The Virtue of Patience
I will be the first to admit that I am not a patient person. It might not be totally my fault – I think to some extent society has changed. Take sports for example – we have progressed from getting our box scores from the morning newspaper, to watching highlights at the top of the hour on the 24 hours cable sports channel, and now we get it on demand, as soon as it happens, on the internet. When we used to vacation, we’d go to see Jeanne’s Grandpa in Nova Scotia – he of no TV, let alone internet. The first 48 hours were a bit of a withdrawal – you couldn’t just get up and ‘check things out’ on the ‘net, you had to be patient and wait for the next mornings’ paper. Once you were there for a few days, it became a lot easier, but those first few days were tough! I hope the same trend follows for me in the cattle business – maybe after a few more years, I’ll be more patient!
It is always so exciting to put together a genetic mating – the hard part is waiting to see how it turns out. It takes nine months from breeding to calving, then six months to weaning, and six months of development to a yearling. And even then, as a yearling, genetics are just getting started. For bulls, it is another year until you see their calf crop (and then a year after that to see how those calves develop). For heifers, it can be even longer – it is said that a Fleckvieh cow doesn’t hit her stride until age 5 or 6! That’s at least 7 years since she was conceived! That is a long time to wait in a world where we want answers instantly.
The commercialization of DNA and genomics into the beef herd does have the potential to accelerate the process, but a lot of other factors such as feet, temperament and milking ability need time in order to be evaluated. These can represent ‘checkpoints’ along the way to evaluate potential, and where animals rank within your own herd. The bottom end cattle always need to be cleaned up, and replaced with something that has at least the potential to be better. If we are doing our jobs right as cattle breeders, then a cow should produce a better offspring, so the herd should gradually improve. The challenge, of course, is ensuring that the offspring are indeed better than the parents, an assessment that is not always that easy to make – at least in less than 7 years!
Needless to say, maybe I should have chosen a passion in life other than cattle – it is certainly a career totally at odds with today’s instant availability of information. But maybe, just as importantly, cattle are a steady reminder that the best things in life take a little patience – as well as some effort; some attention to detail. Accentuating the importance of taking a longer term approach in life as opposed to instant results. Maybe purebred cattle are really just doing me a favour; re-emphasizing patience, in a world that has got seemingly so fast, so full, and reminding me to sit back and relax a little. Maybe a little patience is not such a bad thing after-all.