Farmer Focus: Mourning the loss of my mentor and hero

It has been a crushing few weeks on our ranch. We lost our patriarch, my grandfather.

It means we have slipped from four generations of the family at home down to three. It may be because it is still so raw, but I think these sort of things are more difficult on a family farm.

He wasn’t just a grandfather who I visited during holidays and got cards in the mail from a few times a year. He was my mentor, my boss, my business partner, my hero. 

I grew up eating as many meals at his table as my own. The past few years, as he got older, I may have eaten at his house more than mine – with that time came a lot of talking, both about life and cattle. 

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He was also the majority owner of our business. This of course adds another layer to trying to work through things.

For many reasons, it is difficult – nothing ever stops when livestock are involved. Soon after I got the news, we had to work a set of calves and with less help because Mom and Dad needed to meet with the funeral director.

Feeding cattle hasn’t quit while we grieve either. This week we begin our spring AI season – we breed 700 commercial heifers this week.

Once they’re done and at summer grass we will start doing the pedigree animals. It’s a numbing feeling to not be able to quit, or run away, or just turn it off for a little while. 

There is a saying in the American West that when someone has complete buy-in to whatever they are doing they are “riding for the brand”.

I have reflected on this in the days that have passed since I marked his coffin with our cattle brand –  the “quarter circle over M Bar”. This marks what belongs to our ranch for “outsiders” to see, but it has a much more personal sentiment for us.

I’m sure I don’t have a full appreciation of what it will mean to ride for the brand like Grandpa did, not only with our ranch life, but in a broader, human sense.

I can only try my best to continue with the legacy he instilled in us and keep pushing along.

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.