Any rancher will tell you, the secret to a healthy, productive herd of cattle is good bulls. That's partly because the rancher has a bull to sell you.
Also, it's true. Each of our cows will be mother to one calf next year. Our bull, Henry, will be father to all the calves.
We like to do things the natural way at Rancho Cappuccino, so last spring I told my friend Ralph that I was in the market for a bull. Ralph has this way of looking at me that says, quite clearly, "Are you sure that's a good idea?" Ralph is a real stockman. He has hundreds of cows. I have 10. Most people with 10 cows would have the veterinarian take care of the bull's job via artificial insemination. I wanted a bull.
A bull is a beautiful thing — 2,000 pounds of muscle with a head the size of a grain scoop. Henry has thick curly white hair all over his face. A bull in the pasture is an artistic statement. And they can, with no help from you, produce dozens and dozens of calves in a year. They also can tear down your gates, wreck your fences and kill you, if they take a mind.
That's why most people with 10 cows don't own a bull.
"What kind of bull are you looking for," Ralph asked me.
I thought maybe a young one who would be easy on my cows and wouldn't hurt me. Also, I wanted one that wasn't black. All my cows are black and if I don't put numbered eartags on them, I can't tell them apart. I figured a bull of a different color would give me spotted calves I would know on sight.
Ralph thought about that. "I might know someone who has just the thing," he said.
A couple of days later he put me in touch with his daughter and son-in-law. They raise pedigreed herefords. Their bulls are pricey. But Henry was a different matter.
When Henry was just a little guy, he was bitten by a rattlesnake. He was bitten on an important piece of bull equipment. A piece of equipment that generally comes in pairs. You get my drift. Half his pair shriveled up and went away. That's why Henry was a discount bull.
Henry could probably provide many times more calves than I will raise, even with his handicap. But Mr. Big-Time Cattle Guy wants a perfect bull. I, on the other hand, am perfectly happy with Henry.
Photo by Bryan Welch