Friday, June 29, 2012

Jennifer and John

Meet Jennifer and John. These ranchers are from Southeastern New Mexico; raising kids and cattle.

Hi! I’m Jennifer from Cow Camp Tales. Elizabeth asked my husband and I to share a little of our lives.

My husband, John is a working cowboy, on a large cattle ranch in the Chiauhuan desert, of southeastern New Mexico. John, has lived in thisarea all his life. He was raised on the LE Ranch, which his dad ran for 30 years. He went to Odessa College on a saddle bronc scholarship, he stayed for two years and then went on to PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) rodeo full time. We met shortly thereafter. I'm a Texas transplant, my daddy moved to Texas 20 years ago to work on the Turkey Track Ranch. He didn't intend to stay, but he is still here. John came to work for the Turkey Track shortly after we started dating. He started at headquarters riding colts. After we got married we stayed at "HQ" another year. A camp finally came open and here weare, 4 years later.

The ranch we work for is owned by the Bogle family, it has been in the same family for going on 4 generations now. It’s a cow/calf operation, there is a little bit of everything - from Hereford and Angus to BeefMaster cattle. They also raise their own horses, and won the AQHA(American Quarter Horse Association) best remuda award several years ago. John's country or "camp" as we call it is 100 sections (1 section is 640 acres). The ranch itself is 640 sections, and there are 3 camps, including HQ that are around 100 sections or so. On a normal year with good rain, John takes care of around 500 mama cows. Unfortunately with the drought numbers have dropped.

We both love agriculture, and the cowboy way of life. John loves cattle, his Dad brought him up with a love for cattle, horses and ranching. I was raised the same way. It’s a little different for us, as we don't own our own place. John is a hand on someone else's spread as was my dad and his dad. But there is still pride in taking care of God's creatures and doing the best job you can. There is also pride in carrying on a tradition; we come from a long line of cowboys. Both our granddaddies cowboyed all over Texas. Every day is something new, from breaking a colt, to pushing cows. Nothing is ever predictable. One day everything might go smooth and easy, the next, you could have the worst wreck of your life. Like the time John had roped a big bullcalf, yanked him in the trailer then when he went to load his hose, he decided he didn't want to share his trailer with a bovine. He jerked away from John and hightailed it out of the country. I then had to drive the pickup across the pasture, with John sitting on the hood, hollering at me to go faster, so he could get close enough to rope his wayward cayuse. You know things like that. :)

It’s a good life, we get to live out in the country. We have horses and cattle in our back yard! It’s the best way to raise kids. They learn responsibility and how to work on the ranch. They get to ride and have their own horses. We’re so blessed to be able to live the way we do! Its all we have ever known, or have ever wanted. Some day we do hope to have a place of our own, but until that time comes we will continue to do what we do.

A typical day on the ranch involves checking water - John's camp is 100 sections so that is a lot of country to cover! In the winter hefeeds, in fact he fed year round last year due to the drought. He feeds cake - or range cubes. We received a little rain a few weeks ago so he was able to take his feeder off for a bit. Other duties include fencing, working on windmills, general ranch upkeep, and riding colts. During the spring is branding. This ranch is so big that gathering and branding everything makes for some pretty long days! The fall bringsweaning, and processing yearlings. The past few years the bosses have been keeping the yearlings. That means more long days processing and hauling them to the owners farm land close to town. Winter has John feeding when he has a chance, but mostly he is on wheat pasture roping and doctoring yearlings. From about December until March he is on wheat pasture.

As for me, well, womenfolk don't cowboy on this outfit. Not on the big days with all the cowboys anyway. I help John anytime he needs help around here. He always tries to let me get horseback as much as possible. Oh, I whined about it enough growing up - I wanted to be out there working cattle too! But these cowboys are of the old fashion variety and it just isn't done. I cook when they work and I take pictures when I have the chance. I stay plenty busy raising our two ranch kids; we have a 3 year old boy and 1 year old girl. Tadpole, as we call our boy, is already rearing to go cowboy and talks constantly about riding bucking horses. It won’t be long until he’ll be heading out to work cows with his Daddy. Right now he’s still a little too short in the britches to go along on the big days. Fifty section pastures are a little much for a little cowboy.

One of the best things about being a cowboy, is the fact that it’s the same kind of work men did 100 years ago - aside from a few modern convinces such as pickups, and stock trailers. For the most part we do the same thing men did back in the day. That’s pretty cool.

However, we are seeing this life being phased out more and more. So many things are coming against it, the drought being one. But thenthere are the environmentalists that are always on the lookout for the next endangered species. From the sand dune lizard in WestTexas/Easter NM, to the wolf in Northern NM. You may wonder how does that affect us? Ranchers are not allowed to shoot/trap wolves in Northern NM. Which means the population thrives resulting in lost baby calves. Lost calves mean lost money. If the sand dune lizard was placed on the list, ranchers wouldn’t be able to run cattle where the lizard is located. Many ranchers would lose a lot of range land.Thankfully, it didn’t get put on the list. However, the prairie chicken is endangered and there has been a strip of land through the ranch that they can’t run cattle on.

Then you have beef buyers from Japan of all places, buying our beef. Japan bought all our yearlings last year. Why are we not selling beef to our own country? We sell it to other countries, and import foreign beef. These are just a few of the issues rising up against ranching and farming. These issues have affected us directly.This way of life is all we know, and we love it dearly. It's so sad to see what is happening. Young men who grew up dreaming of living this life and wanting nothing else but to cowboy are finding it harder and harder to find ranch jobs. Then there are the older men who have known nothing but cowboying all their lives and can’t find jobs. It's so very sad.

Yet... we’re grateful for each every day that we still get to do what we love, and that we get to raise our kids the way we are. The Lord has blessed us, and continues to bless us each day!

Thanks for reading a bit of our story, hope you enjoyed it!

God Bless!
John & Jennifer

Thanks John and Jennifer for the great feature! Jennifer does have a blog; however it is a private blog. They do enjoy new readers so drop her a line at Cow Camp Tales if you would like to keep up with life in a Cow Camp. 

 If you would like to be a featured farmer or know someone who should be, leave a comment below - or check out our contact page. To learn more about the Faces of Agriculture Project click here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nicole Markway

Today we travel to Missouri and meet Nicole Markway, beef producer, student and agvocate for agriculture!

Hello from Eugene, Missouri - population so small, we don’t even have a population sign! But population doesn’t matter in the place that I call home. My name is Nicole Markway and I am one of the many different faces of agriculture.

Our Family - My sister (Bethany), Dad, Mom & Me.
I am currently majoring in Agricultural Business at Missouri State University, where my older sister also graduated from and will return to in the fall to get her Master's in Agricultural Education. My life revolves around agriculture and our small 200 acre beef farm that my family owns and operates 30 miles south of Missouri's state capital, Jefferson City. I also own four horses which allows me to do one of my favorite hobbies - rodeo. 

My horse, Chex, during pole bending.
Our beef farm strays away from the typical life of beef farmers. After weaning the calves, we keep them near the house allow for daily supplements of grain while also still having access to grass pastures.

Some of the calves after being weaned.
When the calves reach about 1,000 pounds, we return the heifers to our cow herd and keep the steers in a smaller feed lot typesetting with twice daily grain rations and hay. We then sell the steers at live weight price to consumers around the area who are looking for farm raised beef. We haul the steers to the USDA approved processing plant and the consumer is then in charge of specifying what cuts they want and picking the beef up. We are in the process of selling USDA approved beef at local farmers markets.

Working some of the calves before weaning.
A typical summer day on our farm will consist of Dad feeding the calves before heading off to work. Working for the National Guard allows him to get off work at three and get home at three thirty in the afternoon. He then feeds and checks the calves and cow herd. After feeding, Dad will do other work around the farm, such as brush hogging, moving cows to different pastures, or working on farm equipment. I get home at five thirty from my summer job to help with the cows or ride my horses. 

Hauling hay.
As beef farmers, our family takes educating the public about our food very seriously. We are constantly striving to inform the consumers about what happens to their beef, both before and after processing. We encourage our customers to ask the questions that are on their minds. If you have any questions yourself, go visit my blog and get those questions answered!

Thanks Nicole for the great feature! You can learn more about this country girl and her passion for agriculture on her blog Where the Blacktop Begins

If you would like to be a featured farmer or know someone who should be, leave a comment below - or check out our contact page. To learn more about the Faces of Agriculture Project click here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kris and Carla Wardin

Meet Kris and Carla Wardin. They were just a couple of farm kids working in the corporate world who found their way back to the farm. They now own and operate a dairy farm in Michigan Here is their story...

After college, my husband Kris and I were happily working for successful corporations and moving around the country, but we knew someday we wanted to own our own business. My dad was getting ready to sell his cattle and retire. Kris suggested we buy my parents’ dairy farm. 

It had never occurred to me that he – although he was also from a farm – might want to someday be a farmer. I was all for it! Newly pregnant with twins, we moved from Connecticut to the 130-year-old homestead in Michigan.

We've now been farming for five years. We milk 300 cows on a pasture-based dairy farm. We rotationally graze them on irrigated pastures, and we seasonally calve. That means that all the cows have their calves in the spring and summer. We grow our own corn and alfalfa to feed to the cattle.

Since we've moved here, we've built a barn, added onto the silage pad, modified barns, knocked down silos, and made a lot of changes. We've also added a third son.

Kris and I are very involved in promoting and supporting agriculture. He’s a member of our county Farm Bureau board and the secretary/treasurer for our local MMPA branch (our milk co-op.) I’m a dairy communicator for MMPA and write a blog – I also guest write for the Farm Bureau and Farm Fresh Food blogs.

We live in a big dairy area, so when I was growing up I didn't think much about living on a farm. After I moved away – and when I moved back – I realized how few people have a connection to farming. As a result, I love teaching people about dairy farms … and showing it off! It’s so fun to take people through our milk parlor and meet our cows up close. Plus, seeing a newborn calf never gets old. 

Now that the nation’s attention has turned more toward finding out about how your food is grown, promoting dairy farming has become an even bigger passion of mine. When I was giving a friend a tour, she said, “I have never, not even once, thought about how milk gets to the store.” I like being able to answer people’s questions, demonstrate our practices, and show them how dairy products go from here to there. Not only is it interesting, but it’s totally new information to many people! 

My favorite part about having a farm is the lifestyle. Not only is this our business, but it’s a way of life. Since there’s no real separation between work and home, the five of us are often together. Of course, it’s hard work, there’s not a lot of time off, and it’s stressful. But so is owning any business. At least with this one, we’re producing something we’re proud of, and we have a great view while we’re at it.

Thanks Kris and Carla for the great feature! You can learn more about the dairy biz on their blog Truth or Dairy. Carla also has written a book: Every Other Twin Book is Wrong: 15 Tips on Twin Pregnancy, Infancy and Toddler Time

 If you would like to be a featured farmer or know someone who should be, leave a comment below - or check out our contact page. To learn more about the Faces of Agriculture Project click here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rachel and Damon

Meet Rachel and Damon - a couple of Texas ranchers who have agreed to share their story with us today.

Howdy from Texas, y'all!

We were asked by Elizabeth, of Circle the Wagons, to write our agricultural story for the Faces of Agriculture blog. We are glad to be here!

Damon, and I (Rachel) along with our 3 boys, are cattle ranchers in the Big Bend area of far west Texas. A vast, beautiful land in it's own characteristic.

We both grew up knowing this way of life. I was raised in southeast New Mexico. My folks raised sheep, cattle, and farmed cotton, and grew feed such as corn, alfalfa, wheat, and other forage for the livestock.

I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers. My dad's family moved to the area from Texas many, many years ago, and homesteaded. My brothers and I grew up always helping out, hard work and responsibility were instilled in us from the beginning. From early on I knew that when I grew up was going to have a job in a major part of agriculture, and as I got older ranching became the goal. It's the only thing I knew! I grew up doing anything and everything, from sheep to cattle to horses and everything in between, my dad taught us everything he knew. My mother worked right along beside my dad, just as I do for Damon.

Damon was raised in this area of Texas. His great-grandfather moved to this area from Gonzales County, Texas and bought what is now our home place, back in 1908. (If interested he wrote book called "The Dream of a Youthful Cowboy", a book about his life, how he became a cattle rancher, and stories along the way.) So Damon came from a ranching heritage. There isn't much farming in this area. Where it is done, there is a flat that someone decided to break out. You see very little farm land. When his great-grandfather moved here, his words were- "the man with plow could never come." I do believe he was wanting away from farming.

Shortly after graduating high school, Damon went on to Clarendon College, in Clarendon, Texas, to graduate with his Ranch and Feedlot Operations (RFO) degree. He worked for ranchers along the way and finally returned to this area later on. Damon already had a herd of cattle put together. He had been gathering them up since graduating high school. He ran cattle with his parents, and came down to help out anytime they needed him. Because of that, we had a good start to ranching when we married 5 1/2 years ago. After a few years of saving our money, training horses and working on making our small herd better, we were able to lease some land, and from there our herd grew.

We run a cow/calf operation on range grass. Mostly Corriente cattle, which we run J-Bar Braunvieh and Gelbvieh bulls with. The cattle we had from the start are large frame crossbred cows. The Corriente cows do very well at our leased land, they get out on the rocky hills and find the grass there is, that the other cattle won't look for, and they handle the harsh climate very, very well. With their smaller frame they don't need as much grass either. By breeding them to big framed bulls, we get the large frame and weight on the calves that they need when sale time comes. When weaned we hold them for about 30-60 days, depending on the feed situation. In the past three years we have sold our calves to a local man whom buys for a feeder in Oklahoma.

When we first leased land we had a good summer and got plenty of rainfall. Going into the winter though, times started getting hard. We had little winter moisture and by the time spring/summer rolled around things were looking dry. This began the year and half drought that was widespread throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. It of course led to buying feed, and by then the price of feed was rising well above it's normal price.

We do feed cake, a range cube, throughout the winter, and also put molasses tubs out. The cattle didn't do as well as needed with this. With the harsh winter, record cold, and no moisture going into the spring/summer (and none coming) we decided we needed to step up the feed supplement. We chose to use Anipro, a very well proven brand of liquid feed, and other supplements. Later on we started using their mineral supplement, as well. We did have a slow breed up with cattle during that time, and sold about 11 head that were light bred. We received much more rain at the leased land later that summer that a lot of people in the area never saw, and for that we are thankful. The cattle did do much better with the little green grass and feed we had set out for them.

Winter came in again without any moisture, we sold 20 more head of cattle, because the grass was getting very scarce, and as we made it through this spring, we have received more rainfall than we had the year before. Summer begins soon, and we have had very hot days, praying that our rainy season, normally starting in July, will bring the moisture we need to see us through. 

Our home place saw fire last spring, and of course the drought. We have 20 head of cows left there, sold over half the herd because of fire and drought. We fed those few cows alfalfa hay throughout the winter, and of course mineral and liquid feed. With the small rainfall we have received lately, the grass is still just trying. Nothing has greened up, but we are waiting and hopeful.

Our day to day work consist of whatever needs to be done. Each day we never really know exactly what we will be doing. We do a lot of checking on the water tank, troughs, and of course the cattle. There is the regular upkeep of fences, and windmills or water wells, as well. The cattle need water, and the summer heat can make it hard to keep it for them, as in the winter if it's very cold, we break ice. We also clean the troughs and tanks out when necessary. You wouldn't want to drink yucky water, would you?

There is also the rotation of pastures, which requires horseback work. And, then there are the times we wean calves in the fall, and the branding or marking of the baby calves which we have coming up here in the next week or so. This type of work is what we enjoy the most, being horseback is soothing, and because we raise our own horses it's nice to ride good ones that know what they are doing and have a level head.

Our three boys, young as they are, 4 1/2, 3 and 14 months, even help out in any way possible. Especially the horseback work. The eldest is a good hand, the other two are learning the ropes but they are learning to do work and have responsibility. This way of life is work, it's determination, and you can not sit back and watch or nothing will get done. There is little time off, and hardly ever a vacation. But, it's a good life. A down to earth good way to live, and especially to raise children to know where all of their food comes from and how to work for the things they need or want. 

We are so thankful the Lord has allowed us to live this way, to be out and about to see what He has created in this world. The big blue sky, the vast land, and the animals. It's all beauty in our eyes! God is the root of it all, everything we have is His. We follow Him, and ask that He leads us in the way He wants. A true blessing to raise a family, and be cattle ranchers! Drought or no drought, it's all in His hands.

Thanks for reading our story! 

Thanks for the great feature! Rachel and Damon have a blog, however it is private. They love new readers though, so just send an e-mail for an invite. Here is a link to their profile.

If you would like to be a featured farmer or know someone who should be, leave a comment below - or check out our contact page. To learn more about the Faces of Agriculture Project click here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Robyn of The Ranch Wife Chronicles

Meet Robyn from The Ranch Wife Chronicles as she shares her story of how she and her husband came to be ranchers. 

Hello from the South Dakota Prairie! I am Robyn from The Ranch Wife Chronicles.

My Husband, J, and I ranch with J’s parents and are the 4th generation to continue this traditional way of life. J is home full time with his folks and I have a job in town. We have a cow/calf operation and run a few yearlings. Our farming is primarily small grains that we harvest for hay. 

I was raised in South Central Nebraska on a cow/calf operation. Growing up my sister and I showed steers and lambs. Both my parents grew up with agriculture in their background. 

J and I are both graduates of South Dakota State University’s Animal Science Program. I was on the Livestock Judging and Evaluation Team and did a little Meats Judging. J worked in the Meat Lab and helped with research there. We met at college, married and began our ranching adventure in 2004.

There are many characteristics of our lifestyle that we enjoy. J and I feel strongly about carrying on a time-honored family business. We are very lucky that J’s folks feel the same. J likes the fact that everyday is different and every season is the same. He never knows what will greet him when he walks out the door, but it keeps him on his toes. I enjoy working with the cattle and doing what I can to support our dream.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says “What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while.” Taking care of our family, being stewards of the land and producing quality food to the best of our ability are the everyday things that matter. As we go through our daily tasks, the seasons of our work and the hard days we try to keep in mind, that we are making a difference. J and I are continuing a family tradition; a way of life we hope to pass to the next generation.

Be sure to check out Robyn's blog, the Ranch Wife Chronicles. You can also follow her on Facebook

If you would like to be a featured farmer or know someone who should be, leave a comment below - or check out our contact page. To learn more about the Faces of Agriculture project click here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chad Cunningham

Meet our very first Faces of Agriculture Feature - Chad Cunningham! (Photos taken by Kim Goldsmith of Putnam Texas)

Chad, Tom & Hannah
Meet Chad Cunningham a real Texas cowboy and cattle producer. He is the owner and operator of a cow/calf and yearling operation. The ranch is a family business. Chad and his son Kyle with one other cowboy Joe run the ranch while his daughter keeps the books. His wife Kim has the chore of keeping all the cowboy's fed (which is no small task!).

Heading out for a day of work.
Chad's son Kyle. 
Ranch cowboy, Joe. 
Together this family lives and works on the land to get your food from pasture to plate. Chad's main business is running yearlings. They buy 450 - 650 pound calves, and let them grow until they weigh 750 - 850 pounds, then send them to the feedlot to finish.

Chad sorting calves. 
Chad does very little "farming". He says, "We are all a lot better horseback than we are in a tractor seat. The yearlings work good for our part of the country. When it is dry, we don't buy as many, when we get some rain, we buy more cattle. Plus, you get to stay horseback a lot more with yearlings than you do mama cows."

Agriculture is all about getting down and dirty!
His blog at Chad's Stuff showcases his cowboy heritage with photos of him and the guys working cattle, and riding horses. Chad also makes spurs and knives. He is keeping Western traditions alive and well.

A set of Damascus spurs made by Chad.
Thanks Chad for our very first feature! Be sure to head over to his blog and learn more about the cowboy's life! 

If you would like to be a featured farmer or know someone who should be leave a comment below - or check out our contact page. To learn more about the Faces of Agriculture project click here.