Monday, January 17, 2011

Why I Do What I Do

There are days, moments actually, I guess, when I wonder just why in the hell I do what I do....

I'm pretty sure most of these moments come in winter, when we are up to our elbows in snow, ice and below zero temperatures. When I am stuck tighter than a bull's ass in snow with the feed pickup and no shovel, when it takes several days just to get to a bunch of cows because the snow is so bad or deep I can't get there, when I am gathering calves on a 4-wheeler and my fingers and toes are so cold they burn and hurt, or when I am carrying a newborn baby calf over my shoulder through snow up to my knees trying to convince his mama that I'm trying to help her baby, not steal him. Those are the moments when I use quite a few expletives to describe my job. And wonder if I used the appropriate amount of consideration when choosing my vocation.

The cold and snow require twice as much time to do the same job as when the weather is more agreeable. The cows and weaned calves still need fed. Regardless of the weather, ESPECIALLY IN THE COLD AND SNOW. A cow needs to eat to help keep her warm. If the ground is covered with a foot of snow, what's the cow gonna eat? My dad has often said that anything beats a snowbank when it comes to giving a cow something to eat in bad weather. He's right...... They aren't that picky if they've been huddled behind a hill out of the wind for 24 hours. Whatever you bring them, they'll pretty much eat it. But you have to be able to get there. And that is often no small task.

I'm not a big fan of chopping ice out of stock tanks for the cows to have a drink or stumbling around in 32 layers of clothing (and I DO mean short appendages were not made for layers and marching through snow) just to stay remotely warm, but those are necessary evils. Now lest you think when I say "chopping ice out of stock tanks", I am merely talking an inch or so, please think again. There are times when temperatures remain sub zero for several days that we are chopping through (and pitching with a pitchfork) at least three or four inches of ice several times a day. The hole needs to be big enough for a lot of critters to drink at the same time. It's a pretty big job. If the wind is blowing and the wells with windmills are pumping, we generally don't have to chop and pitch because the moving water keeps a hole open big enough for the cows to drink. But it is always time consuming and physically demanding, makes you pretty dog-gone tired by the end of the day.

Now don't get me wrong......

When the sun comes up and the wind goes down the day after a snow storm, my world is a glorious blanket of white. The sky is a bright turquoise blue and the air is crisp and clean and the cold bites the end of your nose. I look out across the hills and gaze on the beauty of it all. I can see the cedar trees flocked in white and the icicles hanging from the fences and I thank the Good Lord I am there to see it. I have seen frost and ice covering the hillsides, grasses and trees glistening in the sun, that looks like fairy dust covering it all. And when the mule deer are bedded down behind a windbreak in the snow, it's a scene that looks like it should be on the cover of a magazine.

One of my favorite quotes is "There is always, always, always something to be thankful for". And I believe that's true. Yes, there are times when I am so busy that I barely have time to stop and pee during the day, let alone have time to eat. (And if you think I'm kidding, I'm not!) And yes, there are times when I am so tired I can barely make it to the house. And yes, most definitely, there are times when I cuss like a sailor because I'm stuck or something is broke down or I'm so cold I can hardly stand it. And there are those MOMENTS when I think I should have given a lot more thought to my chosen profession.........but the trade off is, well.........worth it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

For the Animal Activist type people

People in my part of the country are not tree huggers. We are not animal activists. We don't belong to PETA or HSUS or any of those type of groups. While we have a love and respect for our land and the animals that probably goes far beyond what any of those people can fathom, we understand one thing (or most of us do)......animals are not people. Animal activists humanize every animal. They believe that animals have the same type of emotions and capabilities for feelings that humans do. And this is a mistake. This makes for a lot of troubles, for animal agriculture and other animal related fields.

Let's take a cow for instance. A cow is not a dumb animal like many people might think. But cows run on instinct. They do what centuries of cows have done. They have the sense to eat, drink, exist......but they don't think like a human and for heaven's sake, they do not FEEL like a person. They feel pain, don't get me wrong, but they don't feel pain in the same capacity as humans do. Thank God He made them that way. I would much rather see a bovine of any size get a quick zap with a hot-shot (probably a brand name for an electric cattle prod) than to see someone stand there beating on one with a stick for ten minutes. And anybody that has ever tried running a cow up a chute for preg checking or running a yearling into a truck to be shipped will tell you, it is far more humane to give them a poke with a hot shot than to beat on them. There are jackasses that don't know how to use one and will just keep buzzing, but in general, most people that have ever been around cattle very much know that you get best results from a quick buzz and that's all you need. FYI, I have been buzzed with a hot shot. Can't say it feels good, but it's not the eye-popping jolt some people would make it out to be.

And then of course, there are those against castration and branding of cattle. Good grief! I'll be honest here, when a calf is really, really a day or two old, I don't like to cut (castrate) or brand them. It makes me feel bad. And if they are mine, I don't. But if I'm at some one's branding and I'm doing the cutting (yes, I cut calves) or the branding, I do what I'm told. Here is exactly what happens to a calf on branding day:

The calves and their mothers are gathered into a pen. Some people like to sort the cows out of the pen and some don't. Then the calf is roped, usually around the back feet, preferably both back feet and drug to the branding fire. There, a team of wrestlers will flip the calf with the help of the horse that is dragging it. They hold the calf for the ground crew to do the work on the calf. Usually, the calf is branded, vaccinated in the neck and castrated if it's a bull. Then the calf is released to go find its mama. Now, I am not saying this isn't painful. I know it is. It has to be. However, the pain is pretty short lived. As quick as the calf finds his mama, he goes to nursing. A sick calf won't eat so that tells me that calf isn't feeling all that bad. A fresh brand stings for a while, as is evident by the calf flipping its tail a lot. And the cutting, if done CLEANLY and properly is not nearly as painful as one might think. A good cutter will keep his (or her) hands and instruments clean and that will keep the pain and swelling to a minimum as will the conditions of the area where the calf will be for the next few days. But in general, a calf is able to travel about as far as it ever could within a day or so of being branded and castrated.

I would also be amiss if I didn't address horses in this post. I love horses. Horses are beautiful animals. They have truly enriched my life and taken me places I would have never had the opportunity to see if I hadn't had them. HOWEVER, they too are not and I repeat, are NOT humans either. They are and always will be, horses. Don't get me wrong....I think more of some horses than I do of a lot of people I know, but I can never forget that horses are horses. Horses think like horses. They do not think like people. When dealing with horses, one has to remember this. A horse does what he has learned and what instinct tells him to do. I do believe horses are much more sensitive than a cow, but that still doesn't make them a human. Horses have a pecking order and if a human doesn't establish himself as a leader to the horse very early on, a horse will assume leadership. And that is where a lot of trouble starts for some people. Without getting into my entire horse training philosophy, suffice to say, I believe a horse must be treated with respect and kindness, but needs guidance and occasionally reprimand.

While I'm at this, I need to say a little something about rodeo stock. I've been around rodeo all of my life. It is a sport that means a lot to me. And when the uninformed come in and try to tell me how cruel the sport of rodeo is, well....that just makes me mad. First of all, everyone knows that you take care of what takes care of you. The rodeo stock contractor makes his living from those horses and bulls that buck. If they don't feel good, they don't perform good. That's all there is to that. Thoses horses and bulls are fed well, treated with respect. The flank strap that seems to be the cause of so much concern goes around their flank....hence the name. If you have taken the time to look at the anatomy of a horse or bull, you will quickly see that it is quite a ways ahead of the genital area. Those big things hanging down on the back end of a bull?? That's quite a distance from where that flank strap is. It really is sad how the animal activists have stuck their uneducated noses into the sport of rodeo.

And last but not least, I will address dogs. Anyone that knows me knows I love my dogs. And while I treat them very well (my Dad often says if there is such thing as reincarnation, he wants to come back as one of my dogs), they too need guidance. I expect my dogs to mind my commands and behave properly. And again, even though Lily wears a coat when it's cold outside, she is still a dog. She eats cow poop and calf cleanings and tries her darndest to clean up if the cat barfs. She is a dog. I love her dearly and she is very, very special to me. But she is a dog.

Just a short word about vegetarians......kind of like being gay in my book. If that's how you feel, ok. But.....WHY???

But finally, I would like to say how much those HSUS ads on tv bug the heck out of me. The ones where Celine Dione sings "In the arms of an angel".......they make me sad. But the little donkey who "saw his mother worked to death" didn't know that's what was happening. If anything, he knew Mama wasn't there when he was ready for dinner. And he was sad about that. And if she really was "worked to death", well I kind of doubt it, but if she was.....well that person is an asshole......