Well, we did it. All the cows are out on grass, the bulls are with them and all of us are happy.
I am not going to lie — it seems like each year I am more and more relieved when the trailer door opens on the last load and the winter pens are empty. I also must say that each year it seems like we get the system just a little more refined. The whole process goes just a little faster and more efficiently each time. This year was a record for efficiency and speed.
I know many of you are disappointed that we did not have a wreck because that makes for a better column. We did have our moments, like when Isaac discovered that you should not try to tag a cow in the alley with your mother standing behind the cow. Fortunately, no cows or mothers were harmed, and even the son who did the tagging came out relatively unharmed. Lessons were learned all the way around.
Most of the two days we vaccinated and worked cows and calves were mundane and unexciting. That is just the way I like it. All I can say is that good cattle handling facilities are worth their weight in gold and medical deductibles (which are roughly the same).
We invested in a calf cradle this year, which we named Clayton after Isaac’s friend. He helped us the past two years by holding the calves in the big squeeze chute while we vaccinated and fly tagged them. Both Claytons work very well, but the new one bruised a lot less.
Our biggest hitch was the cow who had her calf the day before we attempted to catch her group and work them. She came into the corral, but her calf did not. Our subsequent attempt to catch the calf did not go well. It led to her being released for the night.
The next morning, Jennifer went out to persuade her to come back into the corral. At first it did not go well, but soon Cow 364 learned the lesson the rest of us had learned over the years: that is it is much easier to do what Jennifer wants. She is going to win. Holding out just makes the whole ordeal take longer, and it’s much more painful than complying off the bat.
Cow 364 should have shared that piece of advice with Cow ??. (What would you have tagged a cow with no tags and no readable freeze brand?) Cow ?? was the same cow Isaac attempted to tag in the alley because she refused to go into the head catch. That’s why Jennifer was behind her in the first place.
It took two attempts and ?? was the last cow we worked. She finally gave into Jennifer’s stubborn power of persuasion and stuck her head into the head catch. It might have taken 30 minutes, but Jennifer was the winner.
At the end of the day when I opened the gate on the final load of cows to go out on grass (a load that both 364 and ?? were on), I said a little prayer to thank God for the blessings in my life.
It is easy right now to focus on all that is not going right in this world. I get that, and I fall victim to it myself. But as I watched those cows stick their noses in the lush, green grass, and I watched the calves run and buck in the open pasture, I realized that life is much bigger than the here and now.
The world moves on, and what is bad now will soon be a memory. There is good all around us and we need to find those moments that give us peace and happiness, no matter what the circumstances are.
For me it was that moment as I stood there watching the cows slowly scatter out on the new pasture. What moments before had seemed like chaos with cows mooing and calves bawling was now perfect quiet with just the sounds of cows chewing and a few birds in the background.
Nothing but God is forever, and we need to be reminded of this. Time will move on and things will change. We will get back to normal. It might not be the normal we are used to, but it will be the normal we know.
We need to find what makes us happy — the things that give us peace — and spend time there. For me that peace and happiness can be found watching cows on pasture. All is right and good in my world, and I hope you find the same thing in yours.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at email@example.com.