Over the years we have sure been asked a lot of questions by folks that are not familiar with our lifestyle. Sometimes these questions catch us off guard because we just take for granted everyone knows these things, or "because that's just the way it is". Then we realized that everyone doesn't live down this dirt road and these folks weren't being mean or nasty; they really didn't know and were interested enough to ask us. So we decided that we would like to take a stab at answering some of those questions for the folks that have inquiring minds. We enlisted the help of a few of our non farmer/rancher friends to give us some of the questions they would like answered and we would do our best to give them an honest, informative answer. The following is the list of questions and the answers we could provide.

1. Are farmers rich? Is it easy to make a living off ranching? Or, do you just like the lifestyle?

No, we are not rich. At least not money wise, yes, I know that sounds corny but it is the truth. We don't have money but we have a lot of things that money can't buy. No, it is not easy to make a living farming/ranching. It is very hard work. Yes, we LOVE the lifestyle!
2. Why do ranchers feed corn?

Some ranchers do feed corn and some do not. However, corn is good high energy feed that, at times, is fairly inexpensive. The high energy helps animals to grow/mature more efficiently/quickly and helps to stretch the hay supply.
3. Doesnít beef make you fat?

Anything will make you fat if you eat too much of it. Good lean beef does not make you fat if eaten as part of a healthy diet.
4. Do you keep the cows/horses inside during the winter?

No, we do not keep the animals inside during the winter. We provide them with wind protection which is a necessity here and good high quality feed and unlimited water. The animals do fine in the extremes here if provided these things.
5. How do you make the grass into neat squares like that?

We use a machine that compacts the grass into the squares. It is called a square baler.
6. What does an acreage like this cost?

This is a difficult question because there are so many variables. But, I will try to answer it as best I can. First, it depends on where the acreage is. If it is along a river, it will cost more than if there is no water. If it is crop land, it will be more expensive than if it is native pasture. Is it near a city or more rural? Supply and demand will play a huge role in the price also. Is there a neighbor that wants that particular piece
of property and how much is he willing to pay?. So I guess the answer to this question is "it depends".
7. Why arenít you an organic farm?

We are so far away from any where that purchases organic crops that the transportation costs make it prohibitive. We do not get paid enough extra to cover the expenses incurred.
8. Isnít it true that cattle are contributing to global warming most with the methane they release?

No, I do not believe this is a true statement. While it is true that cows do produce methane there are many, many producers of methane gas and I do not believe cows contribute the most. First, lets look at the Human-Related Sources of Methane. They
include Natural Gas and Petroleum Systems, domesticated livestock, ruminant animals (cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels), landfills, coal mining, manure management, wastewater treatment, rice cultivation, and composting. Then there are the natural occurring sources. These include wetlands, oceans, rivers, and estuaries, geologics, hydrates, wild animals, wildfires, and termites (yes, termites, are the second largest natural producer of methane gas - they produce it to protect their nests).
9. Arenít factory farms the real reason so many animals are abused?

Again, this is not true. There are many more good factory farms than bad. It really is about the people that run the farm. Just as there are good pet owners and there are abusive pet owners.
10. How does your farm dog stay clean and healthy if it lives outside?

Just because she lives outside does not mean she is not taken care of. She is fed, groomed, de-wormed and vaccinated just like most dogs that live inside.
11. How old is a steer before itís ready to go to market?

Again, this question has many variables. It depends on what you intend to do with the meat. If it is for veal, it is very young when it goes to market. If all you want is hamburger, you can wait until they are 15 years old if you want but that would be very expensive hamburger. We prefer a good all around beef, roasts, steaks,
and hamburger, and not too fat so ours are usually ready to slaughter at around 18 months.
12. Could this animal kill me if it wanted to?

Sure it could. However, most but not all farm animals have more flight instinct than fight unless they are cornered.
13. Do they sleep standing up? Is cow tipping a myth?

Cows tend to sleep lying down most of the time. Horses often sleep standing up but will also lie down. Yes, I believe cow tipping is a myth. Cows and horses are almost impossible to sneak up on even if they are sleeping. They have extraordinary senses of hearing, sight and smell.
14. Are foals are born tame and trained?

Foals are born flight animals so their instinct is to run from things they do not know. They must be gently taught that humans are not something to be afraid of but to be trusted as a friend/protector.
15. Why is agriculture so heavily subsidized?

So that the American public will always have a good supply of healthy food at reasonable prices. If not subsidized and left only to supply and demand, the prices of food would sky rocket.
16. Shouldnít the corn we grow in the U.S. be used to feed people, not cows?

It is used to feed people. There is more corn grown than needed to feed the people. Some corn is a different type than used for people. i.e. silage corn.
17. Why do ranchers give cattle/horses antibiotics?

For the same reason human doctors give antibiotics to keep humans alive and healthy. It would be cruel to withhold medical treatment of a sick animal.
18. Why are there so many hormones in beef?

What hormones?
19. Do you think we will really be eating beef in the future? Itís so expensive to raise.

We will continue to raise beef as long as the consumers demand it. If there is no demand, there will be no beef raised. A question for you to consider: Some land is not suitable for anything but grass. What would you like to see use the grass?
20. How often do you need to feed and water the animals?

The animals must be fed and watered every day, and sometimes twice a day or more. Newborn animals eat several times a day, some as often as every 2 hours if they are orphaned. A newborn foal will nurse from its mother every 20 to 30 minutes.
21. How do you know when the hay is ready to be baled?

You know Mark is really good at this. He will pick up a handful of cut hay and give it two or three twists. Then he will tell you it is too wet or too dry. He says "you learn it by doing it. It just goes by moisture content". I do know that grass hay can be much drier than alfalfa because if it is too dry, the leaves will all fall off the alfalfa and you will have only the stems left. BUT, too wet and it all molds - grass or alfalfa.
22. What are meals like?

Sorry, ours or the animals?
23. What time do you get up?

This again depends on the time of year. Summer, during haying we are up at daybreak which is 4:30 or 5:00. Fall, during harvest it is daylight but daylight is a bit later so 5:30 or 6:00. Winter, Mark is up at 6:00 on the weekdays as he drives a school bus but I usually sleep til around 7:00. Spring, with springs work, calving and foaling, it all depends on when we go to sleep. Since we check the cows and horses around the clock some night we don't get to sleep until morning so it is like having a whole house full of newborn babies, you grab a little sleep whenever you can get it.
24. What do you like to do to relax?

We both like hunting and fishing. I like to watch movies and read but only seem to have time for that in the winter. Mark likes Sodoku.
25. Are cows really friendly?

Some of them are and some of them are not. We had one milk cow named Mugsy that LOVED Butterfinger candy bars. She would come up to you if she heard paper rattling and her tongue would come out about a foot and wrap around that candy and it would be gone. I swear she closed her eyes in sheer enjoyment as she chewed it up.
26. How much sunscreen do you use typically in a summer?

Mark doesn't wear any. He always wears jeans, a long sleeved shirt, hat, boots and many times, gloves. Me, on the other hand, I should own stock in Water Babies! The sun loves me I have light skin, freckles, green eyes and I FRY!
27. How many different jobs do you perform in a day?

OH BOY! Many! Chores, feeding, watering and caring for the animals in general also veterinary care if needed, running equipment, repairman in general repairing equipment, fences, wells, etc. Both of us volunteer on the ambulance, Shellie as an EMT and Mark as a driver. Both of us volunteer on the fire dept. Mark drives school bus. Bookkeeper/secretary, house and yard upkeep, cook, etc. Animal husbandry, animal midwifery, trainer, wrangler...the list goes on.
28. Why breed the cows (and horses) so early that they're calving (or foaling) at a time of year you know the weather is going to be dangerously cold and unpredictable?

We try to miss the last spring storms by starting in April. However, Mother Nature still calls the shots. Sometimes we have an animal birth early, and sometimes we have storms clear until May. The market for the beef calves also dictates a calf of a certain weight by a certain date in the fall if you want to get the best price, so that is also a consideration.
29. I'd like to know what winters are like and is there anything special you do for the livestock?

Our winters are very LONG! We usually feed the animals hay 6 months of the year. Our actual air temperatures can be as much as -30į to -40į F and we are wide open with little to slow the wind so combine the air temps with the wind and you get this nasty number called wind chill. It can and does get to be -60į or more below zero. Exposed areas of skin can frostbite in as little as 10 minutes if you are not dressed for it. Please see question #4 for care of the animals in the winter.
30. Is it difficult to learn how to give shot's to your livestock? Where did you go to learn. Could you teach me how?

Mark learned to give shots by his father and many rancher learn this way. You can also learn in Vo-Ag classes or college classes. Shellie learned by working as a "candy striper" at the hospital in her teens. She uses many of her EMT skills on the animals and asks many questions of her vet. Many vets will show you things if you ask. Yes, we could teach you. We taught our kids. If you are willing to listen, you can be taught.
31. What predators are there out there?

There are a few that affect the cattle and horses. These include coyotes, fox, eagles, an occasional mountain lion or wolf. (Also, deer!! - if you ask Gabe.) Both wild and domestic dogs are an issue. There are many other that affect the other small farm animals like chickens and ducks.
32. Why doesn't that lake freeze in the winter?

It does freeze and the rivers freeze over too. If it is cold enough and the body of water is not very deep like the dam just behind our house, it will freeze solid.
33. What Native Americans use to inhabit the area?

I think you are asking what tribes. There were many and included the Sioux, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Crow, Cheyenne, Chippewa, Cree, Salish and Kootenai.
34. Can you take us on a cattle drive? Do you drive cattle anywhere? Where do you drive them to? Why do you drive them there? How far is it to where you drive them? How do you get back?

Cattle drives are really a thing of the past. However, we do very short drives, moving them from one pasture to another or from pasture to home. Since our ranch is small, these are short distances - 3 miles or less. If we ride a horse out, we ride it back home.
35. Why do you do what you do? Do you like it? Would you mind adopting an older son, who is about 60-ish?

We LOVE what we do! Both of us could get other jobs that pay way more money but we would not have this lifestyle. We are happy doing what we do and make enough to live on...most years. We have decided we have raised enough kids of our own and others. We are ready to take it a little easier.
36. Where do you shop?

There is a very small town 3 miles away. It has a convenience store/gas station so we can get eggs and milk 6 days a week during the day. Otherwise, most of our business is done in a town about 30 miles away. That is our main business center for groceries, doctors, parts, etc. We would like to go only once a month but something usually needs repair or care more often than that.
37. What happens when you want ice cream in the middle of the night and you're out?

Well, you wait until you make the next trip to town. How bad do you really need that ice cream when it is a 60 mile round trip? Even Mark, the ice cream freak, doesn't make the trip to town just for ice cream.
38. Where is The Gap?

Couldn't tell you.
39. Where is Talbots?

What is Talbot's?
40. Why do the vegetables and meat taste so much better than what we buy in the markets?

We are not sure but we are guessing it is because they are truly fresh. There are no preservatives or additives. They taste just the way the good Lord intended.
41. Ugh! Why, when you take us trail riding, do you have to carry that GUN!?

Well, this may not be a popular answer but it is our answer. For protection. Protection for ourselves and our animals. Most wild animals will try to stay out of your way but occasionally you will run into an aggressive wolf or mountain lion. The other part of this is, we are a long way from any vet. A horse falls and injures itself, say breaks a leg, it's obvious with no reasonable hope of recovery. I do NOT want to sit by and watch a horse suffer for 2 or 3 hours while we wait for someone else to come and put that animal out of it's misery. I have waited for over 4 hours for a vet to come to treat a horse that was obviously in pain. It was the most horrible 4 hours I have ever spent with one of my horses and that horse was not dying but could not be loaded and taken to a vet.
42. Most often folks decide to buy cattle, horses or both but have no clue the amount of pasture and/or hay it takes to maintain either. So, they buy land to raise livestock and fall short of land, water and the type of fencing it takes to maintain both. I'm not sure of that info my self so I would be interested in that info also.

It is different in all areas. Different land in different areas can support a certain number of cows or horses. For instance in our immediate area, it takes approximately 14 acres of land for a single cow and 18.5 for a horse. Only 100 miles west of here it would take 2-3 times that. Some places would be much less. That is for 6 months because that is all you will be able to graze it. We figure approximately 3 tons of hay for each cow/horse per winter. Check with your county extension agent. They can give you figures for your particular area or the area you wish to locate to. As for fencing, I am not sure of the question.
43. What are the salt blocks for?

Every living thing needs salt to live. There is generally not enough salt in the food that the cows/horses eat for their requirements to be met so it must be supplemented.
44. What crops do you grow?

We raise oats, barley, Durham, lentils, alfalfa and grass for hay, along with grass for the cows/horses to graze.
45. Do you grow your own hay?

46. How is the oil drilling effecting your environment?

We have asked for impact reports but, to date, have not gotten them.
47. Have you seen much change over the years in the weather, environment, etc?

Yes, I was born and raised on this farm. When I was young the winters were very long, cold and hard. Then we had many years of easy winters. Now, the last few years have been difficult again. All of the eighties were drought years and the whole country burned up. Many farmers went under but the last few years have been very wet. It seems to go in cycles.
48. Why can't I wear my sandals/go barefoot out there?

Horses and cows don't watch where they are stepping. If they step on your feet, you will wish you had shoes on. There are cactus, rocks, snakes, thorns, and bugs. I guess you can go barefoot if you want to. They are your feet. In the winter it might be too cold but, again, they are your feet.
49. Why don't you want me going out in the pasture without you?

We don't know you or how you will treat our animals. Our animals don't know you either. Do you understand the concept of a bull or a stallion belonging to their hormones/instinct? Or a cow or mare protecting her baby? How do you react and behave in these situations? It is just better for everyone concerned if we accompany you to the pastures.

That's it - our list of questions and answers. Some of them just don't have basic, simple or concrete answers but maybe it will give you enough to get some ideas or something to think on for a while. For some of you, it will be enough to satisfy you. For others, we are willing to bet, that it will bring on a whole new set of questions. We are fully prepared for that. Please, ask away, and we will do our level best to answer you. We may even add some more questions to this list. We relished the opportunity to give you a little insight into our rural lives. Maybe these answers will help you to understand our way of life just a little better. We hope you enjoyed this and maybe learned a couple of things. We sure did!!


Mark and Shellie Pacovsky
Bainville, MT
PH. 406-769-2971
Cell 406-769-7971
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Last Updated: August 06, 2014