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Death on the Range

This is the time of the year where we load up our cattle onto cattle trucks and ship them to our summer ranch. We do this for many reasons, you can go here, to get more information about why.

The trucks loading our cattle.

The trucks loading our cattle.

Needless to say, shipping the cattle and moving all of our tools to the other ranch is a stressful time, even though we do it twice a year. Due to the major drought we are facing in California, this year feels especially scary. It feels like we are being forced by mother nature to do everything sooner. It has not helped with the stress levels that we were experiencing.

However Saturday we finished shipping most of the cows. That means the hardest part was over. Everything had gone well. No animals or people got hurt. No one got yelled at too badly. We got cattle trucks when we wanted them. Only two were cows missing, a good shipping season by anyone’s standards.

Sunday was a day to enjoy some calmness and relax. I had a pretty nice little day planned in order to celebrate being done. I had brunch with my girlfriend. Worked in my garden. Did some writing and I was hoping to catch 60 Minutes, and call it a day.

The hardest place to get to on the ranch. There is a creek with one, very treacherous crossing.

The hardest place to get to on the ranch. There is a creek with one, very treacherous crossing.

I almost had my calm day, I made it to the writing part. Then as it so often does in production agriculture, my personal plans had to change. Since we were missing two cows, I took off on my trusty Polaris to look for them. I successfully found one! But I unfortunately came across a cow that had an accident. She couldn’t get her legs under her, she couldn’t walk – somehow she broke her back (maybe she tripped on a rock, maybe she got in a cow fight, we’ll never know). She happened to do it at the worst possible place on the ranch, there was no way we could reach her to help or to slaughter, it was hard enough reaching her on my ATV. I had no other option but to euthanize her and walk away.

I'm sorry cow.

I’m sorry cow.

It was a hard thing to do. Even if we have a worst case scenario like this, we can usually salvage something so the cow’s death is not a waste. As long as an animal is healthy and we observe any withdrawal times for vaccinations, an animal that had an accident can be slaughtered for our personal consumption. Old cows make great hamburger, hot dogs, snack sticks and jerky and I am always glad to have that stuff in my freezer.

If the animal had recently been given a vaccination, we can donate the carcass to our local animal sanctuary to be used as feed so at least there is some use. To just leave a cow in a field for scavengers is a difficult, difficult thing, just a total waste. In a few months, after the bones are clean, and the coyotes, scavenger birds have had their fill, I’ll go back and pick up the bones so there will be no mess.

This is the bad part about my life. Death happens here and not always in a meaningful way. As a cattlewoman the best thing I can do is be compassionate, ease pain and suffering as quickly and as best as I can and take solace in that. But it never, ever get easier.

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