No one in either one of our families had experience with acreage and large livestock.  When we purchased our property, we needed to maintain its status as it was already in AG exemption, so we needed to make a decision quick.

We went back and forth for a while, between goats and cattle.  We finally decided that cattle would be the better bet because, we won’t be staying out there for long periods of time and sometimes we might not be able to go out there at all. 

Our first cattle purchase taught us all we needed to know about livestock.  Since neither of us had family with experience in this, we knew from the beginning that we would have to figure this all out on our own. And it was a tough lesson.

A day or two after we purchased our first two heifers, they escaped into a neighboring pasture, which we had no idea housed a herd of cattle already.  During our time clearing a pasture area, we had never seen nor heard them. They taught us that they will find a weakness in a fence to get with a larger herd, because cattle prefer to be in a larger herd. And gentled animals are easier to check because they don’t run away.  Now when we purchase our longhorns, we ask what kind of contact they have had with people.  

We didn’t get our first two heifers back until sometime in February.  They were bigger, but didn’t look any worse for the wear.  Time went on and they seemed to put on weight, but never showed any signs of being bred. The bull that they were with would even be following them around, leading us to believe that they were “open”, having avoided being bred by the bull they had been with.

That didn’t turn out to be the case.

About a month ago, one of them calved, to our surprise. The calf didn’t make it as it was too large and it had been left too long without being seen.  The heifer pushed too hard and damaged something in her spine or leg, causing her to be paralyzed in a rear leg.  

Getting her loaded and taken to a vet, he checked her out, saying that she looked fine, and if you can get her moving, she might come out of it.  She was worked on almost every day trying to get her moving again.  She was still eating and drinking fine, she hadn’t given up.  Until it started getting hot.

When it gets hot in Texas, usually humidity is there too. 90 degrees can feel like 100. Even though she was in the shade, she lost the will to try anymore. She quit eating and drinking and that was it.  That same day, we moved her, she hadn’t eaten anything.  She was still sitting up, but that was it.  By the time we got her to our place, she would no longer sit-up.  

I had planned to take her by the vet to have her put down just the next morning, but when I got there, she was already gone.  She didn’t appear to have suffered, and it had been fairly cool that night with the trailer in the breeze.  

Looking at her was hard.  Intitially she was an investment.  And she was just a cow.  But she was still something the relied on us to take care of, and we just had no idea.  We are still moving forward with our small operation, but we have learned a lot from those two.  Even though we spent close to what we spent to buy her in trying to get her back to health, we lost her.  We have to remember that we are their stewards.  That they can take care of themselves, but ultimately, we are their guardians.  

Failure comes to all of us.  Not just in farming, or ranching, but in everyday life.  We must continue on, even if something like this comes about.  If you have a dream, the road won’t always be smooth. There will be potholes, and their will be wrecks.  But, to be successful, you must learn from your mistakes and continue forward, thankful that you can still move forward.


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