Ranchers in the northwest are a special breed of people. They have a way about them that is not very easy to find in people of today’s world. Ranchers are both male and female, young and old, large operation or small operation. They are all the same in many ways.
Being a rancher takes knowledge in many areas. A rancher must have good bookkeeping skills; be good at repairs on equipment, buildings, fences, and anything else that may break. They must have knowledge of feed qualities, quantities, and what are the best feeds and fillers to use for their livestock to gain just enough weight but not too much.
They must have basic Veterinary knowledge, for bandaging wounds on animals, giving shots and recognizing when an animal is sick, in need of assistance or veterinary care. They must know their herd, know what is normal and not normal for each animal, so they can recognize when something isn’t right. They must track each animal, from birth, or purchase, to when they are sold or to their death. They must track weights, birth dates, gains, losses, health, reproduction as well as genetics.
Occasionally, a rancher may need to help a mama give birth to a baby. Often new babies need extra help after birth as well; being kept warm in the winter, or getting up, or getting their first milk. During birthing season, most ranchers check their herd every two hours, to be there in case of birthing problems or problems with a new baby.
Being a rancher takes a lot of self-motivation. Making themselves get out there and get things done, no matter the weather. Whether it’s raining, snowing, a blizzard, hot, or the wind is blowing 90 mph, the work still needs to be done. The animals must be taken care of, and as a rancher, that’s their job.
Summer is spent working on fences, pens, shelters and preparing for taking care of the animals in the winter; irrigating, putting up hay, growing corn and/or grain to use for feed through the winter. If the rancher isn’t also a farmer, then they must find and purchase feed for the animals for the winter, which includes knowing how much feed they need and knowing the quality of the feed they purchase.
Being a rancher also includes trying to guess what Mother Nature is going to do and how long winter is going to last, so they don’t end up with too little or too much feed.
Being a rancher is a hard job and it’s not for the faint of heart. Sometimes, it means going out there in the blowing snow in 30 below zero weather to break ice so the animals can get water, and getting them feed to eat, and bedding to lay in. It means being so cold they can’t feel their fingers and toes, even though they put on extra layers and thermal underwear.
Ranchers often go without things they need, when the animals need something. The animals come first because they pay the bills and they can’t take care of themselves; it’s a rancher’s responsibility. It’s a responsibility that ranchers take on with pride, as they should.
It’s more than the head count and the dollars in the bank account. It’s a passion, it’s a way of life. It’s a love and appreciation of all life; plants and animals alike. It’s a respect for Mother Nature that others may not ever understand. Ranchers understand because they’ve lived it and felt it in their own hearts, their own lives and in the hearts and lives of their children.