For some time now, I've been urging people to consider tangible investments rather than intangible investments. Fiat currency and all the investment portfolios in the world are subject to endless economic tweaking that could leave their real worth far less than you think.
To that end, Don and I have always tried to think in terms of what would make our homestead more efficient and productive. Anything that fills these qualifications are, we feel, a worthwhile investment.
This past week we had to have a vet come to dehorn a four-month-old calf, give her brucellosis and tuberculosis tests, and get all her shots up to date in order to sell her. As expected, it was a physical nightmare because let me tell you, a four-month-old calf has a LOT of kick in her. I was almost nauseous with dread as the vet visit approached, knowing what kind of rodeo I could expect. Then there was the follow-up vet visit to check the tuberculosis test, which necessitated catching her once again. In short, it was a lot of hard work. Hard, and potentially dangerous. A stray hoof could kick us in the gut or the head and do a fair bit of damage. And this was a calf, not a full-grown cow.
Don and I are getting too old for this. That was our conclusion.
Yet we are determined to remain in this homesteading lifestyle, so we had to come up with a way to continue that won't threaten us with physical injury. The solution? A squeeze chute.
A squeeze chute is something we've needed for a long, long, long time... but the price has always put us off. Good squeeze chutes can run anywhere from $3000 to $7000, depending on how many bells and whistles they have. But after this past week's multiple rodeos, Don got on Craig's List and started searching out any possibilities.
And oh my, he hit the jackpot.
$950 is an awful lot of money for us, but we justified it two ways. One, if we're going to buy a big-ticket item, this is literally the only time of year we can do so, when we have a shot of income from the busy season for our woodcraft business. And two, the cost of a squeeze chute is ultimately cheaper than the cost of hospital bills from a concussion or bruised internal organs while trying to wrestle with a recalcitrant animal; or of additional vet costs for an injured animal.
Besides, this chute is far less expensive than anything else we could find. Don drove out on Wednesday and inspected it from top to bottom and found it's in superb condition, with the exception of some rotted-out wooden floor boards (which are easy to replace). Don paid the man on the spot so no one else would snap up this bargain.
So yesterday morning despite the pelting rain, we borrowed a neighbor's trailer and drove to the farm where the squeeze chute was located. It was about an hour's drive away, further into the mountains. Lovely location.
The seller didn't have all his firewood in yet, but he had a good start.
The seller was originally from Austria (he sounded exactly like Arnold Schwartzenager) and was retiring from raising beefalo. Beefalo are a cross between bisen and beef cattle, and apparently the meat is superb. However the animals are powerful and testy, far more wild than cattle, so needless to say a sturdy squeeze chute was essential. I figured if this chute could handle beefalo, it certainly can handle Dexters!
(Can you see the rain pelting on the pond?)
The seller already had the chute chained up to a track hoe, ready to load.
He lifted the unit and placed it on the trailer...
...then carefully nudged it until it was balanced in the middle. Then Don strapped it down for the trip home.
Before leaving, the seller showed us some other equipment he had for sale -- a sidebar mower, a plow blade, some balers, etc. There was an impressive yellow-jacket nest inside one of the balers.
That's a solid nest down in the bottom of this roll of baling twine. Good thing the weather was chilly and the insects were sluggish, or I sure as heck wouldn't be photographing them this closely!
The seller told us something about the sheer strength of the beefalo, and the damage they could do to intrastructure. For example they easily bent this sturdy tube gate.
More flimsy barriers such as this pressed metal gate...
...are often reduced to metal matchsticks.
I decided that no matter HOW fabulous the meat might be, I had no interest in raising something as powerful and half-wild as a beefalo. I like my Dexters and Jerseys.
We drove home with our new treasure... pardon me, investment... and parked it until a neighbor can come over with his beefy tractor to unload it.
Isn't that a pretty sight?
We still have a lot to do before the squeeze chute is usable. We need to build a run to funnel the animals into it. The run will be in a Y-shape, one branch of which will lead to the chute and the other of which will lead to a loading ramp for a livestock trailer. But the squeeze chute is the key to making life on our homestead a lot less dangerous and stressful, both for us and for the livestock.
In short, we'd rather have $950 put into a squeeze chute, than $950 sitting in the bank where it's subject to inflation or even government seizure.
Yes, tangible investments. Good idea.