Anna is working on a graduate degree in agricultural education and has been home this week on spring break. She’s an enthusiastic ranch helper, so it’s been great having her here for such a busy time on the ranch.
Each morning we walk to headquarters to tend the barn. Today we emptied three stalls, one with a set of twins, one pair with a calf that had been grafted on to another mother, and the third, a neophyte heifer that needed some help delivering her baby. It’s fun to see the calves haltingly follow their moms out into the big wide world.
The mother of the twins kept them both nearby, turning and humming to the one on the left, then turning and humming to the one on the right. The graft mother who had delivered a dead calf a day ago was thrilled with her new charge. The calf, a twin, had been sucking surrogate moms for a few days and was content to finally have a full belly.
This afternoon Anna helped Seth with newborns from another species – a batch of kittens! We had examined the mama cat, Roxy, a few days ago and held our hands around her belly and felt the kittens move. We knew their arrival was imminent. Sure enough she had them under an old fuel tank the next day. She moved them once before we got them collected and put on Seth’s porch for safe-watching. Another neophyte, this little gal had six kittens.
Besides calving it’s also shipping time for the first batch of last year’s calves. Anna and Mark sorted and weighed steers yesterday and then loaded them on a truck bound for Oregon for finishing. As one set of calves leaves the ranch, the next generation hits the ground.
As we were working together on her last day here, and the dread of going back to school stalked her, Anna talked about the particular predicament of a rancher’s daughter. Yes, the sons have the burden of deciding whether to take on the mantle of ownership to the next generation. And for some of them, when outside opportunities call, it’s a difficult decision. But what about the daughters? They love the home place too and want a future there. But if she expects to find a partner and raise her own family and doesn’t see herself as taking over for her father, where does that leave her?
I get it. As one of six daughters raised on a family ranch who all hoped they could find a similar life, I feel her pain. Some of us ended up on ranches, some did not. It’s just complicated and there aren’t easy answers.
|cleaning stalls while the twin calf goes for a run|
|Roxy and her brood|