You get what you pay for. It was a reality that was ignored when I returned from the local John Deere dealership with a beaten down Ford 8N purchased for $500.
“What are you going to do with that hunk of junk?”
My brother’s question was easily answered — the tractor would be handy when raking alfalfa or hauling bale wagons to be unloaded in the mow.
My brother’s reaction was nearly the same when a neighbor held a dispersal sale of his Guernsey herd, one which he often bragged about when he stopped to preach about politics, cattle and the weather.
I intended to purchase two pregnant cows in hopes their milk would increase butterfat content and yield heifers to add to our Holstein herd. My brother initially volunteered to bid because of my inexperience, but his offer was declined because I considered myself naturally gifted in that area.
Two cows entered the ring at the same time and as the higher bidder it was my right to purchase one or both. One was a good cow and the other mediocre. I blurted out both before my brother reached my side.
“You idiot,’’ he said. “You could have the second one for about half-price.
She was also boney because the seller was short of feed and money. My brother had also learned that the mortality rate among the herd’s calves was extremely high. There was, he said, an unknown disease that took calves less than a week after their birth.
The Guernsey cows were outmuscled by the Holsteins and the two heifers they delivered died shortly after birth. Neither were good milk producers and the butterfat didn’t increase. For that reason, my brother was overjoyed when the two cows were sent packing to South St. Paul, where they fetched bottom dollar.
I would do much better the next time.
At least that was my intent when another whole-herd disposal involving a fine Holstein herd was scheduled. The selling family were good dairymen, with registered cows and excellent genetics from good artificial insemination breeding.
The banker — a thoughtful man eager to help — loaned $5,000 for three cows. All were pregnant with close due dates. Two birthed bull calves and a third a promising heifer, which soon died. I blamed the barn, which was cursed with pneumonia. Still, the cows were among the herd’s top performers.
At least they were until disaster struck.
The strap and Surge bucket were on the first ill-fated cow when she let out a loud moan and dropped like she had been shot. The veterinarian said it was a heart attack. I hadn’t heard that cows had heart attacks, but the vet said it happens more often than one might think.
“You’ve just had a bit of bad luck, so don’t be too discouraged,’’ the veterinarian said.
I wasn’t so much until the purchased cow that was the youngest and most favored came down with milk fever. The illness can be successfully treated, but the cow remained down. The cow will get up when she is good and ready, the veterinarian said.
She died on the lawn where I had moved her.
The third cow lost a quarter in her second lactation and was shipped. Sometimes, those things just happened even with good dry-cow treatment.
The investment was gone, and the borrowed money eventually repaid and served to reopen the financial wound. Luck tends to eventually even out, but in this case it never did. It could be the reason why it became a widely accepted fact that a jinx existed.
I didn’t think so, at least not until I played town baseball and a pitch broke my wrist. It’s sort of difficult milking cows with one useful arm. After being out six weeks, the pitcher beaned me.
It takes a very long time for luck to even itself out.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.