Better Than Mediocre

Every once in a while, we all just have those days, right. Those days where I just need to saddle up and let the horse take the lead. Where I just want to walk out in the pasture and let it all out at the top of my lungs. Then I gotta turn around and get back to work…

My boss told me the other day. “Right now you want to solve everything, but one day you’ll get over that feeling.” That’s all fine and dandy, but right now I don’t want to be mediocre, average, or anything less than I have the capability to be.

I’m in the middle of calving season and I’m having some problems with my heifers having stillborn calves. So far it’s 5 out of the first 50, with others having trouble calving and with retained placentas, but it still bothers me that I can’t figure out what is wrong. I debated whether to share this, because someone will think “Geeze, this kid is doing something wrong!” or “Worry-wart,” but you can guess which side won out. It’s only a problem in our heifers and three year-olds where we are feeding extra supplements to maintain weight.

My theory is that the cattle could have a copper deficiency. Copper plays a vital role in Iron absorption and reproductive efficiency. Our supplement, dried distillers grains with solubles, is high in sulfur, which acts as an inhibitor to copper. One plus one equals two, right? Several of the calves are not as thrifty as I would like to see in the first few days of life and the cows do have a slight rusty tint to their hair coat (a tale-tale sign of copper deficiency). This year’s hay crop was not as high-quality due to poor growing conditions. Our mineral supplement does not have a chelated source of copper, which would allow for easier absorption. And the stillborn calves to seem to have a more pale color to their gums and skin.

I know I am fresh out of college with all of this book knowledge stored up and I am itching to try it out. I have done pretty much everything short of taking samples to measure mineral levels to try to convince my boss this could be a possibility for calf loss and calving troubles in these young cows. He just says “Hmmm…” and it frustrates the crap out of me. I am not afraid to be wrong. If I do turn out to be wrong, its better than sitting back and doing nothing at all.

Anyway, I’ll try to quit being an Ag Nerd and get back to taking care of the cattle. I’m not looking to solve the world’s problems. I just want to be better than mediocre…


  1. Make sure you feed a co-products mineral. Have your hay tested and ask for a product analysis on each load of distillers. I only have experience feeding the wet or modified and to date no problems. Hope your season improves.

  2. Jeez that sounds frustrating! I am the same way, I feel like I have to at least try and solve everything! Hopefully your boss will come around- like you said, even if you are wrong about what the problem is, at least you would be able to take steps to try and correct it!

  3. I have to say is that you are correct on trying to solve that problem and many
    others it shows that you care. It is better to solve your own problems than another persons problem. With the Cows I am sure it is something with their diet if it is happening to so many of them.I myself would research as much as I could to find out what it could be.
    I love researching and you also learn a whole lot more in the process as long as you do not worry and make yourself sick over the issue,If not have fun finding out all you can!!
    -Tammy Kessner

  4. I grew up on a farm, but I am continually amazed at the depth of knowledge farmers and ranchers must have to be “better than mediocre.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and letting people know how much care you take in solving problems with your cattle!

  5. Two things come to mind with your problems Ryan. It could be copper deficiency. If it is, one of the symptoms is that the cows will start getting white hair, so that is a clue if you have solid red or black cows.
    A second problem could be with selenium. The symptoms are identical for a deficiency in selenium as it is for selenium poisoning. Poor hair condition, walking stiff and flaky hooves are all signs, as well as the the muscle tissue of still born calves, or calves that show no sign of fever, yet die will be white (which brings to mind another symptom on the calves, temps as low as 95 or 96 degrees. )
    In either case, it might not be a bad idea to take a couple of blood samples and have them checked for mineral content just so you can make sure of what is going on. Hope it helps.

    Do a necropsy on the next stillborn calf you have and check the coloration of the muscle. If it is white, you are probably dealing with a selenium problem. If your area has adequate selenium, Your mineral mix has selenium, and your protein supplement has selenium, you are definitely getting too much of a good thing.

      1. No problem Ryan. I’ve learned a bit through all of the wrecks I’ve been handed over the years and the least I can do is pass on a little of it from time to time!

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