Choose Joy!

Our idea of beautiful color, celebrating Independence Day.
Our idea of beautiful color, celebrating Independence Day

Isn’t the internet amazing? Just the other day, I was using my phone to google “Quest protein bars” and now, every time I get on Facebook, there are advertisements for… you guessed it… Quest protein bars. How does that work, anyway? Maybe if my phone is tracking my shopping searches that may be why as the calendar approached July 4, my Facebook, and emails were FLOODED with new Independence Day apparel. Was it just me, or did America’s birthday get extremely popular this year? Constant red, white, and blue clothing on the racks, email blasts, and Facebook ads. Firework stands on every corner. Every business I went into, the salesperson asked me the same question…. “Have big July 4 plans?” I felt like they all seemed to look at me like I was a crazy woman when I would reply…. “Well, no. Waiting to see if it is raining.” Did every American make some huge July 4 plans, and if so, why wasn’t I invited?

July 3, the eve of Independence Day, we had not had a rain since June 30, three WHOLE DAYS WITHOUT RAIN! That itself warranted a celebration, but any guesses where I was? In a tractor, mowing pastures with Brock. Yup, that was our date night. We were bouncing across the field beside the house, when I could not help but notice all the traffic along Highway 54 traveling to the river or the lake…. boat after boat. Brock must have noticed me observing and turned to me and asked, “What would you rather be doing, right now?” My answer, “Nothing.” While it seemed that every other American was preparing to celebrate the holiday weekend in their new bikini. Me? I was perfectly happy bouncing in the Kabota across the field with the only person I really wanted to spend time with anyway.  As it turned out, my Friday date night was a preview of how I was going to spend my July 4. As the dog and I made round after round in the tractor on the fourth day in a row we had had no rain, I thought about how most people were spending their Independence day. Cookouts, drinking beer, boats, jet skis, and fireworks ran through my mind. Does our society thrive on always having a plan, always having excitement, always having some sort of drama (good or bad) in their life. Was I absolutely crazy that I was enjoying the dog and I alone in the tractor, and that I would rather be there than at some big celebration? Maybe I am just an introvert, but what ever happened to enjoying the simple things in life?

I am a blessed woman. I have a beautiful and intelligent daughter, have found the love of my life, go to work daily to a job that I love, and come home every night to my loving family, cows and farm. In my daily travels, I interact with all sorts of folks. Some that have become some dear friends, and some that have taught be about the kind of person I aspire to become. As I watch those people that are in such a hurry they almost have road rage, or just the opposite; go so slow, that when you pass them they are so mad that they develop road rage, because you obviously shouldn’t be passing them… I mean, the audacity! It makes me wonder, why are they so unhappy? What about the people in line at Panara Bread? They are so self involved and inpatient that sometimes, if you listen to them order or try to pay, they actually don’t communicate their order clearly in the first place, yet they get frustrated at the order taker. Or when that person is eating their meal while complaining to someone about their misfortunes. Why is everything in their life so wrong? I am sure you all have that one girlfriend that insists you have some big event and it is all planned out how it “should go” in her head, but when it doesn’t go that way…. well she’s not a happy camper. Consequently, no one can have a good time. What is it about some people that they cannot choose to be joyful? I admit, I once was not the person I am now. As I look back, I think, wow…. Thank God I am not her ANYMORE! Its amazing how the circumstances in your life put blinders over your eyes to what this world is about and what the “Secret to Happiness” really is. There is no doubt, not everyday are we all happy 100% of the time. That is just not realistic. But even on the days when you have things on your mind, or someone has really pushed the button that makes you want to explode, it is how you deal with the adversity that makes the difference. When life presents challenges, here are some of my tips to Choosing Joy:

1. Smile. Smiling shows the people around you that you care about them and their feelings. Oh, and it just makes you feel good. Try it. I bet if you smile, it will be reciprocated.

2. Show gratitude for all the blessings in your life. Appreciate what you are given. But don’t forget to set goals for the next steps of your life.

3. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Its amazing what oxygen to your brain does to clear your head…. right when you are about to explode.

4. Always take the high road. Even when someone may be insulting you, it is hard, but do not react to those insults. Collect your thoughts, take a deep breath, and remember that God, not evil, should rule our lives.

5. Pray. Even when things are really bad. God will not leave you alone. It does not mean that we will always be happy with God’s plan, but he WILL support us.

6. Read the Bible. You do not have to follow the Bible to get to heaven, but it IS the recipe to happiness.

Choosing Joy has been hard for many Missouri and Kansas farmers, including my farmer. This year, we are farming 1000 acres in addition to our cattle. It is a new adventure for Brock and I. What a year to start. Over the course of the spring planting season, we have had 28 inches of rain. June alone was a record for us with rain totaling 11.85 inches, according to http://www.climate.com. Farmers were forced to simply quit planting. Missouri is estimated to have only 62% of the total soybean acres planted, leaving over .75 million acres in Missouri unplanted. For a farmer who is already facing low commodity prices but also has to pay for input costs of weed control, seed, equipment, and cash rents on unplanted acres, this becomes not only a stress point, but a constant worry.  Do we or my farmers that I sell seed to, talk daily about the struggle? Admittedly, yes. But most everyone recognizes the need to “Choose Joy.” For Brock, myself, and most all of my growers across the state, July 4 was one of the only stretches of dry weather we had seen in quite sometime. Combines were running cutting wheat, planters were planting beans, and balers were baling wheat straw. We ended the evening driving to Dairy Queen for supper and watching the neighboring fireworks from the truck cab.

Many farmers were celebrating Americas Independence Day in a similar way, unsure of what the yields were going to be, or even if they would make money on the crop. Most business people will respond with, “Then why do it? What is the point if your not going to make money.”  For us farmers, it is because it is what we know, its our life, its our passion. Don’t get me wrong. When Brock asked me if there is any where else, I would rather be, I would have loved to be on the lake with my friends, Brett and Terri, or in Ireland with my friend Katie, and I have even blogged about the importance of a vacation. But priorities always come first. The farm is the choice Brock and I have made for our life. It is our reminder from God on what is important in this life. It is not just a career, it is our values, our hope, and our joy.

Peony helping mow pastures.
Peony helping mow pastures.
Fourth of July for this MO Farm Girl.
Fourth of July for this MO Farm Girl.
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“1501” A New Year of Babies

Spring, summer, winter, fall…. everyone has their favorite season for various reasons. Some like the heat and sun. Some like the cold snowy days by the fire. Me? Calving season is my FAVORITE season by far! For some, that time is now. For others, those momma cows are just getting ready to start dropping those babies. Why is this my favorite? The reasons are endless. Most importantly though, this is what we work all year for! We all care for the cattle all year long feeding, walking through knee deep mud, fixing fence, working tirelessly to get that stubborn cow up that simply won’t be smart enough to just go through the dang gate! Today is the day it all pays off!

Many farm wives out there might think I am crazy. You ladies are reading this saying, is this chick CRAY? Calving time is the WORST! Ladies, I know where you are going with this…. I understand the stress levels associated with the best season of the year. I know how the husband’s stress levels can get…. well can we say, a little out of whack. Lets face it, it can become an episode with an exchange of words that might resemble the infamous “cattle working saga” that we farm wives or farm girlfriends hear about. We all have seen those posts on Facebook…. they go something like “Farm Girl Tip: Don’t take anything he says personally when sorting or moving cows.” Hopefully this post will help you ladies out there that find themselves elbows deep in helping calve those momma cows! Remember ladies, Valentines day is this weekend. What better thoughtful gift to give your farmer than helping them prepare for the MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!

Anyone else think this is the BEST advice?!
Anyone else think this is the BEST advice?!

Below are some of my tips to a successful calving season.

1. Begin with the end in mind. One of my life mantras! I simply cannot understand anyone that goes through life and has no clue to where they are going! Likewise, who begins calving season not knowing how many calves to expect and who is going to calve when? Being prepared is the most essential step to successfully calving your spring calf crop.  Having your herd pregnancy check sheet organized by due date is key to knowing when each cow is EXPECTED to calve. Obviously, this is not an exact science, some cows come early, some bulls have shorter gestation, and from experience many baby heifer calves come early. (We started calving 2 weeks early this year.)  Success starts with analyzing your breeding and pregnancy check records.

2. OK ladies…. this one is the great Valentines gift… Prepare the calf bag. What calf bag you may say? We prefer a cloth tool bag. We get ours from Lowes with a $15 price tag. Totally economical. Brock looks like he is carrying a “man bag” when he is walking through the pasture with it! So cute! In the man bag, goes the following things…

All the essentials for caring for baby calves.
All the essentials for caring for baby calves.
  • Ear tags
  • Ear tagger
  • Tag Marker
  • Alpha 7 (Blackleg Vaccine, follow your veterinary recommendation )
  • Full Bottle of LA300 (We treat each new calf at tagging with 5cc, just as a precautionary measure.)
  • Steno notebook to record all calving information. (Essential for record keeping.)
  • Ziplock bag (We put the steno in the ziplock bag just in case the LA300 breaks.)
  • Ink pen to record calving information.
  • Bander with bands to band the bull calves
  • 6cc syringes with extra needles. (Follow veterinary recommendations for size.)

This is the best way to process those baby calves before they get too big to handle. It is low stress, and I personally HATE getting baby calves up out of the pasture. Its like herding cats! So frustrating!

3. Isn’t it fun, when the cow calves without any trouble? What happens if there is issues? Here is my list to be prepared. From my experience, its best to “just know” what to hand your farmer when the stress sets in when potentially pulling or assisting the cow calving.

  • CLEAN Bucket with warm water and soap or disinfectant.
  • CLEAN and DISINFECTED OB chains
  • Extra rope halters (We cannot do anything without rope halters in our life. They tie gates, etc always a mainstay in the tool department at Meyer Cattle!)
  • Calf Jack
  • Old bathroom towels (Help to get that calf dry on cold days.)
  • A good veterinarian’s phone number on speed dial. (Ladies, do NOT leave your phone in the house on accident!)

4. OK, the calf is here and ok…. now what? Be sure the calf is sucking and ok. I always be sure to have a clean tube feeder and bagged colostrum at the house, just in case. Inevitably, if there is going to be a problem, it is in the middle of the night, or on a weekend when no retail outlet is open to aid in this.  Better safe than sorry.

5. I mentioned this before, but deserves more discussion…. Establish a good relationship with a veterinarian. That person means a lot to the success  of your cattle herd. From having an accurate pregnancy check to those dreaded late night calving problem calls, you want to be able to call on someone that you trust and has a vested interest in YOUR success.

6. Weather…. the HUGE factor that influences so much in the agricultural industry. Ladies, help your farmer. Now, in my experience, Brock is the weatherman here at Meyer Cattle. I mean we go from one weather app to the next to determine what the next day has in store for us! We use the WeatherBUGG and Accuweather. Use your smartphone for more than reading this blog or Facebook. Watch the weather and determine if you need to get calving cows up to the barn lot or barn to calve, if you can calve on pasture, and if you need to bed the cows and baby calves on pasture. This is HUGE in your planning endeavor. If you know the weather is going to be rough, you can prepare and have calving pens built, use the pregnancy check sheet and sort up the close to calve cows, bed the babies on the pasture so they can bed down away from the wind and the winter elements.

There you have it ladies…. keys to success for a successful calving season. Share with your farmer! Or better yet, be the leader and start making these things happen for him! Have a great Valentine’s Weekend with your farmer. There is truly no better Valentine out there than a farmer.