Before I begin, you should know that I love beef. I'm a big fan of grass-fed beef, and I try to eat a Paleo-style diet. I've been doing this for about three years now and it has changed my health, my energy, my skin, my everything. I'm not perfect, and I fall off the wagon at times. There have even been times when I've fallen off the wagon, built a raging fire, and burned the wagon down to the ground. Then I rally and get back to my usual routine.
If you've ever looked at the price of grass-fed beef, it can be shocking. I try to counter the up front costs with the long-term medical costs of living an unhealthy lifestyle. In my mind, this works. Due to this fact, we've talked briefly here and there about having our own cows. This would allow us to raise our own beef, and sell beef to like minded people. This conversation always ends when we start talking about the price of cattle. I'm referring to the live ones, not what you find in the butcher section. Cattle prices in this country are at an all-time-high.
Most ranchers realize the price of their livestock. Due to this realization, they will do what's necessary to take care of them. If they run into a situation with a calf that has been orphaned or is struggling for one reason or another, most will take the extra steps to get them on their feet. This is money standing on the ground if you stop and think about it. Ranchers are businessmen.
I kind of put the word out that I would be interested in purchasing calves that looked like they weren't going to make it. This is pretty stupid if you stop and think about it, and one heck of a gamble, but in my mind, it would be the only way to get started. Plus, I've never been one to shy away from a challenge. It's something I really thought would never be considered. Again, calves are money on the ground. Ranchers are businessmen.
In the middle of December, this all happened. I got a call from someone very near and dear to me. It seems there was a situation of a cow giving birth to twins. The cow must have evaluated her options, and she took the larger calf and left the smaller one. When I say smaller, he only weighed half of what he should have.
This was my opportunity.
The calf was only about 35 lbs when I picked him up. He should have been about 75-80 lbs. The likelihood of him making it was so slim, he was just handed over with a "Good Luck!"
I will tell you...he rode home in the back seat of my truck.
I had put down a water-proof seat cover that I use for my dogs, but still, not everyday you have a calf standing in the back seat. Once I got him home, it was a mad dash to empty out the stall in the barn that has not been used in forever. I had actually been storing a bunch of junk in there. Once it was empty, I put down fresh shavings and hung a heat lamp directly in the middle.
I'm not going to bore you with every detail, but I will tell you the next four days were a flurry of activity.
Did I mention I've never done anything like this before?
I knew nothing.
I have never been more appreciative of smart phones, Google, social media, and both of my girls. I was lucky to have a lot of local ranchers to ask questions of. I also was able to tap into someone who deals more on the Show Side of the cattle industry. If you don't know the difference, the Show Side of the cattle business is a LOT of money. These guys will go to great lengths for their animals. It is a ridiculous amount of money spent on these cows. Couple all of that with the endless amount of research you can lay your hands on via Google, and you just may be on to something.
For the first 24 hours, I was in my barn every hour. It started off okay, then immediately went down hill fast. I was not sure we'd make it through the first day. The next 24 hours, I was in my barn every hour and a half. Mind you, there was no sleeping between trips to the barn. That time was used communicating with people that could tell me stuff and reading every thing I could find on the Internet. By the third 24 hours, I was pretty loopy and exhausted. I was still going to the barn about every 2 to 3 hours. I hadn't slept in my bed since I brought the calf home. I was too scared to lay down, certain I would not get back up. I took little 20-30 minute naps in my chair, and at times, I wanted to stomp on my phone every time the alarm went off to prompt me to get ready for my next trip outside. It was cold and by day three I was certain one or both of us would die.
Day four was the turn around period. I had been adding honey to an electrolyte recipe I had conjured up, and had been pumping fluids, as well as milk replacer into the little guy. Coming into day four, I started adding a heaping spoonful of honey to his milk. At this point, he was only taking 8 ounces of milk at a time. He was weak. He couldn't stand without help. I had managed to get him hydrated, and we had survived scours, but I knew we both couldn't go on like this. Every cup of milk had honey added and I was out there about every 3 hours at this point.
At about 2:00 pm on day four - Relief! I went out to check on him and he still needed help to stand, but he was a completely different animal. He started trying to maul me at this point. He was hungry! After trying to nurse on anything and everything he could get his mouth on, I started to realize he must be on a sugar high.
Either way, I'd take it!
There was life back in this animal.
The rest has been documented here and there on Social Media. It was not reasonable to come sit down at my computer and blog about it. If I had that much time, I was sleeping! It was just easier to put a little video or picture up here and there. And before you ask, this calf is a boy. Male beef cattle get two choices in life...
- Live your life as a bull.
- Live your life as a steer.
I can not have a bull. I'm not set up for that. Plus, that's the last thing I need in my world, and with his small start, he probably wouldn't be a great one. Living your life as a steer only ends one way. I have found over the last month, this fact is horrifying to some people. They can't rationalize raising this calf and then eating him. They think he's cute. He is cute! It just doesn't change the facts. It also doesn't change the fact that every hamburger or steak you eat, used to be a cute calf. I'm not an evil person, but I am resolved to the facts and the future. I so wish he'd been a girl, but he's not. This only leaves me to give him the best life I can give him. I'm not heartless. I know there will come a day, and it will be a sad day.
I also know this is the start of something great in my life.