Today was a big day for Cowboy and Clyde: they went to the new summer pasture! A few weeks ago, while talking with our mentors about our desire to expand our herd over time, they wisely said, "You need about 10 acres of pasture to lease." We thought that sounded nice, but unlikely. The next morning, Paul was cruising around on Craigslist in his pjs and yelled from the office, "Babe, there's a 10 acre pasture lease in Tenino!"
We immediately sent an email, and a couple of hours later were on our way to check it out. Great fortune was on our side that day...the place is 10 minutes from home, further into the hills than we live, and is drop dead gorgeous. Not only that, but the owners, Tom and Jane, not only agreed to lease to us, we young'uns with the tiny Highland herd that can't possibly keep up with 10 acres of lush grass, but they would like to see it become a long-term arrangement, AND they seem interested in allowing us to grow by using their land! Former cattle owners themselves (Herefords and then a Hereford-cross commercial herd), they've been leasing to other cattle owners over the years, most recently to a guy with Holstein heifers, and are happy to share their experience (and fencing supplies) as desired.
Meanwhile, we discovered to our dismay (but not total shock) that Sheila is open (i.e. not bred back). We'd been hoping for a calf in June or early July, and hadn't pregnancy checked her last fall like we should have because life was so busy, the winter was so crummy, etc. We seem to like to learn things the hard way, and the lesson here (duly noted, I'll add) is that no matter how busy or inconvenient life may be, certain things in farming should be handled in a timely fashion. The vet commended us for keeping Sheila well fed (since we assumed she was bred), but pointed out she is "fleshy" (slightly overweight) and if we sent her to pasture all season without a calf in her belly, she'd get fatter and may not breed back at all in 2012. After a slightly panicked evening, some a few quick phone calls the next morning landed Sheila a date with our friend Amy's bull, Talisker, in Shelton. Provided she re-breeds this time, she'll calve in the winter while at home with us.
Our dreams of growing the herd seems to be clicking into place, first with the pasture lease, and then with the addition of our two new females, Roxanne and Xoe. (More on them when they come to Tenino in late May.) We realize we can't grow too large because our home winter pasture is size-limiting, but by this time next year we should be back up to five head (two cow-calf pairs, two 24-month old steers and, by then, 2-year old Xoe).
Until then, we can adjust to life without any bovines at home! Paul's currently tilling the big vegetable garden plot, probably gleeful that our two steers aren't following his every move. We have plans to paint the barn a nice red color, reconfigure the interior and exterior stalls of the barn for better winter feeding/housing, do some pasture maintenance and fix the drainage problems in the sacrifice paddock. It's going to be a busy summer!
Cowboy (L) and Clyde, getting down to business in their new digs. They'll stay in a small handling area for a few days to get acclimated before we let 'em loose in the "big pasture."
Looking back toward the road from the house-end of the driveway. The boys are immediately to the left, the "big pasture" starts further up on the left, and the hay fields are on the right.