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The Casual Cattle Conversations Podcast: Nutritional Requirements for Cattle Producers

Reference: Podcast Corner

Nutritional Requirements for Cattle Producers

March 25, 2024 |  Written By Shaye Koester

Picture this. You wake up in the morning feeling energized. You have your coffee because you want to and not because you need it to function. And, you can go about your day on the ranch without relying on Ibuprofen to make your aches and pains manageable. A day like this might seem far-fetched for many people working blue collar jobs in rural America, but Kennedy Youngren is changing the narrative and making this a reality for farmers, ranchers, truck drivers, veterinarians and so many others in the agriculture industry.

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Kennedy Youngren – registered dietitian – and her husband reside in central Minnesota where they are the fourth generation to operate the family dairy on her husband’s side. She didn’t grow up immersed in agriculture but quickly became passionate about the lifestyle and more importantly, helping agriculturists live healthy and enjoyable lifestyles by teaching them how to fuel their bodies in ways that give them more energy and reduce their aches and pains.

When it comes to fueling your brain and body as a rancher, think of yourself as an athlete. Even when you have days spent primarily in the tractor, you are still expending more energy than the average human and you need to be able to make split second decisions from a safety standpoint. “I talk a lot about nutrition and hydration because when we are under fueled and not optimally hydrated, we have a starved brain. A starved brain leads to performance deficits like speed, strength, stamina, decision making and hand-eye coordination. When you see the statistics that show 28% of farm injuries are tractor related incidents, being well-fueled and hydrated can be the difference in making a split-second decision that changes the outcome entirely,” said Youngren. Well-fueled bodies and minds look like drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day along with an electrolyte as well as going no more than 5 hours without eating. Youngren recommends packing easy snacks such as cheese sticks, Motts brand fruit snacks, jerky, granola bars and fruit along with a large water bottle to make this an easy part of your day. Prioritizing protein is incredibly crucial for men and women in agriculture to sustain energy, prevent cravings, and minimize that noon to three crash.

Being intentional about fueling and hydrating your body also reduces aches and pains. “A big part of what I do is foster bone and joint health. 87.6% of men and women in agriculture report joint pain, about 50% are diagnosed with arthritis and 20-25% are diagnosed with osteoarthritis. The culprit of 50% of this statistic are pro-inflammatory diets. Pro-inflammatory diets aren’t just about the ingredients in your food, they can look like going too long without eating, not eating enough when you do eat, using caffeine or alcohol to replace meals or cope with emotions,” said Youngren. The key to making healthy changes that last is to take on one change at a time. Gradually increase your water intake each day and once you have that down, gradually start another habit like reducing caffeine, eating a better breakfast or prioritizing sleep. Youngren suggests a habit-stacking format to her clients as it allows them to avoid burnout and sustain these changes for the long run.

Now, if waking up well-rested is what caught your attention at the beginning of this article; Kennedy has some great tips for that too. A few strategies for improving your sleep include not consuming caffeine after 2 pm, covering any light that's omitted in your bedroom with electrical tape, reducing screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime and dimming/turning lights off two hours before bedtime and keeping your room between 60 and 70 degrees.

Taking care of yourself allows you to care for your family, livestock and crops at a greater level. Remember to stay hydrated, fuel your body regularly and get some rest. You can learn more tips about improving your lifestyle by following Kennedy Youngren on her social media pages, @the.legendairy.dietian.