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Author Archives: Frank J. Buchman

A Cowboy’s Faith: Greener grass is possible

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

That is not true, but evidently seems so to cattle pushing under the fence for more this spring.

Heavy pressure exerted by the cattle reaching for more grass is why many fence posts slope from the pasture itself.

They go under, over, and through the fence in hopes of finding additional tender lush green grass.

Eventually the pasture will have sufficient growth to satisfy the cattle’s greedy appetites. They will graze at ease and not continually search for an extra green sprig.

Until that time, it is cattlemen’s continued battle to keep cattle in pastures, as they often push through the fence. Calves are an additional menace getting under fences to the greener other side.

Despite quality of the fence, cattlemen typically spend considerable time each spring mending fence.

It is a required effort to keep cattle in and a regular maintenance task year around. All pasture fences are typically checked regularly with a thorough going over before turning herds out for summer grazing.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Living by five P’s

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Prior planning prevents poor performance.”

It is an adage repeated in recent readings about increasing cattle operation profits, but also applies to life in general.

To produce a profitable outcome, the decisions that must be orchestrated to increase likelihood of favorable performance are demanding. It is a stringent process that mandates commitment to planning.

While most development tends to be focused on technical details, too often the human element is forgotten. With all the pieces in place and systems organized, there is a failure to provide the right training. Workers must be properly managed with enough hours in the day to get their work done in the allotted time.

Resources need to be lined up efficiently and maintained in a feasible working order. Often, a missing link in the process of setting the stage for success is assuring the people are properly rested. They must be refreshed, informed, and nourished going into demanding tasks of time and talent.

Sleep deprivation leads to mood changes, impaired judgement, ineffective mental processing, and reduced immune function. When emotions are poorly regulated and mental focus is dulled, the likelihood of accidents and mistakes increases significantly.

Recordkeeping and information-heavy processes are negatively affected when the workforce is functioning on the edge of exhaustion. Making sure that worker rotation is designed with rest periods during and following peak work sessions will have positive payoffs.

Effective training should include ongoing communication centered around well-designed processes. Training in advance of work helps to assure that people feel prepared for the demands of the task.

When employees can evaluate outcomes and adjust to workloads, they are more likely to remain more engaged and motivated. Knowing what is expected with tools and training to perform the job with sensible processes are essential to high performance.

Providing feedback and affirmation of a job well done are important in assuring that a plan is built and executed. Most essential key to productive performance is caring for the people who are expected to do the task at hand.

“Prior planning prevents poor performance.” So, plan for the future, prepare the rested, educated working team, practicing makes perfect, provide affirmation, and production will prosper.

Reminded of Proverbs 24:4: “Any enterprise built by wise planning becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.”

Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.




A Cowboy’s Faith: Chicken wings still fowl

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“It is nothing short of amazing what the poultry industry has done to expand sales.”

Much of the population already had a fondness for chicken prepared in a variety of ways.

Then somebody somehow made one of the lowest quality chicken parts, wings, into what many consider a food delicacy.

Contrary to most, chicken prepared in any manner and all forms of eggs never appealed to one wannabe cowboy. However, growing up as Dad’s assistant in the grocery store meat department, there was lots of experience with chicken.

Fryer-chicken was always a best-selling meat product, and most housewives preferred them cut up ready to fry. A butcher’s helper was called upon to cut chickens into common dinner table parts, legs, thighs, breast, back, wings, etc. From the Arkansas poultry processing plant, giblets were bagged separately and then sold with the cut-up fryer-chicken in a tray.

Learning to cut up a chicken takes a little time but can be developed into quite a skill. It became a meat block contest to see who could cut up a fryer-chicken the fastest. A slip of the sharp butcher knife one time left a permanent left index finger scar.

While fryer-chickens were most popular, lower-priced whole hens were also sold for making soup or chicken and noodles.

Poultry products have always been marketed for considerably lower prices and been highly competitive to beef sales. Unclear about the nutritious value of fowl compared to real red meat.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Rural-oriented youth groups offer untapped opportunities

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Young people are busier than they’ve ever been since the beginning of time.”

There’s always something going on with school, athletics, work, church, parties, and the list continues. That’s all positive, enjoying life and learning about so many useful opportunities now and for years ahead.

Expressing a serious personal prejudice, a number of adolescents are missing what two major longtime rural-oriented youth groups offer. Membership has declined in 4-H (head, heart, hands, heath) and FFA (Future Farmers of America) through schools’ vocational agriculture curriculums.

Despite the vast experiences youth are already privileged with, these two groups present more unique involvements for increased life skills. While both youth groups were initially rural-oriented, that is far from all that they now have available. Membership in the organizations exceed the multiplicities of agriculture, homecare, family living, production, and trade skills. However, each of those enjoyable educational connections can be and are included in the vast privileges of both associations.

Seemingly most people, youth, and adults, have a dislike for public speaking, managing finances, and writing down thoughts. It’s an automatic turnoff for the two rural-oriented youth groups being discussed because those are their three most basic emphasis.

Young people learn to speak their thoughts and opinions in a public setting. Many adults are unable to express viewpoints due to lack of learning the basic skills.

Sad but true, many in the world don’t understand bookkeeping partially because they’re unable to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. With poor records, their income is often high, but they never have any money. They can’t keep track of what’s coming in and where it’s all going, often on the most wasteful purchases.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Bull’s job is important

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“A bull must romance successfully with a cow for a profitable cow-calf operation.”

It’s a repeat topic of discussion with important reminder recently heard several times. First, both the bull and the cow must be fertile so when mated the cow will birth a live calf. Perhaps initially verifying bull fertility is easier than confirming a cow will breed and calve.

Evidently, those cattlemen who have already tested their bulls to be used this summer are finding high infertility. Of course, causes can be many and varied. However most blame is being given to last year’s hot summer and this year’s early freezing conditions. Sometimes, a combination of both.

As with many tests, bulls that do show up infertile should be rechecked again for safety’s sake. One thing certain, if a bull doesn’t pass stringent fertility testing, he’ll most likely not get cows bred. It’s impossible to make money in a cow-calf operation without calves to sell.

Several other criteria go into successful bull-cow mating. The bull must romance the cow when her body wants him to do that. On sweltering summer days, certain bulls would rather not romance their female counterparts. They have found out it can be hard exhausting work.

Some bulls do wait until a cooler time of day. However, if a bull is never nosing around the cows, there is reason for concern.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Valuable calves are hard work

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Baby calves are the most valuable property in recollection of nearly seven decades in the cattle business. Prices recorded at auctions today, usually several hundred dollars, far surpass the level of half a century ago.

Heifers that calved in feedlots of yesteryear were a major detriment that managers wanted little to do with. These newborns were often available by calling the feedlots, which were anxious to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Today’s generation of calf buyers will hardly believe that feedlots sold those calves for maybe $15 or even less. While the investment was low, so was the possibility of making money with the calves. Numerous attempts at growing baby feedlot calves failed.

Stress from their birthing, lack of momma and feedlot manager attention, and time delay were immediate setbacks. They typically never got their first milk containing colostrum from their mothers. So, the generally small, thin, fragile, often shaking babies had to get the artificial colostrum from new owners. The first food was too late in most cases and did not accomplish what it was supposed to do.

Often the little calves would succumb within a few hours of arrival. If they did live with regular feedings of milk replacer from a bottle, longevity was still usually quite short.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Transitions in moving cattle

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.

Most cattlemen nowadays have large gooseneck livestock trailers they pull with a big powerful pickup.

Others even have semi-tractors to pull single, double, and sometimes triple-decker livestock trailers.

There are still a few cattlemen who have bumper hitch livestock trailers, but trucks with stock racks are almost nonexistent. Quite contrasting to decades ago hauling cattle from one place to another.

Early last century, cattle were driven from horseback or walking behind. There were a few trucks with makeshift cattle hauling racks, but not many. For long distance transportation, railroads had cattle cars, which continued with limited use into the 1950s.

Mom insisted we have hogs to help pay the bills with horse ownership. That bred Hampshire gilt called Susie Q was hauled in the back of the grocery store delivery station wagon. Notably, Susie had twins and one succumbed.

For hauling horses to the fair, floorboard stock racks were built for a trailer pulled by the grocery delivery car. Things looked up when a used pickup was purchased, and wooden stock racks were built to haul livestock.

Memorable time was purchase of a new two-horse trailer pulled by a Ford Galaxy to participate in horse shows.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Cows are having calves

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Spring calving time has arrived, and workload has sharply intensified for Flint Hills ranchers with cow-calf operations.

A cow’s gestation is the period between conception and birth. During this time, the baby grows and develops inside the mother’s womb. The cycle is around nine months, about 285 days, but it can vary depending on several factors.

Some cattle breeds take longer to have a calf, and boys are often born later than girls. Of course, inclement weather conditions can delay when smart momma cows decide to have their calf.

Research indicates that feeding cows later in the day and evening increases the number of calves born during daylight hours. It is typically easier to keep a close eye on them.

Bulls are generally turned out with cows about May 1, so some cows could have calves as early as February 1.

However, most cows don’t mate with a bull the first day due to several reasons. She might not be ready for romance yet and the bull is busy breeding other cows.

Typically, a couple bulls are with a certain number of cows to help ensure mating when the cow is ready.

Ranch managers must keep a close eye on their cows once calving season is underway. Most mature cows can take care of themselves when it’s time to calve.

However, there are instances when even the very best producer can have problems. A calf can be too large, or come backwards and require assistance. There are extreme cases when a veterinarian must be called to get a live calf.

Those cow-calf producers with lots of experience can generally tell when a cow is thinking about having her calf. He will keep a more watchful eye on her to provide help if needed.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Highway construction finally completed

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Is the highway open yet?”

That question has been asked and responded to dozens of times in the past several months.

“Yes.” After more than a year, the ranch front highway to cities north and south has traffic going by. Official opening was weeks ago, but painting and signage construction has continued in recent days.

While the project seemed like it would never get done, talk about the renovation has been ongoing for years. Each time a schedule was announced, another highway or bridge took priority, moving the date back.

The project was deemed necessary to make the highway safer, which included widening, straightening, and reducing blind spots. It was a two-phase effort, so detours were not as long as rebuilding 30-plus miles all at one time.

As with any construction, the “new” highway is far from perfect, but nobody has denied “much better than before.” If one accident let alone a fatality is prevented, it’s worth the cost and time-consuming hassle.

The south half of the project was the most frustrating because drivers were forced to drive on gravel. Detour signs were either nonexistent or confusing, so many commuters became lost in the countryside.

Regardless of what the destination was, it took twice as long to get there, not considering all the flat tires.

The north half of the construction required more time because a large bridge was replaced to meet railroad specifications. Additionally, straightening the highway required tearing out some pasture hills.

Large modern bulldozers and land moving equipment with knowledgeable operators made the major project possible. One wonders how the original highway construction through prairieland was even possible decades ago.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Modern machinery still better

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“The days of tossing four small square hay bales out the south hay mow door to the bunk are gone.”

Morning feeding chores would be finished by pitching two more bales down the chute to the barn manger. Sometimes a harnessed draft team was hitched to a wagon for distributing hay to other nearby pasture critters.

Those days when a family was raised on a quarter section farm have become hindsight. Now it takes big trucks and tractors to get the livestock chores done hopefully before noon.

Instead of a couple dozen head of livestock fed in the barnyard, it’s several hundred if not a thousand. They’re spread out over a section of ranchland or sometimes several miles away.

It was sorrowful for some farmers in the past century when they replaced horsepower with tractors. Several families have talked about tears shed when a farmer replaced his team with a tractor. The horses had become almost family as they were handled and used every day.

Small tractors became essential for field work and handling livestock with pickups filling in for feeding and hauling. Like all agriculture, technology changed rapidly, and bigger, more powerful equipment was deemed essential for growing enterprises.

An established routine makes choring relatively easy for the operator with livestock soon becoming accustomed to feeding time. Problems are part of farm living and equipment breakdowns are quite frequent always increasing when the weather becomes inclement.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Optimism for better days

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Cold weather rapidly multiplies problems on the ranch.

Exactly how much is too complex to figure for one who barely passed his college algebra course. But some people say it doesn’t have anything to do with algebra, rather it’s a math equation, add, subtract, multiply, divide.

Whatever, freezing temperatures day after day add up to more and more “confuedalties.” Now that isn’t a word, according to the dictionary and knowledgeable editors, but a “made-up” term Mom said frequently. As appropriate description as one can give of the turmoil everyone across the nation faced in record winter conditions.

“The water won’t run” is typically the first alarm heard, warning that pipes are frozen because of freezing temperatures. There is not adequate insulation to keep water thawed as cold air leaks through the tiniest crack.

More hay bales around the home are the first step, while heaters blow on every visible in-house water line. When water runs, it is best to leave the faucet dripping to help prevent freezing.

Electrical power is often taken for granted until there isn’t any and then it becomes very important. Hard to do much on the ranch without electricity nowadays, and it’s often difficult to restore.

Ice in ponds and creeks can be chopped to provide livestock water supply unless it’s frozen solid in shallow areas. Pumps must start and stop frequently during the cold, causing damage so eventually that water won’t run either.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Writers have their dilemmas

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“A writer is a person, who has to expose their deepest thoughts and bare their soul before unknown people.”

Somebody else said that, but it is the truth filed away among vast reference information compiled throughout a lifetime.

Writing came readily in elementary school, although not usually receiving highest marks from teachers. Reports about specific events were generally well received and rewrites of stories or encyclopedia feature summaries always found favor.

It wasn’t until high school that a personal interest in developing writing skills developed. Acknowledgement was received for the minutes written when serving as secretary of different clubs.

Elected reporter of the Future Farmers of American chapter, writing expanded as stories were printed locally and beyond. Heavy preparation for statewide newswriting competitions yielded awards leading to being selected coeditor of the high school newspaper.

College years saw additional writing opportunities serving various publications, with agricultural journalism one of the favorite college classes. That somewhat limited experience led to a lifetime professional journalist, not an affluent one but an enjoyable career.

Another has further accurately best defined what it is to be a writer: “A writer pens his thoughts and intellectually becomes naked before the world’s people, as he writes what he thinks.”

“When we are exposed before people, we become vulnerable to their opinions and criticism.”

A Cowboy’s Faith: Fewer hours on horseback

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Maturity takes its toll on a wannabe cowboy’s horseback riding enthusiasm and already limited abilities.

Never a world class horseman, ample ambition and plenty of guts brought success training young horses.

Starting untrained horses to ride for many owners throughout the Midwest kept a calendar filled more than four decades. Notable “real cowboys” bought their horses for initial breaking and spread the word about the humble service to countless others.

It must be emphasized that the horses were not “finished” show, working, or ranch horses. They were “30-day horses” requiring additional riding when owners got them home.

Key to the program was that the horses, often untouched upon arrival, were handled every day. They had to be tied solid and exposed to a rider on their back the first day. Saddling followed as the horse stood alone to become accustomed to the handler’s expectations.

Always moved slow, the saddled horse was led in a pen the next day becoming more accustomed to being worked with. Tied back in the stall, the horse was mounted and dismounted by the gentle trainer voicing compliment for calmness.

Progressing, the mounted saddled horse was asked to turn tight circles both directions inside the stall. After continuing maneuvers, the stall gate was opened, and the horse was ridden at a walk into a larger pen.

Sessions always ended by gently turning the horse in circles and then backing him straight for a few steps. A horse learns very fast with praising gentle consistent calm control.

Within a week, the horse can be urged into a slow jog trot in a large circle. He will soon be asked to speed up into a slow lope.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Collecting toy horses hobby

A new palamino model horse is added to the ranch’s remuda.

“Another model horse has been added to the collection started more than 65 years ago.”

It was a pleasant surprise receiving a palomino toy horse as a retirement gift from the Extension board.

Many people enjoy collecting a variety of items and spend considerable time and investment continually adding to their assortments.

Seemingly salt-and-pepper-shakers collections are one of the most popular, with some numbering into the thousands. It isn’t a costly hobby, but also doesn’t have much end value other than personal enjoyment. Plus, giving an addition to the collection is a simple inexpensive gift that always receives honest appreciation from the receiver. No matter how many “shakers” a collector has, they’re always happy to get new ones.

Matchbook collections are popular among many, even those who don’t ever use matches. The thing about them is they’re typically free from those promoting their products in an inexpensive way.

Cowboys often have collections of both bits and spurs. They can be quite high-dollar and the collectors will go all out to find ones they don’t have. Considerable time is spent attending auctions and searching worldwide locating what they want.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Cattle management complex business

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“What kind of mineral do you feed your cattle?”

“We don’t feed any,” responded the naïve high school agriculture senior interning at Charles Cowsert’s Monarch Charolais Ranch.

Dale Wooden, manager of the world-renowned herd northwest of Council Grove, prodded further: “Surely you give your cattle salt?”

Embarrassed, the student answered, “Yes, they have a white salt block in the pasture all the time. I was confused by the word mineral, not thinking salt was livestock mineral.”

Actually, the initial question was more complex than it came across. Prominent cattle breeders then and more so nowadays have a diligently coordinated mineral feeding program to improve efficiency and productivity.

Despite several college livestock feeds and feeding courses, the importance of meeting a balanced livestock mineral program didn’t soak in. While it still seems like a large cattle investment, the younger highly conscientious ranch manager follows a stringent mineral plan.

Bulk of the ration is sodium chloride, common white salt, plus potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium, all in precise increments. Often overlooked but claimed to also be essential are micronutrients, iron, manganese, zinc. copper, and iodine. It’s very complicated for one who barely passed college chemistry.

Thankfully, cattle feed rations do provide some of the minerals, but not enough to meet nutritional needs.

Vitamins must also be supplemented for rations, further increasing herd investment. Vitamin A is most important for productivity and efficiency followed by vitamin E, vitamin D, and sometimes vitamin K.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Portable corral eases workload

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Moving panels from pasture to pasture for penning cattle is a physically demanding task for ranchers.

Looking back seven decades and longer ago, cattle owners did not have steel panels for corrals. Most ranchers cobbled together catch pens in their pastures with wooden posts, woven wire fencing, and homemade wooden gates.

Dilapidated remains of those meager facilities are still in Flint Hills pastures. They get used occasionally with plenty of rusty baling wire helping hold them together.

Not that the idea was unique, companies started manufacturing steel panels in the late ’60s. Varying in design and strength, they were generally available in 10-foot and 12-foot lengths with some 16 feet long.

Before long, most cattlemen owned at least a few panels wondering what they’d ever done without them. The 10-foot panels were most popular for ease of handling as ranchers wired together corrals wherever needed.

With versatile uses, including patching fence holes or repairing water gaps, panels increased in use. They were quite handy for trapping and loading single wayward critters that needed to be moved to another locale.

There was always a need for more panels as purchases increased and panel-hauling trailers eased transportation.

Still, it was always a major strain on the body moving a dozen panels from one pasture to another. While longer panels are often used to build larger corrals faster, their extra weight is more exhausting.

For young cattlemen, moving panels doesn’t have the negative impact that it does on older ranchers. When panels must be moved to a dozen different pastures four times a year, it becomes a dreaded job.

Several years ago, portable corrals were introduced to ranchers who could pull them behind a pickup from pasture to pasture. Not many cattlemen initially purchased the convenient makeshift corrals, but they often shared them with their neighbors.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Changes in horse business

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Raising horses for profit is a complex business endeavor.”

For a grocery store carryout boy, there were many opportunities, foremost the vast friendships. Knowing everybody in town came from twice daily free home delivery of groceries.

Youth life couldn’t have been better except there was always the desire to be a cowboy with a horse. After continued pleading, parents finally purchased a brown and white spotted mare for an 11-year-old wannabe.

Young cowboy sits astride Buchman’s Queen.

There was never a happier day in his life, but it was unimaginable what that horse developed into.

Spot was mated to the buckskin stallion Peppy Creek, and foaled a filly called Missy Creek. That was the meager beginning of a horse breeding operation extending more than six decades.

Some years only one foal was raised but the operation grew to more than 30 producing mares. Spot was an unregistered mare who had three full sibling foals including Buchman’s Queen.

By paying hardship fees, Queen was registered as a Pinto who has fifth generation granddaughters now in production. Quarter Horses are the most demanded mounts for Flint Hills cowboys, so today’s broodmare band is mostly registered Quarter Horses.

A Cowboy’s Faith: The weather will change

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Farmers and ranchers are never satisfied with weather conditions.”

During record dry days, conversations are always about the severe need for moisture. Possible ways to provide water for livestock and home use are discussed as wells, streams, springs, and ponds go dry.

Hauling water is a major costly effort with thoughts about developing permanent relief by establishing rural water lines. While rural water meters could have been purchased decades earlier for a few hundred dollars, present water supplies were adequate.

With all expenses in an agricultural operation, another initial and monthly bill seemed an unnecessary added cost. Today, getting that same rural water line put in is a complex ordeal, considering time, paperwork, layout and construction.

Most significant though is the price tag, nearly a thousand times what it would have been initially. Still water is the most essential nutrient for people and livestock. They cannot live without it, making development of a perpetual clean water source essential regardless of the expenditure.

Government assistance programs are available in various forms to cover portions of water development expenses. Likewise, financial institutions realize the importance of water and generally cooperate with partial funding. In extreme cases, limited dispersal of farm property may be essential, or material goods required as capital to acquire the support.

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