Thursday, June 20, 2024
HomeConsider ThisAre You a Grazier Suffering From Iron Disease?

Are You a Grazier Suffering From Iron Disease?

Is this man suffering from Iron Disease?
Is this man suffering from Iron Disease?

This week marks one year since Chip Hines passed away. He provided us with so much great information and advice, so I wanted to honor him again by sharing one of his many great articles.

Many men suffer from this un-researched affliction that is somewhat prevalent in the cattle raising community. This problem has been around for some time, but with the encouragement of high input ranching it really took off and has gotten out of hand.

Getting hooked is easy. A certain amount of men seem to have an extra “iron” gene, which leads to a dependence on machinery. Couple this with the desire to make labor intensive jobs easier with a machine and all is lost.  It is an easy trap to fall into. It is like any other addiction (can’t say no). It starts with thinking this one “simple” little machine will save hours of hand labor. Then the next step is something much bigger and more powerful. A piece of equipment will allow greater leisure time for fishing and family.

Iron disease has afflicted men for generations. 1943 photo by Ansel Adams
Iron disease has afflicted men for generations. 1943 photo by Ansel Adams

This may sound plausible, but it just doesn’t work that way. Men are married to their iron and if they aren’t operating it, they are repairing it, chasing parts for it or fueling and greasing it. Saving labor? Nope. The machine begins to own them and they can’t get away from its grasp. A true addiction begins in this fashion.

Iron disease is mainly a “guy” thing (spelled testosterone). This dominant gene may have been a mutation that started when the first cave man picked up a rock and made an arrowhead. Since few women have the same level of feeling about machines, I suspect they either did not acquire the gene or long ago managed to delete the DNA with their innate (definition derived from the constitution of the mind) abilities (sorry guys).

Another possibility for the reliance on iron is that some guys like the smell of diesel smoke. It is invigorating, giving them a sense of power. They know they are going to get something done in a hurry. Time’s a wasting! Is it possible there is something “addictive” in diesel smoke that keeps guy’s hooked and they can’t handle the withdrawal period that goes along with non-use of their big toys?

A farmer and his banker shake hands.
A farmer and his banker shake hands.

Several years ago in a conversation with a Kansas banker (plug in banker from state of your choosing) I elaborated on my thoughts of over usage of machinery and the high level of inputs in our industry. Complaining this was not only unnecessary, but also downright self-defeating. He disagreed, saying,”machinery dealers and others are a part of the community and we are all in this together.” I run that thought around in my head for a couple of days and wrote the following:


From this day forward, I pledge to support my tractor, pickup, hay machinery, feed and pharmaceutical dealers through good times and bad, through drought, blizzard, flood, low prices and high interest, till bankruptcy do us part.

Funny and yet not so funny, as to a great extent, this is what we have been doing. Look at your yearly expense sheet. Does it make your knees weak? Pretty good chunk of change isn’t it? Wouldn’t you like to keep more of this in your pocket?

Photo by BulldozerD11
Photo by BulldozerD11

Since this is a guy problem, women are at quite a disadvantage trying to combat the situation and it is worse than they realize. Ladies, how often are your marriage vows re-affirmed? At 25 years? At 50 years? Did you know your husband re-affirms the machinery vow yearly? Did you think he was taking in the yearly equipment show to just look, touch, ogle, admire and idolize the latest behemoth? Heck no! Whenever you see a tight cluster of guys around a salesman, rest assured, he is leading them through the ‘VOW’! With a system like this you don’t stand a chance.

I personally had a moderate reliance on iron for a time, but was able to kick the habit. This took time, but I knew I had to win. Three things helped me. I began a study of the natural world and realized we did not need to do all these things for the cow. Labor saving came not from machine use, but by not having a machine.

This tractor is evidence of someone overcoming iron disease.
This tractor is evidence of someone overcoming iron disease.

Next I found that I could work in my shop on some mechanical or welding project and get a fix without affecting my whole operation. Then I instituted a self-help counseling program when nothing else worked. Whenever I was having a severe attack of dependency I would sit down in my office and read through a big stack of fuel and repair bills. That usually did the trick. It’s very powerful reading which I recommend to all who have this affliction.

Would you like to read more from Chip?

Click here!

Your Tips Keep This Library Online

This resource only survives with your assistance.

Chip Hines
Chip Hines
Chip Hines was born and raised on a farm and ranch southwest of Burlington, Colorado. After moving to the Kit Carson, Colorado area and working on several large ranches Chip and his wife Judy began leasing land and buying cows in 1968. Unbeknownst to them this was the run-up to the big cattle break in 1974. Their first cattle cycle lesson. Chip has not forgotten! In 1989 he began planned grazing and concentrated even more on his low input philosophy. The years of learning have been published in three books on ranch management, available on his website, Chip now lives in Yuma, Colorado and is still involved in supporting the cattle industry.


  1. RE: “Labor saving came not from machine use, but by not having a machine.” I have a friend who refuses to buy a lawn mower. He never misses the job of cutting lawns and has more time to gather mushrooms.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the On Pasture Library

Free Ebook!

Latest Additions

Most Read