This week’s post comes to us from Leah, who the niece of ANCW member Juanita J. Reed-Boniface. Juanita is an Educational Consultant, Agvocate & Partner Boeckenhauer Cattle. Leah manages the family’s herd in Laramie, WY.
Read on for an account of when a cow is more than a cow, originally posted on Leah’s blog.
Yesterday, the Straw Boss and I journeyed down to Evans, CO, picking up the beef from the Young Rancher’s last 4-H market steer. On the way home, we stopped and looked at a prospect ram for the Cowgirl Princess’s sheep flock. When I got home, I took a quick trip out to the meadow to check on our spring cows with their almost weaned calves. What I found broke my heart – one of my favorite cows dead. A day that had started with positivity ended with grief and shadows. People may see irony in the fact that I was fine hauling around one very dead steer in vacuum sealed packages in the Suburban, and yet I fell apart over a dead cow out in the pasture. I have found that writing is how I can sort out my feelings, and perhaps shed some light on situations that from the outside lose clarity. The following is my tribute to that dead cow…..
More than Just A Cow
Taking care of cattle has been my past, my present and, hopefully, my future. I guess you can say that I consider it my calling. Rightfully so, as even back in Genesis 1:28, God created us to care of all of his creation. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and I am honored that I am able to take care of a couple hundred of those cattle and be a steward to the few hills that I call mine.
When I look out over my cows out on pasture, what I see is more than just cattle grazing. I see cattle fulfilling their purpose. Although it is one that causes a lump to rise in my throat every year when I sell steer calves or deliver beef animals to the processor, our family’s purpose is raising high quality beef to feed the world. My cows are utilizing forages on ground unfit for another type of production. In addition, I see cash flow and bills getting paid. Although I love my cows and have my sentimental favorites, at the end of the day, ranching and cattle production is my business. My herd is data-driven, and if a cow is not keeping up on her end of the partnership, she has to go down the road.
Finally, I see legacy. I can walk through my herd and recall the story of one cow being born, or how I had to jump into the pickup really quick last year when trying to tag one ol’ gal’s calf. There is a lot of untold stories and history in my mama cows. There are a few sales reps that have had the ‘privilege’ of sitting in the pickup with me while I give them the geneaology of a certain cow. The legacy in our herd is not only of bovine origin, but generations of family working alongside each other, learning life lessons the entire way. Some of the lessons may not be the most fun, but you can bet there won’t be many questioning my kids’ work ethic or common sense.
So yesterday, when I went out to check on my cows, and I found one of them dead, due to a blameless freak incident, my heart broke. Z5 was a younger cow, in her prime, with many years left to fulfill her purpose. She was out of a line of cows that is near and dear to my heart. Her mom, Cue, was the last calf from one of my first 4-H breeding heifers, and was included in the sentimental favorites list mentioned above. Cue lived to the age of 19.5 years old, and is buried on our ranch. Z5 was a docile cow that allowed my kids to learn how to tag and vaccinate a calf after they were born. Her daughter, Twinkle, is my daughter’s first cow. When it came to the bottom line, she raised and weaned a calf that weighed in at over 50% of her mature weight and she bred back every year. So although I am moving on and thankful that I kept the two daughters that Z5 gave me, the hurt is still there.
I do not put the death of a cow at the level of human illness or death, as cows are animals, and should be treated as such. However, in the times that the public is given many examples of animals treated disrespectfully, I chose to share a story about a family ranching operation where a cow is more than just a cow.
Photo below is Z5 with her 2014 bull calf, and the Young Rancher.
For more accounts of life in agriculture, check out Leah’s blog: http://blessedcowgirl.com/.