altI once worked as a foodservice sales representative. I learned my customers would push to get as much out of my employer as possible. It didn’t matter if it was discounts and product samples or rebates and marketing funds, customers were always lobbying for more. My boss at the time cautioned about giving in to too many of their demands. He told us to be leery of customers who asked our company to invest in their business, but weren’t willing to get their skin in the game for a promotion or event. This advice has served me well.

As our children grow up they’ve begun to have more expensive needs and wants. As parents of four, we sometimes feel tapped out and we wanted them to get some “skin in the game.” From school fundraisers and birthday parties to motorcycle repairs and new cowboy boots, we are careful to asses spending on extras. We teach our children how to earn some of their own money and save up for some of these extra needs and wants as they come up. Not because we are mean or stingy, but teaching them the value of hard-earned money will prepare them for their adulthood.

We make a living raising Angus beef cattle. Our young sons have taken more of an interest in the operation in recent years. Between the boys helping during hay season and checking on cows during calving, they’ve earned a few head of their own. The most exciting thing to them is when their momma cows have calved, and they get to name their offspring. The girls are a little envious of the boys and their small start into a cattle operation. We continually tell them, if you help at the farm, you’ll earn an investment as well. They haven’t bit yet.

Since the kids are interested in cows and cartoons, they wanted to go see a movie, “Ferdinand,” during winter break.

They were familiar with the story as they’d heard us read the classic by Author Munro Leaf. As a beef producer, the movie sent mixed messages about beef production. The plot is all about a big, strong bull who wants to avoid fighting a matador in an arena bull fight. He prefers to spend his days sniffing flowers on a hillside. However, if bulls don’t have enough bravado for the arena, the owner sends them down the road to the chophouse. The animals of the story end up rescuing a bull from the chophouse. They live happily-ever-after grazing on a Spanish hillside.

I spent the 20-minute drive home after, explaining the difference between the fictional movie and the reality of beef production. The kids know most of our calves are raised to a certain weight and then sent to the sale barn. Some years we hold back heifers when we are rotating out a herd bull.

Recently there was a discussion about what had been produced in the year’s calf crop. One of our boys’ cow had a heifer and the other one’s cow had a bull calf. They were arguing about what we’d keep and what would be sold.

Suddenly, our 8-year-old son popped off with, “Your cow had a bull and he’s going to the chophouse!”

This erupted into a few tears. I had to circle back to the point of raising cattle is to make a living and you can’t do that until you make some sales. Whether you raise beef or eat beef, the chophouse has skin in the game, neighbor.


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