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Way overdue greetings from the Flying T:
In response to many inquiries as to how come our newsletters mysteriously ceased about four years ago we offer the following: we haven't written any since then! Many of you may recall our last writing chronicled the misadventure of hauling our replacement heifers to British Columbia for summer pasture during the drought of 2001. I expect it would satisfy many curiosities if we were to now finish that particular tale of woe. Well, the heifers arrived at the ranch at Anahim Lake, B.C. in the deep, cold snows of April after a 2 day truck ride from the comparative tropical paradise of eastern Oregon. A month later we hauled 5 bulls up in our gooseneck trailer. Clearing Canadian customs was the same sort of fiasco as with the 69 heifers only on a smaller scale. Canadian vets had to be placated, many yards of red tape had to be dealt with, money had to change hands (from mine to theirs), and I had to practice my most politically correct behavior (a daunting task!). After 50 hours and 1250 miles on the trailer, the bulls were happy to unload in the muddy, grassless May pastures.
Grass in that part of Canada comes late in May, but when the days get 20 hours long it really shoots up. The summer went well. We suffered no losses or sickness and the heifers put on a nice gain. By fall it was decided to keep the herd up there for another year (not too bright). Anyhow, as part of the deal we felt we should help put up the hay for the winter. I flew my old Stinson up in late August with the intention of harvesting a bumper hay crop. I had finished haying here a month before so I had sufficiently recovered to tackle a Canadian cutting. After a summer full of long sunny days the weather changed to rain every other day. It takes 48 hours from swathing to baling up there and we seldom got that many dry hours in a row. After several days of that I found enough good weather to fly home.
A few days later we put Brandan (age 15) on an airliner headed north to take my place in the hay crew. After 3 plane transfers he arrived at the ranch, a bonafide international traveler. By that time it was about Sept. 4. The weather was better for haymaking and progress happened until Sept. 11. I was on the phone to Anahim Lake that morning and both ends of the conversation watched the New York towers fall on live TV. It seemed prudent to get Brandan back home after that but all aircraft in Canada were grounded. This rule stranded many hunting and fishing parties that had been flown into remote lakes with the expectation that they would be flown out again in a few days! Anyhow, we finally put together a plan to get Brandan as far as Seattle. We were glad to drive up to get him.
As March neared we needed to figure out how to calve out those heifers. Since I consider myself indispensable around here at calving time, Brandan agreed to take on the Canadian heifers. I drove him up in February. He quickly learned what 30 below zero means. Calving in that kind of cold and a foot or more of snow was a good education for him. That was a common winter here many years ago, but global warming must have cured it. Telling him how it used to be was not nearly as graphic as letting him experience it for a month and a half! I retrieved him April 1st and the temperature had yet to get up to freezing. Needless to say home looked good.
In May we were notified that the rancher we were working with had been tragically killed in a tractor mishap on the ranch. Susan and I hurried up there and saw to branding and vaccinating the calves. By fall it was definitely time to retrieve those cows. After 9 twenty-five hundred mile round trips I was wearing down. Erika and I were in charge of the cattle drive home. We sold the calves at an auction yard in British Columbia for Canadian dollars (Think Monopoly money: 1 dollar Canadian = 62 cents USA), Since fall is the busy season for moving cattle, we were lucky to line up two Canadian tri-axle trucks to transport the cows and the bulls back to the Flying T.
Coming home was somewhat simpler than going up. No bleeding for 3 diseases, no Brucellosis inspection, no quarantine period; just get them on the trucks and head south. We did stop once to unload them for brand inspection and to acquire a Canadian ear tag. (The ranch was 250 miles from the nearest brand inspector or veterinarian that could write a health paper.). At the border we got to unload the whole lot again so a bureaucrat could make sure their ear tags were the same ones we had put in 15 hours before! Of course money changed hands for us to cross the border (The North American Free Trade Agreement ain't free!). It took 7 hours to clear customs and 54 hours for the entire trip. Erika and I made it home with a stock trailer in 48 hours but the Canadian truck drivers decided to park and sleep without setting an alarm clock. I had to head back up the road a hundred miles to find them and wake them up. Surprisingly all the cattle survived this journey safe and sound and pregnant (except for the bulls which were only safe and sound). P.S. Eight months later the first mad cow turned up in Canada and the border has been closed to breeding stock ever since! Given the choice between being lucky or smart, I'll definitely choose lucky.
In retrospect, this "venture" didn't go at all as planned so it turned into an "adventure." I thoroughly enjoyed participating in a very limited way in the Canadian cattle industry. The ranchers, veterinarians, cow buyers, truckers, bankers, brand inspectors, etc. could have all been Oregonians. It seems to me the people in our industry are a brotherhood created by the critters we raise. Everyone I met shared the same cow tales (mostly wrecks), battle scars, and character flaws. I wouldn't want it to be otherwise. Anyone interested in the ranch we ran on can read three books by Richmond P. Hobson: Grass Beyond the Mountain, Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy, and The Rancher Takes A Wife. Hobson started out on the ranch where we were in the early thirties. His stories accurately portray the country and its people.
Changing the subject: Many of our bull customers have reported an increase in twin births after using Flying T bulls. I guess we should discuss our experiences with this phenomenon. When we first investigated Salers we learned that this is the most fertile breed of cattle in the world and they lead all others in numbers of twin births. We've had lots of twins born since switching to Salers. One of our embryo calves grew up to produce live triplets when she was 10 years old (unassisted, all by herself, with no help!). Since the first month of our calving season is often very difficult "weather-wise" we usually don't ask our twin mothers to raise more than one. After the weather moderates in April they often get to keep both of them. A couple of years ago we had 14 sets of twins. Susan was pressed into service as a surrogate mother for some of the extras and ended up bottle feeding 6 calves all summer (our cover photo shows her handiwork). Well, they soon outweighed and out-butted her. That's about when the idea was born to acquire a Holstein milk cow to take the beatings.
The next year Brandan and Susan each bought a springing Holstein heifer. The heifers dutifully freshened the first week of calving and produced copious amounts of milk. The trouble was we only had seven sets of twins that year and we found homes for the extras with some tough luck cows. Needless to say, both kids became proficient milkers and developed memorable handshakes. For most of a year we all wore milk moustaches and enjoyed homemade ice cream and butter.
This past winter we approached calving secure in the knowledge that this Holstein deal was really going to work. Our first week of calving saw 4 sets of twins out of 24 cows (this extrapolated into 46 sets of twins by the end of the season!). Luckily Brandan's cow was freshening and the bottles kept the extra calves happy in anticipation of a real mother. Well that Holstein finally calved: a beautiful set of red twins! Our twins just kept coming. By the time we had thirteen sets on the ground Susan's Holstein finally got around to having a couple of black twins! We ended up with 15 sets in 2005. The milk cows helped a little and we had to buy our milk in the store. Susan has a new Holstein heifer named "Annie" scheduled to calve this spring. I figure with three milk cows we should be able to help out a few twins. It's about time for this plan to work! Newsflash!!! I just preg checked Annie. It's twins for sure and maybe more! I think we'd better get used to drinking water around here.
A new feature we are introducing into our newsletter is "the year's most memorable cow." Our first recipient of this singular honor is "ol' 407." This 12 year old red cow has long endeared herself to us for her ability to turn up anywhere at any time while leaving all the fences intact. We should name her Houdini. She can escape from anything. She is quite a celebrity in our neighborhood. Most of the neighbors have met her. She is a very winsome lass with an amiable personality and disarming air of innocence. She leaves her calf after breakfast each morning, sets out on her daily travels and dutifully returns to feed it every evening. Erika was so moved by 407's winning ways that she memorialized her on the next page.
We still have the same crew around here. Erika bought an adjoining 160 acres last year and recently drilled a couple of wells to get some pasture started. Susan is 17. She runs the barn and tends to all the unfortunates that reside there. She has had some remarkable successes with lost causes. Brandan is 19 and runs a large part of the irrigation, tractor work, and anything mechanical. I get to stay out of the way most of the time unless experience is needed. I expect I'll be in demand again in 3 or 4 years. Virginia is still the no nonsense substitute school teacher for the county. She seems to have boundless patience with kids. The rest of us save ours for the cows.
After 25 years our bulls continue to be well received around the West. We don't need to brag on them, our loyal customers like to do that. We are hearing reports of zero calving problems, big weaning weights, maternal replacements, and sale topping steers. We are selling lots 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 have been selecting for easy calving, high performance bulls ever since we started with Salers. 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 real hard. Our gentle, range raised bulls come in black or red and all are polled. They are fully guaranteed against defects in material and workmanship. We have semen available on many of our herdsires. These 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 herds around the country. We also have frozen embryos representing the best genetics of the Salers breed. 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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