A Cow Tale
Ace Reid could have used her as a model for one of his Cowpoke cartoons. She looked like she was on her last leg, and that might have been stretching things a bit. The amazing thing is that she became the grand dam of the best bull we have raised. Pioneer Wave was the all-time high selling bull at the 2013 Bradley 3 Ranch Bull Sale, selling for $35,000. Who would have thought a cow that looked like she belonged in Slim and Jake’s herd would have that kind of potential. As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now for the rest of the story.”
She didn’t have a fancy name, just R026. She was one of 81 heifers we purchased from Minnie Lou Bradley back in the summer of 2006. We brought them down to San Saba County and turned them out on native pasture with plenty of rocks, just to toughen them up. Bulls were put on in December, we preg checked in June and we were ready for our first calf crop. Now, I am going to digress a bit and tell a story or two about that first calving season with Miss Minnie’s heifers. Having been raised up in the Panhandle of Texas, these girls were accustomed to huge swings in weather, 118 degrees without a breath of air in the summer to 0 degrees with a nice northerly breeze around 30 to 40 miles per hour in winter. Quite the pleasant climate, if your trying to raise hardy cattle that is. Plenty of predators also, which required a momma cow to have enough gumption to run and old coyote right out of the pasture where her new baby was.
Now I like a momma cow to have good maternal instincts, these heifers had more than enough. We started out tagging and weighing on horseback, until the horses were so gun-shy from getting hit by heifers defending calves that they wouldn’t stand still anymore. Jed decided to try the 4 wheeler, he just pulled up to the calf and grabbed it by the hind leg and pulled it up into his lap. That was great, until one of the mommas decided she wanted to sit in his lap also. The flatbed on the truck became the new best method to tag and weigh. This worked for most of the calves, however there was one old gal that decided she wanted on the truck with her baby. When she hopped up on the flatbed, Dave jumped off the other side with the calf under one arm and the scales and tagger in the other. Jed and I were horseback and were supposed to be keeping the cow off of Dave but after she ran through us and hopped on the truck we were laughing too hard to be of much use. Like I said, I appreciate a cow with good maternal instincts.
With calving season behind us, we settled into our normal winter routine. However, around here nothing is ever routine or normal. Back in the 90’s we had an occurrence in the winter that caused us to lose 13 cows. One day a cow looks normal and healthy, the next she is drawn and looking horrible. We discovered we had a most rare and unusual situation. We have a plant called Hairy Vetch that is great feed in the winter. That particular winter the vetch was damaged by a beetle which caused a fungus to grow that is toxic to black hided, lactating cows. I know that sounds crazy but I swear it’s true. After that winter, we were on the lookout each year so as not to allow that to happen again. As I was saying, we had settled into our normal winter routine of feeding, breaking ice on water troughs and other such things. Jed called me one day around noon and shared a couple of the heifers were really drawn up. I knew immediately what was going on. We rallied the troops, saddled horses and got all the heifers and their calves out of that particular pasture with the hairy vetch. One of those heifers died, the other, RO26 hung on and didn’t die. I am not going to say she recovered because she didn’t. From that point forward she kept a permanent body score of about 3. Green grass had no effect because her system had been ruined. She raised her calf against all odds, not just raised it but did a good job of it. Amazingly enough, RO26 rebred and had a calf the following year as well as the year after that. Her first calf, the one that should never have amounted to much, was good enough to keep. This heifer, T424 went on to become the dam of Y409, a bull purchased by ABS for $35,000 who was renamed Pioneer Wave. Now you know the rest of the story.