From “Six days on the road” to “Roll on 18-wheeler” I have about a dozen songs that remind me of one of my favorite guys on the planet: my dad.

You see he spent many years supporting his farming habit with a “day job” (er, 24/7 job) of trucking.

Dad's truck sees more use hauling grain or manure these days, but it has hauled many, many head of cattle in its day.

I have a deep respect for “bull haulers” (the industry slang for all livestock truckers), because for most of my childhood my hero was one.

I’d bet most consumers don’t give much thought to how their food gets from here to there, but every time I see a refer (refrigerated truck) or a livestock trailer headed down the highway I wonder about the story. What are they hauling and where are they headed?

They’re an essential link to several places in the beef chain. Truckers move pairs for ranchers who are renting pasture on the other side of the county or sending cattle to other parts of the country because of drought. They often haul feeder calves to the salebarn and then they take them on to their next stop, be it feeder or backgrounder. They take cattle to harvest and they take the meat to further processors, distributors, grocery stores and restaurants. That’s not even talking about all the grain, supplies and equipment that have to get from here to there.

For most people enjoying a delicious beef meal, a trucker has probably had a hand in getting it to their plate.

And just like every other player, they can impact beef quality. In simple terms, less stress=better beef. The Beef Quality Assurance program has a separate Transportation Quality Assurance course just for those bull haulers. It covers everything from humane handling to correct documentation.

*This Drovers CattleNetwork article gives a program overview:  Quality Assurance on the Road.*

Although seeing the countryside might sound appealing, I guarantee the life of a trucker is not as glamorous as it first appears. Long hours, truck stop showers, and greasy not-exactly-home-cooked meals punctuate their travels.

Sometimes I even got to pretend I was an ag journalist. I took this picture during one of those "fall run" trips.

Growing up, each one of us kids got to tag along with Dad for one short week to Montana during the “fall run.” If there’s one thing I learned (other than that I wouldn’t want to drive for a living), it was that truckers care as much as the ranchers and feeders.

One trip home, an unexpected snowstorm came through and shut the interstate down. Dad’s No. 1 concern, before we found our first real meal of the day or grabbed one of the last remaining hotel rooms in the small South Dakota town, was where he could find space at a salebarn to unload the bawling calves and get them fed and watered. That came before all else.

They may not determine the direction of the nation’s beef herd or feed the animals each day, but truckers still play a mighty big role in getting from gate to plate. And for that, we’re mighty thankful!

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,


PS—Have you read “30 days on a Prairie Farm”? If not, you should. Holly got us kicked off on this journey and has a whole list of all the bloggers writing this November.

Beef’s a Trip Archives:

Day 1: Starting at day one

Day 2: Who are these people?

Day 3: Stockholders

Day 4: The cowherd’s purpose

Day 5: Deciding to care

Day 6: Quality focus doesn’t have to skip the middleman

Day 7: Stocking for quality

Day 8: SOLD!

Day 9: What have you done today?

Day 10: Working together to make ‘em better

Day 11: Keep on truckin’

Day 12: Packers want quality

Day 13: The target

Day 14: Packers up close & personal

Day 15: It’s not all about the beef

Day 16: Further processors

Day 17: From here to there–and a lot more

Day 18: He’s on your team

Day 19: Beyond prices, grocery stores uncovered

Day 20: Getting quality in the carts