This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.
Kids...Cows...and Grass...I didn’t choose that name by accident. Those are three of the things I am most passionate about, and in my life, they are all very intertwined! It is not a surprise that our main source of labor on the ranch is our family—mostly our kids. These days our kids are also adding significant others to the mix, and since working with family is important to us, it is also important that we encourage them to help us care for the cattle if they are interested. Working on the ranch is a great family activity—as well as a way to get the work done.
My son Trent started dating his wife Brier when she was a freshman in high school and a few of their early “dates” included helping on the ranch. Brier had not been around lots of cows, so when she started helping on the ranch, she needed to learn not only how to stay safe while working among the cattle, but also how to do the best job possible. So, we sent her to school! Yes, seriously, there is a school of sorts for handling and managing cattle. It is called the Beef Quality AssuranceProgram (BQA) and it is a series of online, or in-person modules that teach things like how to give various vaccinations, how to move around cattle to keep them calm and doing what you need them to do, and even how to tell if cattle are sick. There are so many useful topics that I cannot list them here without taking up too much space.
Before someone new is able to help us, we need to teach them how to handle cattle correctly and how to do certain tasks to ensure that cattle are well cared for. Naturally, cattle are prey animals, so they see unfamiliar people as predators and are afraid of them. In addition, fear increases stress and stressed cattle don’t eat well, may not rest easily, and they get sick more often. Calm, unafraid, cattle are easier to work with, but they are also healthier, and easier to tell if they are hurt or sick. We raise our cattle from newborns to not be afraid of us and to be calm and quiet when we are with them; so when Brier started working with us, we taught her how cows think, and where to stand to make them move in the direction she wants. We don’t yell or wave our arms to frighten them, but instead give them space to go the way we need them to go, and step closer to them from the side to encourage them to move that way. It really is a learned skill!
Throughout the year we sometimes need extra help, particularly when we are vaccinating the young calves before they go to the pasture with their mamas in the spring. In the pasture, they will have lots of grass and water and room to run all summer, but it is more difficult to treat one if they get sick. We coordinate with our veterinarian to plan the vaccinations they need and before we take them to the pasture, we gather them all and give them those vaccinations. Brier has been given the job of giving each calf a vaccination. Before she started working with our cattle, she learned how to properly give vaccinations. There are two main ways we give a vaccine: subcutaneous (under the skin) and intramuscular (in the muscle). For the most part, we give vaccinations under the skin of nearly all ages of cattle, it is extremely important that we all understand how to do that safely.
Brier has helped vaccinate cattle for many years now and she has also helped with other tasks. When they were dating, she helped freeze brand bulls and as they worked, Trent knelt down to reach the area on the bull’s shoulder.... he didn’t realize then that he would be getting on one knee eight years later to ask her to become Mrs. Blythe! They have been married for more than three years now and she is still helping us with cattle, and she is a full-time kindergarten teacher!
We have recently added a new Mrs. Blythe to the family—Cece has taken the BQA classes and has her certification and has started helping us on the ranch! It really is all about the cattle and making sure we are not only keeping them healthy, but also calm and content—because stressed cattle get sick. It is important that each of us working with cattle knows the best way to handle them and that helps us all!