Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mother Nature can make mistakes

Some nights when I think about this blog and what to write I am torn in two directions. If I talk about all the great things I am able to witness everyday and all the joy I get to experience will it make ranching look like it is something easy to do? It is not easy, but it can be very rewarding in ways much more wonderful than economic. The other side of the coin is talking about the difficult things you sometimes face in a given day. It is certainly not always difficult but sometimes the difficulties, just like the rewards are striking and tear you up inside. I will tell you now that today’s blog may be somewhat difficult to read. If you have a hard time facing the sometimes tough things in life you may want to stop reading now.

I also said from the beginning of this blog that I would be open and honest about this life and the great and difficult parts of it. I think as I take you through the events of today you will get a great idea of how for everything wonderful, there are sometimes trade offs. I had a busy day planned so I was up before the sun and first went to check and feed the special needs cows. I prefer to do most feeding later in the day but circumstances dictated that today would be a bit different. I fed the special needs cows and fall pairs, tagged one new calf and all that went well.

I then fed and checked the babysitter cows and yearlings and that was uneventful as well. I came back to the house and worked on budget and other paperwork things until mid morning. As it is when doing anything related to finances there was some good points as well as some not so good points. I then headed into Connell to pick up Dakota from school. Dakota received straight A’s last semester and I wanted her to spend the afternoon with me at the bull test station in Prosser. I think education is important but as my dad used to say you do not want “skool lernin” to get in the way of something educational. That’s why she was going with me today. If I had known what the day would bring I may have reconsidered.

It was a beautiful day and after we got some burgers to go in town we headed to Basin City to feed and check the main group of cows. Dakota and I had some great laughs at the frolicking calves and she was excited about some of the more recent calves she had not yet seen. We then drove to a cow that was by herself and had a new calf. 5909g had a beautiful heifer calf and despite her loud bellowing protests we got the calf tagged. We then found cow 5934g who is one of the family favorites. She also had a great, beautifully marked heifer calf that was more difficult to catch and tag but we completed the task just the same. We drove through the main group to look for 9927g who I was sure was close to calving. She was not in the group so we started searching.

We found the cow below a basalt rock outcropping with a new calf on the ground. By first appearances everything looked fine. We even stopped and made an ear tag for the calf and filled a syringe with selenium to give the calf. We drove up close to the recent mother and child and I jumped out to catch and tag the calf. Sometimes newborn calves will just stay still or at least not jump up and run away. That is what this black bull calf did. I applied the tag and was getting ready to inject the selenium when I noticed something that turned my stomach.

I do not know why and I may never know but I will try and find out and let you know the results at a later date of why this calf had the issue it did. The calf had a terrible deformity in its spine and one rear leg. The spine was normal about half the length of the back, and then had a huge U shape in it before continuing to its tail, the spine was not broken. One rear leg was also terribly twisted. I noticed the cow had not yet been suckled and although I knew the answer I tried to stand the calf up. The moment I lifted the calf up my heart sank and as I looked at Dakota I could already see the tears coming because she knew as much as I did.

As I have said before Mother Nature can be so beautiful and inspiring. Mother Nature can sometimes also be cruel and seemingly uncaring. This was a situation where it seemed to be the latter. This is where it is sometimes hard to be open and honest in a public setting but as many joyous moments that I have shared here I suppose honesty about the difficulties warrant the same treatment. This calf was never going to rise from the ground on its own. This calf was never going to walk. This calf was never going to be able to suckle from its mothers teats. One thing though that this calf was not going to experience any longer was its suffering and frustration. I will not go into to detail but I promise you the end was quick, humane and complete.

I then held my teen in my arms and told her how much I loved her and how sorry I was that she had to witness the struggling calf. As we drove on to Prosser today to help ultrasound the bulls at the test station we talked about both the beauty of this life and the sadness of it. We both agreed that although life is not perfect in a rancher’s world, we still are able to witness much more joy and happiness in life than suffering and death. For that we are truly thankful.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the California Quail aka Callipepla californica.

Today’s picture is of “Precious” aka 0302w. This is Dakotas’s favorite calf and her picture appears today for obvious reasons.