Supporting the Ranching Habit

The way my family ranches is in the minority these days, and I’m not talking about the way my dad still carries feed to the yearlings in 5-gallon buckets despite the addition of a mechanical feeding conveyor. It’s been broken for over a year. No, the cattle ranch is the sole source of income for my family. It always has been, and it would take a dramatic shift of forces to make that change.

In the Beef Daily blog that just popped up in my inbox, Amanda Radke talked about the way second jobs are second nature for ranchers. I know it to be true as most of my ranching friends and acquaintances have “town” jobs, a spouse that works, or both. Supporting the ranching habit has become the normal, not the exception.

“More than half of America’s farmers work a job off the farm to make ends meet, according to USDA figures. They teach college courses and sell feed, work at banks and own businesses in order for the farm to survive,” wrote Cody Winchester in the original story printed in the Argus Leader in South Dakota.

It makes me appreciate as well as wonder at the fact that my parents were/are able to make ends meet with only the volatile haze of income cattle ranching brings. In a business entirely dependent on markets, weather, and the grace of God, I marvel at my parents’ ability to raise top-quality cattle along with six kids over the course of nearly four decades.

It’s the dream, I think, for a cattle ranch to sustain itself and the lifestyles of those who own it without having to take time away from our passion in order to continue it. Most of us will probably never fully get there in an age of ever-increasing costs, myself included, but I will forever respect my family for supporting its ranching habit with the ranch itself.

Wait, now that I think about it, my family was probably able to make it work because we did and do still carry feed by 5-gallon buckets to each and every one of our animals. And who says ranchers don’t provide tender, loving care to their cattle? My bulging biceps are proof that we do!

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