We completed our Highland cattle roundup yesterday near Ferndale.
We gathered our herd of 60+ Highland mother cows for our annual fall roundup at the Morrison Ranch along the picturesque Bear River in remote Humboldt County.
We have leased the Morrison Ranch from Peggy Morrison Fox for the past seven years, which has provided ideal conditions for our Highland herd. From the top of the property at nearly 1500 feet elevation, one can gaze out across lush coastal grasslands to the Pacific Ocean below. "Tough" duty if you are a cow. . .
The roundup scene could have been a Hollywood movie. The cattle were gathered on horseback from across the 2000-acre ranch, which has been in the Morrison family since the 1850s (now owned by sisters Kay and Peggy).
Cattle dogs, beautiful working Quarter Horses and Appaloosas, and wranglers wearing chaps were all part of the scene. We brought the herd down from the hills to corrals and barns that were first constructed in 1854.
Our workday team included our longstanding part-time wrangler, Adam Tait, and LMR horse trainer/stable manager, Sarah Bertoli, plus four local friends of Peggy Morrison.
We gathered all of the cows and their calves and "worked" them. The mother cows were given their vaccinations, boluses (two big pills containing selenium and copper), and a treatment for parasites. The calves received a similar regimen.
We were very pleased with the health status of the herd. Ninety-six percent of the cows were pregnant (a very impressive result for our three bulls) and all but one was in perfect health. The calves were vigorous, bright-eyed, and fleshy.
We separated the calves from their mothers ("weaning"). The calves were kept together in the barn for the first two nights (there is comfort in numbers after losing mom) and then were put out onto a nearby pasture along the river where they could be watched and fed supplemental hay.
Sadly, because of a change in direction by the two Morrison sisters, we are leaving the ranch this fall. Our beautiful herd of Highland cows was moved south yesterday by truck to our property in Tomales. The Tomales location will now become our primary location for our cow-calf operation.
We'll continue to send our calves north from Tomales to Ferndale each spring as part of our overall integrated production system. There we will finish our steers and beef heifers using an intensive rotational grazing system followed by a short low-stress trip to the abattoir at Redwood Meats. More about this later. . .
In the meantime, we are entering winter feeling confident about the health status of our herd and already looking forward to calving season in April.
Posted by Ted Hall
The beauty - and the madness - of our integrated farming operation is that we move seamlessly from one activity to another. Although we have just completed our grape (and potato) harvest, we held the fall roundup of our Shorthorn cattle herd on Thursday.
We pressed our last red wine on Wednesday afternoon, which means we have completed the initial fermentation of all of our wines. The 2009 red wines are already in the barrel in our cave and the grape crusher and press have been cleaned, sanitized, and stored not to be used again until next year.
But, on Thursday we were already off to our 500-acre property at Tomales Farm & Dairy to conduct our fall roundup of the Shorthorn cattle herd. We brought in our entire herd of heritage breed Shorthorn mother cows (about 75) and their calves. This is an important event as we examine every animal for its health status, take important steps to protect each animal against disease or nutrition problems, and remove the weakest animals from the herd.
We vaccinated every cow and calf and applied wormer to eliminate parasites, flies, and mites. We also placed two boluses (one selenium and one copper) in the first stomach of every animal to ensure proper mineral balance - because grasslands in Northern California are notoriously deficient of these critical micro-nutrients.
Since early July the cows have been exposed to our three outstanding Shorthorn bulls. At the fall roundup we remove the bulls from the herd and check every cow for pregnancy. Our vet, Dr. Nathan Keefer, palpates every animal ("the long reach of the arm") and gives us an estimate as to how far along the cow is in her preganancy. We record this information and use it for monitoring the cows in the spring. Our target calving date is April 15th (gestation is 284 days or 9 months and 10 days) and we want to know which cows might be early or late.
If a cow is not pregnant, we evaluate her age, body condition, and bloodline to determine whether she should remain in our herd.
At this roundup we decided to cull (or remove) 9 cows from our herd. This reduction is offset by 11 new cows ("first calf heifers") that we added to the herd in July.
We also weaned the calves, which means we separated the calves from their mothers. Our target is to wean the calves at about 200 days of age. At this stage they are very strong and independent and we want their mothers to focus their energy on the next calf - since they are already pregnant and at the end of their first trimester.
After a long day of handling almost 140 animals, we returned to Long Meadow Ranch with the bulls (where they are maintained for the winter). We were pleased with health status of the herd and also with the progress we are making in creating a first-class grass-fed beef program.
Next on our agenda, during the first week in November, we will be holding our fall roundup of Highland cattle at our leases at Ferndale in Humboldt County.
And then, of course, there is the olive harvest . . . in the meantime there is the planting of cover crops at LMR Rutherford Gardens, completing the winterizing ("erosion control") of all of our vineyards, and . . .
Posted by Ted Hall
We had a hearty group of buyers, potential breeders, and members of the California Highland Cattle Association at the ranch for our Annual Highland Cattle Sale on Saturday.
Despite the rain and chilly winds we had a successful cattle sale which was then followed by a meeting of the California Highland Cattle Association.
The guests were ferried from the parking and trailer staging area along Whitehall Lane to the cattle barn aboard our venerable Swiss Army Pinzgauer. We then gathered in the big barn and made brief trips out into the rain to the pens to view the animals.
We had a lot of interest this year in the two-year old heifers. In the day's most interesting transaction, two competing buyers decided to flip a coin rather than engage in our proposed auction process!
While this subverted the theoretical opportunity to increase our sales revenue, it did result in the loser of the coin flip picking out another heifer to take home. In the end, we all won.
We held the CHCA meeting at the winery which was preceded by a tasty lunch prepared by Sheamus Feeley (soon to be executive chef at our Farmstead Restaurant). LMR Grass-fed Highland Beef burgers and hot dogs were, of course, featured along with housemade condiments, including ketchup, sauerkraut, mayonnaise, and pickled beets with hard boiled eggs.
Our offer at the conclusion of the sale to provide lunch to anyone who joined CHCA netted eight new members, much to the delight of membership secretary Jerry Giovannoni. We set up another table for the unexpected guests and put a few more burgers on the grill. Of course, there was plenty of wine - especially Ranch House Red.
President Tina Riordan presided and the assembled group made a number of suggestions for future educational programs and, perhaps, a day-long "cattle college" in 2010.
I gave a short report on the activities of the national organization (AHCA) where I serve as a director. Everyone went home energized about the prospects for Highland cattle in California and the renewed agenda of the regional association.
We have already set the date for next year's sale: Saturday, May 1, 2010. Hope to see you here. Bring your trailer.
We selected nineteen head to be added to the sale catalog, including twelve yearling heifers, seven 2-year-old heifers, and four yearling bulls. We had already selected two mature bulls for the sale.
So, with a total of twenty-one head on offer, our sale is the largest annual Highland sale in California (maybe the largest West of the Rockies). We're proud to feature our nationally recognized bloodlines.
Todd, Adam Tait (our local lead cowhand), and Art Townsend (who operates our pasture lease) brought all of the cattle into the main corrals where we selected the best of our registered stock for inclusion in the sale.
We also had a chance to look over our current crop of Highland and crossbred steers. Everyone agreed that the cattle have never looked better in terms of body condition and overall health.
We had a heavy load in the "rig", our 28-foot Featherlite trailer, but we made the trip back to the ranch in a little less than six hours. The cattle were happy to see the long grass waiting for them. We'll now spend a few days cleaning the animals' coats, checking tatoos, and confirming DNA samples.
The catalog will be ready for distribution online by Saturday and everything will be ready for our buyers on Saturday morning a week later (the 2nd). The sale will be from 11 AM to 1 PM.
As an extra plus, the California Highland Cattle Association will be holding its Spring meeting following our sale on Saturday afternoon. Members of the association will be helping with the sale and will be available to answer questions from prospective owners and new breeders.
Everyone always seems eager to share their experiences in raising Highlands. In return, we have a nice lunch planned for CHCA members featuring the wines, grass-fed beef, and produce from Long Meadow Ranch.
Successful buyers will be invited to join us for lunch. Hope it is a big group.