Some days are like that

My parents recently went on a short trip to Florida with my two sisters’ families. Our young nephews and niece aren’t really the right ages to join the kind of trips we take our teen kids on, so they do their own trip to a kid friendly beach in Florida. My folks join in the fun or misery depending on how well the toddlers sleep in an unfamiliar Airbnb. You can probably guess that usually someone needs a nap. I could definitely relate to those kiddos even though I wasn’t on the trip.
I hauled a load of cattle to the butcher shop shortly before Mom and Dad were headed out of town. On my way home, the brake pedal started to feel a little low, and then, the service brake system light came on. Not ideal, but I was an auto mechanic so no big deal. It shouldn’t take long to fix a brake problem, or normally it wouldn’t. As I should have expected, though, repairing the brakes was not that easy. We don’t have a carwash located anywhere near us so the truck, which is almost always hooked to a trailer, does not get washed often during the winter. Not washing a vehicle in Minnesota tends to lead to extensive rusting of all the unprotected parts that road salt can get to. It just so happens that brake parts aren’t very well protected and are very much exposed to road salt. The main cause of the brake system failure was a brake line that rusted and burst, but also, both the front and rear brakes needed servicing too. This led to a couple very long nights after chores torching rusty bolts and hammering rotors off to get the truck back to driving condition with all its wheels on just in time to haul pigs to the butcher the next morning.     
Our kids have rock climbing team practice and ballet on Saturday mornings so usually that’s a busy morning getting done in time. Emily has to get out of the barn in time to run the kids to practices, and I do their usual morning chores. Because we were short of people with Dad gone, something that hasn’t happened here in probably 20 years happened that morning. There was a huge bull calf in the calving shed and an old cow with a prolapsed uterus. I got a hold of one of our local vets, who I think was eating breakfast at the time, and ran up to the gas station in town for a bag of sugar to shrink the cow’s uterus down to get it back inside her. The vet showed up in an hour like he said, and we spent the next hour and a half working to put her uterus back where it belonged. We then got to enjoy the donuts I bought at the gas station while I was shopping for sugar. It has been a long time since I’ve had to do that job, but I don’t remember it being that difficult the couple other times in my life I’ve had to help the vet.
Doing that job made me very happy that most AI bulls today have very low calving difficulty genetics. When my parents got back from their trip, and Dad and I were milking cows, we talked about the prolapse cow. We recalled how bad some calvings were decades ago and how far genetics have come since people started to care more about calving ease than huge show-type calves. We are both happy we spend more time worrying about checking cows for signs of calving out of fear of the babies being born in the cold than because we may have to help deliver it. At least I didn’t have to deliver that big bull calf before also having to fix a prolapse. No. 872 did the calving part just fine on her own; she just did a little too good of a job pushing.
Until next time, keep living the dream, and make sure you budget twice the usual time you’d need for a task if you’re shorthanded on the farm. Also, don’t overdo a job. Sometimes to quit pushing at the right time is rather important.
    Tim Zweber farms with his wife, Emily, their three children and his parents, Jon and Lisa, near Elko, Minnesota.


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