When you raise cattle, a gate can be both your best friend and your greatest foe. Fence lines and gates enable cattle caretakers to ensure that their animals “stay where they are supposed to”—on pastures and in the cattle feed yard. They keep the animals out of dangerous places such as roads and railroad tracks, as well as neighboring crop ground where the cattle can do significant damage to growing corn and soybean fields.
So, as a cattle caregiver, gates and fences are my best friend and my greatest foe…They are my best friend when they are in good repair and closed. They are my greatest foe when they are damaged or left open due to negligence. It is the “golden rule” on our farm that if you open a gate you ALWAYS close it.
My six year old will even give you a lecture on it because she knows how important it is.
Calf #718 was able to grow and thrive on both AL Ranch and at my farm because our systems of gates and fences worked. Al and Sallie maintain miles and miles and miles of fence line and many, many gates. For the system to work, all must be in good repair and cattle caregivers must be diligent in ensuring that gates are closed.
I am going to deviate from Calf #718 for a bit to share a “gate” story from the weekend…
I spent all night Friday night unloading new calves at the feed yard. These calves were shipped north to Nebraska because of the terrible drought that is occurring in northern Texas. The drought has devastated the pastures in that area and calves are being shipped to feed yards like mine because there is no grass left to eat.
We vaccinated and de-wormed the new cattle early Saturday morning, and then set out to move the calves into the “home pens” where fresh feed and water awaited them. Something spooked the calves that were placed into Pen 23 and about 45 head broke through the back fence and were loose within the feed yard facility.
We have systems set up at the feed yard to deal with this—we have a perimeter fence that keeps the cattle inside the cattle feed yard even if they get out of their pen, and all four of us caregivers at the feed yard follow a “protocol” when this happens to minimize the amount of cattle that are loose and contain the ones that get out.
My system failed on Saturday. My system failed because the custom crew that built my new LWCF (Livestock Waste Control Facility) were out working on my pivot (the big sprinkler that irrigates the corn field north of the feed yard) Friday and did not shut the two perimeter gates along the east side of the feed yard when they went home Friday night. My system failed because my crew and I failed to double check that the perimeter gates were closed after the crew of workmen left.
We ended up with about 45 head of cattle getting out of the feed yard and running loose on neighboring farm ground. We (along with several wonderful neighbors) have worked tirelessly all weekend trying to find the “missing cattle”, and I am sorry to report that there are still 13 head running loose.
Rules like “closing gates” are so simple, yet so important to follow. It may be harvest time before we find all of the missing cattle. We may never find them all.
Today, I am exhausted and feeling terribly “beaten” down. I thought that I had a system in place to prevent things like this from happening—in the fourteen years that I have been at the feed yard, we had never had a calf get loose until Saturday morning.
I will move forward and tomorrow will be another day, but this weekend will forever stick in my mind. I failed my animals, and that is a very difficult thing for me to accept.
We will keep looking…We will keep caring…We will keep praying that we will find the lost cattle. We will ALWAYS double check the perimeter gates before we move cattle. We will learn from our mistakes and hope that tomorrow is a better day.