Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why we move the heifers every 7 days

We move our replacement heifers every 7 days no matter what is going on. There are a few reasons we do this. #1 - Lupine. Lupine is a very pretty flower and also very toxic at certain times to cattle. Between the first and forth month of pregnancy if a cow eats lupine for an extended period of time she has the potential to have a crippled calf or a calf with a cleft palate. Lupine is a legume. A very high source of protein for cattle. Lupine has 3 stages. The first stage is the flowering stage. When we notice the lupine start to flower we move all our cows to the meadows. The second stage is when the flowers fall and it has seeds. This is when its most toxic. It has a toxic alkaloid. This is when the crippling effect happens. It paralyzes the fetus and that's the way its born. The third stage is when the seeds "pop". This usually happens towards the end of August. At this point its safe for cattle to eat the plant. And we will open the gates and the cows can leave the meadows. The crippling effects can be as mild as a slight bent knees, all the way to having to put them down. It is so sad. It also effects the nervous system if they eat too much and the cattle may feel drunk. We had a bull eat too much when we were moving bulls and he just stumbled to the ground, after about 30 mins, he got up and was fine. Every year we have at least one calf that has bent knees. No matter how much precautions we take. Two years ago we were devastated by crippled calves in our heifers. We have also had a very few calves with cleft palates. They usually have to be put down or die. They can not get hold of the teat to nurse, milk just comes out of their nose. There is a bug that eats the lupine flower, called a blister beetle. Its an iridescent green beetle. I love to see those beetles! They eat the flower so the lupine can not reseed. They have done an amazing job controlling the lupine in thick areas. Also an interesting fact about lupine seeds. If you are allergic to peanuts, you will also be allergic to lupine seeds!
#2 reason. Grass management. If we move the heifers they won't over graze the pastures and the grasses can continue to grow.
#3 reason. The heifers get used to us and our horses. There not like pinballs. They are calm and move easily.

Lupine flower. This one is an unusual white one. Most are purple.

Here are some cows (not ours) in a field full of lupine.

Moving our heifers today. Such good girls.

Up and around the lake they go.

Up the hill to the gate they go.

All pictures taken on the back of Leo. My trusty cow pony.


  1. Oh I LOVE LOVE the shots of the roundup that is a beautiful sight to me.
    We have lupin all over this year as well as a influx of common thistle after our drought last year and now it raining everyday. We will not be able to remove all the lupin it is too plentiful. The cows are not bothering it and hopefully they won't we have only had two crippled calves from this and our cattle seem to avoid it as long as there is lots of pasture grass which there is. It is raining again hard to get hay in but great fro the pastures.
    You do the best you can and sometimes it is like crossing your fingers and pray it all works out. Great informative post. Take care. B

  2. What beautiful shots and it makes me want to live on a farm or on the plains! I love that last photo. Makes me feel like I'm riding a horse!

  3. It's funny how they get used to the drill after a while and they just go where you want them to go. I had never heard of the lupine problem before. Lupines are common.

  4. Very informative post. Interesting reading. You guys are such good stewards of the land and your animals. We are proud of all of you. great shots from the back of old trusty. MB

  5. I love your round up shots! I had no idea that the beautiful lupine was so toxic to cattle. I've learned a lot from you. So glad the move went well.

  6. We have lupine in abundance on our mountain, but not so much in our pastures. It was the first noxious weed I learned about when I moved from the desert to the mountains. People plant them in their flower gardens and I think of them as calf killers, not flowers. HA!

  7. I really like the last shot with the horses ears in the lower portion of the photo. It brings a feeling of inclusiveness and depth as I view the scene. The series of pictures also brings up some memories from yesteryear and a black and white TV series called 'Rawhide' - Head em up move em out! MB'B

  8. You are so wise...we know of people who have lost several cows because of lupine...the food gets slim, they eat it, and then die. Poison Milk Weed is the same. Good pasture management is always a must!

    Well done!


  9. Cheri,
    I learned something new today! I have never heard of lupine or its effects.

    It amazes me that ranchers are in the same business and our management practices can be very different due to the environments the ranches are in. You have to manage for lupine and I have never heard of it Nebraska or South Dakota.

    Moving cattle every 7 days gives you a great chance to take pictures and enjoy a beautiful ride.

  10. I too learned something new...did not know about the lupine. I have heard of it, but didn't know it had that effect on cattle.

  11. Learn something new everyday. My guess was to control over eating a field of grass, but I learned something today! You have a beautiful herd girl!

  12. I love that all your photos are taken from horse back!!!!
    I LOVE THEM ALL (always)!

  13. Oh my gosh, I've never heard of lupine! Yikes!
    But these pictures are incredible! Can't hate your life when you're out with these animals enjoying the beautiful country!


Thanks for visiting. Hope you enjoyed the ranch.