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Saturday, Aug 24, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Just like any business, we must key in on inefficiencies and fix them to spend as little time on each thing as possible. Our water trough system in our pastures is one the inefficiencies currently. We have water troughs located on the border between two or sometimes three pastures. When we move cattle from one pasture to the next, we have to go around and move the welded wire panels from one side of the trough to the other and the way in which we hold the panels in place makes for a time consuming process. The system evolved into this time-eating monster because of our shift a few years ago from cattle to bison. We used to have very mobile cables that were moved from one side of the trough to the other quickly and easily. When we started running bison in our cattle pastures, the cables were no longer effective and a quick fix was to haul out all these welded wire panels and wire them in place against t-posts.  For now, we have gone back to cattle but our system is not easily changed back to the cable setup. There is a possibility of changing back to bison this fall so next week we will be installing quite a few cedar posts which will considerably cut down the time and hassle while still utilizing the very stable welded panels. There are many projects on the list but this one takes priority because we will immediately be rewarded by a whole lot of extra time to spend on other tasks.
Posted by Jeff G. on 08/24/2013

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Every year we cut around 300 acres of hay on the Medano meadows and that is what’s going on right now. Our neighbors own all the haying equipment and also do all the cutting, raking, and baling. Joe has been stacking it on a trailer and hauling it in to the bison pens so that it’s in a stack and ready to feed once bison round-up time is here. It takes quite a bit of hay to feed all those bison while they’re in the pens for a few weeks. Feeding hay that is harvested on the ranch eliminates the risk of bringing in noxious weeds that we do not currently have. It also agrees with the bison since it’s the same grass they eat every day.
Posted by Jeff G. on 08/21/2013

Tuesday, Aug 13, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Last week, we put one of our groups of cattle on to the area near the lodge that was formerly a golf course during the 1990’s. The area has suffered from the planting of golf course grasses and landscaping such as sand traps, greens, tee boxes, and sprinkler systems, and now grows a fair amount of weeds among a high percentage of bare ground. For the past 7 years we have been doing “prescriptive” grazing, a type of restoration that uses herds of grazing animals to get the area back to its natural form. Our herd of 132 heifers has recently been put on 5 to 7 acres at a time of this 240 acre area by using temporary electric fence that is put up and taken down easily. They are moved anywhere from 4 to 8 times daily. This type of grazing forces them to be confined which in turn forces them to eat all the different plants including weeds instead of selecting for their favorite stuff. What they don’t eat gets trampled into the soil along with their dung and urine, all of which adds to the fertility of the soil. All those hoof prints also plant seeds that will sprout with the next rains. It’s a labor intensive project but is also very interesting and fun. The dryer the climate, the slower the progress as far as restoration is concerned. Over the years, we have noticed some improvement in some areas and little to none in others. The soil, from use of fertilizers and severe disturbance is void of nutrients and I believe it will take many more years to revitalize it.
Posted by Jeff G. on 08/13/2013

Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Sand Creek is one of my favorite places on the ranch and I think I write a blog post about it every year. Nonetheless, I want to tell everyone about it again. Sand Creek is a sandy creek bottom lined with cottonwoods in some places, sand dunes in others, and lush meadows in some areas. It gets 100 yards wide and is dry most of the year. It’s hard to imagine, when looking at it during its dry months, it would ever hold water. Yet every May, around the 20th, the days finally get warm enough up in the mountains to melt the snow and Sand Creek comes tumbling down. It is quite an awesome sight to see the enormous amount of water that makes its way across the sand sheet to the ranch which is about 15 miles or so from the mountains. Every year, we have a picnic or just an evening hang out with everyone on the ranch. There’s places where the creek narrows and actually gets deep enough to take a dip and, on good years, is deep enough to float down in a tube for a ways. This year, the flow wasn’t huge because of our low snowpack in the Sangre De Cristos but it was still plenty to put your feet in and relax next to Colorado’s best beach.
Posted by Jeff G. on 06/12/2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Calving is starting to get a lot slower now although it could be toward the end of June before we are completely done. After two months of checking several times a day, assisting numerous heifers in a day, sorting pairs, dry’s, and heavies twice a week, and all the other details that kept up us completely absorbed, we are finally reaching a point where we can breath and tend to other things. Riding through the calving pasture now, it’s completely different from a month ago. The weather is warm regularly now, the grass is trying to green up, and the number of calves in a day is sometimes 0. This week we will be changing our routine, which still involves checking heifers twice a day, but structured more towards other projects such as irrigation since the snow on the mountains will be melting soon! 
Posted by Jeff G. on 05/12/2013

Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
We kicked the branding season off yesterday with a big crew and perfect weather. There were scattered clouds and a freshness in the air from the rain showers the evening before. There were nine guests and six friends to go along with an already large group of staff. I hope (and I do believe) everyone had as good a time as I did.
Posted by Jeff G. on 05/08/2013

Center pivot
Category: Live from the Ranch
The hub of all our activity calving out heifers, are a couple of pens built right in the middle of the pivot. We branch out from the center, circling through the heifers many times through the day and into the evening. Jeff keeps a little white truck, calf pullers, colostrum replacer, water, alfalfa, a sled, a rope and warm bedding and a heat lamp in the center pens.

Pictured above is a freshly pulled calf and his mama getting acquainted in one of the pens.
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/19/2013

Mechanized assistance
Category: Live from the Ranch
This is Nick, a ranch manager apprentice from the Chico Basin Ranch (the Chico is also managed by Ranchlands, the Phillips family, & co). I am here helping Jeff with calving first calf heifers.
The heifers are sometimes too small of frame to support their own weight after intense physical intensity of giving birth for the first time, so we provide them with some mechanized assistance.

Posted by Jeff G. on 04/18/2013

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Our calves arrived a bit earlier than usual which found us very busy beginning last week.  All in all, calving is going well and we have scrambled a bit to get organized for the heavy calving days.  So far it seems that certain days, for whatever reason, start and end very busy with up to ten newborns in a day.  The next couple of days after that are slower with maybe half that many.  We have organized ourselves now with two pens set up in the middle of the calving pasture where heifers in need of help can be taken and cared for easily.  Help ranges from pulling an extra big calf out to helping a newborn stand up or bottle feeding a young one until it can stand and nurse on its own.  We also were happy to have Stuart arrive from the Chico.  He will be here to help calve for two weeks and then he will switch with Nick and then Amy, both also from the Chico.   
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/04/2013

Friday, Mar 08, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
This time of year is when the nutrition in the grass hits its yearly low and it shows in the cattle’s condition. A couple of weeks ago we sorted 70 of the skinniest ones out of 477 and yesterday we sorted through them again, this time finding 15 more. We put the “skinnies” in their own pasture and we’ve been supplementing their grazing with about 15 lbs. of hay per animal every other day. This helps because they get part of their daily needs met without having to go out and find it. The “skinnies” tend to be the less dominant cattle and separating them means that they don’t have to compete for the best grass in the pasture. We had a big crew for sorting yesterday which included Tess, David, Kate, Peter, Brenna, Rex, Mike, Duke for a few hours in the morning, and me. It’s fun when everyone joins and the weather cooperated beautifully. 
Posted by Jeff G. on 03/08/2013

Thursday, Mar 07, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Rex, Mike, possibly a person or two from the lodge, and I will be taking a staff pack trip next week. It’s still pretty cold but we will bring a tent with a wood stove and we should stay plenty toasty. We are doing it simply for a fun, just a good thing to do once in a while as a team, although it does help us come up with new ideas for our trips with guests and gives me a good idea of how much repair my gear needs. We may be able to do some fishing in Sand Creek or just look for wildlife. It’s a cool time of year to go back there because we will most likely not see any other people. 
Posted by Jeff G. on 03/07/2013

Monday, Mar 04, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
We have a variety of things going on this week and next. We have a couple weeks before we start prepping for calving so one thing we will do is use the time to get things back in order including our shop, the bison barn, and out in the pastures where we have rolled up old fence or replaced water troughs and never got all the old junk picked up. We may go out and sort heifers again toward the end of the week and next week we will be moving our cows back to pasture from the farm country west of the ranch. I also have some meetings this week and Rex is doing his monthly check of the perimeter bison fence. Mike is building temporary fence for the horses who are grazing a thin strip of grass next to the paved road and we move them weekly to a new strip. Early next week we are doing a staff pack trip behind the dunes which should be fun.
Posted by Jeff G. on 03/04/2013

Sunday, Feb 03, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
On the west side of the ranch are three “circles” or “pivots” of farm ground that we lease out to neighbors who use it to grow organic potatoes and barley.  The field is in the shape of a circle because the irrigation method is a ¼ mile long sprinkler that pivots at the center of the field.  As a rotational crop they plant a fast and tall growing grass called Sudan or Sorghum or a variation of the two.  This crop can be left standing or grazed during the dormant season.  Either way the plant material or a combination of plant matter and manure are plowed back into the soil prior to growing potatoes as organic fertilizer.  This winter our lessees provided us with half a circle of Sudan grass to graze with our cattle, benefitting us with the grazing value and them with the fertilizing value.  To make the most efficient use of the crop we move the cattle once a day using temporary electric fence.  We simply hang the wire on the sprinkler structure and move it for a few minutes a day providing the cattle with a pie shaped area to graze.  The sprinkler, electrically driven, simply acts as a big moveable fence and does not have water running through it this time of year.  The half a circle we grazed this winter has lasted a little over two months for 160 head of cattle.  We will be moving them home to their regular pastures in another ten days.  The cattle will be leaving in great condition, the field is ready for potato planting this spring, and we have been able to save two months of grazing in our ranch pastures.  We have made plans with our lessees for implementing this method on a larger scale next winter.
Posted by Jeff G. on 02/03/2013

Saturday, Feb 02, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch

This picture shows what form Big Spring Creek and Little Spring Creek take in the winter time- a whole lot of ice.  The shallow stream beds and irrigation ditches freeze mostly solid in early to mid December when the "deep freeze" begins.  The water, continually flowing from its underground source, leaves the frozen channels and spreads out across the meadows.  After a couple of months the meadows look like an enormous ice skating rink.  In late March, the ice sheet will begin to thaw out and the ground will absorb all that water like a giant sponge.  With some more warm weather in April and May, the meadows will take on a completely different form of the most lucious grassland I know of.     

Posted by Jeff G. on 02/02/2013

Friday, Feb 01, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
The months of December and January here were really cold and finally, last week, the weather broke.  We have now had several days above freezing and most of our snow has melted.  We had moved our cattle to pastures where the feed was tall enough to stand above the snow and now that the snow is gone we are moving the cattle back to those pastures where the feed was buried.  As the next couple of months unfold, the cattle will be moved closer and closer to the "meadows" where they will calve beginning in April. 
Posted by Jeff G. on 02/01/2013

   
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