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7 Lessons I Want To Teach My Ranch Baby

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With a new baby on the way, here are the seven lessons I learned as a kid that I hope to pass down to my little cowgirl.

As I write this in preparation of taking a brief maternity leave from blogging, I’m overjoyed about the upcoming arrival of our first baby. Tyler and I are excited and nervous to bring a little cowboy or cowgirl to our ranch, and we can’t wait to start making memories as a family!

However, there’s plenty to do to get organized and prepare before we bring home this new member of our family. As I pack the hospital bag and practice buckling in the baby’s car seat, I can’t help but get sentimental about my own childhood on the ranch.

 

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I was browsing through my baby books the other day and realized that many of my photos are of my sisters and I outside playing, working and petting the many animals on our ranch. I have many good memories of being a kid on a working ranch, and those experiences helped to instill strong values that I rely on in my adult life. Reflecting on this inspired me to put together a list of the seven lessons I want my kids to learn on the ranch:

1. There’s nothing sweeter than working alongside your family.

While many of my friends were able to hang out with each other after school, going to parks or playing at each other’s houses, I was expected to ride the bus and help do chores after school. At the time, I felt deprived of missing out on all of this social time with my friends, but the responsibility of helping Dad feed bales and buckets of corn kept me busy and got me involved at a young age on our family operation. Looking back now, I realize how fortunate I was to be able to spend so much time with my parents and sisters. Now, as adults, we truly enjoy being together, whether it be work or play.

2. The animals come first, no matter what.

Whether rain, sleet or snow, I learned from a young age that the needs of our cattle came before my own. Being tired, having homework, wanting to go out with friends, or just feeling like vegging on the couch were never good excuses when there was work to be done. Sometimes this meant skipping the fun stuff in town or working when I had a million other things I would rather be doing. But when cattle need to be fed, fence needs to be fixed or equipment breaks down, that’s what takes priority.

 

3. Work can be fun, too.

Finding fun in the dirty jobs makes tough tasks more manageable. During the summer, I figured throwing square bales was good training to buff up before cross-country season started. The same goes with using the pitchfork to clean manure out of the barn. Washing calves or walking pastures chopping thistles in the heat was a good way to work on my tan. Spending time outside wasn’t work; it was fun, especially if I had my sisters with me to help get the job done.

4. Understand the circle of life.

As my friend Trent Loos always says, “Everything lives, and everything dies. But death with a purpose gives meaning to life.”

I remember the sadness I felt the first time I had to walk my 4-H steer onto the trailer, destined for the butcher shop. I remember the tears I cried over a calf that didn’t make it. I remember loading up my favorite cows that came up open after preg-checking, knowing they were now culls I would never see again. For some, this might be a cruel way for a kid to grow up, but to me, understanding that where there is death, there is also new life, is one of the most important lessons I learned on the ranch. Calving season was always a good reminder of that new life, and there’s nothing better than seeing young calves frolic and play in the pasture.

5. Be proud to raise beef and by-products to nourish yourself and others.

I want my kids to feel special that they are among the 2% of people in the U.S. who are directly involved in production agriculture. The work may be tough, the hours long, and the pay sometimes paltry, but knowing there are steaks in the deep freeze and essential by-products in my vehicle, kitchen, bathroom and hospitals to help make my life as well as others’ lives easier is a noble cause to be a part of.

6. Always do your best.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Whether it’s showing a heifer, raising bulls, cleaning out a barn, taking a test or being a good friend, it’s important to always do your best. Anytime I was competing in something, my mom always told me to do my best, and if my best was good enough to win, then I would. I want my kids to compete against themselves and always improve upon themselves, instead of comparing themselves to others.

7. Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.

My grandpa always tells us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Being a kind person ranks pretty high on my priority list. Whether it be a co-worker, an animal or a friend, treat others with kindness. Your dog thinks you’re pretty awesome, and others should feel the same way about you, too. Be a kind, warm, friendly person, and people will hopefully treat you the same in return.

What lessons do you stress to your kids? What were the most important things you learned growing up on a ranch? If you could give me advice on how to raise the best cowboy/cowgirl I can, what would it be? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 7

on Jun 4, 2014

A great list! My dad used to always say "The cows eat before we do".

I hope you enjoy your time off with your new baby (when that time comes)! We'll miss your posts, but those first months are such a blessing too. :)

on Jun 4, 2014

Actually, Amanda won't be taking any time away from blogging. Staff will be preparing the BEEF Daily newsletter for two weeks in her absence, but Amanda will continue to blog during those two weeks, before returning full-time.

Greg W (not verified)
on Jun 10, 2014

Great List! . If I could wrap it up in one sentence,
"Life is not about ME". Ranch and farm kids learn it early.
Many spend an entire life and never learn the lesson.

wynne (not verified)
on Jun 10, 2014

What a great list! There is nothing in this world to instill a work ethic like being reared on a farm or ranch .Up early to see the sun rise and to watch the sunset on a day's work where you can see what you have accomplished for that day. I married a city man, but he took to ranching like a duck to water and has enjoyed the life style. We have raised our daughter the way I was and she is a rancher first and a nurse second. It is hard work but it is a rewarding and a peaceful life. Watching a herd of cattle eating grass is one of the most peaceful thing in life.
Good luck with your baby and enjoy every minute because one minute it is small and very quickly it is grown and ready for college. And you will wonder how the time passed so quickly.

Gabe T (not verified)
on Jun 10, 2014

A couple more we are instilling in our kids, take nothing or no one for granted and there are things worth fighting for in life.

The way of life so many of us have experienced can no longer be taken for granted to be there for future generations. It must be protected and fought for against those who would end what we do. Much like the Ronald Regan quote regarding freedom, the ranching way of life must be fought for an protected by not just this generation but future ones as well.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
Ronald Reagan

Harold Gleason (not verified)
on Jun 10, 2014

My 3 daughters were joys to raise. My suggestion; You must first be a parent before you can be a friend to children. Never ask them to do work you have not done or will not do. Work side-by-side.

Our girls did much of the farm work as I worked off farm. They also were very active in 4-H, FFA, sports. We did all those things as a family.

I really believed we ran so hard in their teen years showing cattle that they would surely not have any interest in it for their children.

Wrong, all 7 grandkids have show animals and seem to love it. Our family has shown cattle in 28 of the last 30 Junior National Hereford Show. In July 14 of us will head to Pennsylvania with 10 head of show cattle. It will be a long way from Oklahoma to Pa.

We call it our summer vacation.

Two of the daughters work in our business and the other is a teacher in the local rural school system. All now have registered Hereford cattle. We raise what we show and are competitive even to the national level. The farming is done by the teenage grandsons. Each family has their own herd of cattle and they help me with my larger herd.

Truly a family affair.

LaMar Grafft (not verified)
on Jun 16, 2014

If you opened the gate, close it. This is pretty much an admonishment to take responsibility for your actions and can extend to all aspects of your life, whether it is ranch life or town life.

Don't get so impatient that you forget why you are there, or what you are supposed to be doing. As a boy, it was my responsibility to fill the cattle tanks. As an impatient boy, I would fill it halfway, then head out to do something else--forgetting to come back and check it. I flooded the lot many times, which is NO fun in the dead of winter!

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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