There are few things in life that really shape you into the person you are, and for me the cattle industry is one of these things. It is a culture all of it's own especially here in Oklahoma. We have our own style of dress, talk and traits. For me, growing up on a cattle ranch in south central Oklahoma was the best experience anyone could ever ask for, it taught me so much about life, love and pain. Ranching can be defined as an establishment that is maintained for raising livestock or as a large farm used primarily to raise one kind of crop or animal. To ranchers it can sometimes be defined as a losing game that they love. In the small community of less than 1,300 people total that I grew up in, it was nothing out of the ordinary to own land and raise cattle. It's the environment that most rural Oklahomans grew up and live in. The average age of a farmer or rancher in Oklahoma is 45 to 65 according to a 2012 U.S. Census. That means most aren't online to defend their way of life, including my own family who can't get Internet service where we live. Agriculture as a whole has been under attack from extremist groups like "PETA" and HSUS. This is why it's fallen into the hands of young millennial agriculturalist to shed light into the way of life that we love. Needless to say, here are some things that raising cattle taught me and lesson I learned the hard way.
Love, sounds weird right but it's not. There is truly something peaceful about watching your own herd of cattle mosey their way across a grassy field in late spring. We love our cattle but we do know that they serve a purpose and that is to feed the world. Unlike what you might read or see in the media, we don't abuse or treat our cattle badly. It's quite the opposite, we love our animals but we also know they serve a purpose. We don't pump them full of growth hormones or other "drugs". We do doctor them, the same way you would help your own children when they become ill. Proper steps are taken to ensure our cattle are healthy and cared for. I know I sound like a cheesy slogan but it's the truth.
The "Birds and the Bees." Now, I know this is uncomfortable topic especially growing up in the bible belt of Oklahoma. But for me I never got the "sex" talk from my parents there wasn't a need too. Growing up with cattle my father explained to me the purpose of a bull and how you had to have a bull and a cow to make calves. Being a questioning kid it was never uncomfortable it was just a part of life that you knew had to take place.
Life and death; A hard lesson learned for a kid but growing up on a ranch you learn this early on, whether you like it or not. There are many ways to lose cattle; most are lost to natural causes, like trouble birthing. Being a one family operation, as soon as I was big enough to help out I was in the field or lot helping pull calves. One winter break my father, mother, brother and I pulled seven calves in a week. We fought against nature in the snow mud and sleet, to help these heifers as much as we could. Let me tell you, there is not a better feeling than saving a mother and calf and witnessing the miracle of birth. Yet, there is not a sadder moment than helping a cow give birth only to lose her and the calf right there in front of you. It takes a toll; to say that farmers and ranchers don't care about their animals is plainly a flat out lie, propagated by those who don't understand. To lose an animal that is a part of your livelihood is hard on those involved mentally, financially and emotionally.
Coming from such a background has made me a more humble, hard working and mature individual. I owe who I am to my family and the cattle industry, it's given me a purpose, a drive and a perspective that’s dearly needed in today's culture. I'm personally tired of seeing people my age fear and hate an industry that puts the food on their table and the clothes on their back. It's time for millennia’s that come from a similar agricultural background to help open the door and let people see how much we love this industry.