This week in northern Nevada we are expected to reach 100+ degrees (Fahrenheit), luckily our humidity is low at 5-12%. This type of dry heat can be a serious problem for livestock. Also very problematic is high heat and high humidity areas of the country. With the humidity, the animals’ core temperatures takes longer to cool as the night time temperatures occur much later in the evening, if at all.
It is essential to ensure all animals (and humans) have access to plenty of clean, cool water. If possible, they need a place to get out of the sun, whether that be a shed/building or trees. Also, make sure any airflow will get to them, blocking wind or even a breeze can greatly increase their discomfort. Providing a water mist may be helpful and cooling to animals, however, droplet size is key! Large droplet sizes are best. Finally, if you must move or work livestock during these high temperature events try to do it early in the morning or in the evening when the temperatures start to cool down.
I have written about heat stress on several occasions, you can read more at:
You may or may not personally know the people who grown and/or raise your food, so today I wanted to share some blog posts and introduce you to various agriculturalists.
Sustainable – More than meets the eyeintroduces you to three farming and ranching families who are practicing sustainability. They share with you what sustainability looks like for them and how it plays into the fact that these are multi-generational businesses.
As we all know, newborns are delicate and fragile, whether they are human or animal. Sometimes animals need a little extra help. A day in the life of a sheep rancher is a page from my Mom’s playbook and demonstrates how that care is administered, and how that may result in animals being taken to the house. My Mom was also featured in Bummer lamb to replacement ewe.
I have completed my first full year of blogging! While I was not the most diligent blogger, I learned a lot, met some great people, and had some great conversations. My social media goals and expectations were exceeded! Many thanks to you, my readers for your interest. I have new ideas for blog posts and delivery methods in 2015, so stay tuned!
I was fortunate enough to raise two Nevada State Fair Champion steers (“Red” and “Sisco”) as a 4-H member. The Nevada State Fair always made mugs with the name of the youth that raised the Champion animals and the buyer of the animal. My parents still have and use their mugs!
California has spent the last several years in one of the worst droughts in the state’s history. And as if it couldn’t get worse, they are preparing to face one of the worst storms they have had since 1997 – the Pineapple Express. Today I have talked to both of my parents (Northern California area), and have seen several friends that also live in the area posting about the weather conditions on social media. Needless to say the wind is blowing 75 to 100 mph! The dust in the air is terrible and is limiting visibility, and they are preparing for power loss to occur by this evening. Additionally, rain and up to 4 inches of snow an hour may come!
While these conditions are going to be miserable for everyone in the path of this storm, they become more challenging and difficult for livestock ranchers. Ranchers and farmers know that this type of weather can be hard on all animals big and small, but they are preparing as best they can. I want to share with you some of the things my favorite California ranchers are doing to prepare:
– Extra bedding and pens. During a storm like this animals will instinctively huddle together and try to find a place out of the weather. Also, the baby animals will be coming! A change in barometric pressure usually means more baby animals will be born. Shed space can become limited if this storm lasts for several days. But those having offspring will at least be warm and dry.
– Grass hay only! Animals can bloat (excessive gas in the rumen) if fed a high quality hay like alfalfa in windy conditions. Bloat, if not caught in time could potentially kill the animal. So to help eliminate this problem, ranchers are stock piling the grass hay as the primary feed, which almost eliminates bloat altogether.
– Water. Luckily our ranch has an artesian well and several creeks/ditches running through it, so most of the livestock will have water despite weather conditions. However, it is very common for the rural areas to loose power with winds like this, and that means no water can be pumped out of the wells. Water may have to be hauled or the animals moved to ensure everyone has access to fresh water during the entire storm.
– Flooding. Since California has been so dry for so long, a large amount of water may runoff the soil instead of be absorbed. One winter during a severe flooding event, we regularly checked ditches and water blockage systems (aka headgates) to ensure they were not blocked with wood, limbs, and other debris. By allowing the water to keep flowing, and not pooling, it helped to eliminate damage to ditches and headgates.
– Structures. This type of wind can be hard on structures, especially old ones and the roofs. Some of our old sheds have tin roofs. In the past, tin has been flopping around and eventually blew off as it is way too dangerous to try and fix it in a high wind event, as someone could easily be decapitated or severely injured. When part of a roof starts to flap around we try to throw tires or other heavy objects on the roof, and hope it makes it through the worst.
– Fires. One winter we lost several sheds and a part of our working corral (livestock handling area) due to an electrical fire. If an extension cord is plugged in for whatever reason, and the power goes it can cause a spark. And with high winds it doesn’t take long before you have a roaring fire on your hands with no ability to pump water. So my Dad has been checking to ensure everything nonessential is unplugged. All of neighbors try to watch out for each other for fires that may also start at feedmills, haystacks, and other structures.
– What can blow away? In winds of up to 100 mph anything that can blow away will blow away. Even livestock/horse trailers! Ours are filled with straw, which helps weigh them down, but there have been times the tractors were used to help anchor them down. A reality is those trailers can be blown over fairly easily with wind like they are now having. We have also had portions of haystacks blow down, various trash cans, and basically anything that isn’t weighted down or tied down blow away (eventually recovered at a fenceline). This can be a very dangerous situation for human and/or animal.
– Trees. Cottonwood trees grow well in their area, they offer shade, and can get very large. Several years ago, my parents decided to cut down the ones near the house as it posed a huge concern that they could blow over in a high wind event and destroy the house and anyone in the house. Trees near any structure in a high wind event should be monitored, as they pose a serious concern.
– Transportation. If the amount of snow comes that they are predicting, transportation will become very difficult if nonexistent for a couple of days. Growing up in the mountains you learn how to drive in bad weather at high altitudes and to appreciate a set of chains and an emergency winter kit (i.e. water, blankets, snacks, clothes, etc.) for your vehicle. You also know what it means to stay home if the weather gets too bad (I mean that is where the Donner Party passed through!). You also make the most of your shopping trips, stocking up on plenty of food and water in case you aren’t able to get out for several days.
– Loss of power. As I mentioned, it is not uncommon for my folks to loose power in a severe storm. However, this presents some real challenges. Luckily in our area wood burning stoves are the norm, so heat is provided. Everyone has a generator to rotate between freezers and refrigerators. And it is kind of like camping – salami, cheese, crackers, and a cold beverage is on the menu!
This storm will not be a walk in the park, but by preparing now it will make things easier as the storm continues to pound the area with wind, rain, and snow. While this storm is daunting, the thought of moisture is exciting – as it is desperately needed.
Next week I head to California to spend Christmas with my family and friends. And I am pretty excited! In all of my years in college and living away, I have yet to miss a Christmas at home. Yes I said home, as that is where my heart is… My heart loves the mountains, trees, rivers and lakes, ranches, livestock, and of course family and friends. And I get to see these people…
Where is home for you? Is that where you are spending Christmas?
The Saunders County Livestock Association’s Board of Directors recently went on a tour to each other’s farming operations. We were able to share joy through stories of family, generational friendships, centennial farms (farms that have been in one family for at least 100 years), and plans to pass the farm to the next generation. Stories of loss and tragedy reinforced the importance of selfless friendships. The day built strong camaraderie between this agricultural leadership team.
I had so much fun digging out old steer showing pictures for last week’s throwback Thursday, that I dug back into the photo archives (as it was before digital existed) to bring you more of my favorites.
One of our family hobbies was riding into the mountains to enjoy fishing, picnicking, camping, and the natural beauty of the good ol outdoors.
Fun fact, the horse I am on, Cayenne, I received through a partnership that U.C. Davis had with 4-H kids who completed an application and provided proof they had facilities and horse knowledge/experience. We picked him up when he was just five months old, and he is an Appaloosa/Standardbred cross. He is now 24 years old and enjoying retirement on the ranch. He LOVED to go to the mountains, he was the only horse we ever owned that would come running to the horse trailer and whinny at it when it pulled up! He was also a ton of fun to ride in the mountains since he was so tall he had a smooth pace and his Standardbred trot could cover some serious ground when needed.
What are your favorite childhood memories? Do they include horses?
Update (3-14-15): I am sad to report that my horse Cayenne has since passed away. Unfortunately, he was in a pasture and rolled into a small, shallow ditch. Even though my parents found him the next morning, it was too late 😦 We had many great years together and I will cherish those memories forever.
The Nebraska State Fair has unveiled a couple of new major displays this year. One of them is Raising Nebraska (the other is an interactive display with the Nebraska Game and Parks service) which highlights Nebraska agriculture and the people involved in growing it.
I had a chance to record some sound bites on common cattle and livestock consumer questions. I am featured in Raising Nebraska talking about the differences in conventional (grain-fed) and grass-fed beef. I have talked about that before, check it out here.
If you are a Nebraskan or need a weekend road trip, head to Grand Island and check out Raising Nebraska and the Game and Parks display – they will not disappoint!
I was a 10 year 4-H member as a kid. If you are not familiar with 4-H I encourage you to check it out – it is a program for youth (ages vary across the country from 8-18 or 9-19). While there are livestock projects, there is also robotics, rocketry, sewing and fashion review, interior designs, fisheries and wildlife, and so much more!
Today my throwback Thursday are a couple shots in the show ring my last year in 4-H (1997). My sister and I worked hard with our homegrown animals and as a result we often did well.
This show was in Bishop, California and we had to wear the official 4-H uniform: dark jeans and boots, long sleeve white shirt, green tie, and a 4-H hat.
What are your favorite 4-H memories? If you don’t yet have any, it is never to late to get involved – as a kid or adult!