Raise your hand if you're sick of snow, ice and cold? Combine that with responsibilities on the ranch, and it has been a very long winter. Winters on the ranch mean many different things: icicles hanging off the barn roof, snow piling up in the feed bunks, waterers freezing up, cows in constant need of more hay, bedding for the bulls, wet coveralls and gloves and, of course, hot chocolate after chores are done. Of all the memories that I have of winters on the ranch, the best ones are those spent with my dad, my hero, out doing chores. No matter what the weather, my dad is always there, sturdy and strong, unyielding in his determination to take care of his cattle.
My dad is much like other farm dads. He’s traditional in his methods. He loves nothing more than to watch his calves grow in the feed yards during the day and read over their performance numbers at night. And, as the oldest child, I have spent many days bonding in the tractor as we discuss cattle genetics and plans for the future. Yet, none of those things are why my dad is the best memory I have on the ranch. I know it may sound strange, but it really comes down to Dad and his whiskers.
Through the years, Dad’s whiskers have been a true indicator to how cold it is outside. For example, after a few hours out in the snow, Dad’s mustache always has icicles hanging from it. Because of the latest blizzard that hit South Dakota over the weekend, it dawned on me what a powerful message a rancher and his icy whiskers really is.
Being resilient in the elements is what farmers and ranchers are all about. Rain, sleet, snow or drought, producers always put their livestock first over their own comfort. Maybe that’s the message we need to start sending out to our customers in billboards across the country. Can you picture it? A whiskery rancher in coveralls and a big, wool cap, icicles hanging from his beard, a pen of bulls resting comfortably in freshly laid straw behind him, and the message that would be inscribed on the billboard would simply read, “Ranchers care.”
As winter continues to drag its cold, icy feet, let’s think positively and make it a priority to spread the simple, "Ranchers care," message to the world. We can no longer continue to let political bureaucrats, the sensationalist media and special interest groups determine the direction that agriculture takes; it’s got to be up to us to set the story straight. And, as I work alongside my dad on the ranch, icy whiskers and all, I have realized that nothing will get the job done more efficiently than sharing our message: “We Care.”
BEEF Daily Quick Fact: 97% of farms in the United States are family owned and operated.