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Friday, March 21, 2014

Flat Aggie Visit the Texas Panhandle!

A big Texas howdy to Mrs. Piatt’s class from Follett, TX! Today, I’m going to tell you about my visit to the Rafter F Ranches with my friends Adam and Katie.

Adam and his family have ranches in Oklahoma and Texas where they have about 500-1000 cows and calves depending on the time of year. They also grow wheat and milo. The Ferrell's have been in the cattle business in this area for over 100 years. The reason this area of Texas is called the panhandle is because it sticks out from the rest of the state and looks like a handle! Let’s see where my adventures took me!

My day started out bright and early at 5:45 a.m. as Katie drove out to the ranch. It was so early that the moon was still out and it was too dark for me to even see the camera!

First stop for the day was at what Adam and Katie call the “Catesby Ranch” located in Catesby, Ok right near the Oklahoma/Texas line. It’s important to check cattle each day, no matter rain or shine, to make sure that they are all there and haven’t gone to visit the neighbors, and that they are happy and healthy. During the spring, it’s extra important to check for new calves that might have been recently born to make sure that their mommas are taking good care of them. Adam honks the horn and that’s their signal that it’s breakfast time.

Wait, are they all running towards me? I must be popular!
 Look, it’s a baby calf! He’s a cutie.

Usually the cows eat mostly grass in the pasture for their meals, but about three days a week, Adam puts out “cake” for the cows. No, this isn’t the kind of birthday cake you are thinking about – cake is a pellet full of extra nutrients for the cattle to help them grow big and strong. For 60 head of cattle, Adam has to set out 14 bags of cake!

Cows also eat lots of hay, especially during the winter.  It makes it easier to find their food.  There's usually lots of snow on the ground covering up their grass. We didn’t set out any hay during this trip, but we stopped by the bales just so I could see how big they are. One bale weighs about 1,500 pounds!

My next job was to help Adam check to make sure all of the cattle had lots of water. A cow drinks about 15 gallons of water a day. How many total gallons of water do the 60 head of cattle at the Catsby Ranch drink a day?

The way that cattle get their water is from windmills. Windmills pump water from underground using wind power up to tanks on the surface where cattle can drink it. Good thing I wasn’t scared of heights!

Next, it was time to head to Rafter F’s next ranch in Follett, TX, which is about 5 miles away. Unlike the Catesby Ranch, the cattle at the Follett Ranch graze on wheat from November – May.  The cattle start grazing on the wheat from when they are about 8 months old until they go to the feed yard.

The reason why the wheat is so green is because Adam irrigates this pasture. Their irrigation sprinklers pump about 700 gallons of water per minute to help it grow. It takes about 9 months for the wheat to fully grow.

While Adam was out at the fields, it was important that we checked the soil profile of the pasture. I took a long stick called a soil probe and stuck it into the ground. Good thing I have big muscles!

Once we pulled it back up, there was dirt stick in the tube. If the dirt in the tube sticks together and is wet, that means the pasture has enough water to help the wheat grow. If the dirt crumbles, that means it’s dry and needs more irrigation. This dirt had a good amount of moisture – thumbs up!

Now for the best part of the day – time to drive the big red tractor! I was a little intimidated at first since it was SO BIG, but I loved it.

I got to help Adam disk another pasture on the ranch to help prepare for spring wheat to be planted. Adam uses the disk to help break up the soil to make it softer.

I sat on Katie’s lap most of the time, but Adam let me drive for a little bit! I felt like a pro.

It was a long day, but I sure had fun touring the plains of Oklahoma and Texas learning all about cattle and wheat. I can’t wait to come back again soon! Think Adam will let me drive the tractor by myself next time?

For more adventures around Rafter F Ranches, check out Adam on Twitter at @awferrell83 or Katie at @katie_vaz . If you have any questions, let Mrs. Piatt know and Katie & Adam would love to answer them and give you lots of other fun facts!

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