We recently had our first snow fall of the season here in Northeast Kansas. It was pretty significant, between 4 and 10 inches, depending on location. With it came all the social media posts about the love and beauty of the snow or the intense dislike of it. I don’t like snow. I keep telling Matt, my husband, my goal is to live somewhere I can leave my garden hose out year round and it never freezes. Yes, the moisture is nice since we’re in a multiple-year drought, but why can’t it come in the form of rain when the temperature is above 15 degrees!
I’ve come to realization there is a direct correlation between people who love snow and people that don’t have livestock. We grew up with livestock — pigs and cattle. We started calving in mid-March when it wasn’t quite warm yet. We checked all of them on four-wheelers. I was born March 12. Even though my mom had a C-section with me, the cows are her love on the farm, and while dad helped more than normal that first season, you can guarantee I was on the four-wheeler with her and my two older sisters checking calving cows.
We literally grew up on the four-wheeler, in bad weather and in good. We learned how to layer clothes to keep warm. I can remember spring break during my eighth-grade year. It was an absolute mess: snow and ice and below freezing temperatures. We were bringing calves in as fast as they were born to the farrowing house. We were on a four-wheeler from before sunup to past dark trying to save as many as we could. It was a rough few days. It was all about the cattle.
If you have livestock, you have a similar story. They are always the most important, no matter what you have going on. Plans are all well and good, until you have livestock, then they suddenly get changed when they are out or something is wrong. It doesn’t matter the temperature or weather conditions or whether you are sick or not, the livestock have to be taken care of.
As we are immersed in the holiday season, there are lots of plans and events to attend. I’ve seen the frustration from family and friends when you are delayed or have to cancel at the last minute due to livestock troubles. Non-livestock owners don’t understand why you can’t just ignore it or do it later or have already it taken care of.
But they aren’t the only ones upset are they? We want to be at those events too. We’ve planned and taken all the steps needed to get chores done early to make sure we’re on time and present for the parties, but it is beyond our control when something goes wrong.
It makes you question your sanity. Why do we have livestock? Life would be so much easier without. Not only do you have all the problems that having livestock comes with, but you’re also constantly attacked or questioned by people who don’t understand the livestock world.
Like my mom tells us, it’s about providing the best possible life we can for the livestock in our care. Sometimes that means inconveniences and sacrifices for us, but we, as humans, made the choice to be livestock owners, so it is all on us to provide the animals in our care the best we possibly can. That is the responsibility we have.
As we continue through this holiday season, I have my hopes set on favorable weather conditions and little sickness (in our livestock as well as in humans). May you enjoy family and friend times with the parties and gatherings. The holiday season is often a time filled with lots of emotions. We all feel and perceive things differently. Approach gatherings with a sense of peace and forgiveness. Let the little things go. Protect your family. Family doesn’t have to share your blood. Make choices that will bring you joy.
May we remember the reason for the season and not get stressed about the commercialization of it. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.