This is the beginning of our new series written by our very own Kimberley Knight. A take on what goes into managing the ranch, watching the health of our animals and how we make decisions for management. Enjoy!
Today started with a plan -- which fell apart before I even finished my coffee!
Stefan looked out our kitchen window which overlooks into the creek and declared, “there are cattle in the creek!” Still in my pajamas, I hopped on the quad and raced up the creek to shut the gate!
I have been trying to catch these big calves for the past week or so and they have been driving me crazy! I have them trapped in The Creek Pasture between my house and HQ. Of course, it's about 50 acres and much of it is overgrown with Mesquite. This means I can’t use the horses to get them in, it all has to be done on foot. Not a big deal except that at least part of that is done crawling through the brush.
I have several people here that I can ask for help and I explain to them that it will be "a quick job" and then they can carry on with their plans for the day. Wrong! 3 1/2 hours later we finally get them into the corrals. And that’s after very gently urging them forward.
Calves are not known for their bravery, and these were especially timid. It’s as if there was a giant monster waiting for them up ahead somewhere and there was no way they were going to go that direction. We kept reminding ourselves of something we learned from a very well-known animal behaviorist, “ the fastest way to move cattle is slowly”. And it was proven to us again that this is true. In that 3 1/2 hours we built some trust with them which will mean it’s easier to move them the next time. Everybody was anxious to return to their own work, but we “got ‘er done”!
Every day, I am out checking cows and calves to make sure that everybody is doing well. How do you "see" if a cow is doing well? If I look at the left side of their body in the flank region, I can tell if they have a belly full of food. Or, if they are sunken and empty, that tells me a lot too!
Because we have 52 pastures on our 38,000 acres, I need to determine the best time to move cows to the new pasture. I not only look at field conditions, i.e. how much grass is left in the pasture, but also check to see if the cows are full. I also check to see if they seem content. They usually tell me when they want to move to new pasture. However, I need to watch them because they will try and trick me! If they still have plenty of feed left, but want to move on to the "greener fields" they stand around the gates and moo at me until I let them know - not today! Lol Cows are smarter than you think!
Though you can't see her flank, I don't think this cow is lacking in feed 🙃
I’m out checking “weeds” today to see what the cows are eating. What is the definition of a weed? An undesirable plant.
In my book there are hardly any undesirable plants. Either they are covering the ground and protecting the soil from the harsh sun and holding the moisture in the soil, or they’re providing food for wildlife or livestock. With all the bare ground that we have in the desert, I am thrilled to see “weeds”! I am especially happy, because many weeds are quite nutritious (for people, livestock and wildlife). Some of those weeds help them gain a lot of weight and make them very happy! And happy cow makes me very happy! Here are some of the plants that some people might consider weeds:
Desert Indian wheat or blonde plantain
Yellow is the color scheme at Date Creek Ranch these days! Yellow Palo Verde, blossoms, yellow Desert Marigold, yellow creosote flowers, Paper Flower, yellow Prickly Pear and Cholla. We have had so many flowers this spring I can hardly believe it. About the time I think they are over with, completely different plants open up with beautiful blooms.
Though not yellow, ridiculously beautiful! Mariposa Lily!
I am out in the pasture today and it is 5:30 AM and I can’t believe how how cool it is. The thermometer says 57° and it’s May 31st. I wish I had brought a jacket with me. Getting on the quad when the weather is cool just makes everything colder. I felt a little bit silly even considering taking a jacket when I know it’s going to be quite warm later today. Lol, I got to watch the cows eat, listen to the birds, saw some baby Javelina, and watched the sun come up. How lucky am I! Here is a photo taken by our friend Ken Petersen of one of our beautiful sunsets. I wish I could capture the sunrise for you but unfortunately, that is not my forte.
Well, that's a wrap for May!
Thank you for taking the time to read my own side of ranching here at Date Creek.
I hope we entertained and enlightened you a little! Let us know in the comments below what part of ranching you are most interested in learning about! We'd love to answer some questions!
May you always find shade, Kimberley Knight