Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: Ranching another year
The other day we were sorting cows from calves in an alleyway when one of the cows kicked me. It was a perfect anti-human move. The cow turned around, jumped up and hit me, then got some traction against my leg to launch herself out the gate.
Take that stupid bi-ped.
All the cow lacked was a karate yell. The kick was so well executed that I went and hung on the fence for a bit to contemplate the cow’s skill at martial arts. I looked back and my daughter was grinning from ear to ear. There’s no misery in the world that doesn’t bring a smile to somebody’s face.
Considering all the mishaps that can occur when shipping calves, getting kicked is pretty tame. This year when we shipped we got good weather, a great crew to help and high prices. The calves even weighed better than we expected. I hardly cared we were shipping a month early. The fact that we had an extremely dry spring, and a massive hail storm that ruined thousands of acres of grazing land, did tarnish the glow of success we otherwise might have felt. It felt good just to be a survivor this year. The prize for doing enough things right when ranching is that you’re allowed to do it all again the next year.
We will be a long time recovering from this drought. The range will recover a lot quicker than our cow numbers. I sent some cows to a farm we leased for the winter. This is a new experience for me, as we have always been able to stay on our own range until this year. I will worry more about these cows than the others left at home. Range cows might have trouble adapting to farm life. I am sure to have nightmares about the cows getting out on the highway and running through the nearest subdivision causing mayhem. Then conversely, I worry that a winter on a farm will spoil them. Teaching them to live without sagebrush or cactus might not be a good idea. These cows will never be the same after such lush feed.
I certainly hope that the cow that kicked me didn’t get to go to this paradise. Hauling her home would give her one more chance to kick me.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News