The Important Reality of Ranching

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It’s heart wrenching to watch your child hurt.

Near the beginning of March, we started a month long process of watching our thirteen-year-old daughter be very sick. We were in and out of doctor’s offices and the hospital. It acted like appendicitis to some extent, but the tests didn’t confirm that diagnosis. She had a non-traditional presentation of acute appendicitis and it made her sick for weeks (thankfully it never burst) before an appendectomy was performed to see if it cured her. It turns out, she had chronic appendicitis. Her organs and lymph nodes were inflamed throughout this process, making a “normal” day impossible. Thankfully, surgery confirmed what was eventually suspected, and she is doing well. Recovery takes time, but she actually feels better than she has in months.

Of course our hearts are entangled with our children.

Not surprisingly, they are also intertwined with our cattle.

I’ve heard the accusations of the brutality of the cattle market. That we are inhumane, that we treat cattle without regard for their feelings, that we just want a steak on our plates… The list continues.

This breaks my heart.

We are calving right now and to see the babies run around the field brings me delight. Watching a newborn bond with its mother is awe-striking. Observing animals connect with the land, each other, and us is humbling.

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We do not look at a baby calf and think, “YUM! There’s my steak.”

Quite the contrary.

Most of us ranch wives enjoy the lives of our herd. We may get teary if something happens to die. There is sorrow if something gets sick. We rejoice with twins. We laugh as calves race each other while their moms graze.

There is no disconnect from the clumsy baby to the harvested beef. We do not delight in death. We cherish life.

Prior to harvest, the beef industry as a whole, which certainly includes individual producers, works to ensure that their cattle have high quality of life. We provide good water, valuable feed, and suitable living conditions. We watch cattle movements and proceed accordingly to reduce stress. While we do have to make a living, we are concerned with their well being as well as profitability.

We are aware that our world needs food. With our growing population, we must be efficient stewards of the land and animals to bring food to tables–now and for future generations. Beef is a viable food source providing several vitamins and minerals. It’d be irresponsible not to help feed the world–it is a joy to source food.

It isn’t a pendulum that swings one way or the other. It is a careful balancing act–allowing the animal to live the fullest, quality life and being thankful that its life feeds me, feeds others.

Like raising kids, raising cattle is a matter of the heart, mind, will, and emotions. We need to be tough and tender, balancing life with the greatest of care.

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