New Feature: A Year in the Life…

Happy National Agriculture Day!
Today I’d like to introduce you to a couple of young ladies I’m going to feature throughout the next year or so. My hope is to give an inside look into the first year of heifer calves on our operation. I chose a crossbred and a purebred to highlight some of the differences and similarities in how we manage those different groups.
This is 411. She was born on February 26th, and came into this world backwards, thus requiring a little human assistance!


Her mom is 919, a 5-year-old cow who is ¾ Red Angus and ¼ Hereford. 411’s sire is a Hereford bull we called Dozer (he’s the bull I’m scratching in this blog’s profile picture). This combination means that 411 is 5/8 Hereford and 3/8 Red Angus. 411 was conceived via artificial insemination, or AI – and I was the technician.
We use orange tags to signify Hereford-sired calves, and the “D” tells us Dozer is her daddy. We use (or start with) 3-digit numbers for our crossbred calves and the first number signifies the year. So, 411 was the 11th crossbred calf born in 2014.
This is 4005. She’s got quite a little sass.
She was born on March 3rd to 6017, an 8-year-old Hereford cow. Her sire is a Hereford bull we call Cowboy, and she was also conceived via AI – and I was the technician (there’s a theme here).
We use green tags for Cowboy-sired calves and use 4-digit numbers for our Hereford calves. So 4005 was the 5th Hereford calf born in 2014.
I’m excited to bring you updates through the year as these heifers grow up!
Yours in travel,

The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Adoptions in the Bovine World

Hello readers! I hope your Saint Patrick’s Day treated you well! Mine was spent back in the office after a week at the ranch for my annual spring break calving vacation. The cows obliged by keeping me very busy, and about two-thirds of them have calved already!
We’ve had two sets of twins so far. At our outfit, twins are always named. You can check out some of the names from past years here and here.
The first set was born to a 3-year-old cow we call Nancy, because her mother was called Fancy. Of course, the calves – both heifers – needed names in this vein, so they are Chancy and Francie.

The second set was born to a 4-year-old cow, number 0212. These calves, also heifers, were sired by a bull we call Duke, so I christened them with the duchess names of Kate and Fergie.
Two other cows had calves that were born dead, so we set about the task of assisting with some bovine adoptions…probably more commonly known as grafting. It can be done a variety of ways, but here’s how we do it. The more aggressive twin is selected to be the adopted calf and penned away from their dam for a couple hours to get a little hungry. Meanwhile, the pelt of the dead calf is skinned and will be put on the adopted calf like a coat. The most critical part of this process is for the rear end of the calf to be covered with the pelt. We help the calf nurse their new mom in the chute to keep us all safe. Then the cow and calf are put in a small pen together and the magic (hopefully) happens!
Ideally, while the calf is nursing the new mom, she turns her head to smell the pelt and is convinced that this is her calf. Usually the pelt can be removed in a day or less. Using the dead calf’s pelt may seem like a strange practice, but I think it’s kind of similar to organ donation in a way.
I’m pleased to report that both grafts were successful! Here is Fergie with her new mom, number 1105.
And here is Chancy with her new mom, number 02.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the bovine adoption process on our ranch. In the coming weeks, I’m going to start a new series that will follow two different heifer calves throughout the year!
Yours in travel,

The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Little Widget Has Calved!!

The much-anticipated event has occurred. Little Widget has calved! She had a heifer calf today and both mom and baby are doing very well.

You can read more about the history of this little cow here.

I’m in the middle of my annual spring break calving vacation – more to come in the next weeks.

Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Educated, Informed, and Involved

I’m writing this post in the Seattle airport on my way to Portland, where I’ll be attending the 2014 AgChat Foundation regional conference. I first learned about this organization in 2011, and attended their national conference in Nashville. In agriculture, we often hear that we need to tell our story. Well, if you have a desire to do just that, the folks at AgChat Foundation can hook you up. All sorts of workshop topics about blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and other ways to engage the general public about agriculture are featured at their conferences.

A wide age range of Ennis High School graduates know exactly where I’m going with this post based on its title and who the post will honor. Mr. Bob Cleverley made a huge impact on who I am today. He taught me world history, US history, government, and first aid/CPR. He was a hall-of-fame football coach and a heck of a fly fisherman. I TA’d for him my junior and senior years, where a large part of my job was to help him organize details for the Class C (6- and 8-man) All Star football game, which now is named in his honor. 
Clev wanted us to be educated, informed, and involved. He was a firm believer that the world is run by those who show up and speak up, armed with facts to back them up. He taught us that rights and privileges come with responsibilities and obligations. I wish more folks lived by those principles today.

Hard work was expected, especially in first aid/CPR, a required class for seniors to graduate. Each student needed an 85% or better to pass the class because “do you really want someone with a C or lower level of understanding of this material taking care of you in an emergency?!”

We lost him to cancer in 2007. I’m thankful every day for the life lessons I learned from this great man. As I head out to a conference to get more educated, informed, and involved, I hope he’s smiling down. I’m still working hard to make you proud, Clev. You are greatly missed.

Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

Miracle Baby

Do you know someone who is a miracle baby? There are several human miracle babies that I know, but today’s story is about a bovine miracle baby. Her name is Little Widget.

She was born around 4 weeks early, on February 10, 2012. Bull turnout date the previous spring was May 29. Based on a 283-day gestation length, the expected due date would be March 7. It’s not uncommon for calves to be born before their due date, but this was extremely early. The second calf that year wasn’t born until February 28!

 Mom had been keeping an eye on the cow and knew she was going to calve off the top, albeit not that early. When the cow wasn’t on the feed ground that morning, Mom went on a search and rescue mission. The cow had calved in a patch of willows and taken very good care of the calf. Mom says that she had never seen a live calf born that early, and she was worried that Little Widget might not have “cooked” long enough. She was scared to even make her a tag for quite awhile. But Little Widget wasn’t worried about any of that.

It was a long reach for her to get any breakfast for quite some time – she had some growing to do. 

Little Widget’s miracle baby story continued at weaning time, as she made the cut to be kept as a replacement heifer. She is now 2 years old and is expecting her first calf later this spring. She was a friendly baby, but acts a little standoffish these days – she was giving me the eye when I was tracking her down for a photo.

We’re keeping a close watch on her just in case that short gestation trait got passed along! 

Yours in travel,

The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Never Is Heard A Discouraging Word?

We live in a hyper-critical world. Every move is under scrutiny. And I’ll admit…I’m watching ALL of you for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. I can be found expressing my dismay over writing quality on my Facebook page fairly often. I don’t tend to call people out when they make those mistakes; I just collect examples of the mistakes to write blog posts about.
Way more butt chewings are handed out these days than “atta girls” or “atta boys”. The somewhat anonymous world of social media seems to encourage this critical approach to our fellow humans. I often wonder how those intense conversations  that take place in the comment sections of blogs, news articles, or Facebook statuses would play out if they were attempted face-to-face.
Rather than focusing on all the “wrong”, what would happen if we acknowledged and celebrated people who do a good job? Get good service at a restaurant? Tell your server how much you appreciate how they took care of you and leave an appropriate tip. Someone holds a door for you? Thank them! Read something online or on paper that touched you? Tell the author about what a good read it was and why! Admire how a friend tackled a difficult issue? Tell them!
Who knows? Your acknowledgment of that individual’s job well done might be the only bright spot that brings them a smile in their day. And if you’re doing it right, it’ll make you smile, too. And who couldn’t use more of that?
Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

C’Mon Man!

Happy New Year! No need to check your vision, folks. You really are seeing a blog post from me.
Three years ago when I started this blog (3 years…how did that happen?!), I had been watching a lot of ESPN, and they had declared 2011 as “The Year of the Quarterback”. I thought it should be “The Year of the Asphalt Cowgirl” and the rest is history.
I still watch a lot of ESPN. Good thing Cris Carter doesn’t know about my terribly inconsistent blogging – I hear his voice saying, “Where. You. AT?!” One of my resolutions this year is to write more…we’ll see how that goes.
Another of my favorite ESPN segments is C’Mon Man. I’ve decided to start using C’Mon Man for grammar and spelling errors that qualify.
For example…
It’s ≠ its. One is a contraction. One is possessive. Say it out loud first – “it is” – then decide. And while we’re talking apostrophes, adding “’s” to a word does not make it plural. C’Mon Man.
Reign≠ rein. One encompasses crowns and monarchs. The other is used to cue your horse. And if you use “rain” instead for either of these, you’re probably beyond help. C’Mon Man.
Definitely ≠ defiantly. You know, if you spelled “definitely” correctly in the first place, autocorrect wouldn’t have make you out to be so rebellious. C’Mon Man.
I hope you all have a grammatically correct 2014!
Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Time Flies

Well, now. It appears I haven’t written a blog post since mid-January. Turns out the work load increases when the roster of beef cattle specialists decreases from two to one…and the one is me.

Here’s a brief pictorial update on some things that have happened since that long-ago post last winter.

I organized our local Academic Quadrathlon in February. It’s a 4-part animal science contest where teams of 4 students compete in a written exam, oral presentation, hands-on lab practicum, and a double-elimination quiz bowl tournament. Here is the farm cat “helping” these young ladies with a lab practicum station.

I am a member of the Western Extension Leadership Development program committee. This year’s WELD seminar was held in San Diego. An alright place to be when it’s late February in Montana.

After the San Diego trip, I had a few days before I needed to be in Reno, NV for the Western Beef Resource Committee meeting, so I visited some dear friends in California. And I met their zebra.

And then I went to Santa Anita. It. Was. Awesome. Best track I’ve ever been to.

Then it was calving time again. It’s a rough life to be a calf at our place.

Went back to my old stomping grounds of Miles City for the World Famous Bucking Horse Sale the third weekend in May. Here’s a shot of the start to the craziest wild horse race I’ve ever witnessed.

In late June, MSU hosted the Western Section, American Society of Animal Science meetings, a part of which is the Western Section Academic Quadrathlon contest. Our MSU team (Russell, Lane, Katy, and Drew) won the regional contest, competing against 8 other teams from all over the western United States. I was – and still am – soooooo proud!!! They got to compete at the national contest in conjunction with the American Society of Animal Science/American Dairy Science Association meetings in Indianapolis. They got 3rd place, and took 2nd place in the lab practicum.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…Callie had her first batch of kittens. She had them under a potentilla bush, then moved them into a hole in a tree 8 feet off the ground. We finally got her talked into bringing them back down to earth, and the kittens have been a major source of entertainment this summer. Here the family is eating their “milk and cookies”. The kittens are named Coley (the calico), Ringo, Rango, and Geronimo.

Living 3 hours closer to the ranch means I get to do this way more often.

Somehow, it’s now late July…no idea how that happened. It’s fair season in Montana, and I graded 97 hogs yesterday. Did you know pork fat is less saturated than beef fat? I was reminded 97 times yesterday…pork fat is gross, just sayin’. And I tried to cut off two fingers, but no worries, they’re on my left hand. I hope this finds you all well, readers. If I still have readers!

Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Homecomings, Foreign Countries, and Flashing Road Signs

The past week has been quite a whirlwind. I headed out last Sunday for my old stomping grounds of Miles City, where I based (braced?) myself for the wild week of the Southeastern Montana Winter Ag Series. I’ve participated as a speaker in this annual event several times, and as usual, it didn’t disappoint. Ten towns in five days, two presentations a day. It’s a bit wearing, but a pretty dang efficient use of time. And since we didn’t start until late morning or early afternoon most days, I was able to meet friends for breakfast and visit others around town. And “old home week” continued as I caught up with many friends who attended the series.

I had several new experiences and learned a few things during the week. For example, I had never been stopped to wait for a snowplow to plow hay off the highway where a semi had dumped 5 or 6 round bales. Later in the day, I was following an empty hay truck driven by a man who apparently thought he was still loaded since he drove well into the opposite lane. On Tuesday, when I got to Broadus, I restarted my cell phone in hopes I could get some network service to check on email. The phone then asked me if I was okay with paying more for roaming while in a foreign country…who knew I’d crossed an international border on MT-59?

We were blessed with good roads and weather until the last day, which made for interesting travel back home to Belgrade. Roads were better than advertised, though, and I made pretty good time. Then on Saturday morning I took off for Stevensville to speak at the Bitterroot Stockgrowers educational session that preceded their annual meeting. A special treat was staying with my best friend from high school and catching up on about three years worth of gossip.

Misspelled word of the week: A motel marquee advertising in-room “refridgerators”.

Understatements of the week: Flashing road signs on the really icy parts that either read, “WATCH FOR CHANGING ROAD CONDITIONS” or “TAKE IT SLOW, ICE AND SNOW”. Gee, thanks for the update, MDT.

Looking forward to the Winter Grazing Seminar next week in Harlowton! Stay tuned for more from Asphalt Cowgirl January!

Yours in travel,

The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Asphalt Cowgirl January

Happy New Year! I hope you’re making the transition to writing “2013”…I’m still working on it, as I failed miserably when writing out a check yesterday.

The Asphalt Cowgirl travel season is in full swing. Silly me, I went ahead and added up the miles. Looks like around 4375 or so in January alone…so I think the Asphalt Cowgirl moniker is still appropriate!

My first trip took me to the Golden Triangle and Hi-Line region of Montana. We had great turnouts at both meetings and a lot of young producers in attendance, which is so encouraging and exciting.

During my windshield time, I tend to see and experience interesting and fairly random things. Here are some highlights from the first foray of the year.
·         Before I’d even reached greater Belgrade on Friday morning, I saw a small red car which appeared to have some sort of canvas frame tied on the top. It wasn’t tied on very well, however, and the small red car looked as if it might take flight at any time.
·         My state pickup was spoiled when I was in Miles City, as it lived in a garage. Now it has to tough it out in the parking lot on campus. I drove for a large portion of Friday with an ice/snow mohawk on the cab. Oddly, as I drove toward the “great white North” of Havre, America, it just got warmer. Somewhere between Great Falls and Fort Benton, it was warm and windy enough to shave off the mohawk.

·         CW McCall’s “Convoy” was a featured song playing on KMON 560 AM. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s a good thing I travel alone, because no one could stand my singing.

·         Best misspelled word of the trip: “sumptious”. As in “try our sumptious desserts”. Better than sumptious deserts, I guess.

·         I was stopped for a funeral procession. The flag-draped casket was being transported to the cemetery in the back of a pickup, complete with three pallbearers sitting on each side.

Next up, the southeastern Montana winter ag series.: 10 towns, 10 talks, 5 days.

Yours in travel,

The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux