Sherry Andrews photo

RANCH MUSINGS: If there is one book about beef cattle, this is it

Written by Heather Smith Thomas, in its third edition, titled Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle

If there is one book about beef cattle to read, it is published by Storey Publishing in the U.S. and it has been around since 1998.

Written by Heather Smith Thomas, it is now in its third edition, titled Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle.

Heather Smith Thomas has contributed to hundreds of journals, including a column in the Canadian Beef magazine which shows she is regarded highly here in Canada as well as in her native U.S.

If you are not a book learner and prefer to learn with other people, there is a course at Thompson Rivers University and it provides a credit course as part of the diploma program: Applied Sustainable Ranching which will give you a great introduction to the business.

You need to show up or log in to the weekly seminars if you want credit, but most of the course is home study requiring up to 25 hours a week, plus on the ground experience, which is available if you want it and can match up with a mentor rancher.

Call TRU in Williams Lake for information.

READ MORE: Hopes for the New Year, beyond dirt

The average herd of beef cattle farmers in Canada is around 60 head. This book is good if you have one beef animal or 1,000.

Among her pearls of wisdom as recognized by Baxter Black, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine are:

•Purchase a calm animal

• Never make a pet out of a young bull

• Leave your dogs at home

• Be there for every birth

• No strange smells in the barn

• Don’t wash your coat

Heather has been a rancher for over 40 years in Idaho. She is 75-plus years old and still going strong as far as I know.

She interviews researchers, breeders and specialists around the US and Canada. In my view, she knows whereof she speaks.

Credible new information on cattle production practices will be published in either the Canadian Beef magazine or the Stockman’s Grass Farmer from the U.S.

Especially for beginners, the series of books published by Storey ( include all the basic livestock. They even have a book on maintaining farm machinery.

I can give one good example Thomas has in her book: an age-old technique for putting a cow on the ground simply by placing a non-choking noose around the neck and then half hitching the rope twice behind the front legs and then in front of the udder. The rope is on top of the cow.

By pulling hard from the back, the cow will go down on the ground (where it is safe, not in a chute).

The animal can then be worked on for various procedures. I have done it myself. I learned it from a fellow rancher who in turn had learned it from an old timer.

This would be especially useful for those small ranchers who don’t have proper cattle handling facilities, although you do need to be able to get the rope around the cow three times.

Even older hands can learn new tricks. Storey’s guides are full of these kinds of things.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

Do you have a comment about this story? email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID19: 94th Williams Lake Stampede officially cancelled for 2020 due to pandemic

Stampede directors hope to host a community event in the fall if possible

VIDEO: Big Lake Elementary School staff and student enjoy drive by

Principal Holly Zurak enjoyed putting together a video

Williams Lake movie theatre popcorn sale event to see 100 per cent proceeds for Salvation Army

‘People are missing their movie popcorn,’: Paradise Cinemas owner David Hothi

COVID-19: Williams Lake eyes possible relief measures for businesses

Staff will draft a bylaw and write a letter to the provincial government about tax relief

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

B.C. asking companies to contribute through online COVID-19 supply hub

New platform to co-ordinate, source, expedite supplies and equipment to support front-line workers

Controls can keep Canadian COVID-19 deaths under 22,000, health agency says

With poor containment measures, the death toll could be much, much higher, the agency says

People needing addictions services feel ‘abandoned’ during pandemic, B.C.’s ex-top doctor says

Widespread job losses and more homelessness due to physical distancing at shelters have added hurdles

Canada lost 1,011,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate up to 7.8%: StatCan

Unemployment rate hits levels not seen since 2010

COVID-19 world update: 6.6 million U.S. jobless claims; alcohol sales banned in Bangkok

Comprehensive digest of coronavirus news items from around the world

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Most Read