Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring at the Ranch: Calves and Clover

Spring's a great season - new life, fresh growth, clean air and hopefully, mild temperatures. More importantly, tax season is over and life can get back to a normal rhythm. Or back to what passes for normal around here, which means weird writing hours, even weirder music hours, and ranching in between it all.

Rarely do I stop to smell the roses - partly because of the bees hanging around and really, who's got the time? - but it's hard not to enjoy springtime at our ranch when it's full of crimson clover and calves. In 2012, we've got the clover and thanks to some prearranged romantic interludes for Elvis and the girls last summer, most of the calves should arrive in May.

To put my glee at the pretty plants and baby cows in perspective, the summer of 2011 was a miserable time in Texas. We experienced the worst drought in nearly a century and exceedingly high summer temperatures. Our pastures were a wasteland. We'll spend time and money in 2012 replanting those pastures, if we get decent rain this year. Only two of our ponds had any water in them, the rest of the ponds and Brushy Creek simply dried up. Many ranchers sold out in 2011 rather than endure the expense of feeding their cows over the summer. We decided to hang on to our stock and made it through with lighter pockets, but with our original herd of Black Angus intact, if a bit thinner than we'd like.

Crossing our fingers that the winter would bring rain, we planted 100 pounds of crimson clover seed in the autumn. Although it takes a lot of walking to spread - we're pretty low tech out here - that's not as much seed as it sounds. Thankfully, the rains came down and up came the clover.

Keeping weight up on a cow is a real challenge during a drought, and miscarriage is a risk. So far, we've got eight hooves on the ground with 48 more to come. This little guy is our first born, and yes, he is as cranky as he looks:

He's also the first-born to his momma, and we worried because she couldn't seem to put on weight during the winter. She's still a little ribbier than we'd like, but momma and baby are doing fine.

I'm off to go feed the heifers and then work on book two in the Forney County Series. Thanks for taking the time to hear about our spring here on the ranch. Speaking of, what signals spring to you?