By Brandi Buzzard Frobose on January 19, 2022
A letter to grocery shoppers from a Kansas cattle rancher
By the time you read this, the snow will have melted, but in its place, mud will be abundant on the ranch. For farmers and ranchers like us, a lot of work and worry happens before, during and after an adverse weather event.
As we watched the weather forecast predict several inches of snow, we sprang into action to make sure cattle had extra hay (because they can’t eat as much dormant grass when it’s covered in snow) to keep their metabolism and body heat going strong. When the winds blew in, we made sure we fed the hay behind a windbreak so the cattle would have some shelter, and we ensured they had access to water by chopping ice from water sources.
After several hours, even though the rain and snow had subsided, our worries had not. Low temperatures, combined with rain, will soak the hair coat of cattle, and that combination is a recipe for sickness. I honestly prefer snow to cold rain for exactly this reason. Because of this unfortunate mix, we anticipated several cattle needing treatment for respiratory sickness. If the need arises, we work with our veterinarian who prescribes an appropriate antibiotic.
Sharing the real story about what happens on ranches and farms when there is a lot of snow or another adverse weather event is important to show consumers how we are caring for cattle in any type of weather. When we are prepping for sleet, snow, flooding or dealing with a drought, there are rarely television crews around asking us why we’re anxious and worried about our livestock. Opportunities to frame the gritty side of this lifestyle aren’t abundant but are valuable in their potential to provide a window into the reality of raising and growing food.
Which is why, as a rancher, I can sometimes get down in the dumps about the perception of my profession. Obviously, I’m not out here raising cattle for accolades – I do it because I love this lifestyle, despite its challenges and hardships. While I have frustrations about some who denigrate my lifestyle, I am passionate about sharing my compassion and the science behind our management systems.
This is a plea for you, dear grocery shopper, to look beyond the grocery store shelf and ask where your food comes from and how it got there. Thank you for supporting me and my fellow producers with your purchases of steak, roast, bacon, eggs, oranges, bread, etc. – I sincerely appreciate it! As you’re chowing down, please remember your friendly neighborhood farmer or rancher when you have a question. I've got plenty of time to answer questions while I'm rolling along in the feed truck or the tractor, and there is nothing I’d love more than to be distracted by your curiosity. Additionally, if you can visit a farm or ranch, please do so. You might be surprised at the amount of technology and strategy that goes into raising our food, and you would almost certainly learn some new information to share around the water cooler.