I have decided that being knee-deep in mud and manure is much more my style than being neck-deep in paper work. However, thanks to this big belly of mine, I'm still occupying a chair in our office and going through the daily grind of debits and credits.

I used to think that a long day on the back of a horse or in the pens was grueling, but this desk jockey work can really wear you out! All joking aside, being in the office full time is hard work but a valuable learning experience.

This time of year we're finishing end-of-the-year financials and preparing for the dreaded tax time. Like everyone else, we do what we can to manage our tax consequences. This is something that I'm currently learning a lot more about. The balancing of income and expenses is as much of an art as roping a steer.

Sad but true, the rest of the crew is still keeping busy on the ranch without me. We are pretty much finished with calving and are very pleased with our calf crop percentage.

We started processing calves in January. Each calf is ear marked, branded and given four vaccinations. We vaccinate with an eight-way clostridial, a respiratory complex, a pinkeye shot and a copper booster. This combination has worked very well for us. Our calves have a good health record both on the ranch and after sale.

We started cutting hay the first of January. Yes, January. That's not a typo. We will cut hay until April. During that time we'll cut about 300 acres and round bale around 2,000 bales of hemarthria. We sell the majority and keep a small amount for extremely dry or wet times.

Besides ranch work, our schedules have been full with meetings — another necessary evil of today's world. These meetings steal valuable time from ranch work, but sometimes the relationships established at the meetings far outweigh the cost and time.

For instance, the annual Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in February is one event we try to attend yearly. It's a great time to gather information on products, services and potential outlets for our calves. The most enjoyable part is meeting ranchers from around the country and learning their challenges and management styles. The national convention is a great networking tool for cattlemen.

In addition, the Florida Cattlemen's Association holds quarterly meetings throughout the state. The February meeting was to be held in Tallahassee, the state capital. It's a great opportunity for Florida cattlemen to meet with our legislators and share our concerns.

I won't get to attend this year, but my brother Wes and one of the ranch cowboys are going. Taking the time to meet face to face with legislators and tell them our issues has been very helpful to all of Florida's cattlemen, including us.

It's difficult to justify the expense of the trips and time away. However, when serious issues such as water or property rights emerge, it sure is beneficial to already have a relationship established with these officials.

Despite the change in job description and our busy schedules, all is well in South Florida, both with my “growing” family and ranch work. I hope all is well with you.

Mary Anne Cruse, brother Wes, their parents and grandmother operate Ru-Mar Inc., a large commercial cow/calf operation in South Florida. Her e-mail address is mccruse@msn.com