Sunday Morning Heartache

Sunday morning is usually a rush in an effort to finish the chores and make it to church services on time. This routine has always been a part of my life and I see it as just the way things are. This past Sunday was no different. I got up, had my coffee, and was at the barn cleaning bunks before sunrise. I finished feeding the bulls, checking the cows, fences, water, and so on. Just as I pulled up to the house, a van came up the driveway and the man told me there was a calf out on the road. Oh, crap…

First thought – It is my first weekend and I have already messed up big time. Did we leave a gate open? Did I miss a tree that had fallen on a fence? Were the electric fences working? Were my counts right in every pasture? I sure did not think I was missing anything that morning. I loaded Pistol up and we headed down the road in the described direction (toward the bean field, near the field that had controversy over building houses. I have not been here long enough to figure this out, but we headed that direction anyway). I knew what had happened as soon as I saw the black calf lying on the roadside. Someone had hit him with their car and driven off. I first checked for one of our tags, and there was none. First problem solved, it was not mine, but I could still see that things needed to be taken care of. The calf was injured and scared.

The man who had let me know about the calf had driven back to the site. I thanked him for letting me know about the calf and told him I would take care of things. (And of course by “take care of things”, I knew from experience that the calf would need to be euthanized.) Since I am new to the area, I do not know the neighbors, but having dealt with cattle on the road before, I knew my best bet was to look for the nearest pasture with similar cattle and figure out which house matched up. I did just that, drove down the long gravel driveway labeled “NO TRESPASSING”, and walked up to the house with an old farm truck in front and at least three large dogs pacing around. Not a comfortable situation, but I have learned just to make sure the home owners know I am a cattleman (I can just picture a large man with a rifle coming out) and pay the dogs no “direct” attention.

I made sure this was the owner of the calf; they thanked me for letting them know, and assured me they would take care of the calf. I returned to my pickup, thankful Pistol stayed in and did not agitate the house’s dogs. Still knowing I had my own bases covered, and that the owner had been identified, the unsettled feeling in my stomach had not been settled. I felt horrible at the sight of the helpless, injured, scared calf on the roadside.

I debated whether or not to share this story, (a) because it is not a great feeling or image to share, and (b) because I am kind of disturbed by the fact that someone hit a 350 pound calf, left it lying in the ditch, and bothered to tell none of the neighbors. Instead, I decided this is just the kind of story I want to share. Each day, there is a chance someone may drive by a calf, grazing on the road side, or even see one that has been injured. This may be something you have seen and not realized how farmers and ranchers feel about it. It makes me just as sick to my stomach as it does anyone else, if not more so, to see injured cattle in the ditch. Farmers and ranchers care about our animals, and work every day to keep them, and you safe. Sometimes nature happens and a calf gets between the wires.

Next time you are out the rural highways and see an animal grazing on the roadside, slow down. The posted 45 mph speed limit on the rural highway is there for a reason. Cattlemen just like me are in the pastures every day, check our cattle and fence lines not only to keep our cattle and investments safe, but to keep drivers on the road safe as well. When things do go wrong, and cattle are on the roadway, be cautious and aware. Do not be the driver that hits one and drives off, telling no one of the incident.


  1. Ryan,
    I know exactly what you mean. I remember once when I was a little girl and my show heifer got out and onto the highway. I was devastated when my Dad told me. This past year, I saw a newborn calf that had gotten out on the interstate and it’s mother was on the other side of the fence watching it. Luckily it was in a construction zone so traffic had slowed down. In those situations, I call the local sheriff’s department if I know the number. If not, I call 911, tell them that this is not an emergency but there is a calf or cow out on the road and let them know the location by giving them the closest mile marker. This way, hopefully they can contact the rancher. I do this because if it were my cattle out, I would want someone to contact me before the calf or drivers on the road are injured. Great post and I am glad you decided to share this!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Ryan. My heart ached along with yours. And, yes, most ‘city’ folks don’t realized how we feel about our cattle.

  3. This is the part of ag that just plain stinks. No matter what people think, those of us whose lives revolve around caring for our livestock feel just awful when we see any animal suffer. It pretty much ruins my day ( or a couple of days) if one of my animals is sick or injured. However, one difference between us and those who aren’t in ag is that we know almost immediately when euthanasia is the only option. That’s always good for the animal, but sometimes the non-ag public thinks we aren’t willing to try to save an animal. They don’t understand that the animal will suffer more through what will become a failed attempt to mend what simply cannot be mended.

  4. So, you’ve moved east of the MS. river? Good land and grass, and I do look forward to your on hands experiences and stories.

    Glad you’re gettin’ warmed up, but always sorry to hear about accidents. As one man said, without tragedy and difficulties, we would not know pain, and that reminds us of our heart. When we set our heart on things, we usually do better jobs, and our heart being in tune with life makes for a better balance. (cf., Romans 5:1-4; 6:17-18 et al.).


  5. Thanks for sharing this, Ryan. It’s not just our own cows we worry and care about. Most of the ranchers I know would pull over and do something for any cow or calf that was having trouble if they saw it. It’s animal welfare in action.

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