Careful What You Wish For...
About a week ago, in casual conversation, Husbeast asked, "do you ever write your blog stories anymore?"
"Yeah," I replied, "but I have to have a story. I don't like to post just to post. I need something to write about."
The Man Upstairs heard my "request" and delivered two days later....
It's a big one. One of our biggest, in fact. It's the end of the year's work, and some would be quick to point out, time to start thinking about how things will be done for the 365 days that follow it. It's marked every year by the stacks of bills that start showing up on mail days and the schedule that was set in place a month before so trucks, and the brand inspector could be lined up.
We usually get pretty twitchy in the days leading up to our ship day. We wonder over calf weights, the weather for trucks coming in, calf weights(that's a big one) and how to make the activities of the morning go as smooth as possible.
We ship off the cow. Every year, we gather the cows as early as the seeing hour allows. We sort cows off of calves and then separate steers and heifers. The buyer and sales rep are there by the time we have sorted and we start weighing drafts of 10 to get the average weight. The buyer sorts off what he doesn't want to take and we weigh those again to remove that weight from the total. Then _usually_ we start loading trucks.
This year was no different other than our favorite worries, calf weights and the weather, proved to be working against our best laid plans. Throw in the fact that we also shipped on the day after clocks were set back and we had an interesting situation.
The day before shipping our rep and the brand inspector checked in to see what time we were going to be ready for them. I explained what we had to do and let them make their choices. The rep wasn't changing her clocks and the brand inspector decided he would be there when his phone said 10. We couldn't start until we could see, regardless of the hour. With no real knowledge of what time anyone meant, we headed to bed for a fitful night's sleep.
Husbeast and I woke at 4 to the sound of rain on the roof (or was it 3)...neither of us had intended to be awake that early, but with too much to think about we decided the answers might be at the bottom of the coffee mugs so we attempted to find them there until the yard had lightened enough to catch horses. By the time we were saddled and ready to go, the rain had turned to snow. The ground hadn't turned white yet, but as we brought the cows toward the corrals, the flakes grew in size and started to stick. I got to sort in the gate and the snowflakes fell against the cow's coats in a minor blizzard making all of us dizzy with their speed and volume.
By the time the cows were sorted off, the rep had arrived. Sorting calves was just as dizzying. Some of the bangs tags were defective and the typical method of looking for the orange clip in heifer's ears was not effective. Anything that didn't have the orange bangs tag needed a closer study of it's belly before I could be sure it was a steer and not a heifer missing her tag. In a minor blizzard with calves wanting to fly by me, that too, was a dizzying project. I sent calves one or two at a time toward the gate they needed to be in after I was sure I had the right animal in my sights. Yes, in case you're wondering there were some mistakes. Only a few...
In the back of our minds we were all wondering what the roads were doing and how the trucks were making it. Neither had showed up yet which was unusual. The buyer was present and usually the trucks showed up well before things needed to be loaded. The brand inspector was there waiting for the okay to get things printed up. But, there were no trucks.
We got weights on everything and although things came in a bit light, we would be okay. Still no trucks. Weigh backs were done and loads were ready to go. By now, the rep was checking her phone and so was the buyer. Neither of them had service, but my phone did. I sent a text to the truck driver's number explaining who I was and asking how he was making it. His reply came in as I was walking across the corral. I read it and stopped in my tracks. I turned to our rep and said "we have a problem...."
The reply said he had already picked up a load that morning. He had heard there were two trucks scheduled to be with us. Somewhere, something had happened. None of us had a clue what that might have been.
The next contact number had a similar reply, "two trucks will be there tomorrow a.m. sorry."
And there it was. We had two loads of calves and a pen full of those that were sorted back, sitting in the corrals and minimal space to store them. We used up all of our corral space keeping the steers and heifers separate and the left over calves separate from them. We also had horses to keep in overnight so we could be ready the next day. The place was full. We could only hope that everything stayed where it was put for the next 15 hours or so.
The trucks would arrive in the morning. So would the vet. Because, you see, we also plan our preg check day around shipping. Once the calves are gone, the cows are easy to get into the corral. The vet was scheduled to arrive at 9, but we worried over that coinciding with the trucks showing up and needing to stop the preg project to load them. There was also that nagging bit of a detail regarding corral space and not having enough storage to pull it off.
After talking to the vet that night and telling him our story, we came up with a plan to start pregging at 10. We had been in contact with the contractor of the trucks and he was aiming to have them in our yard at 8 (old time? New time?)
Once again we woke too early and started on coffee. We watched the clock waiting for news that the trucks had hit the dirt. Husbeast headed outside to see what possible wrecks awaited us and I caught horses. A handful of steers had made it through a fence into another pen, but hadn't mixed with anything and one heifer had managed to get out into the yard. Nothing major....
We headed back to the house and paced the floor, drank more coffee, visited and checked our phones and the windows every five minutes. No word. I finally told Weebeast (who is taller than I am, but that is beside the point) to go ahead and start on school.
I finally made myself sit down and relax when he yelled from the office "here they come!!!"
Husbeast, our friend who was there to help, Weebeast and I scattered like ducks off a pond and headed for the yard. I've never been more happy to see a semi roll in as I was in that moment. They pulled in about 9 and we had them loaded without incident and headed down the road as we rode out to gather cows and the vet drove over the hill.
The next biggest day of the year could commence at that point...how would the cows breed up? Due to the extreme drought conditions this year, we were prepared for a low grade and cows not breeding back as well.
We ended up with an A overall and a first...our second calf heifers, which are usually the hardest group to get bred back, pregged at 100%. Read that again please, because that is a major win. I'll wait....
Yeah. We got 100% of them back. The stress of the last 24 hours sort of melted away when we realized how well our preg had turned out. Yes, we had to start thinking about next year already, but we knew for sure what we would be doing for our cows. Copy the protein, copy the mineral, copy the Multi-min, repeat, repeat, repeat. Because it worked.
Oh, and Helga? Yep....she's back too!
So, thanks to a small request that was answered in disguise as need of a story, it all turned out in the end. Do we want that to happen ever again? No thank you! We will do our best to plan for the next year, knowing full well that in the cow business, plans usually require some adjustment. We are getting pretty good at that!