This guy. What a great animal he is. He was pretty old when we moved on the place, but there were only two full-grown bulls available, they were the same age, and so we just picked one and went with it. He was over ten when he became our herd bull, which is older than most farms retire their bulls, so, as might be expected, his track record with the ladies hasn't been great. Out of five years, one year we had three calves (out of five cows) but most years we've only gotten one or two.
He is now approaching sixteen, and he looks it. He reminds me of a senior horse who just can't keep the weight on anymore. I've done what I can to be sure to address any factors within my control, but it's clear he's on the downhill slide. He is certainly a mere shadow of his former self.
I've been prepping my boy for the potential loss of Big Guy since the beginning of winter. Winter is hard and Big Guy does not have any reserves left on him. I make sure and give him supplemental feed every day to give him the extra calories he needs but at some point, it will simply not be enough.
So far, our winter has been mercifully mild. Big Guy is hanging in there and seems content, so I have been happy to let him live out his best life in retirement, but I'm not sure how he'll fare in a true cold snap.
Fortunately, he is still "the man" in the herd, so I don't have to worry about him getting run off from the food. I guess having the biggest antlers does that for you. Reach is everything, I suppose. The bull herd now has six critters in it. Big Guy and five of his progenies. We finally have two new young bulls old enough to take his mantle and - hopefully - give us a full calf crop next year.
I suppose this is the circle of life. New and old. Old and new. We come, make our mark, and then take our exit. I have been preparing myself and my son for the inevitable, but since we are expecting our first sub-zero temperatures of the winter this weekend and I don't know how Big Guy will fare, I thought maybe I should prepare you for the possibility as well.
As my mom always tells me, getting old ain't for the faint of heart. Big Guy has gently taught me a lot about elk farming, and I sure hope he gets to have a nice, long retirement.