Monday, October 27, 2014

The greedy rancher strikes out

Hey there blog readers, yes its me, the guy who never comes here anymore. No excuses, I will try to do better but will likely fail. Tonight I want to address something I often hear when people try to tear down agriculture both crop and livestock production. I often hear we are "greedy" and everything we do is all about the almighty $. Admittedly many of the aspects of what I do involves considering what makes the most sense related to $ return. What many fail to understand is often the best return on the $ is also the best environmental, social, animal welfare and sustainability choice for this particular ranch. I can also confidently say that yes I need to make money in what I do but $ are not always the be all to end all when decisions are made on this ranch. I will also say we sometimes make mistakes in decision making, but we always try to learn from those and improve as we move forward. My Dad used to tell me if you ever figure it all out you might as well quit because it wont be fun anymore.

 I am going to tell you a story today about a cow named "Striker". My youngest daughter Dakota waxes poetically about how Striker got her name, "because of her face markings and because I was a doofus back then!"  Back story is in December of 2006 I bought some "broken mouth" cow calf pairs. Broken mouth means a cow is getting on in years and some of her teeth are missing, in our country that means a cow is likely 10 years old or more. This was a group of 12 year old cows and had calves on them that had been born in October of that year. Striker was born in the fall of 2008 to one of these now 14 yearold cows. Striker was born with a bit of a twisted front leg, nothing bad but slightly noticeable. The twist in this leg became worse as she grew up and she eventually showed an issue in her back legs and hips as well. She had a terribly twisted limp but could get around on her own. What I loved about Striker was she was a fighter. She would get pushed away by other calves and more dominant cows but she never gave up her will to live and thrive. Because of this defect she had little to no value to sell so I just decided to let her grow up thinking maybe she could grow into beef for our own consumption. (Ok I can hear the animal rights activists already, calm your asses please.) Sometimes we do things for reasons like this song by Trace Atkins explains. 

So Striker grew up and when she should have been bred (pregnant) as a 2 year old she wasnt. In fact she was probably about only 60% of the size she should be. I decided that she would be given 6 more months to breed as honestly I couldnt face telling my wife or kids that she was going to become dinner. 6 months later didn't produce the results I had hoped. She had grown a bit, had made it through a tough winter but as far as my left arm could tell she was empty inside. In fact by my assessment she had very odd inside female parts and likely would never breed. A very tough decision to put her in the feedlot pen sometime soon to eat some grain for 90 days was made. After this feeding period she would be butchered.

On about day 88 of this feeding regimen Dakota and I stopped at the corrals one evening after dark to feed. In the dark I could see somehow a small calf had gotten into the feedlot as it came running out of the barn. I was cursing until Striker also came out of the barn, ran to the calf, and the calf began nursing her. WTF? Striker had birthed a healthy and as far as we could see defect free baby! Oh how Dakota squealed! Oh how I questioned my ability to "preg check" cattle. (Admittedly I am no Veterinarian) So Striker raised her calf to weaning, and from a weaning vs. body weight standpoint did a whale of a job! 

Now the reality of the story. Strikers same aged counterparts that are still here have each raised 4 calves at this point and are currently raising their 5th. Striker has only raised 2. Economically she has not been a shining star but that being said, she is very small, has little value with her defect, and lives in about a 5 acre area of the home pasture year round on little to nothing. Yes I admit she is consuming forage that could go to a more productive cow but to my original point it isnt all about the $ all the time! Friday I gathered all the cows and calves in the pasture to do some sorting and weaning. These were spring calving cows with big calves that are ready to be weaned. Striker was off in her normal secluded spot and with her severe limp I saw no need to bring her in. I did however check on her Friday afternoon. What I found led to taking Dakota and Christine out to the pasture Friday evening.

 With todays cattle market this little coupon will go a LONG way to understanding Mother Nature isn't always perfect, females of any species can steal your heart, and life has a way of paying off in many ways and sometimes you make some money! Welcome to the world little bull calf, if you have half the heart and drive of your momma you will be something to watch grow. 
As we continue this journey of life we will still be true to my grandparents, parents and my own goals. We will raise real world cattle to help feed the world,we will do our best to care for our land and our animals, we will work to make a profit to sustain our operation while teaching our children about Mother Nature while showing them a work ethic. We will also as my Dad used to so eloquently say, "Have some damn fun!" 

Thank you all that frequent this blog. In my constant search for outlaw country music with twang and lyric richness I bring you Dry County with "Waitin on Hank" All pictures can be viewed full size by clicking on them!

 "An were waitin on Hank to come on back, to lay a little senior boot to ass, and let the A and R man know he's takin this way too far. You don't pee with the puppies and crap in the big dogs yard!" 



Jenna Bissonette said...

This was just what I needed to read. I hope it finds way to many as we all need more of this kind of reading in our lives. The kind that reminds us we do not hold all of the power. You had the power to keep giving her life and she has continued to surpass all expectations of and give back in more ways than one! Well done Larry!