10 Lessons I Learned on a Family Farm

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1. Appreciation:
In high school, everyone one says that they are ready to leave this town; however, I can’t wait to come back to my family farm. I want to give back to my family farm. It grew me so much as a person. I learned respect, responsibility, and hard work at a young age. Once you leave the farm you see how different the world is, but you will always have your work ethic to fall back on.

2. Driving:
I was driving anything and everything that my dad would let me drive on the farm. Every experience prepared me for the next. I was always up for the challenge. Looking back, I realized how much confidence I gained through learning to drive and operate machinery.

3. Exercise is Important:
Who needs summer weights when you have 5-gallon buckets? Don’t even get me started on moving livestock. Herding sheep sure feels like guarding a basketball opponent. Those two things alone will get you ready for basketball season more that any weight room.

4. Family is Everything:
Living on a family farm, my family and I spend A LOT of time together. My younger brother and I spend almost every day together doing chores or doing other jobs on the farm. We spend so much time together that we just know each other so well. There are times that we argue while working livestock or when the combine breaks down for the third time in one day, but we know it was from the heat of the moment, all is forgiven, and you keep moving ahead together. Family is the heart of our farm.

5. Nothing Goes According to Plan:
There are days that nothing will go as planned. The ability to be flexible and shift your plans is mandatory. You may make two or three trips to the John Deere dealership because you have broken down several times in one day. You just power through and keep moving forward.

6. There is a Lesson in Everything:
I have learned so many lessons over the years. The Fall of 2018 was a lesson in patience. Harvest was continually delayed because of rain and snow and then more snow. We waited patiently and then helped where we were needed when it was time to harvest again.

Christina Blender7. Animals Become Your Best Friends:
There are many animals that run around on the farm. Whether it is livestock, a dog, or cat, you grow to love all of them. Growing up my family had a farm dog, Shelby. She joined our family when I was a baby, so we grew up together. I will never forget her because we spent many hours together doing everything from shearing sheep to sweeping the shop floors. I may have spent a lot of time by myself on the farm, but I was never truly alone because I always had Shelby there with me.

8. The Cycle of Life:
From a young age, I learned about life and death. It became evident just how precious life is. I have carried cold lambs inside the house and helped them warm up. It is one of the most amazing experiences to watch a newborn lamb get on its feet again. Last year, I had a twin set of Babydoll Southdown rams. They were born on a cold night unexpectedly. When I went to do the night check I found the two tiny ram lambs. They were cold and separated. I put them inside my coat and carried them to the house. My parents and I spent many hours that night nursing them back to health even though there were moments we thought we were going to lose them. We kept the faith, because if you see a glimmer of hope, you can’t give up on them.

9. Passion:
I love my jobs on the farm and I truly believe that I have the best one in the world. I get to see new life come into this world, while taking on the challenge to continue feeding the world. The best part of farming are the days it doesn’t feel like work. I have been truly blessed to grow up on a family farm.

10. Work Ethic:
Rain, snow or shine you have to be ready to work. Sunup to sundown is a way of life. My dad has always worked long days. When we were young my dad would leave early and get home late, my mom would take us to the field to eat lunch with him. Sometimes this was the only time we saw him. My parents gave us responsibility early in life. As we aged, they added more chores and activities that we could manage. There are countless hours in the cab of a tractor or sitting in the lambing barn watching a laboring ewe. These lessons have served me well.

Eliza Hunzeker

 

Eliza Hunzeker is a senior at Pawnee City High School. After graduation, she plans on attending Northwest Missouri State University and majoring in Agronomy. Eliza stays busy working on the family farm and participating in 4-H, FFA, and school activities.

Those Hot Nebraska Summers

We had another great question come in to the blog from a reader:

Q:  “When it gets really hot in Nebraska during the summertime, how do animals stay cool?”

A:  Keeping animals cool is a challenge, and it depends on a lot of factors: is there adequate shade, do they have lots of room to spread out, is there enough water? When animals become hot because of extremely high temperatures, they are affected by heat stress, which overwhelms their natural ability to regulate their body temperature.

Cattle will stand up as a first sign of heat stress to exposure more of their body surface to dissipate heat. There are several simple ways to overcome heat stress in cattle, for example, by providing shade from trees or buildings. Air movement from ventilation, from fans and windows, also helps.

Another way to reduce heat stress is by providing adequate sources of cool, clean drinking water. Feeding cattle at night also helps, by decreasing the heat they produce through the consumption of food.

It is not uncommon to see cattle submerged in a pond to reduce their body temperature. The same effect can also be achieved by spraying the animals with water, but this works best if they are sprayed before they become stressed.

Hogs are similar to cattle in how they try to remove heat from their bodies. They try to increase dissipation, by finding a cool spot to sprawl out and cool down, and they increase their respiration by panting, which increases air flow and evaporation of water from the lungs, which releases additional heat.

Pigs do not sweat like humans do. Cool drinking water provides the most heat relief and these other practices also help: wet skin cooling (such as wallowing in the mud), adequate ventilation, feeding foodstuffs that are more nutrient-dense, increasing minimum floor space, and providing shade.

Poultry also are prone to heat stress during periods of high temperatures and humidity. While chickens do acclimate to heat over time, sudden heat waves can cause trouble. Without sweat glands to cool their skin, birds rely on their respiratory system. Chickens pant to cool themselves, because the panting evaporates water from the throat to lower their body temperature, but this can lead to dehydration, so providing a constant supply of water is very important.

In short, if our animals are getting warm in the heat of the summer, we as farmers use these additional practices to cool them down.

— Ben & Jamie Keep, Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee members and Howard County Farm Bureau members

Keep asking great questions! Our Nebraska farmers and ranchers look forward to explaining what they do every day to produce safe food for you and your family.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.