Author Archives: blackinksteve

blackinksteve Visit Website
A dreamer, lucky enough to see some come true. Rooted in these Kansas hills, I married schoolmate Anne, hunter, fisher, cook, mom, teacher and coach, fellow K-Stater. We make homemade wine and better Angus calves each year. Two daughters are grown now, the eldest in Ireland. Unique son a teacher, too; we’re legal guardians now. Introspective, I love words (pictures, too); trying to avoid groaners, but puns are intended. Obscure Reference Man who likes historical ballads. Well, most music except – pardon my gap – rap. Since 1998, Director of Industry Information for CAB; now Senior Editor, Producer Communications. And so help me, I care.
On the ranch, The Purpose Driven Herd
1

Why NOW?

Hey fellow seekers,

     People have all kinds of reasons as to why they calve when they do. Mine is partly about the opportunity to use artificial insemination (AI) on our heifers, along with others from the family so that we can get 85 to 100 in a group.  We push the date forward about as far as the family will allow because the gals are on silage and hay into that first week of May when they could be out on pasture. Average breeding dates are May 7-8. My corn-planting family partners can usually spare some hands about then, and as for February calving, they like that, too. Their goal is to be mostly done by corn planting time.  Even though I might like to wait a couple more weeks, this has usually been manageable, and heifers get a few weeks to catch up and stay in the herd with mature cows that start calving about March 1. My better, AI-bred cows will start a week before that.

Miss 158 born yesterday

Read More
The Purpose Driven Herd
0

Keepers & flex cows

Hey fellow seekers,

What if you suddenly got word that there’d be room for you to run 25% more cows this year? It would probably be all about inventory, anything that would count as a cow. So it was for me when I was in that position several years ago. Cows that should have been culled, not going to calve until 75 days into the season, again. Big cows weaning 30% of their weight. Ornery cows that learned too many tricks over the last year. They all got a reprieve.

I tried to keep one set of better cows together, but I kept heifers out of the lower-end cows, too, because I needed more numbers. A few years before that, still kind of getting started, I bought a semi-load at an ironically named Special Cow Sale too far from home. Decided not to try that again. Better the devil cows I knew than the devil cows I did not know. In retrospect, I wish I had bought half as many cows but with records from a known quality source. But we weren’t as focused on quality then, just building up numbers. One winter we had 30% more cows than we could stock,but it was all part of the plan to guess the cattle cycle peak price and cull a semi-load. Pretty sure I misguessed,but at least we moved the culls out. I wrote a Black Ink column related to it in August 2000, called Keep Ahead of the Game.  

What we have left is pretty good, all worthy of long-term identification, like the freeze branding last weekend.  

Custom freeze-branding crew applies the numbers

Read More
The Purpose Driven Herd
2

Cold, spiraling details

clockwise

Checking for the clockwise spiral on the driver's side as I prepare to back up to feed... Tom took the pic before the snow.

Hay, fellow seekers–   When winter weather restricts grazing, you have to step up your attention to detail just a bit.  Looking up past Black Ink columns that mention little things, I found August 2006 Close but no premium, about the slight edge it takes to make incremental progress toward quality, but it is mostly about the finishing side. Feeling the chill last night I looked up columns from cold days and found January 2004 Chills are relative, and felt better after reading about a hypothetical worse case for a cow: going from freezing rain to just 20 degrees F with 40 MPH wind gust would feel like -85 degrees.  Compared to that, we’re close to thermal-neutral, which would be 20 on a sunny, calm day.

Anyway, we got 7 or 8 inches of snow here Monday and it was pretty well advertised. So we fed 80 cows two bales, about 2800 lb. the day before,and that much again the day of the snow after full accumulation.  That was about 35 lb. per head per day,so we skipped today so they can clean up and start browsing tall grass. Weather permitting, they come home Saturday, and the forecast looks accommodating.

Read More
The Purpose Driven Herd
0

“Purpose Driven”

Hey fellow seekers,

In my first post I was just going to introduce the herd. Then I remembered that the big picture plan was that my blog will be known as “the purpose-driven herd,” after a column I wrote in 2006. That’s why I included that phrase.

Back then, I wrote, “The cows in your herd are there for a reason. For profit’s sake, let’s hope it’s not just because you can’t catch them. How did they get on the place, and why do you let them stay? You should consider those questions for each cow, but start with the big picture. Why do you have cows? That’s a deeper question than you can answer in a few seconds.”

I write about my commercial Angus herd (pic) but it is a product of having learned from scores of other Angus producers across the country, trying things that worked for folks hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Sometimes they worked, sometimes only partly, other times I was glad it was a limited trial.

Regardless, I draw on all past dialogs with producers as well as my own herd–and records–to stay grounded as I go about the day-to-day mission of serving as Director of Industry Information at Certified Angus Beef,LLC. It may not be the easiest job to explain to other producers.

Read More
The Purpose Driven Herd
1

Getting to know the purpose-driven herd

Hey fellow seekers–

When I started writing a monthly column for Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) in 1999, the first one was about establishing an ID system for the herd. I may have been thinking about the parade of unknown, salebarn cows that had been through the revolving-door gates to my pastures since I had abandoned my seedstock Simmental goals a dozen years earlier. I decided that unknown cows were the enemy of progress, hence that first title, “Know Thy Cows.” Most of mine were crossbreds in the late 1990s and about half were black, but ID was tenuous at best. I really could tell many of them by some unique coloration or remnant twist of horn; it did not take a tag to know Curly, Clown, Silver, Twister, Frosty, Splitz and Zebu.  

But their calves were not so instantly known—nor were they consistent—partly because the grade black bulls I was using were no better than the average cow. So, I decided to get uniform ear-tags in all the cows,but I knew that was only a first step,and not worth doing without bigger plans. Mine centered around gaining some uniformity, breeding up to a higher-percentage of known Angus genetics through the use of artificial insemination (AI) and registered bulls, and keeping records.

Read More
1 11 12 13