My dad had the opportunity to start a cow herd for a guy back in the early 90s. He traveled to many auctions and special cow sales, having his pick at the heifers and young cows. Every had cattle of every kind and color. Registered Brangus, Herefords, Brahmans, Simmental, and so many more. Back then I remember well the Charolais and Gray Brahman bulls, in particular Ole Joe the Brahman that was more of a pet than most. Those F1-cross heifers we had were awesome. I've always loved those tiger stripe cows, but they can be wilder than a jack rabbit. More times than not, those six-foot fences are no challenge when it comes to the spring and fall gatherings.
With more than 1,200 cows in the herd, for some reason or another there was always orphaned dogie calves, and I was just the person to bottle feed and raise em up. There were several cold winter nights where we would have the office kitchen full of little black calves laid out on a straw bed. Mom was not impressed. We'd warm em up, fill em up, and take em back to their mothers who were none too smart to have left em in a muddy ditch or snow bank.
|One of my Angus show cows in her later days with an Angus steer calf at side.|
There was one particular dogie calf that I remember well. In the Back Barn Pasture to the Southwest, we had a ole red baldy cow, 9-months pregnant get down in the pasture. The Vet came out a few times and did his thing, but she still wasn't able to stand. So after she calved, we had to put her down, but I got a shiny black heifer calf out of the deal. I took her home, fed her up and decided to take her to the county fair the next fall. It was only my second year to participate in the show, and my commercial heifer was going to be the best, until I saw all the fancy club heifers I was competing against. My heifer, whom I had dubbed "Lil Sue", placed Reserve Grand in the show, which I thought wasn't bad at all for a lil dogie heifer.
|The barn and lot behind the house where I raised my bottle calves and spent hours on end until mom whistled for me at supper time.|
I kept that heifer around and let her raise some calves for me. All of my bottle calves were gentle as dogs and Lil Sue was no exception. I could run out to the pasture throw a halter on her, and lead her around. Heck, I could even run out, jump on her back, and she'd do a lil dance around the pasture. I'd pretend I was on the back of a wild bull, jump off, and throw my hat like ole Lane Frost had done.
Lil Sue was so gentle that there was no way we were getting her into the chute for her spring and fall vaccinations. I'd try twistin her tail and leadin her with the halter, but she wasn't leaving the cubes or hay in the corral. I'd just throw the halter on her and tie her to the fence so dad could give her shots, then let her resume her work on the feed pile while we worked the other cattle. One day dad got the hot shot after her so she would go in the chute. I threw a fit about him hurtin my cow, but it really did nothing more than tell her to get off her haunches and get with the program. It sure didn't make her any less gentle, and these days she knows what we want when we tell her to get in the chute.
|Lil Sue doesn't run and buck across the field much anymore, but she'll still give me a good lickin when I show up with a feed bucket full of cubes.|
Ole Lil Sue will be 10 years old this Fall. She's had me a calf every 11 months, just like clock-work, and now her teeth are wearin short. I've always said that ole cow will never leave the hill pasture, but she's not keeping condition this Fall, and the other day I told dad to do what he thinks best with her. I really don't know if he's decided to sell her yet, but there's no sense in makin her go through the winter if she won't keep condition. That's the way things work at the end of the day. She may have been my biggest pet while growing up, and at times by biggest source of entertainment, but she's still a cow. We're in the cattle business, and they are our food and income source.
That's a fact of life I learned at an early age on the ranch. To everything there is give and take. I love these cattle more than most things in life. I love the lifestyle of the cattle industry, the people that we meet in the business, and the experiences I have raising the livestock. But at the end of the day, cattle are to provide us with healthy, wholesome food. So I'll care for em with great pride, knowing that one day these animals will provide the food on someone's plate.