Culling Cows

Drought. Dry, sparse grass and lots of blue supplement tubs.

Drought. Dry, sparse grass and lots of blue supplement tubs.

The drought we are currently suffering through is showing no signs of improving. Despite our positive attitudes and all the thoughts and prayers for water that we can muster, things continue to get worse. All agriculture related conversations inevitably circle around to water. When will it rain? Will it be a wet year? El Nino? Do you know anyone with extra feed? How are we going to survive? Needless to say, our whole family, actually the whole community, is suffering from a great deal of anxiety.

This is a common picture these days.

This is a common picture these days.

Let me tell you, the worst thing you can say to someone in agriculture right now is anything along the lines of “it’s not going to rain” or “it’s going to be another dry year”. It’s almost like a slap in the face. Staying focused on the now, making it day to day, convincing ourselves it’s going to be okay, are the only things keeping most of us motivated. This is very real to us.

Our hay field.

Our hay field.

Every rancher I know is making every effort to conserve water, to become more efficient and, well, survive. Some ranchers are buying and making all the hay they can. They need feed for their cattle and know that is the only way to get it right now. Other ranchers are culling their herds. We are doing both.

Our beautiful cull cows.

Our beautiful cull cows.

In addition to selling our calf crop, where we earn the majority of our income, about two months early, we made the decision to cull or sell, more cattle than we normally would. Selling your mother cows is almost like selling your future and past. These are cows whose genetics were planned years before they were ever born. We watched their births, we watched them grow up, we cared for them their whole lives, we watched them, in turn, give birth. Now we must sell them.

The auction ring.

The auction ring.

Granted, culling cows is a necessity for a healthy herd. Removing genetics that are not efficient makes your herd more sustainable. And, ranching is a business. If a cow is not making you money, she is costing you money. Most of us operate within such tight margins, we simply can’t afford to have the deadweight, even in a good year.

Some of our girls.

Some of our girls.

It’s different when you are forced to cull cows before they are ready. The drought has forced such action. Cows that had calves that weren’t “perfect”, older cows, cows that simply looked at us the wrong way at the wrong time, all were sold. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to some of these good cows.

We sent a full truck to the sale.

We sent a full truck to the sale.

This is our reality. If we want to continue to ranch despite this drought, tough choices need to be made. Having healthy cattle and ground is our only option and that means doing whatever we must to sustain those things. Running less cattle on our dry ground will cause less stress to everything, therefore when it does rain again (and it will!!), we will be able to bounce back faster and better.

11 Comments

Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, Know a California Farmer, meat, photos, Ranch life

11 Responses to Culling Cows

  1. Heather Kingdon

    Thank you so much dear wondrous Megan!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Great blog! We too have culled. About 3 different times and we will continue to until things get better. You’re right though, it never gets easier to see those cows you’ve cared for for so long go down the road.

  3. I really appreciate your blog, you tell it like it is. I went to they sale with an 87 year old neighbor last week, he sold 20 of his replacement heifers. Very sad day. On the trip home he said very little until we were near his ranch, he said he wouldn’t see those heifers being cows anyway. I cried all the way home.

  4. Sorry to hear this. Culling sux as much as the drought does. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Dallis Basel

    Unfortunately all of us in animal agriculture have been there and done that. Hope you get some moisture.

  6. This makes me thankful that we only have 15 cows – and that we’ve had a very wet and mild summer! We had a drought a couple years back but nothing like you all are going through – wish I could send some of our moisture to you! Fingers crossed for rain!

  7. Ti Ann

    Reading from up in Vancouver, BC, Canada
    What you write is interesting to me. Your lifestyle is very foreign to mine.
    Never could have imagined the joys and sorrows experienced as a rancher. Particularly interesting coming from a modern woman.
    Thank you.

  8. Pingback: #813 is in labor and a birth story of my own | ranch wife life

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