Back Valley Ranch

All natural, free range, antibiotic and hormone free, organic quality, grass fed beef.

Back Valley Ranch

2013 in Review

It has been almost a year since I last posted a blog. It’s amazing how time get away from you and you just don’t think about it. I reflect on the past year and compare it to the past few years since I have been here on the ranch. So much has changed.

I remember when I first met Jerry and the business was still very new. Not too many people knew about the health benefits of grass fed beef. We always had a surplus of beef and we were having to sell it at a price that was at a loss to us. But documentaries like Food Inc. And Earthing got out, as well as a couple outbreaks of E.coli. People really started to question where there meat was coming from after that. Now we have two great, partner ranches and we find ourselves sold out until October with a long list of people signed up for the standing orders. All I can say is we are so thankful for the partner ranches that we have because we can only raise so much and we would of been sold out of everything a long time ago had it not been for them. What a difference a year makes.

We also made some great changes to our breeding program by bringing in some very well bred bulls. Our Limosins, Optimous Prime and Megatron. We have now had them for 2 years and we are seeing the benefits to having a couple of well bred bulls around. Like one of our friends always told us, only a rich man can afford a poor bull. We do still have two home grown bulls but we picked the two that were out of our top lines and very little relation to the herd.

There are just two more runs to the coast this February and then we are done until our May/June orders. Which means we are getting very close to calving time. At the end of February we will be bringing the big preggos home form winter pasture, making sure they get their Scourgaurd vaccine and set them up in our front yard so we can keep a close eye on them. We expect the first calf to arrive sometime just after the first week of March. We usually have a big hold out and then they all pop at once.

Last March Jerry and I also made a very big, but much needed purchase for the ranch. A brand new, 2012 95Farmall Case Tractor. For those that don’t know tractors this is a 95 horse power tractor and it’s pretty big. Comes with a fully enclosed cab that’s heated for the winter and air conditioned for the summer.
A tractor like this has been needed for so long here on the ranch. Before Jerry only had a couple of small tractors that just weren’t very efficient. He could only make square bales at our place with the small tractor. The square bales were always longer to make, harder to store and took a long time to get them off the field. Which meant it was longer before we could get the irrigation back on, which affected our pasture for the cows. Not only that, Jerry was usually forced to work through 35 degree weather with the sun beating down on him which is not healthy for the long term. Now, with Big Red, as Jerry calls her, we can make round bales. Which are easier to make, store, get off the field and faster to feed to the cows.
It also makes feeding a lot easier. Before, feeding was a two person job and took a long time. We were either having to unload a whole bunch of square bales each day. Or, if we had round bales, we had to chain them to the truck, get them tipped over and then roll them out by hand. It was hard work but Jerry did it for many years.
This tractor is just what this ranch needed. I also like seeing the big grin on Jerrys face every time he starts her up. I’ve only been here for coming on four years, but Jerry has been doing this for many more years before I came along. He’s always had to do without and do things the hard way. Now he has Big Red to rely on and he no longer has to be super cold in the winter or overheated in the summer months.

The last year we also had some unfortunate loses. We lost 3 calves, two of them a good 400lbs, up on the mountain range in a 6 week period. We had to end up bringing the whole herd home for a bit until the killing stopped. We’re still not sure if it was wolves or a cougar as Jerry found both cougar tracks and herd wolves and found one of the dead calves with wolf tracks next to it. The fact that we lost one every two weeks though makes us think possibly a cougar, but we’re just not sure. I’ve actually never been so happy for hunting season to start. Usually I curse this day because we always end up dealing with a whole ton of traffic and gates on our range left open. But someone must of taken care of the problem because we didn’t see anymore issues come up after hunting season started.
We hope that we will not be met with the same problem this year, but we won’t know until the cows are up on the range. This is another reason why we do not let the cows calve on range and we make sure the babies are at least a month old before going up the mountain. Things still happen though and we will always have predator problems pop up from time to time.

One of our 18 year old cows died from natural causes this past summer as well. She seemed to be doing pretty good but having her last calf must of just did it in for her. She died and we were left with her 3 week old calf, Jet, at her side. I thought no problem, we’ll bring him home, he’ll live in the front yard and we’ll feed him milk replacer, it will be fun. Let me tell you, it was anything but fun. Jet was the calf from hell.
He got into everything in the front yard, digging up the flowers, eating our fruit trees. Then there was the bottle feeding, boy could that calf ever throw in a head butt. He would suck on the bottle and then, out of nowhere, would just head butt the bottle if the milk wasn’t coming out fast enough. I’ve fed milk replacer before and I’m used to head butting, but this was like being head butted by Muhammad Ali. I was starting to think that his mom died by being head butted by this little devil calf. Even Jerry said he had never come across such an aggressive drinker. He would either knock the bottle right out of your hands or give your spine a good jarring. Normally a calf his age takes his milk out of a bucket, but not Jet. He absolutely refused the bucket. We tried everything under the sun, but nothing worked. We even tried making him skip a meal so he would be good and hungry, we still could not get that damn calf to drink from the bottle.
Frustrated we tried to figure out what to do with this darn calf. One of our top cows, Mercedes, who has raised twins before, had her calf during this time. So we figured she raised two before, she could do it again. We gave her calf a week to get most of the milk and get strong as we didn’t want to bring Jet in right away since he would just push the smaller calf out of the way. We tied Mercedes up and introduced her to Jet. Needless to say, she was not too impressed with the head butting either. But we certainly couldn’t handle it anymore.
We did this for a few days and then another option popped up. Luxy, one of the cows that lost her calf from predators, came off the mountain and she still had milk. So we figured it was best to leave Mercedes be and let Luxy have her own calf. Well that was the plan, but Jet had other ideas. He then decided that he didn’t want Luxy and he didn’t want milk replacer anymore, we wanted the milk from Mercedes and no other. Never had we met such a bull headed, stubborn calf before. Well at this point we learned, what Jet wants, Jet gets. So he got Mercedes. Sorry Mercedes. She was not too impressed about this whole set up in the beginning. But over time, that bull headed, stubborn, head butting calf started to grow on her. Which we can kind of understand. That calf was a huge pain in our butt, but at the same time, I kind of missed him when he moved out to pasture with Mercedes.

In closing, 2013 was a great year for us and 2014 is looking to be even better. We have a great herd of cows, great partners and customers that appreciate us. What more could a ranch ask for? We will see some of you soon that are picking up your February orders and I’m sure we will see the rest of you throughout the year.