Day in the Life – April

April on the ranch is start of a very busy season!  During April and May there always seems to be a thousand different tasks that need to be done and there are never enough days to get it all done!  Between feeding cows, checking calves, branding calves, fixing fences, harrowing fields, planting new fields and turning out cows, the days are long!

On Wednesday, my day started out by finalizing some details the Kamloops Stockmen’s Association Annual General Meeting that was to start at 3pm.  I have been the secretary/treasurer for the Kamloops Stockmen’s for the past eight years and today will be my last meeting as the secretary/treasurer.  I have really enjoyed the position and now it is time to pass it along to someone new.

I dressed and fed the boys, quickly cleaned up around the house ready to go outside into the snow! Yes, snow! We have been getting a lot of moisture this spring and it is still not very “spring” like! Hopefully the weather will warm up soon so the grass will start to grow.

Next, my parents, the boys and I started the morning chores.  Each morning in April, we feed grain to a few animals, feed hay to the various groups, check the last few cows who haven’t calved, and check all the calves to make sure they are healthy.

My mom and I decided that we would put some fresh straw in the calf shelters since it was so wet outside. One of the last 3 cows to calve (14-63) had a nice little heifer calf the evening before and the calf was cuddling up in the new straw.  When we went to leave, I looked up over the top of the hill and I could see a cow who looked like she had recently calved.  We walk up to find 14-63 licking another little heifer calf! Since it was so wet, we put both calves in the trailer pulled by our Polaris Ranger and took them into the barn to dry off.  Since 14-63 is a young cow (this is her second-time calving), we wanted to watch the calves closely to make sure each of them was getting enough milk.  We made up a bottle of colostrum just to make sure each calf had a good drink prior to leaving for the meeting.

14-63 – October 2016

We headed back to the house to quickly change as the boys had a doctor’s appointment in town before the meeting. My dad met us in town after the appointments to take the boys home to feed the bottle lamb and to babysit while my mom and I attended the meeting.

The Kamloops Stockmen’s Association is a regional livestock association representing the livestock producers in our area.  At this meeting, we have various guests attend to update the members on current issues, events and programs. We have a great meeting with lots of informative talks and a wonderful supper!

When we arrived home from the meeting, we did a quick phone call to a neighbor to update him on the meeting as he couldn’t attend and I put the boys to bed. I had a few minutes to finalize some details and answered some emails and went to bed ready to start the next busy day!

Cattle Record Keeping

Cattle records, what kind of records would you keep on cattle? On our ranch, we have a purebred and commercial herd.  With purebred herds there is always more of a record keeping requirement; therefore, we decided to also keep detailed records on our commercial herd so that we are managing all of our cattle the same.

All of our records are inputted on a daily basis into our cattle management software program, CattleMax. CattleMax has an online program that we can access anywhere by using our computer, iPhones and/or iPads for a small monthly fee. We have been using this program for at least 10 years and it makes it extremely easy to print reports and/or worksheets while managing our herd.


On our ranch, every calf is given a ranch tag with a specific number at birth along with a RFID tag (Radio Frequency Identification tag).  The mother’s number is then written on the back of the ranch tag.  The registered calves are numbered numerically, followed by the letter for the year.  This year is “E”.  The commercial calves are also numbered numerically, starting with the year they were born (“17” for 2017) and then their number in sequence. For example, 17-15.

At birth, we keep track of calving difficulties, medications, management notes and birth weights.  The one book on the ranch that we can’t live without is our calf book!  It tracks the calf number, mother (dam), father (sire) and all the other birth details. Needless to say, my 2017 calf book looks like it has been everywhere with me!


Throughout the year, we must document which cows are bred to which bulls, vaccination and medications as given, pasture movement details for each animal, yearling weights and many other details.


In the fall, we weigh each calf so that we can document how many pounds each cow is raising, details on if the calf is kept over the winter or where it is sold and for how much.

By using CattleMax,  we can easily see which cows are producing the highest weaning weight, the average calving interval, average birth weights for sires and any other detail that we need to look at while making management decisions.

WinterPromise – I’m Ready to Learn

My 4 year old son is a busy ranch boy and I wanted to find a preschool/kindergarten curriculum for him that would be fun and very hands-on! After reading numerous blogs about a wide variety of curriculum, I decided that the WinterPromise “I’m Ready to Learn” preschool/kindergarten would be a good fit for our family! We have never looked back!

We are thoroughly enjoying all of the hands-on activities and my son is learning about the alphabet, shapes, the agriculture industry, sorting, counting and many other preschool skills! One day we may be making a billy goat with a paper plate and the next day we are looking through the house for shapes.  We have made collages from magazines, sang songs together, played games, and watched numerous videos.

We don’t always have large blocks of time to work on the daily lesson, but with this curriculum we can easily fit the activities into our lifestyle.

Prior to starting the farm unit, I wondered if it would be too easy for my son as he is very familiar with “farm life”. However, WinterPromise has included many types of farms so we are learning about pigs, dairy cattle, grain farms and many others. Each week, the curriculum includes some website links to help expand our learning! Today we watch some videos about sheep!

Being a mom and rancher, I don’t always have a lot of time for prep, especially during calving season! With WinterPromise, I have to do very minimal prep each day and supply lists are provided so I can shop for supplies well in advance. Most of the supplies are common household items and craft supplies with the exception of a few weeks where I have had to purchase a few items.

My son and I are looking forward to the next unit, At the Pond, and we will be starting our letter-by-letter book soon!

You can find out more about WinterPromise and all their amazing curriculum options at www.winterpromise.com.

Follow my Facebook page and my Instagram account to see more photos about our daily lessons!

Moving Newborn Calves

On our ranch, we take usually take each cow with their newborn calf to the barn when there is snow on the ground so the calf can dry off and get a good start on nursing. Therefore, we must move them from the calving field to the barn, which can be up to ¼ mile. With our newborn calves weighing an average of 80 to 100lbs, how do we move them?

We use two different methods depending on the cow, what time of day and/or the weather. Our first choice is our Polaris Ranger with our calf trailer as long as there isn’t too much snow.  Once the calf is in the trailer, he/she is secure and the cow can follow while watching and smelling the calf.

Sometimes, a young cow may not follow as well as the older cows, especially during the middle of the night so we will then use our calf sleigh! Yes, our calves get to go sledding as a newborn!  The sleigh works well as the cow can follow along side.

There are a few times each calving season when these two methods won’t work.  Sometimes a young cow won’t follow either method, so we will take the calf to the barn and go back to get the cow in separately.

A Day in the Life – March 2017

A day in the life, and quite the day it was today!  The morning started by having a quiet breakfast with the boys while doing some laundry, making beds and updating the ranch calf book.   My calf book goes everywhere with me this time of year!

We all got dressed and headed outside in the windy weather and arrived at the barn to my mom and dad putting a cow (7-47) in the cattle squeeze.  She had been calving since 5am and it was now 8am and she was not progressing.  Everything felt normal with 2 front feet and a head coming, so we let her out to give her some more time.  The boys, my mom and I cleaned the barn and I processed the calf from yesterday, as we do each morning.  This involves tagging, dehorning, giving 2 needles (selenium and vitamin A & D) and if it is a bull calf, sometimes castrating him.  We then walked out to the field with all the cow/calf pairs and checked each calf to make sure he/she was healthy and checked each cow’s udder to make sure her teats are all getting nursed.  Sometimes a cow may not allow her calf to nurse one or more teats as they may be sore and if that is the case, we will bring her in closer to the barn to monitor.

Next, we waited in our supply room to watch if 7-47 would start progressing further and finally decided that we must help her as she obviously was not “getting down to business”.  Back into the squeeze and we assisted with the delivery  a small bull calf.  My first comment was “small… this cow never has a small calf”! We let 7-47 lick her calf for a few minutes and then decided to take them into the barn as the wind was very chilly.  That was when things got interesting!! We had previously let a cow and calf into the barnyard who we are having to watch closely as the cow over the past couple years has been getting very protective of her calves.  Needless to say we were trying to get the 7-47 and her calf into the barn while watching our backs! Both of my boys were sitting in the Chariot watching us from outside the barnyard pen.  Our cows are usually very quiet, so this isn’t something we experience often! But suddenly we see more feet coming out of 7-47! Twins!  So, back into the pen she goes.  We put a halter on her while she is licking the bull calf and assisted with the delivery of the next calf, a heifer! Both calves were doing well but we decided to give them a bit of colostrum. The colostrum will help them get going faster in the cold, windy weather and then we can check them again when we get home from delivering beef. Even though 7-47 is 10 year old, she appeared mystified by the fact that she had 2 calves and not 1.  After some difficulty, we give one calf colostrum and the other calf is starting to get up so he should be able to nurse on his own soon.

The boys, my mom and I quickly went home to change our clothes and pack the truck as we had to deliver some beef packages and ground beef to local customers in town at 2pm.  I answered some emails and Facebook messages about Usborne books on our way out the door as I am an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books. We delivered the beef and went to get our side-by-side tire fixed while my dad stayed home to “babysit” the cow herd.  Once we got home, it was time to check the twins again, make supper and put the boys to bed. I was lucky enough to stay in the house while my parents checked the cow herd and the twins.   After supper, it started to snow so my parents quickly went back outside to put 7-47 into the barn.  By the time 11pm rolled around, we had over 6 inches of snow on the ground.

Late nights have been catching up with me so I had a quick nap with the boys and then I worked on entering the daily ranch records into our Cattlemax program.  Cattlemax is an online herd management software program that we use for our cattle records. I wrote this post, scheduled some Facebook posts for the next day and prepared my son’s homeschool curriculum ready for tomorrow.  Hopefully tomorrow will go smoothly so we can get some school done! Time for some sleep so I can be ready for another adventure filled day tomorrow.

Straight to Curved Horns – How?

Where has January gone? It is already the middle of February and the cows are starting to calve.  I have been quiet on the blog in January, but I hope to keep you updated through calving. Watch for a blog post on “Day in the Life” for February, which will be posted soon!

Today, I wanted to tell you how we get the curved shape on our bulls’ horns.  You may wonder how that is possible or maybe you assume the horns naturally curve. Well, the answer is horn weights!

The horn weights that we use weigh between 0.5 lb. to 1 lb and they are tightened onto the horns so that the horns slowly curve downwards.  We check the bulls each time we feed to ensure that the weight is still on and to watch to see how much the horns are curving. Once the top of the horn has turned enough that the tip of the horn is parallel with the middle of the ear, we will take the weight off. Sometimes, one side will need to be taken off before the other so it sometimes involves two trips through the cattle squeeze.  The time going through the cattle squeeze is good as it helps the bulls get more familiar with us.  We halter break all of our bulls so when they go through the squeeze we usually lead them as they come out.

It takes the bulls a little bit of time to get used to the extra weight on their horns, but it definitely doesn’t appear to hurt them.  There are two tiny little points on the inside of the weight to help keep the horn weight on, but those are quite small.

Why do we want to curve the horns? Curved horns are safer for other cattle and for those who are working with the cattle.

My best childhood memory of horn weights is when my grandpa and grandma would pay us if we found horn weights in the corrals.  At that time, we were putting horn weights on 30-40 bulls so we definitely had some fall off and get lost.  When we found them in the dirt, we would get $1 for a horn weight with 2 points inside or $0.50 if there was only one or no points!  It was a great way to keep us entertained in the barn yard!  I definitely made a few dollars over the years!

How I Keep Up with Project Life

I will be honest, I don’t always keep up with Project Life but I do my best to complete my layouts by the week.   I have developed a routine that helps me to stay on schedule.  This routine usually works, until calving season! I usually have to spend the month of May catching up from calving season!

I try to download the photos from my camera each night so that I can review them.  If I want to edit a few, I will open them in a photo editing program and do a quick edit.  I usually don’t do too much editing as that is usually when I start to get behind.

 

I then rename each photo that I want to use and copy them to a weekly folder in Dropbox.  Throughout the week and/or next week, I will put these photos into a template in Project Life and journal along the way.  My best pages seem to be the ones that have been put together throughout the entire week, rather than in one evening.  My goal is that by the following Sunday, my page from the week before is done.  This gives me a bit of time to organize, edit and prepare my page from the following week without putting too much pressure on me.

 

When going back through old photos, it has made me realize that I have kept so many photos over the years, many of which are duplicates of one or two good photos.  As of 2017, I am starting to delete photos that I don’t use to free up space and make it easier to look through on a cd or computer. Therefore, after I have renamed the good photos and copied them to Dropbox, I delete all the others.

Once my weekly page is prepared and saved, I delete the weely Dropbox folder of photos. Any weekly folders in my Dropbox account are weeks that need to be worked on.

If I get behind, I will try to spend a couple extra hours throughout the week working on the weeks that aren’t complete.  I have a one page yearly calendar next to my computer so that I can cross off the weeks that are done and easily see which ones need doing.   I use the Day One app to journal about my day so that if I get behind, I have notes on what happened throughout the week.  Check back later for a more detailed post about the Day One app.  It is an amazing tool and memory documenting tool.

If you are looking for Project Life supplies, click here to shop!

2017 Project Life App Creative Team Member for Becky Higgins LLC

I am extremely excited to announce that I have been selected as a 2017 Project Life App Creative Team member for Becky Higgins LLC.  I started using the physical Project Life system in 2012 and then switched to using the Project Life App in 2015. For those that are not familiar with Project Life, Becky Higgins has developed an amazing and very simple scrapbook system by using a physical version, a digital version and/or the Project Life App. You can find out more at www.beckyhiggins.com.

I love how easy it is to document our daily life using the Project Life App.  It is special to watch my husband and children enjoy the albums. I have always wanted to find and keep up with a scrapbook system that could fit into our busy schedule. I can even document our life while in the hayfield or waiting for a cow to calf in the barn.

I document our year by the week and have done so since 2012. This allows me the opportunity to include the little moments in each week.  I have also made childhood albums for my brother and a friend as wedding gifts. This year I plan to continue documenting by the week while working on an album to document my children’s arts and crafts and an album for each child that documents by the month so that they can take with them when they graduate.

I plan to blog as often as possible about my page layouts and the techniques and strategies that I use. Please feel free to leave a comment below on what you would like to know or to ask any questions that you have.

You can find out more about me and the other 2017 Creative Team members here.  If you would like to shop for supplies, click here!

I would love for you to follow me on this journey in 2017!

On the Go – Project Life App

One of my favourite aspects of using the Project Life App is that you don’t require anything other than a tablet with internet, and possibly a camera if you don’t use your tablet camera exclusively.  Therefore, you can scrapbook on the go while waiting for your children at 4-H meeting, while on vacation or when watching television in the evening.

What could be better than documenting your special moments for years to come without taking time away from the countless other tasks you have to do at home!

Here are a few pages that I have worked on over the past year while on the go! 

Project Life Summary Dec 5th to 11th

It has been a busy week with getting ready for Christmas and having company arrive. Therefore, I only worked on a couple pages to summarize our December 5th week. I still have to catch up from November, hopefully I can spend some time during Christmas holidays relaxing and catching up on pages.

Using the Hello December 2015 edition of Project Life cards, I created the first page for the week.

Using the Picturesque Edition of cards, I quickly prepared the next layout from photos of us feeding calves one morning.   I love how the colours all blend together so well.

It is so easy to document our life using the Project Life App!  Check back later for another Project Life summary!