& never more employed …….

The holidays are over so I suppose I’d better get back to work. Even though I officially retired years ago. Farms ago. Three farms ago to be honest. I retired but my neighbor and my old man kept giving me the opportunity to farm another farm. If asked I will farm. It’s what I do. I retired a herd or two ago also. Oh, I had a herd when I retired and I had no intentions of getting rid of them. I had every intention of eliminating the work that a herd can become. I quit vaccinating. I quit implanting with growth hormones. I quit catching and tagging the calves when they were born. I quit turning the bull in and only letting them breed for the two traditional months around here, I let him stay with the girls year round now even if it means winter calves. A cow that can calve successfully in the winter is a keeper, just ask her calf. I kept the herd but jettisoned the bullshit. Overboard and out of mind.

I was going to farm the two farms I had rented on 50/50 share crop leases, run my little herds of cows and pigs (oh yea, I had pigs back then), watch the kids when the stay at gone mom was in road gear, and enjoy the rest of my life. Less than twenty cows and less than twenty hogs was retiring compared with the huge herds I had worked on for other people. What I was retiring from was working off the farm to make ends meet. That I did. I eventually got rid of the last few hogs. My last sow’s litter was only one pig. I was amazed when the son in law of a neighbor lady stopped by wanting to buy one forty pound pig exactly when the little shit hit forty pounds. But then I stopped at another neighbor’s lane one day when he was unloading a pickup load of cockle burs to burn in the road ditch and told him if he rented me that farm instead of the guy he had rented it to that I would make sure he never had to cut cockle burs again.

That led to a larger combine …….

Then the government came up with a freedom to farm farm program that allowed us to be in the program without having to maintain the governments base acres for each program crop. My old man said,”If I read it right that law says I can force you boys (two of my brothers and I) to farm it right!” Then he added quite conciliatory,” This won’t hurt you will it, it’s those other two birds I’m gunning for but I have to be fair and do it all around.” I told him no it wouldn’t hurt me to sow it all half down to hay even though it did. I had no real hay tools and had been hiring that done for the little bit of hay I had.

That led to buying a mower, rake and baler …….

Eventually it led to a larger herd after getting stiffed on a hay sale to a neighbor that went belly up. (He says he still intends to pay me but it’s been over ten years) I decided to feed it to cattle myself and use the manure to build up weak spots in the soils around the farms. I will feed it in big round bale feeders right on the spots where the soils need built up. I will only move the feed rings a little way over each time until the whole hard pan area is covered with cow manure. I have been able to get twice the crops on these areas in the years after “treating” them with cattle scat.

That led to doubling the herd …….

Then I had an older brother move to Arizona for his heart and Dad offered me his farm. I was reluctant to take it because up till then no one was renting more than one farm from Dad. How would the rest of the family feel if I rented two of his then three farms? I still had one brother whom never farmed and two who weren’t currently farming. Plus I had an older brother who was farming but hadn’t ever rented from “the folks”. (It was in Mom’s name) After Dad had convinced me no one else in the family needed the farm I agreed to farm it. But I didn’t have enough cattle for the increase in pasture and hay. It was already half sewed down and the freedom to farm program was still in effect.

That led to a newer combine and redoubling the herd …….

After that Dad foresaw the zero interest rate debacle looming on the horizon and he cashed out his CD’s that were paying compound interest in the teens and he converted the cash into farmland. He bought two just as they started to take off from the last high point before the great farm crises of the 1980’s. One he never actually bought. He had taken title to it (again in Mom’s name since she “forced” him into it) when my older brother borrowed funds to get the farm out of hock to another farmer he’d borrowed from. Dad only charged him interest (real interest of 4% not the zirp the banks are on) each year and he had the option of paying it all off whenever he wanted, so long as Dad was still alive. If Dad died (and he did a few years after) the option to buy it back died along with him. So the only brother farming who wasn’t renting from Dad was/is and I’m renting three from “him” for six or seven years now. (two from his trust, one from Mom)

Which leads to doing more work than I did before I retired …….



Balance Sheet

Did I actually pray for rain? Out in the open right here on the internet? In front of God and everybody? Let no one tell you convincingly that prayer can not help you achieve the results that benefit you. They may not be the results you prayed for but the benefits are assured. Take that rain for example. It cost me a couple days fencing and a big hole in the corner of a corn field where the cattle circled looking to get back into the pasture. Not the results I prayed for. But after a winter with some of the deepest freezes and greatest soil fracturing since I’ve been no tilling corn and beans (and oats/hay) and after one of the mellowest seedbeds I’ve ever planted in we now have nearly a completely wet soil moisture profile to get this crop up and pollinated. If we get some heat and rain in July and August we will be looking at a record crop.

Too bad the markets know it. We’re heading towards a twenty percent off sale price for our corn crop after the last few weeks. Soybeans for fall delivery were already on sale so their slide hasn’t been as severe ……. yet. Hay is off twenty percent too compared to last year. Granted hay was even higher the year before that but given the drouth that year record high prices were to be expected. In a nut shell feeding animals has become much much cheaper in the last couple of years. At the same time that the drouth reduced herd is needing to be rebuilt and the economy is technically improving. Meat and potatoes? Meat instead of potatoes. During the last couple of years I’ve wanted to sell off the herd at home. Now I wish I had my other herd back. They look pretty good on the balance sheet. Maybe that’s why they call it that.



I haven’t written in a while. Not since the cattle have been dry-lotted on pasture hay. Which was as soon as I rounded them up and sold the last of the bulls. I may have a couple four hundred pounders left. I was out of good pasture here at home and I didn’t want the cows to overgraze so I confined them to the barn yard. Well, two barnyards to be exact. Last summer I rearranged the cement feed bunks and divided the one yard into two. It makes sorting the cattle much easier. If one gets by me it doesn’t disappear around the barn so the others think there’s a way out. Now it has to stand by the divide fence where all the others can still see it. That usually leads to it wanting to rejoin the others for a safer feeling. No herding animal wants what is perceived as a predator between them and the herd. Separation from the herd is the first step in stalking/killing and they sense that. A noble instinct.

The bulls brought good money. Even slim Jim with the frozen off tail. If it’s beef the market wants it. I’m still tempted to off the whole herd. Call the trucker and send them to the sale barn. Or at least all but maybe sixteen. The number I started out with back in the eighties. I’d be back up to a hundred before I knew it. I seem to have more girls born than boys. Not just the human kind. When I sold off the northern herd a year and a half ago I had eighty five percent heifer calves in the calf crop. Which was handy since I had told my brother who’d bought them that I would except the heifer price (usually lower) than the steer price for the calves. He was going to have to cut (castrate) the bulls to make steers. That adds labor and may set the calves back while they heal. It also increases the chance for illness and some have even died from the procedure. I know I would. I’m not that noble.

I am a father however. Six times as far as I know. A full bull. On a full pull. I hope. I’m not out of the gate yet. I still have one aged seven. Eleven to go. I think I can make it. Barring any fatal accidents. Or the complications that can arise from such. I have five of the most wonderful daughters and had one of the most wonderful sons any father could ask for. I know we all say that but that’s because it’s true. To us they are. To them we are. Even though it’s not perfect no one treats us better than our immediate family. Especially when we then they get moved out on their own. Brothers and sisters are much easier to get along with after they’ve moved away from home. I saw it in my siblings. Now I’m seeing it in the kids. Every gent in his own tent. But then the buck stops there. No one else allowed. I’m all for family. One per house. A noble idea?


Post Script,

I missed the opportunity to bring this up on Mother’s Day and almost forgot today.

The real reasons for Mother’s and Father’s Days.

In the spring when showers are plentiful and days are getting longer more grass and other vegetative growth is increasing daily. Given all other odds against it spring is the time in nature when one of the best windows of opportunity for bringing into this world and raising up a grazing animal opens up. So if you are an owner of these animals and tasked with their dependency on you to thrive a potential mother should have given birth by the day with the date designated Mother’s Day. If not she’s to be sold. She’s no mother you want to own/manage from here on out since she won’t cycle to be re bred in time for a spring calving next year. If you want to make sure that is going to happen in a herd of cattle you need to refrain the bulls from breeding the herd until nine months prior. If you turn in the bulls in the middle of June on the day with the designation Father’s Day you’ll start to have the potential to calve in the middle of march. Just in time for spring. So your Mother’s/Father’s day present is the right to be present. It’s time to breed.