Calving season is wrapping up at Rocking P Ranch. Although breeding season has begun (through artificial insemination) we have two cows that for one reason or another were scheduled to calve later than the others. One of the cows was due to calve Monday, so my husband vigilantly watched for signs that the cow was nearing parturition.
As her time drew near Sunday morning, Jim knew by the cow’s behavior that something wasn’t quite right. He called our veterinarian with a “head’s up” that we might need his help if there were indeed complications with the birth. A friend who is also a cattleman came by to see if he could be of assistance. By 9:30am, it was time to stick an arm in to determine the position of the calf. When a tail was felt instead of front legs, it was obvious the calf was breech and we would need more help.
Doc got the message on his cell phone as he left church. He arrived at our place minutes later with wife and kids along. Leaving a basketball game to make a farm call or making a farm call on the way home from church is not an unusual occurrence for this dedicated animal doctor and his family.
Three hours later when all was said and done, two stillborn calves lie in the walking alley of the barn and a cow with a torn uterus lie in the stall, barely hanging on to life. Despite valiant effort by three grown men, the calves were lost and the cow drew her final breath Monday night.
I am certain that any of you who raise or have raised livestock have similar experiences in your life story. You know that it makes no difference how closely you watch and tightly you manage, the man or woman responsible for the care and well-being of the livestock cannot control every situation.
Replaying the Sunday afternoon scene in my mind, I have some mixed emotions. While animal agriculture in the country is under attack and vigilante vegetarians with video cameras slither into livestock farms, hoping to expose abuse and mistreatment of animals, there are so many of us out here doing the right thing.
Where was the video camera when those three men fought to save the lives of the calves and the cow for three hours Sunday? No video camera captured the obvious disappointment in the eyes of all three men as they walked out of the barn, heads hanging in defeat, physically and emotionally exhausted.
No video cameras were rolling when Jim carried buckets of water to the cow, talking to her in the soothing voice of a man who truly cares for his livestock. There were no pictures taken as he stroked the cow’s rump and thanked her for all she had done for us, doing what he could to make her comfortable in her final hours.
While we mourn the loss of a good cow, we also take a sizeable economic hit. It adds up quickly when you figure in the cost of keeping the bred cow for a year, the cost of the drugs, the vet’s farm call and the loss of the cow and her future productivity. As a man of husbandry, Jim did not once consider just letting the cow die or ending its life when it was confirmed the calf was breech and big enough that it’s birth would probably take the cow’s life as well.
My husband is trained and experienced in animal husbandry, but he also has this innate knowledge and connection with livestock that simply amazes me. He can diagnose a cow’s condition from across the pasture and sense their needs as though they are talking to him. It is an awesome thing to see.
As HSUS and PETA spend millions of dollars to convince the unknowing public that those of us who raise livestock are irresponsible and barbaric, I ask again, where are the video cameras when we’re checking cows in ten below zero temperatures in the middle of the night?
How do you want the world to see animal agriculture in this country? If you want them to know the truth – to know your story – you’re going to have to tell it. Write a letter. Make a call. Take some pictures and shoot some of your own video.
We can’t let them win.