I like to tell folks I grew up on every farm in Barton County, Mo.
My dad was the veterinarian in Lamar, Mo., for many years. I spent my childhood hanging around the clinic and traveling from farm to farm with dad during the 60s and early 70s. I mostly enjoyed delivering calves and pigs. There were very few corrals and facilities to work cattle back then. Much of the work was done at the end of a rope, which made perfect excitement for a kid. Dad had a homemade portable head gate we would haul from farm to farm, generally setting it up across a barn door. The farmer would devise a makeshift runway along the inside wall of the barn, usually out of old wooden gates and cinched down with baling wire.
Back then most of the farmers had either a herd of Angus or Hereford cows. Usually, a Hereford bull was run with the Angus and an Angus bull with the Herefords. Then things changed.
One of dad’s clients had purchased 100 head of first-calf Charolais heifers, all bred to a Charolais bull. Dad took one look at them and said, “We’re going to have problems.”
Those heifers were a wild bunch, which dad didn’t like, but it was very exciting to me. I remember sitting on the top board of a wooden corral staring at those snow white cattle. It was a sight to see and those heifers had a high price tag.
The first Simmental cattle I saw belonged to an elderly couple west of Lamar. They milked 15 cows by hand in an old stanchion barn. When we made a call to their farm and the work was done, we would always be invited in for fresh raw milk and homemade pie. I remember the elderly farmer telling dad. “Doc, Simmental’s are the breed of the future. You have a dairy cow that will raise a beef calf.”
When I was on farms with dad or hanging around the clinic, I was surrounded by discussions about the price of cattle, the weather and would there be a good corn crop. The discussions most always included the fact that we had either gotten too much rain or not enough. As a kid, it was always confusing that the farmers never seemed to get the right amount of rain.
There have been a lot of changes during the last 50 years in the cattle business. Pipe corrals and squeeze chutes have replaced the lariat. Checking cattle on foot, in a two-wheel drive pickup or on a Johnny Popper have now been replaced with $60,000 4-wheel drive trucks, 4-wheelers and drones. Something that has not changed is the way cattleman make money. This is done through proper management of their cattle operations. Through droughts, volatile markets and disease, the cattleman always seems to survive.
My line of work is loaning money to farmers and it occurred to me a few weeks ago that I am having the same conversations with farmers as my dad had with them 50 years ago. We talk about the price of cattle, the weather and will the corn crop be good this year. After 50 years we are still either getting too much rain or not enough. My hope is that we will have just the right amount of rain this year. We shall see!


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