Vacations are for the “lazy people”

I was raised on a small family farm in southern Missouri. I was raised very simple, which has taught me so much and I will forever be grateful. As a kid, our “vacation” would consist of all the family and extended family packing up and carpooling to Six Flags St. Louis, 100 miles away and spending the day on the Screaming Eagle,  Ninja, Bumper Cars, and the Log Flume. The kids excitedly planned the day and un-patiently would wait in lines all for the 30 seconds of adrenaline rush from the rides. The dads, would ride with us, and we kids loved seeing our fathers resign their normal “we are farmers” attitude and enjoy the same rides that we kids did. All the mothers of the family packed lunches in coolers for each of us, and at lunchtime, we would excuse ourselves from the amusement park to the coolers in the trunks of the cars. I LOVED IT. I looked forward to that day all year long. It was easily one of the most highly anticipated days of “my” year. As I look back as an adult, it is a vivid memory, one that will never be forgotten and one that I have shared with Lexi many times. I remember longing for a Disney Land vacation or beach vacation but those days never seemed to happen. We were farmers, those vacations were for “rich people” and the “lazy people who only THOUGHT they worked hard”. Lets be honest, we went to Six Flags because we kids had earned free tickets for reading in school and we could keep the cost down by taking our lunch for our day vacation. We couldn’t afford those luxury vacations that many of my friends were taking, but me… I never knew any different. I loved our vacation just the same. I think back to those days and the waiting in lines and making lunches and wonder how those days were ever relaxing for our parents? Getting away from life’s hustle and bustle and not cooking are just two of the daily norms that I seek to get away from when I even begin to think about a vacation. Maybe it was just a simpler time then? Maybe it was just another example of the simple life we live where the kids and adults alike were just glad to “get away from the farm”, or maybe, it was another example of the selflessness of our parents who once again, put their kids needs and wants before their own. Whatever the reason, that vacation rejuvenated all of us, and us kids on the way home would excitingly chat about the funnies of the day until we would all fall asleep, no doubt, dreaming about the next year.

Rejuvenation. Such a powerful word that we all need in our lives. The need to hit the reset button. This is something we all need and we all find that in different places. I am a lucky girl. I just got back last night from the Bahamas. How lucky am I to escape cold, snowy, Missouri in March and come home 5 days later with arguably the best tan of my life? Some may say, how can they do that? I thought they were farmers? Others my say, wow… those vacations are for rich people, or just like when I was a kid, thought, well, they don’t work as hard as we do, we cannot do anything like that, there is just TOO MUCH TO DO. Let me tell you, “Yes” we are lucky, “Yes” we are farmers, just with great friends that come stay at our house for the duration of our trip to keep things rolling, “No” we are not rich, and “Yes.” I promise you, we will work just as hard as the next guy. Which is why we needed to hit the reset button. It seemed that this last year was awesome, and we were blessed, but the work flow never seemed to let up. You farmers out there know, it was a record harvest year, and on the cattle side, well, we have more hay than we have had as well. We enjoyed the warm sunny summer, but it was while working. Not hitting the river or lake that many of our friends were able to enjoy.

We escaped the winter for the sunny beach of the Sandals Royal Bahamian. We spent our days working out, walking the beach, playing some tennis and volleyball, and catching some rays. The best part? No cell reception, no expectations, no cooking, yet awesome food whenever we were hungry or thought we were hungry, and we could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. The only real contact with home was checking in with Gregg and Brian to make sure all was good on the farm and FaceTiming Lexi. I cannot tell a lie, it took a few days for us to completely hit the reset button. It is habit to grab the phone, check the email, send a quick text “just to make sure they remembered __________.” However, after a few days in, were were present in Bahamian life. Swim suits, sun, and enjoying our time together were our priorities.

For me, the true benefit of a vacation is the after affect. Kind of like the after burn when you work out. Its the ability to handle life’s challenges without killing someone! It helps to clear your head and regroup your thoughts. There is something about watching and listening to the waves coming to the shore that helps hit that reset button. Its an amazing way to spend your morning or while catching an afternoon nap on the beach. This last week, as I lay there and watched the waves, I began to think. The ocean waves are much like life’s ups and downs. Sometimes, there are strong waves or challenges that can flat knock you down. Those waves can be underestimated and cause you to take a big gulp of salt water that probably won’t taste the best. But you get up and face the next wave. Some waves are small and calm… peaceful. Regardless of the size of the wave, have you ever looked at the sand after the water regresses away? It is smooth and perfect. A reminder that everything in life is all in God’s plan and meant to shape and form you into the person you are intended to become.

Just like my simple childhood taught me to appreciate God’s blessings both large and small, I am blessed to live a life that allows me to take a break and appreciate the world. My world has grown larger than simply driving to St. Louis to Six Flags, but those annual Six Flags trips helped shape me into me. I am blessed to have had those few days together with Brock. Not only was it rejuvenating for our minds, but also for our relationship. We were able to just enjoy being together without the stresses of daily life weighing us down. Enjoying the Sun!

We were welcomed home to 20 degree weather, snow, and lost a baby calf. The ability to hit the reset button allowed us to take life’s challenges as it come and accept that we will never save every calf. We are prepared for a busy spring with a new sense of purpose and energy. For those who still think vacations are for lazy people or people that don’t work as hard, I promise once you take your own break and truly ‘feel’ the benefits, I promise your perspective may change. The reset button works on all our electronic devices, why wouldn’t it work on us too?

“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.
  • 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.