Life is great, but sometimes it is just more fun with friends. The Farm Women Exchange met yesterday, and Kathleen showed us how to make crocheted hats. Since she got there a bit early, she also showed me how to knit with sticks. I was in full learning mode yesterday!

The Country Boy has a saying: “If you don’t learn something new every day, then you just aren’t paying attention.” Living on the farm is like being in school. There has not been a day that goes by that I don’t learn something between the time I wake up and the time I lay my head down at night. The scary part is when there is a pop quiz.

Last week, Randy and I spoke with the gentleman who sold us Wilson. He had some Black Angus bulls that he was interested in selling, and would work with us on price if we were willing to teach him about cattle. We felt it was a fair deal, so Sunday after church we headed down there.

There were five bulls, ranging in approximate ages from 10 months to three years. As I learned in the Master Cattle Producer program, the first thing I did was a BCS (Body Conditioning Score). A BCS goes from 1 to 9, with 1 being in really bad shape to 9, which is pretty close to obese. You want your cows to be in the 5 to 7 range. There are exceptions to the rule, like Bossy. She would score about a 3 when you combine the tendency of Jersey’s to look skinny, combined with nursing. But on an overall basis, 5 to 7 would be considered a great cow.

The one bull we were most interested in was approximately 18 months old, and would probably have scored an 8.  Although not a great thing, it was still something we could work with. And then he told us that a neighbor who was familiar with the cows said they were Brangus, not Angus. Here’s another tip: Just because a cow has a black hide does not mean that it is Angus. Right now, Black Angus is touted in the grocery stores as being some of the best beef. In all honesty, Black Angus IS a good cut of meat, but did you know that the regulations state that the cow just has to have 80% black hide – and NOT certified Angus to carry the label? Hmmm…

With conditions set, we told him we were interested. Our first step would mean having the bull Trich and semen tested. Trichomonaisis is a venereal disease that can cause infertility and abortions in cattle. It’s a must when buying a new cow – especially from someone who doesn’t know the history of his herd. Semen testing doesn’t really need an explanation – if I want babies, then the bull has to have what it takes. We had an appointment scheduled with the vet for Wednesday. That morning, I mentioned to our friend and cattle mentor Jim, about the bull. I had a few questions, as I didn’t know much about Brangus, but before I could even ask the first one, he was shaking his head. To shorten a lengthy explanation (Jim can expound for days on cattle), the Brangus breed won’t fit with our herd plan. Birth weights are high and on too many occasions there are problems with the birthing in other ways. A second – HUGE – red flag was, um. Well. How do I put this delicately? Okay. The larger bull and ours had their male parts hanging out. Brangus are known for this ‘breaking’, and them being unable to retract it. With it hanging out, you run the risk of infections and other problems.

With his hat in his hand, figuratively, the Country Boy headed back over to the farm to let the new farmer know what our decision was, and to offer the advice to sell all the bulls and to start fresh. He even offered to assist him in taking the bulls to the sale barn in the next week or so. It was a close call for us, and I am so glad that I not only have a mentor like Jim, but also the wisdom to listen and learn.

This week was a week of learning. The Country Boy learned a bit more about a different cattle breed than us, and how to handle a delicate situation with humility. The new farmer learned a little more about cows, and I offered him my Master Cattle Producer notebook with some information and forms to help them get started. And I learned to pay closer attention to the details, to do a little more research on something as big and important as purchasing a bull, and how to ‘knit it altogether’ with what I already know. Now, I need to go practice on my new crocheting skills. Do you think my cows will like wearing hats this winter?

For some great directions on how to crochet your own hat, Kathleen was kind enough to allow me to share the directions. Head on over to the DIY page and get your ‘hooks’ into a fun project!