Spring is finally here in Missouri. We have spread fertilizer, turned our cows to green pasture, I’m already behind on cutting my grass, Keri and the boys are planning our garden, and we’ve already worked our first set of calves. I believe it was well into May last year when all of those things had been accomplished. So it’s nice to know we’re ahead of where we were last year at home!
The last few weeks, I’ve found myself in a very unfamiliar position. I felt like I was caught up with not much to do. This is a feeling that often times brings a lot of anxiety for me. In farm/ranch culture, we are conditioned to think that if we aren’t doing 10 things at once, that we are lazy or unproductive. We have glorified overextending ourselves. I often find myself in this rut and have to pause and realize that it’s ok to take a break from the busy.
Last year, I signed up for Ranch Management Consultants “Profit Tips” to be delivered directly to my e-mail. Although I’ve yet to attend a Ranching For Profit school, this company has changed my life and the way I think about ranching. This morning in my inbox, I received the latest Profit Tips article. The article was titled “Is Tagging Calves a Good Idea.” Being in the middle of calving season, this obviously piqued my interest and I had to open and read right away.
In this article, RMC CEO Dallas Mount busts some of the myths about tagging calves and that, just maybe, it could be a waste of time and resources.
“Then I inquired, “What would happen if you didn’t check a single cow, and didn’t tag a single calf? Would they all die? How many might you save by being there? What would be the economic cost to the business, of not doing these things that are distracting you from doing what you identified as extremely high value tasks?” Of course, not all the calves would die, and the cows don’t need ear tags in the calves to know which calf is theirs. Sure, there might be a few calves lost due to our lack of attention, but I think we tend to overestimate our ability to save calves at calving. Sometimes our involvement just screws stuff up. This becomes even more true if calves are born in warmer weather.”Dallas Mount
This is home for me. When I began to become more intentional with my cattle herd several years ago, I decided to take up calf tagging. That meant checking the cows every single day, looking for the cows that were calving, spending countless cumulative hours sneaking around mama cows to grab there babies to make sure I didn’t get killed. I thought in order to be a productive, efficient cow-calf producer I had to do all the things…check all of the boxes. I had to do all the busy work to appear successful
Well a late summer night in 2017 changed all of that. We were in the middle of our home renovation and we were living with my parents. The three older boys and I took a trip over to our North farm to check on our fall calvers. We found that one cow who had just calved. If you have cattle, you know that one cow. “Sure she’s wild but look at that calf she raises.”
With the boys on the back of the truck, I grabbed my calf hook to try and sneak my way around this mama to get a quick tag in this calf. 99% of the cows I have are all bluff…but there is still the 1% that will eat you for lunch. As soon as I got the hook around this calf’s ankle, this mama hit me like Ray Lewis hits a receiver coming across the middle. She sent me flying. After she hit me, the dumb kid in me decided that it would be a good idea to keep trying. I grabbed my calf hook and took out for the calf again. This time she didnt wait for me to get the calf caught. She hit me with a 20 foot head start. Then when I was down on the ground, she kept hitting me. I honestly didn’t know if she was going to stop.
That was probably the first time in my life that I was legitimately scared for my life around cattle. The worst part of all of it is that my boys all witnessed it first hand. I couldn’t imagine what that wouldve been like to see my dad being maimed by a cow and not being able to do anything about it. Thankfully, she eventually let up and I limped back to the truck and left the farm. Needless to say, that cow is no longer around. As we say, we “put her on rubber.”
I tell that vivid story to illustrate how much of a waste of time tagging calves (and many other tasks) can be to our farms and ranches. We think that we must do all the things that others do to be successful. In fact, it’s our uniqueness that allows us to thrive. Since that day, I wait until processing to tag all of the calves and then. Since the actual date of birth doesn’t really matter in a commercial cow-calf operation, just knowing that they were born within that 60 day window is sufficient. Plus, they are in the chute for castration and vaccinations anyway, so putting a tag in isn’t much added effort.
Like many things over the years in my life, Dallas’ Profit Tips came a very critical time for me. They helped me realize that I have become much more efficient at taking time for the things that really matter. That in stopping driving around looking for calves to tag, I’ve left more time to spend with my family and to do other things that bring me clarity (like running). I can’t wait to see the change in my life that actually happens when I do finally attend a RFP school!!