Home & Shop Companion #0064
The Three Truths of Raising Livestock
by Stephen Bishop of Shelby, NC
If you walk far on our farm during winter or early spring, you’ll likely come up missing footwear, especially if you try to traverse the Bog of Despair, which is centered around the hay ring. It contains a few old-growth rubber boots that are as firmly rooted in the muck as swamp gums in the Bayou. The poor soles are a grim reminder of what happens when bipeds with loosely-fitting rubber boots on their trotters attempt such a superfluous task as removing twine from a hay roll.
A lot of farmers don’t bother cutting and removing the twine, but if anybody was going to lose a cow because twine got knotted up in the digestive tract, it would probably be me. I once lost a cow to a plastic feed sack. “Probably just a little case of pneumonia,” the vet said, having stopped by since the cow was off its feed and acting puny, “likely this shot will get her perked back up and feeling better by tomorrow.” By tomorrow, the cow was as perky as a three-toed sloth, and by the next day it was as perky as a dead three-toed sloth. Figures, most farmers get to tell stories of losing cows to cunning predators like coyotes or mountain lions or chupacabras, but I lose a cow to a plastic bag.
I know it was a plastic feed sack because after we dragged the carcass off and let nature take its course, my wife’s poppaw returned to examine the remains. In the ribs, he found a feed sack that had been balled up and compacted so tightly it could have been an effective projectile in a small cannon.
In my opinion, losing animals is the worst part of farming, especially when I easily could have prevented that loss by throwing the empty feed sack away instead of saving it for who knows why. After that, I was admittedly feeling pretty glum. In consolation, my wife’s poppaw told me there are two truths to raising livestock: “Animals are going to get out, and animals are going to die; a person who ain’t prepared to deal with those two facts don’t need to be raising livestock.”
He was right of course, but I’d also like to add a third truth: a farm is going to get muddy in winter and during the spring thaw, and a person who ain’t prepared to lose a boot, best walk barefoot.
Stephen Bishop is an SFJ contributor and writes about agrarian antics from Shelby, NC. You can find more of his farming misadventures at www.misfitfarmer.com or follow him on Twitter @themisfitfarmer.
This Handy Hint prompted some questions, like, “how is this supposed to work?” After giving it some thought, I extended the wires and added some color, I think it helps to understand what is going on.