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Saturday, April 26 2014

"The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry" 

Robert Burns


     Moving cattle to the ranch up north has proved challenging but rewarding. Because we only moved tame former show cattle up there, they are easy to monitor. They happily come up to the cabin like dogs when we arrive, thus there is no need to search the ranch on 4wheelers counting hidden cattle. And except for the loss of our old bull, everyone has thrived.

Thrived to the point of having hippo hineys:

Except for some cubes during the roughest part of winter, this weight gain is all grass. The ranch is rich in nutrients and minerals and the cattle look better than when we were feeding them daily.

They get to live like wild cattle, and they're doing just fine - except for Paisley.

This stupid cow is the heifer I have voted off the island since we purchased her at the fair several years ago. First I wanted to cut her from the team because she gets out regularly. Then I wanted to vote her off the team because she kicks. (She's an Angus, duh!) Then I wanted to cut her from the team because she gets out, tries to kick us, or the dogs, and then walked off and left her newborn calf.  (That's REALLY a dealbreaker for me.)

Anyway, Other Half kept Paisley's dumb ass because he likes her body. (Whatever, I like cows that don't get out and don't kick.) But since they're his cattle, and he chose to keep her, we did.

And so it was, when the rancher who leases the property next door to our ranch sent us a cell phone text including a picture of a certain red cow that was with his black feeder steers, I knew without even looking which cow it was - Paisley had gone 'walk-about.'

Yes, she has 133 acres of pasture, woods, and rich wild land with plenty of water, but Paisley chose to visit another ranch. (probably because our bull died and she wanted to visit the boys)  The rancher assured us that she was fine where she was at, happily enjoying his wheat field (and getting the wheat grass runs).

We made plans to bring horses with us on our next visit to the ranch because we didn't know how much area we'd have to cover in our search for Paisley and it's springtime in Texas:

So we dragged the paint horses across Texas along with two young bulls to replace our old bull. We touched base with the rancher and he felt he could call his steers up for cubes and our renegade cow would follow. This worked well. Much to my surprise Other Half and the Rancher were easily able to slice Paisley out of the herd and close the gate on her red butt, thus isolating her on an old dirt road that serves as our 'driveway' into the ranch. The problem was getting Paisley to follow us down the road and inside our main gate.

He gave us a sack of feed and at first Paisley was happy to follow me as I drove on the mule and the men shooed her from behind. It was looking good. She was within ten feet of the gate -

- but NOOOOOOOO!  (This is Paisley!)

She had a Paisley moment and tried to run over both men in her attempt to race back down the road and to her new friends, the steers.  So we walked back down there. I fear I taught the rancher new words he had never heard come from a woman's lips.  (If he spends more time with Paisley he will learn those words on his own.)

So the three of us spent a while trying to herd the stupid cow out of the thick cedar and mesquite trees. This was clearly not a job for a horse. The trees were too short. The brush too thick. It also looked like it was a perfect place for copperheads (we've killed two here already) and rattlesnakes (killed one here already).

But after spending way too much time fighting tick-infested brush trying to push, cajole, and coax the stupid cow into cooperating, I lost all patience. We had tried the carrot, now it was time to try the stick:

Yes, my 'go-to' dog was up at bat again.
I drove to the cabin, grabbed the best ranch hand dog-biscuits can buy, and drove back to the neighbor's place. Saying a little prayer, and crossing myself, I sent my beloved pup out to work. Paisley knew that dog and she was having none of it. Lily got kicked at, stomped at, run into trees, and through cactus, but she never quit. She patiently worried that dumb-ass cow until the cow made the fatal mistake of trying to escape the dog by running into abandoned cattle pens in a run-down barnyard. Hallelujah! We had her! I called Lily off because there was absolutely no way on God's green earth I was gonna send my dog into that snake-infested ancient cow pen. The men used an old panel to lock Paisley inside while Lily and I drove back to get the cattle trailer. (work smarter, not harder!)

In a rare move for Paisley, she easily walked into the cattle trailer like a civilized cow and rode back home. I made Other Half promise that if she gets out again, she goes to the sale barn. After getting Paisley settled, we drove to Dairy Queen to reward Lily for all her hard work with a Dairy Queen ice cream cone. Lily was exhausted.

But after a dip cone and good night's sleep she was ready to work cattle the next day.

I have said it before and I'll say it again - her work isn't stellar or flashy, and she certainly would never pass muster in a herding dog trial, but this little dog is the best damned ranch employee you could ever buy.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Friday, April 25 2014

We built a new goat pen on the farm and Briar found herself doing night shift with new roommates. At first the babies were frightened of her. Now they are getting used to the dog and although they are still uneasy with her, they call to her when she leaves in the morning.

Eventually their area will be expanded and Briar will be with them full-time, but for now she is with them at night and patrols the pasture around their pen in the morning when I get up.

 End of Night Shift


 Sparrow wants my morning caffeine!

 They will leave their breakfast if I do not sit on a bucket beside them while they eat.

 Then a tall drink of water

 Then they jockey for my attention.

 After breakfast, much to their disappointment, Briar and I leave to continue our day.

 Briar wanders off but turns back to say,

 "Bye Kiddos!"

For all the folks who have asked, Feather & Sparrow came from G-Bar Acres Nubians in Weatherford, TX.  Sharon Galbreath really has some nice livestock and I can HIGHLY recommend her as a breeder of quality stock for both the show ring and the family farm.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:30 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, April 24 2014


After several years of milking goats, I decided to get serious about dairy goats and began shifting my focus to raising registered Nubians. I did lots of research and found some really nice breeders that were consistently producing the kind of goats I wanted. I purchased some doelings, and sent deposits down on more doelings and a buckling. And since I've already spent, and committed, a great deal of money into this foundation herd, it was necessary to do baseline tests on the grade Nubians that I already had. I wasn't too worried, but the neighbor's sale barn goat did scale a fence and breed Crimson so I thought it was wise to do a baseline test for CAE.

To my utter shock, Clover and her wether son, Dash, tested positive for the disease.

Since it is transmitted through the mother's milk, Dash clearly got it from Clover, but where did she get it? After a stunned afternoon of phone calls to Texas A&M and my breeder, I made the painful decision to place ALL my grade Nubians in pet homes.

You can research CAE until you're blue in the face. Some breeders euthanize positive goats immediately. Some simply remove them from the rest of the herd, continue to breed them, but pull the babies at birth to prevent the baby goats from nursing. They then bottle raise the babies and safely keep the genes of the mother.

There is a tremendous amount of research, and even more anecdotal stories regarding CAE. It is said that 90% of the goats that test positive for the antibodies, never develop the disease.  Some argue that pulling these goats out of the gene pool, actually reduces the number of goats that are resistent to the disease. These people tend to have more time and space to juggle positive and negative animals than I do. Still others consider a positive test result so serious that they will cull the animal immediately.

I found myself in the difficult position of possibly giving the disease to $3000 worth of innocent babies because I was too attached to goats I had already decided I wasn't breeding anymore anyway. So after some quick scrambling, I placed them in pet homes. Although negative, I didn't want to take the chance that Crimson would test positive in the future, so Crimson and her babies went to a darling young lady who already had goats and wasn't concerned if she did later test positive.

(Yes, that goat is riding loose in the truck!)

Clover and her babies were originally destined for another pet home, but at the last minute, Daughter contacted us and said their family wanted them. Since they already have a farm, this was perfect. The very understanding pet home agreed to give the goats to our grandbabies and just asked that we send her pictures of the kids with the goats. (Thank you, Ginger!)

It was painful, and it was tearful, but all my goats have gone into really good homes, and I could not ask for more than that.

Monday night we returned from North Texas with the first two of our registered babies: 

Feather & Sparrow

They are already under the watchful eye of Briar.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 01:30 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, April 07 2014

Yes! We have confirmation! Lazy Dog Training Program confirmed!  We explored this earlier in A Whole New Level Of Lazy , but now we have positive confirmation. Yesterday Lily was outside putzing around and didn't hear the coffee pot alarm go off, but Cowboy happily barked from his crate in the living room to announce,

"Hey! Your coffee is ready!"

I'm still fascinated by this chain of events. This dog has never been reinforced for this behavior, and the only reinforcement he sees is Lily receiving a verbal 'thank you.' Yet, this little Border Collie has decided to give me a few barks when the coffee pot alarm goes off. Today he simply barked a couple of short barks and then resumed napping in his kennel. He didn't use the coffee alarm as an excuse for self-gratifying barking.

I think this is just another example of genetics at work. These dogs have been bred for generations to be helpers on the farm and I note that Lily and Cowboy (Trace, not so much) try to anticipate our needs and assign themselves the role of helper.

Need a reminder your coffee is ready? Have a Border Collie or two (or three) on hand, and you'll never miss that alarm again!

If you ever need an assistant, or a Girl Friday, or just a reliable farm employee, a Border Collie is definitely a good route to take. Unlike teenagers they don't spend the day with their noses crammed into their phones. They don't drink alcohol, so no coming to work drunk, or missing work from hangovers. And since they're neutered there is no distracting girlfriend/boyfriend drama. They don't care who was voted off 'Dancing With The Stars' last night and so their productivity is not likely to decline as a result of phone time with their friends while at work.

So if you get right down to it, if they had thumbs, Border Collies would make the perfect employee for your small business. It's something to consider in this economy, folks . . . 

Just sayin'. . .  

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:55 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email

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