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The end of an era

July 22, 2011
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I grew up on our family farm just south of the town we currently live. From the day my dad and his two brothers formed their farming corporation more than 45 years ago, it was basically the main farm for the livestock and grain operations.

They raised beef cattle in a cow/calf feedlot operation. For as long as I can remember, there were always cattle at the farm. We grew up walking along feed troughs, riding bikes in empty feed lots, helping open gates to let the tractor and feed wagon through, watching dad or one of the guys mix up the feed for the cattle or playing in the barn while they were working on cattle. Yes, there was always the persistent smell of cattle and cattle manure in the air, but you got used to it. It was just part of life on the farm.

That all ended a few weeks ago when the guys shipped out their last load of cattle, ever.

It started with a large semi and cattle trailer that was backed up to the chute in the barn.

The cattle were sorted, around 14 at a time, into smaller pens in the barn.

Then led down an alley, into another pen and then up the chute into the waiting trailer.

This was not a quiet process. The cattle were bellowing, the two cattle dogs, Spook and Smokey, were barking and doing what’s in their nature to do – herd the cattle where they belong. The guys were talking to the cattle to move them along with shouts of “Get on there!” “Come on boss!” and “Hee yah, hee yah!” They’ve been doing this for years, and have a pretty good system down.

Once the first pen was empty, they headed out to the lots to sort out the next lucky 14.

Jailbreak! Some cattle figured out one of the gates wasn’t closed properly and tried to make a break for it, as most of the lots are interconnected. Thankfully, the gates at the end of those lots were closed, otherwise the cattle would be happily wandering out in the cornfield, having a snack.

Dad watched over the situation.

After rounding up the truant cattle, the rest of the trailers were filled.

“On the road again.”

And the trucks drove off.

Smokey took a rest – it was hard work herding cattle.

It’s hard to believe that there won’t be any more cattle at the farm. No sound of weaning calves this fall, no feeding chores to do twice a day, no more silage to chop or feed to mix. In fact, the guys have already taken down the old wooden fence that stood along the highway (it was there to keep any cattle that had managed to get out of the lots off the road) and the farm looks a little naked without it.

Eventually, we’d possibly like to have a few animals on our future farm. Maybe a few head of cattle, some chickens and the like. The kiddo says he wants at least one of everything that lives on a farm and he promises to help take care of them. We’ll see how well that works out!

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