Tag Archives: reality

Living In Reality—Controlling Dust…

I am a die-hard realist.  I have always trended that way, but the last 15 years of raising cattle and managing a feed yard in Nebraska has cemented that tendency.  It is not that I do not have lofty aspirations and goals; it is simply that I live in a world of practical implementation.

When everything that you do is tied in with Mother Nature, you learn to take what you get and then try to mold it into what you want.  I manage my cattle feed yard with the promise of offering optimal care for my animals and producing the highest quality of beef.  I also strive to ensure that my farm remains environmentally sustainable.

My promise…

The weather can be both my greatest ally and my biggest foe.  My animals live outdoors in dirt based pens.  One of our top priorities is to keep their living conditions comfortable.  We frequently clean the pens to prevent manure build up—the manure is then spread on our crop ground to ensure good soil health.

Matt’s manure truck spreading manure produced by my cattle onto farm ground that needs added nutrients to stay healthy…

Despite our hard work, there are times when pen conditions are not what I want them to be.  Sometimes during wet periods we struggle to dry the pens out to eliminate mud and sometimes during dry periods we search for ways to control dust.

This year is dusty.  In fact, it has not been this dusty for almost a decade.  I dislike dust because it can create health issues for my cattle.  Dust pneumonia is an added challenge during drought years.  While the dust in a feed yard is usually worse than the dust on pasture ground, this year it is so dry that the dust blows off of the pasture and farm ground with just as much abundance as the gravel roads and my cattle pens.

This pen in the background is full of newly arrived cattle. You can see the dust that blows when they run around and play…

As a cattle caregiver, it is my job to figure out how to control the dust at my feed yard so that my cattle can maintain optimal health.  An effective way to do this is to cross fence the pens.  This decreases the living space for the cattle by half and allows the animals to pack down the dirt and eliminate the worst of the dust.

If you look closely you can see the white temporary fence that keeps the cattle up in the front half of the pen to try and control the dust.

Cross fencing my cattle pens is a far from perfect answer to the problem.  While the obvious positive outcome of cross fencing is managing the dust in the pens, there are drawbacks to doing this.  The first drawback is that the cattle have less room to play and interact.  The second drawback is that it is more difficult to keep the pens clean of manure, and good pen cleaning is a more laborious process.

When I make the decision whether or not to cross fence, I have to weigh the pros and cons.  I know that there is not a perfect answer, so I must go with the best one given the circumstances.  My top priority is to keep my cattle healthy because I know that healthy cattle make healthy beef.  That priority drives my decision.

I think of my girls when I make decisions—they are eating the beef that I grow. I also try to teach them critical thinking skills so that one day they might come up with a better way to control the dust that plagues us in Nebraska during those dry years!

I am hopeful that we will receive some rain soon, and I will be able to take the cross fences out of my pens.  As we move later into the fall, the days become shorter and there are fewer “drying hours” which should also help.  In the meantime, I continue to take what I get from Mother Nature and do my best to mold it into something that both  I and my cattle can live with…

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Blending Dreams With Reality Leads To Harmony…

For every little girl that dreams of a life in rural America being a cowgirl, there are many others whose dreams take them to beaches, cities, and a diversity of other places.   What each little girl holds close to her heart is unique and personal—changing over time to meet her maturing perspective.

I now have three girls with big dreams of their own!

When I had grandiose visions of being a cowgirl as a child, I thought of tall grass and beautiful wild flowers with cattle munching as they moved from one mountain meadow to another.   The scene was peaceful and picturesque with a rider on horseback guiding and caring for the cattle.

She’s found the grass and the wild flowers, now she heads off in search of the cattle!

My childhood dreams came back to me last week as Megan and I moved our grazing cattle.  The grass was a lush vibrant green, the cattle moved peacefully from one pasture to another, and I had the company of my daughter as we experienced the beauty together.

Found them!

The cattle ranching component of our farm is the only one that resembles my childhood dreams, however, there are many other parts to our farm that help to make it more viable and sustainable.  For us, a diverse farm is what happens when dreams are blended with reality. 

Our land and our cattle blend together in harmony to make our farm sustainable…

This week marks our 15thanniversary on the farm.  As I look back, I can see how our dreams and ideas have blended with reality to create innovation and harmony.   Our farm evolves and changes daily as Matt and I become better and more experienced caregivers for our land and our cattle.  I am confident that 15 years from now, our farm will be even better than it is today.

What are the biggest changes that we have made on our farm over the past 15 years?

Our cattle…

  1. The purchasing and selling of our cattle has become vertically collaborative as I realize my dream of tracing cattle from birth to harvest in order to improve the health and care of our animals and the quality and safety of the beef that they produce.
  2. With each day that passes, I place an ever increasing importance on animal psychology and holistic care that has a basis in Beef Quality Assurance and low stress cattle handling.
  3. The ethanol industry brings the feed product of wet distillers grains to our cattle farm which has improved the nutritional care that I offer to my animals.  Wet distillers grains is what is left after the ethanol has been extracted from the corn kernel, and it makes a fabulously rumen friendly feed for my cattle.  We blend the wet distillers grains with alfalfa and corn stalks / wheat stubble to create a blended feed of grains and forages.

    Our crops and alfalfa dehydration plant…

  1. The capitol purchase of a saw dust burner allows the alfalfa dehydration plant to be fueled by recycled materials instead of natural gas.  This reduces the environmental footprint of Matt’s alfalfa business.
  2. The capitol purchase of a Claas Jaguer chopper (pictured above) allows Matt to harvest more alfalfa using fewer pieces of equipment, fewer man-hours, and fewer amounts of diesel fuel—this makes his crop farm more efficient.
  3.  The production of a blend of traditional crops and organically certified crops gives our farm diversity in sales and products which helps to keep our farm economically viable despite the current volatile markets.

I am very proud of what Matt and I have built over the last 15 years.  Our hard work and innovative ideas have allowed the farm to prosper.   We have also been blessed to add three new dreamers to the family with the birth of our girls–it’s been a busy 15 years–I wonder what the next 15 will look like?

 

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Filed under CAFO, Farming, General