Yes the necessities of calving usually include chains, tags and bagged colostrum. But that's not what this post is about. This calving prep post is all about the goodies that you don't need, but as a rancHER these will make the stressful (in my case, chilly) time of year just that little bit better!
Lamb's Soapworks Lip Butter. Because winter. You can check out their website or if you're local I got mine as a Christmas gift from Vintage Nineteen89 in Brooks! I have Vanilla Bean and it is HEAVEN.
Running M Brand headbands (fleece or regular, depending on your calving weather) & scrunchies for that wild hair. If that doesn't tame things, just go ahead and get...
Rustic Rose's Farm Hair Don't Care sweater
The Bunkhouse silk scarves. Nicole always has the best scarves, but if you are a little more artistic than I am, you'll need to snatch up one of her Color Me scarves. That's right, you can make your own design! There are also the coolest kids scarves in the Color Me collection to keep your kids busy (maybe while you've ran out to the barn to check on a mama!).
Sweatpants. While you're at The Bunkhouse, you'll definitely need to grab "the cows don't care" sweatpants because who actually wears pants under their carhartts?
Some friends of mine had GREAT suggestions for keeping those legs warm, too. One suggested Lulu Lemon lined studio pants & the other suggested good ol' classic wind pants over your yoga pants. She made a great point... its much easier to run from a cow in yoga pants than carhartts! ;) Plus I love the wind pants idea because you could put them over anything and still have clean pants underneath.
Ciara Sandum Photography Go-Mugs because you'll need alllllll the coffee for those long days (and nights). Mental Note: Restock the Baileys ASAP! And of course I'm going to encourage you all to get the mug with our Whiskey Creek Ranch heifers on it ;) but Ciara has lots of cute go-mugs to choose from!
I don't know about you all but calving time for us usually coincides with little sleep. Whether its waking up to check calves or an overactive brain once we do lay down, I've recently found a few things that help us get back to sleep fast.
Here's a link to our favorite Weighted Blanket Life. Changer.
Essential oils in the diffuser. My favorites are eucalyptus or peppermint as they make me feel like I'm at the spa :). Lavender, chamomile, bergamot and ylang-ylang are also supposed to be great for sleep, but I'm new to this oil thing and stick with the ones I know, ha!
The best way to ensure you fall asleep after a cow check... don't get out of bed! We use our ipad (bigger screen than our phones) to check the camera- that way you don't even get cold 99% of the time. A blog post on our calving camera systems coming soon, since I consider them 100% necessary to our operation!
And finally, here is a list of random unnecessary necessities I like to stock up on in the house before calving as you never know when you're going to get to town...
1. Bailey's (no joke, it had to be in here twice)
2. COFFEE. All the coffee.
3. Vitamins C & D and Cold FX (also recommended by friends on Insta- a must have!)
4. Yeast & bread flour... If you don't have one, invest in a bread maker. There is nothing yummier (and more satisfying) that pushing a button and having a warm loaf of bread or buns when you come in from a cold calving check. Trust me, you'll look like a hero!
5. Meal Prep. Yes I don't leave the farm during calving. I'm here all day nearly every day for weeks on end... but that doesn't mean I want to be cooking ;). So I try to make things a little easier on myself by prepping some meals and a lot of snacks that I can pull out of the freezer and warm with minimal effort. More on that to come!
6. Kids activities. This is a new one for me. My three year old is BUSY. And when I need to rip out to the barn for a few minutes or do a check where I don't want to burn 15 minutes dressing/undressing a toddler, its best to have her busy. Hello DOLLAR STORE! Anything crafty, and I'm there. (Minus paint, because we all know how that turns out unsupervised).
7. Batteries for those flashlights/headlamps. Check and see what sizes you need and stock up. Also for those kids toys ;)
What are your must-have luxuries for calving season? Comment below!
In case you remember from the 2016 blog called Our Cow/Calf Tagging System, I am a bit particular when it comes to keeping track of cows and writing down records. At the time, we had quite an extensive record keeping system we developed through Excel. As much as we love a good spreadsheet, we were wanting a bit easier system (where I didn't have to write the code) to keep our cow/calf records up to date. Enter, HerdTrax.
HerdTrax is a herd management software developed by Dr. Troy Drake, which allows you access to carcass data. Once you enroll in HerdTrax, you can choose to retain ownership of your cattle until harvest, through Dr. Drake's extensive list of feedlots. Once harvested by Cargill, you are able to see the carcass data from your actual calves, link it back to their dams and sires, and make management decisions that benefit both you and the feeder. The idea is that you can cull the cows that don't make you money, and invest in the cows that do.
Now. I'm not here to tell you what to do, or even that this is the best software out there. However, I am here to share with our readers what has worked for us. On the data entry side of things, HerdTrax is fairly simple to use. While not in an actual App form, you can use HerdTrax on your phone, ipad or computer, to enter data as you complete work on the ranch. We enter individual treatments, calving records, breedings and pasture movements on the go. Because I am somewhat of a worry wart, I do still write down herd treatments, group vaccinations, etc on paper, entering them into HerdTrax later. I know, I know, I shouldn't be doing that in this day and age, but I am secretly an 80 year old Grandma who doesn't trust my entry skills, or that my phone won't crash and somehow lose all my data (I don't think that can even happen).
Being an excel gal, I do notice the odd weird glitch or inconvenience in the HerdTrax software, but honestly, whenever I do, I email Dr. Drake and he fixes it. It's an easy to use program, has all the data fields I was looking for, and can even allow you to upload up to 6 photos for each animal (hallelujah!). Overall, I haven't found any other software programs I prefer.
On the data sharing side of things, this software is pretty legit. When we retain ownership of our calves, the data is shared directly with the feedlot and I can see how all my calves are performing right until harvest. I also love the fact that I get carcass data back, allowing us to make management decisions that actually impact our product. Thinking back, it was actually crazy that we were selling a food product, but had no idea how that product yielded, tasted, looked or sold to consumers. WHAT?! In any other industry that would be insane. Only lately, through programs like HerdTrax or the CRSB pilot, is data being shared all the way from producer to harvester. And since all your data is at a click of a button, even if you're not retaining ownership through HerdTrax, you can email that data to anyone that wants it (perhaps a new marketing tool?). All i can say is it was time, beef industry, it was time!
I couldn't believe the cows that were making me (and the feeder) the most money. Let me tell you, it wasn't always my favorite cow with perfect composition and seemingly high weaning weights. Sometimes it was, but not always. Sometimes its that ugly cow in the corner that surprises you. We need to, as cow/calf producers, start looking under the hide to improve our profit margins.
But, I'll get off my high horse now. Have a read, maybe visit the HerdTrax site, and maybe give it a try. It might not be for you. But i would be going against the reason I started this blog if I didn't share with you guys something I found that works and adds value to our operation.
Until next time,
Social media and blogging have been the cause of a lot of flack from people in my life. Many of the people I interact with "in real life" think it's silly that I share so much of my life on the internet and often like to give me a hard time about it. I must admit that sometimes I take that ribbing to heart, but then I remember about all the amazing opportunities my social media life has granted me. One of which is meeting fellow online agriculture advocates form across Canada. At the inaugural Canadian Beef Industry Conference this last summer (read about that here) I met up with some of my blogging role models, one of which was former Cattlemen's Young Leader mentee and Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association communications Specialist Amanda Broadhagen (@AmandaBrodhagen). She recently tagged me on Facebook to participate in the #BeforeThePlate Challenge, and I of course accepted!
Amanda challenged me to share some of my favorite moments on the farm where we proudly produce food for Canadian (and international) consumers to enjoy. As commercial beef producers, Clay and I put our heart and soul into supplying healthy, safe, delicious beef products that are raised responsibly and humanely. We love to share the ins and outs of our operation through online platforms, and we welcome questions both in person and on social media. We always vow to answer honestly, and hope that we postively represent Canadian cattlemen.
Calving season is one of my favorite times of year on the ranch. We typically calve in March but there is no right or wrong time to calve your cows, in fact, dairies calve all year round! Each operation will choose the time of year that best suits their herd and needs. While calving may be one of the most stressul, time consuming and hectic times of year at our ranch, it is also the most exciting, rewarding and fulfilling. You just can't help but smile when you are surrounded with newborn baby calves, happy mamma cows and the first signs of spring! Here are some photos showcasing calving season at our place:
It may come as a surprise to some, but land management is also a cattlemen's task that I find so much joy in. We are very fortunate to be able to raise cattle partially on native prairie rangeland. It never ceases to amaze me how truly diverse, adaptable and valuable this natural resource is. And because of that, Clay and I take great pride in balancing the forage needs of our cattle with the unique capacities of the range. We strive to leave this land more abundant, diverse and efficient for our future children than we received it. Here are a few snapshots of the range, tame pastures and hay land that we utilize in our beef operation:
I would be totally amiss if I didn't mention the sense of community in raising beef cattle. Rural life has a way of bringing people together, and those people; well, they are down right amazing! Whether its helping care for calves, feeding cows, baling hay, harvesting, processing cattle or moving pastures, my community has been right beside me every step of the way. Clay and I are so blessed to have such phenomenal friends, neighbours and family that are here to help us at the drop of a hat. And speaking with other cattle producers, this is a common thread no matter where in the world you produce your beef. In honour of the thoughtful, generous, hardworking cattle communities out there, here are some photos of our help. And to all you helpers reading this, THANK YOU! I can never say it enough.
Posted By: Jesse Williams
I've kicked off my cowboy boots for the night after an amazing first day spent at Northland's Farmfair International in Edmonton, AB and I can't wait to throw them back on for day two. This was my first experience attending the infamous agricultural event that brings cowboys and cowgirls together from across Canada, America and even around the world, but it certainly won't be my last. And if you had the same lame excuses I cooked up over the years for not attending (no, you aren't really that busy), then I am telling you now to get in your truck and head on down.
I barely scratched the surface of Farmfair International on day one, spending the majority of my time at the Beef Advocacy Canada booth in Hall B, where the livestock shows were taking place. I also managed to sneak away for a few moments to the Ram Country Marketplace. Below are the top 4 reasons I think every rancher should experience Farmfair International at least once, and this is only from day one! I am looking forward to exploring more tomorrow, like the Heritage Ranch Rodeo, western art gallery, mozzarella making, horse wellness expo , dummy roping championship, of course the Canadian Finals Rodeo and so much more.
1. Farmfair is for families, by families
The first thing that I noticed in the exhibitors hall where the livestock shows were occurring, was that Farmfair is a family affair. Generations of cattlemen were cooperating to wash, clip, groom, show and watch livestock. There was an immediate feeling of familiarity and comfort for me when I entered the show barns. It was as if everyone there was part of one big, amazing, happy agriculture family. If you are a rancher who thinks that you might not be "good enough" or "big enough" to attend events like Farmfair International, don't be afraid. I have never felt so welcomed as I was in the exhibitors hall at this event. It truly warmed my heart and reminded me why agriculture is such a pride filled, honorable industry to be a part of.
2. Make connections, make money
One thing that has become very evident to me since the Canadian Beef Industry Conference this past August is that the agriculture industry is all about connections. Networking at events like Farmfair International is such a huge opportunity for your farm and your farm profitability. These are the events where any rancher, no matter the size of his herd, can connect with other like minded individuals, learn new things, discuss old strategies, and make business connections that can add value to your bottom line. Whether you are looking for the best breed genetics, the up and coming breed characteristic trends, the latest production technologies or the most innovative tools, you can find someone that shares your interests. And remember that every conversation you have is an opportunity to market yourself, your farm and your products. Don't underestimate the power of a BS session and handshake- it's how a lot of business is done in our industry!
3. Share your story & advocate
Don't forget that Farmfair International is set in the middle of Alberta's capital. You are literally surrounded by urban individuals, some of which head on down to Northlands to experience the ol' west. For many of these urbanites, this is therir only exposure to the farm. So what better way to show your pride and dedication to our ag industry than share your story with those who may not understand it? Show off, explain your dedication and demonstrate where the food comes from. Booths like Beef Advocacy Canada, the Alberta Beef Producers and the Canadian Beef Industry Conference/ Cattlemen's Young Leaders are excellent resources to help you share your story.
4. One stop SHOP
Ok, so this may not be as exciting to some of you as it was to me, but the shopping is phenomenal! The Ram Country Marketplace boasts over 200 exhibitors that are targeted towards the cow poke folk. There are booths selling cowboy hats and boots, western jewelry, custom saddles, beautiful artwork, cattle & horse accessories, handling equipment, drones, western clothing, children's toys, leatherwork, and the list goes on and on and on!
I had an absolute blast going through the marketplace and completed an ever growing wish list, much to my husbands chagrin. I also found something for almost every single person in my family for Christmas, and some great pieces for my the new house build. It truly is a Cowboy's Christmas at Farmfair International's Ram Country Marketplace!
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Northlands. Opinions expressed are my own. Compensation was received.
It's SHOW TIME!... at Northlands Farmfair International
As Edmonton's Farmfair International quickly approaches (November 9-13!) and I prepare for my very first visit to Northlands for this event, I feel the need to share my excitement! I am honored to volunteer my time at the Beef Advocacy Canada booth during one of Alberta's top agricultural shows as part of the Cattlemen's Young Leaders program and am so looking forward to the week ahead!
If you are interested in my adventures over the next week follow me on Twitter (@WhiskeyCreek_AB) or check out the hashtags #Farmfair and #CFR43, or the accounts @Northlands, @CFRedmonton for all the Farmfair International fun!
While I have never been to Farmfair before, I have spent a few days in a cattle show ring in my day and all of the hype of this event has made me reminisce about my show days. I scrounged up a few old photos below from when I showed cattle in 4-H as a youngin', so have a look and enjoy a good laugh on me!
While I giggled with my husband about my fashion choices, my mind wandered to the popular clubby calf photo that has been going around the internet discussing blow drying cows. While it is true (cattle showers do wash their animals, and dry them!) I thought it might be fun to discuss how and why cattle exhibitors get their animals ready for showing, and maybe how you might get ready for Farmfair too!
Why Show Cattle?
Why do some cattle owners spend the time to wash and blow dry their animals, drive them to the city and enter them into huge livestock shows like Farmfair International? The answer is simple- to show off! Cattle breeders, whether commercial or purebred, use these opportunities to demonstrate the quality and characteristics of their animals, not to mention all the hard work and pride that goes into breeding cattle. Depending on the breed, you may see a dairy producer show off the superior milk production of their cows, or maybe an Angus breeder demonstrate the carcass quality of their beef, or maybe even a commercial breeder show off the hybrid vigor of their crossbreds for replacement heifers. That's the beauty of livestock shows- there is something for everyone! Whether you are a fellow cattle breeder, beef consumer or someone just interested in farm life, there is no better place to learn the ins and outs of livestock.
These shows give livestock producers the opportunity to see a tiny piece of many farms in a one stop shop. While I joke about showing off and bragging about your own cattle, shows like Farmfair International do allow producers to share ideas, learn from each other and discuss production methods that would otherwise never be possible. The 'international' part of Farmfair International truly is just that. People from around the world are invited to and attend Farmfair!
How Do You Blow Dry A Cow?
After gaining the trust of your show animal, the next step is getting show ready! I would start by clipping. I used very quiet electronic clippers to do the job. My hubs is still jealous that I used nicer clippers on my cows than on him! The point of clipping is to highlight the best features of your show animal. You can clip to varying degrees, but I typically concentrated on head, top line and tail head clipping. It's important to note that clipping does not equal shaving- just minimal trimming that emphasizes the best qualities, while still looking natural. (Disclaimer: I had some amazing friends and family that always helped me clip my 4-H steers! They did a top notch job and I am still very appreciative of all the hours of hard work they put in!).
Get Show Ready!
So now that you have a crash course as to what goes into getting cattle ready for big shows like Farmfair International, you need get ready yourself! And if you are anything like me when I showed cattle, you'll spend weeks getting your cows ready, wake up early in the morning to get the best wash rack spot and the closest grooming chute, work on perfecting that tail head for hours, and then throw on a semi-clean shirt with a bunch of wrinkles and pinch your cheeks for color! Cattle exhibitors often spend all their time and effort pampering their livestock and run out of time for themselves. So don't be like I was (you can do better!). Head on over to the Ram Country Marketplace and grab yourself some fashionable outfits from the many amazing vendors that will be setting up shop. (You can get the full list here.) And even better, grab a thing or two for your friends and family. By the look of the vendor list there is no better place to get your Christmas shopping done!
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Northlands. Opinions expressed are my own. Compensation was received.
Posted by: Jesse Williams
2015 was truly a whirlwind of a year for us, both on and off the ranch! We saw some major changes including Clay quitting his engineering gig to start his own water well drilling company,Legacy Drilling (yes, that was a shameless plug!) while I changed jobs to be based closer to home and more in my field of expertise. Clay also earned his Professional Engineering status from the Association of Professional Engineers & Geoscientists of Alberta- an honor he worked hard to deserve.
We FINALLY sold our acreage in Strathmore, after being on the market for over a year and struggling with renters and the challenge that two home bases bring. I was SO excited to sell our acreage that 13 hours (literally) after the ink had dried on that deal, Clay and I bought our forever home, which will be moved in three pieces onto our new farm site south of Hanna in June 2016. Can I get a WAHOO!?!?
We increased our herd size this year, adding more yearling heifers to the bunch. We also added two new Charolais bulls for our cow herd to put some serious pounds on the ground with tan calves for 2016. Our heifers were bred Gelbvieh, a family favorite, of course. We sold our first crop of calves at Balog Auction in October, and were very pleased that they sold in only 3 bunches. Certainly no complaints here!
Our farm site sure looks different now than when 2015 was rang in. We added utilities (gas, water, power), built a calving barn/three-sided shed combo, moved an arch-ribbed shop onto location and now have a passable driveway (yay!). We spent a lot of time cleaning up an old farm/junk site just northeast of our new yard, and hopefully 2016 will bring the rest of it up to par.
Writing down all of the changes that happened this year doesn't seem as hectic as it really felt. I feel like I haven't put my feet up all year! Regardless, this has been our best year yet and we are so happy and proud to have shared it with amazing family and friends. There are so many people that have helped make our year what it was, and we are ever so grateful.
Here is to you & yours. We wish you all the best in 2016 and hope you stop by for a coffee. The door is always open!
-Clay & Jesse Williams
Take a peek at our year...
You may have known that Clay bought me a camera in 2014 for Christmas. Well, I have been snapping photos all year long and decided to put together a snapshot of our year on the ranch to have as a keepsake. Now of course, it is obnoxiously long with way too many cow photos, but that has been the center of our life this past year so I couldn't shorten it up! Have a browse through, as Clay assures me that nobody but us can watch cows for 9.5 minutes ;)
Click here for the mobile version (no music)
Check out the Ag More Than Ever movement! This organization focuses its efforts on enlightening individuals about the Agriculture Industry and all that it does for Canadians. By visiting their website http://www.agmorethanever.ca/ you can become an Agvocate and begin starting positive dialogue and improving perceptions about our unique, ever-growing, oh-so-important (and exciting!) industry. The website is full of resources to help you get started, with facebook cover photos, twitter backgrounds, informational photos, brochures, etc that let the world know how much you love agriculture and how beneficial it is globally. Check it out!!
Not only does home grown Alberta Beef taste scrumpscious, it is also good for your health! Check out this info from the Alberta Beef Producers Raised Right site...
Whiskey Creek Ranches is proud to raise Alberta beef and you should be too! Check out some Alberta Beef recipes on the Famous Taste portion of the Alberta Beef Producers website- http://famoustaste.albertabeef.org.
Not only will you find tastey recipes but there is also a page devoted to explaining the different cuts of beef, where they come from and how best to use them in the kitchen. You will find the link to that page here.
A Blog About Our Life, Love & Lessons Learned on the Ranch