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.



To Plant. Or should I say two planted. Two farms down two to go on this corn run. I started planting corn on the west farm last evening. I finished up tonight in the dark. The only breakdowns were a packer wheel spring last evening even before I started and a flat front tire on the 1466 tonight as I was nearly done and it was nearly dark. Fortunately I had a spare here at home so It was a quick fix. I still needed headlights to finish planting the field. Two for two there.

The landlord/neighbor stopped to get some corn today. He saw we had been hauling out corn with the vacuum. He didn’t know the vacuum needed welded. His grown son was around though and he’s an iron worker so that was a win win situation. They fixed the auger tube on the vacuum and loaded their three hundred bushel wagon afterwords. I only had to stop planting twice to talk to them for a bit. Relatively painless. So I suppose two for two there.

Today the stay at gone mom brought me out some food and drink. Not only once, twice! I don’t think I dozed off all day. It’s amazing what a difference vittles make. I made er fifteen hours today. Counting the breakdowns. The couple sandwich breaks and the thermos of hot tea made for a spoiled rotten day. Egg and cheese sandwiches on toast with hot tea for brunch and  a Philly steak with french fries and a pop for supper. Two for three there? Cheap!

‘Could be a Trick.

To sleep.




Rain. Good. Good rain.

But not before six more bulls sorted themselves. I quickly loaded them up and hauled them off to the sale barn.

This morning when I got up and looked outside it hadn’t rained. I decided to give the cattle a second bale of hay. I’ve been feeding them only one bale at a time for a few weeks because once it warmed up they started wasting too much hay. They were only half done with the bale I had given them last evening. I decided that another bale was timely if it was going to rain since I hate slopping around in the mud to hay them and by evening again they would need another bale. While I was driving by the cattle pens (I’m haying them out in a corn stubble field) I noticed the two herd bulls that are there to breed the cows were in the pen following a cow in heat that was trying to lick the mineral blocks I feed there. A few other younger bulls were tagging along for sloppy seconds. I jumped out of the tractor and swung the gate shut to lock them in.

After I finished haying cattle I unloaded the rest of the hay from the flatbed trailer so I could unhook it from the pickup truck and hook up the stock trailer. I threw a small square hay bale into the catch pen to coax the group in. A few cows and calves were swept up into the catch pen with the bulls and heating cow. They sorted out quite easily since the whole bunch was busy with lunch and not really aware of what was going on. I ran up to the house and asked the stay at gone mom to help me run the bulls up the loading chute. The last six bulls I had loaded were a lot smaller and I had barely been able to get them pushed into the trailer. I needed her to stand outside the chute and give them a little shock on the butt to get them up into the trailer while I stayed in the back of the column and kept pushing them towards it. Mine is a rather dangerous job given that cattle can kick backward very hard. I was fortunate. I was only kicked once and it wasn’t that hard.

Once I had them loaded and the truck and trailer were back up on the gravel pointed towards the road I was safe from rain and the mud that goes with it. I backed the rig up to a drop cord and plugged in the air compressor I keep in the truck box. It’s a thirty gallon tank with an electric built in pump. I like to have extra air out on the road in case I need it to get to the next town should a tire start to leak. I grabbed my hat and a cup of honey tea and we were off to Dunlap, the earliest sale in the area coming up on Tuesday. On the road again …….

On the way to Dunlap I remembered the first batch of calves I had sold way back some 28 years ago. Probably because they were sold at Dunlap also. Back then I hired a trucker to haul the calves the day before the sale. When I went up to watch the calves sell I noticed after passing the last town along the way that I was running very low on gas in my car. Having left my wallet at home I had no way of buying gas. With seven miles to go to Dunlap I began parking the car and walking the ditches for empty beer and soda cans. Here in Iowa we have a nickle deposit on each one. I would go about a half mile at a time and walk up one side and down the other side of the road throwing cans into an old box I had found in the trunk.

I wish I had left earlier. I waited quite a time on the bleachers watching calves sell hoping to see mine. When the killer cows started selling I went to the office to see if mine had sold. The cattle had sold by the time I arrived at the sale barn and they had my check waiting when I walked into the office. It was almost as much money as I had paid for the cow/calf pairs the year before. And I still had the moms. Maybe these cows were worth the effort after all. Maybe my old man was right. Livestock was farming, growing crops was glorified gardening. I pocketed the check and have never looked back.

What I did look for was a service station that would take all those empty cans. Here I was with a multi thousand dollar cattle check but no gas money, both feast and famine. Dunlap isn’t that big of town. I finally had to explain to a gas station proprietor what had happened, showed him my calf check and convinced him I wasn’t trying to con him. He seemed to think I had too many cans for that stretch of highway.  I was a little in awe myself as to how many cans there are along the roads. I had a trunk full and a few on the back seat floor. I think the rest went to a HyVee store to buy beer.

This isn’t what I had planned for a Sunday but then I’m not allowed to follow my plans anyway. Something better always comes up. That’s OK, plans are tentative at best anyway. I had planned on getting the two breeding bulls out of the herd a couple weeks ago so I wouldn’t have cows calving in January next winter. Hopefully those two weeks will be during our January thaw. Sometimes His plans, no every time, His plans are better than mine. Have a great Sunday even if your plans don’t pan out. As long as the gold does it will be alright.

If you’re at the Dunlap sale barn Tuesday …….

See you then, see you there.