Hi, I am Dexter Small a sixteen-year-old sophomore in high school from Kansas who enjoys showing cattle, sheep, and wrestling. Carrie and I have been friends since I named show heifer after “The Best Cow Ever” Norma. We share the same taste in music as we both love Red Dirt and our favorite song is “Cows Around” by Corb Lund. I feel that I am very lucky to have been raised on a ranch. I am very thankful for having parents and grandparents that have allowed me to be in the cattle business since birth. From getting my first calf on my first birthday to delivering my first calf this spring these are some lessons that I have learned:
10 Things Learned From Beef Cattle
- Never turn your back on a mama cow or bull. They can’t be trusted. You never know what they are going to do. Just like in real life don’t over trust anyone. You never know what they might do to you if they get in a tight situation. It is always good to have a Plan B.
- Persistence. Nothing worth having comes easy in real life and especially when working with cattle. Some of my best show calves were the hardest headed to halter break. It takes a lot of persistence to get the genetics you want, because the generation interval is so long. They don’t have their first calf until they are two years old. Seeing genetic change in a cow herd takes a long, long time.
- When you are hungry and tired, the cows still eat first. When you have cows, you learn that there are things more important than you. During calving season on our farm, cows can interrupt your sleep and make meal time very late or keep mom from PTO meetings when one needs to go to the veterinarian. I hear this is a lot like having a young child.
- Make sure you have a way out. Always make sure there is someway to climb over the fence just in case. Financially make sure you have enough money to support yourself longer than is necessary. Mom and dad say I should have 6 months of money saved away just in case something happens. Lucky for me right now, I don’t have very many bills.
- Work with cattle when you have all day to do it. Time is precious. Working with cattle is one of those things you should not rush. Take time to do the things that you enjoy.
- Hard work. You have to work hard to make sure everything gets done and the chores done. It takes a lot of time scheduling to get feed mixed, delivered, checking the cows, sorting calves and checking for health problems. Like all important things in life it takes time to do it right.
- You should always treat fellow cattlemen respectfully. You never know when you may need their help. Neighbors can be helpful when cattle get out of their pastures or when the next wild fire goes racing across the pastures. Take care of your neighbors and they will take care of you.
- You always need patience when working with cattle. We use patience around our cows and what we call low stress handling. We are quiet as move the cattle as slowly and easily as possible. Research has shown that it causes them less stress. Just like I like it when my mom does not rush me and stays calm.
- Record keeping. You have to keep good records. It is important to keep track of bills and pay them on time. Planning a budget and sticking to it is good idea in the cattle business and in your personal finances.
- Getting along with others. You need to get along with other people or you will never get anything accomplished. It is hard to do all the cattle work yourself. Sometimes it is more efficient to have someone running a sorting gate. It is a good idea not to make them mad. I like to remind my parents that “Patience is a virtue” at these times.
You can follow Dexter and his brother Maddix on their Facebook page.