Tag: black cows

The Year Thus Far

It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to sit down and write about all the happenings on the Rafter T. This is by far our busiest time of year, so my free time has been very limited. Since I’ve failed to keep up on my writing, let’s play catch up!

Cattle Sale DaySale Day- A couple weeks into February, we sold our calves; a process that happens through a local sale yard. For those of you who have been to an estate sale, or watch Storage Wars, it’s pretty much the same concept. People (cattle buyers) show up, and bid on the cattle they’re interested in purchasing. Some are buying for themselves, while others are buying for “orders.” Those orders usually come from bigger feeders, such as JBS, Simplot, etc. If quite a few buyers show up and the market is hot, you’re golden. However, if only a couple buyers are bidding, it doesn’t matter what the market is doing—they’ll only bid against one another for so long. I won’t lie, it’s a bit defeating to know that your annual pay day depends on someone else; but that’s just part of the cattle business. Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts-The week after we sold our calves, a Girl Scout troop from Glenns Ferry came to the ranch for an afternoon tour. They got a chance to see a few newborn calves, feed some soon-to-be mamas, and grain our horses. Those girls had more fun doing chores than I could ever dream of having! I love getting a chance to talk to people about where their food comes from, especially the younger generation. At the end of their adventure they received a fun coloring book and brochure, courtesy of the Idaho Beef Council.

Bottle CalvesBottle Calves-The Chinese might consider this to be the Year of the Ram, but around here it’s been the year of the bottle calf. In total I’ve had six little bundles of joy, but am currently down to four. Hallelujah! While we don’t name every cow and calf we own, bottle calves always end up with a moniker of their own. Currently, we have Nola Dakota, Jumbo, Marvin and Peanut. While it’s a bit of a pain to feed them three times a day, their personalities make up for the inconvenience. Branding

Branding-Awwww, branding. The true definition of “March Madness.” We usually have four groups to brand—two groups at home that typically occur around the 15th, and two out on the desert that happen at the end of the month. The last two take a lot of planning since they happen quite a few miles from home. One pickup is dedicated to packing all of the necessary branding supplies: propane, firewood, branding irons, vaccines, ear tags, etc., and another is dedicated specifically for bringing the food. When it’s all said and done, branding is a pretty big ordeal. Thankfully, we’re blessed with some pretty handy friends and neighbors who are always willing to lend a helping hand. Turning out cows on public lands

Turn Out-Our cows go back onto our public lands allotments April 1, which is why it’s imperative that all of our branding and sorting takes place before then. This year was an exciting year for Justin and me, as we turned out our own set of cattle. Personally this is my favorite part of the work season, since it represents the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

IrrigationIrrigation-Usually the first 10 days of April are pretty relaxing around here; all the cows are out and our irrigation water isn’t in the canal yet. We very rarely take time for vacations, but when we do, this is when we go. I honestly look forward to April 1-10 like a kid looks forward to the last day of school. Until now. This winter/spring season has been extremely dry, so the irrigation company chose to let the water in a few days early. While I’m happy to see things start to green up, I’m still a bit bent out of shape about my “down time” being almost nonexistent. For the next six months you’ll find me shoveling mud and dodging snakes in the pasture! Until next time!


Jessie has returned to her roots on her family’s commercial cattle ranch in southern Idaho after college and working on behalf of the state’s cattle producers. She’s passionate about agriculture and the western way of life. When she isn’t doing ranch work or writing, Jessie enjoys baking, golfing and drinking coffee. As a newlywed, she’s also turning a little cabin on the ranch into a home.

Categories: Blogging, Cattle, Idaho Cattlewomen, Lifestyle, Ranch Life

Weaning the calves


Bringing cows off the mountain to wean calves.

September and cooler weather brings changes to our ranch (and many ranches in Idaho). It is the time of the year that we go out to our public Lands grazing range and bring our calves, who were born in February, home to wean from their moms. Our cows and calves spend the summer months out on the range grazing. They are healthy and physically fit as they wander the mountains all summer.

The mornings start early, saddling horses after a warm cup of coffee. We have friends, hired help and range partners that come to ride for the three days it takes to bring our cows and calves to corrals where they can be sorted. Mornings are chilly, but we were fortunate to have days of sunshine.


Building new corrals so that handling, sorting and loading cattle is more efficient.

The riders split up and ride to different areas to bring the cows down off the mountain into our temporary corrals. Riders come back to cow camp for lunch then head out again and ride until late in the day.

On the final day, we gather all the cows and calves in pasture near cow camp, while trucks arrive and the sorting begins.


Riders spend all day on horseback rounding up the cow-calf pairs, and share meals at the cow camp.


Sorting off calves from cows in the corral.


Cows are sent back to the range and calves are sent home to grass or to feedlots.
The calves are sorted by steers (male) and heifers (female). We also have cows/calves from other ranchers, so cattle or sorted out by brand to go to each owner’s ranch.

Our cows get a break from nursing as they are already pregnant with next year’s calf. Our cows will come home and usually find their own way back to the ranch as the day’s are shorter and colder. Once they are home, we will bring them in and do pregnancy checks on them to verify that they are pregnant.

We source verify and are verified natural producers so our calves get EID (electronic identification tags. They are also vaccinated on arrival to the ranch. They are turned out to pasture before they are sold in the fall. We were blessed this year with late summer rain and lots of grass for the cows to eat on the range.

While the cows are at range, there is continued activity at the ranch during summer months. We grow our own feed, alfalfa and oats for the winter months. This year the late summer rains blessed us with lots of grass on the range for the cows to eat, but delayed our cuttiing and baling of hay. It is important to get hay up so that we have regrowth in the fall when the cows and calves do come home.

Weaning time is always excited for Idaho ranchers as we get to see how the calves have grown and how the cows are doing as mommas. We’re always looking at what we can do to change and improve our cattle herds and the beef we produce for our tables and yours.

~ Lyndella

Lyndella and her husband, Stephen, own and operate Challis Creek Cattle. They are first generations ranchers, who began their dream of owning cattle more than 20 years ago after working in other industries. They run their cow-calf operation on both public and private lands, and are committed to improving the land and the animals in their care.

Categories: Beef, Idaho Cattlewomen, Ranch Life