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Spring greetings from the Flying T....
We get lots of flyers, brochures, and newsletters from various purebred breeders during the year. They always seem to be bragging on their grand champion show cattle, promoting their exceptional pedigrees, and touting their outstanding performance EPD's. We find their propaganda rather boring and invariably sort it to the circular file without exposing ourselves to much of their rhetoric. Since we probably have the largest and longest established Salers herd on the west coast, we figure our credibility is already proven and therefore our newsletter can address more intriguing subjects. After observing the evening television news and reading the front page of the paper, I have concluded our species is more interested in chaos than success. So in an endeavor to get our newsletter read, I will focus on some of the more noteworthy calamities at the Flying T during this past year.
Since we are located in the most inhospitable climate in North America, many of our tales of woe revolve around winter calving. It seems that this winter has been more miserable than usual. On my way out to check the calvy heifers one morning last month, I found myself waist deep in wet snow while being pelted in the face by horizontal rain that was Canada bound at 50 knots. Luckily I was riding a tall horse at the time, so he was only belly deep in mud! When this winter snow pack decides to turn to water all in one day, our "Whiskey Creek" becomes the "Sea of Bourbon". This flows through the middle of our calving pasture. Our cows, not being the intellects of the animal kingdom, sometimes swim Whiskey Creek to calve on the other side. This is bad because we can't get to them to help with a problem delivery or to keep the coyotes at bay.
During the spring flood one of our less brilliant cows decided to swim the quarter mile wide Sea of Bourbon to calve. I noticed her on the wrong side just at dark. The next morning she had a fine calf over there and promptly swam back home for breakfast with the herd. No amount of coaxing, chasing, or cussing could induce her to get one hoof wet on a return swim to her kid. We finally called the neighbor on whose place the calf now resided and he managed to retrieve it for us after a perilous trip on a four wheeler. A long morning and many miles later we eventually presented the calf to his mama on her turf. Of course he was the ugliest thing she had ever seen and she was insulted to think we would suggest it was hers. His next trip was to the barn where we thawed some colostrum and treated him like bovine royalty while we pondered our next move.
The next morning we were still pondering when I looked out the window to see our reluctant mama standing and bawling in the exact spot where she calved two nights before. Now, in olden times, when I was in high school 1 built a kayak. It was designed for a 40 pound lighter me and my lunch. Well, on this fine morning it was decided to test it with Erika in the bow, me in the stern, and in the middle, a calf wrapped in enough duct tape to pass for an Egyptian mummy. With this formidable crew the S.S. Hopeless set out to cross the turbulent Sea of Bourbon with 1 inch of freeboard. This voyage began with high hopes and wet expectations. You could say things were real unstable.
Half way across Erika informed me this was her first experience with a canoe or a paddle. At that point I calmly explained that if she tipped the boat over I intended to use my extensive Eagle Scout lifesaving skills to keep the calf's head above water. It is amazing how steady things got after that. Landfall was eventually achieved and junior was untaped. The resulting 30 foot strip of duct tape closely resembled a giant red and silver wooly worm. Amazingly, the kid still had enough hair left that mama recognized him as the most beautiful bovine child to ever walk the planet. She immediately sent us back to paddling and took him on a quarter mile swim to show him off the rest of the herd. It's not that we aren't a sporting lot around here, but a half mile of new electric fence now parallels Whiskey Creek for the duration of calving.
Some of our better war stories relate to tagging newborns. Our latest of these documents yesterday's great ear tagging fiasco. Our goal was to vaccinate and tag an especially big calf out of a particularly "maternal" cow. Most ranches have their own code words for various things. Here "maternal" means this mama sees you as a bale of #1 alfalfa hay and she hasn't eaten in a month. Our time tested strategy in this situation is to chase the pair into the meadow (think swamp) until the calf bogs down and Erika can get a two hand death grip on its tail. I then perform the more technical tasks of giving a couple of shots and inserting an ear tag.
Just after the shots part, our maternal mama commenced to charge and blow snot all over eastern Oregon. Well, our main line of self defense was the ear tagger and I used it on her nose. About the third whack I succeeded in inserting the button through the tag. That really put me up a creek as far as tagging the calf. Erika got instructed to hang in there and I started in on the ear tag with my pliers. This proved to be a particularly secure button and it took three lifetimes to get it out of the tag so it could be inserted in the calf. In the mean time, the cow ran out of snot and Erika ran out of expletives. Next time I'll carry a spare tag!
Our new barn became popular with the heifers during the February snow storms. Every evening we would collect the three that looked closest to calving and bring them in out of the cold and bed them in deep straw. Invariably some of the outside ones would calve in the snow and the barn heifers would hang on for a week. Erika finally discovered what was going on when she sneaked into the barn one night and caught all three of them with their rear ends securely planted against the wall while they munched their alfalfa in total bovine bliss!
Anyhow, this is our annual notice to the world that we didn't winter kill. We have more bulls to sell than ever before. We feel that our many years of selection for docile, thick, calving ease bulls is exemplified in the 45 yearlings and 35 two year olds we now have available. Nearly all of our bulls are polled, and we have both blacks and reds. Our bloodlines are unique and have been developed for the range conditions and harsh winters of eastern Oregon. Our bulls are fed no grain, alfalfa, or chopped hay. They winter on long grass and oat hay. These are rugged critters that don't break down when the going gets tough.
Sunny Dawn is our premier red polled herdsire. Sunny's offspring are notoriously gentle and thick and they are always polled. We have used Sunny a lot, and many of his sons are available. Black Bart, our new black polled herdsire, has two good sets of calves on the ground, end several of his bull calves are for sale.
We have semen available on all of our past and present herds sires. We can fill requests for any type of bull except tall ones, ornery ones, and calving trouble ones. All of our semen bulls have been used extensively on their own daughters and all have proven free on any genetic defects.
Our females are in strong demand as replacements in many progressive herds around the country. We have cows and heifers available for sale at all times. We also have quite a few frozen embryos representing the best genetics of the Salers breed. Some of these are from the same flushes as many of our herdsires.
The family has gotten older and more ornery in the past year. Brandan is nine now and in his first year of 4-H. Kis project is a red steer that needs to be halter broke one of these days. Susan is a seven year old bundle of energy. Thanks mainly to her, silence is unknown around here. Erika has come a long way in her chosen profession since finishing her University internship over a year ago. The art work on the back is her impression of spring riding at the Flying T. Virginia has the unenviable task of keeping us fed, watered, and out of trouble. She handles whatever doesn't get done by any of the rest of us. This winter that has included the majority of the feeding.
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 ranges. We enjoy showing our Salers to people who appreciate practical cattle. If we can fill any of your needs for superior seedstock, you will find us to be the largest and most competitive Salers breeder around.
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