It’s bull sale time! Early spring always brings about bull sales so that ranchers can continue to improve their herds. Bulls are a big business, you have to have them in order to continue breeding cattle, they are kinda of an important part! Yesterday my husband decided it was time to start looking for a new bull for our herd, so he and his uncle traveled over an hour to a new bull producer’s sale, leaving the kids and I home to check the calving cows and clean house.
I love checking cows! I remember as a young girl begging and nagging my dad to take me out with him to check cows as much as I possibly could. I love the smell that cattle and warm hay mixed together produces, I love being outside in the crisp spring air, and I love watching the miracle of life! It’s such a rejuvenating thing to watch the birth of a new calf; watching as the wet little thing takes his or her first breaths while the momma licks them clean and dry. It’s life in it’s most pure, honest, and real state.
Yes, I have romanticized the whole thing just a bit. There are times when calving season can be heart breaking. Not all babies make it to summer pasture. Cows can miscarry and have complications just like humans. Babies can be born dead. They can also get sick, and they can die because of the weather. And I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a calf seriously injured or killed because of an abusive mother. Domestic abuse is not singular to the human race.
Ranching is an excellent lesson in life. You have to take the good with the bad, and I’m proud to say that my children are learning these lessons, just as my husband and I did. Ranch kids learn early on how to appreciate the beauty and miracle of new life, and just how precious and fragile life is. They also learn how to deal with death and loss, and that other life goes on, even if we ourselves do not.
After my husband left yesterday, the kids and I took care of our chicken chores and worked on laundry and dishes. I was in a bit of a spring cleaning mood, and my kitchen is now cleaner than it has been in months! Right after dinner my dad pulled into the yard and picked up the kids and I so we could check and feed the cows. My dad owns about two-thirds of the cattle that my husband and I care for, and he hadn’t seen them in a while so it was a treat to have him with us!
The five of us piled into his 1989 regular cab Chevy and proceeded to drive through all the calving cows. Two new calves had been born, and they were up and suckling. Good, strong, and healthy calves! After touring the rest of the herd we went back to the yard and filled the pickup box with “cake”.
“Cake” is a protein supplement that is fed to cattle. The cubes are a mix of protein and molasses, so they taste sweet to the cattle, and they act as if you were feeding them candy. We took the cake to the yearling heifers, our next generation of breeding cows. As we crested the hill to the meadow pasture where they are currently kept, the sound of the pickup brought all 125 head scrambling in our direction. Like children chasing the ice cream truck on a hot summer day, we were soon surrounded! My dad shut off the engine and helped my two older kids into the box of the pickup. Wading amongst the cake cubes, they giggled as Grandad told them to start pitching the cubes out for the cows.
As the cows licked the cubes from the ground, and a few even from the kids fingers, my dad told me that it was this that makes ranchers. The memories of caking and calving, and merely going along for the ride. These memories keep kids wanting to come back for more, and soon it is they, much like it now is me, who are taking their children along to do the ranching chores, too. My dad laughed and reveled in the kids excitement.
We moved on then to do the same with the yearling steers. These calves will soon go to market, so it is important for them to get the protein as well. The kids were able to help again. When getting back into the pickup after feeding the cake they told me how lucky they were, how they got to have way more fun than LM and I, since LM spent most of the trip napping in my lap!
What a wonderful day! We returned to the house in time to gather 6 eggs from the chickens and finish a bit more house work. After having so much fun out with the cows, no one was real thrilled about cleaning! My husband got home soon after, victorious in his efforts to get a new bull, and thankfully for a reasonable price. The kids filled him in on getting to feed cake and how much fun it had been, so we were all the more thrilled when we got to go back out, check cows, and move the mommies and new babies over to fresh pasture.
I am so happy to live where I do, raising my little ranch kids to be strong and responsible people. I don’t expect them to grow up and take over the ranch, I will love and support whatever decisions they make for their future. The life lessons they learn here are preparing them for whatever the world may throw at them, and at the same time preparing them to carry on the legacy of their parents and grandparents if they so choose.