Ranching Blog: Year In Review

Ranching Blog: Year In Review

Looking back on a good year's work

hobbled ranch horse (Jenn Zeller photo)

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By Jenn Zeller

Here’s a little recap of how my 2017 played out. I have so enjoyed sharing my perspective, and showing you how we do things here on our ranch in South Dakota. I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It’s always nice to have time to enjoy your friends and family.

We finished our Fall cattle work over Thanksgiving weekend. The weather was gorgeous for pregnancy testing the cows, and weaning the heifers. A rather healthy looking coyote came to visit, and watch from afar while we worked. Maybe he’s responsible for the thinning of my chicken flock! The Scoundrel. One of my favorite cows turned up open which means she has to go to town. I always hate when that happens.

Quiet Weaning rings are our tool of choice for weaning the replacement heifers. They allow the babies to go back out with mom, but don’t allow them to suckle her. Her milk dries up but they still have the security of being near her. When you get them home to the corrals for the winter, the pens are very quiet, as they’ve learned to not depend on sustenance from their mamas.


Our colts are growing big, and we’re sure looking forward to our annual “naming party”.  The family gets together to have supper, look at photos of the babies, and brainstorm clever registered names for them.  Of the 10 babies we raised this year, nine were fillies! The one remaining project we have, besides naming them, is weaning them. We don’t typically start foaling until May 15th, so we usually try to wean around Christmas. That makes Christmas even more joyous -- having babies in the corrals to rub whenever we want!


My rodeo season began in March, and ended the first weekend of November. Both my first rodeo of 2017 and last rodeo of 2017 I drove out in a snowstorm. But, I live in South Dakota, so that’s often to be expected. Nine states and few checks later, I’ll admit, I am glad to be home. Big yella got his shoes pulled two weeks after we finished up. He’s enjoying his vacation, mark my words.

As we roll into Winter, the horses and cows find themselves fuzzier and (mostly) fatter.  Though we’ve started moving our older saddle horses into what we call the “senior citizen” pen. They get their own trap to live in for the winter, complete with free choice alfalfa hay and senior feed.  There will be about 4-5 hard keepers, including one coming eighteen year old broodmare. She’s worth it. Her colts are so awesome.

This year wasn’t without its share of ups and downs as ranching is apt to be.  We lost one of my good mares, and had a stallion end up with a fractured jaw. Apparently, one of the girls must’ve thought he was making inappropriate advances!  He’s has spent about three months on senior feed only. Just in the past two weeks has he been allowed to eat hay. He lost three teeth in the ordeal and should go back for his last appointment in two weeks. It’s a day trip, seeing as how the vet clinic we use is three hours away -- one drawback to living in the middle of nowhere! 

Life has been good to us this year. My hope is that it’s been good to you too.

May this year bring you more fun and good fortune than you had in 2017. Cheers to good horses, fat cattle and tall grass!

Happy Trails.

Jenn Zeller is an aspiring horseman, photographer, freelance writer, barrel racer and collector of horses and chickens. She resides in South Dakota on the DX Ranch, a third-generation cattle ranch where the family raises Angus and Brangus cows, as well as Quarter Horses. Contact her at jennifer@thesouthdakotacowgirl.com.