Sunday, May 7, 2017

Some things I left out





First of all, just an update on the calf with a brain injury.


He died in the night. Yesterday he seemed to show a few promising signs but also some not-so-promising signs. My plan for today -- if he had made it through the night and seemed to be making even a tiny bit of progress -- was to suspend him in a sling rig with his feet in contact with the ground. Rather like this.
Stolen from the interwebs.

Only in a barn, and not with a human baby.

The idea was to see if he could figure out how to stand. If he could stand, then maybe he'd be able to learn to walk and to get up and down by himself. I thought it would be worth a try. He'd probably never be a "normal" calf, but if he was alive and alert and able to move around, maybe he'd be okay.

It's important to keep a couple of things in mind. Firstly his destiny, had he survived, was to eventually be slaughtered and turned into food. Secondly, calves are my cash crop, the commodity I produce to trade for money to sustain my life and lifestyle. So there's a two-way profit motive in there. I can't sell a dead calf, so I have a motive to keep calves alive. Equally important, though, if I overspend my profit in keeping a single calf alive, I'll go out of business. So that profit thing is always in the background (and not that far back!) when these kind of situations arise.

Now for me, I believe that I have a responsibility to the animals I own, to provide for their well being and to prevent them from suffering. To be a principled, ethical and moral man, I believe that the well being of my livestock has to come first. But the money thing is an adviser in the decision making. It's not that I'm some kind of holy-man-provider-of-life. Far from it. I have to look at each situation and weigh up all the possible courses of action, then pick one based on a best match with both principles and profit in mind. There's never a single best answer. I don't always make the best possible decision. I don't doubt that in some cases, other people would make better decisions. Maybe even in most cases.

Back to the calf, and to something I left out. Yesterday about noon the cow gave up on him. She left him where he lay and rejoined the rest of the herd at the other end of the pasture. It's no use judging her. I'm not a cow. She is. Something told her that the calf was a lost cause. Most of the time in cases like this the cow has a better understanding of reality than the man.

The man, however, saw that the calf was still alive and alert, and appeared to be completely normal except for the whole getting up thing. So I picked him up and took him to the barn. I put him down on a soft bed of hay, then tube fed him again and worked with him a bit to see if he was gaining strength in or control of his legs. He seemed a tiny bit better, but not much, and my assessment of progress was probably just wishful thinking. That's when I decided I'd sling him in the morning. If he was still alive.

This morning, of course, he was dead. While I was sad that he'd died, I was also very grateful that I wasn't going to have to put him down. It's just a very hard thing to do. It's my responsibility, and one that I'll never shirk, but one that I'm happy to leave to nature so long as there's no suffering going on.

I've whined a bit in the last two posts about how heavy my responsibility is. In a way it is heavy and there's nothing wrong with explaining it. But as with most things in life, it's both a plus and a minus. The negative part is self evident. The positive part is extremely valuable. I have the opportunity to develop my principles and also the opportunity to be tested according to those principles. Not everyone is so lucky. On balance it's a plus by several orders of magnitude.

I took the little guy to a high terrace out in the middle of a pasture far south of where the cows and calves are presently located. Over the next few weeks and months nature will reclaim his component molecules. He'll return to us in the grasses and forbs that flourish at his resting place over the next fifty years or more.

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Day before yesterday I described a hike I took. I think I mentioned that I wasn't feeling all that hot, and that I have a theory that working through those small patches is the path to improvement.

I haven't changed my mind. But what I left out the other day was how much parts of the hike sucked.

First of all, I was wearing the wrong boots. Work boots instead of hiking boots. They're perfectly good for being on your feet most of the day while working in the great outdoors. But they're not up to hiking the prairie, which is a lot more kinetic at the human-earth interface than you might imagine.

My feet held up pretty well for four miles, but the last two-and-a-half miles were quite painful. So that sucked.

The other part that sucked was the way I felt as my body ran low on blood sugar and began metabolizing fat. The way you feel when that happens is tired. My leg muscles felt really, really tired after the two mile mark. This isn't a pleasant feeling. It turns the hike from enjoyable exercise into awful drudgery. That sucked. It was a good workout and I made progress, but it sucked.

Today I hiked again and did another 6.5 miles. Despite some residual soreness in my feet I felt really good overall. I took a slightly different route with a bit more verticality and more challenging hills. I ran low on blood sugar at the two mile mark again. I got tired again. But not as tired. The hike was very enjoyable, though not easy or pain free. It was a good one though.

I hide my keys away from the pickup. You never know what some knothead might do.


Here's the east tunnel. Those are barn swallow nests.


And the east windmill and shallow cattle tunnel. Note the barn swallows exiting.


Here's a good view of grazed and ungrazed brome grass. Go cows!


Prairie rose. A ubiquitous prairie shrub, adorned with last years hips.


West windmill, sunshine, and tank.


And finally the west tunnel.


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And finally, I left out the fact that I was going to fry chicken today. Now I've got a week's worth of tasty home-fried chicken!




Hope you've all had a great weekend, and here's to a great week ahead!




17 comments:

  1. Thanks for the update on the calf and also for the photos. Things don't always go the way we would like them to, but if one does the best one can at the time, that's all anyone should ask. As always, I am proud to say that I know such as fine person as you.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  2. You did all you could. Sometimes it just works out that way. Even if you were one of those enormous ranches in Texas, with an on staff vet, it probably would have turned out the same way.

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    1. Good chance of it. All you can do is all you can do.

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  3. Sucks about the little one, but these things have a rhythm of their own.

    You do the best you can, it's all anyone can ask for.

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    1. Thanks Sarge. Do your best, learn from the experience, suck it up, drive on.

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  4. It was always hard to lose an animal in our care, no matter whether young or old. Often Mother Nature knows best. Did what you could, that is all anyone can ask.
    Why don't you just carry the keys with you?
    Because the Cowman was a very brittle diabetic, we all carried some form of energy pack. Only one time can I remember that everyone forgot, ended with a helo ride, not what any of us wanted.

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    1. You know, that's a question I never asked myself. Probably too busy being mr. cleverbones with the hiding to consider using my pocket.

      Fortunately for me my physiology and metabolism aren't compromised in any way. I can afford to drive myself pretty hard. Which really isn't all that hard. But it is harder than doing reclining thumb presses. Which I've mastered. :)

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  5. I echo Brig, you've got a pack and pocketeses, why leave your keys in a random hole in an​ embankment?
    Sad about the calf but like sands through the hourglass...

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    1. Well, if the tally-ban capture me, and take all my stuff, and I get away, I can still drive my pickup and open my P.O. box. Yeah, that's it!

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    2. More likely you will see a cow with the keys hang'n out of her mouth, (cause of the salt on them) headed out...

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    3. That is much more likely. 😐

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  6. Do you keep track of the cow(s) that produce marginal calves?

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    1. Yes we do. We keep a book on each cow. To keep a healthy, productive, "runnin' age" herd we cull something like 20 percent of the cows annually; generally but not always the oldest and quite often the cows that have lost calves. Depends on the reason for the loss of course. It'll take some thinking this year as these are all new to us cows. We also bought them and had them shipped in the last 60 days of gestation which is a very stressful to the cow at a bad time for stress. We've lost four calves so far and two of those cows will go for sure and most likely the other two as well.

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    2. Thanks, I was wondering how.

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  7. Good readin' (including the comments)

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