This Is What Farm Stress Looks Like.

This is what farm stress looks like for us. An empty feedyard amidst a grass and forage production crisis.

This spring has been unlike any other in our decades of farming. Drought combined with late, hard frosts, has resulted in almost no grass and forage growth across the ranch.

We have had farming seasons before that turned us upside down. We have survived BSE – when a sick animal from a different farm in a difference province cause the bottom to fall out of the beef market – and the value of every animal on our farm dropped to pennies. We survived the early 2004 frost, when every acre of our grain farm froze in the fields. Those moments will be forever etched in our minds, as they will for many of our fellow farmers. We have survived floods, a lightning strike to our cattle herd, trade wars and more. We know and understand farm stress as well as anyone.

But this spring is different. Our ranch is built around forage production. Over the years, that has ranged from high to low, and everywhere in between, but we have NEVER experienced zero production, and it is weighing heavy on our shoulders.

More than the financial hit we are taking, more than the uncertainty of what the best course forward is, there is such a weight of responsibility on us. The responsibility of having living, breathing animals relying on our decisions is immense. Crushing. We need to know that we have enough feed to nourish the animals in our care for not only the summer, but also the looming winter months as well.

We are already selling off animals, so they can be shipped out of province to parts of the country that still have feed. While it hurts to sell at a financial loss, moving those animals off the farm will free up what little feed we have for the animals that are left.

So we will make the best decisions that we can. We will remind ourselves that the struggles of our past have made us better farmers. We will knuckle down and pray for rain. We will look for ways to manage our stress as best we can. But – that pit in our stomach, the strained smile on our faces, the sleepless nights and the grouchy attitudes – those will be with us for a while. This is what farm stress looks like.

12 Signs: You Might Be A Farm Wife If…..

1. Your first date night post-baby is to a cattle auction.

2. When telemarketers/sales people/ government workers call and ask for the man of the house, then doubt you when you offer to answer questions, you wish for the superhuman ability to reach through the phone to strangle said person.

3. You automatically know what your friend is talking about when she complains she had to pull out the “I WILL walk to the house” line last week. You automatically respond with “I know, they’re such jerks” before you’ve even heard the story.

4. You have managed to cart supper for 8 to a field 8 miles away with 3 kids in tow, one of which is still in a bucket car seat, and another that is the devil itself in the form of a two year old. And  you kept it hot. And managed to remember (and cook accordingly) that 2 guys don’t eat cucumbers, one won’t eat onions and they all want 3 helpings of dessert. And did I mention you got it there hot?  And you celebrated with wine. Lots of wine.

5. You have been pulled over for speeding and got off (legitimately) for the excuse of “The combine is sitting, waiting for these parts.”

6. Your vet’s cell number is programmed into your phone.

7. With every summer wedding invitation you receive, you send back the RSVP with a special note: “attendance is weather dependant”.

8. The local grocery store has a mop handy for when you make a quick milk run on the way past town when hauling yearlings. They know the spring run means your boots are dropping more than mud.

9. In the spring you can identify all the other cow-farmer wives by the lingering stench of milk-replacer on their hands/clothing/hair.

10. You understand the true meaning of the phrase “I’ll be in in a few minutes” also known as “I’ll be there right away”, also known as “This will only take a few minutes”, also known as “Be right there”. True meaning of said phrases: “I have no idea how long I will be. Eat without me.”

11. You understand that your tightly managed schedule can be blown apart at any moment by weather, loose animals, emergency parts runs, or “I just need you for a couple minutes to move trucks”.

12. You love your life, and wouldn’t change it for all the money in the world!


Seconds after publishing this post, I head out to drive to an arena I ride at, and find that out of 5 trucks on our farm, this one was the only truck left for me. Figures!!