Cows look so nice, grazing in their pasture or loafing around inside the barn. The picture of bucolic country life. Ahhh.
But Mr. Hyde typically emerges when you need to sort them for any reason.
Sorting cattle is stressful for the humans who are in with the herd, trying to get this one to go that way, and that one to go this way, and also for the cattle, who know something is up, but can’t quite figure out what to do besides mill around and froth.
But this time something happened. Maybe it’s because we’ve been working with the herd more – not intentionally, but calves being sold here, a few steers to the butcher there. Maybe it’s because the half-crazy cow left (to return as tasty hamburger in the freezer) and the herd calmed down. Or maybe because we had fantastic help and/or didn’t try to rush the sorting process. Whatever it was, the momma cows filed out with only a few cases of pushing and shoving, and the bull and the steers trotted into the pen easier than in a long time. The younger calves were running around, but ended up running in the opposite direction of the bull & steers, so no one got penned up who shouldn’t have (let my husband tell you how much fun that is – trying to sort out a frantic calf from frantic steers, all with momma cow bellowing on the other side of the gate).
Saturday, the bull will be on his way to his “other home” for 6 months, and Monday, one steer has a date with the butcher. We’ll turn the other two (a steer and a yearling bull) back out, then re-collect them in the fall for processing. And do the process all over again.
Once a year, we sort out the 5-8 month old calves to band for steers and pen up to sell to people who want ot have a cow for their own herd or want to feed a steer out for beef.
There is a process: pen all the herd in the barn, sort out the cows that stay, run the calves into a pen, run them out one at a time to be weighed, then ear tagged and banded (if it’s a bull calf). Of course, that’s a simplified version of the process. And there are so many variables – weather, number of people helping, and not least, the calves themselves. Some are calm, some are feisty, some can be downright mean.
This year, we got them penned up and the first few got through the process with minimal fuss, for calves. We have some new tools that make the process safer and more efficient, and those tools were working.
Then the wheels fell off. Long story short, we stopped the process because someone was going to get hurt. The 8 calves for sale are still penned up with all the hay they can eat, and have calmed down a lot since this afternoon.
In the end, we’re all a little bruised and a lot sore. We’ll take what happened this year, make adjustments for next year, and do it all over again. Cattle (heck, running a farm in general) keep us on our toes in more ways than one, because there are always things we can’t control, from birth to sale.
It’s pretty quiet out there now. Some of the momma cows are a little uncomfortable, if they were still nursing one of these calves, and the calves themselves aren’t sure what just happened. But they have a load of hay, so eating will keep them busy. And we’ll see what it all looks like in the morning.
And a giant thanks for our family and friends who came over to help – it does take a village!
While it is possible to do, there are very few people who manage to establish complete self-sufficiency, and it is my belief that such an effort is counter-productive and, in many ways, wrong. Perhaps a better term for the effort I advocate is “local-sufficiency” because I believe that it really does take a village to make […] Continue reading →
While it is possible to do, there are very few people who manage to establish complete self-sufficiency, and it is my belief that such an effort is counter-productive and, in many ways, wrong. Perhaps a better term for the effort I advocate is “local-sufficiency” because I believe that it really does take a village to make things work the way they should.
In our efforts to establish things like sustainability, resource sovereignty, and long-term readiness, we have to realize we cannot do everything. Part of what we must do is build communities of people all working toward those common goals; communities that build on individual strengths and buttress individual weaknesses.
Unfortunately, Americans are a stubbornly independent lot, and we tend to think the pinnacle of success is “going it alone.” It is my experience that such thoughts are often a recipe for failure at the best and for disaster at the worst.
Instead of trying to make ourselves independent from everyone, we should be working to pick who we are dependent on and to develop relationships that can sustain us regardless of circumstances. In order to do so, however, such an idea requires us to rethink how we approach almost everything we do.
We have to identify the things we are good at, the things we do well enough to help others, and the things we won’t or can’t do ourselves. We have to identify that there are things we do right now that don’t work and find ways to do them better.
Once we do, we will realize how much of the way we approach life right now is inefficient, wasteful, and just plain wrong. It is at that point that we can look around us at our relationships and communities and start building the kinds of networks necessary for sustainable, sovereign, ready lives.
And once we do so, we will discover that we will have freed ourselves from so many of the problems that have dominated the last half of the 20th and first part of the 21st centuries. Such liberation should be something we all strive for.
Read more at my Farming blog...