Our Young Farming Champions are finding a career in agriculture offers many opportunities and opens exciting doors.
A number of our Young Farming Champions are travelling overseas and blogging from far flung places
Today we hear from Katherine Bain who is ticking off her ‘See how the World Farms’ bucket list on a cattle ranch in Canada
Katherine Bain with her dog, Pluto, on the family farm near Stockyard Hill in Victoria
Hi everyone, my name is Katherine Bain, and I am a 2017 wool Young Farming Champion. At the start of this month, I began an adventure I’ve had on my bucket list for as long as I could remember – to head to Canada and work on a cattle ranch!
The ranch is located in British Columbia, a province on the west side of Canada, in the Chilcoltin region. It’s a beautiful area surrounded by snow-capped mountains and tree-covered hills. So pretty much the opposite to the rolling grasslands I’m used to back home in in Victoria!
The ranch is called Dane Ranch and is run by Cordy Cox-Ellis. It runs roughly 1000 cows and calves, 160 replacement heifers and 90 breeding bulls. They also produce hay to feed their cattle in the winter. The ranch runs Angus cross cows which are usually 75% Angus, and 25% either Simmental or Gelbvieh. They cross black or red Gelbvieh or Simmental, or Charolais bulls onto the cows that are more Angus in type, and then Angus, SimAngus, or Gelbvieh Balancer bulls onto the cows that look more exotic in type. The ranch also has a small herd of purebred Angus and Gelbvieh cattle.
They do a lot of work on horseback. This day we were moving cattle into a new paddock
Currently, we are in the middle of calving! There is lots to be done including checking the pens a couple of times a day to ensure all the calves are healthy, cleaning out the barn where sick or mis-mothered calves are kept, processing newborn calves and feeding cows. Processing is a similar process that we follow with our lambs. The calves are generally processed a couple hours after being born, as it is important to know who the mother is, so they can trace the genetics and know where they go on the range during the summer months. This is a similar process to how I ran my Coopworth Sheep Stud, to make sure we can follow the genetics and assess which ewes are the best breeders.
Processing allows Dane Ranch to inspect each animal and assess their overall health, vaccinate them and attach identification tags. They get two tags – an RFID tag and a large number tag to link it to its mother. The cross bred bull calves are castrated
Tagging the calves – they do grow into their tags!!!
Processing can be like doing a puzzle as we have to work out which calf goes with which cow. Often the calves are sleeping while their mums are off eating, so we have to wait until they are back together to be certain we don’t make any mistakes. Because of all the snow on the ground during winter, the cows are calved down in smaller paddocks and “containment” pens. This is to make it easier to check them throughout calving and for feeding them.
There is no grass yet, so they get fed hay and have salt licks and mineral tubs to ensure they have a balanced diet. The snow is almost all gone now, so they will soon be put back out to bigger paddocks with fresh grass before going up onto the range!
Feeding the cows
My jobs at the moment are mostly helping in the barn. My day starts with feeding and watering any cows in the barn and in the small pens. The water has to be refilled with a hose as the pipes freeze! The main troughs have heated pads and insulation to keep them going throughout the very cold winters. The temperature in the winter can go as low as minus 35 Celsius with an average from December 1st to March 31st around minus 13 Celsius !!!. Thanks goodness we don’t have to worry about this at home
After feeding I help treat any calves that are unwell. Its very important to watch them closely to ensure they don’t get scours which can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is treated with electrolytes and antibiotics if necessary.
So far working on the ranch has been pretty different to working on my sheep farm back home. Dealing with the freezing weather and snow means that extra care and planning needs to be done well before Winter sets in – mainly ensuring they will have enough hay to see them through! Learning to work with cattle has so far been an awesome experience, but I’ve got a long way to go to become a “cowgirl”!
In the coming month calving will finish and the next big thing will be branding and moving cattle onto the range. So stay tuned for the next instalment!