Still today in the beef cattle business your Breeder Integrity is usually confirmed and the deal is sealed by just a handshake. It’s still a rewarding feeling to be able to do business in this fashion.
Recently, I received a new calendar in my mail. Seems early and yes it was a calendar connected to the beef industry. In fact it was from the good folks that store most of my Bull Semen and service my home nitrogen tanks. As most of you know I seldom ever see the representative that services my semen tanks, the job just gets done. A new calendar always brings new hope for the coming year. Better cattle prices and better performing cattle. I am also reminded of the “Older Than Dirt” usage of a handshake in the cattle business and proud to be a part of a business without excessive paper work in this high tech time. A handshake means “Thank You” or “Good Luck” (or many other unspoken greetings) and serves as the consummate physical communication which seals the deal. Or sometimes it is just a nod, wink or wave of the arm as in an auction sale or when the other person in the deal is out of reach.
The business side of the beef business is unique. The paperwork is not excessive; excellent sales personnel listen, note the situation and close the deal, not with a pen, but a gavel, a nod and a twitch of the forefinger. The freshly sold calves or cows are penned again, loaded and hauled the length of the highway with the ink still in the pen. The trusting nod and a cattleman handshake, the industry demands it.
Why are cattle folks so trusting? Perhaps, from conception, cattle producers know the feeling. As youngsters most cattlemen thumbed pages in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume C, where pictures of the cattle breeds were printed. You might also say that judging by current breed publications, cattle people never tire of looking at cattle. We all have heard that a picture is worth a thousand words.
For most cattlemen, running cows combines a sincere love of cattle with the enjoyment of independence and solitude. On a daily basis, it is the cattleman and the cows. Depending on the size of the operation, there may be more people in the break room or sitting down for a hot cup of coffee, but when the work needs to be done, the tractor only holds one person.
Your neighbors or extra crew may show up for the big work days, but most days, it is just you, “chorin” cows, like the cows were chored before your time, and probably will be after you are gone. You get to know the cattle and the cattle get to know you. This feeling, or sense, is what is at the heart of every good cattle producer. Is the heart trainable? Remember the pre high tech term “animal husbandry.”
It is possible to train an “animal scientist,” but “animal husbandmen” are born, not made. After all, it is the unexplainable feeling of what is right that is important so often. You can send four hands to school and they will all pass with top grades. They will all learn the normal rectal temperature of a beef cow is 101 degrees F, the heart rate is 60 to 70 beats per minute, and the resting respiratory rate is 30 breaths per minute.
The first will need to run the calf in the chute only to find out the heart rate and respiratory rate are peaked, but the temperature is fine. The second will grab a horse and rope and drag an uncooperative calf to the sick pen and dully proclaim the calf sick. The third will walk over, kick the calf lying in the corner, wonder why the calf will not respond and leave. And finally, the fourth will quietly move a calf through the pen (on horseback or foot), restrain the calf and note a slightly elevated temperature, increased respiratory rate and normal heart rate. Appropriate therapy will be initiated, calf notes made and the calf returned to the pen.
The first three will loudly ask, “Why that calf?” The fourth will quietly say, “Well, the calf was sick. Couldn’t you tell?” Cattle producers know instinctively that only the fourth hand can survive the long run in this business. From those that can spot a sick calf, know what to do, and restore the calf to its prime, all that is needed is a handshake, the universal sign of honesty in the cattle business. We can all hope that all new years have lots of handshakes, healthy calves and good prices.
Breeder Integrity is probably the most important asset you can possess in the registered cattle business. It is something you cannot buy. It must be earned or cultivated through consistent practice.