Farmer Focus: Truck driver becomes part of ranch jobs

October is a busy month in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Fall is in full swing. 

Our native pastures are warm-season grasses and most “full” season leases end on 15 October. That means there is a lot of cattle hauling going on around here.  

With more than 1,000 head of cattle to move home in a short period, we spend relatively few “glamorous” hours on horseback and many more behind the wheel of a truck.  

See also: Read more from our livestock Farmer Focus writers

For my whole life my largest trailer has been a 24ft (7m) gooseneck that we pulled with our ranch pickup trucks. It can hold 11 cows when full. 

We would have 10- to 12-hour days running two vehicles just to move one pasture home.

The alternative would be to hire a semi at the rate of US$4/mile (£3) and even more for short hauls. So this fall we finally purchased our own big rig. 

I can now haul 40 head in one trailer and have already brought 500 heifers home and saved several thousand dollars in trucking fees. 

But now for the interesting part – I really don’t know how to drive the stupid thing. The unsynchronised 10-speed transmission was a foreign language at first. 

You have to hit the accelerator while you are slowing down? You have to turn how wide with a 53ft (16m) long trailer and a 14ft (4m) long truck? 

Thanks to YouTube videos and a couple of crash courses on our driveway, I was getting the hang of it. Now, with 500 miles behind the wheel, I am going to commercial driver’s licence school next week. 

The ag industry has an exemption for 150 miles or the state line. Trucking is one of the most regulated industries in the US.  

This will allow me to go further than 150 miles from home and will save our ranch a pile of money. 

But it is not without challenges and adds to the long list of professions we have already taken on to make things run around here, such as plumber, mechanic and veterinarian.  

Obtaining so many job titles can make for some hectic times and high blood pressure, but I am glad to be able to work in a way that makes every day different. 

Daniel Mushrush is a third-generation Red Angus breeder in the Flint Hills. The Mushrush family runs 800 pedigree registered Red Angus Cattle and 600 commercials across 4,856ha, selling 200 bulls a year and beef through Mushrush Family Meats.