April 04, 2014
Guest blogging today is Krystil Smit, public relations director.
I don’t talk much about the fact that I’m a farmer. It’s not that I’m not proud of being one, because I feel incredibly fortunate that I have lived my entire life on a farm. It’s as much a part of my identity as being born a girl; so I guess the reason I don’t talk much about it is, it’s just who I am.
Because I have a “town job” here at Paulsen, I don’t get to participate in the everyday work on our farm, but I have, over the years, performed nearly every agricultural task you can think of – driving tractor, milking cows, fixing fence, hauling bales, combining, running the grain cart, feeding cattle, pulling calves, shoveling and spreading manure, just to name a few. And to be honest, I’ve loved every second of every task. Well, maybe not so much the manure gig, but it’s a necessary evil.
So when I get a chance to pitch in at the farm, I am eager and able. I’ve been getting more opportunities than normal as of late because my husband recently had back surgery, so he is in recovery mode during spring calving and planting this year.
One recent Sunday morning while checking on the cattle, my son saw a newborn calf had partially fallen through the ice in a shallow creek along the cattle yard, and the protective new mama cow was pacing with anxiety. My son and I headed out in the RTV for “Operation Calf Rescue.” The little fella’s hind legs had broken through the ice, and he was cold and shivering.
A newborn calf weighs about 90 pounds and it took me four attempts to pull him safely to dry ground. My first try, mama cow put her head down and came after me. We repositioned ourselves on the other side of the creek bed, and, from a safer position, my second try I also fell through the ice and was stuck up to my thigh in mud and water as mama cow paced nervously just several feet in front of me. Once I pulled out of the mud – and also retrieved my boot stuck in the mud – I grabbed hold of the calf and pulled his front legs until I freed his hind legs. Mama was mad again so I had to retreat. On the fourth try, I was able to pull him to safety.
It amazed me that within seconds, mama cow found a way to cross the creek, reclaimed her calf and then led him to a safer place to cross the creek again. They headed directly to warm shelter and dry bedding, and later that day the calf was thriving and nursing from his mama.
I felt a lot of pride for rescuing that calf. And while I don’t get to achieve that kind of farm satisfaction day to day, I reconnected with the passion, emotion and immense responsibility for caring for animals that livestock producers do experience daily.
As I write this, another winter storm is upon South Dakota. With last fall’s Winter Storm Atlas still on the minds of cattle producers in this region, the present unrelenting winter we’re experiencing and many baby calves on the ground right now, I can only imagine the anxiety – similar to what that mama cow exhibited for her calf – that livestock owners are feeling. I know one thing; farmers and ranchers will risk it all to save one animal. The heartfelt gratification is worth it. And, it’s just who they are.