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IT'S THE PITTS -- FASTBALL

by: Lee Pitts

Although my friend ReRide graduated a few years before me from the same school, his degree was in Animal Husbandry, while mine was in Animal Science. So, we all know who is the smarter of the two, right? Don't get me wrong, we both had the same teachers, took the same classes and used the same textbooks, but prior to my enrolling, the college changed the name of the major. They also changed the institution from a mere college to a University making me much more highly educated.

Because I am an animal scientist and ReRide is merely a husbandman I feel it is my duty to keep him updated on the latest science in our industry. Now, in my neck of the woods we've had the worst grass season on record and as a result local ranchers are being forced to make some very difficult decisions in severely culling their cow herds. Because of my superior education ReRide asked me to help him cull his cows.

“What's your plan,” I asked ReRide as we appraised his cows in the corral.

“Being merely an animal husbandry grad I figured we'd just cull them on age.”

“Not wise,” I said in a condescending manner. “Just recently I was reading an article about research done at Mississippi State from which I concluded that disposition is a far more important than all other traits. You see ReRide, we build up our herds using EPD's for weight, carcass traits and feedlot performance, but if the cow has a nasty disposition all that goes to waste. The professors found that there can be over a $40 difference in profit between the bad actors and the docile animals.”

“I believe that,” said ReRide. “And that probably doesn't even take into account the broken fences, hospital bills and dark cutters you get from wild cattle.”

“Very good ReRide, that's very observant for an animal husbandry graduate.”

“But how do you propose we cull my cattle on disposition?” he asked.

“In the Mississippi study they used three factors: how the cattle behaved in the pen, in the chute and their exit velocity when leaving the squeeze chute.”

“Exit velocity! That's a good one,” said ReRide. “But how do we measure that?”

“Initially I thought we'd borrow one of those radar trailers the cops put by the side of the road to tell how fast over the speed limit you're driving.”

“That's a good idea,” said ReRide.

“It would be if I knew any Highway Patrolman but the only ones I've met were for a brief time. And not under the best circumstances, if you know what I mean? But I do know a baseball coach and he let me borrow the radar gun he uses to measure how fast his pitchers throw.”

“You're a genius,” said ReRide, seeming to get smarter all the time.

The hypothesis that bad actors in the pen and the squeeze chute would also have the fastest exit velocity was proving correct as we worked ReRide's cattle. That is until we got a real nasty cow in the chute who disproved the theory. This was primarily because she got so excited she had a fatal heart attack and failed to leave the chute at all. At least under her own power. But the rest of the time there was a direct correlation.

One man-killing cow that we named Fastball, for reasons that will soon become apparent, proved the validity of the Mississippi research beyond a shadow of a doubt. After nearly dismantling the chute we expected Fastball to exit faster than a cut cat but her fleetness surprised even ReRide, who had not quite finished checking Fastball's dentition when I prematurely opened the head gate. According to the radar gun Fastball had an exit velocity 40 miles per hour over the speed limit and was picking up speed! Although, in all fairness to Fastball, I should say that it may have been a false reading as the radar gun could have actually have been measuring the speed of ReRide, who was trying to outrun the hard charging cow. Anyone who has ever met a Highway Patrolman, however briefly, is familiar with the concept that radar guns often give false readings. Right?

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