For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always involved a walk. In our younger years it was in Ontario, with our extended family, at my Grandparents farm. We’d walk to the sugar bush to wander the paths originally made by a stone boat as they carried their barrels of sap towards the sugar shanty, all the while admiring the glorious fall colours of the maples. To this day I am not sure if the walk was to admire the scenery, blow off some steam (and get exercise) before another magnificent meal, engage in great conversation, or simply to walk the land and pause to reflect on the bounty it has given us again this year. Now farmed by my cousin, the family walk at my Grandparents’ farm carries on to this day. Three provinces away, walk is part of our own ritual here at Applecross, which was shaped by those similar themes of scenery, exercise, conversation and reflection.
2019 has been a year of challenge and a year of change. But as we take time today to step back and think about the big picture, we have so much to be thankful for. Our winter hay supply is all stacked in the yard; the straw is in; the corrals have been cleaned, with the manure spread to help enhance next years’ pasture growth. We are well aware that quite a number of areas suffered this year with too much moisture and untimely snowfalls that have made the harvest outlook bleak and conditions grim. So we do count our blessings, while our thoughts and prayers are with those struggling with difficult harvest conditions.
Reflecting back on our three back to back to back ‘best ever’ female calf crops between 2016 and 2018, we have certainly been able to reshape our herd – making it significantly younger while also improving the quality from top to bottom. With so many young cows, part of the process involves visualizing how they will continue to develop, but we are quite happy with how the herd is progressing (noting that there is always room for improvement!). Part of our fall work is in making selections for Fleckvieh Equation. Cody Haney of Transcon was out a couple of weeks ago, and with the massive set of bred heifers we had as a group this year, it was (relatively) easy to dig deep and select eight pretty cool bred heifers for Equation 2019.
I am not sure whether it was the weather or the genetics (or some results from more than a decade’s work on genomic feed efficiency testing), but without a doubt, our bred heifer group is the heaviest, most consistent set of females we have ever walked. The eight heifers selected for Equation represent a great cross section of our herd, with the first three Delmontes, three WowEffects, a Rambo, and a Kittimat being the sire groups of our sale heifers. Five of the selections are polled, with one Homozygous. As you will notice in the picture, they came off grass very heavy so they won’t need a lot of TLC to be sale ready. The heifers were all pregnancy checked this week, and we clipped heads yesterday, so sale pictures should follow in the relative near future. We really look forward to showcasing them at Equation in late December!
The 2019 calf crop has also settled in well to their new routines. We finalize our weaning process Labour Day weekend, so Thanksgiving usually represents the six week mark post separation, which makes this an ideal time to take another look and see how the calves are adjusting in their respective development areas. Weaning weights averaged almost 50lbs heavier than last year and again, whether that was nurture or nature, it made for some tough decisions over which heifer and bull calves to keep. We had a lot more balance in our calf numbers this year, and while we did have more bull calves to choose from, we are retaining a similar number to last year. We are also really happy with the heifer calves, and although there won’t be as many strutting their stuff as last years’ group, they are a nice uniform bunch.
So with the smell of turkey (and fresh baked pumpkin pie) shifting my thoughts away from the page and back towards food, family and great conversation, it is also a reminder that there are evening chores to be done – a shorter walk through the calf groups and the sale heifers. Our cows may leave my train of thought, but never seemingly for very long (I call it ‘re-fleck-ting’). But the tour today and tonight provides our daily reminder: To give thanks for the bounty we have been given and for what we are about to receive. To be mindful of the needs of others. We are truly thankful.
Until next time.