‘Gentleman farmer’ airs beef with cattle

By Ted Blankenship | October 26, 2018

I tell people that I grew up out in the country and they usually assume I was raised on a farm. I did see an occasional haystack and every spring our house was surrounded by Hereford cattle, but I wasn’t a farm kid. 

I explain that I lived on a lease in the oil patch.

“You mean they grow oil?”

No, my father was an oil worker and lived on land the company leased from a rancher. We breathed the country air without owning cattle, chickens, geese or goats. I should have kept it that way. 

Years passed. I joined the Air Force, got married and returned to finish work on a journalism degree at the University of Kansas. I worked on several publications over the next few years and mostly lived in town. 

I missed the country. We bought a place on 20 acres north of Rose Hill. I became a “gentleman farmer.” I looked it up. A gentleman farmer is a person who operates a farm without expecting to profit from it. 

I think I overdid it. I not only didn’t make money. I lost a good deal of it. 

Most of the acreage was in bromegrass which cows like. I figured that we could buy some cows. They would eat the grass, we would eat the cows and everyone would be happy-except the cows, of course. 

No one told me how much grass a cow eats. It turns out that they eat a lot-considerably more than six of them can find on 20 acres, part of which a house and buildings sit on. So, the “farmer” must buy grass in the form of large, round bales that are too big to fit on the little trailer he had to buy. 

Once he manages to get the hay off of the trailer with the help of a neighbor who has a tractor with hydraulic equipment to handle big bales, the cows will have already dug into the hay and tossed it around so they can walk on it and spoil most of it. 

He discovers that hay is not enough for a proper cow diet. He must also buy range cubes. Cows really like range cubes because they are sweet and taste like molasses. How do I know this? I ate some when I was about 10 years old. 

The range cube people say their product is “specifically designed to support the nutritional needs of beef cattle on pasture.” They don’t tell you that their product is packaged in 50-pound sacks that, stacked in the bed of a pickup, are about as heavy as a load of pig iron. 

Gentleman farmers soon discover that even though cows love the cubes and will knock him over to get to them, they still need hay, and now and then the supply runs out and there is no grass in the pasture. 

Cows will find a way to keep eating. They knock down fences and eat the grass on the other side. That causes a trip to the farm supply place for fencing and metal posts, etc., then several days of labor. 

Meanwhile, the cows discover new places to knock down the fences. Cows usually win. You don’t eat them. You just get rid of them. 

Contact Ted Blankenship at tblankenship@cox.net