We survived! Literally and figuratively, all of the Bellah Strebeck Land and Cattle employees, families, and animals are alive. Laurie and I fed 62 meals to people over the past two weeks, Trevor wore Wranglers every minute of every day, Claire can tell us what a cow says (mmmmmmm, no oooooo), and Matt is scarred but his head is fortunately still attached to his body. And Layne…he averaged two hours of sleep per night and his cows still don’t believe in the power of an electric fence.
The cows watching Matt build the hot wire fence around this circle a few weeks ago.
The thing about our farming business up here is that we farm and run cattle. Some farmers just grow corn, that’s it, and I’m super jealous of their wives. We grow corn, milo, and sudan in the summer, wheat in the winter, and run replacement heifers and stocker cattle year-round on the wheat, corn stalks, and sudan. Therefore, Matt and Layne are farmers and ranchers – franchers. And they are also alone…we are first generation New Mexico franchers insane, so Matt and Layne make all the big farming decisions without generations of experience for guidance.
Sometimes the guys call for backup. Betsy and Laurie and I “helped” put some cows up the other day.
The life of a francher is complicated, involves a lot of math and spreadsheets (kids, pay attention in class), depends on cell phones, markets, the weather, and fencing, and allows zero days off per three years so far.
Here’s the lowdown of our past couple weeks franching:
To AI cattle like we’ve been doing the past 12 days, you have to run each one through the chute three times. That means you have to gather them up out of the field, take them to the pens, and individually do whatever you’re doing to them, three separate times. It’s a very scientific process and everything has to be done exactly right. I went out and watched the guys work heifers a few times, and let me tell ya, you can stick an arm impressively far up a cow’s butt. Like, to your shoulder. A lot of cow shit and latex gloves are involved.
This is not a job for the queasy, so I’m uncertain how Matt manages, but he loves it. It takes about 4-5 guys to AI each set of heifers, so we’ve had different people coming out to help each day. Yesterday, Laurie was called in to defrost bull semen. It’s a shame I have two kids to keep and can’t stand in a horse trailer all day with semen straws tucked in my shirt. A real shame.
Prep work for the AI process. You don’t want to know what’s going on here.
During all this AIing, we also have new little corn plants coming up and irrigation sprinklers running. And by running, I mean breaking down. Time is irrelevant out here: when a sprinkler on a circle of corn breaks down, it has to be fixed immediately. At this point, sprinklers are more important than food, sleep, or small children. 99 problems and the cows ain’t one…
Farmers have to constantly check and maintain their sprinklers. Make sure they’re running, watch for flat tires, adjust the speed, unplug nozzles….all kinds of stuff I’m no expert on. There’s an app for that, but they still have to manually check them. This is a huge nuisance when you’d like your spouse to be home in the morning and/or evening. There is no sleeping in for a francher, on Saturday or Anyday. Monday morning at 6:00 am was hazy and windy, and while checking a sprinkler, Matt had a 4-wheeler accident that could have caused some real problems for our family. He somehow missed the open gate and drove into a hot wire fence (it wasn’t actually hot at the time) which wrapped completely around his neck and threw him off the 4-wheeler. After hitting the ground and realizing he was, miraculously, alive, he got back on, slowed the sprinkler down, and drove home, shaking and in shock. Farming is a dangerous sport, y’all. And the Dalhart ER is a very nice place.
Thank goodness this phase of our year is over. Summer is here. Corn is planted. Cows are inseminated. Matt is alive. Franchers rejoice!
And here’s the most poor quality iPhone video montage that you’ve ever seen…