I love feeding animals. No, I’m no talking about absentee feeding where you pay way too much for a load of hard-doing 8-weight chronic steers, send them to a feedyard, get feed bills and death slips every month, and sell them on the rail for less than you paid for them to begin with. I tried that already and the wife and banker staged an intervention and forced me to take the cure. I taped an old Ace Reid cartoon to my desk to remind me of the joys of cattle feeding. Ace wrote, “I bought these steers to finish ’em and by the time they was half finished I was plum finished.”
There’s just something about feeding livestock that brings me pleasure. I think I’m addicted to cracked corn and rolled milo. In high school we had to identify all the ingredients in a mixed ration by sight, smell and taste. That’s right, I said taste. My teacher encouraged us to taste the ration I fed my show steers back in the 1960’s. A ration, by the way, that contained a synthetic estrogen called diethylstilbestrol, or DES. I blame those high school snacks for any female tendencies I might have, such as liking to wallpaper and watching Sleepless in Seattle twice.
Even in college Feeds and Feeding classes we were encouraged to taste barley, wheat, corn, beet pulp, bone meal, etc. It’s a wonder I’m not a sickly vegetarian who survives on alfalfa sprouts. Speaking of which, I admit I do enjoy the occasional stem of alfalfa, but who doesn’t? The fact that I enjoy cattle feed is not a reflection on my wife’s or mother’s cooking either, I just think I had way too many animal nutrition classes. It also explains why I crave crunchy oat granola bars.
I love feeding cows, rather I should say, I love driving the truck and watching my wife feed cows. The only thing I don’t like is that with every alfalfa slice she throws out of the truck I get an excruciating pain deep inside my wallet.
Because I’m a cheapskate I’ve tried to find cheaper alternative feedstuffs. For years we fed produce that came out the back end of a grocery store. It was hilarious to watch our ewes try to eat black bananas, bunches of broccoli, rutabagas and beets. Our sheep routinely wore orange mustaches and reddish-yellow rear ends from eating way too many deformed and unmerchantable carrots. I’ll admit there was a time or two I’d eat the better looking produce, particularly if a good apple or tangerine came through, but after awhile I ate so much sheep feed every once in awhile I had a tendency to want to lay down and die for no apparent reason.
We eventually stopped feeding the produce because the sheep pasture looked like a school lunch cafeteria with all the asparagus and rejected lima beans left behind. In the First Lady’s honor we called it Michelle’s Pasture to recognize her efforts in turning all school cafeterias into EPA Superfund sites.
I’m hesitant to admit this but I even broke a tooth chewing on rabbit feed once. But I drew the line there. I refused to eat the chicken feed, or “mash” as it was called. With all it’s secret ingredients it reminded me too much of my mom’s “hash”.
Years ago my ex brother-in-law and I raised a big field of oat hay in an effort to lower my costs for feeding the cows through the winter. I was a huge disaster as a farmer and the hay was terrible. But still, it was cheap.
Due to all my past experimentation in using our cows as guinea pigs in my quest to find lower cost feed alternatives, my cows eyed me suspiciously when I tried to feed them the first load of the inferior oat hay. They warily looked at it and wouldn’t take a bite. I could just hear them saying, “You try it first, you big tightwad.” I felt like a food tester for Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s evil dictator. Reluctantly I tried a stem and, as usual, the cows were right. It was awful. I think it needed a top dressing of ground milo, a light drizzle of molasses and just a pinch of salt mix.