Valuable practical lessons in business acumen

I will never forget my present for my seventh birthday. My parents presented me with the most beautiful tiny Jersey heifer calf. They lead the little calf into the kitchen. There it was, resplendent with a royal blue head collar and lead.

She was a beautiful little calf, with the most gorgeous face. She had been weaned off milk, so she did not need regular bottles of milk, but she did need daily feeding and care. That was now my sole responsibility, under the supervision of my parents.

It was a very clever and thoughtful gift.  All the children received similar gifts for their birthdays. The gift of an animal came with additional rewards. We were the new owners of a very valuable asset. This asset required maintenance and care, even hard work to nurture it. In the future the animal could be sold, and the cash would be banked into our account, for our use or future investment. It was our choice. Or the animal could be used to breed more of the same and further increase our investment.

When I was about twelve years old I asked my parents if I could have Piano lessons, plus I would need a Piano to practise on. They agreed to pay for my lessons, but suggested I should use my own funds, my savings to purchase the Piano. Wow, now I had to really think about the purchase, since I would be using my own funds.

I had a substantial amount of money saved. I had sold my little Jersey heifer to my parents at an agreed market value, a year or so earlier. We had gone to the Cattle Sales to check the value of  good dairy cows, before determining the price. Fairy had been an excellent milker, as well as a good breeder, so she was guaranteed a top price.

I thought very hard about the piano purchase, now that it was my own  funds required for the purchase, rather than my parents fund the purchase.

Again my parents stepped in to help, and suggested I could buy a used piano that would be substantially cheaper than a new one. That sounded much better. As much as I wanted a piano, I did not want to spend my savings.

My parents eventually found a very beautiful old piano at a clearing sale for a fraction of the cost of a new piano. It had candle holders on the top, and came tuned and ready. I suspect the lessons were more expensive than the piano, and within eighteen months or so I had lost interest in the piano and the music lessons.

My parents were reasonably wealthy, and we children probably had everything we wanted. But we were not spoilt or indulged, and we learnt to be frugal with our money. I believe my parents were very clever, they taught us how to make money, and then to look after our money.

The use of animals as gifts for birthdays, or as reward for services rendered, taught us some very valuable lessons. Firstly the gift was a deposit for our future, secondly it was up to us to increase the initial investment, with care and nurture of that investment, to bring about the maximum return.

I believe we later decided this investment into the raising of cattle could be multiplied, and maximised, by the children. We would copy our parents business. Venturing into a much larger project, would require a substantial amount of labour on our part. We discussed it with our parents at length. The children had to promise that they alone would provide all the labour, it would not be left to our parents. Our parents would fund the ongoing costs of feed and maintenance, which would be subsequently deducted from the sale of the animals.

The project was not an overnight, or impulsive decision. My parents did not rush out and buy a herd of calves. They did wait for an opportunity, and purchased about twenty baby calves.  These calves were only days old and would require substantial maintenance. They  had to be hand fed their daily milk at regular intervals during the day. There is substantially more work required for the baby calves until they are weaned off the milk, months later. Once weaned they are fed a staple diet twice daily, morning and night.

My parents had to purchase the additional milk required for so many mouths to feed. We had a large number of cattle, including breeding cows, and our own dairy cow that provided the milk for the household. These other cattle were not suitable, nor had the milk available to support such a large number of calves. One or two calves could be fostered to an existing cow, but not a herd of calves.

Our venture was very successful, rearing calves to become fully grown animals is the basics of animal farming. The calves were all Aberdeen Angus calves, they would be used as breeders in the future, markedly increasing our profits and return on investment.

I believe the children did not have to put any money up for the initial investment, but it would be deducted from the profit on the investment subsequently returned to us.




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