I spend quite a bit of time thinking about the concept of accountability. Many of the tasks that we do at the feed yard have to be completed regardless of weather or other extenuating circumstances. Our animals and our farm hold us accountable on a daily basis.
I also live in a house full of teenagers. My parenting style remains stubbornly loyal to a high level of accountability. Over the years, I have found that children rise to meet expectations, and that learning accountability at a young age plays a huge role in creating a young adult who strives to be a positive contributor.
Last week, we shipped cattle on a bitterly cold -20 degree morning. Yesterday, we traded below zero temperatures for a blustery 30 mile an hour north wind. A weather front passed through as we were loading trucks dropping the temperature from 30 degrees to 13 degrees in a matter of twenty minutes.
The cold north wind is a real bugger when you are working outside. It tends to make your eyes tear up and cry which wreaks havoc on visibility. If you are really lucky, the tears freeze on your face before they have a chance to run off 😉 On days like this, I take the advice of my horses and (as much as possible) put my butt to the wind in order to shield my face.
Regardless of the challenges, we complete the task. The cattle must be loaded and shipped at the correct time so that the packing plant can remain on schedule. Many things hinge on us doing our job in an appropriate and timely manner. Most importantly, being organized and competent allows for better animal welfare due to less time in transit and waiting at the packing plant.
Our animals are very cold tolerant. Bred to winter in Nebraska, they remain much more comfortable out in the cold than I do. This time of year, they grow very thick hair coats and their unique prey animal eyes allow them to function well despite the cold north wind. The short 20 mile trip from my farm to the packing plant allows for a relatively seamless last life experience.
I know that my animals make the ultimate sacrifice when they go to the packing plant. Their gift drives me to an extremely high level of accountability. There is honor in that gift, and I owe it to them to try and make the process as easy as possible. This is why we ship cattle in the early morning – It allows for the least amount of disruption for them as they move through the final part of the beef life cycle.
My cattle taught me many things over the past two decades. The importance of accountability and dependability rise quickly to the top of the list. Cattle have very basic needs – they are simple creatures. The key to providing good animal welfare lies in the caregiver’s ability to provide for those needs on a reliable basis.
I remember as a child my mom describing me as a dependable and hard working kid. Over my adult life, I have taken those traits and put them to work in a positive way. I would describe all three of my own girls as dependable and hard working.
Part of that is a genetic gift from God, and part of it is growing up on a farm and seeing first hand the high level of accountability that is required to humanely care for food animals.
Accountability, dependability, compassion, and grit…
These are the traits that I am most proud of – These are the traits that make me a good farmer.