By Mille Whitehead
Unlike my husband, I did not grow up on a cattle farm. In fact, my first close encounters with cows were on his family’s farm my junior year of college. My husband and I met at a rodeo while I was in college in Alabama. My first three visits to Brush Creek Farm were interesting, to say the least. My first trip to the farm consisted of rotating cows to greener pastures, on my second trip he had me throwing square hay bales from the hayfield into a moving truck and trailer, and on my third trip I was nominated the job of gatekeeper while sorting calves in the lot. Romantic, right? Needless to say, it did not take me very long to realize that farmers are a different breed of people, and I say that with an utmost amount of respect. Farmers are extremely multi-layered and although my husband’s official job title is quite brief, his actual job duties vary in great lengths.
Anyone can run a farm, but it takes a very talented and capable person to run one efficiently and cost effectively. If tending to the cattle was the only job, perhaps more people would be into it. One must be willing to work very long hours, from sun up to sun down, and sometimes even nights during certain circumstances. During these long days and nights, a farmer must be skillful enough to tackle and succeed in whatever obstacles are thrown their way. Extensive knowledge of tractor operation is imperative considering most days are spent in the seat of a tractor during hay season in the summer and feeding in the winter. A good farmer must also be a good mechanic as well, because when something goes wrong with one of the tractors (and it will), you will save time and money if you can fix it yourself. Farms use a variation of metal equipment for all sorts of uses so it also pays to be a welder in the shop when you can fix something instead of replacing it with a brand new version.
Cows must always have a clean water source which means that fixing a leaking water trough in a timely manner is critical. Farmers are also mathematicians, scientists, and organized planners. Being handy with a rope and a horse is very beneficial to a cattle farm. You’ll figure that out real fast when you try to catch a spry calf on foot with your bare hand or a calf catcher hook. Farmers also act as veterinarians many days out of the year. Whether it be a breeched calf that needs pulling, a wound that needs to be cleaned and dressed, or a nasty upper respiratory infection that needs attention, farmers are always ready to doctor the herd. You must have a strong stomach when you’re on the farm, because the smell of scours (livestock diarrhea) is something that you will carry with you for the rest of your life and the castration of young bulls is considered an everyday, ordinary task.
We also have to be accountants and marketers in order to sell the beef that our cattle produce. Our job doesn’t end once the steer is processed, but we must advertise, generate business, and keep connections in order to acquire profit. Although farmers can be considered a “jack of all trades” in most situations, we are so very thankful for all our professional engineers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, accountants, forage specialists, and veterinarians that come out to our farm on a moment’s notice. We are incredibly grateful for these relationships that have helped build our farm into what it is today and continue to help it prosper.