Cows are out! One of the most dreaded phrases on the farm.
Planning a vacation when you have livestock is no easy task. Even just going away for the weekend or overnight can require lots of planning ahead. We plan batches of chickens a year in advance so we won’t have small chicks when we leave, as they require lots of extra work. We need to plan goat kidding when we will be home and be able to milk for a few weeks for the milk for our soap. We are not big travelers, which helps, but we still like to do one week long vacation per year and a few long weekend camping trips.
Finding reliable help is difficult. Lucky for us we have close family that is able to step in and help out. The problem is, “what happens when something goes wrong”? This is our constant fear when we leave the farm with someone else in charge.
This weekend was a prime example. I’m currently working out of state and Andy had to bring the camper down so I had a place to stay. The girls came with Andy and Austin stayed home because he had practice and is old enough now to do chores on his own.
Some people will be concerned that we left a 14 year old in charge of the livestock and farm. Being raised on a farm, most kids grow up faster and have more responsibilities than other kids their age. Austin is no exception. Sure, he loves his video games and can be aloof, but he was only going to be in charge for less than 48 hours, what could go wrong?
We get the call only 14 hours after Andy left home. “The cows are out”, of course Austin says with no real urgency in his voice, his personality does not lead him to get excited about much. Andy immediately is in panic mode, but not much he can do when he is 8 hours from home. “Call grandpa,” Andy tells him with anxiety in his voice. Austin responds, “Yea……. Kevin, Lee and Grandpa are on their way.” Good thing we have family close by. Mom saw the cows wandering the hay field, called Austin to get down from his hunting stand, and alerted my brothers and dad to get over to put them away. She also stood guard in the road to keep any of them from wandering that way. Luckily the cows were all content to graze in the pasture near the barn. We never got a call back that the cows were in, had to call Austin and ask. “Yep” he says, with no more information. We are lucky we even got a word, Austin mostly communicates in grunts and head nods at this age. Ironically enough, Austin had done nothing wrong to let the cows out. Andy had forgot to latch the gate after chores the night before he left. More often than not, when animals escape it is due to us humans forgetting to shut or latch a gate.
So many things can and will go wrong when raising livestock. We have decided it is important to us to breed our herd of cattle selecting out the calmer individuals. We try to work with any heifer we plan on keeping in our breeding program so they are comfortable around people. It’s hard to send off some of our cows who exhibit excellent genetics of fast growing cattle who feed out quickly and efficiently because they have a bad attitude. But our attention to culling (removing from the herd) any cows that are difficult to handle or who are flighty and apt to run off made this potentially bad situation to one that could be handled by a 14 year old with a little help from adults.
We will still continue to try and vacation. But leaving the livestock to the care of anyone but ourselves will continue to give us anxiety, making in difficult to relax anytime we leave home.