Saturday, March 26, 2011

My first week...

Well, it's Saturday and the first week of my internship is complete! I have had many new experience and learned a lot about everything from low stress cattle handling (expect a post about this in the future) to pre-breeding exams and freeze branding. All of these things are done in an effort to prepare heifers for breeding. It's important that they are healthy and many management factors come in to play to make sure this happens such as proper feeding and nutrition as well as vaccinations to protect them from any diseases or illnesses they may come into contact with.
Good records are also a key part to having a healthy and high quality herd...have you ever heard the old adage, "You can't improve what you don't measure?" In order to keep good records, a producer must be able to identify each one of his cows. This is done by "ear tagging" the cattle. The tag denotes a number that is specific to that animal, no animal has the same number within a herd. While this is an essential and important method of identification, ear tags are often lost by falling out of the ear, get covered in mud, or are rubbed off and the number is impossible to read. With this is mind, it's important to have a second method of identification. Many ranchers choose hot or freeze branding because is a way to permanently identify your cannot come off! Hot branding is still widely used today. Freeze branding is a newer method and has many benefits over hot branding. First of all, when the cold iron is applied to the hide of the animal, it kills the pigment of the hair follicle. In 4-8 weeks after branding, the hair follicle will grow back white.
Many research studies have been completed by Texas A&M University and other institutions looking at the differences between hot and freeze branding and which should be the preferred method. Through many trials, they found that freeze branding was less painful for the animal. They measured pain by measuring things like plasma cortisol concentration, epinephrine, heart rate, and number of vocalizations made by the animal.
If you aren't familiar with the cattle industry, you may be wondering why it would be necessary to keep records and what kinds of things you would record. Cattle records are much like human records that would be kept at a doctors office. At birth, the calf's weight and day it was born is recorded as well as things like who it's mother is and if there was any difficulty during the calving process. As the calf grows older, a weight is recorded when it is weaned off it's mothers milk and when it reaches a year old. Any time a calf receives a vaccination, that date and the vaccine that was used is also recorded. Are you getting the picture? Can you imagine what it would be like to keep track of 100 black cows that all looked the same without having ear tags and brands?? Or trying to figure out who is who if 3 black calves lose their ear tags and there is no brand to identify them by? Without proper identification, record keeping would be nearly impossible!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hello from Nebraska!

Sorry for the lack of posting but things have been very busy! I just moved to Nebraska on Sunday to start an internship at a cattle operation. My new apartment is nice but is lacking internet so I had to look up the local library in the phone book. I am not going to lie, it took me awhile! I have gotten used to pulling up Google and typing in a search...sad huh?
In the last two days we have been ultrasounding cattle.  The data that is obtained from real-time untrasound helps cattle producers get information such as fat depth, cutability (the % of lean meat yield) and ribeye area, which help determine the calf's genetic potential. This is very useful information to producers that might be producing offspring that will eventually end up in our food system. It is just one tool that producers use to ensure they do everything they can through genetics and breeding to make sure a high quality product ends up on your plate!
Keep checking in for more updates...I will try to post more regularly once I get the internet situation solved! (or I start making more frequent trips to the library!)
Fat depth.
Here is an ultrasonic picture that would be used to determine rib eye area and fat depth. 
Other Ultrasound Measurements
Here is what a rib eye steak, like you see in the super market, looks like. Can you see the similarities between it and the picture above?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A modern day cattle drive…

Yesterday we moved all the cows and calves home from the stalk field.  We move them home about this time every year so we can vaccinate the calves to protect them from disease and illness and breed the cows. The stalk field is only about 3 miles from the house so instead of hauling them by trailer, we have a good ole modern day cattle drive. Since we feed the cows using the cake truck every day, they will follow it because they have associated it with feed!  This is how we lead them home; they follow the cake truck.  We use a 4 wheeler and ranger to keep the cattle moving and to be sure they don’t wander off the road!

There are several people involved to make sure that everything goes right and there aren’t any major disasters! Moving cattle is a family affair for us.  It takes mom, dad, and I to get the job done. Mom drives the cake truck and dad and I push the cattle. We always call the police department an hour or so before we move them because there is a highway that we have to cross.  When we get close to the crossing, the policeman turn on their flashing lights to block the traffic.  It is important to make sure that the drivers on the road and the cattle stay safe! 

Here are a few pictures…I wish I could have taken more but I was trying to push the slower cattle to keep them moving.

cattle drive 1 cattle drive 2

Feel free to comment and ask any questions if you have any!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Joey Pepmiller

Well we finally made it home safe and sound from Pensacola. I had my doubts a few times while trying to get through the Atlanta airport, but we made it!

The wedding was GORGEOUS! I might be slightly bias but I think you will agree when looking at the pictures. It was a very small, intimate wedding that took place on the beach. There were even a few dolphins that swam by playing in the water in the middle of it! I don’t have very many pictures of the actual ceremony since I was in the wedding but I do have pictures of the bridesmaids getting ready and the reception.

I am so glad that I was able to go spend the week in FL and have the opportunity to help my sister get ready for her special day! We made many memories, had lots of laughs, and only a few tears fell! (I tried my best to hold them in until after the ceremony!)

lex cookinThe bride-to-be was up bright and early making green bean bundles!girls at reception

Some of Lexi’s friends from OKC that were able to make the drive! These girls were a lot of fun…



IMG_2974Ashley and Emily doing Lexi’s hair for the wedding! Lexi’s mom found her that plaque and gave it to her at the rehearsal dinner the night before! IMG_2977 IMG_3020

Joey surprised Lexi with a CD (it had a song that was significant to them on it) and a sweet note the morning of the wedding.IMG_3092IMG_3100IMG_2984The groom and groomsman getting all the chairs set up the morning of the wedding.     IMG_2996IMG_3031  The view off the girls’ balcony the morning of the wedding! It was a beautiful day!IMG_3055   IMG_3049IMG_3140 IMG_3149 IMG_3156 IMG_3161 IMG_3198

Marriage certificate is signed and ready to be mailed! IMG_3211

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 2 of Wedding Prep and fun on the Beach…

Hello everyone! It’s been a really nice day here at Navarre and there was virtually no wind until later this afternoon. No wind or even a light breeze is a real blessing compared to the Kansas weather I am used to!

This morning Lex (the bride) and I got up and drove to Sam’s bright and early to purchase flowers for arrangements. We purchased a variety of beautiful flowers and I am excited to arrange them!

We all took a break from prep work and set aside some time to lay out on the beach this afternoon. We had a great time and enjoyed the sunny weather! Baron, Lex’s brother, arrived this afternoon and is an avid fisherman. He spent the afternoon fly fishing on the beach and I was able to get some great pics! (I am pretty biased but I think they turned out cool…)

baron 1 baron 2 baron 3 beach 2 beach

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On the beach!!!

Good morning friends! I am at Navarre Beach this week for my cousins wedding on Sunday! It is BEAUTIFUL here…the house is on a private beach so it is very nice and peaceful! I went out this morning to take some pictures. I am ready for all the cousins to get here so I can take pictures of them on the beach…as most of you know, I LOVE taking pictures and hope to turn my hobby into a small business in the future (hopefully sooner than later)! Enjoy the pics and I will post more later!

beach boardwalk IMG_2806 IMG_2822 IMG_2824 IMG_2826 IMG_2834

The amazing beach house where the wedding reception will take place! my shoes

My shoes…I love them. Sanuk’s are the best.

papaw Papaw enjoying his morning coffee out on the deck!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Calf care is their top priority…

This past week I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Empire Calf Ranch.  I was totally amazed at not only the size of this facility but also the amount of organization and order that was required to keep it running efficiently. The people at this facility take a lot of pride in what they do and are sure to give the calves the absolute best care they can!

The calf ranch has the capacity to hold 24,000 calves when it is full. These calves range anywhere from a couple of days old to 400 pounds. In the dairy business, since milk is the main enterprise heifer calves are much more valuable than bull calves (the males).  The elite bull calves are kept as bulls (uncastrated) and used for reproduction.  However, this is only a small number. The remainder of the bulls go to operations like the Empire Calf Ranch.  They either receive calves shortly after birth or at 200 pounds. The baby calves are delivered on semis but carried off the trailer by hand to ensure they are kept safe and free from injury. The babies are fed a bottle containing milk twice a day as well as feed and always have a supply of water. When I visited, there were 2,000 babies on bottles! They have a milk room where all the milk is stored, pasteurized, and put into bottles.


 They fill the bottles with milk using a wand that can fill several bottles at once! After they are used the bottles and nipples go through a dish waster to make sure they are cleaned and free from germs for the next feeding.


After the bottles are filled, one person goes through and puts all the nipples on. After that, the trailers of bottles are taken out to the baby calves and put in their bottle holders. Once the calves have finished their bottles, the bottles are picked up and taken back to the milk room to be cleaned out for the next feeding.


The calf ranch designed special jackets to put on the baby calves during extreme weather conditions so they can stay warm.


The calves are kept in individual houses for the first few months and then they are transferred into large pens when they are fed on a grain and roughage diet. I was amazed at how well the pens were kept up. They were virtually free from mud and a bed of straw is kept under the shades for the calves to lay on. The shades are the tall overhangs you see. During the hot months they provide the calves a way to escape the direct sunlight and heat to keep them cool.  You can see the long path in the middle of the picture. The calves are fed on the right and left sides of it. The path was so clean, I could have eaten off it…I am not kidding!

With this many calves, you may be wondering how they keep track of all of them. Detailed records are kept on every calf. They know when medication is given if the calf is sick or running a fever, what day it arrives on the ranch, what dairy the calf originated from, etc.  The ranch employs 55 people and one employees job is to keep track of all the records and make sure they are entered into the computer system properly.  Other jobs include milk preparation, calf health, pen maintenance, feeding, calf delivery… As you can see, it takes many integral parts to make the ranch runs smoothly, efficiently, and calf care is the top priority. I was totally impressed by the Empire Calf Ranch, they do a great job!

Friday, March 4, 2011

My first video for the blog!!!

Hello everyone! I am publishing my first video. My mom road along as my "video assistant" while feeding this morning. It is by no means "professional" quality but you should be able to get an idea of how we feed our cows "cake"! From the movie you will be able to tell that they LOVE it. They can recognize the sound of the cake truck and start running towards it when they see you coming down the road.

Let me know what you think! It took me awhile to figure out the best way to publish videos on here so if anyone has any suggestions for easy methods, please comment!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday…

Hey everyone! I am having a great time at home…today I invested in a new “toy” – a Kodak Play Sport video camera. I am very excited about it and there will definitely be more pictures and videos (coming soon…) on the blog! Tonight I tested it out for the first time while feeding. I think it does a pretty good job for being the size of your cell phone! 100_0002 The yearling heifers at feeding time…

100_0003They really like the sunflower flakes!

100_0009 This is what sunflower flakes look like! They are about the size of potato chips!