My name is Kim Yates and I own and operate Angelina All Natural Beef with my husband David in Canton, Texas. We weren’t born on ranches and we didn’t grow up in the saddle – we are “skip-a-generation” cattle ranchers. My grandfather and great grandfather ran cows but my dad was a farmer. David’s family also had a farm and ranching history bringing the first “steam driven” hay baler to Kaufman County but that legacy fell away generations ago.
I can remember riding to the ranch to check cows with my grandparents. My little sisters and I would ride in the back of the truck and pour out range cubes for the cows. They would leap for joy and follow us wherever “Pappy” wanted to take them. He would rotate pastures so they always had fresh grass and water and he would plant crimson clover and vetch to keep them healthy through the winter months. People would tell him that his cows were overfed and my mother recollects many times when the cows would be fed before the kids. He was an ethical and admirable steward who took great pride in the land and the well-being of his cattle. “Pappy” passed away when I was 15, long before I knew I wanted to be a rancher. But after spending 17 years in the pharmaceutical industry, his ranching legacy was resurrected. I met David and we shared a dream of raising cattle and being stewards of the land. I decided to kick off my heels and pull on my boots, trade in my company car for a 135 horse power tractor, give up the big house with a small patch of grass and find a small house with a big patch of grass.
Ranching is hard work but David and I are honored to carry on the legacy of our grandfathers and great grandfathers. Being “skip-a-generation” cattle ranchers, unlike many of our counterparts, we had to start from scratch, work hard, pinch pennies and save for everything we have. The cost of cattle, the cost of equipment, the cost of land and the cost of keeping cows fat and happy can be daunting. Despite that, we have been blessed to keep and grow our business through challenging market conditions and devastating drought. When many of our counterparts were selling their herds, we have grown our operation and we are the proud stewards of 900 leased and owned acres. We are a two person operation and we have stayed true to our mission of providing a “clean” and lean source of beef to our customers. It’s not easy work but it is good work and we strive to get better and better every year.
I wanted to share with you an ethical omnivore event we experienced last week. As a beef producer, you always prepare for unexpected health issues that may arise with your herd but this one was a doozy! We were in the process of putting out hay for our cows when we noticed a cow staggering in the pasture. Upon closer inspection, we realized we had 14 cows that were showing signs and symptoms of grass tetany or dallisgrass staggers. With the crazy weather we have been experiencing in Texas, it could have been a combination.
We consulted with our veterinarians and they prescribed intravenous MPK. Since the cows that were affected were experiencing a level of neurotoxicity, they were extremely agitated and aggressive. We were instructed to wait until they were down before we could administer the medication. Fortunately, we were able to coral a number of them that we could work through the chute in order to keep us safe. We treated the most severe and kept them in the pens overnight in order to observe them.
I showed up early the next morning to evaluate the herd and found one cow down and bloating and another calf staggering and on his way down. I finally found a vein on the down cow and administered the IV. It was critical to roll over the bloating cow in order for her to get her feet under her and relieve the gas pressure in her rumen. So here I am, by myself with a rope attempting to roll over a 1300 pound cow. I put the rope on her front leg that was closest to the ground and under her two back legs. I then began to pull with all my might to get her rolled over. I prayed, prayed hard, because she was in serious distress and if I didn’t get her up she was going to suffocate. After many cries out to Jesus, I rolled over that cow, she tried to stand and fell in the exact same position with her feet above her. So I repeated the rollover process and this time she sat up and within 5 minutes she was on her feet. Praise the Lord! I turned my attention to the calf, made a rope halter that I secured to his back legs and administered the IV. I called my husband for help and he left his real job and stopped by the vet to pick up more supplies. We continued to observe, pen, sort and doctor. One cow who was showing more severe symptoms nearly flattened David in the pens but fortunately she staggered before she planted him. It was extremely tense! We continued to administer IVs and we were seeing immediate improvements. We ultimately IV treated 7 cows and one calf. The most severe cow was up and grazing and the aggressive cow and calf were left in the pen for observation and containment if treatment was required the next day.
Early the next morning, the cow and calf in the pen were much better but the most severe cow had fallen into the overflow from one of the stock tanks and the temperature had fallen below freezing. Hypothermia on top of grass tetany is not good. We immediately used the tractor to get her out of the water and administered another round of IV MPK. We worked to warm her up and dry her off. We got her sitting up and packed dry hay around her and waited on the sun to come out to help warm her up. We consulted with our local cow man who helps us and he said that we had done a good job saving our animals. We talked about giving her some additional dextrose to try to give her an energy boost so we went back to the vet for our supplies and returned to give her another IV. We spent six hours in total working on her and giving her a shot at surviving but we weren’t holding out hope.
The next morning we found her still alive but in distress and unable to even sit up. As ethical omnivores, we made the tough decision to end her suffering before the vultures and coyotes did it for us. We chained her lifeless body up to the hay forks on the tractor and I drug her to a little corner in the woods where the scavengers could return her body to the earth. The only thing that muffled the sound of my tears was the sound of the tractor. I cried all the way to drop her off and all the way back to continue caring for our animals. I wiped my tears and started to work on the chores for the day. There’s no time for sulking when you are an ethical omnivore producer. Caring for our animals is our first priority.