Friday, April 12, 2013

Hey, Hey, Hey ... Goodbye

"Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye."

The Beatles chorus kept floating around in my head as we sorted mama cows and their babies earlier this week. It is the drought that has been singing the other part of that song - the "nah, nah, nah, nah" part - kind of like an annoying schoolyard bully.

Two summers of drought have depleted grass supplies in our Rattlesnake Creek pasture. Even with some snowfall and rains late this winter and early this spring, we have to reduce the number of cow/calf pairs we will take to the pasture in May.

Randy and his cousin, Don, share the pasture, which has been in their family for more than 100 years. Last summer, they had 91 pairs of cows/calves and 3 bulls. But this summer, they are reducing the number of cattle by one-third. For us, that means taking 13 fewer pairs to the pasture. With limited feed, we took the mamas and their babies to Hutchinson to the sale barn this week.

Monday morning, we ran the mamas and babies into a corral, then sent the cows into the larger lot. The guys then ran the babies into the barn and into the waiting cattle trailer.
The mamas never think being separated from their babies is a good idea. They stood at the barn doors and wailed. Then, when we had them in the south lot, they moved the protest to the fence, where they could look at the trailer.

Even though they don't like it, it's best for the babies. We kept the babies segregated in the front part of the trailer so they didn't get trampled during the 45-minute trip to Hutchinson. Our trailer has a partition, so we put four cows in the back of the first trailer, then loaded the rest of the mama cows into the second trailer.

Most of the time, we market our cattle through Pratt Livestock. This time, Central Livestock of South Hutchinson was having a special cow/calf sale, so Randy chose to take them there.
When we got to the sale barn, we noticed that one of the babies had an injured leg, despite our best efforts to keep them safe. So, little No. 3017 and his mama were no longer sold as a pair. 
Even though our cattle are identified through eartags, the sale barn puts a sale sticker on each animal. Each number is recorded so they know who is selling the cattle. Randy also gave them a list showing which baby belonged to each cow so that they could be reunited once they arrived in South Hutchinson and sold as a pair. 

Because of my accompanist job at school, I couldn't go to the sale on Tuesday. I should have sent a camera with Randy. I didn't. Anyway, he was fairly pleased with the sale results. They averaged $1,626 a pair, even figuring in the cow and calf that had to be sold separately because of the calf's injury.

When the drought breaks and the pastures are replenished, Randy hopes to have enough replacement heifers that he can restock our herd from the cattle we raise. But, if not, we will reverse the process and buy some through the sale barn.

We'll cross that bridge when there's water under it.  Literally.
A photo from 2010


  1. Hey Kim, I learn so much through reading your blog... I have been to the sale barn before, but really do not know how things work for the farmers selling or buying stock... this was very interesting! Also, nice to see your care in watching out for the babies! So many seem to not care about their animals, that we run into.

    1. Thanks, Mary Ann. I think most farmers/stockmen truly do care about their animals. Unfortunately, it's the ones who don't that make the news.