Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of country livin’ is the opportunity to be as self-sufficient as possible. A garden, wood-burning stove, and now, raising beef cattle, are just a few ways my family has taken advantage of our country plot. With prices raising everywhere you turn, one heat bill and a trip to the grocery can easily exhaust a pay check nowadays, especially when you have five mouths to fed (6 including the dog).
It was August 2007 when my wife and I purchased our 5-acre property, and until about 18 months ago, our field had remained empty and unused. Roughly 2 years ago my father, who lives two doors down from me and who has been raising beef cattle for approximately 8 or 9 years, approached me about my plans for my field. “I don’t know, maybe buy a four-wheeler or dirt bike…”, I responded to his inquiry.
“Son, now that you live in the country, you need to be as self-sufficient as possible”, he said. “I’m going to a cattle auction on Saturday, do you want me to buy you a cow”, like he was going to the gas station and asking the obligatory, “…need anything?” I thought about it for a couple of days and decided to take him up on his offer. We had a few problems though.
First, his 5-acre plot was already too small for the amount of cattle he had. The cow experts, if such people exist, suggest an acre per cow. He had 5-acres and at the time, 8 cows. Secondly, my field wasn’t fenced. The back yard and field were only separated by an abrupt difference in the height of the grass.
His subtle proposition soon turned into 3 weeks of grueling, back-breaking work as he decided he wanted to erect a fence to enclose my 5-acres, and another fence running along the backside of our neighbors 5-acres; reminiscent of an “alley”. The purpose of this “alley” was to connect me and my father’s fields while not prohibiting our neighbor and his possible plans for his field, effectively doubling the amount of acreage for our bovines.
Then a funny thing happened…
The gentleman whom recently purchased the abode between us, I actually went to school with. I informed my dad of this and at that very moment, I saw a light bulb come on in his head, which generally means one thing; I’m going to get put to work.
Just as I hypothesized, my father approached Jason and just as he did with me, he inquired about Jason’s plans for his 5-acres. After a few discussions and a negotiation or two, the field was ours. “Yes, more work for me!”, I sarcastically exclaimed. “Nothing is more awesome than fencing in 10 acres in the swelting Midwest summer”, I continued ranting. So off we went to Tractor Supply Co. and a couple hundred posts, a few 100 pound tinsel wire spools, and a handful of 16 foot cattle gates later, we got busy on our now 4 week-long fence building project.
In the meantime, dad did go to the cattle auction and picked me up a calf and also bought him another cow; my cow’s mother.
The call finally came. “Is Joe there?”, a female voice said on the other line. “This is he”, I returned her inquiry. “Your beef is ready for pickup.” And I thought the anticipation I felt as a child on December 26th awaiting the next Christmas was bad…
All 612 pounds of t-bone steaks, ribeyes, rump roasts, round steaks, and hamburger were awaiting my arrival to take it back home and stock my 22 cubic foot deep freezer I had purchased 6 months earlier to house my initial investment. An investment that started with $400 that would save me around $6,000 in the long run; not a bad yield if you ask me.
My mouth was already watering at the very thought of my grill’s flames licking the underside of a juicy, tender, freshly grown and processed t-bone steak. It was only hours later that I tasted the fruits of my investment. Two t-bones for me and the wife and ribeyes for the kids…