In just a few weeks, we’ll be arriving at one of the most exciting and slightly bittersweet times of the year at the Cwach farm: Selling last year’s calf crop.
It’s a time filled with mixed emotions for my husband the farmer. So much happens over the course of a year, both good and bad. Dan often enjoys the easy deliveries from new moms and old alike, but still is touched by the rare but painful disappointment of a calf unexpectedly born dead. He’s doctored his herd himself when he could and raced sick and injured animals to the vet when he couldn’t.
For the farmer, selling something you’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours cultivating is a unique combination of anticipation, anxiety, exhilaration and a twinge of sadness. After all, the farmer has spent significant time putting his (literal) blood, sweat and tears into growing and maintaining a happy, healthy herd.
It’s not an easy task to try to pick the right time to sell, either – trying to factor in the market price of beef, availability and cost of feed, weather conditions and looming responsibilities on the farm can be extremely taxing. The farmer must become a bit of an expert in everything, which is one reason the profession has always amazed me. The farmer must wear so many hats in his day-to-day work – scientist, doctor, businessman, repairman, caregiver – and wear them all equally well. Dan likes to tease his younger brother Kevin, who just finished medical school and about to enter urology residency in New York, that as a farmer he’s delivered more babies than his brother ever will. Of course, Dan’s deliveries come with four legs and a pair of nylon calving straps, so the comparison is a bit subjective, but Dan assures me it’s essentially the same thing. I’ve had to remind him that under no circumstances is he allowed to help out when it comes to the delivery of our future children – particularly if his idea of helping has anything to do with the word “strap.”
Because I get to see so much of Dan’s labor on the farm on a day-to-day basis, seeing the end result at a sale is that much sweeter. As a farmer’s wife, I too feel a rush of emotions when it comes to selling a calf crop, pride for my husband perhaps being the strongest. There’s no better feeling than watching a group of healthy, well-cared for cattle running into the ring and knowing that all of those long hours put in by your farmer were well worth it. It’s a long-awaited payday, to be sure, but it’s also a simple moment where you can see the blessings of the past year and feel renewed to start the next calving cycle.
Taking a cue from another young farming couple down the road from us who just celebrated selling their calves, we are already planning festivities at a local watering hole to mark the end of another successful calving year and the beginning of a new one. Already, Dan has started the process with five January calves under his belt and 104 to go in the coming months. Not only will we celebrate the culmination of a calving season, but we will also take that opportunity to thank our farming friends who help each other purely because that’s what good neighbors do. In my few years on the farm, I’ve been forever changed by the farming community that has demonstrated what true generosity is. And let’s be clear- I’m from small-town South Dakota, where being kind is just part of our culture. But the farmers I’ve been lucky to know go a step further. They help each other when the cows break down a fence and escape. On the rare occasions the farmer can leave town, they keep an eye on the place. They help sort and haul and do their best to refuse payment of any kind, unless it’s a cold Bud Light.
It’s a community I’m proud to be a part of, and can’t imagine living our lives without.