Making a living with cows


My father was always a little skeptical of the advice offered by highly educated people (his only son, included). I suppose that fact was due to Dad’s complete lack of formal education, for he grew up in the early years of the last century, when a strong back and willingness to work, was much more appreciated than a beautiful mind. 

I was the first child of my generation, from either side of my lineage, to attend college. Even though I knew my dad was proud of that fact, he would often remind me that, “book learnin’ is fine, but real life doesn’t always play out like the book says it should.” Amen.

I can remember coming home from college during the Christmas break of my freshman year. Eager to impress my parents with what I was learning, I made some suggestions to my father, concerning our farm and how I thought it could be made more profitable, according to my favorite professor. Of course, all of these suggestions cost money and Dad did not like parting with his hard-earned money, unless the likelihood of that new expense making money was in the neighborhood of 95 to 100 percent.

“How many cows does that professor run?” My father quizzed.

“Actually, I don’t think he owns any cows,” I replied. “But he has a Ph.D. in animal science from a really prestigious university.”

Dad didn’t know or care, what a Ph.D. was, but he made it abundantly clear to me that if I ever encountered a professor who had made his living from cows, he might be interested in what that professor had to say. Maybe.

I couldn’t help but dredge up these memories last week as I attended a market outlook meeting with a very learned academic in the field of economics. His computerized PowerPoint presentation was extremely impressive, and the gentleman was obviously very competent in his area of expertise. Backed up by facts, figures and data that spanned 50 years, he concluded those of us in the beef cattle business were going to, “make more money in the next two years that you will be able to spend.”

Plainly, he was trying to interject a little humor to make his point, that all the data concerning beef supply and demand would suggest that our business will perform extremely well for the next 12 to 24 months. That was welcome news to the entire group of cattlemen who were gathered that night. I, too, was elated to hear what the experienced educator was saying, but, the words that kept echoing through my head, were, “I wonder how many cows this guy owns, and I also wonder if he’s ever had to make a living from cows?” 

Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. Jerry’s daily exploits on the farm are now viewable on YouTube at “lifeissimple678”. To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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