Friday, April 10, 2009

Barn Raising

My entry this week into 52 Sketches...52 Weeks Sketch Challenge. I'm always reminding you to visit Julie's site. Truly the work there is incredible!

Barns, I love barns! They smell wonderful to me, especially one where horses live. I love big barns, small barns.....oh did I say I love barns!!!

I've always wanted a barn this big! Filled to the brim with horses. Whoops, we are a cattle ranch and this barn doesn't have stalls it has pens. And it is not for our production cattle. It is for our show cattle. By the time a bull or heifer reaches three years of age they are relegated to the pasture for their lives as production cattle. Some of the show cattle still love their scratches on their terms, some don't. The only thing the barn and stock pens are used for are to care for cows or bulls who need to be looked at from the medical standpoint to include but not limited to a cold or injury. It's also where they are worked through the chutes to receive their vaccines, palpation for pregnancy, and genetic testing if required or needed. This is done twice a year. Any calves are weaned during this time. Weights on the calves are taken at birth, at six months and again at a year for statistical evaluations to determine if their growth pattern is meeting the genetic standards we set for both breeds. If not they are sold at six months or at a year as non registered cattle. We also decide if the bull calves will remain bulls at six months or are steered and grown out for our customers who buy beef right off the farm.

So where do the horses live. Cold rainy nights (winter only) they are in a pen in the barn. Otherwise like the cattle they love being out doing what they do best, being Arabian horses.

Genetic testing you say! No, it's not some bio-engineering thing. We pull blood for DNA typing of parentage to be able to register our fullblood Lowline Angus. The Registry must determine the Fullbloods are from the parents they say they are from. Some of the other genetic testing is for production traits of meat. We collect hair samples from the cattle and they are sent off to determine if they have any of the genetic markers for tenderness, marbling and feed efficiency. These tests along with their performance tests based on weights help determine whether this animal is able to be registered or not. That's the short cut simplified version. And then we still aren't always right in keeping an animal in the herd. We will be culling four cows three of them first calf heifers based on their performance with their first calves. Two couldn't give milk to their calves and keep their weight up. One never got pregnant. The fourth has developed some leg problems with her third calf and as good a cow as she is structurally she also can't keep her weight up with or without a calf. If they pass all those criteria then they either stay here to be used as breeding animals or are sold as breeding animals to other individuals for the same thing we do. Breed cattle for beef or are used to provide beef producers improved genetics within their herds.

The barn is still unfinished. A shed off the right side in the lower picture is a shed over a portion of the working pens and the squeeze chute was built last fall. The inside of the barn has temporary pens. Plans in the near future is to build to shed's off the side, from where the tin is on the sides. Then the permanent pens will be finished. A wash rack and blow drying rack will be put in near the lab to be able to clean the show cattle every day and blow died. They get a soap bath once a week and a shower the other six days. The lab serves as a storage area for all of the different supplies we need to take care of the cattle, from medicine, wormer, to a calf puller, show sticks, rakes, electronic reader for the scale, etc. It is also a place where we can get our certified AI tech and embryologist shelter to work with their equipment. Both the back and front remain open to allow for air flow. It helps to keep the show cattle comfortable and healthy with the air movement. It is after all Texas and our winters are mild and summers hot. We rarely have a freeze last more then 24 hours. Cattle like cold weather or at least they are most comfortable in 50-65 degrees. I sometimes laugh at their funny looks when they start to run, jump and play and I won't join them.

The only thing I wish is I could bring one of those great big Amish barns down here. This barn won't hold a candle to the beauty of the big barns in the northeast!


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