Growing up in a ranching family, I learned from a young age the pace that is required of a cow-calf producer. Every day has its own set of challenges, and each season seems to bring more busy work than the one before it.
Long days of winter feeding and ice chopping roll into sleepless nights of calving in the spring, which bumps right up to the busy days of breeding cows before summer turnout. Once planting is done, haying must begin. Soon, harvest is upon us. Then calves must be weaned, and the cycle begins again.
As young producers, it seems like these tasks take more time to accomplish due to the fact that we’re working with older, smaller equipment. We’ve learned to budget time and money for breakdowns, parts and delays. It’s just part of the bigger picture as we work to expand our operation.
Yes, every season on the ranch has its own challenges and brings a different set of tasks to cross of the list. And even though I grew up in this life, sometimes I still get frustrated with the time requirements needed that sometimes take away from our young, growing family.
In addition to our day jobs, when you add two kids under two years old to the equation, our lives have become the perfect mix of chaos, messiness, late nights, early mornings and wondering when life might get a little bit easier or a little bit slower. Of course, we wouldn’t change anything at this stage in the game; we’re very blessed to be on this ranch raising our kids in this lifestyle.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Yesterday, I asked folks to share their best advice for young producers. I received great words of wisdom about planning, budgeting, investing and managing time and resources well. I admit I was surprised that nobody commented on how family fits into the equation.
READ: Top 10 tips for young ranchers
We know that familial living expenses can be the make or break of a production agriculture enterprise. The family is often tasked with reducing expenditures and making sacrifices in times of low market prices to help weather through the tougher times. Whether that means skipping a vacation, ditching a few extracurriculars or driving the old car instead of purchasing a fancier family SUV, these are budgeting decisions a family must make if they want to get ahead in agriculture.
In addition to finances, I think it’s also important to remember that there is a balance of time that must be achieved in a family ranching enterprise. Having two children who need routines — supper, baths and bedtimes at predictable hours — sometimes clashes with the necessity of working long hours outside. As a result, Tyler and I often split duties. He’s outside working while I tend to the kids.
While I love being a mom, I sometimes miss the freedom and flexibility of working outside on the ranch without two kids in tow. Everything seems to take a little longer, and even though I know the kids will one day be old enough to help us, for now, my reality is that I’m sometimes left out on what’s happening on the ranch when I’m in the house tending to the kids’ needs.
This necessitates the need for communication. Tyler and I have to constantly communicate to make sure we’re on the same page with the kids, the cattle and our financial goals. To achieve a balance between work life and family life, this often means family time is spent in the shop while Tyler works on the tractor or in the barn when there’s a cow in the chute that needs breeding.
I’m not saying we’ve mastered this art of balancing work and family, but I know that both our happiness and success in this business depends upon it.
So today my question is, how do you and your spouse balance it all? What are your tips for making sure priorities like faith, family and farming/ranching remain in that order? Share your advice in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.