Hello dear friends! Now, I know I promised you amusement and laughter at my newbie cattle lessons. I also want to promise to be real in telling my stories, and this one is as real as it gets. I want to share the other side of farming that mainstream folks may never be aware of. I’ll be honest in saying that I was hesitant to do so. This story is personal and heartbreaking for me, but…this is farm life.
Only two short years ago – before buying our first cow – I thought that cattle were merely a product with an ear tag or brand to their farmers. Business, not personal, right? I thought that maybe I was overly attached to our cattle, being referred to as Crazy Cow Lady and all. After following a few farming blogs and Facebook groups, I have come to realize that this darker side of farming is shared by many more that I would ever have imagined. Here is our story…
It was my first hurricane season in Georgia. Sure, I had endured a small one while living on the coast of North Carolina, but Georgia is right in the path of the big ones that cut through Florida and Texas…and we have a herd of vulnerable cattle. This added a whole new level of worry. Two hurricanes were on the radar for Georgia and supplies were flying off the store shelves. We made a last-minute trip to Tractor Supply and a salesman was in the parking lot with the one remaining generator. We had contemplated a generator but decided against it. And here one was, right in our path, so we grabbed it.
It was 10am on Saturday morning and Hurricane Irma was coming. I was sitting at the kitchen table watching it roll in with a cup of coffee and anxiety. Sunny one moment and as dark as night the next.
I will never forget the feeling of complete helplessness at not knowing what the day would bring. We couldn’t do anything to protect our cattle, only hope that the trees would shield them. We thought about the barn for the little ones, but we weren’t sure if the barn would be standing at the end of the day. It was like rolling the dice on which was more dangerous.
The hurricane blew in and we lost power right away. Damn, I should’ve showered when I could. We literally sat at the kitchen table and just watched for most of the day. We watched as pieces of our neighbor’s barn roof blew away and ours shook in the wind. We watched our cattle huddle in the lowest part of the pasture in a tight circle. We watched the wind change direction as the eye passed by. Finally, in early evening, it was over. The little huddle of cattle dispersed and we did our head count. One missing. We threw on our boots and jackets and headed out to make sure everyone was okay. There, in the lowest corner, laying in a puddle, was our youngest calf, Rex. We ran down to him and I was sure he was dead. Cattle Daddy cradled his head and said his ears moved. I ran to get our ATV and we hefted him into the back and I held onto him as we sped into the barn. We laid him in a stall and I flew into the house to gather all the blankets I could find. We wrapped him up and I laid next to him trying to warm him with my body heat. All three of us were soaked and covered with mud. Cattle Daddy grabbed the generator (thank God for that) and some space heaters and we got them all going. He was slowly warming up but his legs were still as cold as ice. Cattle Daddy setup lawn chairs and I stayed on the ground with the calf, hugging and rubbing some life back into him.
Hours later, he was blinking and twitching his ears. We swapped out his blankets, toweled him off, rolled him over…never more than a foot away. We were starving by this time. I had made beef stew in the crock pot via the generator that was now in the barn. Luckily, it was still warm and ready…and we ate dinner in to-go containers in a barn stall with our sick calf. By this time, it was the middle of the night and we were exhausted but afraid to leave him. We set up a cot in the stall and one of us stood watch while the other napped, still cold and covered in mud. Rex was coming around. His body was warm and his legs were no longer ice cubes. We decided that we had done all we could for him. We covered him with several layers of blankets and then unplugged the blanket, heaters, and generators. I hugged him good night and told him he’d better not die on us.
The next morning, we found Rex wide awake and unhappy! Irritated mooing welcomed us and it was the best sound ever! Over the next couple of days, we were in and out of the barn every hour checking on him, feeding him, making sure he was drinking. Finally, he was eating and drinking like normal and we let him back into the pasture with the herd. A couple of days went by and then we noticed he was looking lethargic and not moving around as much. We put him back into the stall and he would escape by sliding under the gates. We called our Cattle Mentor and he suggested a shot of antibiotics, as the hypothermia may have brought on pneumonia. We went out to the barn…and it was too late. Rex had died. I hugged him and bawled like a baby. We felt like we had failed him. I was heartbroken. I seriously reconsidered this whole farming thing at that moment. Welcome to real farm life.
I follow several other farm pages and found that most feel a significant loss when an animal dies. Whether it be cattle, goats, pigs or chickens. Losing these animals is much more difficult that one could imagine. Not only are these losses emotional, they are also financial. These living, breathing creatures provide laughs and life lessons as well as food and income.
To those that chose to live a life vulnerable to mother nature, crops and animals…you are some incredible individuals and I am grateful to all of you. With all my heart, thank you.
Keepin’ it real,
Crazy Cow Lady