Friday, April 27, 2012

Embryo Transplants ( Part Deux)

I wrote this blog a year ago and its fun to see how far I've come! We once again embarked on ET day here at the ranch so instead of writing another blog on the same topic, I thought I would just enhance my one from last year. Adding and correcting where necessary! If you have any questions, dont be shy!!

One of my goals for this blog was to make take all the ranch lingo and make it user friendly. To remove all the mystery out of what goes on behind the big red gates and bring it to the front page... or something along those lines.

Here's the problem with that. I still know very little about whats going on here. Still true today, in the grand scheme of things, but I've come leaps and bounds over the last 365 days.  I mean, don't get me wrong. I can gather, vaccinate and ship with the best of them. But when it comes to the logistics of it all, I sorta enter my own little world and end up picking out the cutest calf and giving them their own little stories.

So when I heard we were doing Embryo Transplants, I thought this was the golden ticket to cross that bridge and really get the 'know how' about what, why and how this was all going down. Camera in hand and my list of 200 questions, (this is good for me, usually I'm in the 450 range) we went to the pens.
P.S. My 400 questions quota has not and probably will not change. But luckily, Kayla with SEK was nice enough to humor me.  I mean who can't humor a pregnant lady out at the pens?!

After further investigation and another 250 questions, (putting me at my usual quota) I think I have it figured out. We take a few of our older, awesome cows that are ending their natural child rearing years and give them a super ovulation hormone. Then, instead of fertilizing her and creating another "Octomom" we flush those eggs out, fertilize them, and freeze them. Finally, we take the lucky cows that dont have to deal with the cranky bull, watch their heat cycles and implant them one week after they come into heat. (you really dont want to know all the details of this) This is a great opportunity to increase our genetics in our herd without having to purchase new bulls.  Since the Black Hereford herd size is growing, we find ourselves having to introduce new Hereford bulls into the mix to increase our genetic pool.  With this Embryo transplant, we can create a future calf using genetics from other breeders therefor maintaining our herd size while getting new good future herd bulls.  

Also, the details of this are pretty amazing.  SEK Genetics, "the dream team", come out loaded to the max. They have a sonogram machine, the implanted embryos and more.  One of the dream team members first sonograms the heifer or cow to see which side she is ovulating on.  ( this is a direct result of the seeders we put in to get the girl's heat cycles regulated) Once that's established he feeds the embryo which is a straw the size of a pen tip into her lady area, past her cervix and directly into her uterus.  It's so incredibly fascinating that he does this all just by feel! Now I know why they're the dream team!

After that, back to flint hills grass and 9 months later, Bam! Great mom + Great bull X healthy young cow = awesome baby.

"Am I glowing?"

This is beneficial for us because we can use cows from our herd that maybe carry a gene we dont want passed down OR we can use commercial cows since none of the genetics are transferred.

For the most part, we use commercial colored heifers because they sell at a discount at the sale barn.  We generally buy a bulk of heifers ( around 2 years old) and sort of the black ones from the colored ones ( ranging from red, gray, tan, yellow, brindle you name it)  Since we are going to be keeping the calf we have the option of either reusing this ET cow or selling her after the calf is weaned and most of that depends on how good of a mom she is! 

I hope that helped clear up any confusion from last year but as I mentioned, feel free to ask questions! Kayla and I decided it's the only way to learn!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The inevitable truths of a rancher's wife

As I venture into my fifth year here at the ranch, I have learned that there are so inescapable, unavoidable truths that go on here at the ranch.  They're not bad, and they're not all good, they just are. And if you're going to make it in this mucky, beautiful, exhausting and verdant business as a rancher's wife... you better tighten your chaps and deal with them!

The sun will always rise too early, and as hard as he tries, your ranching husband cannot manage to get out the door without some assistance from you.

If it is spring and you have your garden just right, you will find a cow or ten making their mark in it no later than May.  This has been the case every year for the last 5!

There is never a day when there isn't laundry to be soaked, Oxy clean to be bought and floors to sweep.   ( Hoag adamantly disagrees with this since he re-wears his jeans... although the rest of his clothes manage to be clean and waiting for him each morning)

If you are pregnant, you will undoubtedly use mother nature's outdoor ladies room more often than your own.  There is no time for potty breaks when you're at the pens with two determined cowboys wanting to get work done.  It's amazing what good hiding places you can find and how your modesty with the cows just goes right out the proverbial window!

You spend a lot of your days looking at this.

You will never have clean carpets again, dog or not.  Maui is the best dog in the whole world but one trick we've yet to master is wiping our paws before we come in the house.  Again, thank God for Oxy Clean.

If there is an electric fence that you Don't want the cattle going through, they'll go through it. It wont matter, either, that it's hot.  Then, they'll go back and forth, back and forth, until their legs look like they're wrapped in mummy bandages and those "heavy duty" fence posts you put in are all snapped like toothpicks.

If you don't have cold beer you  better have good whiskey.

You will learn how to "doctor" all your animals after the first year.  One of the beauties of having a vet room and teaching vets is they're happy to not make the trek out to your house for something as easy as bute, antibiotics or achy hooves.  Our cat swallowing a sewing needle was a little out of my realm, I must say. 

Nothing will make you happier or laugh harder than watching baby calves run at full speed with their tails in the air like they might just fly.  It's just magic

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Time Burning... or not?

So this would normally be the time of year where we'd start talking about burning our pastures and all the entails.  Its an exciting, scary, amazing time of year with lots of photo opps and heart racing moments. 

But! With the amount of drought we had last year, the animals ate down the grass so well that there isn't as much of a need.  Generally we would pull the cattle before it got to that point but with the shortage of rain, there really was nowhere else to put them.  Plus, with the lack of moisture we've had over the winter time, the risk of burning is much higher than normal around this time of year. 

So instead, we are letting nature take its course.  Even though prairie burning is done as a replication of what mother nature generally does on her own, I imagine, even she, took a year or two off from setting the hills ablaze. 

I'm happy to leave with you with some nostalgic pictures from last years burning to tide you over for a bit! Also, Pioneer Woman just did a great blog on why and how we burn the hills if you'd like even more info!