Monday, December 6, 2010

Beef Production 101 from Mark

This post is long overdue and I’m sorry. I would really like to catch up on the calendar of operations, but being that this blog is also about beef production not only cattle production (You may be thinking, what is the difference?). Let me try to explain how I view the difference between beef and cattle production.

Cattle production or animal husbandry if you like is the act or art of raising cattle; all the things that go into daily care of the animals like nutrition, water, and resource management. Beef production is more of the science if you will. We determine the breeding season to try and match the nutrients in the native forage to the cow’s peak demand while suckling a calf, we determine the proper timing of calf hood interventions such as inoculations, castration, and weaning in order to get the optimum benefits with the least amount of stress, we sample grass and water to make sure we provide beneficial supplements for deficient essential minerals, but most importantly we decide on the genetic makeup our herd, no these are not “GMO” cows this is one of the most important elements of cattle ranching, it is the science of animal breeding.

We apply both subjective and objective criteria to determine the type of cattle we want to raise. There are a great number of traits that can be bred for - some breeds are more tolerant of the heat or cold, some breeds produce more milk, some have better dispositions, some produce superior beef (meat). This last item is something that was identified as one of the main consumer issues about beef in the 1990’s. So, a majority of beef producers moved to breeds of cattle known to produce higher quality beef. Typically, these are the British breeds they are so named because they were originally imported from the British Isles the scientific name is Bos taurus. These cattle acclimate well in cooler climates and do well where high quality nutrition is available; also, they tend to have calm dispositions. The name of one of these breeds you may recognize is “Black Angus”.

The other type of cattle is Bos inidicus, or eared breeds derived from southern Asia. These cattle acclimate well in very hot areas, they travel and forage well, they adapt very well where nutrition is more sparse, they tend to produce leaner beef, they are not known for having very calm dispositions, these cattle are prominent in the western U.S. which is very arid. I don’t have photo example of the breeds, but I do have a photo of arid grazing land that you can compare with the pasture in the photos above.

All these photos are on our ranch, the diversity is not only stark, but also challenging. We happen to raise angus cross cattle and they would certainly do better on the lush green pasture than this desert land, but as I have discussed in previous blogs climatic conditions dictate that we bring the cattle down to lower elevations in the winter.

This is the same area as the second photo in March of 2010. Make no mistake cattle are raised in climates like this all over the U.S., but they must be fed hay. On our operation we try to use the different types of pasture and forage available during the peak production periods so that we don’t have to feed hay. We don’t have the ability to raise hay so we have to buy it, and that is an expense we like to avoid. So the dilemmas we face as beef producers is to raise the type of cattle that produce the highest quality beef that fits consumer preferences, but at the same time are able to adapt efficiently to the resources available on our ranch. Yes, economics are implied because if we can’t strike the right balance between productivity and efficiency then the ranch in not “sustainable”.

So, to summarize - we spend a great deal of time considering the right type of cattle and genetic traits that best fit our environment, consumer demands, and economically sustainable. Perhaps in future posts I will talk more specifically about husbandry and stewardship practices we employ to try and meet consumer concerns. Until next time, so long from the ranch.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Football, Football, Football

At the Lone Pine High School Homecoming Football game one of our terrific mares was used to present the colors. The tradition at the high school is just before the game they have horses racing around the track to Lee Greenwood’s song, Proud to Be an American. One of my FFA students asked to borrow one of our horses.

We love horses at the ranch. John, my father in law, and my husband Mark, could talk for hours about horse lineage, what is the next great stallion we should be breeding to and the history of our amazing Quarter Horses. The special thing about our horse operation is that we ride and assess the mares. Most ranches use geldings, but for us it is about the girls. We sell the geldings as weanlings or yearlings and keep mares to raise and ride. This gives us the chance to evaluate the conformation and personality of the mare. We might use a mare on the ranch for 8-10 years then it is time for them to have a foal. If the mare turns out to not be a terrific saddle horse then she is sold and not used in the brood mare band. This way we have great mares having really good foals. We either sell them if they are geldings, or keep if mares to start the cycle over.

Now back to the Homecoming Football Game, you take a Lacey horse, Miss Katie Lena aka “Frito”, and put a 100 pound girl, that practices a couple of times, ask her to race around a track with bright lights, music, and tons of people cheering and she just does it. It is such a joy to be able to raise great horses that will do anything. We use our mares to work cattle throughout the year in all types of jobs, but then we do parades and football games and they are kind, smart, and willing.

Frito did amazing, the football team gave it the good fight, and Molly was the Freshman Homecoming Princess, looking beautiful in her pink dress and waving to the crowed from a 2011 Mustang Convertible. Isn’t football season a blast?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


High in the Sierras located in Mono County is Bridgeport, California. Bridgeport is a very small town; however it serves as the County Seat for Mono County as nearby ghost town Bodie had the largest population during the Gold Rush. This small town is where our cattle graze during the summer. It also has the most amazing fishing in all of California. We are lucky enough to get out of the heat of Independence and spend some time in this beautiful valley. We run our cows and calves along with some steers in the numerous pastures that surround the town. The pastures are irrigated by Twin Lakes which is feed with the winter run-off that is the back side of Yosemite. The views are amazing and when I am up there I can not believe how wonderful California is, and how lucky I am to have chance to enjoy this area.

Bridgeport has many great events but 4th of July is just how you picture it: a local ranch rodeo, games for kids that include find the dollar in the hay stack, pie eating contest, and a rubber duck race in the Walker River, just to name a few – and they have one of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen. We put on the rodeo at the ranch so everyone involved is either working the event or participating. Friends and family show up from throughout the state staying in town and taking in the local events and going on horseback rides through the ranch.

We were just up in Bridgeport again over Labor Day where we host a Calf Branding Contest where four riders have to rope calves then brand them with chalk or paint in the shortest amount of time. It can get pretty western, but it is exciting to watch and participate in. They also have a sorting, reverse team roping, and reverse steer stopping that brings the crowds and competitors.

If you ever get the chance to spend a weekend in Bridgeport, take it. You will be glad you got away to a beautiful and amazing fishing and ranching area right here in California. I know I am every time I drive into town roll down the truck window and take a deep breath.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

From Katie

I’m Katie Lacey and I live in Independence, CA. I live on a cattle and horse ranch and I love to show 4-H animals. Just recently I went to Western Bonanza, to show animals and it was so much fun. The reason why I love showing and raising animals is because they are fun to name and work with. I show rabbits, pigs, sheep, cattle, and horses. I love my 4-H animals! Taking care of them, showing, and seeing how they turn out is the best.

I have a heifer named Jane, a Black Angus and she is wonderful and I have learned so much about cattle and from her. She is the family pet and a great heifer I got her in October she weighed about 550 pounds and now she is weighing about 1,100 pounds.

Then I have my swine project. Last year at the end of the fair the FFA teacher in Bishop took my 4-H market pig to use as a breeding sow. Now she is one of the two pigs on the farm to have babies. She was my second Hampshire pig they are my favorite breed of hog, she had nine babies and is a great mom. This year again I will be getting two pigs a Hampshire and a Yorkshire/Hampshire cross called a Blue Butt. Also my sister’s pig got to go to Bishop to be a breeding sow, with a 4-H leader Robin. Her pig had thirteen babies and is another great mom. I love pigs they are so funny and entertaining.
I also show and raise sheep; I have four ewes that had lambs this year Nicole, Terra, Nutmeg, and Tinkerbelle. All of them had twins but Nutmeg, this is her third year having triplets. I have a bummer lamb his name is Zeus and he is the cutest thing, he’s like a dog I swear. The lambs are fun to take care of, but the most fun is taking them to fair.

I do two types of rabbit showing. Meat pen where you show them and then sell them, I won Grand Champion last year, and it was so cool! I show Californians for that. Then there is showing where you just show in the breed of rabbits. For this I have Duchess, she is a black and white Dutch and I also have Seymour, a Minnie Rex, and I just show them. With the breeding rabbits unfortunately I have all the boys in the family for breeding and Molly has all the girls. I have Midnight, Master, and Bud and all of them are Minnie Rexes except Bud is a Californian. The babies are funny and kind of cute when they are born but showing, especially showmanship, is really what I enjoy.

Last but not least are horses I don’t actually show horses. But I do take trail rides, barrel race, help on the ranch, and jump English. For all but one of these I use Lena a wonderful Quarter Horse mare that we raised. She is bay and I love her, she is the best, but she is not fast so she is more a Western Pleasure/English horse. Then there is Frito another Quarter horse bay mare that we raised and she is as fast as lightning so I barrel race on her - she is great! I love my horses to death and we are unstoppable.

I have now told you about all my projects. My wonderful heifer Jane, the start of my herd. Also my breeding pig Zorra a great mom and soon my new pigs. And the crazy sheep including my breeding sheep and my market lambs. And the trillions of rabbits I have. Then my wonderful horses Lena and Frito. I love all my projects and will work very hard this year- stay tuned to see how the show goes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From Molly

I’m Molly Lacey I live in Independence, California and I live on a ranch. The ranch life is really fun I like working with my horse Frito she is the best. We do mountain trail rides, barrel racing, and shows. I enjoy photography especially taking photos on the ranch I get a lot of great pictures of the cattle, horses, and the Owens Valley. March-July its really busy for my family, not only are we branding and shipping cattle, but I am raising rabbits and hogs for the Bishop Tri County Fair. In March my sister Katie and I bred our four Californian does to the bucks for the rabbit meat pens.

In April Katie and I got our hogs for the livestock show. My pig from 2009 had babies so I got one from the sow Bella and I named her Quincy. Then I got my other pig from a friend of ours and it came from South Dakota. I like showing pigs because they are really fun and they are easy to take care of. In April my mom sold her lambs to the 4-H and FFA kids to take to the fair. I like showing lambs, but they are a little too hard for me to hold onto. My sister shows sheep way more than I do, but I like seeing the babies grow up. So my life is mainly around the ranch, my school work, and now being a cheerleader. I love helping on the ranch and where I live, the Owens Valley is a beautiful place. I will keep you posted about my projects and how my last 4-H year goes; I can’t wait to join FFA next year when I go to high school.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

High School Prom and a Flat Iron Steak

I had the pleasure of chaperoning the High School prom in May. What a kick. No matter if you hated high school or loved it there is something about being at the prom. I loved the prom of course, Prom Queen Buena High School 82, go Bulldogs. So there I was watching over the little darlings and they had a catered dinner brought in by the cutest little restaurant in Lone Pine, The Merry Go Round. Yes, it is round - you have to love Lone Pine. Ivonne Bunn cooked the best Flat Iron steak I have had in a while they also now offer the greatest Chinese food, only in Lone Pine.

You ask what is a Flat Iron? Well it is a relatively recent cut of meat that was developed by the research team of the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida working with the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, using Beef Checkoff Program dollars (glad to see those bucks going to good use). They call their program “Value Cuts” and the Flat Iron is the crown jewel. The beef cut is really a top blade steak from the tender top of the blade roast. The roast is separated into two pieces to remove a thick, tough, gristle. What you get is the second tenderest cut of meat from the steer, next to the tenderloin.

Why do they call it a Flat Iron? Some say it got its name by looking like an old flat iron others say the French called the thick gristle “iron hard” and that might be where it got the name. Who really knows where the name came from, but I think it's catchy and easy for people to remember and does it ever taste terrific. If you have never had one, try one next time you are at a restaurant or if you want to grill up a great steak this is the one for you. They take marinate extremely well and just melt in you mouth.

Back to the prom, the boys looked handsome in their suits and tuxes, and the girls beautiful in their gowns and then there were the shoes even Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City would be proud of. - Brenda