Life does not come easy
Perhaps the absence of sunlight may be dragging the day down. However,
the knowledge that this will pass and brighter days are ahead certainly
should reinforce the positive. Tramping through snow (dearly needed
moisture), while attempting to get an assessment of the current calving
scenario, is never easy.
There are times when reports of twins and triplets certainly boost the
available calf numbers, but the loss of any calf is always significant.
The greatest impact is standing over a lifeless calf wondering what else
could have been done.
This business we call the cow business and our struggles to come out to
the good, despite all that Mother Nature can throw at us, can weigh
heavily on our shoulders. Some of the more dramatic scenes in many of
the popular medical shows on TV capitalize on our human emotion as the
scene goes to the ultimate degree to keep life going.
The gallery, not only those watching, but all who are present in the
scene, add to the impact of the lost hope, agony and ultimate defeat, as
the doctor looks at the clock and says, “Let’s call it.”
For those out saving calves, the audience is pretty sparse unless one
counts the snowflakes. If one is lucky, the ranch cat or dog is not far
away. However, more than likely, it’s just you, the cow and the dead
calf. The cow, even though she soon will be ready to take on an orphan
calf, ponders what is wrong with the lifeless calf as this not so
welcome human intercedes.
Life must go on, but that does not make the job easy. The masses, all
those pending consumers, never get the point that somewhere, sometime,
someone brought a life into this world that ultimately provides our
tomorrow. A great moment, but not all the moments are great. If one is
not careful, the whistle in one’s voice that is so prevalent when the
first calves hit the ground is long gone. The smell of soiled coveralls,
the feel of perpetual dampness and the ultimate stickiness of things
best never served on a plate tend to grind on even the most optimistic
One certainly does wonder just what is good and what is bad. If we turn
to some typical commercial herds that are involved with Cow Herd
Appraisal Performance Software and the North Dakota Beef Cattle
Improvement Association, the percentage of calves that die, based on the
number of full-term calves born, is 3.35 percent.
In other words, for every 10,000 calves, 335 die. One could say that is
acceptable, if one accepts that death is inevitable, at least at some
time. If one looks back on the last five years, the percentage of calves
that died prior to weaning was 3.80 percent in 2001, 3.48 percent in
2002, 3.57 percent in 2003, 3.04 percent in 2004 and 2.85 percent in
Granted, most of these calves died during calving and that is, what it
is. The bottom line, one can’t despair, but nevertheless, for every
10,000 calves born, there are 335 returning to Mother Nature sooner than
we would like. The 10,000 calves would be a couple of good sale days at
a typical livestock auction in the fall.
As the trucks line up to haul the calves off, it would take, given a
typical weight of 562 pounds around weaning time, 112 trucks loading
around 50,000 pounds of calf to haul the calves to their next
destination. As for the 335 dead calves, four trucks would remain empty.
Chin up, the calves that make it will have a good start on fresh grass.
Life does not come easy.