For those who are called to the land it is a way of life that is simply that, ‘a calling.’ For most who chose to make their livelihood from agriculture so that other’s basic needs can be met it is generational. As grandparents and parents become older the next generation hears the call and devotes themselves to the land.
For the Reed family of Green Ridge the call has been answered. After years of living in Kansas City, the couple Craig and Natalie, and their three daughters returned to rural Pettis County to maintain a way of life that has been a part of the family for five generations.
“We moved back here in 2011 after living in Kansas City for 17 years,” Natalie Reed began. “We wanted to help his parents, Jim and Linda Reed, run the family farm which has been in his family since 1956. We are working the farms that our girls’ great-great grandparents also worked.”
Reed works off the farm as a senior network architect for Consolidated Communications. His wife works with the cattle full time. The family raises registered Polled Hereford cattle, and produce several types of hay. This spring, they bred 100 cows and heifers which will begin calving in January of 2020.
“Craig grew up showing Herefords and Simmentals as a youth, once taking 23 head to the State Fair in 1995,” Reed said. “I grew up on a 400-acre farm south of Brookfield, where my dad row cropped and had a small commercial cow herd. We were both involved in 4-H as youth, and Craig was in FFA in Green Ridge.”
The lesson learned on their respective family farms and in 4-H and FFA are now being passed on to the family’s three daughters: Macy, 14, Mallory, 12, and Maggie, 9. Both Mallory and Maggie have birthdays in August the heart of preparation for and during the Missouri State Fair.
“We have been back in the showing game since Macy was 8-years old,” Natalie said. “Maggie was not quite two when we moved back, and she has spent her youngest days helping on the farm.
“She would run right outside to work and play in her pajamas sometimes,” Reed continued. “Maggie is very passionate about cattle, spending her free time studying our cattle data in the Calf Book app, or making a wish list from Sullivan Supply. Maggie has no fear when it comes to working cattle. Recently, she helped give twenty calves their pre-weaning shots.”
Macy showed her first heifer Isabel in 2014. Isabel went on to have three bull calves and one heifer; Macy is showing that heifer calf this year.
The girls according to Reed have shown a mixture of fall born heifers, and older, bred heifers. Reed went on to note, that Maggie has taken a liking to showing bulls; this year she is showing her third bull calf.
During the school year, the girls are active in sports, clubs and other activities, helping out when they can.
“Their help was invaluable this last hard, wet winter during calving season,” Natalie explained. “Every afternoon, directly after school, the girls were the ones to clean out stalls, put fresh bedding in, and then pen up either a mama with a new baby or a pregnant cow we expect might calve that night into the five stalls we have in the barn before finally feeding and watering them all. My girls are indeed hard workers.”
The family is involved in the Brown 4-H club, where Natalie is a co-leader. When the club begins its new year in September, Macy will be the treasurer, Mallory will be co-secretary, and Maggie will be the historian.
According to Reed, the club emphasizes demonstrations. The girls have done these every year which helps them learn how to speak in front of a crowd. That practice helps the girls in the show-ring.
This year, the girls will show heifers, a bull and three steers.
“We started working with the heifers in April, and the steers in late May,” Natalie explained. “I still like to do most of the handling until the animals are broke to tie, especially the steers.
“When we can easily get a halter on the cattle, and tied up without the animal freaking out, then the girls start working them,” she continued. “Maggie’s bull calf Stryker was a dream to work with this spring; he was raised in a group of old show heifers, and was used to us from the get-go. Stryker never once freaked out with a halter on.”
Once school is out the girls spend their days working with the cattle and various other chores. Reed said she wakes early to feed the big groups of cows before it gets hot. She then returns to the house to pick the girls up at 7:30 a.m.
The show animals are fed before being moved under fans. The heifers and steers are tied high for a bit, while the girls brush them. Then the animals are let off the halters for the middle of the day.
“In the evening is when we do most of our work because it is cooler for everyone,” Natalie explained. “We feed, tie high, rinse or wash them, and finally, walk them. The girls practice sticking their feet and setting the animals up like they would during a show. All these things gets the animals used to our scent and voices and helps break them to lead.”
Reed said as the girls have gotten older, they are certainly more capable of doing the work on their own, and she and her husband don’t have to worry quite so much.
“Our girls work together, because they know that it might be their steer that needs a push from behind tomorrow,” Natalie said. “I like the routine of caring for our animals during the summer; it gives them a purpose to get up early every morning. They also know that to successfully show their animal, they have to put in the time in the barn.
“Craig and I have had many discussions with our kids, and they know that the cattle business is our job, our income,” Natalie continued. “So, in order to make their world go round (the cost of their activities and such), they need to help Craig and I, and their grandparents with our family business. And the girls do earn some money for all their hard work. Craig and I hope that this idea of if we work hard, we get paid will stick with our daughters and carry them into adulthood to be ambitious, driven, hardworking, and independent young women. Craig says, ‘they just can’t move too far away.’”