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Good luck, bad luck, no luck

Erica Louder for Progressive Cattleman Published on 25 February 2019
feeding calf by fireplace

Maybe it’s my Celtic ancestry; maybe it’s my naivety; or maybe it’s just human nature – but I have always put a lot of sway in luck. When it comes to those of us in agriculture, I am hardly unique in my little superstitions.

Probably more than any other industry, farmers and ranchers are at the mercy of luck. You may not call it providence or coincidence or simply chance, but doesn’t it all mean the same thing? There are too many parts of ranching that you can’t control; you might as well blame it on luck.

Good luck

Maybe it was the rabbit’s foot dangling off my key ring, or maybe it was the skill of the breeder, but last spring we had an 80 percent conception rate on our A.I. cows. In the summer, we baled up the last of the second cutting right before the June rains hit. All of the cows and calves came home from the summer range, even a wandering heifer that found herself in the neighbor’s pasture more than once. We purchased a horse off Craigslist and another from a friend, and our farrier tells us we got “lucky” with both of them. We sold all our bulls by April and hit the peak of the market when we sold the steers.

Bad luck

I should have nailed up a horseshoe from one of our “lucky” horses, because we celebrated that 80 percent conception rate only to follow it up with a 20 percent early abortion rate. Rainstorms decimated our third cutting of hay. We lost our best yearling bull to a mycotoxin infection, and then two good heifers followed his fate. We’ve spent more on equipment and repairs than the average person spends on their mortgage payments. Most of the cows calved during a seasonally late winter snowstorm.

No luck

Sometimes things just happen that are neither good nor bad, neither hurtful nor helpful. That’s the no luck. We bought our first cattle at the all-time peak of the market in 2013. No luck. We ranch (and attempt to farm) on ground that is at least half lava rock. No luck. We sell registered Angus bulls in an overpopulated marketplace. No luck. And, like most ranchers, we work a lot of hours for little pay. No luck indeed.

Despite the good, the bad and the absence of luck, we consider ourselves lucky to do what we do. Even the most “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” kinds of ranchers acknowledge their own luck from time to time. No matter where you fall on the believing spectrum, count your lucky stars and throw a penny in the fountain when you have a chance. And, with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, enjoy some corned beef and cabbage – it’s the least a rancher can do.  end mark

Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

PHOTO: It’s a lucky calf that gets to warm up by the fire. Photo by Erica Louder.