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A peaceful winter arrives at Little Timber Farms in northern MN
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A peaceful winter arrives at Little Timber Farms in northern MN

BLACKDUCK, Minn. – A year has come and gone since Rachel Gray’s mother, Sue Nord, passed away on Dec. 11, 2020.

Because her mom had endured a long struggle with cancer, Rachel and her family knew Sue would want them to experience peace and joy as they gathered for Christmas 2021.

“It was really nice to spend some time together,” Rachel said. “It was a much-needed holiday. We thought a lot about Mom. We were able to share some good stories and good memories of what she loved most about the farm.”

Renewed by the time spent relaxing with family, Rachel and everyone at Little Timber Farms looked ahead to the next few months.

The region has a great snowpack this year. As of Jan. 3, the snowpack is 20-22 inches, with more snow in the forecast. It is a big relief after the drought of 2021. The snow will provide some much-needed moisture in the spring.

In addition to helping the farmers and ranchers of northern Minnesota, a deep snowpack is good for local tourism and lodges. Rachel said the snowmobile trails are busy.

She encourages everyone to consider a wintertime trip to Minnesota’s northland for fun outdoor activities – ice fishing, skiing, and just relaxing at the many lodges or resorts.

With her own vacation completed, Rachel and the crew at Little Timber Farms were ready to work.

Immediate concerns were making certain the livestock could handle the winter conditions. Northern Minnesota was cold and snowy in early January 2022. The temperature reached 37 below, with a windchill temperature of about 47 below.

“The focus on those really cold days is our bulls,” she said. “Making sure our bulls have enough bedding – so they don’t get frost bite – making sure their feet are well protected with good, deep bedding.”

The bulls have been bedded several times, so a manure pack has developed and is located out of the wind. There are 16 bulls in the over-sized lot. Rachel recognized that each bull needed his own space to stay noncompetitive and reduce the potential for injury.

The cattle were all getting extra feed.

“On those really cold days, we make sure we put out some extra hay, so they are not going to run out of feed at night,” she said. “They always have something in front of them.”

The bulls receive dry hay, corn silage, barley straw mix, and grain. The heifers are on a little corn silage, some good hay, and the heifer grain ration. The fats are on the finishing ration: corn silage, good hay, and a barley-based grain ration.

With calving beginning in mid-February at Little Timber Farms for the Zehnder Waage Partnership, the heifers received their final round of Scour-Bos vaccines and the crew made sure their tags were correct. The heifers are already in the calving lot, and each day the crew goes out to make sure the heifers are getting up and walking around. Rachel wants the cattle to feel comfortable around the Little Timber Farms crew.

“We will walk through them, move them into the barn – that’s where they get their grain, and doing that settles them down and gets them ready for people being around them,” she said.

She’s excited about the calves coming, which will be half Charolais, quarter Hereford, and quarter Angus.

Rachel and her dad, Murl Nord, are also getting antsy to attend bull sales. They will attend the Ressler Ranch sale in Cooperstown, N.D., on Feb. 2, where there will be some baldy heifers to bid on.

“I am interested in them and some of the genetics are out of the cows I sold a long time ago,” she said. “I’m interested in those to come back into our heifer development program.”

They will also attend the Ellingson Angus sale on Feb. 5, where they hope to buy several bulls. She works closely with Ellingson Angus of St. Anthony, N.D., in the heifer development program.

“We believe those genetics complement our F1 baldies so well,” she said.

They’ll finish up by visiting the Topp Herefords sale at the ranch near Grace City, N.D. Rachel will have the opportunity to talk about the Little Timber Farms heifer development program during the Feb. 10 banquet held ahead of the bull sale on Friday, Feb. 11.

“This is a great place for people to attend if they have questions about the heifer development program,” she said. “All of us are there, and this is a chance to get answers to those questions.”

Rachel loves everything about bull sales – receiving the catalogs and looking through the various bulls available. She and Murl each pick out their top 10 favorite bulls and compare. They come up with a list of bulls they want to buy that are in their price range, and alternative bulls if the ones they initially wanted sell for more than they budget.

“You get off the ranch a little bit, but you are with people who are like-minded,” she said. “Everyone is excited to see what the new genetics look like.”

Minnesota Farm Guide Weekly Update

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