Dust In My Coffee

Dust In My Coffee

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Gate Keeper

There are some jobs that are just easier to do with extra help.  One of those on our farm is opening and shutting gates.
I am opening a gate for Steve.
                 I was trained for the gate keeper job when I met Steve.  The feedlot Steve had at his dad’s place had wooden feedbunks that were inside the pen.   When the cattle were fed Steve had to drive inside the pen.   That meant four times on and off the tractor to feed one pen.  Since I spent the weekends at Steve’s folks I would often help with cattle chores.  I was the gate keeper during feeding.  I didn’t mind hanging out with my honey and I’m pretty sure he was glad for the help.  

Steve is driving on the cement pad and blowing straw for bedding out
so the cattle have a dry, comfortable place to lay down.
                Our feedlot has fence line bunks which is much better for the cattle and the equipment.  The cattle always have a dry place to stand where they eat.  We do put bedding in the pens and that is when it is nice to have a gate keeper.

Here is the hay buster that is behind the tractor.  In the old days we had to
pitch hay using forks.  Now we can bed the cattle so much faster and easier!
                Steve was bedding cattle and asked if I had time to open gates.  I know how cumbersome it can be to climb off the tractor, open the gate, drive in, get back out and close the gate, get back in the tractor and so on.
We feel better when our cattle are comfortable.  As you can see
they don't always choose to lay on the straw!
                There are probably more romantic things we could do together but I have to say that working side by side with Steve has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cold Happens

A recent snow and ice storm that hit the southern states has made me appreciate our road crews and the work they do to keep our roads safe during winter weather.  When the forecast calls for snow/ ice in our area the salt trucks are out in full force preparing the roads so people can travel more safely.  It is sad to see what happens to people in cities like Atlanta when cold weather leaves motorists stranded for 18 hours.  We can plan and prepare to the best of our ability for weather situations but Mother Nature has been known to surprise us.

USA Today front page news story about the Atlanta storm.

 Because weather forecasting in an evolving process we have emergency weather plans so we can take the best care of our cattle as is possible.  This includes having plenty of feed ingredients on hand much like people will stock up on grocery items like milk and bread when bad weather is in the forecast.   We also continually work at keeping cattle pens in shape and machinery ready to go.  This winter we have not received much snow so the pens have been easier to take care of.

You can see the cattle resting comfortably in temperatures around zero.  In the upper left of center you can see the steel windbreaks.   The pen in front of me has a windbreak of trees Steve and I planted in the early 80's.

Cattle that live outside adjust to the weather.  They have a thick hide (we know it as leather) and grow hair that insulates their bodies for colder temps.  In Nebraska we also get strong winds so the wind chill is a factor in designing cattle pens.  We seek to provide pen conditions that keep them as comfortable as possible.  Many of our pens utilize windbreaks from trees we’ve planted in the early 1980’s.  Other pens utilize windbreaks made from steel for similar protection.

This is what the other side of the windbreak looks like.  The cattle can
get out of the wind and the bedding provides added comfort.

 Because we have had so much cold with high winds we have had a tougher time keeping water tanks open.  We chop open the ice with an ax.  That job is a little hard on my back so it has been Steve’s job this winter. Generally the cattle drink throughout the day to keep the water tanks on.

Steve is chopping the ice around the edges of the tank first.  A black
Angus steer looks on.  Notice the thick fur on this steer.

The Atlanta storm is a great reminder to me about the dangers winter weather can bring and the need to be prepared.   We have learned that Mother Nature is not perfectly predictable.  We strive to prepare for the worst and hope for the best!  The certainty we have is that the weather will change.  It won’t be long before the heat of summer arrives and we will be putting up sprinklers to keep the cattle cool.

This looks refreshing in the middle of winter.  We know
it won't be long before we are working in much warmer conditions.