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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Animal Q and A launched on Stampede website

Animals are at the heart of the Calgary Stampede, and have been for its entire 101-year history. Stampede events and programs involve horses, cattle, bulls and other livestock, showcasing how society interacts with animals. A lot has changed in 101 years, both from a livestock handling point of view and the public’s connection with livestock animals.

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Majestic horses symbolic of Calgary

In the midst of the daily news cycle churning out the day’s bits and bites, words can pass like a blur. Every once in a blue moon I am struck by the power of words to capture and convey the essence of something relatively intangible, and the power of media to share insights.

A recent feature article in the Calgary Herald, written by Mario Toneguzzi, explores the horse as a symbol of our city, as seen through the eyes of an artist and a professional who uses horses in personal therapy. The feature is a thought-provoking and evocative exploration of the majesty, mystery, power, unpredictability and wisdom we see in horses, and the power they have to affect and mesmerize us in their many moods and moments.

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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.

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[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.