Fall is Bittersweet

Fall is bittersweet for me. I love the colors of the tallgrass in the Flint Hills in the fall--the cold night temperatures turn the grass and various shrubs and trees golden, red, and even purple in the fall. When the sun has just come up, and shines through the grasses on the hill, they seem to glow.

But fall is a short, lovely prelude to winter! Winter in Kansas can be a pleasant, invigorating cold time, but more commonly it is a bitter, icy, frigid time of year. I am not a cold weather person, so taking care of cattle involves extra time donning multiple layers of clothing and still suffering in the icy wind. During the winter, I'd rather be an accountant or a banker--not that those are easy jobs, but they are inside!

Sorry, back to fall--on our ranch, we are selling bred heifers in the fall. This year we have nearly 300 bred heifers (nearly 2 years old, who are pregnant with their first calf) that we raised for the past 12 months with the intention of selling them. I have spent hours with these beautiful heifers, training them that humans are not to be feared, teaching them to eat from a feed bunk, feeding them in the winter and finally breeding them in the spring. Then we take them to the pasture for the summer where they need very little attention, besides regular delivery of mineral and checking them to make sure they are healthy. In short, I am somewhat attached to these girls! It can be difficult to part with them.

Some years we have sold the entire group to one buyer--he sends semi-trucks to our pasture and we gather the heifers and load them on the trucks for their trip to a new home. This year, we have sold smaller groups across the nation and we've been catching and sorting, then loading them onto semi-trucks. These heifers have gone to buyers in Kansas, Missouri and West Virginia this year. We still have a few left, and we plan to keep some of them to add to our own cowherd.

Gathering these heifers is easy--just takes a pickup truck with a bale of alfalfa hay. I honk the horn and they come to get their "treat" then we catch them in the pen and sort off the ones to be loaded onto the truck. The actual loading of the truck is easy as well, as they follow in a line up a ramp and into the belly of the truck. They are calm and easy to work with--because I've spent hours and hours with them so they know we are not a threat. When the truck is full, we close the door, they pull away and off to a new home.

We are providing other ranchers with quality genetics for their own herd. It's a good feeling -- knowing that you're helping someone else; that you've done a good job; and that another job has been accomplished that brings you one step closer to being ready for winter!


  1. Great post. My husband I recently took over his late father's ranch, and this will be our first Kansas winter of farming just the two of us. I've always lived on a small farm (2 horses and 3 bison), but with 40 head of cattle, I'm guessing I'm in for a whole new experience. I'm glad I found your blog. You will be my reading on the days it's really cold and dreary outside. :)

  2. I always feel like this when we have to take the old girls to town. In an ideal world our older cows would get to stand knee deep in grass or hay (in the winter) and eat their fill while living the life of Riley until they die. But you and I both know it doesn't work that way. So we should raise a glass to the good times we spent with them, and the good life we provided them while they were in our care!


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