Pitts: Runnin’ on the rims
The single most important economic trait in beef cattle today is not milk production, frame score, birthweight, weaning weight, yearling weight or the size of an animal’s reproductive parts. We have EPD’s for weight, milking ability and calving ease but not one breed association has yet to advertise that their cattle have the best dentition.
Think about it, a cow can be so blind she can’t see through a barbed wire fence and so small she could walk under one, but if she is pregnant and has any teeth left in her head the chances are good she will not be culled. This is especially true when cow numbers are down and cows are harder to find than an honest politician.
Before buying any cows the first question a good rancher will ask is, “Does she have any teeth?” And being the good rancher that I am that is exactly the question that I asked the auctioneer when a black baldy cow came into the auction ring. “Does she have any teeth?” I yelled from the cheap seats.
Being the good salesman that he is, the auctioneer replied, “Yes, she has got a full set of tooth.”
He didn’t lie… she had one tooth, a temporary incisor I believe is what you might call it. But because I needed cows at the time and because I have always felt that if you ignore your troubles they will go away, I bought the cow for $800 and believe it or not, it was money well spent.
We called her Stubs and for three years, despite having only one tooth in her head, she still brought in the fattest calf to the weaning pens. I don’t know how she did it, whether she sucked the nourishment out of the grass or got her energy through photosynthesis, Stubs managed to stay in fine flesh.
Then one year disaster struck. No rain meant no feed and Stubs started going down hill fast. When she brought her calf to the weaning pen Stubs looked like jerky on the hoof. She was so thin if she closed one eye you’d have swore she looked like a needle. I felt real sorry for the pitiful beast standing there chewing her gum, her one tooth chattering like she had the chills. Sadly, Stubs had reached the winter of her life and despite being pregnant, I knew the time had come to part ways with her.
I only had a couple options. I could start putting tenderizer on her hay, feed her applesauce or gruel, or I could sell her to some other unsuspecting sucker, which naturally is what I did.
I consigned her to the auction and told the manager that Stubs was a bred cow and as one, I was expecting her to bring back a fist full of dollars. But when the cowboys at the auction yard ran her through the chute to re-check her pregnancy status disaster paid Stubs another visit. When the cow dentist went to open Stub’s mouth to see if she had any teeth she swung her head violently, hitting her mouth on the squeeze chute door and knocking out her one good tooth!
When they ran that gummer cow through the sales ring the next day a knowledgeable old cattlemen in the bleachers asked, “Does she have any teeth?”
To which the auctioneer replied….”I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that she has got one good tooth. The bad news is that it is in a jar in the office. So she sells with one good tooth.”
Stubs brought $800 and I’m glad to report the market is steady. ❖