The ranching and farming industries of today are women’s work
By Baxter Black
October 18, 2012
You don’t have to hang around the cattle business long to realize how many women are running their own farms or ranches. Often they are widows who have taken over the operation with the help of their children and made it work. More recently, these women-farmers are daughters who have come home after schooling and become part of the family team. And there are occasions when women decide on the occupation and buy their own place.
In today’s world nobody questions a woman’s ability to run the ranch. If your community has an FFA chapter you can see the preponderance of young women in leadership positions, fully supported by both mom and dad. These girls are taken seriously as future leaders in agriculture. Universities around the nation are filled with women majoring in agricultural fields. They are officers in the Block & Bridle, Alpha Zeta, the Young Farmers and Ranchers, and the Horseman’s Club. They are on the judging teams, getting post-graduate degrees in animal science, range science, agriculture, environmental resources and agronomy. They compete on level ground with men.
At major veterinary schools that still emphasize food animal medicine, the women out-number the men four to one. I spoke at the Pfizer Ohio State Food Animal Vet Student Symposium last spring. It was attended by vet students from California Western to Cornell, from Michigan State to Louisiana State across the country, all of them interested in livestock and 80 percent of them women.
The last census in Canada and the USA showed the number of farms and ranches owned and operated by women continues to rise. Operations in this category amount to 14 percent. One in seven outfits is managed by a woman.
As we all know, many farms and ranches are operated by a team of husband and wife, yet their outfit is listed as a partnership with the man’s name first. To the banker, loan officer, census taker and USDA, it is considered to be managed by the man. But…how many times have you heard some rancher or farmer introduce his wife by saying, “ … this is my wife, she does the books.” Which means, I can’t tell you what my electric bill is, or if the plates on my trucks are up to date, how much money we have in the bank, who insures the shop, how I’m deducting the 4-wheeler, who we still owe money to, if our kids are coming home for Thanksgiving or when I last had a dental appointment. But she can, so I don’t worry.
I have more important things to do: fix the brakes on the one-ton, change the hot-wire around the house lot, grade the gravel driveway, shoe the horses, find the missing heifer, fix the water line to the middle drinkers, get the waterer ready for winter, repair the alley gate in the corral, catch Cattlemen to Cattlemen on RFD-TV (I consider it continuing education) and find a 5/16 nut for the float arm. I’m on the job doin’ man’s work.
I remember being so busy one time that I asked my wife if we could afford a hired man. She said, “What are you talkin’ about? I’ve already got a good one!”
Baxter Black is a large animal veterinarian, cowboy poet and radio commentator.
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