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The learning value of fixing a tractor

There’s no point looking at the negative — STAY POSITIVE

Insulated tarps and a heater made tractor repairs possible even when temperatures dipped to -30 C.

Our family has managed to almost bring another production cycle to a successful close. There are a few things we have learned and a few that we are still learning. One of them is how to start a tractor.

Our tractor is reassembled but not moving. Thankfully there are very kind diesel mechanics in this world that are more than willing to teach a young man that is willing to learn. Where there hasn’t been a human, there has been YouTube. Through all this we have had neighbours that have allowed us to use their machinery to care for our stock, so that has also been a lesson. There is never a good deed that goes undone.

Another lesson has been to just wait and not allow ourselves to become discouraged or give up. The second that starts to happen it is best to walk away from the tractor, do another job, clear our minds and then when able to think again go back.

How this tractor ever ran before it broke is amazing. The bearing spun, the control arm needed replacing, the starter motor needed to be rebuilt, the battery died, the injectors needed to be replaced, the injection pump had to be rebuilt and now we just need to fine tune. This is all on a machine that was running, so we are confused. A reader pointed out to me that 20 years ago without the (learning tools of the) Internet this project would have been nearly impossible. Our challenge for now has been getting the whole machine warm enough.

A friend that has warmed trucks in the Yukon brought insulated tarps and diesel heaters. It was possible to have 40 C temps under this tarp when the outside temp was -30 C or more. This has helped us keep the men safe from freezing on cold metal also.

Positive livestock side

The other success our farm had was shipping our lambs to Tony Atkinson. With all the issues 2016 lambing season had it was a definite blessing to have enough hundred-pound lambs for him to want them. The cost of weight gain was minimal since pastures were good till late in the fall. Everything went well and we were happy with the price and service and very much looking forward to next lambing. The price was $1.65 a pound, which was a bit down, but because the lambs had weight behind them the farm will see a profit on sheep this year, which we are grateful for considering the number of lambs we lost in the spring.

Our beef calves were also well received at Ashern Auction Mart this year. Our average price for a 500-pound calf was over $900 so we are happy. The price of hay actually went down; the price of A1 Nutritional liquid has stayed the same. Hopefully this tractor will get over its downtime soon and the cattle will start their next production cycle.

Our goats also had a successful year. We sold all our meat kids before it snowed for $1.75/ pound, which for a 60-pound kid worked out to $105, and all cull does for $100 each. A goat costs us about $90/year to keep; this year expenses were a bit less because our bush pasture was ready a month earlier, so again we made a profit. Our goal is to sustain a higher live-kid weaning average per doe. This has been stuck at 1.5 per doe for a number of years, so much of our winter planning is going to be put into increasing that to at least 1.7.

It really does pay to take a bit of time to reflect but not to focus on the negative side. Our theory is increase the positive and the negative will naturally fade. There is no room for it. There are feeds, pastures, management that worked very well for us and there were some that didn’t.

Fencing was a huge issue for us this year. Our cattle were out a lot, but the day we rounded up we discovered there was a cinnamon bear that had been pushing through where our problem was the worst. The question now is how to deal with this.

The fence will be repaired but do we need a guardian dog on that pasture? It being a cattle pasture there was no loss other than time, but before a small ruminant can be in that area we must be sure the bears are not using it for hunting. These and many other questions will be discussed over a hot cup of tea in the warmth of our living room before calving starts for 2017 and the year gallops away again.

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