Lydia BechtelDealing with death on the farm or ranch is never easy.
Life and death are things you learn about an early age growing up on a farm or ranch. Over the weekend, I was reminded of the importance of those lessons.
On Friday, during my trip home as I rounded the curves of the gravel road near the Bechtel Ranch cow pasture, I stopped. I stopped not just to watch the sunset and take pictures of my “girls,” but also to be sure that no calves were on the ground yet.
Much to my surprise, I found a calf nursing one of our cows about a quarter of a mile into the pasture. It only looked like a small black blob in my digital camera, but I knew it was the first calf of the year.
Saturday morning, I made my routine ride through the cows and to tag the new baby. No luck finding the calf. The mother, #1007, must have had the newborn hidden in the grass, so I just had to come back before sunset.
I made my way back to pasture and there was the new baby standing with #1007. After a little tango with the cow and the calf-hook, I was able to tag our newest addition, a black bull calf weighing around 65 pounds.
Sunday morning wasn’t so joyous. Upon arriving to the pasture, I found two cows standing together away from the herd. One was #1007 with no sight of her calf, the other was #1001. I wasn’t too worried about #1007’s calf as I believed she had it hidden, so I moved on to examining #1001.
She just had a calf; unfortunately, it was dead before my arrival. There was nothing I could do at this point but remove the lifeless bull calf from the pasture and perhaps do a necropsy. I felt terrible thinking of what possibly could have gone wrong.
Could I have been out there sooner checking the cows and possibly caught the problem? Did I use bulls with not enough calving ease or too high of birth weight EPDs? Did I cause a genetic defect to occur in our herd by using similar genetics?
All of these scenarios and more ran through my head as I drove back to the house with the lifeless calf. To say the least, it was a bumpy ride not just through the pasture, but emotionally. I had my father, who is a veterinarian, look the calf over and we came to the conclusion that #1001 just took too long having the calf. We weighed the calf because he was a bit larger than #1007’s and he came in at 75 lbs., an average weight. I’ll have to come to a decision this October before we turn out our bulls if I want to keep #1001 around, but for now I’ve got 75 other cows to worry about.