Have you seen those quizzes that are supposed to prepare you for parenthood? They ask questions such as:

Whitehurst marci
Freelance Writer
Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can foll...
  1. How do you handle vomit and poop?
  2. Do you value Friday and Saturday nights out on the town?
  3. Can you step on a building block and not cry?
  4. Do you handle finances responsibly? Do you have room in your budget?
  5. Do you know how to hold a baby?
  6. Are your houseplants dying?

The idea is to get people thinking about how their lives will change once they have a child. These quizzes make me laugh because there really isn’t anything that can prepare you for it.

Recently, someone told me that they’d like to buy some cows. They owned a couple of acres, and they were looking to purchase some cows and start a little hobby farm. I asked them about year-round water and if they had a place to store hay.

“Will they eat a lot?”

“If I get some bottle calves, how big will they get?”


When I shared that it took about 16 to 20 months until harvest, the person was surprised. “Oh, I don’t know if I can keep them that long …”

Now, I’m not making fun of any questions because we want people to ask questions and to think about what it takes to have cattle. And, like any of us, we don’t know what we don’t know. However, it piqued my curiosity. Do people ask these kinds of questions regularly? So I turned to a semi-reliable source: Google.

I got lost in the mire of ridiculous questions being asked. Did you know some of the most-asked Google questions are, “What do I do?” and, “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” So, I figured maybe we should have a checklist if you want to own cattle.

If you want to own cattle, take this quiz:

  1. Do you mind being outside working in unfathomable temperatures? (Currently, as I write this, it is 25 below zero outside – without wind chill.)
  2. How do you deal with poop? Lots of it. As in, it’ll invariably end up on your clothes if you’re standing in the right spot at the squeeze chute.
  3. Are you ready to ask the question, “Is that smell me or my boots?”
  4. Do you mind odd hours? Early mornings and late nights? This includes calls on date nights, as well as during special occasions such as graduations and weddings.
  5. Do you mind not having holidays off? You’ll need to make sure the animals are taken care of on Christmas.
  6. Can you handle life-and-death situations? It’s not the norm, but it still stings when a calf dies.
  7. Are your houseplants dying?

When you look at owning cattle, there are some variables, such as geography. Where you live will impact your carrying capacity. Of course, all of you know this already, but I found it interesting because I came across a question online about someone in a desert area asking how many cows they could have on one acre. Ouch. I hope they have easy access to hay.

Just like having children, when you look at owning cattle, it will change your life. You don’t know what you don’t know. There will be mornings when you wake up and there’s a cow in your driveway, but there is no open gate, no fence that’s down and no obvious answer to why there’s a cow in the driveway. So, you put her back in with the herd. The next morning, there she is, back in the driveway. Of course, she has a number, but we call her “the cow that jumped over the moon.” She’s a super-nice, gentle cow; she just has a pretty decent vertical. They don’t put that in the textbooks.

Much learning does come from textbooks, but many of us also learn from others. This is the way to go. In addition to education and personal study, learning from others brings exponential experience. We’ve learned from others what to do and also what not to do. We offer the same benefit to our own kids: Learn from our mistakes!

Owning cattle is greatly rewarding and also exhausting. As you know, there are seasons of “downtime,” but you are always on call, kind of like parenting. Only “the kids” are at least a thousand pounds heavier than you – if not more. You know that look toddlers get when they are going to run away from you? Calves have that too.

Really, there isn’t a quiz that can prepare you for anything in life. I’m convinced having people to share life with and learn from is the best. So thank you, dear readers, for your impact on agriculture and the part you play in teaching and learning. Because people will ask questions about what we do – and we’ll be able to answer them.