Many associations – colleges – conventions – large ranches offer a school curriculum for successful ranching. But did you ever stop to think that your ranch serves up a school of life every single day? Yep, everything from “life basics” to some pretty advanced “do or die” classes. So I thought maybe we could take a look at some of these life lessons as they apply to our daily ranch agendas. Ranch life is not always convenient or easy. We may start out with a plan for the day – but today, some animal in the herd has another plan. For ranchers, no matter the difficult circumstances we must be ready and willing to work through the different and complex scenarios the day presents. There is no better class room than ranch life and “Problem Solving 101” begins in calving season.
So as ranchers, we have already prepared: bulls were selected to accommodate heifer calving ease – and herd genetics with limited breeding of 90 days; cows are in BCS of 5 or better; cows were palpated with attention to all physical attributes for culling; hay, supplements, minerals, winter pastures all planned for optimum nutrition; appropriate vaccine protocols administered. Every effort has been made to maintain a healthy Momma so she will produce a healthy baby. She is given a beautiful environment – lots of clean space and pure water – great food – sanctioned welfare handling that Temple Grandin would be proud of…… what could possibly go wrong?
Well – let me tell you about just a few days in the Ranch School of Life. Yes – we talk about the weather but we had better prayerfully make friends with Mother Nature because she has a way of taking us hostage. Cold and rain together can be a lethal combination for cattle – so that week of rain and 20 degree temps started a series of events. On Monday – found a cow that had tried to deliver twins during the night – one lived – she died trying to deliver the second calf. We grabbed the shivering little survivor – tubed him with colostrum – brought him into a warm stall we have prepared for dogies. On Tuesday – saved a cow and calf in breach delivery. On Wednesday – heifer needed assistance in delivery – Mom and baby doing fine. Thursday – another set of twins – both calves weak – brought cow and calves into the barn for extra feed and attention. In our rounds, we found an abandoned calf in the heifer pasture – took that calf to the dogie stall (we’ll deal with his Momma later). By the end of the week – we had five babies on a bottle. But here’s the astounding good news – the Momma of the twins wants them all – thinks they are all hers and wants to nurse them all.
Life’s lesson – ranchers don’t have safe spaces. The days can be exhausting – filled with issues demanding our attention and resolution – but the rewards outweigh the difficulties. We learn to be tough but compassionate. We learn that all things don’t work out like we would like them to and sometimes we have to face a terminal ending. But sometimes we also see things work out better than we anticipated – like a Momma that thinks she has 5 babies. My vet told me early on that calving season is like putting 500 women in the maternity ward at the same time. Everything will not go perfectly. But for the 3% problem rate we face – there is the 97% to 98% perfect delivery. Think about that – God’s precious miracles delivered perfectly – now you can’t get closer to real life than that. Ranchers live “real” life every day – the good; the not so good; and sometimes the heart breaker – but we wouldn’t change a thing!!