5 Values I Learned On The Ranch

There are few places comparable with raising a family on a ranch. Children from agricultural backgrounds learn an unlimited number of life lessons and values before others do. My siblings and I were fortunate enough to learn how to be virtuous people while watching our parents build their dream together.

1. Responsibility

At the ranch, you care for your animals before yourself. Cattle don’t care what holiday it is or where you need to be, they have to eat. Also, you’re guaranteed to miss a few important events because someone’s calving, sick, or running down the highway. These animals are our livelihood and it’s our responsibility to care for them before we worry about anything else. Along with responsibility comes time management. I knew that I had to be ready for school and have the steers fed before the bus got to our house. A few times I tried to make this more efficient by wearing pajama pants to school. My mother quickly taught me another life lesson—don’t wear your PJs in public; you’ve got a reputation to uphold!

2. Respect

There’s an endless amount of ways to learn respect on a cattle ranch. Respect includes anything from doing what your father tells you (the first time he asks) to understanding that herd bulls are bigger than you, and won’t always go where you want. If you respect your animals, they’ll respect you. I know it sounds crazy, but our cows know dad and do exactly what he asks. My dad walks in the corrals and it’s almost like the cows get in line to go where he says. He credits this to superior technique; I think he’s got some sort of telepathic thing going on with the cows. Either way, I admire his ability to efficiently work a group of cows. The cattle return his respect because he never treats them poorly.

3. Integrity

This concept probably started to truly stick with me during my first year showing steers. My parents didn’t have time to sit and watch me work with my calves, so they trusted that I was hard at work halter breaking and getting them ready to go. More often than not, I’d work my steer while they were around the barn, tie him up as soon as they left, and grab him when I heard the ranch pickup coming back down to the barn. This plan of mine would quickly backfire a few days later. Mom would tell me to pull my calf out so she could see how we were getting along, and he’d drag me across the ranch. The importance of being honest and doing the right thing, especially when no one is around to see it, was burned into my mind as that steer showed my mother how much time we hadn’t spent together.

4. Compassion

I grew up riding in the passenger seat of the ranch pickup, watching dad care for hurt animals and help newborn calves. When I got big enough, helping these animals became part of my responsibility. It was sometimes confusing as a young child to see an animal in pain or a calf that needed extra help. There were plenty of cold winter nights spent in the barn helping calves nurse or giving extra attention to sick ones. Learning how to truly care for something else might be the best thing I learned on the ranch. Ranch kids learn to show compassion for animals and other people from the first time we watch our parents help an animal. This value is strengthened every time we work with a sick animal and watch as our care helps them return to good health.

5. Work Ethic

There’s always something that needs to be done on a farm or ranch. When I got home from school, I had a list of chores to be done before dark. On weekends, while my friends slept in, I was up working cows in time to be done before we had to be at the school for a sporting event. When I’d get home, there were nighttime barn chores. It’s important to learn how to get things done and work hard to accomplish goals. My friends always thought that it must’ve been horrible to work this hard—what do you mean you don’t sleep until noon on Saturday?! But it’s rewarding to know that you’re contributing to the productivity and success of an operation. Those of us that grew up in agriculture don’t know lazy, it’s not how we were raised.

10 thoughts on “5 Values I Learned On The Ranch

  1. Patience. Growing up on a ranch or farm teaches you that life is not about you or what you want. Everything is for the good of the farm and your family. You learn that sometimes you have to wait in line behind a cow giving birth, hay that doesn’t need to get wet, or farm equipment that has to be repaired. You learn to work together for the good of all, not one. It is sometimes hard to understand as a kid but it prepares you to wait on things more patiently as an adult.

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  2. I grew up on a dairy farm and it was the same experience for me. My question is how can I instill similar values in my kids when they don’t grow up on a farm; I struggle with this daily.
    Where has respect gone?

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  3. I’m sharing this with our team at work tomorrow! Great piece. I grew up on a ranch and have often reflected on the traits you eloquently described and how they’ve carried me along in life (I live in cities now with folks who didn’t have similar upbringing).

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  4. Yes I agree where has respect gone. I was the last born so I didnt get to experience all the late night chores. I got to help my older siblings, to learn. And buy the time I got old enough to do it my self my mom and dad had gotten out of farming so I did not get to help deliver or watch calves being dilvered. But i did learn that you have to work hard for what you want. And I have.

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  5. Great piece!
    But you left out “do it right the first time”.
    If you fix the fence and cheat the livestock figures it out. Even if it’s harder you learn to do it right and then it may last for decades. It flows through to all aspects of life, put in the hard work, do it the best you can and then enjoy the outcome.

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  6. These are valuable truths I learned on a big horse ranch. They deserve much more notice and discussion in our society. Absolutely the best way to build character and teach value to young people. Notice how ppl without that character do not gravitate to or survive in this industry? Sadly our family have come to accept the leading role the beef industry has played in our planetary destruction (top source of greenhouse gases, deforestation, drought and species extinction) and we have divested from animal food sources entirely. We’d like to see the beef industry shrink 90% worldwide as it has been unsustainable for 25 years already. We invest 100 calories of grain and grass feed to yield 6 calories of meat food. This cannot feed mankind anymore.

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  7. Great bit of information. My kids did not grow up on a big ranch but have been involved in Rodeo since they were in early grade school. Both went to college to rodeo and still do today. There are so many life lessons to be learned and taught with the ranch or rodeo lifestyle. It’s invaluable!

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  8. I have to agree. I grew up on a farm where we raised pigs and fed cattle. You are right that the animals came first. I always thought my Dad loved his cattle more than us. One time I told him so and he told me, “You don’t make me any money!”. We learned hard work and responsibility at an early age.

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