The Sad Side Of Ranching – Dishonest Sellers?

by Texas Homesteader~ 

Tough days. I love raising bottle babies each spring but my health prevented it this year. So RancherMan found someone selling a set of bottle babies. They had already been weaned to pasture so that I could still get a dose of that bottle-baby sweetness.

When they were purchased this spring they were brought to our Homestead. Not only to allow me to scratch their cute heads every day but also for us to monitor them to make sure they would all do well in our program.

As they grew larger we began moving them to our offsite pasture to finish growing.

It's a sad fact of ranching life that sometimes you lose an animal to sickness or injury but doubly painful when you lose a calf from the seller's omission #TexasHomesteader

Suddenly A Calf Dies

But several weeks after some of them had been moved, suddenly one of them died. I realize it’s a sad fact of ranching that sometimes you lose an animal to an injury, illness, or the many number of things that can go wrong even with a diligent caregiver.  

But it was so odd, he never showed any sign of illness. He was fine one day trotting to the trough for range cubes and a scratch behind his ears and then gone the next.

RancherMan and I check the animals on that offsite pasture several times a week but in our Texas heat he had died several hours earlier & was already too far gone when we found him for us to determine for sure what happened to him.

A Second Calf Dies

But then a couple of weeks later the same thing happened to another of our sweet boys, fine one day and gone the next.  

But this time we found him very soon after he died. After losing two in such a short amount of time we immediately called the vet out to find out what was going on.

The vet met us in the pasture and performed a necropsy on the calf. He determined that the probable cause due to the indications he saw was… BLACKLEG!!??

Blackleg Disease Is Deadly For Calves

The vet explained to us that  the spore for blackleg is common in the soil and it lays dormant for quite a while. But when the animals come into closer contact with the soil such as during a drought when they’re nibbling closer & closer to the ground, the organism can be contracted, yet even then will often lay dormant in the animal.

But sometimes for unknown reasons it activates, gets into the bloodstream and is quickly lethal. 

Of course we already knew that. It’s why blackleg is a mandatory vaccination (among others) for all of our animals as part of our herd health program. Properly protected the chances are minimal that the animal will contract this illness.

Seller Lied About Blackleg Vaccinations?

But here’s the curious part – how can it be that this calf died from blackleg when the person we bought him from told us all the bottle calves were already vaccinated – even gave us the product name & vaccination date! 

I can’t imagine why she’d tell us such a thing if it weren’t true. But to lose two animals so quickly in the same way, this would have to be a super-colossal coincidence to be anything other than blackleg contracted by two unprotected animals.

Sadly folks this is both an emotionally and financially painful lesson learned: from now on we’ll not take a seller’s word that proper protection has been given. We’ll take matters into our own hands & administer calf vaccinations ourselves. Even if we’re told by the seller that they’re up to date.

Goodbye sweet boy…

It's a sad fact of ranching life that sometimes you lose an animal to sickness or injury but doubly painful when you lose a calf from the seller's omission #TexasHomesteader

But now what about our other bottle calves?

Although blackleg is not contagious all our sweet babies were loaded up immediately from our offsite pasture and brought home to receive that important vaccination that’s a mandatory protection in our herd. 

Although we had to vaccinate those remaining calves by headlight since it was already dark, we didn’t want to wait one more day!

At least now they’re finally protected as they should have been all along. Let’s hope we caught it in time so no others will be lost.


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23 thoughts on “The Sad Side Of Ranching – Dishonest Sellers?

  1. Easy Life Meal & Party Planning

    I am sorry you lost two calves. We have a family ranch where we raise Gelbvieh cattle for breeding stock (my Mom & brother). You are right, it is not easy to loose any of your cattle to an unexpected death and it is very sad. Even though they aren’t pets you still value each and every one of them and for us, anyway, our cows are on the farm until they are very old and you get to know their personalities and you get attached to them. We had several losses due to the extreme rains.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve had losses – mother nature can really dish out some tough situations. We’ve had gripping drought down here for the third year in a row while other areas like yours have had extreme rains. It’s tough to lose animals for any reason but you’re right, they’re not pets but we value each one and get to know their different personalities. Here’s hoping your weather cooperates soon!

  2. Kathy

    Awe! That’s heartbreaking! I haven’t heard of that! My Father-in-Law is new to farming – we’ve lost one baby – I tried to nurse it, but the mother had rejected it and we didn’t find it until it was too late – hurt my heart! So hope all will be well!
    I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  3. Jamie (@va_grown)

    I think non-farm folks think that losing animals is somehow easier for the farmer–or they get used to it or something. I know I certainly haven’t. It brings me to tears every time. You learn to accept it, but it still hurts. Especially when it’s sickness and you’re in there for hours or days fighting to save them!

    But I try to focus on all the miracles we get to see too. My favorite ram got his head stuck in a gate when he was 5 yrs old and twisted until his big double curl horn broke. We had to saw it the rest of the way off his head. The vet was sure he wouldn’t make it due to the high risk of infection at the open head cavity. They gave him 3 days. We nursed him in the garage lean-to for 30 days–cleaning and changing bandages twice a day and he pulled through–although he always looked a little lopsided. 🙂 He’s still doing “his job” on another farm 6 years later. Even our vet still tells the story.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Thank you Jamie – it feels good to connect with someone who ‘gets it’. It’s very hard to lose an animal entrusted to your care. Like you said, we accept it but it’s certainly not something I would ever get used to. That’s amazing how you pulled your ram through – congrats! Sometimes hard work & perseverance pays off. That’s awesome.

  4. Dipitie

    So sad! I’m sorry this was a lesson you had to learn. What sweet babes gone too soon 🙁

  5. Tammy/Our Neck of the Woods

    Oh no, that is so sad! I’m very sorry for your loss. Losing animals is the toughest part of keeping them for sure. I know the seller said they were vaccinated, but it sure doesn’t seem like that was the case. It’s unfortunate that you learned a lesson the hard way. So sorry 🙁

  6. Buttons

    Oh I understand this one we had four die in two days and sent samples away it was also determined that it was indeed Blackleg. The stockers which were just about ready for shipping did not have a chance with this fast spreading disease. The drought had many in our area finding there herd with blackleg. We had never had a problem before nor since. We vaccinate now lesson learned but it was indeed heartbreaking.
    About vaccinations a lot of farmers do not administer it right if the serum is not the right temp or is old or not administered the right way being subcue (under the skin) not in the muscle makes it ineffective. They may have vaccinated but not the right way. I am so sorry this is certainly the hardest part of farming. Hug B

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      All animal raisers have to learn the ropes and it’s a hard lesson to learn when you lose them. (we had our school of hard knocks with tetanus…) But you are correct, not following all directions for any vaccination and/or keeping the temps as required just makes the vaccination useless. Like I said, I want to give her the benefit of the doubt – I really didn’t like the way I was treated when I called her since she got so defensive and patronizing, but I’ll just assume here that she did indeed give those vaccinations, but it was out of date/not temp controlled/administered incorrectly, etc. Thanks so much for your kind words!

  7. Joyce Barnes

    Reading your comments about the bottle babies brought back wonderful memories when my husband and I used to buy 3 day old baby calves for $1.00 each back in 1965. We lived in Alabama at the time and the local dairies would sell the little bull babies. Most people raised one for the freezer and one to sell. Since I made pets out of ours, we had to sell since there was no way I could have one of them killed. We raised 13 one year and they decided to take a stroll down the highway to town and visit the movie theater. Everyone knew they were ours, (in small country towns everyone knows what you do). The manager of the theater called to see if we were missing our herd, and when I went to look in the pasture, they were gone. I went in the car first and tried to get them to follow me but they wouldn’t. So, I went back home, got the bottle and walked back to town. As soon as they saw the bottle they followed me, single file, down the highway. Everyone was so nice by slowing down and not blowing their horns. By the time my husband came home from work he already knew about their adventure. Don’t you just love small towns????

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      OMGoodness Joyce I so enjoyed reading your story! The bottle babies we usually buy are also newborn dairy bull calves – they are so darn adorable! Lots of work and lots of worry when they’re brand new & so fragile but I absolutely love raising them every year. RancherMan goes along with it because he knows it means so much to me, bless his heart!

  8. Tere Thomas

    We had almost the same problem with the bottle calves we got this year. We recently purchased our farm ( December 2012) and purchased 7 bottle calves. We were told that they had nursed for a couple of days but then were taken from mom and had been on the bottle for two or more days, depending on the calf. We lost one the first night. The second one a week later. At this time we called the vet out and he gave them all medicine. The third one we lost 2 days later. The fourth the following day. The vet came out again. The fifth one held on for ten days more before we lost him. The sixth and seventh are still with us and are healthy bulls. But what a sad lesson it was! The vet said that they must have been taken from mom immediately after birth and did not get the much needed colostrum from her. They all had pneumonia when they died. Now we only buy from people we know or who are referred to us.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’m sorry you experienced that Tere, how emotionally difficult! Bottle babies are so fragile and so susceptible when they’re newborns, it’s often an uphill battle to keep them healthy. I pulled one bottle baby through just from my stubbornness, force-fed him when he scoured, and didn’t give up on him. You can’t win them all but there’s no greater joy that watching that fragile calf grow strong & healthy! ~~

  9. Christine Somers

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your cows. It is unsettling to have something like this happen and not know why. I am glad you discovered the cause.

  10. Lulu

    My daughter has recently moved to a small farm and has found that there can very as much sorrow as joy when it comes to having animals. I think you would understand that.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Absolutely Lulu – but properly cared for, animal death loss really is extremely rare on our Homesteader. I still rejoice in the joy of watching our newest calf bounce across the pasture after his mama, or laugh at the antics of the chickens as they’re all at once running after a single grasshopper. The goats are a riot as they beg us to scratch the top of their heads – and I love it all. I don’t have much experience with the death of our animals since it’s so rare and I must say – I don’t care for it much! But the lesson has been learned and as with all the lessons before it, each of those lessons will improve our ranch even more. ~TxH~

  11. Barbara Mc

    I feel so bad for you guys. It has been a long time since I left the farm and it would be tough to go back to learning to accept the death of farm animals. As a beef rancher or chicken farmer or raising pigs or rabbits as far as that goes….I’d probably become a vegetarian because I would surely make pets out of each and every one. I’d make a lot of profit, right? If the time comes where I seriously have to become self sufficient to survive, I would have do some major rehabbing to my brain. I follow a lot of you guys on your blogs and am so impressed with how you deal with these hardships. I also find a new respect for my parents and their struggles. Strong people. God’s people for sure.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Awww, what a sweet thing to say – thank you Barbara! I see our animals as protein ultimately, but I take my responsibility for their health & well-being very seriously. (and being able to scratch behind their ears is a fun bonus!) RancherMan & I try to make sure to give all of our animals the absolute best life possible while they inhabit our little corner of paradise and we’re successful 99.9% of the time. Our goal is to let our cows be cows, our chickens be chickens and our goats be goats while they’re here – enjoying the blue sky & green grass daily. We try to be careful & attentive stewards, but sadly some things are out of our control. ~TxH~

  12. Vickie

    My oh my, I have never heard of such a thing. But, then, I’m not a cattle rancher. I’m sorry this happened to you – it kind of makes you not want to trust anyone anymore! I know this isn’t much solace, but I pray that next year’s bottle babies will be healthy and happy!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Vickie, I can tell you that we’ve always been impressed with the high integrity of the fine folks we’ve dealt with over the years, both buyers and sellers. Truly, some of the finest folks you’d ever want to meet. This bad experience won’t change that perception for me. I’d like to give this woman the benefit of the doubt. Maybe her foreman missed vaccinating these two by accident, maybe the vaccine was out of date, maybe it wasn’t kept properly temperature controlled and although unlikely, maybe our vet misdiagnosed the cause of death. I’d like to think that to be best of her knowledge she sold these animals properly protected. But it’s true that I have learned a valuable lesson about taking matters into my own hands in the future when the health of my animals are concerned. ~TxH~

  13. Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe

    That’s so awful! Isn’t there any means of recourse against the seller? They should at least be reported – this could happen to others as well who purchase from them. 🙁

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I emailed her & when I didn’t get a response I texted her & then talked by phone. I understand her reluctance to jump in & refund our money, we’re in the cattle business as well and I’m not sure how I would handle someone calling 4 months after a sale. If she really did administer the vaccines we certainly wanted her to know they weren’t effective – perhaps the vaccines weren’t handled properly by being kept cool or were out of date and we wanted her to know for her own animals. She did finally apologize for the loss but was almost defensive and kept putting the ball in my court like we did something wrong and kept repeating her personal credentials. We’ll obviously never buy from them again but it’s a huge financial loss on this one with not only the loss of these two animals and the associated vet bills, but the emotional toll as well. ~TxH~


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