Calving season is upon us again at the OH Ranch

Another calving season is coming to a close at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch. This year went really smooth, so far we have only had to assist two animals and of course mother-nature has given us good weather throughout.

May 2015 - OH Ranch Herd pic 1 credit Hudyma Photography

Cows and calves grazing
Photo credit: Hudyma Photography

This year we started the season with 194 mature cows and 25 heifers (first time mothers). To date, 170 of our mature cows have calved and 21 of the heifers leaving us a total of 28 more to calve. A regular day starts between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. with a check of both the heifers and cows and we continue the checks approximately every 4 hours. After the morning check it’s time to feed the herd. About every second day we pair out which means we saddle up and move cow calf pairs out of the east side of Steer Flats into the west side.

  May 2015 - OH Ranch Herd pic 3 credit Hudyma Photography
Cows and calves getting used to one of their new areas
Photo credit: Hudyma Photography

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Calving Season on OH Ranch

It’s calving season again at the OH Ranch. We learned a lot from last year and have applied those learnings this year which is making calving season much smoother this time around.

This year, we turned the bulls out about a month later, so we haven’t had calves born in -22 degree weather. When a calf is born in those temperatures a lot of them will freeze their ears.

To prepare for calving season this year, our foreman Rob built a hot box—a plywood box with a mesh floor heated by a ceramic heater– for the calves. If a calf is born in extremely cold weather, we bring them in from pasture, put them in the hot box to dry off and get their circulation going. Then we get them back to their mothers. It’s important they get the first drink of colostrum from the mother, which contains natural antibiotics for the calf.

OH Ranch Blog

We also purchased a portable wind fence and calf shelters. Calves can lie down in a straw bed in the calf shelter to get out of the elements and mom can find protection behind the fence.

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We’ve also made changes to calving grounds. This year we are calving on the east side of Steer  flats and as the cows calve we move pairs the  west side  of the flat and then once the calves are old enough we move the pairs to Home Coulee.

So far, 161 calves have been born and we have 47 to go. No major problems to date, so the season is off to a good start.

Reflecting on the first year at the OH Ranch

The Calgary Stampede OH Ranch has its first year under its belt and we’ve come a long way. The first order of business was to stock the ranch with tools and equipment and prepare for the arrival of the Angus cow herd. The herd adjusted to their new home and we’ve successfully completed a full season with good results.

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During the transition, we lost traditional winter range and had to re-vamp our grazing rotation to get the best use of our grass. As well, sources for year round water were established and new fencing was put in place to assist with next years calving season.

Of course, the flood presented its own set of challenges, damaging the bridges, both in the yard and in one of our north fields as well as some minor culvert damage.  Flood mitigation was completed in time for weaning and shipping calves in late October.

Fog

The Stampede events that came through the Ranch this year were all a huge success. The Artist Ranch Project, the Presidents Ride and the Presidents Event allowed our guests to learn about and experience a working ranch. The OH Ranch is positioned to educate and connect with the local community as well as urban audiences and this first year has provided that opportunity.

The support we’ve received from our neighbors has been a real highlight and we’d like to thank them for lending a hand when needed. The ranching community is known for working together and the Stampede is proud to be part of that tradition.

We look forward to incorporating new ideas and opportunities in 2014 to promote our ranching heritage.

Weaning time at the OH Ranch

The OH Ranch just weaned and sold our first calf crop. Weaning means separating the calves from the cows so that we can sell the calves at market.  But first, we had to bring the herd out of the lease which is about 4,000 acres, so gathering them all up took about three days.

Moving cows to North wean pasture

We had some great help from the neighbours to wean the calves. We gathered the whole herd into the weaning pen northwest of the headquarters and sorted the cows from the calves. We then separated the heifers from the steers.

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The OH Ranch crew heads to High River to help with flood relief

On June 20th when southern Alberta was hit by flood waters, the OH Ranch was lucky. We lost one bridge in the north pasture and the yard bridge will need to be repaired. There are a few cattle crossing points that we lost and we had to clear away some debris—but other than that, we were very fortunate.

Our neighbours in High River were hit hard.

Flood damage

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OH Ranch update: calf processing

Hello everyone- and welcome back to the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch!

Now that calving has wrapped up, we’ve moved the cows over to Spring Coulee pasture for grass. Last week we processed the black calves and later this week, weather pending, we’ll process the red calves.

Calf processing takes a crew—and we’ve got a great team of 15 knowledgeable locals working with us including ropers, vaccinators, taggers and one brander. Together it took us a couple of hours to process 101 calves.

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Here’s what the day looked like:

By 9 a.m. we were on horseback herding the black cattle to the processing pen where we sorted the cows from their calves.

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Once sorted, the calves are ‘heeled’ (roped by their heels). They’re on the ground for about 40 seconds total and in that time we vaccinate, brand, castrate and tag them.

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After we process the calves and do a final head count, we turn the calves back out with the mother cows and watch to make sure they pair up.

 

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It’s a ranching tradition that the host ranch serve refreshments and a meal after calf processing. My wife Deb cooked ribs, roast potatoes, salads and desserts.

Other news? Well, it’s time to let calves grow up.

The bulls arrived last week and they will be turned out with the cows on July 15.

Of course the work here never ends—there’s ongoing maintenance and the constant monitoring of the cattle’s health. It’s kind of like eating an elephant. You have to take it one bite at a time.

For now, we’re looking forward to some sunshine after this much needed rain.

 

A day in the life at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

Greetings from the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch everyone!

So far we’ve talked about the guiding principles that will lead us forward here on the OH Ranch, but what’s day-to-day life like on a working cow ranch?

Well, our day starts a lot like yours: with a cup of coffee. At 6:30 a.m. Rob, the Ranch foreman and I are up and out, with one of us heading to Steer Flats pasture to check on the pregnant cows and see if anyone is calving. Right now, we have 45 cows waiting to have their calves.

03.16.13 OH Ladies - Foundational Herd at the OH Ranch

[The OH cattle on Steer Flats pasture. Photo taken by my wife, Deb Pigeon]

If a cow is ready to deliver, we leave her alone. The less interference, the better. These cows are designed to have calves and it’s best to let Mother Nature take care of herself. So far, she’s done an excellent job—we’ve only had to assist with four out of 173 births.

When a calf is born the mother licks it dry and then we let her ‘mother up.’ Those first few hours are critical bonding time.

Around 9 a.m., Rob saddles up to do a health check on the new calves and their mothers in Spring Coulee pasture.

Stampede Horse Rooster hanging in the Horse Barn

[Stampede horse Rooster hanging out in the horse barn]

In the afternoon, one of us rides out to check on the cows and tag new calves while the other preps for summer, fixing fences, mending saddles in the shop, and making sure the mowers and weeders will be ready for all the lawn maintenance on the horizon.

Sometimes, I’m in the office working on capital budgets and work plans. Yes, there’s administrative work even on a rural ranch.

Between mending fences, planning for summer and the other moving parts out here, it’s the simple things about calving that make this time of year truly special. A calf hitting the ground in good health. And when the two-week-olds start racing around like a bike-gang, butting heads and thinking they’re hot shots.

 

Play time - test of wills

[Play time, a test of wills.]

The view isn’t half-bad either.

West view from the home siteThanks for checking in with the OH Ranch! Next stop: summer.

You can find more about the OH Ranch on the Calgary Stampede website here.

Calgary Stampede OH Ranch plans for the future

The OH Ranch allows the Calgary Stampede to connect with the agriculture industry and ranching communities in new and meaningful ways as the organization embarks upon being an active producer for the first time in its history. In looking at all of the opportunities, there has been a process to provide guidance to support the OH Ranch.

 

The three guiding principles are part of the vision, and provide framework to assist the Calgary Stampede in preserving the working ranch and protecting its natural environment and heritage value.

 

The first principle is to preserve the western authenticity of the working OH Ranch, and this will be achieved by re-establishing the OH Ranch as a working cow ranch. first principle photo - foundational herd arrive at OHThrough the introduction of a modest herd, cattle grazing has been re-activated on the OH Ranch. More than 200 bred cows have just arrived at the OH Ranch as the foundational Calgary Stampede OH Ranch herd. Cattle grazing is key for both land preservation and maintenance and the authenticity and historical nature of the OH Ranch.

 

The second principle is to preserve, protect and enhance the natural environment. second principle photoSince the lands donated to the Calgary Stampede represent approximately one half of the original ranch, several years of careful management will be necessary to determine the optimum grazing rotation. A grazing holiday took place from spring 2012 to spring 2013 that helped prepare the grasslands for spring grazing to start in 2013. The Stampede will continue to evaluate and implement responsible ranching practices.

 

The final principle is to engage urban and rural audiences in third principle photonew and meaningful ways. Down the road, the OH Ranch will become an important place for volunteers, partners, employees and communities to connect and build deeper understandings of our historical ties to agriculture and its importance in the world. At this time the Stampede is carefully assessing the functions of a working ranch, therefore the OH Ranch is not currently available for sightseeing tours or public programs. It’s the Stampede’s goal that the OH Ranch becomes a visible reminder of the unique ability to create experiences that bring people together and build understanding.

Meet the OH Ranch Manager, Ken Pigeon

The OH Ranch is special. In the ranching community it is well known and has been cared for in a high regard. In December 2012, I was named Calgary Stampede OH Ranch manager and began working and living at the ranch. I’m pretty excited to be part of this chapter of history at the OH Ranch.

Over the next year we will post a series of blogs about ranching and I’m looking forward to sharing photos of the 8,000 acres of beautiful land that is part of the OH Ranch.

First I would like to share a little information about my ken2family and experience. I’m married to Deb, who has a family history of owning and running a riding stable in Jasper National Park. Deb is looking forward to our first summer at the OH. Our son Clinton graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a degree in business last year, and our daughter Jessie is working on her psychology degree at Mount Allison in Sackville, New Brunswick.  

I am an Olds College graduate and have more than two decades of experience in ranch management with various ranches throughout Alberta. For the last 24 years I developed extensive experience in care and maintenance of cow/calf herds, project and financial management and maintaining healthy range conditions for cattle, horses and wildlife.

I also have maintained longstanding relationships in the Longview area including community groups, ranchers, cowboys, ranch owners and government agencies. I’m excited to promote the Calgary Stampede western values though the OH Ranch and being a hands on manager.