Hi, my name is Austin Black and I'm from Central Missouri. My family owns a small cow/calf operation in the West Central part of the state and my mom operates a freelance writing and speaking business out of her home while my dad pastors at a small country church and works construction full time. Although I'm not actively involved with the home operation these days, I work as photojournalist for MFA Incorporated, the regions largest feed & farm supply company.
Growing up, I was extremely active in 4-H showing cattle, horses, hogs, and even sheep for a few years. Being involved in this realm strengthened my love for agriculture tremendously. As a 4th generation cattle producer, I was nurtured and developed to love the lifestyle that raising cattle created. Caring for the livestock, seeing the baby calves grow, making breeding, management and purchasing decisions, and sharing the life with family is what makes being a cattle producer something I cherish.
But being a cattle producer isn't always a fun and enjoyable job. Our farm is located over an hour away and my dad tries to check on stuff 2-3 times a week. Fortunately, he works in that area on a somewhat regular basis, so it makes it a little easier. But it's quite honestly a chore and an expense to make the drive and care for our livestock. To say the least, doing general maintenance, herd management, and monitoring the farm is typically an all day ordeal no matter how much actually get done. During the drought, we were watering our fall calving herd and some young heifers out of two stock tanks that needed refilling about every other day. But it never matters how far of a drive, how expensive the fuel, or how tired we are, the cattle require our care and it's our responsibility and our duty to provide the best care possible.
One thing I wish people understood about livestock operations is the fact that farms and ranches have to operate as a business these days for people to have a livelihood running them. Too many consumers believe that if a farm is run “efficiently” to “make a profit”, they must be providing less than adequate care for their livestock. It saddens me that every other industry in the world is praised for making advancements in technology, becoming more efficient, and ensuring environmental stability but agriculture is accused of getting too big and too industrial. I'm afraid consumers don't realize the magnitude of demand that US agriculture is required to meet through its production. This production demands efficiency and quantity, but never loses sight of quality. Every family farm that comprises the 98% of agriculture enterprises in the US is dedicated to raising and producing the safest, healthiest, more affordable food available.
Thank you Austin for a great feature! You can follow Austin on his blog Off the Beaten Path. Austin also has a freelance video and photography business - you can find it on Facebook by clicking on this link and visit his webpage!
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