Friday, April 29, 2011

Cattle Round-Up

Three cowboys
We've said for years that we simply want Down Home Ranch to be a working farm and ranch, with the Ranchers helping us run our various and sundry operations.

Monday April 25 was a special day for us in our progress towards that goal, and some of our cowboys were ready to start a new chapter in the history of the Ranch.

Among our 340 acres of  "Post Oak Savannah" is Yegua Creek (Spanish for "Mare"), which forms our northern boundary, and a 40 acre riparian patch, home to over 100 big native pecan trees.

In the 1800s, Yegua Creek was on the eastern edge of the "Comancheria", a vast territory that the Comanche tribe dominated, having incorporated the Spanish horse into the endless pursuit of their chief source of clothing, shelter and food—the buffalo.

Yegua Creek was a source of water and food: pecans, deer, squirrel and other game, hickory nuts, wild dewberries, mustang grapes, creek plum and cactus pears--all still present. Greenbriar—a thorny vine that grabs you as you try to walk in the woods—was a source of early spring leaves, tiny and slightly bitter, but a nice source of greens for the native Americans. Buffalo roamed across Texas from the 1500s to around 1850 when the herds began to diminish, to be replaced by cattle.

A year ago we bought four bred, registered Black Angus heifers from Bubba and Donna Kay--the Kay Ranch--to start our cattle operation. We made this decision in part because of the impressive work of Dr. Stephen Smith of Texas A&M, who focuses on Japanese cattle, Wagyu in particular. Our four heifers are registered Black Angus but were bred to Big Boy, a purebred Wagyu bull.

Our first calf was nicknamed “The Dude.” Born prematurely, he was unable to stand and unable to nurse. One of our Ranchers, Sterling, hunkered down on a cold winter night with Jerry, holding Dude's head up and trying to massage the milk down his throat. This went on for days, then weeks, but, with a lot of love and constant care, we got him standing and walking. We knew we had to get him back to the herd, so we took him over to the Spur, put him in a stall and —his mom having dried-up—he immediately starting nursing, using the other three cows. Today, he's a full-fledged member of the herd. The runt, for sure, but a survivor.

Sterling & Kyle wait to run
a cow through the chute
So, it was a real treat having Sterling, Kyle and Travis helping Ranch Foreman Pat bringing our four cows and four calves into the holding pen as Bubba and Donna came in with Big Boy, who will again sire our four calves. It was Round-Up spring 2011. Big Boy will spend 40 days on the ranch, servicing our cows through two cycles, after which he’ll leave and our calves will wean.
Time for vaccinations

We had a hay trailer on hand so that guests (Board President Genie brought friends from the San Francisco Bay Area) and Ranchers could have a close-up view of the process: tagging, worming and vetting the bull, cows and calves.

Return to freedom
 Unbeknown to most, the Dude and his brother bull-calf were made steers in the process. The two heifers will be bred to a Wagyu bull in their time, and their calves will be three-quarter Wagyu.

Bubba, Donna & Jerry on Roundup Day 
When we first visited Bubba and Donna they sent us home with a dozen Wagyu burger patties, which Judy and I are still smacking our lips over. We're looking forward to the day we get to dine on prime DHR Wagyu beef (and maybe a glass of homemade Mustang Grape wine.)

[This blog was written by Jerry but posted on Judy's blog.]

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