The cattle trailer backed into the driveway and we each held our tattered piece of paper. We walked up around 20 head of breeding age heifers, the females over 14 months old, and stood in the doorway. We’ve sorted cattle for over 10 years together, generally our hands at our sides and our conversation is hushed, we know how to work together after all this time. This morning though, our bodies are shivering, clouds of heat from the girls make it hard to see, there is another person in the barn, and he is rattling off ear tags.
Man who owns the sale barn: #213?
Me: she’s going on the trailer
After we weed out 5-6 of the heifers we are keeping, the feelings of guilt subside a bit. It comes back later, on the drive home, but for a moment in that barn with those two men I’m just doing a job. THE job.
Man who owns the sale barn: are you keeping the red and white ones?
Me and Brad together: yes
We loaded up 10 heifers into the cattle trailer and spent 15 minutes talking cattle trends with the man. We walked to our cars knowing we can’t expect a big return on these animals, not during these difficult times.
Difficult choice, but we weren’t done because four days later every heifer and steer between 3 months and 13 months old loaded a cattle trailer for a different destination. Three days later the last of my bull calves rode away and soon my hutches will be empty.
Difficult times, but we are hopeful this is the right direction.
We’ve never had enough barn space and since we started milking and having calves we’ve house a portion of our herd off the farm. Over the last decade we’ve moved our cattle to FIVE different locations, not that we are bad tenant (I don’t think) but because circumstances change. We’ve lost money in fencing, fuel, medical treatment, rent, and in animals too ill to heal… We knew bringing our heifers to the home farm HAD to happen so in November we moved dry cows and older heifers off the farm and everything under 13 months was where we could focus on them at least twice a day. We simply traded one headache for another. Having to haul dry cows, the girls we stop milking before the deliver their next calf, then haul fresh cows home, the girls who deliver, we aren’t able to give our older girls the best care.
Realizing that Brad may find a job off farm very soon, and that will leave me in charge of kids and cattle a few days a week — it makes sense to focus on what we can care for ON THE FARM. This is why we sold our young stock and replacements.
Farming, to me, feels like a constant game of turning that damn 8 ball over. I remember being 12 years old asking “does he even know I exist?” and the magic 8 ball would answer not likely or try again later, signs point to yes, it is decidedly so. EVERY decision on the farm feels like I’m waiting for an answer and I have no idea what it will be. “Was selling our replacements the right choice?” concentrate and ask again