The importance of being needed

Processing feedlot calves

It feels good to be needed.

I’ve found there are many places that someone can be needed. Some people are needed at work and some are needed at home, but my absolute favourite place to be needed is on the farm. It’s not an overly common occurrence, naturally, because there are two very capable men, and one very experienced farm wife already inhabiting the premises.

However, there is a very rare time that I am actually needed out there. That rare time came this last week. I was riding buddy seat in the tractor in order to spend some quality time with my husband while he spread some cow-made fertilizer on the fields that were harvested for silage back in August. I was uncomfortably bouncing around the cab of the tractor when my husband turned to me and said, “Hey, we’re processing feedlot calves at six in the morning tomorrow, and we’re going to need your help.”

I tried desperately to contain my child-like excitement, since that is, after all, what adults are supposed to do. I played it off with a, “Okay, sounds good,” while I did a well-choreographed happy dance inside my head.

At last, I was actually needed.

Now I’m not sure if I’m useful enough to be needed, or if they just needed an extra body, because how hard is it to bring calves up through the chute, really? But either way, there I was at six a.m. in my Carhartt overalls, standing at the back door raring to go. When all four of us finally made it into the barn I think it would be accurate to assume that I was probably the only one who was actually looking forward to our early morning processing gig.

My morning-person tendencies coupled with my excitement to be included, had me joyfully waiting for calves to come up from the back, so I could push them from the holding tub into the chute (and when I say “push” I mean patiently encourage, because if you know cattle, you know there is no way to force a seven hundred pound calf to do anything it doesn’t want to do).

So there I was, with a clap and a cluck, pretending to have a clue what I was doing. Truth be told it had been a long while since I had done anything like this. My last experience with calves was spring processing, and that is a little easier. In spring the calves are about two hundred pounds and are a manageable size to man-handle. These calves, however, are big, strong, and are not man-handleable in any sense of the term.

Regardless, I needed to figure it out, because they needed me and I wasn’t about to mess that up. So, I talked to them. Yes, that’s how I decided I was going to get the calves into the chute. With a tap on the butt and a rhyming chant I had those calves funnelling into the chute in no time. My theory is that I must have annoyed them so much they just wanted to get away from me, because with each, “Hey, ho, into the chute we go!” and, “Up, up, up, yup, yup, yup!” they walked right into the alley of the chute no problem.

It was actually a trick I had learned from watching my husband work with cattle. They always responded so well to his voice whenever I had seen him work with them, but I had always been afraid to talk to them myself because I thought it was embarrassing.

I wasn’t completely wrong. It was pretty embarrassing when my husband bugged me that evening about my weird rhyming chants, but hey, whatever works, right?

By the end of the four-hour job I think everyone’s ears were bleeding from listening to me chant rhymes to the calves, but at last, we were finished; and I had proved that though my methods may be a little weird at times, I can be useful when needed.

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