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Calving time greetings from the crew at the Flying T...
It has been 17 years since we purchased Penelope, our first Salers cow, and it seems about time we got everybody together for a group portrait. Penelope has raised ten calves and produced 40 more via embryo transplant. In addition, we have a dozen of her embryos frozen in the semen tank. She has done all of this under ranch conditions and is still sound, pregnant, and sports a full set of teeth. We consider her longevity quite a bovine achievement. More notable, though, is her influence on our cow herd. We have used five of her sons as herdsires, and 20 of her daughters have become some of our best cows. Penelope's descendants possess her gentle disposition and are reliable producers of top quality, easy fleshing calves. None of this cow family have ever been assisted with calving, prolapsed, experienced a broken down udder, been lame, had cancer eye, or mooed in anger..... Penelope, we honor you as the cover girl for this, our 1999 newsletter!
It's time again for our winter weather report and annual calamities recap. If your main source of weather information is the Weather Channel on TV you must be totally ignorant of how we fared out here in the Oregon Arctic. We are represented on the part of the national map that is obscured by the weather girl in the red dress and mid-west accent. Occasionally while discussing the unseasonable hot spell in the east, she drops her pointer. When she bends down to pick it up you can get a quick glimpse of southern Oregon. That circle denoting the coldest spot in America is us!
November 4 saw our first decent snow this winter and as of April 10 it is still snowing. Our first calves were born in blowing snow and sub-zero chill factors back in mid-January. Three months and 280 calves later we are now calving in blowing snow and sub-zero wind chills. You wanna guess what the weather in between was like?
We have long touted our Salers as being rugged, survival of the fittest type cattle. This characteristic was a life saver this winter. Virtually all of our calves were born in the snow, most during ceaseless winds, and generally at night. Only ten were born in the sunshine! Under these conditions even Salers newborns can freeze in 30 minutes; though after they are dry, warm, and have a belly full of colostrum they are absolutely weatherproof! We decided that Salers calves with their thick long hair coats are better protected against our winter weather than we are with our high tech insulated long Johns and Mackinaw coats.
We have become quite adept at thawing calves around here. Susan and Brandan spent many nights in the barn with hair dryers on high. Most of the calves needing to be warmed could still shiver. For these, three hours on the pickup floor under the heater was enough to get them dry and toasty. Then it was back into the cold world. Most of the time their mothers still loved them. These "pickup calves" enjoyed the radio while being thawed out. The ones receiving this treatment in the daytime were entertained by the local country music station and have become avid Garth and Reba fans. Alas, the poor calves getting warmed up at night had to endure Art Bell, the nationally syndicated call-in show for the weird. We only get four radio stations at night and this show is on all of them. These calves are easy to recognize as they can be found warily watching the night skies for UFO's coming to mutilate them.
A number of our calves were- severely hypothermic when we found them, with internal temperatures of, around 60 F. A Couple even had white eyes. It impressed us when these ice cubes were fully recovered in four hours. One nasty night around the first of March the snow was so deep we could only check the calving pasture with our 4x4 tractor. We had a steady 30 m.p.h. wind blowing snow all-that night. We rescued eight newborns before dawn, hauling them out in the front end loader. Every vehicle on the ranch was parked with the-motor running and a calf under the heater. The extras went to the barn. We found one frozen stiff that was only 45 minutes old. By the next day it was going strong and we returned it to a relieved mama.
We're somewhat amazed that except for a few ears no extremities were frozen off this winter. The wind chills were zero much of the time. This puts wet tails and feet at great risk. But happily our calves can all still swat flies and give the coyotes a good run for their money.
It was certainly a relief not to worry about calving problems during this bad weather. After 160 calves we finally got to help an old cow with a leg back. Later, our fourth set of twins came with a backward heifer. We didn't lose any calves from dystocia all winter and we have no idea where the calf puller is!
None of our cows and bulls suffered any adverse effects of any kind through this tough winter. One pasture with 50 pair was without water for a month due to drifted-in ditches and below freezing temperatures. These cows did quite well eating snow until we finally had a brief thaw and pumped water to them. Mid winter, 55 yearling bulls failed to show up for breakfast. After three days we found them hanging out in deep snow on top of our 1,000 foot high butte. They were quite happy eating snow and brush. It was a week before they decided to come back down to hay and water.
Bad winters are a bigger problem for us than for our cattle. We were out of fuel for extended periods because our driveway was impassable. Once the gas man got about half way in here before he buried his truck in our road. The tow truck sent to retrieve him also got stuck. No fuel that trip! Later as our hay stack became a little anemic, we had a Kenworth loaded with 28 tons of hay tip on its side by our front gate. Our own equipment was stuck daily and nightly. The record was burying the pickup 7 times in 100 feet one night while checking calves.
By now you can get an idea of how our winter went, so what about the other three months of the year? Well, in August Brandan missed the 4-H Fair because he was in the critical care unit of the hospital recovering from a ruptured spleen. He fell off his horse while checking the cattle and got stepped on by 1400 pounds of "Wildfire." Brandan is fine now, but Susan had to run the 4-H Fair alone. She not only showed her cattle but Brandan' s as well. Good sister that she is, she managed to beat herself with Brandan' s heifer.
Both kids are being home schooled this year. Susan skipped another grade so both are seventh graders and take the same courses which makes it easy on the teacher (Bruce) . We are innovative at this school. Physical Education is cow feeding. We do a lot of that. Home Economics is cooking breakfast and lunch. Shop is fixing flat tractor tires and welding broken feeders. Math is trying to show a profit in the cow business. This is their toughest course.
Virginia was substitute teaching at a local school last if all when a teacher quit. She ended up with a full-time job teaching junior high and dearly loves it.
Erika's heifers have become cows and she has sold her first calf crop. This has brought a sense of reality to her boast of "taking a vow of poverty" when getting into the cow business. Her cartoons continue to reflect the high points of her life although I think the one in this newsletter may be a promotion for her recent litter of McNabb pups.
For my part, I've enjoyed watching the new generation acquire the skills to operate one of these outfits . I am impressed with the enthusiasm of youth. This coupled with the talent and determination I see incite "under thirty" set around here gives me confidence that the Flying T will continue to produce cattle in the Penelope tradition for a very long time.
Our bulls continue to be well received around the west. We don't need to brag on them, we let our loyal customers do that. What we hear are reports of zero calving problems, big weaning weights (802 Lb. steers in California), and sale topping prices at the auctions and on the videos. Of late, we are selling a lot of bulls to Angus outfits to use on their heifers. We are the place to get calving ease bulls! Our calves are small and 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 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.
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 needs for superior seedstock, you will find us to be the largest and most competitive Salers breeder around.
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