Friday, February 12, 2010

Hospice House (Barn)

Well, this time of year is always hard on me.  One of the hard parts about Ranching & Raising Cows the way we do. 
What I mean by that is, we keep old cows.  Old cows eventually die. 
No two ways around it, everyone eventually dies.  Cows do too.

That being said.  What is "OLD" for a cow?  Most ranches cull their cows anywhere from 5-9 years of age.  They go to the sale barn, are bought by a packer & are made into hamburger.  Sometimes, if they are pregnant, a small farmer will buy them, calve them, & at the end of the year they will sell the open cows (for hamburger) and the calves.

We are different.  We are very different.  We keep our BEST cows their entire lives.  A cow that has produced great calves for us gets to live her entire life here on the ranch.

What makes her great?  Well, she could have produced bulls or heifers that we have sold at a premium or kept here on the ranch.  She was open (not pregnant) very few times while producing these good calves.  The great cows always get a second (or third) chance, and are kept even if they are open one year.

Today it was 7853.  She has been a great cow for us.  Before we bought her, she was shown 2 years at the Denver Stock Show.  She has raised several great calves for us.  We have 3 or 4 of her females in our herd and  we've sold several bulls she raised.  Three years ago she stifled herself.  What this means is that she hurt her hip ligaments & couldn't walk very good.  We contemplated culling her.  But, she had been a good cow & if we culled her, we wouldn't get very much at all.  So, she stayed.

She lived her life @ the home ranch & was babied a little.  She had great grass in the summer.  In the winter she lived in the "baby" or heifer pen.  This pen eats the best hay all winter & doesn't have to travel to get water.  They have access to the barn & extra  shelter when they are outside.

But, everyone gets old & most of us go downhill, & then we die.  7853 did.  She was born in 1995.  Wow, in "Cow Years" she was REALLY old.  15 is an amazing age for a cow.

Honey & I were pretty upset early this morning when we found her down. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we had given her 3 more years than most any other ranch would have.  She raised 2 more outstanding heifers for us.  She was fat & happy & ate great grass for 3 extra years.  Well, really about 8 extra years if you figure we should have culled her when she was 6 or 7.  It took a little extra work to care for her, but it WAS worth it. 

This morning, I took her water & some extra good hay.  She drank very little & munched on the hay a bit.  But, we both knew that once an old cow goes down like this, she usually doesn't get up.  I was with her for an hour & let her be for a bit.  When I went back out, she was gone. 

This time of year is really hard for me!  But, I console myself with the fact that I love my animals, literally till thier end.

Just remember there are tons of other ranchers out there just like me, caring for their cattle every day, no matter what God & the Weather brings them.

I've been thinking about Gilmer Dairy's e-Dopt a cow program.  Would anyone be interested in e-Dopting a beef cow.  We currently have 5 old cows that will live her for the rest of thier lives, wether they raise a calf or not.


  1. So sorry to hear about your cow.....It is difficult to lose a member of the herd....the family.

  2. You guys are "softies" just like Tom and I. We love our cows and always give them another chance. We do cull a few for one reason or another, but the good ones have a home for as long as they live.

  3. Good to know about this. I really didn't know about the "culling" or what farmers did with old cattle. I think the culling is kind of sad, but I suppose most realistic for large cattle farmers.
    I think it is nice you gave this old cow a happy journey toward the end of her productive life. I hope you find peace in knowing that her final years were good ones. And 15 years, that is a good life!

  4. You are amazing. I grew up on a dairy farm & could never quite come to grips with the whole culling of the cow when she was either 2 old, through a dead calf or wasn't producing enough. It wasn't the cows fault they had performed their duties, loyally & without question. I found your story very heart warming. Why not adopt a cow, no matter what the bred. I'm sure some city folk would love to do that, you could send photos of them grazing on your beautiful farm. Thank you for being such an animal lover.

  5. Thanks Nancy

    @Susan, Yes, we are total softies!

    @PonyGirl, Culling is harder on small ranches like ours where I know every cow, & calved a lot of them here on the ranch. 7853 was one of the first cows I EVER calved.

    @jazzabelle, thanks for following along!

  6. What a beautiful and sad story. We are currently going through the same thing with one of my husband's favorite dairy cows. She is stifled and pregnant with twins. Sorry for you loss.

    Great blog!

  7. {{hugs}} I can imagine how sad you were! you are amazing for all that you do for them!! :)

  8. we are like you- we don't cull them until they're really old- or they raise a calf that doesn't make the load- but most of the time they're 12 or older before we cull them. I even wrote a post dedicated to the *old girls*, because culling is sad but it's part of life on a ranch.

  9. We're the same way. As silly as it seems, when one of our old cows gets down, I pray the Lord will take them quickly. I hate to see them suffer. Great post!

  10. I'm sorry about your cow, we raise goats but feel the same way.

  11. You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.............................................

  12. Always hard to lose one no matter what their age. At least you have those younger females to look forward to. It is always great to see what the next generation will produce.

  13. Shanen, you are amazing. To know how much you care for your animals is priceless. Keep it going mama!