Sunday, April 14, 2013

Life's hard (little victories)

Life on a farm is often tragic—the specter of death a constant companion. Nature claims animals without qualm; the calf, foal, or kid goat that fails to rise and nurse in a matter of hours usually dies.
Livestock are raised for their flesh, meaning near certain death by slaughter if they survive all else. Just this week I sent 7 goats, 48 calves, 31 cull cows and a bull to the auction. One of the cows was a Jersey milk cow named Smiley.

Smiley had ample and good tasting milk a few years back and was one of my favorites but has failed to breed since. I had her palpated while the cowboys were here only to learn she had cysts in her reproductive tract preventing her from conceiving. Lamentably, I made the decision to send her to to the sale.

The lone bull was also a Jersey, Bully, we called him. Bully did his job, and part of that job was protecting what he considered his harem of milk cows. Problem is, Bully was too good at his job. Bully greeted anyone and everyone approaching his paddock with a bowed neck and a bulging eye. If that didn’t obtain the desired result, he’d beller and begin pawing the ground. If you crossed the fence, chances were good he’d attack. People stayed the hell out of his pen.

A few months back, Bully broke through a fence and trapped a woman and two daughters inside a mobile home after butting their car and tearing at an A/C window unit with his one short horn.
I lured Bully back into the pasture with a sack of feed. Another neighbor’s property butts up to the dairy cow paddock. I’ve seen visiting grandchildren in that yard and I’ve seen Bully starie them down.

While I had made an uneasy pact of sorts with the bull—he’d let me come and go out of a combination of fear and trust—I couldn’t take the chance that he might again escape the confines of his trap and hurt someone.
So I violated our truce and sent him to certain death.

Three of the cows we culled left behind small calves (two of the three represent a mistake on my part). I spent a good portion of the day yesterday trying to get them to suck a nurse cow. One nursed, the other two did not. We forced milk into their bellies with a bottle, but not without difficulty.
This morning, all three calves nursed.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was.

Another young bull slated for slaughter took Bully’s place in the pasture; death for the one meant a reprieve for the other.
One of our dogs, Missy, arrived at the house this morning with a four inch gash in her abdomen, probably the result of a boar’s tusk. Leah packed her up and took her to the veterinarian. The prognosis of survival is good.

Tim Ervin, my race horse trainer, called to tell me that Dust Bowl Diva, my best racing prospect, was exhibiting signs that could be colic. She responded to a shot of Banamine delivered by a veterinarian and should be OK in a day or two. She may have to carry the financial burden of a lot of other horses and even me and my family—only the really fast ones make money and she is really fast.
Life is hard. Little victories make it a bit more tolerable.




  1. Love your blog. As a dumb dairy farmer in So MO scratching out a so called living, I love knowing I'm not the only one! Keep up the good work!

    1. I too like knowing others are similarly afflicted.