As a veterinarian I take it as a mission to help livestock producers improve their herd's productivity.
I advise them to take steps to insure each cow has a calf every year. We constantly address genetic improvement, herd health is closely monitored, and I attempt to relate financial consequences -- both positive and negative -- to managerial decisions.
I feel that our goal as food-animal veterinarians should be nothing less than to save the American livestock producer (if they show symptoms of wanting to be saved.)
That said, I never show my producers the herd that my wife and I have assembled over the years. Although they are usually kept in better-than-average body condition and therefore calve every year, alas; they have names, and other than the bull we didn't buy any of them.
That is, unless you count the six Holstein/Angus crosses that a poverty-stricken dairyman gave us to offset his long-delinquent bill. Polly credited him at $125 each, a few weeks later their market value plummeted to $35, an obvious example of an unfavorable financial consequence.
My wife, clinic employees or myself name them. However, she vetoed the names which Bill, the boy charged with feeding them and cleaning their pen, gave two of them who were closely matched in size and disposition. She felt "Sh*t" and "P*ss" were indelicate names, even for cattle.
Eight years ago, one of our stocker men dropped five Florida heifers off at the clinic. They were classic chronic pneumonias and had been given every drug known both to science and the local witch doctor.
Three quickly died.
One recovered and other than being slightly smaller than the herd average, she brings a good calf every year.
The fifth heifer is Wheezy. She is now 8 years old, maintains a Body Condition Score of about three the year around, and weighs maybe 750 pounds. Her tail drags the ground and relative to her spare frame her head is huge. She never gets out of a walk. Due to her small size, she is the lowest on the herd pecking order, and has to duck in and out on the feed grounds to avoid being knocked about by her herd mates as she snatches a few cubes on the fly.
Why do we keep her? If any animal has the will to live that is so strong that she has learned to survive, given her handicaps, then surely my problems are minor relative to hers. I must admit that I draw inspiration from a chronic pneumonia cow.
We have several cows that were left at the clinic because either the owner was unable or unwilling to do what was necessary to get the animal well. Gracie walks on the tiptoe of her left hind foot because of extensive muscle damage. She was down in a stock hauler's trailer for who knows how long on the road from Florida. She stays fat and gets downright hateful every year when she perceives her new calf to be in jeopardy.
Then there is Valentine. She came by a C-section and I discovered that the owner had broken her jaw in an unsuccessful attempt to deliver her prior to the surgical intervention. The owner gave her to us.
After a prolonged stint of feeding her by a small tube she recovered fully. She is a tiger-stripe with a heart-shaped white area on her forehead. She was born Feb. 14th. That helps me to remember when to buy cards and boxes of chocolate.
We have several others that are natural additions, specifically meaning female calves kept to increase the herd.
I ought to feel guilty for not practicing what I preach in the realm of herd management but as is true of most of my producers, I really raise cattle because I like them.