My husband and I recently made a heart wrenching decision to sell our small herd of cattle. With the drought this year there is a huge shortage of grass in the high country therefore little or no grazing for cows this year. Many ranchers have been forced to sell part or all of their cattle.
We have been feeding hay that we raise to the cows all summer due to the very short time they could be on the high country pasture. While we grow our own hay and would have had enough to feed our small bunch through the winter, there was no promise of pasture next spring. Hay is selling for $8.00 to $10.00 a bale because of a shortage, so while we are able to feed our own hay, approximately 16 bales a day...I'll let you do the math...that is an expensive hobby.
As my husband and I separated and loaded "the girls" and their calves on to the big cattle truck early morning September 9th to go to their new home in Arkansas, it was all I could do to choke back the tears and be tough. "They are just cows" as my husband had reminded me earlier even before he stated "I don't want them to be on that truck one minute longer than they have to be".
So as my husband and I move on without "the girls" I wanted to make a record of those times.
Looking forward to new possibilities and opportunities...who knows...maybe cows again....
So I am reminded again...this farming/ranching stuff isn't for the weak at heart...and yet...
I wrote the following a couple years ago after one of my friends asked me how I could pet and talk to the pigs knowing that we were going to butcher them. She is a town girl with a very tender heart. I told her, remembering that we are raising them for food, I know I will get attached to them when I give them scratches and talk to them, but I can enjoy them until it's time...It makes happy pigs, and it makes me happy.
So this is what became of her question. Some of the experiences are my own, some are of family and friends:
"Not For the Weak at Heart...and Yet"
I remember when the girls were in 4-H, first my nieces and then later my own girls and my younger niece. They worked all summer with their pigs, sheep, or steers preparing them for their time to be shown, sold, and sent to market. Sometimes they would name them, if not a real name it might be "Breakfast, "Lunch", and "Dinner"...to help remind them not to become too attached. Regardless, after feeding, walking, bathing, and talking to them for months, when it came the last day of fair and the animals were sold and hauled off, there were always tears...and then it began all over again the next year.
The kids learned so many things, from how to raise food for themselves and for market, to...there will be heartache. Some of them get used to it, some of them don't, but it becomes a way of life. Sometimes I think that it's not for the "weak at heart".
It's not for the "weak at heart" when you find that two day old calf trampled down in the mud, so you stay with it all night to try and save it, knowing it's not going to make it.
When you loose your best cow dog and friend, and without him you would never have gotten the wounded bull out of the brush and down the mountain.
When you're sitting on the front porch while not knowing that a mamma fox is out back killing off almost half of your young hens, just for the fun of killing them.
It's not for the "weak at heart" when you come home to find the ewes, that you have put years of care into, have been wounded and killed by dogs, and then to find out the dog that did it, that you shot, was some little boy's companion.
When your branding cows and she gets her leg caught in the chute.
When you name your pig "blue eyes", she comes to you for her back to be scratched before she will go eat the scraps you just threw to her, and then that final day comes.
It's not for the "weak at heart" when you watch your husband come to the realization that he needs to sell your herd of cows (that he calls "the girls") because of situations he can't help, and then to see the deep sadness after they are gone.
When an old rancher has to sell all his cows because he no longer can take care of them...and so he gets a small bit of pleasure watching someone elses cows on his ranch, only to remind him of what he can't do anymore.
Sometimes I don't know if I would have what it takes when I see ranchers and farmers that do what they do from before sun up until after dark, day after day...because it's not for the "weak at heart"...and yet... you keep doing it because it gets into your heart.