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Posts Tagged ‘water’

Weaning Time Again

Thursday, October 1st, 2009


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 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.

Watering Your Herd on a Dry Pasture

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

We all know how important fresh drinking water is.  It is equally important to cows.  Cattle can smell water from miles away.  Typically they drink twice a day.  Each time a cow generally guzzles 12 gallons of water in one sitting.  We had one pasture on the ranch that had no supply of water.  Therefore when the cows were on this particular pasture, we had to open up a neighboring pasture for their water needs.

New water trough

New water trough

As this was not an ideal situation, we carefully weighed our options.  One option was to dig a tank and wait for it to fill with rain water and run-off.  Since we are in a drought, this option was not suitable.  We did not want water next year; we needed it now.  Another option was to have a water well dug.  This option is the most expensive.  Having a water well installed costs about $6,000.00 depending on how far they have to dig to hit a good water table.  In addition you have to have electricity run to the pump.  All in all this was too expensive.  The last option was to lay water line from the nearby lake and install a pump to fill a water trough on the dry pasture.  Okay, sounds great, but how does one do that?

Well, you have to think like my husband, Lane, who is the ranch manager for Cross Creek Cattle Company.  He came up with the idea and thought all the steps through before purchasing the supplies.  If you have a similar problem on your ranch, you might want to really pay attention.

First he rented a trencher and used it to dig the water line from the lake to the desired spot for the water trough.  Unfortunately for Lane, the ground was like cement and even the trencher was put to the test digging through the hardened ground.  Then he decided where the pumping station was to be and laid the pipe from it in opposite directions.  One side going to the lake and the other to the trough.

The pumping station complete with solar battery charger.

The pumping station complete with solar battery charger.

Then Lane installed the pumping end into the lake.  First, he fitted a screen on the end of the pipe so that minnows, tadpoles, debris, etc. would be sucked up into the pump.  Then he extended the pipe about 15-20′ off of the shore and down deep onto the bottom.  He did not want anyone fishing, rowing, etc. breaking the tip of the pipe.  In addition he put a cinder block around the pipe end to help protect it even more.

Now he installed the round water trough in the most level place he could find.  Lane hooked up a faucet end that he will reinforce with bigger pipe and fill between the two pipes with sand.  This not only gives the pipe more strength, but the sand also acts as insulation when the temperature drops below freezing in the winter.

Lane then hooked the pump up to the battery, which is charged by solar energy.  He turned it on and looked for any leaks that might appear from the joints of the pipes.  Fortunately, there was none.  He filled in the trenches with dirt and packed them down with the tractor.  Meanwhile the pump is steadily sucking water out of the lake and filling the trough uphill and about 200′ away.

It did take some time for the water pump to build enough pressure to actually begin pumping the water.  But once it began, the water streamed through the pipes flawlessly.  Now the cattle will have plenty of fresh water on an otherwise dry pasture.  Ingenuity at its best right here on the ranch.  The supplies for this option cost relatively little.  The pump was $65.00.  The solar charger was $40.00.  The pipe and fittings were about $45.00.  The trough was $299.00.

Not only was this option the most inexpensive; it was the most practical option as well.  Lane did a great job.  I have to tell you, I was impressed with his ability.  I guess that it is a good thing when your husband never ceases to amaze you.

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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