How would I work differently if a non-farmer/rancher followed me around on the farm for a day?

Well, my first impulse is to say I would not do anything differently, but every time someone visits the house I make sure the house is picked up, the dishes are done, and the dirty clothes are stashed away (speaking of which…). I am sure some prep work is also done when expecting visitors on the farm.

I was intrigued last week when Ryan Bright tossed this topic my way. How would I work differently? Why would I do anything different? Many farmers and ranchers I know go through the daily chores as if it is commonplace. We operate our equipment, work our fields, and handle our livestock, as we are accustomed to doing. But would we always be able to answer a question from a non-farm visitor?

If you will recall, this time last year I was working in a Texas feed yard. It is a place of daily routine. I made pretty much the same rounds every day, receiving cattle, reading feed bunks, treating sick cattle, and coordinating with the processing, pen riders, feed, and vet crews. One day my manager showed up with a guy and asked me to let him tag along for the day. I went through my normal chores and routines. We walked through some newly received cattle, made sure the processing crew was on schedule, and helped the vet crew treat some sick cattle. This guy was full of questions as to why I did things a certain way or in a certain order, asked what I was looking at in the new cattle, and how I organized my day.

That day I had to euthanize a calf due to injury. That task is never a pleasant one, even for a guy working with cattle every day, and I was a little apprehensive as to how my tag-along would react. He asked about the calf and why we had to put him down. I explained about the decision process of euthanizing cattle and that this calf was in pain and would not be able to recover from his injury.
A few years back, I was working on a ranch in Wyoming for an internship. Several of the interns had limited exposure to cattle ranching and one day we had a young calf die. It actually snowed that day (mind you, this is June) and we had a break from irrigation duties for that day. I asked the boss for permission to perform a necropsy on the calf. It was a great opportunity to share my experience of animal health and anatomy with everyone and expose them to something different. There were plenty of questions, and even the most non-farm kids there were fascinated at the opportunity to learn the anatomy and function of different organs in the calf.

Animal health has been a big part of my experiences in cattle production. I have learned quite a bit about identifying illness, how to treat sick animals most efficiently, and (most intriguing to me) I have been able to learn how the illnesses affect the internal organs of the animals. Procedures like the necropsy are extremely important for gaining an appreciation for the science of animal health and to gain a better understanding of how our actions internally affect cattle. After all, our ultimate product is the muscle.

So do I work differently when visitors are expected? Yeah, I probably clean up a few feed sacks, make an effort to wear jeans with a few less holes, or clean out the pickup when visitors arrive, but overall we welcome visitors to see us in our everyday boots. The most important thing for me is to prepare for any questions and have an answer or reference ready when they come; probably not change the way I do things, but definitely brush up on why I do them.

How would you prepare for a visit by those not familiar with agriculture?

Other farmers and ranchers have chimed in on today’s topic. Here is a list of links to see their points of view. (Updated throughout the day) Be sure to share your thoughts here, on the Blogging for Agriculture Facebook page, or by using the #farmvisit tag on Twitter.

Barrows Farms – The Image of Agriculture-Dress for Success

Beef Daily – Character is What You Do When Nobody is Looking

The Cattle Call – A Trip To The Ranch

Silo Skies – Farm Visitors

Ranch Wife Tales – A Visitor For The Day

Double H Photography – Would You Work Differently?

My Generation – 30 Days of Farms and Families

Pearlsnaps’ Ponderings – Farm Visit