This past weekend, my husband and I hosted our annual Big Country Genetics Bull sale, and despite the sheer chaos that leads up to the big event, it's by far one of my favorite weekends of the year. But aside from the thrill of selling a high-dollar bull to new customers, or the appreciation that overcomes me when a big ranch trusts our genetics so much that they pick up 10 to 15 bulls, I scanned the crowd. I saw weathered faces with wrinkle lines, but I also younger, anxious faces of people who held a bidder's number for the first time -- and that's what gives me hope.
Throughout the sale, I sat next to my grandparents who will be 78 this winter. Despite raising four kids through the latter part of 1970 to 1996 on nothing but the earnings of cows, sheep and hay sales here and there, the two of them have seen plenty of market volatility in their days, but they stood the test of time. During the days of around 18% interest, I know their love for the land and livestock had to seem like more of a burden than a reward -- maybe even a prison sentence when bankers were breathing down their necks -- but through "skinny living" and determination, they're still lambing out sheep and buying bulls today.
There's enough volatility in the cattle market today to make people sick and question their sanity, but we can't overlook the good. The "grass is greener on the other side" is a dangerous mindset, and the longer you spend time with those type of thoughts, the more obsessed with greener grass you become. When interest rates were high in the 1980s, I have no doubt that a steady paycheck and a 401(k) sounded pretty nice to any rancher trying to make a go of things. However, raising kids in hay fields where creeks run through and lambing barns where haystacks make for the best forts demands some appreciation, too.
This weekend, there were multiple young families who came to the sale -- some to buy and some just to take in the day's festivities. As I talked to a few of them, my heart leaped with joy as I saw other young producers investing in their future and pursing a life in agriculture and planting a seed in their kids' hearts. Questioning whether or not rain will fall, if feedlots need many cattle, and how export demand will fare in the months to come will always be the reality of the cattle market. But if I had to choose any other way to raise a family, I'd want no other life but this. Money comes and goes, but nurturing a love and passion for the land and livestock that we're blessed to care for is an immeasurable blessing.
ShayLe Stewart can be reached at email@example.com
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