February 3, 2015

Saved From Becoming Hamburger

A few years ago when we first bought this place we bought 46 old cows, because that was what we could afford. There was a drought that first summer and one old cow went down in the corner of a pasture near a water tank. She was stifled. That is when the stifle joint in one of the back legs goes bad and she has a hard time walking or can't walk at all. She couldn't even get up. Her calf was a really big heifer that hung out nearby. With the Ranch Hand gone that week it was up to me to get her home. It was the first time I had to ask for help from a neighbor. That's when I learned I have some really good neighbors, and they've rescued me on a few more occasions.

Somehow we got this old cow loaded onto a hay hauling trailer. We hauled her home and came back for the calf later. We tried for a few days to get her up, but to no avail. It was over the 4th of July and so hot. I hauled water to her three or four times a day, and sprayed her down with the hose. She didn't make it and I was left to take care of her calf. Surprisingly it kept growing and looked good by the time it came to pick some replacements. Normally it wouldn't be the best to keep an orphaned calf, in case they haven't developed enough to breed. But the Ranch Hand had pity on me and my emotional attachment to the calf. 306 bred, got a new number, 206, and gave us a big steer for a first calf heifer. Then this fall when we were preg-checking, she came up open, (not pregnant). It's common for heifers to breed, but getting them to breed back the second year is tougher. She was among some other second calvers that didn't breed back. Of those cows, she was the only one that had started cycling again. Which means the others wouldn't ever be productive cows, but maybe she just had some bad luck.  Nonetheless, all cows that don't breed don't stay in the herd. It costs money to keep them around, and if they aren't producing a calf to bring in the money to pay for themselves, they have to go. We decided to keep one to butcher since our ground beef was getting low. 206  was chosen because she weighed the most.

I made the appointment at the butcher, left her with some heifer calves that were getting corn every day, and tried not to "see" her when I fed them. Well, from the picture you can tell that she sort of stands out a bit... :) Friendly little lady, because I'd taken care of her for so long. Not a cow that will take you out when you tag her calf. I just kept reminding myself that this is a business and we need the meat.  It would all be fine. I'd mix it up with the old and I'd never know I was eating this cow....

Then the night before the butcher date, the Ranch Hand says, "Do you think maybe we should keep 206? That's the calf our daughter took a picture of and it ended up in the Friend magazine. Plus, don't you have some emotional attachment to her?"

I was confused. Here I had been trying to be strong and make the best "business" decision, and now the Ranch Hand wants to keep an open cow?! Of course I wanted to keep her! It would cost a little money to keep her, but she could stay on the home place all summer while the other cows are on leased ground. Cattle are expensive right now, so maybe it's a good decision to keep an animal and try again instead of buying another to replace her.

So 206, you've been saved. And I've been saved from becoming a vegetarian. I will NEVER EVER AGAIN attempt to keep animals to butcher that I am emotionally attached to!

Thank you Ranch Hand, for showing your sensitive side... it doesn't happen often, but we'll take it when it does!

I know I'm gonna pay for that remark.

 Looks like I'll need to put her tag back in!

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