A rough day on the farm yesterday

Yesterday ended up being a pretty bad day on the farm. One of the little pigs we’ve been treating looked terrible when we milked at 5:30 but he was still hanging in there. Both the vet and I were clueless what was causing the problem but I had hopes that we’d learn something that day that would tell us what to do. We’d done  a fecal check and found zero evidence of parasites and the pneumonia certainly didn’t seem to be the culprit. Later that morning, I went back to check on the pig and found her dead so that morning when I’d held her was right at the end. I talked to the vet and he quickly suggested I take the pig to Rollins Animal Lab on Blue Ridge Road and have a necropsy performed. I agreed readily as we’d already discussed this as a next step. I made arrangements to get by there later in the day as it was plenty cold to keep the pig until we could get there.

Home built animal trailer
Cholo trailer, nearing completion.

First I had to work on the animal trailer we’ve been building because I’m trying to get it out of the shop so we can clean up and move onto the next desperately needed project. Our shop isn’t that large, and  a trailer sitting in there pretty much takes up the whole work area. It’s been in there for over a month and it only needed the hydraulics working and the rear section made to be finished. After doing some testing and figuring out that I’d configured the hydraulics incorrectly, I had to get ANOTHER set of hoses made. While I was spending hours getting our latest set of hydraulic hoses made, Miguel texted me and said that cow #24 was dead! What?! This is one of the two heifers we bought when we bought Benjamin. She had had a still born calf last year but I attributed it to the fact that she was bred too young. Now suddenly she is dead. I got back to the farm, minus the final hose I needed due to a fitting we didn’t have to find our cow hanging and Miguel asking if we can save any meat from the cow.

Dead cow hanging from tractor.
Cow #24, dead from bloat.

I stood there for a good 10 minutes looking at this cow. She weighed about 900 pounds. She was pregnant from Benjamin which meant she would have thrown a pure Angus calf and probably 15 more over her life. Instead she’s hanging there dead and still warm. Miguel thought it was from bloat and a quick bit of home surgery confirmed he was right. From perfectly fine to dead in a couple of hours!

Miguel was game to dress her out and save the meat. However that would have kept us processing beef till about 10pm, getting her skinned, gutted, halved, and broken down into primals. Our freezers were full of existing meat so there wasn’t really any room to put another cow away anyway. We could have hung her in the reefer truck that we pick up and deliver our meat in, but I haven’t built the rack to hold a side yet (it’s on the to do list.) Also, I had to get the dead piglet to Rollins so they could find out what was causing the problems with our pigs. Finally, the trailer mentioned above, which couldn’t be moved due to a lack of the hose I didn’t get that morning, was in the way so the area where we would work was occupied because I hadn’t finished the trailer project. This was a comedy of errors, or just too many things happening at once. However the Lord doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle so stop, step through it, and execute.

The meat would be of questionable value. We couldn’t sell it. Miguel was game to try some and I debated on doing a quick butcher just to see what the quality was however even if it was ok I didn’t have the time to vacuum seal 425 lbs of meat so even if it was ok, I didn’t have the time to do it correctly. With a sigh I put the cow in the bucket of the backhoe and buried her. That’s about a $2000 cow on the hoof, and much much more than that over her life when you count her offspring. On top of her being a perfectly nice cow that I just feel terrible about.

The moral of the story with this cow is a saying I read in a cattleman’s magazine about culling. It said”Love your kids, forgive your enemies. Do neither for your cows.” This cow already had a problem. If I had culled her and sent her to the sale barn, I’d have cut my losses. Instead I’m spending money and time burying her. There isn’t enough margin in farming to make many mistakes. Loosing a prime cow if a pretty expensive mistake. I can’t say lesson learned, but lesson reinforced.

In my next post, I’ll tell about the pigs and what we’ve learned is the problem.

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