Red Neck Solutions
Please enjoy some of our “Farm Boy” tips that we have found to be valuable here at Trinity Farms. We hope that you can find something useful here. Be sure to check back from time to time as we will add new ideas as we find them.
We have several folks ask us how we freeze brand. We have tried different methods over the years and have found the following to be the best. Dry ice and alcohol and apply the brand over a clipped hide.
We purchased a "calf cage" a few years ago. Sure makes processing calves and moving pairs from the calving field to the clean pair field extremely easy. Moms can see, smell and walk right beside the calves. Robb and Chance figured out a way to hang our scale right on the frame and the processing of the calf is handled inside the "mom-proof" cage.
Take a look at this! Have you ever been feeding hay when it is zero out and the strings are all frozen to the bottom of the bale so the cows are getting ½ bale sized flakes? We have started stacking our feeder hay on truck tires. This keeps the hay off the ground, out of the water and reduces spoilage. Tires 11 x 24.5 or 22.5 work best. When we are stacking big bales, 4 tires under each block seem to work perfect. When stacking blocks of 3 tie bales we just add a 5th tire in the center. This solution has been the cheapest hay stack pad we have ever built and we can move it from year to year!
As you can see from this photo, hay that would have normally been spoiled has been relatively saved due to storing it on tires rather than directly on the ground.
What do you do with all of the “feedlot residue” in your life? We have started composting at the ranch in an effort to reduce our commercial fertilizer expense. Although books could be written, we have found that building and managing our piles for about 12 months yields the best results. We screen the mature compost to provide a uniform product that we can apply evenly. Give us a call if you have more questions about composting or the spreading services we can provide.
How many times have you had to re-sort a pen because the cows got the gate open? Add this simple safety chain and that will become a thing of the past! We have set up these additional latches on all of our frequently used gates and they are easy to use, either from horseback or on foot. They are cheap to install and it will take less time to put them up then it will to re-sort that pen, again!
We all spend a fortune on our vaccine every year. This is an investment that can have profound implications if handled improperly. A great way to prevent this is with the use of a vaccine cooler like this one developed by Merck.
Or, we have also made a simple cooler out of a Styrofoam box and pvc pipe. Total cost of materials…maybe $10. I cut the holes in the box with a hole saw, sealed the pipe in with expanding foam and was done! A handy man project I can handle! Fill the cooler with ice, store your vaccine while chute side in the cooler, guns go in the pipe between use on each cow to keep the vaccine both cool and protected from the sunlight.
Protect your investment…maybe make two of them as insurance against that rogue cow that hooks around the chute when you let her out.
Chute Side Storage
Old filing cabinets are super cheap and create a great place to store excess supplies - a big thanks to Gebbers Cattle for the great idea!
Tags and EID Buttons- Livestock Identification
As we run four distinct breed groups, we have found it useful to use a different colored tag for each to simplify identification and make sorting easier. If you have been to the sale you may have noticed the various colors. They are also tagged in opposite ears depending upon sex. Bull calves are tagged in the right ear, heifers in the left. This makes for fast and easy sorting all spring at just a glance!
New to our program is the use of EID Buttons in a whole herd application starting in 2017. This little radio frequency tags and the wand to read them has made our life working cows immensely more simple!
Paired with our record keeping system, GEM (Genetic & Economic Management) a quick scan of a cow's EID autopopulates his/her lifetime record including pedigree, weights recorded, any medical treatments, preg check status, historical breeding data and the list goes on and on!
No more transposing tag numbers or trying to yell them over the hum of the chute, no more guessing who the cow is that has lost her visual tag or wondering if someone has already treated that sick calf out in the calving pen.
Chute Side Supplies
Although we don’t have to pull very many calves here, sometimes it is a necessity…and always at 2 a.m. it seems! Being prepared makes things so much more manageable – we have a set of O.B. straps, chains, hooks, gloves, etc. hanging at each calving location so we can be ready to assist a cow in trouble. This saves precious time and beats digging through the messy farm truck trying to find your supplies. Just drive a few nails into a board and you can have everything hanging within easy reach of your work area. For the extra set you keep in the truck, keep everything together by storing it all in an old coffee can!
Calf Heater Buckets
Dad has come up with many of the great ideas here at the ranch. One of the very best has been the investment in some calf heaters! If you calve in any type of inclement weather, these are well worth the investment! They will cost you the price of a weaned calf, but I can’t tell you how many calves we have saved (even the hypothermic ones) and it is a great way to get those calves up and going on the zero degree nights! Once we have the calves dry and they can stand on their own they seem pretty durable and we go find the cow and dump the calf back off beside her and have just had tremendous success. These can be purchased at most vet supply outfits and I can recommend either Central Oregon Ranch Supply at (541) 548-5195 or Old Mill Country Store at (509) 925-5397.
We have several of these in each calving location, and often times a calf in each heater. Our simple way to know what calf goes with what cow? A sharpie attached to the heater next to a long strip of tape where the dam number has been written. As each calf comes out of the heater, the dam is crossed off and the unit is ready for another new calf.
Sorting to Condition
Although everyone has probably read the articles about sorting cows to condition, it really makes a believer out of you when you try it for a season or two. We calve the first and second calf heifers at the ranch where they can receive a little closer care. These groups are sorted off at weaning to allow for a little better nutrition. It is impossible to feed these younger cows at any higher level of nutrition when they are getting pushed around by the older cows. Try it…it will be well worth the effort! These younger cows will have an easier time of it at calving, calf vigor greatly improves and you are able to keep those valuable young replacement females in your program as you can get them bred up with the rest of the cows.
We have made a number of different types of calf huts. Any seem to work well, the big advantage is providing a spot for those calves to get out of the weather! Our best efforts seem to be paneling an area off to keep the cows out. Another idea that has worked out well is the use of used grain bins that have been disassembled and used for roofs connected to portable panels. These have proven to be very sturdy and fairly easy and economical to put together.
Hitch Scale Mount
We do weigh every calf at birth, weaning and yearling. This hitch adapter scale mount has been the easiest system we have tried to weigh calves in the field at birth. We built it to come apart in 3 pieces to not take up too much room and it pins into the receiver just like your inter-changeable hitch. This only took about 30 minutes to build and will have a very nominal cost for supplies. It could be adapted to any type of scale you might use to weigh your calves.
Much like trying to find the O.B. hook on the floor-board, we have discovered life is much easier treating sick calves when all of the supplies are readily at hand. We have taken a durable metal or plastic box and stocked it with the needed supplies so that it can ride around in the pickup. Take special note of the modified LA 200 bottle holder made out of an empty bolus container and padded with paper towels to keep it from breaking.
These can be ordered from Bob Erickson at (209) 652-3536. They are made from woven strips of recycled truck tires. These mats have been great in reducing injury coming into and back out of the chute. With our gain test requiring the bulls to be weighed every month in addition to ultra sounding, semen testing, clipping, etc that goes on all winter long, these have really helped reduce injury due to unsure footing.
Mats around the chute area are a huge help in reducing fatigue. Almost anything will work, but the best mats that I have seen and worked on are wrestling mats. If anyone knows of a school trading some out, please let me know, we could sure use them. If I can keep everyone a little more comfortable, we can work cows for an hour or two longer!