Me and Scout

Me and Scout

02 May 2014

Hi Yo, Silver!

I think I’ve been waiting to use that as a blog title for quite some time.  Ol’ Silver is finally broke.  We took delivery on him shortly after the last entry.  He was pretty green, but the guy did a good job on him.  He didn’t neck rein all that well, and he was hard to motivate to move, but he’s safe.  That’s when he’s being ridden.  He has never gotten over the trauma of being stuck with needles and tied to posts and castrated.  He is still very squeamish during the whole saddling process.  At first, I was very good about riding him 3-5 times a week, but bad weather, trips, and working late has cut that back.  If I don’t saddle him every other day, he tends to forget that it’s okay.

Here’s the process.  I feed him, lunge him for about 5-10 minutes.  He is getting really good at responding to verbal commands.  Then, I throw a surcingle over his back a couple of times and tighten it up.  He shies away from this at first.  At least, part of it is shying away; part of it is just not wanting to be messed with.  I am doing all of this, while holding him.  He had such trauma when tied that I want to get him desensitized first, then start tying him again.  So, I put the surcingle on and usually I can cinch him up with that without issue.  After that, I throw the blanket on a couple of times.  Again, if I’ve messed with him recently, he takes the blanket easily.  Then, comes the saddle dance.  Sometimes, I have to chase him around a couple of times holding this heavy thing in the air with enough lead line slack that I can get the saddle to his back.  Of course, that is also enough slack that he can just move away from me.  However, he frequently stands still once I get close enough and have the saddle lifted as high as his back.  Once he stands, he’s good about letting me get the skirts turned down and it in place.  By this point, his ears are glued to the rear.  Not angry, just keenly interested in anything that goes on around his back.  I talk to him, pet him, touch him a lot around the belly.  Then, I switch hands with the lead.  By the way, I always carry my Air Force Pilot Survival knife on my belt.  I figure that if he takes off and I get tangled in 25 feet of lead line, I can draw that knife and cut myself free pretty quick.  I used to carry one just like it on my body armor in Iraq to cut myself or someone else out of a seatbelt if necessary.  Now, I switch hands, move around to the other side and ease the girths and stirrup off the seat.  I ease back around and grab the saddle, wiggling it and talking to him.  Up to now, there’s no huge risk.  Obviously, we don’t want him to get spooked, but if he does, he just drops the saddle on the ground.  That’s only happened once.  The sniptious part is where I have one girth strapped on, but not the back, or even worse, the girth in the process of cinching down, but not tight.  If he jumped and that saddle rolled, but couldn’t come off, that’ll hurt the horse (and the saddle).  So, I rub him real good where the girth goes, then reach under and grab the girth and pull it up to his belly, then relax it.  Then I make a couple of loops through the D-ring, enough to where I could pull it up quick and have a hope of holding it on.  Finally, I pull it up and cinch it.  Not too tight, but good enough to hold it in place for at least a couple of jumps.  Then, I hastily buckle the back girth.  Whew.  Now, he’s secure.  After all of that foolderah you might think that he would know the saddle’s back there, but nonetheless, if it’s been a couple of days, he’ll jump and even pitch a time or two when he steps off.  So, I lead him around at arm’s length.  I walk him about 30 yards, then tighten him up.  I reach back to touch him on his belly.  Sometimes he’ll shy at first.  After about 10 minutes of walking him around, I bridle him and mount with no issues.

Obviously, he needs a lot of work still.  Summer will provide the opportunity for a lot of wet saddle blankets.  That is the solution, of course.  Tuesday, he fidgeted, he jumped, he shied during this process.  Wednesday, I had him lunged and saddled in 25 minutes with no issues.  I had to skip last night, but will work him again first thing when I get home today.

I have no idea about the rest of the ranch.  I think we have some cows still.  Anna says we do.  Maybe I’ll visit them this weekend.  We have had trouble finding the tags we need.  Once we do, we’ll begin a concentrated effort to get our calves all tagged so we can match them up well.  Who knows, maybe by the end of the summer, I’ll have a cow horse.

21 February 2014

Calf Crop Corner

It’s only been a month, but some numbers have changed since the last entry.  14 calves in the pens has now become 10 heifers and 1 bull turned out, promoted to cows and a bull.  We pulled in an additional heifer for about a month, sold 4 beef calves and have had 8 new little ones.  These appear to be mostly heifers.  I think I am going to take a new approach.  Instead of just holding all the heifers, I will calculate the minimum number of calves needed to sell to cover expenses, then hold only what I need beyond that.  Income has suffered in favor of increased capital, but one can only do that so long.  Cash Flow is becoming paramount.

Of course, the primary concern here is that our calf crop improve.  I discussed this some in my last entry, but it bears a lot of thought.  The most obvious thing is to sell any cow that doesn’t have a calf.  This will definitely improve calf crop percentages over the long term, but will hurt in the short term.  The goal is to at least maintain the number of calves that we have every year.  This may mean that we hold some cows that operate at 50% instead of 85%, but that will be worth it.  If we have 25 cows (as an example) that average 50% (12 calves) and 25 that average 85% (21 calves), then we would have a net loss in actual income if we sell all the 50% cows.  If we only sell a portion of our bad producers each year, then we will maintain a minimum income while improving the quality of our capital.

The other issue is that we only have accurate records of production starting in 2011.  Which means a mature cow will only fit into 5 categories.  0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100%.  Most of the older cows are probably 50%.  The younger ones, of course don’t have complete data and may not breed back after the first year.  Once this year’s calving season is concluded, I should be well armed with data.  The first hurdle is to have more calves this year than last year.  So far, it looks like we will.

We sold one of our cows, kind of by accident.  I had remembered that she did not have a calf since we moved here, but after sending her off to the sale, I checked my records and learned that she had a calf a year ago.  Not great, but not what we want either.  The dumb thing is that I made a decision based on memory, not records.  Rookie mistake, but it worked out.  She did well and it helped us with our personal cash flow.  I had hoped to use the money to get the truck fixed, but it won’t quite cover it.  So, another month or so for that unless God brings something else our way before then.

20 January 2014

Why Not?

Yes, why not blog again.  It has been a whole semester, so there would be a lot to catch up on, but why not?  I’m trying to decide whether or not to give a blow by blow of all events since the last entry, but I think I will just give the highlights and then give a status report of where we are now.

One of the main reasons I have not been making entries is that I took a job that has been taking a lot of my time.  I am very excited about it, though.  It is a classical Christian school in the university model.  That means I teach two days a week and the parents or other teacher or tutor does the other days of the week.  It is a great group of people that I am working with and although the pay is little it is better than subbing and it is consistent.  There is also likely to be increased pay and responsibility as the school progresses.  This is the first year.  I teach 6th grade and have two boys.  I will probably teach 7th grade next year and go on up, learning the classical teaching methods as I go.  I will not bore you with the details of how classical teaching is different, but I will put up a link to our website.

It is interesting how God works.  I met this inclusion teacher named Tom Muirhead while subbing at Liberty Middle School.  After discovering that we were both Believers we began visiting more.  He later asked me if I would ever want to sub at this school that he was heading up in Beaumont.  After hearing about it, I knew instantly that I wanted to teach there.  Barring that, I told him I wanted to attend if I could.  It has been very challenging, but extremely rewarding.  I look forward to what the future holds there.

About that time our pastor resigned.  I was made chairman of the pastor search committee and Anna was on the committee as well.  A few months after that, Tom, the headmaster at VCA, felt like God was telling him to resign from the school.  In short, the man who brought me on to VCA was brought on by our committee to be our pastor.  Be nice to the people you meet.  They may be linked to you in ways you can’t imagine.

Okay, for the ranching part.  We have 14 calves in the pens that we are feeding.  These are not just heifers, but beef calves as well.  Our calf crop was highly skewed in favor of heifers this year so we only have 5 bull calves to sell.  We like building our herd, so this is good from a capital improvement standpoint, but not from a cash flow standpoint.  We will mitigate this by culling cows that have been unproductive and maybe a couple of the heifers that don’t look so good.  Since we have moved we have been steadily improving our record keeping.  We know of at least two cows that haven’t had a calf since we moved.  She is out as soon as we can get her up.  There is another cow that had a calf last year, but has been running off and taking other cows with her.  If one of the 2011 cows had her first calf in 2013, I will give them a break.  If the other cows have missed a year, they will be sold.  It is a slow process and a little painful, but worth it in the end.  A rancher should expect an 85% calf crop, but only if they cull diligently.

We finally had Silver hauled off to be broken.  I am hoping that funds and this horse will work out so that I can go to the Red River campaign in April.  This will be a once in a lifetime event.  Better than a week of tactical fighting in the field.  But, I need a good horse and money in the bank to offset any lost income.

The truck has been out of commission since August.  I expect that with the one calf that we own personally that is being sold, we will get it up and running again.

All in all, things are looking up.  It just requires patience, faith, and perseverance.  If you say that quickly enough it sounds easy.