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Life’s not easy, but it can be comicalLife’s not easy, but it can be comical

It’s your viewpoint on the calamities of life that determines whether you are happy or miserable.

R. P. 'Doc' Cooke

September 1, 2020

2 Min Read
Cowboy with a grin

My friend and eastern Montana’s famous old rancher/farmer Ray Bannister regularly says that a thinking man really pays attention and considers life and its work as a comedy and fun.

Along those lines, by mid-April Bannister had calved 90% of his 195 head of cows and heifers in 20 days. They had 15 inches of wet snow, some 5-degree nights and a couple of 50-degree days in April. It had been slick but not muddy. He has had a prolapsed uterus and a calf that fell through an iced-over reservoir. But according to him he was having a ball.

About the same time I was talking to Bannister, I had to help a 550-pound heifer deliver a newborn one evening and was thanking Jesus for the baby being up and nursing in 20 minutes. Then I got to thinking about the fun I was having. Hell it wasn’t dark or raining and the heifer had colostrum and four good faucets. By the way moving cattle late in the afternoon results in more than 80% daytime births.

In 10 April days, cull cows locally dropped nearly 50% in price. Nobody wanted 700 pound cattle and the 500-pound calves have changed a bunch. Well, did anyone say this is a perfect world? If they did I’ll assure you they lied! Bannister is right. Life is a comedy or at least needs to be viewed as one.

At Beef Producer, I believe Walt Davis and Alan Newport and I all three attempt to write and talk very accurately about natural principles we think are important. Truth is, all of them are important. We talk about a systems approach to increase health of cattle, soil and plants. Sometimes it is not real easy. But it should be fun and at least to some degree comical. I never remember seeing fishing great Bill Dance dressed up in a starched shirt, tie and three piece suit while having a ball while fishing and occasionally catching the “good ones.” He had a big orange cap on his head, dark glasses on his eyes and older jeans and a short-sleeved shirt if weather permitted. He always seemed to have fun.

Here at 499 Ranch, we have spent time breeding and putting in cattle that can operate in our environment. We graze in densities that exceed 70,000 pounds per acre all year around. We keep cost so low that the market is not going to take us out. When you’ve got grass and healthy cattle and are debt free chances are good you can look around a bunch and find a better sell and come out with a profit. It’s almost comical listening and watching the cattlemen that don’t adhere to natural principles and systems.

Bannister is right. To a thinking rancher life can and should be a comedy.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Beef Producer or Farm Progress.

About the Author(s)

R. P. 'Doc' Cooke


R. P. "Doc" Cooke, DVM, is a mostly retired veterinarian from Sparta, Tennessee. Doc has been in the cattle business since the late 1970s and figures he's driven 800,000 miles, mostly at night, while practicing food animal medicine and surgery in five counties in the Upper Cumberland area of middle Tennessee. He says all those miles schooled him well in "man-made mistakes" and that his age and experiences have allowed him to be mentored by the area’s most fruitful and unfruitful "old timers." Doc believes these relationships provided him unfair advantages in thought and the opportunity to steal others’ ideas and tweak them to fit his operations. Today most of his veterinary work is telephone consultation with graziers in five or six states. He also writes and hosts ranching schools. He is a big believer in having fun while ranching but is serious about business and other producers’ questions. Doc’s operation, 499 Cattle Company, now has an annual stocking rate of about 500 pounds beef per acre of pasture and he grazes 12 months each year with no hay or farm equipment and less than two pounds of daily supplement. You can reach him by cell phone at (931) 256-0928 or at [email protected].

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