Till the cows come home (7:26 a.m.)

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A lot has changed since Ronny Cook started cattle farming 30 years ago, but one thing has stayed the same — those cold winter mornings are still no fun.

At 7 a.m., Cook is making his rounds, checking on his cows, despite a biting wind and temperatures in the mid-20s.

But Cook trucks on, pasture after pasture, in his Ford pickup. It’s calving season and newborn cows are arriving almost daily.

“I like my calving season to come in December and January,” said Cook. “It’s not a big burden on (the heifer).”

Cook breeds his cows in the late fall because the mothers are fed stored food, making it easier for heifers to stay healthy.

“You got to take care of what the good Lord gives you,” said Cook. “You can’t abuse the cattle or abuse the land.”

Cook oversees about 100 heads of cattle on about 750 acres in Wilsonville. Cook and another farmer, Bill Johnson of Fourmile, are growing their herds together to have more to sell.

“You do everything you can to cut costs,” said Cook. “You got to do everything you can to survive.”

Cook’s interest in cattle farming started during his Future Farmers of America days at Shelby County High School.

He still works part time with Alabama Power, but hopes to retire next year.

“I got interested in it then, and grew up and started fooling around with it,” Cook said. “It kind of matured from there.”

Cook said things have changed a lot since his early days in farming.

Today, cows are tagged with electronic IDs that keep track of a cow’s sex, date of birth, weight throughout its life and any other needed information. Cook can access that information with just a few quick strokes in his laptop.

“It’s really evolved. It’s been consumer driven,” said Cook. “Customers want to know where their cattle are coming from.”