet bouquet. Unfortunately, the thorns stymied them.

Big weeds called for bringing in the big guns. We would typically use our small rotary cutter to cut the 10-acre pasture, but this job was a little more than it could handle.

Enter the Woods Batwing 180. This 15-foot Batwing is about 10 years old but still tackling everything thrown it’s way. It even made short work of a plastic bucket that ended up in the field.

Happy cows. Beautiful pasture. And hopefully, a stop to the domino-effect.

Woods Batwing tackling the tough weeds.

Woods Batwing tackling the tough weeds.

 

Things are looking up!

The corn is up. The fence is up. The kids are out of school. So, summer is officially here.

The fence is up and now the corn is up, too.

The fence is up and now the corn is up, too.

We are happy to report that the fence is finally done. We ended up with 1,075 feet of 5-strand barbed wire, 85 t-posts, 29 wooden posts and two metal gates.

That should keep the cows out of the corn this fall and keep the neighbors happy.

 

Putting in wooden posts is not our favorite job. We usually dig the holes by hand, drop the big, heavy post in the hole and then fill in around it.

Digging the last hole!

Digging the last hole!

This time we had the luxury of using the Woods PHD65 post hole digger with a 12-inch auger. It worked great! Each hole took just a few minutes to dig and even when we hit a rock, we could power right through. It was easy to attach and, with the parking stand, we could even be confident that is was secure when it was off the tractor.

As soon as the fence was finished we were able to let the cows out into the succulent, fresh grass. They were so excited they didn’t know where to start. I’m just happy they were able to get out in that pasture and we don’t have to worry about them escaping.

Enjoy, Girls!

Rolling hills and fresh grass. A smorgasbord for cows.

Rolling hills and fresh grass. A smorgasbord for cows.

 

Good Neighbors Make Good Fences

Most people say “Good fences make good neighbors,” but in our area, I think it’s the other way around.

Cows always seem to think the grass is greener on the other side.

Cows always seem to think the grass is greener on the other side.

Last fall, our cows decided they really liked the cornfield that borders our pasture. Cows are naturally curious – and always looking for a meal. The old fence was dilapidated, the wooden posts were rotten and the green, lush corn was too enticing to let one electric wire keep them out.

A group of young heifers decided to make a break for it and have a corn buffet. By the time we rounded them up, they had knocked down a few rows of corn and made an even bigger mess of the old fence.

Some neighbors would have been angry. Some would have billed us for any perceived damage to the corn. Some may have even called the police. But in our community, we worked together to move them to a different pasture and make a plan to replace the fence this spring.

The country rule for paying for fencing in our area is to meet at the middle point of that section and both look right. You’re responsible for that section of fence.

This Tough Job requires the big equipment.

This Tough Job requires the big equipment.

Now, it’s time to replace that fence and we’re working together again. Our neighbor owns the heavy equipment so he was in charge of the tear-out. We had to pull out all the old posts, barbed wire and trees that had grown into the fence line over the years.

 

Next, we’ll be replacing wooden posts, driving in t-posts and stringing the wire. Check back to see the result of this Tough Job. The lush new pasture is calling!

This calf wants to be a dog, laying by the house instead of in the pasture with her Mother.

This calf wants to be a dog, laying by the house instead of in the pasture with her Mother.