I started this blog to capture both the ups and downs of our experience on this little farmstead. In yesterday’s post I waxed poetic about the ups. And it’s all true. But I was giggling to myself a little, thinking if they only knew . There are big setbacks and little setbacks, but I’m finding it’s not so much the individual events as it is the cumulative effect that gets me. Two steps forward and one and a half steps back.
So back to the cow. We bought her last fall at the sale barn, as part of a group of four. You know how it is at any auction. They throw something that won’t sell well in with some more desirable items. The two Hereford cows Matt wanted were grouped with a nice Simmental plus this cow. But she didn’t look sick at that point, just really laid back.
A few months later she’s losing weight and looking sickly. We talk to my brother, who works for our vet, and he says it could be a really heavy parasite load or it could be Johnes disease. So we treat her for parasites, but it’s pretty obvious that’s not really it. Johnes disease is basically chronic diarrhea and the animal just slowly wastes away. More common in dairy cattle than beef. It’s kind of like Crohn’s disease in humans. Incurable.
The best case scenario was that she’d have her calf – which would be worth $200 as soon as he hit the ground – and then we’d sell her at the sale barn, probably for about $400 less than we paid for her. Worst case scenario was that they’d both die and we’d be out the $750 we paid for her.
She lost the calf last Wednesday. So much for best case scenario. The plan was to take her to the sale barn Monday evening to be sold on Tuesday. But she beat us to the punch and died Monday morning. Worst case scenario.
Now I have a lot of passion for our little farm, but admittedly I can also lose focus at the drop of a hat and at lunch Monday I was kvetching to Matt about losing the cow and the $750 we paid for her. “$750 would have bought me a new camera and a lens, and I would have had something to take pictures with instead of a carcass.” I can be real whiner.
Fast forward to supper time, when he comes in to say Sarah’s going to have her piglets. I, not having regained focus yet, replied, “You’d better get Winston out of there now! If she has those pigs and he eats them, that might be what sends me over the edge to buying a house in town.”
After all was said and done Matt’s take on the day was, “See, if that cow hadn’t died I would have been traveling to and from the sale barn tonight and I wouldn’t have been here to help Sarah have those pigs. If I hadn’t helped her we might have only had 3 live instead of 9.”
Call it what you will – fate, serendipity, God’s plan. Whatever it is, it’s the same thing that paired me up with this man. He helps balance the scale against my tendency to hit all points on the emotional spectrum (often in the span of a single day). I’m amazed each day that the two of us are still together, and there are days when I wonder if we will remain so. The situations this farming thing puts us in often push us to the limits of our affection. So why do we do it? See yesterday’s post, I guess.
Despite the above evidence to the contrary, this ag entrepreneurs class I’m taking has helped me be less emotional and more analytical about such setbacks. We have to try and simply look at the situation, find what lessons we can in it, and move on. In this case, we’ll make it a goal to not purchase future breeding stock at the sale barn. We went the sale barn route initially because we didn’t have much money and we were having a hard time finding the stock we wanted around here. I’d still say it’s a good way to get started, despite the risks, especially if you’re starting small as we did. But for us it’s time to learn and grow, and to have a new plan.
Plans-R-Us these days, thanks to the class…”if” plans, “when” plans, “how” plans. Matt says he’s perfectly happy to leave this as a hobby. Of course I have to remind him that three head is a hobby. Twenty-one head is either an addiction or a business.