By Craig Funston
I am clearly the most ill-suited dude to own cows. I like them young and I like them well-done, but it’s the time between calf and cutlet that gives me some grief. And the castrating, tagging, branding, and chasing are not for me.
Over the years, I have faced all sorts of challenges in raising cows and just recently I decided that it’s time for me and the Bessie Bovines of this world to part company—they to someone else’s pasture forever and me to my armchair for at least an evening. I have decided to leave the cow business to those who know what they’re doing, and branch out into something else.
Raising tarantulas comes to mind, but I’m still not sure.
I was raised a city boy, and now, forty years later, I’m still a city boy, just an old one. Just as it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, it’s just as hard to teach an old goat new tricks.
In other words, after so many years of attempting to morph into a Roy Rogers, I think I’m better suited to be Buck Rogers. (I know Roy had more to do with horses, but laugh anyway.)
I have no regrets whatsoever in doing what I have done up till now. I wanted to make sure my six sons had exposure to the country life, something I never had. That would be country life with all its trials and triumphs, and I would say that I have succeeded—at least in the trial department.
While I was never raised on a farm, I certainly have always admired those who were, especially those who are now third and fourth generation ranchers. I have always admired men like my former neighbour Clark in how they handle their animals.
Two particular trials stand out in my mind, old hat to veteran ranchers.
The first one involves fences: the digging of, barbed wiring of, and repairing of, once a determined cow has leaped, pushed, or squeezed through. I cannot tell you how many times I have chased cows back, after they destroyed parts of my fences. And no, I wasn’t whistling “Home on the Range” while doing it.
Each time that happened, I had this overwhelming urge to move back to downtown Kamloops.
I am the world’s worst at chasing cows, or at least the worst in the county. Just ask my kids. They dread knowing that one of the old cows got out, then knowing that the old man will start falling apart immediately. I’m still not quite sure which is worse for them: mad cow or mad man. Gives the term “hyper tension” a new meaning.
I’m convinced my cows usually stay on my side of the fence just so they don’t have to put up with the screaming old goat who’s chasing them.
The other trial is that of a bull nature—or lack thereof. I have always tried to raise either steers or heifers. The former are fine, but getting a bull for the latter is, well, a trial. No matter how much humans mess with a natural biological order when it comes to the birds and the bees, it’s funny how the animals have it right: You still need a bull and a cow to produce a calf. (Natural or artificial, you still need a bull, and a cow.)
It has been difficult to get a bull for my cows. I just can’t justify owning my own bull, with such a small herd. Two things can be said about every rancher around me: 1. they have their own bull or two; and 2. they refuse to lend it (or them) out. (And I don’t blame them.)
So as of today, I am getting out of the cow-calf business. I have access to weaned steers and I will try my luck at raising them for now. Not sure if they are going to leap, push, or squeeze through my fence, but it’s worth the risk.
One of the appeals to tweak my cow business, rather than abandon it, is that the market for meat is still very strong. Many people are loathe to pay for meat at grocery store, not knowing how and where it was raised. I can almost guarantee where mine was raised: either in my pasture or my neighbour’s.
Can’t say those tarantulas could produce much meat, but I’m sure they don’t smash through fences.