Four inches of rain over the past six days might belie the title, but June is my favourite time of year (well, February and October are too). While we both work off the farm full time, June’s long daylight hours allow lots of farm work to get done in the evening, which is usually capped off by a cow-tour.
The cow tour. Easily my favourite part of the cattle business.
We are fortunate to be able to house all of our cattle here at home, and although most of the pastures are visible from the front porch or back deck of our house, there is still nothing better than a cow tour. I like to spend hours just watching cattle on grass. Seeing them eat, at peace in their natural environment. Looking, studying the cattle from all angles. Checking udders, feet, and body condition – are they gaining weight back? Or is it all going to their calves? After a hard days’ work, it sometimes gets real tempting to sit on the deck with a beer and binoculars, but nothing replaces taking the time to spend walking the cattle.
It is also great to watch the calves develop their own identities – and go through growth spurts. Calves can be difficult – they can look great one day – then seemingly shoot up three inches overnight and turn a little gangly – before bulking up on their newly expanded frame. Some calves always stand out. Often there is a calf that jumps ahead of the pack and stays there (2010’s Ensign was a great example of this, and we have another one this year). Other calves grow on you – they are often ‘just a calf’ until one day you get a longer look, and are impressive individuals in their own right. Without spending the time, maybe the wrong decisions will get made come weaning – it might be a minor thing – one or two kept instead of culled per year . . . but sooner or later these small decisions can add up.
I always try to take at least some holidays at the end of June. Not only to coincide with the end of Jeanne’s school year, but also so that I have time to tour the herds of fellow breeders. Everyone has a slightly different management style, and a different vision of what the future will demand from Fleckvieh genetics. Being able to tour other operations provides a great opportunity to learn something; whether it be unusual genetics to evaluate, a unique pasture management system, or for an early peak at the next years breeding stock selection. I have yet to tour a herd that I haven’t be able to bring something home to incorporate here at Applecross.
And I think that is the key – to not only tour herds, but also to compare herds back to what we are trying to accomplish here. So the first thing I do after touring a herd, is to go back out to re-evaluate our own operation – how do we stack up? Do they have best practices we can easily implement to make improvement? – are there genetics that I have seen that maybe should be utilized in a future year? Successfully cattle breeding is all about constant improvement, and gaining exposure to a lot of different operations in order to widen your knowledge base can be very valuable. June seems to be the best time of year to ‘get your boots wet’ (literally this year); utilizing all that extra daylight to spend more time with the cattle.
While I do think Genomic Testing is very important (I will elaborate my thoughts on DNA in another post here shortly), spending time with cattle to complete that physical evaluation will always remain an essential part of the business. Here is to the joys of June – long days, warm, (hopefully) sunny weather, and lots of time for cattle – on pasture, turning grass into meat and milk. Happy touring!
One of the beauties of central Alberta is the thunderstorms that roll in early evening, last for an hour and are then gone again, leaving in the quiet calm the smell of clean, fresh air and often a lingering rainbow or two. With the storms however, always comes trepidation – the moisture is always appreciated, but the threat of hail and that dreaded white combine is a major concern.