I remember riding on the four-wheeler with Dad as he pointed out past 4-H cows in the midst of Grandpa's herd. The memory is still with me and growing up it was our goal to keep our 4-H heifers to breed. Maybe, just maybe... one day I would be able to point out the cows in the pasture that I once showed! We have a small cow/calf herd with our head count averaging between 20 and 25. Well right now we have our lowest number in years! Our herd is down to 17 cows. This is due to an aging herd.
Our herd began with Josie, the first 4-H heifer we kept back to breed and we continued to grow from there. The typical life expectancy of a breeding cow is between 10 and 12 years. I began 4-H when I was nine. Most of our cows are getting up there in age. In recent years, we have started to purchase young cows from the sale barn but the number of 4-H cows aging out of the herd is higher then the number of cows we have purchased. Tyler and I plan to invest in the herd this winter by adding 4 more cows and Dad also plans to purchase a few.
You might be curious why the number is important, wel the size of the herd helps to create a balance between the cost of making hay, equipment expenses and selling our weaned calves in the fall. Even though our farm is small and is not our primary income, it is key that it is sustainable and holding its own.
The decision to cull (separating from the herd) a cow is not made lightly. Especially our past 4-H cows! It is never easy to load up a cow on the trailer for the last time, but it is apart of farming and life. If we want to keep farming, which we all know small farms are important to our industry, then we have to make tough decisions. I always tell my students in our Ag in the Classroom program, if we take really good care of our livestock, they will take really good care of us! Did you know beef cows are harvested for the following:
We sold a few cows this week, as a farmer we know this decision was best for both the farm and the cow. Winters in Iowa are not easy on aging cows. As hard as this is, we can now add young cows to the herd and continue towards our goals of producing high quality and delicious meat!
Dean enjoyed the truck ride! Him and I stayed warm in the truck while we hooked up the trailer. His eyes got so big seeing the truck pull the livestock trailer... or maybe his eyes got big because of the cold temperatures. HAHA quite a bit of a shock from the beach we were on last week.
Thank you for reading! As always, it is my goal to share the of agriculture!