As a kid my favorite thing to do when I returned home from school was doing my chores for the day. As odd as that sounds for a kid to say, it was because my chores involved dealing with the livestock that I grew up with. I cannot thank my parents enough for giving me the chance to learn all the lessons that livestock teaches a young person. A few of the biggest lessons that livestock teaches children include but are not limited to responsibility, hard work, patience, and most of all empathy for all living things.
The most obvious lesson that caring for livestock teaches is responsibility. Even when it’s ten degrees outside and spitting snow the cows need fed, the horses need bedded down, and the sheep need brought in for the night. That also means when you’ve had a bad day, or just don’t feel like getting off the couch you have to because if you’re hungry, the animals surely are too. Unlike many other kids that had to take out the trash or the house would start to smell, skipping caring for the livestock resulted in animal suffering. The consequences of not caring for the livestock are so great that skipping a day was not an option. Teaching kids that even when you don’t want to, you have to no matter the circumstances. I remember my brother and I coming home after school and putting on our bibs and boots to feed in the freezing cold. It may have seemed like the worst thing back then, but I wouldn’t be half as responsible today if I wouldn’t have had to take care of the animals back then.
Farm chores are anything but easy. Throwing down hay, breaking waters in the winter, and cleaning stalls are only a few of the labor intensive tasks involved in raising and caring for livestock. There is no easy way out of doing good work when dealing with livestock, because the one time you put up a shabby fence the cows get spooked and run right through it. Taking the easy way out in livestock production ultimately leads to frustration and yes, more hard work. The odd thing about hard work with livestock is that if you’re truly passionate about it, it doesn’t seem like hard work at all. Each time a livestock crazy kid goes out to work with the animals, they love every minute of it, even when they’re knee deep in mud trying to dump a bucket of corn into the feed bunk.
Animals have a mind of their own, and also an agenda of their own. When you go out to do a simple task such as worm calves, it can turn into the most frustrating situation in a heartbeat. It’s ninety degrees outside, the flies are all over, and the last calf refuses to go into the shoot. You start to ask yourself, why do I own livestock again? Then like everyone who owns livestock has done, you cuse take a deep breath and keep trying. Livestock teaches patience to those who don’t really even want it, because even though you want that calf to go into the shoot, if he doesn’t agree there’s not much you can do but sit back and ease him in. It seems like when you have hours to kill, things go so smoothly and when you have five minutes it takes hours. However all of this is a lesson, that will help later in life. When you’re at the grocery store, and the person in front of you has a hundred different coupons, you’ll cuse, take a deep breath, and wait.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons that raising livestock teaches is empathy for other living things and humans alike. When faced with the decision to put a horse with a broken leg down, a normal person may say, “How does this effect me? I’ll miss this horse so I want to keep them around.” But a livestock kid knows that the animal is suffering and although it’ll kill us to see them go, the animal is better off being put down. Older animals aren’t just cast to the side forgotten when a younger model arrives. No, instead they are fed more expensive fed to make sure they sustain their body weight. The ability to ask yourself, “What is the best case scenario for this animal/ person?” is really a unique skill that not everyone in our modern society possess. Let’s face it without empathy where would we be?
For me, raising livestock was the best childhood I could ask for. Being involved in raising livestock teaches millions of lessons. Each day a kid goes to the barn they learn something new that’ll help them in life, but also will make them a better person.
My name’s Jayme Geisler and I was raised on a large production grain farm. Along with all the corn and soybeans, I was raised with livestock including cattle, pigs, sheep, and my personal favorite horses. My brother and I enjoyed showing and caring for these animals. I am now studying Agriculture Business with an emphasis in animal science at Western Illinois University.