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The Flying T Corporate Headquarters on an April Morning
Seasons Greetings from the Flying T:
We don't know for sure what season this is, since it has been dry and dusty since the first of the year and now in April we are calving in the snow. Our records of nearly thirty years, show our present circumstance as the worst drought we have ever experienced. There cannot be enough snow and rain before summer to change that. We got our snow machine operating around Christmas but we haven't had enough snow since to drive it a half mile back to the hanger for storage.
It is customary for our annual newsletter to chronicle the trials and tribulations of winter calving in eastern Oregon. However, two years ago we gave in to common sense and started calving on March 1 instead of January or February. This is now a very boring time of the year. Calves get born but don't need thawing out and they don't get sick. Hair dryers are in storage. No more extremities are falling off from frostbite. The predators are living on squirrels and rabbits and the calves just keep growing. Our delayed calving allowed us to wean 60 Ib. heavier calves in 30 less days last year. We were impressed by that. But all in all things have been real dull around here for too long. The staff (Erika) and the kids (Brandan, Susan & Bruce) all felt there were no challenges in our lives. We were getting in a rut. Well we sure fixed that! We decided to go international, and in the process experienced enough calamities to fill several newsletters.
This tale of woe has roots going back at least 20 years when we first introduced the Salers breed to the Flying T. It was a relatively easy matter to import these cattle from Canada, and Alberta was in fact the source of much of our foundation herd. Later, direct imports from France became fashionable, but for us the cost, red tape, quarantines, and politics were prohibitive so we didn't participate in that fiasco. In more recent times, we have gotten some of our genetics into Canada via semen sales, but the red tape was a nightmare. Since the passage of NAFTA (North American Free ha ha! Trade Agreement), we figured (incorrectly) that the international border was now just a line on a map and shipments to Canada were as commonplace and uneventful as trucking cattle to California. If anyone needs to know the meaning of the word "naive" ask us. If any of you are considering exporting anything anywhere we are confident we can change your mind.
Anyway I'm getting ahead of myself. A year and a half ago, as part of their home schooling, I took the kids to British Columbia to experience a foreign country. Mostly we did research on the cattle industry up there. We all learned a lot and one thing lead to another thing, etc., and for some stupid reason that I can no longer remember, it made sense to haul a load of heifers up there. We began working on this dubious enterprise back in January and, as of mid-April, have yet to complete it.
We used to believe that our Federal bureaucrats were the world champions in arrogance, ignorance, and endless red tape, but we learned they have close competition from their Canadian counterparts. We have talked to many cowmen on both sides of the border and each always claims this title for their own civil servants. With their well earned reputations can you imagine getting these two bureaucracies working on the same project; like maybe a truck load of heifers from the Flying T? To complete this scenario we must add the Oregon Dept. of Ag bureaucrats, a half dozen state and federal veterinarians, the Oregon State Brand Office, the State Animal Health lab and 3 Oregon brand inspectors. Of course British Columbia contributed their Ag Department, Brand Registry, 4 more veterinarians, two pig hauling trucks complete with drivers, too many Canadian Customs Agents, and our import broker. Lest we look too stupid here, understand that we were quite ignorant when we began this undertaking. That means uninformed, not stupid. Stupid is if we do it some more!
One of our greatest tribulations in this exercise was the endless blood work and health tests needed to qualify these heifers for export. Oregon is a Brucellosis and tuberculosis free state and our cattle are Bangs vaccinated. They still needed to be tested for these diseases. They also had to be quarantined for 30 days and bled twice for blue tongue, (they all looked pink to me). If these heifers were standing in Washington instead of Oregon none of that would've been necessary. All this lab work led to piles of paperwork that our vet correlated to each heifer. The USDA then spent about an hour looking at the completed health papers and we spent $545 for them to do it! Oh, lest I forget; none of the above is required for Canadian cattle coming to Oregon!!!!
Getting this load across the border proved to be a daunting experience. We had to coordinate the arrival of a truck from Oregon, a truck from B.C., 2 vets, miscellaneous customs agents, health papers, our import broker, ourselves, and oh yes, 69 heifers all at the Canadian Port of Entry at 8:30 a.m. on the same day! While we tried to be on our best politically correct behavior in going through customs, our cattle were not so constrained. One of our heifers forever endeared herself to us when, after 600 miles of travel, she relieved herself all over the very official bureaucratic health inspector as he stood too close to the truck. Go heifer! Anyhow after unloading our cattle from a large semi, catching each and inspecting its Bangs tag, arguing at length over 5 that lost their tags, making several phone calls to Oregon officials and vets, reloading onto a giant cattle truck, and paying a hefty inspection fee, we finally cleared customs. During this idiocy, our heifers totally filled the rinky-dink Port of Entry corral. What should have been a twenty minute procedure turned into an ordeal that successfully closed the border to all livestock imports into Canada for three hours. When we finally left, stock trucks were backed up halfway to Seattle, while their exasperated drivers discussed Flying T Salers!
Rather late in our planning for this northern migration, we learned the spring thaw had closed the last 220 miles of road to our B.C. pasture until June 15. That rule was soon changed so trucks could use the road, but only if half empty. Our health papers required that we cross the border before April 1st so our 46,000 Ibs. of heifers, after clearing customs, were transferred to the biggest tri-axle semi in Canada. This truck, which could gross 108,000 Ibs., was still 5,000 Ibs. too heavy for the road with our small load. Fortunately this part of the trip was completed uneventfully in the dark of night. In order to keep that shipment light we couldn't send any bulls. We are now repeating this 2400 mile round trip next week with 5 bulls in our goose neck trailer.
Other than this misadventure, things at the Flying T have been pretty routine this past year. The kids are both in their third year of home schooling and seem to thrive on it. They are impressing everyone with their frame scores. Brandan is 6 foot IY2 inches at age fourteen and has confiscated my tractor. That's not all bad as the cattle get fed, the road gets repaired, and the corral gets cleaned and I don't have to do any of it. Susan is 5 foot 7 inches at age twelve and is the feeder of all disadvantaged calves. One of her recent charges is a month old calf that just had the splint removed from a broken leg. Susie did us proud by showing a Flying T steer in 4-H last fall that placed third in rate of gain (3.9 Ibs/day) out of 80 competitors.
Erika continues as the top hand of the Flying T as well as expanding her own herd of Salers. She has lasted here the past seven years because of her remarkable ability to recognize when to ignore me and when (on rare occasions) to pay attention. Erika can answer more questions around here than I can so she is the last word on the cow records and pedigrees. Her cartoon on the back page is in keeping with her philosophy of only drawing from her own experiences. I can't imagine where that one came from though.
After two years as the junior high teacher at Ely, Virginia transferred to the third grade at Chiloquin. She claims the younger ones are more manageable. We figure after the incorrigibles around this place, the public schools probably look real tame to her. She has finished her continuing education classes for awhile so we expect to see more of her this summer.
For my part, I've reached the age when the only time I'm appreciated is when something goes wrong and no one else can fix it. I am finding great satisfaction in watching the younger set develop the character necessary to operate a working cattle ranch. That includes responsibility, pride in a job well done, enthusiasm, the ability to laugh when crying would come easier, lots of long days as well as long nights, and satisfaction in out-doing the "old man." (I'm sure they'll be able to some day!) It means a lot to know that the effort that developed the Eying T was not in vain and our legacy is in very safe hands.
After twenty years our bulls continue to be well received around the West. We don't need to brag on them, our loyal customers do that. We are hearing reports of zero calving problems, big weaning weights, replacement quality females, and sale topping prices. Of late, we are selling a lot of bulls to range outfits to use on their heifers. Those folks have found that our bulls allow their cattle to calve unattended without risk. We are the place to get calving ease bulls! Our calves are slender at birth, but the hybrid vigor of the Salers breed really makes those critters grow and by weaning time they push the scale down hard! Our gentle, range raised bulls come in black and red, and most are polled. They are fully guaranteed against defects in material and workmanship. We have semen available on our past and present herdsires. These semen bulls have been used extensively on their own daughters and have proven free of any genetic defects. Our females are in strong demand as replacements in many progressive herds around the country. We also have frozen embryos representing the best genetics of the Salers breed. Some of these are from the same flushes as our herdsires.
In closing, we invite you to give us a call to visit the ranch and learn why our cattle are so well suited to the western range. We enjoy showing our Salers to people who appreciate practical cattle. If we can fill any of your seedstock needs, you will find us to be the largest and most competitive Salers breeder around.
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