|Whenever I cake, I take a crew, which consists of
my two kids and a few dogs.
I’m sure everyone has heard of the book, Joy of Cooking, but I am willing to bet not many folks know about the joy of caking…
There are many feeds cattle like to eat, and much like their human counterparts, cake is one of their top picks! Unlike human cake, cow cake is more than just a sweet treat. Cake is a pelleted feed, and is used to supplement the diet of cattle during the winter months when the grasses are dormant and not as nutrient rich.
The main ingredient in cake is processed grain byproducts, such as dry distillers grains, a byproduct of making ethanol. Dry distillers grains are highly palatable, easily digested and rich in nutrients. While cake is most commonly used as a protein supplement, it also contains many other vitamins and minerals.
As soon as the caker (the machine that holds and dispenses the cake) is loaded, the crew and I start out for the pasture. The ranch is around 22,000 acres, or a little over 34 square miles, needless to say, the drive to the cows can be long. While en route, we listen to the radio, play games and learn. The radio is typically set on the local classic rock station. I have an eclectic taste in music, but classic rock is my go to.
One day, while taking out a load of cake, my son said, “Mom, this is my jam!” A sense of pride came over me, as it was the greatest song in the history of rock and roll, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen! When we aren’t jamming to our favorite tunes, we are reciting the alphabet, counting or playing I spy.
On a ranch this big, there are pastures of all shapes and sizes, and most are pretty hilly. In order to let the cattle know their meal has arrived, we ring the dinner bell. The dinner bell is an obnoxiously loud siren. Obnoxious as it is, sounding the siren is actually a coveted task. It is such a sought after job, there has been fighting over who gets to do it, which provides an opportunity to learn about taking turns and sharing.
|A sight such as this, my son hand feeding heifer calves,
puts a pretty big smile on my face!
Before you know it, the pickup is being swarmed by a mob of cattle craving their favorite food. The number of head per pasture is around 700. So, at times, it can take a while to gather everyone. While we are waiting on the stragglers, we reward the prompt individuals with a little extra. However, there is a catch to getting extra cake – they have to be tame, mannerly and eat it out our hands.
After the entire herd has arrived, we serve up the rest of the cake. There are different methods for distributing cake, but I prefer to lay it out in a circular pattern, starting in the center and feeding around the cattle as they come in to eat. This method lets me get a good look at each animal. As I circle around them, I am checking for illness, injury and general condition. Once the cake has been delivered, we leave the cattle to it, and head off to the next task/adventure of the day.
So you see, caking, like cooking, is a process that ends in eating. But for me, caking is more than just feeding a group of cattle. It is a chance to interact with the animals, which I really enjoy. It gives me the opportunity to teach my kids the importance of caring for cattle, and things like their ABC’s, while spending quality time with them.
There are many joys in ranching, but none are quite like the joy of caking!