PARKSTON — In Jared Tiede's seven years of ranching in southeast South Dakota, calving seasons have been a smooth ride.
However, this year has been anything but smooth. From the moment the calving season started in early February, the 22-year-old Parkston rancher was faced with challenges unlike anything he’s ever experienced. For the first time in his cattle farming life, Tiede said the hardships made him question his ranching dreams.
“When I looked out and saw the calf laying down, I thought, ‘Great, the calving season has started.’ But when I saw its head wasn’t moving, I knew something was wrong,” Tiede said. “I’ve never lost a calf before, so it was really hard to start the calving year off that way.”
After losing his first calf, Tiede began to search for answers as to what could have caused the calf to die almost instantaneously out of the womb.
Considering he’s had no issues with his heifers breeding healthy calves over the past decade, Tiede said it made it that much harder to try and pinpoint what could have gone wrong leading up to the birth of the calf. He turned his focus to the heifer that gave birth to the deceased calf and made sure the cow was healthy to continue breeding.
“The vets thought it must have been some kind of neurological issue. I wondered if it was the hay I was feeding my cows, but I couldn’t put a finger on it since she wasn’t in bad shape at all,” Tiede said of his heifer.
Following a trip to the veterinarian that resulted in mixed speculation of the cause of death, Tiede was left wondering as he tried to cope with the loss of his first calf. He decided to sell his cow that gave birth to the calf that died and trekked to Nebraska. Despite his vehicle breaking down on the way to deliver the cow to a Nebraska rancher, Tiede was ready to make it back to his ranch and put the rough start of the calving season behind him.
But the hits kept coming. Still mourning the death of his calf, Tiede would have to experience yet another loss. Only this time, it was a set of twin calves, and more bad news.
“When I saw the first one was likely dead, I thought ‘We can’t be doing this again, what is going wrong?’ That was my first set of twins, and less than a week after losing my first calf, I had to do it all over again,” he said. “I stuck a blade of grass in the other calf’s nose, and it didn’t flinch at all. That’s when I knew that it was also dead.”
Breeding a heifer that gives birth to a set of twins is rare itself, Tiede said. The birth of twin calves usually calls for celebration, but for Tiede, it turned out to be another taxing hardship. While he was filled with excitement when the twin calves were born, it quickly turned to heartache after he came to the realization they were both dead.
“I was so excited to see twins for the first time, but it ended up being one of the hardest moments I had to deal with,” Tiede said. “After the twins died, I was starting to rethink my whole life as a cattle farmer. I was like, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
As a first generation rancher, Tiede wasn’t surrounded by family members who went through such hardships in a year, making the tough start that much more difficult.
'Perfect ending to a tough calving season'
Although everything that could have gone wrong during this year’s calving season seemingly went wrong for Tiede, the young rancher found a way to persevere through it all.
Little did Tiede know persevering through the tough challenges he faced early in the calving season would bring him one of his "greatest rewards” as a rancher. Toward the end of the calving season, roughly a month after losing the set of twins, another one of Tiede’s heifers brought a set of twins. But this time, they were healthy. And most importantly, they lived to become Tiede’s first set of twin calves he ever raised.
“The good Lord was watching over the farm that day,” Tiede said of the twin calves that survived. “I was in absolute shock to see another set of twins. Most people don’t have a set of twins in a year, and I had two separate sets of twins in less than a month.”
While he could have folded and sold his seven cows to stick with his full-time job away from the farm, Tiede remembered why he got into ranching in the first place. It was a way of life that he was deeply passionate about, and he wasn’t going to let the obstacles end his love of ranching.
“Some people like golfing and fishing, but for some reason this is what I love to do,” Tiede said, as he checked on his calves in his pasture.
Despite the challenges he overcame this year, the birth of the twin calves was a reassuring ending to the most trying calving season Tiede has faced. Now that the calving season has wrapped up, Tiede said he’s learned some of the most valuable lessons this year.
Learning how to persevere and overcome challenges is Tiede’s silver lining in the most tumultuous calving season he’s ever experienced.
“You just have to push through and keep moving. You’ll always have more calves on the way, and you have to hope for better luck with them to make some kind of money,” Tiede said. “I found out how much I love all of this, and I don’t plan to stop.”