Caddy Shack Paul and the Cow Shed

Enjoyed visiting with Mike and Caddy Shack Paul yesterday evening. The weather finally lightened up a little so that we were able to enjoy a cool and cloudy day while Mike smoked a Boston Butt for dinner. It has been months since we saw Caddy Shack last. Our biggest event was last evening as it began to get dark. The cats had gathered around the deck waiting for their dinners, that is all but a couple. Suddenly birds started squawking, whisling and rustling, dogs started barking incessantly, and near the greenhouse a number of coyotes began yipping and making such a clamour I heard it in the house. Mike grabbed a shotgun.

When coyotes yip like they, they have either surrounded a prey or have “conquered” one and I thought one of the cats was done for. It wouldn’t be the first time. One of our cats, while in the flower garden, not 25 feet from the house was snatched up by coyotes a while back. A quick shake of his head as he ran and she was gone. I witnessed it. When I was a real city-girl, I might have objected to the idea of Mike grabbing a gun to go after a “harmless” wild animal…not this time.

Apparently, my yelling for the cats and going to get the men scared the coyotes away. By the time we reached the place where the yipping had been, they were gone. We did a head count of the cats and one was missing. An hour later, the cat showed up asking to come in the house. Whew!

Today, Mike and Caddy Shack will clean and enlarge the shed area in preparation for the new calves. They need to be separated from the ones we currently have for a while because they are much smaller and because the stress of transportation can set them up for Shipping Sickness, a type of pneumonia that can kill a calf quickly. We’ll be on guard for that this time, after losing Nando. We also have the ‘isolation ward’ set up and ready for any that may become ill. Hopefully, it will be unnecessary.

Our existing herd is growing so fast! Many of them look more like cows (ok cattle) than the little calves that were brought in. Horn, the skinny guy who first started getting horns was so thin, I could almost see his ribs, then he grew taller, but lanky, like some teenage boys do. Even he is beginning to fill out, although his legs still look quite long in comparison to the other calves. If he continues at this rate, I’m thinking he will bring good money when we sell him in the fall…at least I hope so.

I have been astounded at the knowledge farmers have. It’s not just a case of understanding how to plant or raise their livestock. They also have to keep tabs on the current market, as prices fluctuate. Yesterday, feeder calve prices were down (figures) and soybean futures too. In this area, they have to find their own markets for produce because unlike some states, ours does not help. As a result, many small producers are forced to sell at farmers markets, while consumers still buy “imported” (domestic or international) produce in the convenience of their local grocery store. Seems silly to me. Farmers also have to keep a lot of records, not just for taxes (the obvious), but in the case of cattle, for instance, records must be kept on each calve regarding purchase price, cost of medications, record of vaccinations, etc. Without those things, it would be difficult to figure a basis to establish your profit amount at years end. Computers today are a lifeblood for family farmers…so why do so few ISP providers give access to rural areas? Again, seems silly to me. So while the family farmer is planting fields, raising herds or flocks, keeping books, working an outside job to pay the mortgage, he is also expected to drop everything pack up his produce in his truck and haul it to a local large city, and sit for hours or days to sell a small crowd his product…or hire someone to do that too.

Let’s see…say you wanted to farm. You find a nice little farm, say 100 acres with good soil and average house, a partial cattle fencing. You pay $4,000 per acre or $400,000 for the property, which you mortgage with the bank. Now, you are gonna plant soybeans, corn and raise some cattle. How are you going to do that without equipment? So you get lucky and find some equipment you need cheap. You pay $14,000 for a used tractor, $15,000 for a soybean “drill”, $5,000 for a plow and a disk and you’ll hire out the rest of the field preparation. You already have a shed on the property, so you will fence it in with electric fencing $2,000 and now you are ready to purchase calves…at $500-600 per head. Now you need water and food troughs, feed, etc…let’s go cheap and round it to $500. So now we’re talking an investment of about $441,000 which you have to pay back, part in full and part in installments…  and you haven’t bought the first seed. That’s okay, you have a “real” job.

You work your eight hour job, come home and work another four hours after work. You work every weekend, too. You can’t take a vacation until winter, after everything has sold. Now, the state has decided you have PLENTY of time to go sit at the farmers market and sell your product. Right…and that’s my point. Farmers LOVE what they do, or they wouldn’t do it. They could use a little marketing help.

Well, silly me, needs to get off her soapbox and have some coffee in me before I head out the door. I have errands to run and overgrown grass to mow. Have a great day!

About cattlebaroness

I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History, nearing completion of a Master of Arts in American history. Born and raised first on military bases around the world, then in Orange County, CA, I moved to Kentucky when my children were small. I now live on a small family farm and am learning about farm life, planting and our newest addition to the landscape--cattle. Until a month or two ago, all I knew about 'cows' were that they came in brown, black and white and that some are raised for milk and others for meat. I am a quick study out of necessity.
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