Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The circle of life

I was reminded on memorial weekend just how precious life truly is. It was our branding and I will be posting on that but I wanted to write about this first because it is on my heart. Things really hit home when you take care of animals and your whole existence is to make sure that these animals are taken care of. And then you have one die.

We have cattle. We give birth to hundreds of babies a year and this year I can still count on one hand how many calves we have lost. I consider myself blessed and lucky all at the same time. But each death...is hard for me. I know the mother cow, we have a relationship. If that mother has a calf and the calf is born dead then they lick it off and stay by it for hours waiting for it to move and get their milk. Then when reality sets in they just move on but I honestly can see that for a day or so after they are lost. They wonder around and cry out looking for their baby and everytime you drive by they just seem broke. I know animals are suppose to be um..less intelligent than humans... and this and that and esp cows...yada yada. But when we lost one calf in a storm, the whole herd seemed to mourn that one calf. They moved to the spot where I took it away and they all mooed and seemed to cry. They did this the same way for two days straight. I know elephants mourn their dead ones but I honestly am starting to believe that cows do too.

Over memorial day weekend we found a calf suffering from scours. The sign is yellow poo that is very watery. It can melt the hair right off of their butt. It's caused by a virus or bacteria infection and is deadly. You can see a calf with yellow poo and if they are running around and their ears are up, most scours can go untreated and the calf will survive. You don't need to doctor those that are running around all happy. My husband rode through the herd and discovered a little calf, hidden from him the previous ride throughs.

First thing we did was give it a shot of 8 way. Nate had to drench the calf for the first feeding since he would not drink. The second round of solution I gave to the little heifer (girl calf) before I went to bed. This was repeated for three days. The calf didn't make a fast comeback. It continued to not want to get up. We separated the baby and it's mother from the herd and put them in a pen hoping that the baby would be ok. I continued to clean the baby by spraying down it's bottom with a hose to loosen off the yellow matter. It was a very gross job.

I then gave the baby it's first taste of milk replacer. When feeding electrolyte solutions you don't feed milk replacer. The baby sucked eagerly...It drank a half bottle. I was so happy thinking I would come back to a happy calf.

Two hours later...

The baby had blood coming out of it's stool. It was shaking, trembling, twitching. It's jaw was locked.

We put the mother in the squeeze chute and tried to milk the cow and put the baby to the mother's tit. My husband held the calf and I massaged it's bum (yes you read right-I massaged it's yellow butt, under the tail, because it mimics a mother calf stimulating her baby to suck). If you are an animal activist by all means come out to our ranch and help massage a calf's yellow dripping butt...You'll appreciate us a bunch more. Esp the guy who tweeted me that I kill baby calves since I wrote I am a rancher on my profile. ((You have a front row seat buddy)).

Sorry went off on a tangent.

My husband had to shoot it because of the pain it was going through. It wasn't getting better at that point.

Just cause it happened doesn't mean that I have to like it. It sucks. It hurts when you lose an animal. Not because it's a loss of money. But because that calf, the same one that had long, black eyelashes and brown eyes....is no longer a part of our herd. The black calf can no longer go skipping across the field and buck and play.... The calf fought it's hardest fight and didn't make it.

But...as a rancher. This is expected. It's the circle of life. Everyone will die. Everything will die. We don't have to like it. In fact we can be mad, sad, or just want to be alone. I take death silently and think about multiple ways of how I could of changed the scenario. Could I have fed it less or more? Did the shot work? Was it the milk replacer? Should I have sang to it more? (yes I sing to my calves).

That's human nature to want to think we could have changed the outcome. But we are all on our paths that was chosen long before we thought of it. So it's our decision to just go with it or fight it kicking and screaming.

I think I will accept that everything does die, including myself. But it's what you do with every single day that matters. It's if you turn off the computer and read to your children. It is in the moments that you make a picnic rather than go out to eat. Choose to spend your time with those that you love, don't just be a passenger to your own life. Drive.

That was on Sunday.

Then yesterday (Tuesday) my husband called me while I was mowing. I couldn't hear my phone so he came back to the house and said get the kids, "We need to take them to the horses." I beamed and said which one...he said "Lassie".

I got the kids in the rtv. My boy was naturally asking questions, "What's wrong, is everything ok?" I just said, "We have a birth we have to get to."

My son smiled and looked all over the field hoping to catch a calf falling to the ground.
This is what he saw instead.






This is our herd of horses and this was Lassie's first birth. She had just gave birth moments before (my husband watched it's first steps). We have two others that will be giving birth this year (so in less than 30 days). 

This is why we are ranchers. Because we get to teach our kids the circle of life. They watched the death and they get to experience the joys of birth. I wouldn't change my life with a high profile celebrity making millions. I don't want fakeness in my life. I want the real deal. I want....this circle of life that I respect because it makes me a stronger person. It makes me a more caring person. It makes me a better mom and wife and daughter and sister.