He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

— Proverbs 13:20

If we only got a Bill!

Below is a short story from page 446-447 in the autobiography, Smile and Mean it; the Bud and Eunice Williams Story, available here.

One summer, a Canadian rancher had a contract to ship 8,000 head of 850-pound steers to the U.S. over a three-month period. We would bring them in, sort off the ones that were going to go, run them through the chute for vet work, weigh them, and then put them in a different, locked pen for quarantine.

After three days, they were brought up, checked by the vet again, weighed, loaded on the truck, and shipped. These animals gained an average of twelve pounds during the three quarantine days.

The day we were going to ship the last 600 head, the owner and his nephew went to sort them out of a group of about 800. This job should have taken about ten minutes, but they got mad at each other and started yelling at each other. Then they got to where they wouldn’t talk at all. It took them about an hour to sort off those 600 head.

They brought the cattle up, weighed them, ran them through the chute for the vet, and put them in the quarantine pen. Three days later they hadn’t gained any weight. Using the average gain on the previous 7,400 steers they had shipped, these had lost twelve pounds per head. At $1 a pound (Canadian dollar and the price at that time), that’s $12 a head loss or $7,200 loss for the group.

I’ve often said that lost production is the biggest cost to the cattleman. It’s more than death loss and drug costs combined; but they seldom have an opportunity to see it proven out like this.

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