On my first year as 20-something cattle rancher
These last six months seems to have really slipped away from me. Summer flew by with quick trips up and back to see my calves, and fall has settled in. The seasonal change is meaningful for many people, and for me it marks a milestone: I have officially survived my first season of being a cattle owner.
I refuse to think I developed a grey hair, so I’m going to leave it with a wrinkle or two. From dealing with the worry of having a sick calf, to watching the prices weekly, I think it is safe to say I’m beginning to understand the pressure of buying and selling cows. It’s similar to rolling the dice in a poker game. You can determine probabilities’ and cross your fingers all you want, but you ultimately have no input on the end result.
Since I was little, I’d been helping at my family’s ranch anytime we would visit. It was always really great to be able to help when we were able to. We saw cows that had been struck by lightning, cows that had a mishap during pregnancy, a sick cow that bloated up, etc. We felt close to the cattle, but, while seeing all this I never directly felt the impact of losing livestock. Since becoming an owner of my own cattle, I am in the process of understanding the feeling of it now.
Owning your own cattle, in your own name, under your own loan is completely different. I decided to enter the industry when the prices were crazy high in hopes, (and future predictions agreed) that I would sell high, making the buying price worth it.
I anxiously waited for a few weeks until my buyer found a good deal and pulled the trigger. At that moment they were calves, about 6-7 months old and just weaned from their mamas. My job was to keep them for another 6-7 months and put them out to pasture to eat grass. The first week I had my steers on the ranch I got a phone call that one was sick, and thus began the stress. I luckily have a few really great people up there that have been watching over them and took care of it with a little medicine. Two weeks later the calf was healthy and all was well.
The rain over the past 6 months has been absolutely surprising. It was an extremely wet summer for northern New Mexico, and the grass started growing like crazy. The further into the season the better the grass gets, more nutrients and such.
Halfway through the season I took a trip up there with my family and we weighed them. These suckers had already gained almost all the weight I expected them to gain through the whole season….and it was only halfway through. I was over the moon excited that they had been doing so dang well. They still had 60 more days to rock it, so I was pumped, feeling so grateful to have had a really great first year.
But I spoke too soon. The market starting going down a little bit and then it would come back up the next week and go back down the following. I’m watching the market every week and it just keeps tumbling down that mountain and there is not a thing I can do. A few days ago I took another trip to the ranch with my family to help ship some other steers out, and to check on mine. A day before we left I got a call that one of my steers was limping, which is a bad sign. I just said to myself, “Welcome to the cattle business girl.” Some years you win, some years you lose and I had to start somewhere.
Welcome to the cattle business, is basically what I have heard from everyone. And I can’t say I feel discouraged but more excited, which I know makes me sound like a nutcase. Maybe it’s something I won’t ever be able to totally explain, but imagine if your first job was doing something that you completely love, and that you’re taking charge of for the first time. Although my first year did not go how I had perfectly planned it in my mind and on paper, it’s ok. It was a starting point. Being 24 and deciding to start my own business was a huge step for me. We all have to start somewhere in our careers and at least the first year will definitely be one that I will always remember.
[Image via author]