Thursday 28 June 2012

Photo Friday

We have a busy weekend ahead,
with Canada Day celebrations.

So, I thought I would end the week with some random photo's around the ranch.

The ewes out grazing.

Belly deep in grass.

Fena lead the way in for the ewes.
We night coral the sheep, so they are in a routine to come in at night.

Dog feeding time.

Some January born replacement ewe lambs grazing on oats.

Have a great weekend.

Just taking a moment..

to be in awe:

Sunday 24 June 2012

Branding the babies..

This weekend we had planned on moving the cows and calves to their summer pasture.
But, before we could do that,
we wanted to first:
ear tag those we missed at calving time,
castrate the boys we missed at calving time,
deworm and finally
brand all the cows and calves.

The cows we can easily brand in a chute but the little calves are a bit tougher to do.

Yesterday late in the afternoon, cowboys Charlie and Joe popped in for a visit.
Charlie needed to borrow our tractor for a bit..
We needed someone to be able to rope our calves...
We knew that Charlie and Joe could rope!

So, we got at it and decided to get the calves done.
For all my Dutch and non cowboy friends this is how it works.

First you build some corrals.
Preferably round, but if that does not work then make a square with rounded corners.
Next round up all the cows and calves into the pens.
Gate sort the cows out and leave the calves behind.
This step, leads to a lot of noise
as all the cows stand around the pen  and bellow continuously.
It can be deafening.
make sure that you have everything you may need such as:
hot branding iron
ear tags
marking pen
as it is very frustrating in the heat of the moment to have to run back to the barn because you forgot something.

Next step is, gather up all the kids you can find.
You need a whole bunch of kids,
unfortunatly I don't have a whole bunch so that had to double up on chores!
  You need a "gate man"  and a "keep the calves moving" man,
and "stop the calves escaping" man:

Roy got volun-told for this job!
The you need a "pass me this and pass me that, take photo's, hold the calf, fill the syringe " kid.
Jess, was the "go to kid" for all the odd jobs.
Next you need a calf wrestler, once the calf is roped and dragged to the branding place he needs to be wrestled down and his head held.
This fine task was assigned to Eric.
Finally, you need a brander, vaccinator, castrator and tagger.
That was my job.
Even, though I had never branded before...
but I learn fast!

With everyone in place, the branding can start.
First, Charlie or Joe ride into the pen, they swing a couple of loops and then try to snag the two back legs of the calf.

After a bit of fishing, they finally get into the swing of things and caught a calf.
Joe is swinging his rope to the slide the loop under the belly of the calf so that he can step into the rope and gets caught.

If you look carefully, you can see that the red calf has both his hind feet snagged in the lariet (lasso).

This calf is then dragged out of the holding pen, into the branding pen a few meters further.

As he gets into this pen, Eric wrestles him down.

Jess and I jump into action and make sure that the calf is lying the right side up,
as our brand has to be on the right hip of the calf.
I then place my one foot on the calf to help keep him still and me balanced.
I then carefully brand the calf as quickly and efficiently as possible.
It does hurt and I am sorry calf...
Once the brand is done, the calf gets tagged and any other things that need doing.
We castrate our bull calves with rubber bands.

As soon as we can (all of the above takes about 1-2 minutes to do) the calf is released and he can join up with his momma again.

Some people have asked me why we need to brand, as the cows all have radio frequency identification tags.
The problem with these tags is that some animals lose them ( we do not have to double tag here).
A brand stays visible forever, is foul proof and it is easy to visually identify your animal when it becomes mixed into another herd by accident. We have had cows mixed up with ours and unless they are branded it really is hard to prove that that animal is yours.
This is our brand:
Double Diamond over half diamond
(We first played around with making a brand from our initials, but that did not work out. So, I thought,
what the heck, lets just make a smily face of sorts! That worked.)
Another question I have had is if we bite off the testicles of the bull calves.
In some places and countries they do this with lambs but here,
you either use a bander or a scalpel.
If you use a scalpel, you can then harvest prairie oysters for the after party...

If you have any questions about this process or would like a Prairie oyster recipe,
 or would like to know more,
then feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer them.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Grazing sheep and Community pastures

We like to stay flexible with our management of our animals.
Staying flexible does not mean that we do not have any plan whatsoever,
it just means that when situations (such as predators, weather etc)
 dictate otherwise,
we need to change our management strategy.

Due to loads of rain these last few weeks we decided to keep the ewes out of the bush where we have lots of wet spots.
We have been grazing all different spots around our ranch and beyond.

By using electric fencing we can easily fence off a piece to graze the sheep in.
The dogs understand and respect the electric net and stay where we put them.

Last week we were doing some ditch maintainance.
The cows were facinated by what we were doing:

When the sheep are put next to the road, the first thing they do is follow the guardian dogs all the way to the back, then turn around and graze their way back.

Fena is keen to join the ewes as she came a bit later.
She starts off in a hurry but soon walks quietly past the ewes, to race off again once she is past them.
She is very polite.

 After a couple of days along the ditch,
they moved to another spot.

 When we still lived in the Netherlands we used to do perscription grazing.
We used to shepherd our sheep everyday.

Shepherding sheep in certain areas is definately the way to go.
There are large tracts of land in Canada that traditionally have been grazed.
Community pastures were established,
so that ranchers could graze their cattle
during the summer months.
These pastures also have a profound impact on the flore and fauna of these areas.
A lot of wildlife  depends on a "grazed habitat" to be able to survive.
Unfortunately, the Canadian government has other plans for community pastures.

Please read this piece by Tevor Herriot about the future of Community Pastures:

You can also visit his blog at:

Federal Pastures to be Offloaded

The Canadian government has announced it will no longer manage this kind of native grassland on the plains.Some of the best native grassland in North America has for more than half a century been maintained and protected by the Canadian Government through what we used to call the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration or "PFRA".

These large pastures have been critical for cow-calf operators in Saskatchewan, giving them affordable access to grazing land in summer. The PFRA, however, always saw the maintenance of healthy grassland, protecting it from drought and overgrazing, as their number one priority. As this government web page says,
the program uses cattle grazing as the primary tool, supported by the latest range management science, to maintain a healthy, diverse landscape, which is representative of the natural functional prairie ecosystems.
That vision of grazing as a tool for ecological management of grassland stands in opposition to the commonly held view of grassland as a tool for growing grain or livestock. Because of this ecological stance from the PFRA model, the pastures are some of the last strongholds of Canada's many endangered grassland species at risk--from rare wildflowers and butterflies to the Swift Fox, Burrowing Owl, and many other birds.

Over the last decade the ministry of Saskatchewan Environment has designated sites of critical habitat for protecting the province's biodiversity and ecological wellbeing. They call it the Representative Areas Network or RAN. This government document on RAN shows that 64 of the PFRA pastures in Saskatchewan, totalling more than 650,000 hectares, are included in RAN.

Earlier this month, the Federal Government announced that they would be divesting themselves of all of the PFRA pastures, turning the land back to the provinces concerned. An article in the Winnipeg Free Press gave the following figures:
There are 60 federal pastures in Saskatchewan, covering about 1.78 million acres or 720,340 hectares. Most of that pasture would revert back to the control of the province, which says no decision has been made on what would happen to the land.
Apparently 1.6 million acres of that land will revert to the Saskatchewan Government. What will the Brad Wall Government in Saskatchewan do with the land? There is little chance they would keep the pastures and include them in the provincial community pasture program, but if they did that would not be good news either.

Anyone who has compared the ecological condition of a Saskatchewan Provincial Community Pasture with a Federal PFRA pasture knows that the province does not do as good a job balancing the needs of grazers with the carrying capacity of the grass and the imperative to maintain biodiversity. The condition of the rangeland and its capacity to support our beleaguered prairie plants and animals would decline rapidly under provincial management. There are good reasons for this and they are the same ones that explain why National Parks are maintained better than our provincial parks. The Federal Government has deeper pockets and has traditionally used those financial resources to protect Canada's natural heritage on Federally-managed lands.

Our Species at Risk Act (SARA) protecting Canada's endangered species depends on the Federal Government at the very least living up to its legislative committment to protect those species where they occur on land managed by Federal agencies. This fact has not escaped the notice of the Conservative Government now busily dismantling the commons and the legislative imperative for environmental responsibility at the federal level.

They know that if they can offload their responsibility for lands that hold the greatest numbers of endangered species, AND eviscerate the Environmental Impact legislation that is to protect our most vulnerable creatures from industry (see this Winnipeg Free Press article today on the changes being rammed through in an omnibus bill), they will be able to clear the way for oil and gas and other corporate interests to use the land as they see fit.

Giving up 1.78 million acres of the most endangered habitats in the country is a sneaky way for Stephen Harper to wash his hands of its equally endangered species.

Across the continent it has been demonstrated time and again that the best way to protect our declining grassland species is to maintain their critical habitat through public ownership. Private land-owners, no matter how well-intentioned, are pressed by market forces into management and land use modes that leave endangered species far down the priority list. And in cases where a private owner does manage the land well for a few years, that changes once the landowner dies or retires, selling the land to new interests which many not be as enlightened. Once critical habitat is privatized, the public interest of maintaining biodiversity has no leverage, no way to influence how the land will be used in perpetuity.

When are we going to wake up to the truth that laws protecting endangered species are useless without legislation to stop governments from giving up the management of the land critical to their survival?

It's time to declare endangered landscapes and begin working with governments, NGOs, industry, farmers and ranchers to find ways to protect those landscapes in perpetuity.

More on this topic next week.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

I got post today..

I got post today..
and the parcel I received made cheep, cheep sounds!

These cuties were mailed to me and arrived with Canada Post..

I hope they will increase our egg production somewhat,
as the chickens we have now are mostly roosters!

With 26 new hens and a couple of new roosters,
we should we will have plenty of eggs for a heart breakfast sometime!

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Summer Fashions

The newest collection is in!
We will start this show with kids fashions.
Shadow is showing off his
"I am so fluffy" look.
A great accessory to this outfit is the sheepish grin!

Moving onto the newest and latest fashion styles,
a great combination of Original Balkan looks combined with some Canadian highlights.

First up is Fena with her
"Ratty" look.
A easy to wear outfit that blends in everywhere.

Next  up is Snowy, showing off her pristine white,
neat and sleek look.
She combines this outfit with a few dreadlocks in the tail area,
to add some flair to this otherwise very sophisticated look.

Beli is the one to model the all weather look.
He likes to stick with what he has and does not regularly change outfits.
His look is great for the sporty and on the go types.
He never has to worry about weather or looking different.
And here is Vuk.
He likes to strut his stuff with the most daring fashions for the season.
He shows off his two tone outfit.
Cool and breezy in the front,
wild and woolly in the back.
Vuk is the man!
And with this concludes our latest summer fashion edition.
Stay tuned for the fall line up later in the season...

Monday 11 June 2012

Look who came for a visit

He did not come alone, he brought his extended family to visit as well.
There has been a lot of predation pressure recently.
Our neighbor lost a colt to a cougar last Friday.
So, eveyone is on high alert.
We are in the fortunate position that we have plenty of  big dogs to put in with the sheep.
Knowing this, gives me peace of mind.

Sunday 10 June 2012

The next stop will be...

our garden!

Why mow the lawn, trim the trees and clean up the weeds
when you have a whole bunch of sheep that are quite happy to do this job!

I do enjoy looking out  my big front window ,
and seeing the flock in the garden.
The view from my room.

There was some debate about saving the rhubarb plants..
Well, they survived.
Eric agreed, with the sheep on this one.
See, Lucy has the garden protection duty!

The sheep even cleaned up our fire pit area.

Friday 8 June 2012

Grand Champion

Jess's  lamb won Grand Champion at the 4H district show
and she got a 1st Place in Senior showmanship.

Photo by Veikko Makela

After the show, the lambs and steers where auctioned to the highest bidders.
Jess made big money on her lamb.
Thanks to the High Prairie Vet Clinic that bought this fantastic lamb!
Jess did an awesome job!

Wednesday 6 June 2012

And, out of the woods we go...

We have had incessant rain for the last two days.
Not just a shower, but huge downpours.
The basement has flooded.
The roads are  rivers.
The dugouts are overflowing,
and we have huge water pools all over the place.

Which leads us back to the sheep in the bush.
The sheep went out into the bush yesterday morning before the major rain started.
When we went to gather them up last night,
there were no sheep in sight.
Now, normally, the sheep know the routine and start to gather together at about 7.30pm.
I had expected this as the sheep dislike the rain and I suspected that the sheep would have chosen a thick spruce forest to shelter in.
Due to the rain, I decided to go, with Ronald (an agricultural student from Holland) on foot to look for the sheep.
I know their favourite hangouts and thought it would take us about an hour to get them home.

Well, we trudged around in the mud,
waded through pools of water, bushwhacked.
After a couple of hours we had found only a small bunch.
Later, Eric came and joined us with his Zac to help find the sheep.
We searched, we sent the dogs, we called and finally managed to find another bunch.

After four hours of walking in the pouring rain, knee deep in mud and water, in the thunder
we decided  to call it day.
It was about 10.30pm.
We knew that we did not have all the sheep so we got a few extra dogs and left them out in the bush to protect the sheep that did not make it home.

Today, it was still pouring and the fields were all pretty much water logged.
We decided to move the ewes into the barn, we rolled out two nice bales of hay in the barn and gave the ewes a huge area where they could come in from the rain, eat and dry up as they were also rather waterlogged.

We then decided to catch the wet horses and go out and look for the remaining ewes to bring them in from the storm.
Ronald and I set out with horses,
Ally and Smokey
and collies Lad and Sheila,
to go and find the lost souls.

Once again the we had to wade through knee deep water.
We did manage to cover more ground with the horses and finally found the rest of the flock after about two hours of riding in the rain.

The sheep will not be heading back into the bush for the next few days until it dries up.
We will fence along the roadside, around the yard and some other easy areas.
We will bring the ewes in to dry off, eat some hay and give them shelter from the rain.

The sars ( Katcha, Fena and Lucy) did a great job last night.
They were totally exhausted and seemed happy to come home today.

I took some bad pictures with my iPhone...
Ronald, out looking for sheep in the rain.
My view.


Tuesday 5 June 2012

Into the woods

Even though I have not managed to get much blogging done recently, does not mean that nothing is happening.
In fact, so much is happening that I am running behind in blogging..
About two weeks ago we started to take the ewes (recently weaned) out into the bush to graze.
It is great to be back in that routine again after the winter feeding period.
The ewes are a bit on the skinny side after weaning so this flush of new grass should do them good.
The morning routine involves taking the ewes out to the bush with the farm truck.
The collies walk the ewes about kilometer away to the bush, I bring the big dogs with the pickup.
Some mornings when I am not as overwhelmed with work as I am right now, I prefer to walk them out.
This walk is great.
But, with lambing, seeding, kids activities, calving, fencing and the million and one other things on our to do list, this just saves about 20 minutes.
The evening gather goes a bit differently!
Loaded up and ready to go:

The haze is the dust from the sheep.
Sheila is looking after the left flank, to keep the sheep nicely on the path.

We usually stop at this dugout, to let the sheep have a drink, the dogs usually like to take a dip before continuing on.

We use electric nets to fence the bush area in.
Here the sheep head off into the bush to spend the day grazing there.

Katcha, Snowy, and Fena have the day shift. 
As all the females are going to start coming into heat this month, the
groups will need to be changed.

Katcha just loves this work, when we get to the bush she is so excited and heads off immediately to go and do her rounds. With a few wolves, a cougar and lots of coyotes in the area, she has her work cut out for her.
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