Sunday, February 28, 2010

More lessons learned the hard way

This lingering cold has sapped both my energy and my creativity, which makes writing much more challenging than it usually is. So please forgive the choppy nature of this post. I think I'm finally starting to beat this bug, though; for most of the morning I could actually breathe freely out of my nose. The bad news is that Dan succumbed to the bug on Friday, which means at least another week of coughs and sniffles.

There's a lesson to be learned from these two weeks of misery. I have been reminded that I can't go like hell and not expect to fall off the horse every once in a while. I might have got sick anyway, but I'm sure any chance I had of avoiding this illness disappeared along with all the hours of sleep I've lost over the past couple months, mostly the result of trying to cram too many tasks into too little time.

It always seems like nothing can be done about how long chores take, but we found some ways to streamline heifer care. We moved some calves and heifers around, and combined two groups that I would have preferred stay separate for a while longer. I overrode my concerns about the new group of heifers, though, when I realized that sometimes we have to do what's best for the people involved in this operation, not just what's best for the heifers. The heifers have plenty of bunk space and plenty of room in their new pen, so I'm not sure why I was so reluctant to combine the groups, other than "we've always done it that way".

It's ridiculous how much faster my chores go now with the new heifer arrangements. It irks me to think of how much time I could have saved had we moved these heifers earlier, but special projects (moving heifers falls into the special projects category for us) don't get checked off the to-do list very fast around here during the winter.

We also sold some bull calves a little sooner than we probably should have. Since the bull calf price took a dive, we've been feeding our bull calves for about a month before selling them. During our first year of farming, we averaged $200 a head for week-old bull calves; it just about killed me when we got a $50 check last summer for a two-week old bull calf. There's always quarter-milker milk available, so it made good sense to feed them awhile before sending them off – until last week when I drew the line. Sometimes a couple extra dollars isn't worth the effort it takes to earn those dollars.

I would rather have learned those lessons the easy way, without getting sick, but sometimes we need to learn a lesson the hard way. Now that my chores are done earlier (at least until the next wave of heifer calves arrives), I can get to bed a little earlier and send this cold packing.

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