H and R Ranch miniature herefords
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If I were the Martha Stewart of minis, I'd call these the "good things" because you never know what you'll learn here

31 Aug 2018

I was on a conference call earlier this week with a friend and her client having a newborn calf.  This call would have been happy and easy if the calving supplies were all gathered up and at hand, as you can guess that wasn't the case.


Let's go through some basic calving supplies you can load into a bucket and keep handy for the moment when you need them.  These are REALLY basic, for more detailed supplies contact your cow vet.  If you call in an emergency having what they prefer on hand makes it much easier on everyone.

a clean towel
Iodine
flashlight in working order
chains with handles
trauma sheers (medical scissors)
sewing thread in a plastic baggie
work gloves
medical gloves

Some of this is self explanitory but some of it might not be for the new cattleman.

  • Towels can dry the calf, clean your hands and be used as a blanket for a chilled calf.  You can even roll the calf onto the towel and drag it if needed.
  • Iodine can be used for splashing on the calf umbilical stump to help clean it and dry it which closes off the "opening" that bacteria could enter causing navel/joint ill.
  • Flashlight, well you know if things are going to go wrong it will happen at night so be prepared.
  • Chains, called OB chains, are used in the even you must assist the cow in delivering the calf.  Learn to use chains and how to apply them or you could do more harm than good to the calf and the cow.  Chains are easily washed and sanitized unlike the nylon straps.
  • Trauma sheers are about as handy as a good pocket knife.  They can cut through fabric, umbilical cords and even wire in an emergency.  We keep a set in each ranch cart.  They seem to get less slippery than a pocket knife and can be used by kids if necessary.
  • Thread can be used to tie off the umbilical cord or even suture a wound if you are comfortable with such procedures.  (Think field medic, just something until the vet arrives.)
  • Work gloves can help your grip in slippery situations and if you are dragging logs away from birthing site.  Some cows will hide in the worst possible places.
  • Medical gloves are really handy as they can be put over dirty hands to "clean" them instantly or be used as a way to tie off something that's bleeding due to their stretchy nature.  You can also grab samples of something you may need to show the vet later and then turn them inside out without having to touch the item.

Charge your cell phone, charge your cell phone, CHARGE YOUR CELL PHONE!  You will find the moment an emergency occurs that your cell phone battery is at 4% and you are in a bad cell area.  There is nothing worse than racing back to the house/barn and having to wait while the cell phone charges to call your vet or neighbor.  The vet also can't call you back if the phone isn't charged up.

Get prepared, get educated about how to use the things in your calving bucket, have a plan and keep the cell phone charged.  You plan ahead so that you are ready if you need things.  We plan ahead because it seems to keep the trouble away.

The call ended well and the cow and calf made it.  I'm not sure I ever want to have to tell someone to bite the umbilical cord because they didn't have a knife or trauma sheers again.
3 Aug 2018

Fertility is the single most important trait when it comes to the economics of cattle.  Simply put, your cattle make money when they make more cattle.  A female that hasn't calved during the year cost money to maintain and didn't make a calf that could be sold to offset her costs.  Ask yourself this, would you pay an employee to not come to work?  (If the answer is yes call me and I will fill out a job application.)  That's what happens when they don't produce a calf every year.


There are two major remedies for this problem:

1.  Sell (cull) all your open or late breeding females and purchase females with superior fertility.  This is both costly and time consuming.  Fertility is decreased as the inbreeding coefficient increases, these two numbers are inversely related.  This is the number one reason we focus on lower inbreeding coefficients and help pair our bulls accordingly.

2.  Give your cow herd the best nutritional advantages possible, macro and micro nutrients play a huge roll in fertility.  Macro nutrients are the vitamins and minerals reported in a % format on a feed label.  Calcium, Phosphorus, salt and Potassium are all examples of macro nutrients.  Micro nutrients are the vitamins and minerals reported in a ppm (parts per million) or IU/lb (international units per pound) format on a feed label.  Micro nutrients are things such as Copper, Iodine, Cobalt, Vitamin A and Vitamin E.  Making sure there are no holes in your nutrition program can take some time with both your vet and your feed dealers.  Always remember that most will use a set of reference data that is the minimum amount of a nutrient required to keep an animal alive, not what it takes to make them thrive.  If your cattle are under performing you need to aim for the "thrive" end of the spectrum.  It's like putting regular unleaded gas in a Ferrari, it might still run but it won't run like it should.  Some of your cattle could be Ferraris given the right opportunity.

So how do we fix the problem?  Honestly, that's as individual as the geographic location/herd/cow but there are some general methods we all can utilize.
A.  Don't buy the cheap mineral.  Cheap minerals are made with cheap ingredients which aren't usually the ones most easily absorbed and utilized by cattle.  A quality mineral will have a long list of ingredients that end in "-ate" as these are forms easily absorbed and used by cattle.  They better the cow can use the minerals the less they will need to consume overall.
B.  Offer a loose mineral free choice in a mineral feeder that keeps it out of the rain.  Mineral blocks are a waste of money.  Your cow will get tired before they get enough mineral from licking a block.  If you don't believe me take a wet rag and rub until the block weighs 2oz less than when you started.  You can even offer mineral in a pan as long as it stays dry.  When loose mineral gets wet it can become a hard mass and consumption will drop, meaning they won't get what they need to thrive.  You want to let your cows eat what they need quickly and move along to more important tasks like eating and raising a calf.
C.  Pay attention to the unique soil problems in your area.  Are you in a region with low Phosphorus soils?  If so you'll need to make sure that is being corrected in the mineral your cattle are eating.  Your county extension agent can give you the most accurate info about soil deficiencies in your area.  It might also be a good idea to get a game plan on how to fix the soil problems going forward.  Hint, your cattle will "spread" the quality mineral all over your fields.  Some minerals are blended with these geographic differences in mind.  Always utilize the best "formula" available in your area.
D.  The cost of the better minerals vs the cost of an open cow is a no brainer for us.  The cow that can't/won't breed makes a rancher $0.  Purchasing the better mineral might cost an extra $5/50 pound bag.  If the cow should consume 2oz/day of the mineral the rancher is looking at an added cost per day of only $0.0125 (we'll round up and call it $0.02.)  That's two cents a day per cow to put them closer to optimal performance!  The average cow eats a little less than 50 pounds of mineral a year.  When you compare to the value of the calf that could result it's an easy choice to make.

Our picks for the finest minerals we've likely ever seen are produced by the BioZyme company under the name Vitaferm.  There are several product lines and they are all better than your average mineral.  We utilize two products, ConceptAide and Heat.  
ConceptAide is literally a prenatal vitamin for cattle, we are trying to make calves right?  There are several blends within the ConceptAide lineup that can help with regional soil issues so ask your local dealer which ones are best for your soil and forage type.
Heat is a mineral blended with capsaicin that helps cattle in the heat of the summer or when they are grazing fescue pastures.  Heat stress is a major issue in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and anywhere that hits the triple digits in the summer heat.  This mineral had our cattle resting comfortably in the shade during the 112 degree record heat days in 2018.  I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
ConceptAide and Heat come in both a loose mineral blend or a molasses tub.  How you choose to supply it to your cattle is up to you.  When we get a heifer in for breeding and we don't know her mineral history we use the mineral tub so that she will happily consume her "prenatal vitamins" even if she hasn't been exposed to minerals prior to arrival.  We keep our bulls on ConceptAide as it helps them make amazing semen for freezing and they settle females quickly.

If you are using assisted reproduction methods (AI or ET) in your herd you'll likely see amazing results from ConceptAide.  It's really put us over the top in conception rates for both AI and ET work.  Don't settle for the industry standard conception rates, aim higher.  Let your cattle be Ferraris.


26 Feb 2018

There are always lots of questions about breeding females. Going back to your old school days, we'll call them the 5 "W's" (who, what, when, where and why.)


1.  Who?  This is usually the largest question when it comes to heifers.  Who are you going to breed them to?  Over the years we've developed our own system about how we pick the bull to best put with a heifer.  It's fairly simple and you'll need a measuring stick and the official frame score chart.  You'll need your heifer on flat hard ground so that you can measure her over her hip bones (the hooks), lay the measuring level across her back directly above these hip bones.  Use this height measurement along with her date of birth to get her frame size off the official frame score chart (linked above.)
We use either the same frame score bull as the heifer or go down one frame for the first breeding.  You can go smaller but not larger.  The first year it's critical to get this right for calving ease.

2.  What?  What are your goals?  Picking bulls from a glossy magazine won't tell you if the bull works on your female(s) so it's worth it to go see them at a show or pasture near you.  Watch the bull walk and look at his feet and head width.  Head width is an indicator of calving ease.  Wide heads get stuck in the pelvis if the female is slightly narrow.  You'll want to pick a bull that's going to improve your female(s) and not have the same flaws.  As more semen becomes available on the market it's critical to know what each bull offers your female(s.)
** If you are buying semen please read the entry below on this page, not all semen results in a registered calf. **

3.  When?  When do you need to breed your female(s) for the best outcome.  This is going to take a trip to the vet if you are new to breeding.  You'll want your vet to advise you on if your female has a large enough pelvic opening to breed.  This is more critical with the younger and smaller females.  Not all females develop at the same rate and you should know prior to breeding if they are mature enough to deliver the calf.
It's not uncommon to have females that don't deliver their first calf until they are almost 3 years old.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this area.  Get them checked out if you are new to breeding minis.
Once you've been vet cleared fr breeding you can then plan your breeding so that your female calves in the best season for your region.  Things to consider are rain, snow, ice and holidays.

4.  Where?  Where are you planning on breeding them, AI or pasture breeding?  This is really a personal choice.  Not everyone has a vet or AI tech that is experienced in minis and you don't want to be the owner of the cattle they learn on.  Your local bull stud most likely has a list of great AI techs that cover your area.  Some vets will AI cattle, ours does and he's great.  Finding an AI tech is the first step if you are going to AI your females.  They may even have the ability to store your semen until it's used.  They will tell you exactly how many straws you need and what their other recommendations are for your cattle.  Our advice is do what they ask, they know what works for them.  Find someone you are comfortable with and feel they are giving you good answers, if not move along and find another.  A huge benefit of AI is that you have the best chance at knowing exactly when the calf is due.
Finding a pasture breeding bull, this can be tricky.  Not everyone that owns a bull will let outside females visit for breeding due to the risk of STDs that could potentially render the bull sterile.  Expect to be asked questions about the health of your females and if they've ever been bred before and if they've ever been hard to settle (become pregnant.)  Expect this to the be the most difficult method to find a quality bull that will allow your females to come for breeding.  You might inquire about leasing a bull to breed your females and expect this to require vet testing of the bull after you are finished with them.

5.  Why?  Why take an extra time to research the bull frame score, physical attributes, pelvic size, due date weather conditions and type of breeding?  Because it's the best way we have of making the smart choices for our females and thus their calves.  Calving season should be a time of celebration and not tragedy.  Even with the best planning accidents happen but you have the ability to reduce all the other factors as low as possible and help your cattle during calving season.  Making smart choices allows you the ability to sleep at night and go to work each day with the least amount of worrying possible.

If this is your first calving season, keep your flashlight handy and your cell phone charged.  You might swing by your vet and ask if they have any recommendations about books that might help you study ahead of time.  We've all had a first calving season, you can do this too!  Good luck!
13 Feb 2018

Getting solid advice could be the most valuable part of buying an animal from an experienced breeder.  Advice that helps you steer clear of problems and keeps you from wasting both time and money.  We constantly get calls with a variety of questions regarding purchasing and breeding cattle.  So here are a few good rules to follow:


Purchasing cattle should always be done with a clearly worded bill of sale that lists any details or promises about the cattle and registration papers in writing.  If the seller hasn't' registered the calf but promises to, put it in writing along with a deadline for the registration papers to be in your hand as the buyer.  This will help you if you should end up in court.  There are reports of people waiting years on papers that never come in the mail.  You can't show without the registration papers.  You shouldn't be stuck with an unregistered calf that you paid registered prices for.  Again, good breeders will already have the paperwork done for you.  We get on the computer and transfer papers the day the funds are verified and our buyers have papers usually within the week.

Breeding cattle, always double check that the dam and sire have their registration paperwork correct before breeding.  Don't buy semen from a bull without an AI permit on file with the AHA...DOUBLE CHECK IT YOURSELF, IT'S YOUR MONEY!  Don't buy embryos off cows without ET permits on file prior to embryo retrieval, call the AHA to check the dates if needed.
Only breed to a bull if you are dealing with the person listed as the owner on the registration papers, if the new owner never transferred the bull into their name there is a chance you'll have problems tracking down the bull owner on the registration papers to sign off on the breeding certificate.  
Missing any of the above listed items can leave you with an unregistrable calf and lots of your own time and money down the drain.  This is not the time to realize you didn't fully research the semen seller or bull owner.  If the breeder can't tell you the exact AHA requirements on the above listed things run the other way or educate yourself so that you won't get burned.

Again, good breeders have all their paperwork done with nothing to hide and can either answer your questions or direct you to the proper place to find the answers.  Staying on top of the current rules and requirements is literally the breeders job.  We take this very seriously because it's about integrity.  In the end we take pride in both our quality of cattle and the advice others ask from us. 

You can use Herfnet to help you research the bull, heifer or cow you are looking at.

29 May 2017

Here is our vaccination protocol.  It has detailed explanations on how vaccines work and why you can use some on bred cows and others on open cows.  This is a must read for anyone that owns cattle, period.  We chose the highest immune response we can because our cattle go to shows and leave our property, we can't afford for them to become ill and bring it back to the herd.

29 May 2017

This is most likely the most informative website for all things cattle I've found to date.  It can help beginners all the way through the "Master Cattlemen" gain knowledge and continue to learn the latest research proven methods to keep any owner on the cutting edge in this industry.

     Click the tabs on the left to start exploring. There are record keeping files that you can download and use in your own program to help you communicate with your vet about exactly how you've done things at home.  Don't expect your vet to keep accurate enough records about what happens at the clinic or on a farm call.  It's your duty as the owner to keep detailed records like this.
29 May 2017

Here is our guideline for an entire year's worth of cattle vaccinations and worming, etc.  We use the OSU (Oklahoma State University) planner along with their other helpful handouts.  This helps us know what is appropriate for our area and when it should be done to the cattle.  Finding your local information can best be done through a friendly trip to your county extension agent.  It's their job to help give you the best information backed by experience and research.

26 May 2017

I've been helping new cattle owners get setup lately and some experienced mini owners now moving into the registered world.  A common question is what do you do to keep your cattle in top shape, the answer really is not much as good cattle are just GOOD.  I will share with you the things we do use.  The first being a TOP QUALITY mineral that is loose and allows the cattle to eat what they need when they need it.  We use Redmond minerals, #10 fine or #4 medium and the conditioner.  Follow the link to search for a dealer near you but call ahead to see if they have it in stock as my dealer always has to order it for me.  Always follow your vet and state vet school recommendations as they change from region to region.  A quality mineral program will help fill in any nutritional gaps that your pasture, hay or feed leave behind.

29 Apr 2017

     Guard animals, out of all the options (dogs/donkeys/llamas) we picked llamas for the cattle.  Llamas are gentle on the fences/pasture/cattle and they don't roam off and get into trouble on other ranches around us.  The great part is that once a year you get to carve off all that fiber and see how awkward they really look!  Here is what happened today at the TX ranch, shearing slide show.

25 Apr 2017

Inbreeding coefficients (IC) if you breed any kind of registered animal you should know what these are and what they can indicate.  Here is an amazing tutorial from the American Hereford Association.  We strive to keep our IC %'s as low as possible with injections of fresh bloodlines and rotating the use of outside bulls if needed.  There are herds that will have higher IC numbers than others due to the breeding practices called linebreeding.  You might also like reading up on popular sire syndrome and Founder effect.  Trends come and trends go but quality cattle should be your goal over time.  Keeping your IC %'s as low as possible will keep our breed healthy for the long haul.

19 Apr 2017

How to take a DNA sample for the AHA.  We will be making our own video, our method is much simpler and of all the methods we prefer to pull hairs, blood is messy and the test should be run before you've invested all the money in collecting semen.  FYI, you can't sell semen on a bull that does not have a DNA panel already on file with the AHA and get registered calves.  Again, do your homework on the bull you are buying semen out of first.  You are looking for the AI permit on file with the AHA, ask for proof.

19 Apr 2017

Things I've learned while setting up the Ardmore, OK ranch, facebooking and website design could kill even a boring person.  I'm now the lady with the minis and I wear that as a badge of honor even here shoulder deep in cow-calf country.