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Monday, July 9, 2012

Tears from a Cowboy

I told you in an earlier post that I am working at a beef cattle feedyard this summer. I am really enjoying learning all of the phases of production that go into getting beef on the table for all of us!

The yard I am at has the capacity to hold 50,000 head of cattle. It's a pretty big motel for the moo cows. Continental breakfast, complimentary lunch, the whole nine yards.

A couple weeks ago, I was sent with the head doctor. He is a cowboy who is in charge of doctoring any sick cattle. His cowboy peers ride through every pen on the yard each morning. If an animal appears to be struggling or has an impending illness, they walk him out of the pen and to the hospital barn. That is where the head doctor comes in to treat the animals as he has been trained by a veterinarian to provide high quality care to the cattle in the feedyard.

We had a black short yearling (slightly younger than a year old calf) in the chute ready for his treatment. I remember beads of sweat running down my face as it was about 109 degrees out that day. Cowboy took Blacky's temperature and looked up his individual record on the computer in the barn. Blacky was bloated which means his rumen (stomach) was producing gas that was building up because eructation wasn't occurring properly. While we had him in the chute Cowboy noticed his breathing was extremely compromised. He wanted me to grab a tube from his truck so that we could put it down Blacky's throat into his rumen and let the gas out so that he could breath better. When I ran back into the barn, Cowboy was on one knee by the chute.

Blacky had laid down in the chute and died. His enlarged rumen had suffocated him. Cowboy had his straw hat in his hands. A tear rolled down his cheek through the dust covering the man's face after a hard day of work in the wind and heat. I swallowed a hard knot in my throat. We were just a minute too late.

As we walked away from the barn we were both silent and it was downright somber. The wind still howled and the sun beat down on our necks. I couldn't help but think about the meaning of animal care. Cowboy is among many in the cattle business who take their jobs (providing high quality animal care every day) to heart. We may have lost Blacky, but Cowboy had saved numerous others that day because of his training and dedication.

It's just hard to lose one when you care so much.



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