ROSTHERN, Sask. — Livestock lessons begin early on the Lehmanns’ Saskvalley Stock Farm.
“We teach them from a very young age to respect the animal,” said Karen Lehmann, whose children play a big role when the family is working cattle.
They are at school this day as her husband, Barry, and his brother, Murray, move feed into nearby fields for their cattle.
“Anytime we work cattle, they have to be there,” said Barry of his children’s love of farming.
Both agree it’s important to give them age appropriate tasks and teach them that tractors are not for joy rides.
“Grandpa said this is a workplace,” said Karen.
The workload once handled by Wesley and Marjorie Lehmann is now managed by the next generation of sons, their wives and their children.
The cow-calf and grain operation near Rosthern involves Barry and Karen, Murray and Cathy and Carl and Michelle.
Murray said they keep labour to a minimum, feeding every few days in winter and planting corn for the cattle to graze.
“You don’t have to make as many bales and it’s cost effective,” he said.
The family keeps 12 horses for riding, farm work and competition. Cathy, a community pasture rider, has achieved strong results on the team roping circuit with Murray, who has also done fitting for cattle shows in the past.
All live in the farmyard except Wesley and Marjorie’s daughter, Heather, who works in Vancouver and owns one quarter of land, and Carl, who left full time farming to work as a realtor but continues to help where needed most.
Wesley was also a realtor until recently, one of his many off farm jobs over the years.
“”I sold real estate to make a living and play at farming,” he said.
“I figured someone better get a job or we’d starve to death.”
Marjorie worked as a nurse and helped with farm work when needed. Her income often helped pay off debts.
All of her daughters-in-law also work off the farm.
The Lehmanns have 500 head of cattle, of which 150 are registered Shorthorns.
Carl said they maintain that number to ensure a good supply of purebred animals for their annual bull sale in April at Saskatoon Livestock Sales, which includes two other Saskatchewan cattle producers.
In addition, the Lehmanns background cattle year round.
Carl has always loved the cattle business.
“There’s a lot less risk than in grain farming, and I don’t have to invest as much money to grow a product or invest in equipment,” he said.
“I’m not a big fan of metal.”
Murray said their land is good, so it makes sense to grow grain and their own feed, including barley, corn, oats and greenfeed hay.
They sell their canola on contract through Bunge.
Wesley called 2015 a good year for the cyclical cattle business.
“If it was always like this, we’d be a lot richer than we are,” he said.
Carl said they rode out the bad years of the BSE crisis by carefully watching costs and keeping expenditures low.
“It was very difficult at times, but we hung in there. Wes was a good manager,” Marjorie said, citing the help they received with their young family from Wesley’s parents and hired household help.
“Whenever I went back to work, it was often to pay off things.”
She bought the couple’s first four Shorthorns with her own money.
Wesley’s grandfather, Karl, arrived from Germany to homestead, bought land in 1915 and then passed down a quarter section to Wesley’s father, Albert, in 1919.
Barry and Wesley agree that family support is important, and the multi-generation farm lifestyle allows children to grow up knowing their grandparents.
“I enjoy being outside and watching the mysteries and wonders of life,” Barry said.
”Really, we both had such a great childhood growing up on the farm, we wanted that for our children,” said Karen.
Marjorie’s recent Parkinson’s diagnosis and Barry’s multiple sclerosis present challenges.
Farming allows Barry to be his own boss and set his own pace and schedule.
“There are some things I physically can’t do,” said Barry, who also works from home in logistics for a trucking company.
Barry does most of the seeding, while Murray and Kathy oversee most of the spring calving.
Looking ahead, the family sees few changes on the horizon.
“We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing,” said Murray.