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Oct. 2004 Newsletter

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January &emdash; February 2005






Weaned Calves

  • When we last reported on the weaner calves, we had gotten so much rain that the trucks couldn't get in to take them to the sale. We had approximately 465 head grazing in the Shipping Trap. They had been there long enough to eat most of the grass in that pasture, so&endash;as much as I didn't want to have to do it&endash;we moved about 300 calves into Nana's Pasture, where they stayed for two weeks while the roads dried up. The move into and out of Nana's went surprisingly well, with all the little calves stretched out over a quarter of a mile, neatly following Guero's feed truck and being pushed by riders on horseback. We kept 102 hiefers to use as replacement heifers and 30 small steers to use in the Ranch to Rail Program next year. On January 16th, we sold 300 head (143 steers and 157 heifers) to Jimmy Roderick, the buyer for Eastern Livestock. We got $1.24/lb for the steers and $1.17/lb for the heifers. On January 19th, we sold 27 of the smaller heifers (the ones culled by Roderick because of size) at the Clayton Livestock Auction. On January 25th, we took a batch of 20 head to the Amarillo Livestock Auction. (See attachments for more detailed information on these sales.)


Replacement Heifers

  • From this year's batch of weaner calves, we kept 102 of the best looking and most gentle heifers to use as replacement heifers. We branded them with a "4" (since they were born in 2004) on their left hip and tagged them all with red, numbered ear tags. We kept them in the water lots for about a week, all the while working them through the corrals (Bud Williams' style) in order to gentle them down and condition them to being handled by humans. After that, we moved them into Medio Pasture where they are still.


Wild Cattle

  • Guero and Abel have been continuously sooking in wild cattle throughout the ranch (mostly from Alamosa and #4). We have been taking these to the Clayton and Amarillo sales in small batches throughout the last two months. (See attachments for more detailed information on these sales.)








  • Over the past month, we have purchased four new horses from J. R. Carnes in Adrian, TX. We were getting fairly desperate for some younger, gentle horses since all of ours are getting extremely old and decrepit (like the rest of us… ha ha). We asked Shi Hurst about where we could get good horses, and he put us onto J. R. Throughout February, J. R. has brought us 10 horses to try out. The four that we have kept seem to be a notch above what we are used to riding out here. They are all about 10 years old, gentle, smooth-gated, rein well, and are good in the rocks. We paid $2,100 for the first two and $2,500 for the second two. (This was quite an adjustment from what Rick and I thought a good horse should cost, but I guess we just have to change with the times…)


Quivira Coalition Conference


(The following article by Tom McCullough)


Quivira Coalition 2005 sessions of interest

Like Water in the Bank: The Promise of Alluvial Storage, Bill Zeedyk et al.

Bill spoke about the way water when present seeps from a stream into adjoining permeable strata and conversely drains back out when the stream is low or dry, illustrating the importance of keeping the stream bed shallow. Deeply eroded channels result in a low water table under adjacent land, making water less available to plants growing there. Raising the level of these has a beneficial effect of raising the water table, increasing growth of vegetation and thereby further increasing water recharge through the surface. Roads and culvert placements have a major influence on the local water tables as a result of their influence on water flow and thus on erosion and infiltration.


Keeping the family in family Ranching, Doc and Connie Hatfield

In the mid-1980s, the Hatfield family ranch was broke and going out of business. Nothing was working right-beef prices were low, pressure from environmentalists was high, profits were nonexistent, and hope was fading.

Desperation ruled, and not just on the Hatfield's place. All across central and eastern Oregon, neighbors and friends on ranch after ranch were struggling to hang on economically and emotionally. Clearly, business-as-usual was failing.

Fast-forward 14 years. Today, the situation has been completely reversed. In place of despair, hope rules the range. That's because Oregon Country Beef has grown from 14 participating ranches to 70, with an annual slaughter of over 35,000 head of cattle. Families are not only staying put, and making a living, some have returned home from distant points.

A discriminating consumer can find Oregon Country Beef in grocery stores from Fresno, California, to Bellingham, Washington, to Boise, Idaho. The market for its locally grown, natural beef continues to expand. In fact, OCB struggles at times to keep up with demand.

Doc and Connie Hatfield lead a discussion about Oregon Country Beef, marketing, finances, sustainable ranching, and how they've succeeded in changing the world. "Decommodify or Die" is Connie Hatfield's advice.


They have a cooperative system wherein each member delivers animals per a commitment he has previously made. Commitments are negotiated to achieve a steady throughput of 700 animals per week. No contract is involved, and ownership is retained by the supplier. Animals are delivered to a holding location where they are pastured on wheat or some such, until a group is amassed which goes into a feedlot pen for about 60 days and is fed a ration of up to 20% corn containing no antibiotics or growth hormones. Animals and feed on this program are segregated from other feedlot animals. Animals are sent to the packer who at this point purchases the animals from the supplier, slaughters and processes the beef, and sells the processed beef back to the supplier. The coop markets the processed beef to Whole Foods and other buyers in the northwestern states who value grass fed beef raised and processed in a responsible manner. Prices are set in advance by the coop after figuring the average cost of production including value of the land involved and adding an expected return on investment of around 8%. Almost always this approach has yielded a premium over what would have been realized on the commodity market. Members are obligated to 11 days per year in 2 general meetings and 5 days of marketing efforts. See for more detail on their operation. Whole Foods is seeking a similar supplier for the southwest and asked Doc and Connie if they would be interested in helping get a similar operation set up in our area. There was considerable interest expressed and Sally is coordinating a meeting on Feb 17 in Santa Fe.


Directional Virtual Fencing, Dean M. Anderson

He is developing a "guidance package" to be worn by an animal which will attempt to keep the animal in a defined area. It uses sound and electric shock transducers on left and right ears to steer the animal. The animal's position is determined by GPS and its heading by a magnetometer. The virtual paddock is defined by data downloaded into the device's memory. Cues are given when the animal comes within 100 ft of the boundary, beginning with faint sounds and working up to louder sounds, weak and then stronger shocks. Power is by solar cell and rechargeable battery. Various radio options are proposed to download data on where the animal has been and to upload new definitions of where the animal is allowed to roam. Works with MIT in the software. Targeting costs of $100/animal, noting that fences aren't cheap nor are the easily portable. He has gotten expressions of interest in production from overseas firms but would prefer to see it developed by a US firm.


Other sessions had interesting tidbits…

Calves learn what to eat when they start grazing and tend to keep those preferences in later life. Those that learn to eat a greater variety (as in eat it all down to the ground) tend later to eat a greater variety when it is available. May have some implications in rotational grazing. By: Tom McCullough




Ranch to Rail (R2R) Update

  • Rick and I attended the R2R field day on February 24th. They gave us an overview of a new antibiotic called Excede&endash;a broad-spectrum penicillin&endash;that they have begun using in feedlots. Then, we toured the Clayton Livestock Research Center, and they showed us the new radio frequency ID (RFID) tags and how they are used. Sometime in the future, these tags will be required on all livestock sold in the U.S.A. as a part of the new animal source verification program. Finally, we went out and viewed our steers at the feedlot. They gave us our first report on how our steers are performing in the R2R program. Their average initial weight was 673 lbs. and their current weight (as of 2/24/05) is 975 lbs. They are gaining an average of 2.48 lbs/day at a cost of $1.18/day. This can be compared to the average gain of all the steers in the program, which is 2.54 lbs/day at a cost of $1.24/day. Only one of our steers has had to be treated for illness. They did say that, because of the wet and cold conditions at the feedlot, all of the animals in the program have not been performing as well as in previous years and they have had to treat a lot more animals than usual. (See attached photo of R2R steers.)




Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

  • We are looking into a government program called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). It is designed to reward those of us who are working toward rotational grazing and helps pay for the fencing, water, and brush control. As far as we can tell, there are no downsides to this program, except that we cannot get into it until later on this year. We will not have to sign a contract or change what we are doing in any way. We will simply have to show that we have implemented rotational grazing and have a plan for the improvements we would like to make.







  • In January, we had to put in a new dash cluster to fix the broken fuel gage in the 2002 tan Ford. We also had to replace a gasket valve cover and wire assembly in that truck.


  • In February, we had to replace the front-end ball joints and brakes in Rick's black Ford.


  • We replaced the sucker-rods and leathers in the windmill near Gail's house in Nana's pasture.


  • The refrigerator at Abel's house kicked the bucket. We did some hardcore fridge swapping, and this is how things stand at the moment: Dad's refrigerator is at Nana's, Nana's fridge is at Abel's, and our old, all-refrigerator with no freezer (expertly restored to working order by Tom) is at Dad's house.



  • In January, we purchased a 1982 dump truck from Sean's company. He sold it to us for $4,500 (which was the cost of putting in a new clutch and other small repairs, plus $1,500). It is quite an upgrade from our old dump truck, which was a 1960-ish model and was no longer running. We made this purchase right after the Quivira Coalition Conference, and&endash;after a quick lesson from Kelly&endash;Tom and Stephen drove it from Albuquerque to the ranch for us (via I-25 and the Bell). Thanks a million, boys! (See attached photo of dump truck.)

Road Work

  • While Stephen, Tom, and Sally were out at the ranch after Quivira Conference, they spent their time working on the road in Medio Pasture using the grader and front-end loader. Stephen crowned a section of the railroad bed and Tom and Sally put in a rolling dip.



  • We are experiencing one of the wettest winters I can remember. As I am writing this, there is 2 feet of snow melting outside our window. It is Caitlin's Spring Break, for crying out loud! It was 80 degrees last Saturday and snowing the next day! How weird is this weather?!?

January/February Rainfall Totals for the Holmes' Household

January 3 = .31 February 6 = .71 March 15 = 2' snow

January 5 = .59 February 12 = .09 (See attached

January 28 = .34 February 18 = .13 photo of snow!)


January 30 = .72 February 23 = .10


January Total = 1.96'' February Total = 1.03''




Houseguests from Hawaii

  • On February 5-8th, Linda's friends from Hawaii, Lani and Bill Petrie, came out to the ranch. They are the owners of the Kapapala ranch in Hawaii and have been doing the Savory method of grazing for years. They are also members of the Oregon Country Beef network of producers. After hearing Linda talk about the family ranch in New Mexico, they decided to swing by after a trip to San Antonio. Sally came out to the ranch shortly before Lani and Bill's visit in order to organize some entertainment for them. She invited Tuda and Jack Cruz, Tuta's sister Mary and her husband Doug Campbell, and Julia Stafford (owner of the CS Ranch) to come to dinner and stay the night at Nana's. They had a great time, but it was more than they bargained for because it rained and snowed .71''. All the party-goers (minus Lani and Bill) had quite an unexpected adventure driving home the next day, since they had take the railroad out due to all the mud. Lani and Bill hung out at the ranch for the next few days. They had wanted to tour the ranch, but the sloppy roads made that impossible. Instead, we ended up sitting around Nana's, visiting. Then, on their way to catch their plane home in Amarillo, Sally and I took them by Mary's and Tuda's ranches for a whirlwind tour. Due to confusion about their departure time, they nearly missed their plane!

    Meeting the Hatfields

    • On February 8th, Tom and Caitlin converged in Austin in order to meet Doc and Connie Hatfield&endash;the founders of Oregon Country Beef&endash;as they attended a conference of Whole Foods vendors. Tom and Caitlin were both impressed and enthused about the prospect of starting a southwestern version of their cooperative.


    • Tom happened to overhear Doc and Connie's plans for driving to Santa Fe, so&endash;with some quick thinking and flexible travel plans&endash;they struck up a plan to swing by the ranch and spend the night on their way through. I was very pleased to get a chance to meet them, since we had already heard so much about them. Sally, Doc and Connie, and Rick and I all had a good visit and we look forward to getting to know them better.


    Upcoming Event

    • Bill Zeedyk, the water guru, is coming out to the ranch on April 18-19th in order to help us begin thinking about how to improve our watershed and erosion issues. Tom, John, Eric, Christine and Colton are all planning to come out and take part in this event.




    Mosquero's Girls' Basketball Team Makes History

    • (See attached article from Albuquerque Journal.)


    Glimpses of Green

    • Even though at the moment everything is covered in snow, I have been noticing that spring is on the way! The grass is sending out tender, green tillers and the bare ground is covered in weed sprouts and tiny rosettes of mustard, prickly lettuce, Indian parsley, and primrose. Also, since February 14th, the cedar trees have been making us miserable, exploding with so much pollen that it is visible to the naked eye.


    • In addition to the emerging greenery, I have also been noticing summer birds that are reappearing just in time for spring. I have seen killdeer, red-winged blackbirds, robins, and some damn bird that I don't know the name of that lives under the eves of our house and calls incessantly (I think that it is some kind of fly catcher).





    As Always,

    Your Lovely President (and her lovely helper)

    Kristen (and Caitlin)


    (By the way, I would like to thank Tom for contributing his article on the Quivira Coalition Conference. Also, Caitlin devoted a good chunk of her Spring Break to helping me write this newsletter. Thanks you so much, guys!)

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    Eric Trigg
    Date Last Modified: 8/11/04