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Baxter Black

Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, author, vaquero philosophizer, left-handed roper and former large animal veterinarian.


So there I was, changing planes in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. A 20-something lady looked up and said, “Well, it’s good to see a cowboy again.”

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Somewhere in the annals of land-grant colleges, the ag departments converted from offering a degree in animal husbandry to a degree in animal science.

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I was explaining about pregnancy testing to a young veterinary student. She plunged her arm into the cow and palpated.

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A while back, I decided to build up my ranching reputation by improving my equipment. I purchased a 1997 crew-cab GMC 1-ton diesel with only 254,000 miles on it.

I traded in a ’74 1-ton flatbed F350 with a winch, plus $4,000. I asked the used-car dealer if I could keep the winch. He said it was the only reason he took the flatbed in trade.

Cal told me his neighbor Jerry came by to show him his new purchase. A brand-spankin’ new 3Z4 ton four-wheel drive with payments of $600 a month over five years … but what Jerry was most proud of was a 20-ton winch with 50 feet of cable mounted on the front bumper.

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Robin lives in a valley that is dotted with grazing pasture and selected irrigated vegetables. She has neighbors who graze yearling heifers to sell in the fall and another neighbor who grows pickling cucumbers.

Her heifer neighbors, Barry and Claire, had their yearlings comin’ on strong. The grass held up, and they supplemented them. Their heifer market was good, but one of the requirements of their buyers were that they were guaranteed “open” as opposed to bred.

To their dismay, one of the cattlemen in the valley had his bulls – good bulls, no doubt, but still bulls – within “wafting distance” of the 600 yearin’ heifers.

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“The data is clear – Calves that arrive healthy and stay healthy at the feedlot make more money.” This was printed in bold letters at the beginning of an article in one of our industry publications.

What? I read the headline again. I turned it over and read it upside-down. It must be a trick question. A play on words? There must be a deeper meaning to this bold statement.

Should it have said … “Calves who stay healthy, etc., have better eyesight, higher IQs, are tastier, are better at hopscotch, have a better chance of being featured in a vaccine ad?”

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