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Posts Tagged ‘hay’

An Exciting Hay Delay

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

On a typical year, we try to not feed hay to our herd until Thanksgiving. Taking into consideration how late Thanksgiving fell this year, we are excited to say that we did not begin feeding hay until December 2nd.

You might wonder why we would be excited about pushing our hay feeding program back, but it signals several things to us. First, we had grass in the pastures for the cows to eat. This shows that we properly managed the pastures throughout the year. Despite all efforts at good pasture management, you still need rain to delay the need for hay, which brings us to the second reason we are excited.

It was only two years ago in the midst of the most severe drought in Texas history that we were feeding hay throughout the summer. This fact is still so fresh in our memories, which makes it a small victory to not feed hay until December. According to the US Drought Monitor, our section of Grimes county is no longer in any stage of drought. This can only be due the heavy rainfall we experienced in October and November. It is just another reason to celebrate.

Not only were we able to delay our hay feeding start, but we had our own hay cut. We had enough grass to be able to do that, which is such a help financially. Hay prices soared to record highs two years ago as ranchers scoured the adjoining states and beyond for available hay. We had to have hay trucked in from northern Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Mississippi. It was crazy. This year thanks to our rainfall in the early spring, we were able to store up the necessary hay for our cattle and horses from our own pastures.

We also have winter grasses planted and up in several pastures specifically for calves in our grass fed beef program. This will allow them to eat fresh grasses throughout the winter in addition to the hay. They are already enjoying the bright green Rye grass. Before I get phone calls, the rye grass we plant is non-GMO. I checked.

So as we transition into the season of winter in Southeast Texas and all that it entails like bitter cold one day, chilly rain, and warm days in between, we are excited about the state of our ranch. We are doing better than can be expected by entering December before putting out hay. It is just another reason to rejoice.

Grass and Hay Update

Thursday, October 20th, 2011
Rye Grass is Growing!!

Rye Grass is Growing!!

Last week, I so enjoyed sharing with you the blessing of rain on our newly planted winter grass seed.  Since then, I put out one more bag of seed in the smaller pens used to finish our grass fed beef calves.  Even though there was no chance of rain in the forecast, it rained that night giving us an additional 1/10 of an inch.  Early Tuesday morning, it rained again a little.  My husband and I are now in the process of watching the grass sprout and grow.  It is an exciting time for us.  Apparently we are easily entertained!

It just goes to show how important grass is for us.  Many people don’t seem to understand the implications of a drought like the one we are experiencing.  To them they just have to water their yard more often.  Grass in any form is life-sustaining for our herd, our horses, and the wild animals.   Of course, grass directly affects our livelihood of raising and selling grass fed beef.  We have to have grass.

Another form of grass that we needed was hay.  We had some already put up in the barn, but we did not have enough to make it through the winter.  We still needed to acquire over 200 round bales.

Prices on hay have gone through the roof.  Every day that passed, as my husband spent hours on the phone and internet trying to find hay, the prices kept going up.  In fact, one of the last people my husband spoke with wanted $145.00 a bale.   Yes, $145.00 a bale!  That is obscene.

Last week I asked for any tips that would allow us to find the amount of hay we needed for a reasonable price.  We had been praying about this source of grass for our herd as well.  I am happy to announce that we secured a source for all of our hay needs.  Already an 18-wheeler has brought us the first load.  The great news is that the price quoted to us before they brought out the hay was about less than half what the last person wanted.

When Lane asked for the amount owed, the driver shaved off some of the delivery fee.  Needless to say, we were thrilled with the decrease in price.  Most of all we are thrilled and thankful with God’s provision for us as winter is soon to be approaching.  After the summer we have had, it feels like nothing short of a miracle.  And, I just wanted to share this true story with you.

In addition, the first cold front of the season blew in this week.  We put on light jackets and stayed outdoors just to relish in the cold wind.  After a record-breaking summer with day after day temperatures soaring to well over 100 degrees, the gusty wind and cool temperature is completely refreshing.  Everyone was feeling good.  The horses frolicked, the dogs acted like puppies, and the calves played in the pastures.  Everything seemed to feel younger.

God is sending rain at the perfect times.  The rye grass is growing in the pastures.  Our hay needs are secured for a good price in today’s market.  We are finally getting relief from the heat.  All just in the nick of time as the first cold front blew through our area.  Praise God, who gives exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)!

Our Finished Hay Barn

Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Our new hay barn.

Our new hay barn.

Months ago I wrote an article, “A Dozer of a Day,” which told of our preparing for the site of the new hay barn.  I have been remiss in announcing the completion of the project.  We not only have a new hay barn on site, but it is filled with fresh hay for the up-coming winter.

With careful planning, the new hay barn at Cross Creek Cattle Company meets all of our needs.  The barn is huge!  It is has plenty of room for our hay.  We have filled it with round bales.  There is also room for our tractor implements.  The barn also has a covered area for our ranch truck and cattle trailer.  It is better for your equipment to be under cover.

In addition to plenty of room to keep our round bales of hay and ranch equipment, the construction of the barn was well-thought out.  It has vents at the top of the walls to let out the heat as it rises.  It is covered by three sides and has high gates on the fourth side, with which to deter any cow from trying to enter.  In other words, the barn is well-constructed and stout.  We are very happy with our hay barn.

In our horse barn, we have a feed/hay area, which is completely enclosed.  Square bales are stacked neatly and fill the whole room almost to the ceiling.  We are prepared for whatever winter throws at us this year.

A double stack of round bales.

A double stack of round bales.

Last year we had a very odd winter.  We had three snowfalls.  It froze almost every night for weeks.  We consider it a hard winter for our part of the United States.  This year we don’t know exactly what to expect.

However, there are signs in nature that you can observe.  First, check your animals’ coat.  Both our horses and cows are still slick.  They have not begun to grow a thick, winter coat.  Last year, we had never seen them get so hairy.  For this reason alone, we do not expect a very hard winter.

Obviously this is not a very scientific method at weather prediction, but how often are trained meteorologists actually correct?  Regardless of the winter that is coming, our livestock will have plenty of good hay to eat.  It is stored in covered barns and protected from the weather.

After all this extreme heat last month, I am personally welcoming a change in temperature.  Welcome autumn and come on winter!  We are ready for you.

Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
November on the ranch.

November on the ranch.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year.  Some leaves are changing color.  Some evergreens are bearing bright red berries.  The air is crisp and cool.  The wind reminds you to put on a sweater.  Autumn is a great season to enjoy the outdoors.  The months of September, October, and November mark a busy time of year as well as several holidays.

My father’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  Families come together to celebrate the many blessings that God has bestowed on us.  It is a holiday without the pressures of Christmas.  You don’t have to worry about buying and giving gifts.  You only have to cook and eat delicious foods prepared with loving hands.

Thanksgiving is also time of reflection.  A chance to reflect on your year and remember how blessed you are.  In the spirit of this holiday, I want to share with you some of the things that we are thankful for at Cross Creek Cattle Company.

  • We are thankful for our loving and close-knit family.
  • We are blessed to have so many good friends.
  • We love being able to enjoy healthy,  delicious meat on our dinner table whether from our grass fed herd or from the wild boars and deer that wander in the woods.
  • We are thankful to have good horses on which to ride and survey the beautiful scenery around the ranch regardless of the season.
  • We have been blessed with fat cows and green grass.
  • We are very thankful that health has been restored to the ranch manager after his accident.
  • We are lucky to have a substantial store of hay ready to supply our animals with needed food no matter how hard the winter gets.
  • We are thankful to have made it through the drought and to have finally received the much-needed rainfall.
  • We are grateful that we can live our lifestyle in the 21st century.
  • Last but not least, we are grateful for our customers who help support our family-owned and operated ranch.

From everyone at Cross Creek Cattle Company, we wish everyone a very “Happy Thanksgiving!”  May God continue to bless each and every one of us.

When to Feed Hay

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

In a typical year, we try to not put out bales of hay until after the Thanksgiving holiday.  This is a personal goal of Cross Creek Cattle Company.  With good rain throughout the summer months, our pastures can supply grasses for our cattle until then.  Unfortunately this year we had drought conditions.  For months we had no rainfall.

We prayed for fat cows and green grass, and we were blessed accordingly.  Some of our less fortunate neighbors were having to put out hay during the summer.  It was incredible.  Just yesterday, I was driving in the northern part of our county.  I was amazed at how bad all the pastures looked.  They had their herds on completely bare and brown pastures.  You have no choice as a rancher, but to give hay in this situation.

As the grass season comes to an end and autumn is in full swing, we stop rotating our pastures.  Instead, we open all the interior gates and allow the cattle to forge for themselves.  They can find the best grasses on their own.  They have that innate ability.

Now as winter time approaches, we are preparing to put out hay a few weeks early.  My dad is disappointed, but considering the year we have had I think we are doing well.  In fact we are doing better than most in our area.  The way I look at it, we made it to November.

Weaning Time Again

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

calf-nursing-on-69

Cross Creek Cattle Company is in the process of weaning 10 calves right now.  My mom surprised me by visiting the ranch.  Her house is very close to the barn where we separate the calves from the mama cows.  She got to enjoy the endless ballads that the calves sang to their mamas and the mamas sang to their calves.  Needless to say, she did not sleep very well the first night of weaning.

It has been a couple of days now and the serenade has stopped.  The mama cows have left their calves and rejoined the herd grazing in the bottom.  The calves are adjusting to their new no-dairy diet.

Weaning time is a stressful time for both the cow and her calf.  At Cross Creek Cattle Company we try to eliminate as much stress as possible.  A stout pipe fence with cattle panel welded to it separate the calves from the cows.  The cows can see, smell, and speak to one another.  The calves just cannot nurse.

The calves are enjoying eating grass, which they have done for months.  They just are not supplementing their diets with milk anymore.  To help maintain their body condition during this time of adjustment, we feed them a very small daily ration of alfalfa pellets.  Alfalfa is very high in protein grass.  We start the calves on a small ration and slowly build up their daily allowance of the dehydrated grass to prevent bloat.  Cows can bloat on alfalfa because it is so rich.

The calves also have their own mixture of kelp meal, stock salt, and diatomaceous earth.  We continue to allow them to freely partake of this mineral supplement and natural de-wormer.  It is self-limiting.  They can only take what their body needs.  Of course, we supply the calves with fresh clean water and hay.

Soon we will be able to return these calves back to the herd.  Their mothers will welcome them back as adolescents; however, they will not be allowed to nurse.  The cows’ milk supply will have dried up.  There will always be one calf in the bunch who tries to resume nursing, but it is quickly kicked away.  Calves will be calves.

Weaning time means that we decide how the calves are going to work for us.  We will determine if we have any show heifers.  We will sell some to other ranchers.  We have some that we will keep to build up our herd.  Of course, we also have our grass fed beef business.  If you are interested in ordering delicious and nutritious grass fed beef, contact me at lndehaven@aol.com or call (936)870-5792.

Ready for Winter

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Our Snowman

Our Snowman

Yes, I know that it is the beginning of September and that autumn has not come yet.  As ranchers, we cannot afford to wait until freezing temperatures arrive before getting ready for winter.   We are blessed to be living in Southeast Texas where the winters are relatively mild.  We do not have to contend with a lot of winter precipitation.  We hardly ever get sleet or freezing rain; it is even more rare to get snow.  Last year we actually received some snow and we were so excited.  We ran outside late at night just to play in it because we knew that it would all be gone in the morning.

Our winter generally consists of some freezing nights.  We seldom get a hard freeze.  The air is almost always humid, which makes the cold air seem much colder than it is.  The coldness is magnified by a stiff, north breeze.  Grass stops growing and goes dormant under nighttime temperatures below 70 degrees.  Our night temperatures should fall below that in the next month.  Therefore, we have to store up food for the cattle to eat to keep up their condition during the winter.

To help protect the cows from the north wind and cold, we make sure that they are on a pasture with a wind break.  The trees in the woods break the wind.  In addition, so does the dam of our lake.  The cows on instinct alone search out the warmest places to sleep.  Depending on the pasture, they naturally seek the woods or behind the dam.  We never leave them on a pasture without a wind break of some kind.

Since we raise grass fed beef, we do not supplement our cow’s diet with range cubes or grain.  Our cows keep their good body conditions on hay.  My husband puts out round bales of hay for our herd.  Cows know what they need.  Sometimes they devour the bale and other times they just nibble.  Good quality hay is a must for a rancher in any climate here in the United States.

The cows will continue to get their supplemental minerals throughout the winter.  Most cows are bred at this time and will be calving in the late winter and early spring.  Their nutrition is very important to us.  We feed them a mixture of kelp meal and salt.  We add diatomaceous earth for other health reasons.  You can read about those in the article “Diatomaceous Earth?”  This combination is loose in a mineral feeder and given to the cows as free choice.  It is self-limiting.  They will only eat as much as they need.

Water is essential in any season.  Occasionally on really cold nights, we have to break the ice off the surface of the watering troughs.  Our ponds and lake have never frozen over so we are not concerned about them.  The temperature only gets cold enough to freeze over above-ground water troughs every once in a while.

Rows of square bales we hauled out of the pasture.

Rows of square bales we hauled out of the pasture.

So right now, we are ensuring that we have enough bales of hay to make it through the winter.  We have round and square bales this year.  Although, the square bales are mainly for the horses.  They need hay in the winter too.

Even though it is still summer, we are looking forward to the change in weather.  From the ridiculously hot temperatures to the much more pleasant days of autumn.  Beyond that, we know that it will get colder in winter.  We have to be prepared for the health and well-being of our livestock.  Cross Creek Cattle Company does not fear the winter because we are ready.

Weaning Grassfed Calves

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Traditionally, a rancher who wanted to wean some calves would separate them from the herd and pour feed to them.  The calves would fatten up on the grain until the rancher decided what to do with them.  He/She would decide which calves needed to return to the herd, which ones he/she was going to continue to fatten up to eat, and which ones he/she would sell.  With a grassfed herd, the traditional way to wean is out.  One cannot wean their calves on grain and sell them as grassfed.

Some of our weaned calves.

Some of our weaned calves.

Therefore at Cross Creek Cattle Company, we wean differently.  We still separate the calves from their mothers.  In order to make the transition less stressful, they are separated by a stout metal fence.  The cow and calf can still see each other and call to one another.  The calves just cannot nurse.  Usually by the second day the cows decide to leave their calf and go grazing in a different pasture.  Sometimes a cow will decide sooner.  Either way the cow knows where her calf is and she knows that it is fine.

The calves have access to plenty of water, hay, and grass.  We carefully monitor the grass situation to ensure that the calves have what they need.  After a week or so, we begin feeding them alfalfa pellets, which is dehydrated alfalfa grass in pellet form.  Alfalfa is a high-quality grass.  It is high in protein.  Therefore, the calves do well on it.  Unfortunately, alfalfa does not grow well in this area, which is why we choose to feed it in pellet form.

However, cows can bloat on such rich grass if their bodies are not adjusted to it slowly.  We begin with 1/2 pound of alfalfa pellets per calf a day.  We slowly work them up to 2 pounds a day of alfalfa.  This helps to ensure that their body condition does not fall behind while they are going through the transition of weaning.

We have several pens in which to graze so that they always have a good supply of grass.  We even use electric fencing to help us separate large pastures into smaller grazing fields.  This ensures that all the grasses are getting eaten.  Sometimes cows will selectively eat a pasture.  Then a rancher has to come behind them and shred the grasses that are left.  This is a waste.  It is like a child who will not eat their vegetables and a parent who throws them away every evening.

Our calves look just as good as the traditionally weaned calves.  They have maintained great body condition without the use of grains and other feeds.  They have eaten grass in several forms: fresh in the pastures, dried in the form of hay, and dehydrated in pellets.  Grass and water is really all a cow needs.  It is healthier for them and for us, which is why we raise grassfed beef.



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