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Flying T Salers
So after five years without a decent winter, how come we have to get all caught up in three months?
The Flying T has sure set a bunch of records this past year and most of them have to do with Mother Nature going on a prolonged rampage. For openers the winter of 91-92 produced the least snow ever recorded here: less than 8 inches. The summer that followed was the driest ever and the fifth year of our drought. Many tens of thousands of acres of lush pine forest burned within sight of our ranch. The woods were ablaze all summer. By day the sun was a red disk glowing through the smoke. By night the horizon erupted with orange and red as individual trees ended their 200 year lives in a ten second blaze of glory. The dry spell ended for us on September first when a half hour downpour flooded us with 1.5 inches of rain and four inches of hail.
Our endless winter began around the first of December. It started snowing and didn't quit for six weeks. The bottom wire on our fences disappeared real quick (12 inches). So we started feeding the cattle on our road to keep the snow beaten down. The second wire was last seen around Christmas time (22 inches). At that point the cattle couldn't keep up with their road work so we started packing it with the front end loader on the tractor. By the end of the month, December had set an all time record for snowfall.
The first of January found the road so deep we had to hire a road grader to plow a couple of feet of snow off the foot of ice we had underneath. We had a few days in the middle of the month to get the gas man in and a few truck loads of hay delivered. We bought a snow mobile and learned that given enough snow, they get stuck too. In 21 years we've never used tire chains here, but this year they became permanent fixtures on the 4x4 pickup and the tractor. It turned out that January also set a new monthly snowfall record.
By early February we had measured more snow (80 inches) than had ever been recorded in an entire year. Now in late February we've had 95 inches and more is predicted for next week. In many places I can step right over the top wire of the fences. So can the cows!
The heavy snow loads have caused many buildings to collapse this winter including the main indoor arena at the Klamath County Fairgrounds. I understand we may be showing our cattle under a circus tent this year. That's probably appropriate for our semi-trained animal act. Many barns have fallen in around the community, but we were lucky. Our steep metal roofs didn't accumulate too much snow before it slid off. It did get 10 feet deep under the eaves of our buildings though. A lot of our problems have been the result of gale force winds continuously drifting the snow. The road to our bull pasture was drifted 6 feet deep on several occasions. Lately I've been feeding them from a sled towed behind the snow mobile.
We started calving the first of February and this really has not been the climate for that sort of thing. The coyotes dined on our first two calves since their mamas saw fit to leave the herd to calve. The coyotes have had the advantage because they are light enough to walk on top of the snow while the cattle flounder in it. There are record numbers of coyotes this year and they are effectively restoring the numbers of deer in the balance of nature to nearly zero. The Sandhill Cranes returned to the Flying T from their winter in sunny California on February 19. This is always a big event for us because it gives us hope of a spring in our future. Experience has taught us, however, that within a couple of days of their return we'll get one Hellacious snow storm. Of course this year could be no exception. It snowed and blowed for three days and nights. The temperature sank to 10 below. Calves born under those conditions only live 30 minutes if they aren't found and dried off. That is not always possible when calving in the pasture at night, so some of our calves are missing body parts like ears, tails, and feet. Needless to say space by the wood stove in the dining room was quite popular with the newborns. This February wound up being one of the coldest ever and many nights were as much as 15 degrees colder than previous records.
I know that when all this white stuff turns into water we'll need to trade our snow mobile in on a jet ski. If the thaw comes fast and all this wet heads downhill at once it will overflow the ocean, we are hopeful that a lot will soak in since the ground didn't freeze before the snow hit last fall. Late news flash and weather update! As of March 4 we've been above freezing for two days. The spot by the wood stove has been calf free for two nights now. The snow has turned to two feet of slush, but so far it is not running off and the creek is not rising. I saw a little patch of real ground on a south slope and tnere was green grass trying to grow on it. And wonder of wonders I saw a bug flying in the 50 degree air. I think it was a-mosquito. Hooray! ! ! For us the first mosquito of the year serves the same purpose as the first robin does in more civilized parts of the country. Spring is here!
Looking for silver linings I've come to a major realization. We will never again be bored by "old timers" with their recollections of the incredible hardships endured in surviving a bygone winter or some long ago drought. We, in one very long year, have become the "old timers" and everyone we see is at risk of boredom at our hands. A few words of warning; don't ever bring up the subject of weather around Any of us.
So otherwise how have we been doing? Quite well, really.Enterprize calves are still setting the standard for the Salers breed. Two of his daughters were the high selling females at the Pride of the West 92 sale in Oregon and the Salers Select 92 sale in California. This black polled herd sire currently has more than 75 calves registered in over 21 herds around the country. Enterprize has proven his worth for several years in our herd and we plan on having him out with the girls again this summer. Our black and red polled Salers represent several bloodlines developed at the Flying T and selected for their ability to thrive in our rugged environment.
Their hardiness was really tested this past year. If those critters weren't tough we would now be facing a silent spring. Back in the middle of December we had a calf born unexpectedly during the night of our first blizzard. We knew about it at 10 AM the next morning when it showed up following its mother into the feed line. We never touched that calf until it was branded a month later. It really helps not having dystocia to worry about. During the nasty weather of February we had 90 calves born and all were unassisted. That month, long hair proved its worth too! Maybe that's why we got by with no pneumonia or scours during that wicked weather. Another characteristic we appreciate is that our cows like their calves. Even when they only got to lick them for 30 minutes before we took them to dry by the heater, they were always glad to get the little buggers back. Often they were waiting for us at the pasture gate.
Salers bred steers won both major feeding contests in Oregon in 1992. The Umatilla County Feedlot Futurity compared 55 steers of all breeds and Salers steers finished first and second in overall performance. The winner in the Klamath Cattlemans' Classic was a Salers from the 70 Ranch at Lakeview. We may be able to take credit for that one since there have been Flying T bulls in their pasture for a number of years. On the national level Salers were again the Grand and Reserve champions of the carcass contest in Denver this January.
One of the highlights of our year was hosting the annual spring field day and picnic of the Junior Salers Association of Oregon. Our juniors, under the leadership of Pat Singleton, are an exemplary group of young adults and a real force to be reckoned with at cow shows. We are proud of each of them. During the year we have made great progress with the constructionof our new barn and working corrals. Though not finished they are usable and sure are coming in handy this winter. We made the gates 14 inches above the ground so they would always swing no matter how deep the snow. It was a good idea anyway! A three foot clearance may have worked this winter but would probably seem a little high come summer. The corrals are built of real stout lodgepoles that we hauled out of the forest last summer. It took four girls to tote each pole and we're talking Flying T girls here,,,
After two years as our number one right hand, computer wizard, and daughter figure. Arwen returned to Oregon State University at the end of the summer to complete her senior year in animal science. We trust one school year won't destroy all the progress we've made in molding her into the totally incorrigible human being we all know and love. Our computer work is getting behind in her absence but thanks to emergency phone calls to Arwen for new commands to throw at the tin genius I am keeping the important stuff up to date. I now know she wasn't joking when she left for school with the comment that she has job security here because she's the one who programmed the computer.
We acquired a French daughter last summer in the form of a 20 year old exchange student from an agricultural university in Toulouse. It is an adventure taking foreign students into our home and though they are strangers when they arrive they are definitely family after living four months with us. Cecile was no exception. She proved to be quite handy to have around since she was fluent in the kind of French our Salers understand. Now if we can just cure our little Susie from talking like that!
Shelly is our newest daughter. She was here briefly 3 years ago with a desire to learn how to show cattle. Last fall she returned and took charge of our show string and sale cattle. She and the cattle both thrived under that arrangement and we hope to see Shelly showing more Grand Champions for us this year.
Brandan became a real cowboy last summer riding the biggest horse on the ranch. One day he put on over 20 miles in the saddle on a ride into Sky Lakes Wilderness. Last fall he started first grade and now he is reading and doing math just like real people. We attended an awards program at school with him and at 50 I found myself thinking the other parents there were too darn young to have kids that old. Susie is a precocious 5 year old bundle of energy. She is keeping up with Brandan in reading and will be a handful in kindergarten. Meanwhile, she is very animal oriented and has yet to run out of names for all the new dogs, cats, and other critters around here.
Well, I'd better wind this up for now. If you need some good Salers give us a call. We have over 40 breeding age bulls at the moment. They wintered real well and the quality is tops. Our prices are the lowest ever and I'm sure we are the most competitive Salers breeders around.
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