An Appropriate Sense of Urgency…

A few years ago, I heard another feed yard manager talk about the importance of the feed yard crew employing an appropriate sense of urgency to individual situations on the farm.  I’ve held onto that phrase in my head because I think that it holds the crux of successful animal care.  Personal reactions to farm events determine the effectiveness of their control — whether you are the boss/ foreman or the water tank cleaning crew.

We run a “short crew” on Sundays at the feed yard.  My three guys take turns feeding on Sundays having to work every third weekend.  It is a nice way to ensure that the crew gets some family time despite the long hours of work on the farm.  We really can’t get the work load finished on Sunday mornings with just one person, so I am a permanent Sunday morning crew member.  I read bunks, check water tanks, observe cattle health, and generally do whatever needs done while my other crew member drives the feed truck delivering breakfast.

Most Sundays, it works like a charm.

dsc_0580-1This week, I arrived at the feed yard just before 6:00 to start chores.  My cowboy met me at the front gate with the unfortunate news that our main well had gone down and all of our water tanks were empty.


This is significant for two reasons:

  1. Water is critical — our animals have to have it —  having a well problem on a Sunday morning is a BIG DEAL.
  2. This Sunday was not my “cowboy’s weekend” — it was his day off.  However, he had stopped by the feed yard on his way to town for breakfast just to make sure that everything was okay.

The feed yard has a back up well, so we fiddled around in the dark and got it started.  The problem with the back up well is that it is not as powerful — it’s primary job is to supply extra water to cattle in the summer, not to provide the total water supply.  We’ve never had this problem before (showing up on Sunday morning to find water tanks dry), so Rich and I debated how long we thought it would take for the back up well to refill the water tanks.

Megsunrise2.jpgI really hate to bother my foreman on the Sunday morning that is supposed to be his day off.  However, it seemed an appropriate sense of urgency to call him as I was unsure if the secondary well would provide enough water.  I am sure that he was really excited to hear my friendly voice on his cell phone at 6:30am on his “off” Sunday; but he’s a dedicated animal caregiver and was out at the feed yard within 20 minutes.

The story ends well…

The secondary well did an awesome job and had water tanks refilled in about an hour and a half.  Our local well repair company came out Monday to install a new pressure switch on the main well — and the 1700 bovines on the farm remained well cared for throughout the entire episode.

Times like this remind me of the importance of the loyalty, integrity, and compassion of my crew.  My cowboy and my foreman are a rare breed of men — always putting responsibility to the animals ahead of personal agendas.  I have been blessed to have them on the feed yard crew for my entire tenure on the farm and I am very proud of our high level of teammanship.

As we transition the farm, they will both begin to play a new role but Matt and I are very thankful that they will remain members of our farm team.



Filed under Animal Welfare, Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Farming, General

Sitting On the Bus…

This fall, the majority of my blog posts were written on the Haymaker school bus traveling to Cross Country meets. Riding the bus as an adult provides an interesting perspective. You learn more than just to appreciate the beautiful Nebraska countryside.

In addition to being on the coaching roster, two of my three girls also ride the bus. My oldest as a varsity runner and my youngest as a 6th grade student manager with big dreams for competing next year. In the height of the season, when both the junior high and high school athletes competed, there was hardly an open seat on the bus.

The following provides a short list of things that float around in my mind while sitting on the bus.

1. The bus driver is the team’s unsung hero. Not only does he hold the welfare of our kids in his hands — his cheerful, caring nature sets the stage for a good beginning and ending to race day.

2. The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies a positive culture of respect. When the coaches set the standards high, the kids deliver. Anything less is unacceptable. The medals go to the fastest finishes during the race, but the concept of team is what leads to the win — both on and off the course. True character shines through on the bus just as much as during the race. A positive culture produces a higher level of character at the end of the season than existed at the beginning of the season.

3. Teammanship provides a coach’s greatest prize. It is truly beautiful when athletes compete with heart, unselfishly taking care of the team and raising the bar for those around them. The drama meter on the bus should always be low signifying a heathy team experience with good athlete leadership.


Haymaker Cross Country qualified both varsity teams for state yesterday. The bus ride home last night will be my second favorite bus ride of the season as I’m really looking forward to taking a bus load of awesome runners to the Nebraska state meet next Friday🙂


Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General, Rural Communities

Finish What You Start…

AnneGirlsApril2016.jpgWhen I think of all of the important lessons that my parents taught me growing up, likely the greatest is to finish what you start.  My own girls have grown up indoctrinated with that mentality as I follow in my parents’ footsteps in order to prepare them to be responsible and contributing adults.

Many people ask why my cattle feeding exit plan spans more than six months.  The short answer to that questions is I always finish what I start.  When I made the decision to close down my feed yard, I knew that I needed to do it the responsible way.

  • The way that offers the best care to the animals on my farm.
  • The way that provides the best benefit for my employees.
  • The way that allows our farm to continue to thrive in the environment of change.

That requires me to remain in the business for an elongated period of time.  Honestly, it is emotionally more difficult for me to slowly phase out the feed yard than it would be to just sell the animals on my farm and shut the gate.  However, I am cowgirling up because that’s what you do when you are the boss lady🙂

I remember my dad telling me as a child, “Anne, there is no excuse for quitting.  It is never acceptable.”  Time and time again, my parents showed me both with their actions and their words that honoring your responsibilities came ahead of personal comfort.  There are hundreds of young athletes in our community that would tell you that “Coach Anne says to always Finish Strong!”  I don’t just say it, I live it.  While I have many imperfections, quitting is not one of them.

One of the things that I grappled with when making the decision to shut down the feed yard was whether closing the gate meant I had personally failed.  The rational part of my brain understood that there were many outside forces at play pushing me in the direction of change, but the bottom line showed that I was the one who was throwing in the towel.  It was under my leadership tenure that part of our farm would cease to exist.

annemattbale2.jpgDespite the fact that I am the psychologist and Matt is the engineer, my favorite farmer was ultimately the one that allowed me to see that I was continuing to remain loyal to my responsibilities.  That making the hard decision to transition the farm did not constitute a failure, but rather a carefully weighed decision that could ultimately benefit both our family and our farm.

While there is a part of my heart that still feels a sense of loss, I am passed feeling a sense of failure.  I’ve decided to cut myself a little bit of slack, celebrate the long list of accomplishments over the past two decades, and look to the future with a strong sense of hope.  My favorite blonde cowgirl reminded me a couple of months ago that, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”. C.S. Lewis

I just needed to figure out that I could finish what I started 20 years ago and still look for that new dream.

It’s a good thing that God has filled my life with really smart people🙂









Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General


BCItshirt.jpgI received a request for a phone Q and A interview from a business reporter at The early last week.  With the busy fall days and our “farm transition”, I was tempted to turn it down.  But, the request intrigued me as the Q and A was part of a series entitled “Working” which explores the range of things that Americans do for work and how they feel about their profession.  After completing the phone interview last Friday, I was glad that I chose to engage.  The reporter, Bourree Lam, held genuine interest in our farm and the planned 15 minute interview spanned closer to 45 minutes.

Finding the courage to engage with the media provides a steady challenge for me.  Over the past 15 years, I have performed hundreds of media interviews — some of them friendly and rewarding, and some of them uncomfortable and disturbing.  The positive experiences teach me that there are those that are truly interested in learning about “where their food comes from”, and the negative ones open my eyes to the passionate judgements and resulting hatred that sadly has found a solid place in our current culture.  While I feel as though my family and my education prepared me to be a contributing adult, I am not sure that anything provides the necessary skill set for dealing with the zealous hatred sometimes spewed from strangers.  I breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the interview as Bourree’s respectful interest put a smile on my face and hope in my heart.

One of my favorite phrases is “pack your faith”.  Nothing meaningful in life comes with a guarantee, and the road to excellence is rarely comfortable.  Instead of thinking of taking a chance when faced with a decision, I prefer to pack my faith and believe that it will ultimately lead me to a successful place.  Life isn’t a game of Roulette, it is a journey made up of decisions and action.  Inside each one of us exists a well of strength, and sometimes the difference between victory and defeat is determined by whether or not we chose to engage.

The Q and A article can be accessed here: 

You will notice that the comment section is not completely friendly, but I enjoyed a tremendously positive engagement with the reporter and I am packing my faith that the article will at least put a face on farming for someone that reads the article with an intention of learning.



Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General

Precious Moments…

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a black lab, a kitten and a horse. While I grew up in a house full of hunting dogs, my “bucket list” animals had an address independent of mine…

My favorite farmer and I met my freshman year of college. Our “first baby” was a black lab that we named Taylor. Taylor went everywhere with Matt and graduated from Thayer Engineering school with a masters in Engineering and Business. She was more than happy to move to the farm in June of 1997 when our address changed to Nebraska, and we quickly got her a black and white kitten to keep her company while we went to work.

My dream of having a horse came true the summer of 2005. My beloved feed yard horse developed navicular problems and could no longer work, so I brought him home to my back yard for his retirement years. Because “horses are like potato chips, and you can’t just have one” — That same summer, I bought a young quarter horse from a friend who ranches in the Sandhills.  A third eventually took up residence when old age claimed the first.

At the time that I brought my first horse home, I was beginning my seven year long battle with Graves Disease. Matt could not fathom why I wanted to add to my list of chores, however, my horses brought me a sense of peace in a time of mental chaos. When my body refused to work and my mind struggled to focus, I could walk out my back door and bury my face in the softness of my horse’s neck. When I got too weak to lift my saddle, I could climb up bare back and Dandy would take me for a walk — somehow he seemed to know that I needed that precious moment of peace to find the strength to face the next day.

megpismile1-jpgLearning to find harmony in that unique human/animal partnership is one of life’s greatest blessings. My girls understand this, and sharing those moments with them puts a sparkle in my eye and a warm glow in my heart.

My favorite blonde cowgirl and I have a regular Sunday date with our beloved equines. It is a time of laughter, and a time of sharing. It refuels my soul and creates many precious moments that we take with us on our life journey. Over the past few years, I have let responsibilities at the feed yard stand in the way of some of our weekly dates. It always left me feeling bereft and ill-prepared to face the challenges of the coming week. I know that Megan felt the void of our missing rides as well.

megpismile2-jpgThis fall, I made a renewed commitment to our weekly dates — allowing myself the time to just be — to enjoy, to renew, and to share those rides once again with Megan. There are times that we let our lives, our responsibilities, and our commitments block out the needed periods of self-renewel. We work ourselves into the ground refusing to admit that we are human and might need a moment to reflect and heal.

This is a recurring challenge for me.

Looking into the future, my crystal ball is still hazy but I know that I am going to take more time to enjoy life’s precious moments. There is balance to be found between sharing your talents and preserving your sanity. There even exists a harmonious place where adequate renewal time actually allows for a greater sharing of talents due to an increase in personal strength.


I’m looking forward to finding that almost as much as I cherish the related precious moments…



Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

Listen To Your Gut…

My favorite farmer and I share a love of water skiing.  There is a lake about 10 miles south of Cozad, and our chosen summertime Sunday afternoon activity is to go out on the boat.  We have a variety of “water apparatuses” to ride including a double slalom ski that Matt built a few years ago.

mattski.jpgAs the end of September approaches, our night temperatures dip down in the 40’s making skiing in the lake a bit chilly.  With our girls in the midst of their fall sports seasons, skiing time bumps down on the priority scale, and we grudgingly take the boat out of the water marking the end of the summer. Cold Nebraska temperatures necessitate “winterizing” the boat, and we take it about 50 miles down the road to Buzz’s Marine every fall.

My Florida raised competitive swimmer skin necessitates a bi-annual trip to the dermatologist.  Her office is located near the boat dealer, so yesterday I drew the “short straw” to drive the boat trailer to Kearney.  The driver’s side tire on the trailer had been bugging me since I pulled the boat out of the water Sunday.  I couldn’t pin point what is was, but my gut told me we had a problem brewing.

My favorite farmer did not share my worry, so I bit my tonguepicked my battles — and packed my faith.

I pulled onto Interstate 80 and made it about 10 miles before the above mentioned trailer tire blew out.  Fortunately, I have experience pulling trailers and was watching the tire closely as my gut refused to give up the warning.  Consequently, I was able to calmly put on my hazards, pull slowly to the shoulder of the road, and assess the damage.

My favorite farmer was in the midst of a Certified Organic Inspection on the farm, so he *wisely* screened my post damage assessment call.   As Megan pointed out a few weeks ago, my feed yard foreman is awesome and was quick to answer the phone when I called him for advice.

Doug and I had a chuckle that I should have ignored my husband and listened to my gut…and then decided that it would be best to creep slowly on the shoulder until I could exit the interstate.  Once off the interstate, I found a nice quiet spot on the gravel to take the tire off.  Doug met me and ran the bad tire back to town, and had a new one put on the rim. I continued (minus the boat and trailer) to my doctor’s appointment and got there with a couple of minutes to spare…

annematt2.jpgI pride myself on being a capable person.  Although I was raised a “city kid”, I have forced myself to learn the hands on problem solving/crisis prevention lessons that are ingrained in every farmer.  It is important to me that my girls learn these same skills and we often talk about them at the family dinner table.  There are a number of lessons to be learned with this story, and I am quite certain that this experience will lead to an incredibly interesting dinner hour conversation…

  • Listen to your gut
  • Pack your faith
  • Keep your head in the midst of a challenge
  • Accept the help of others
  • Sometimes your gut is smarter than your husband😉


Filed under Family, Farming, General

Benny Had a Good Life…

Likely the most often asked question by my non-farming friends is “How can you care for animals for long periods of time and then send them to their death?”

I love animals.  I love spending time around them, and I enjoy the daily interactions that go along with their care.  To be a caregiver is both a responsibility and an honor, and I am thankful to play that role. The answer to the above question exists amidst my own philosophical belief that different types of animals hold different types of purposes…

  • The stray dog that showed up one day at the feed yard lives in my house and falls under the category of “pet”.
  • The horses that live in my back yard are supposed to fall under the category of “work animal” (but likely trend closer to ‘pet status’).
  • The cattle that live at my feed yard are “food animals”.

I care for all of them with the same set of values as that is my God-given duty, but the actions of care that I provide differ depending on the animal’s purpose.   

Cattle exist to turn non-edible resources (like grass) into products that people need: a nutrient dense protein source, leather, soap/cosmetics, and human pharmaceuticals to name just a few.  They deserve a good life, but the end of life for a bovine holds a link to sacrifice as that is his express purpose.

Kurt and Jessa Karlberg

Kurt and Jessa Karlberg

I’d like to take a moment to share “Benny’s story” as I think that it illustrates my answer to the above important question.

Benny was born on the Karlberg Ranch and lived briefly with his natural mother.  Sometimes Mother Nature acts harshly, and Benny was orphaned not long after birth.  He got a new “mama” by the name of Jessa Karlberg.  Jessa bottle fed Benny until he was big enough to eat grass and grow on his own.  He ate, slept, and played with herd mates.

bennyjessaJessa cared and he thrived.

Benny had a good life.

When Benny weighed about 940# (14 months of age), he left the Karlberg Ranch and traveled to Will Feed.  He traded grass for a feed yard casserole, and Jessa for me as a primary caregiver.  He ate, slept, and played with herd mates.  In just over 3 months, he gained 530#.

I cared and he thrived.

Benny had a good life.

benny2-jpgLast Sunday, Jessa came to visit Benny.  A couple of days later, I “put him on the bus” to head 20 miles down the road to the Tyson packing plant.  Benny fulfilled his purpose, and offered 1450# of products to nourish and provide for all of us.  By fulfilling his purpose, Benny returned all of the care that Jessa and I offered to him during his lifetime.

Benny had a good life.

Benny’s life resulted in products that, in turn, ensure that each of us has a good life. There is honor in that story. There is honor in Benny’s gift.

I think that it is time for all of us to celebrate the reality of food production — To have faith in the farmers and ranchers that dedicate their lives to raise animals like Benny. When we are thankful for the gift, we ultimately respect the sacrifice.

It’s okay to think of Benny, Jessa, and I when you eat a steak.  Benny had a good life; and Jessa and I worked hard so that you could reap the benefit🙂



Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., Animal Welfare, Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

The First of the Lasts…

Whenever life begins to transition toward a new path, there exists a series of “lasts”.  Last week, I experienced the first of the lasts in the journey of shutting down the feed yard.  Friday morning, I traveled south of Sumner, Nebraska to load up a group of yearlings at the Karlberg Ranch.

With the approach of fall, grass supplies diminish and feed yards in Nebraska begin the fall run of cattle as animals are gathered off of pastures and shipped to farms like mine.

A feed yard is pretty much like a hotel for cattle — A place where the animals go when seasonal limitations of grass resources require shipping off of the home ranch.  The casserole of forage and grain that they receive on my farm enables them to continue to grow despite the fact that Mother Nature refuses to provide for about 7 months.

David and two of his three children -- I got to watch these folks "grow up" while working with their dad.

David and two of his three children — I got to watch these kids “grow up” while working with their dad.

David Karlberg and I have partnered raising beef for fifteen years.  David cares for his cattle until they are 12-16 months old before sending them to my feed yard.  The animals then make the short 30 mile trip from the ranch to my farm where they spend another four months preparing to make beef.  Birth to harvest, the cattle spend their entire lives in Dawson County Nebraska.

Working with folks like David provides an integral part of my business model of collaboration.  Tracing cattle performance, improving care over the animal’s lifetime, limiting animal stress, and searching for ways to improve quality in the end product: beef.

David and I became smarter together than we could have ever been alone. 

Over the past 15 years, we have cared for and improved the lives of close to 6000 animals — producing more than 5 million pounds of beef and bovine products.  Each one of you has benefited by our dedication and collaboration.

Friday morning provided the last time that I will bring David’s cattle (or any other new cattle) onto my farm.  As we begin to exit the cattle feeding business, we will now stop bringing new cattle into the “hotel”.  The 1835 animals already on my farm will remain with me until their time of shipment, but we will no longer “refill” the home pens with new animals after these cattle travel to Tyson.

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today -- more to come on "Benny" in the next post...

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today — more to come on “Benny” in the next post…

It was an emotional morning for me.  Although I truly believe that it is time for a new journey, the reality of stepping away from what I have worked so hard to build weighs on me.  There is regret and disappointment that I could not make my business model work as my management is a reflection of the values that make me Anne. I am thankful for David and my other ranchers who put time and energy into our partnerships – committing to search for ways to be better tomorrow than we are today.

I found my smile as I ended the day with a group of graduate students from the University of Nebraska @ Lincoln. The students visited the farm as part of the UNL Feed Yard Internship program which strives to prepare college graduates to be good cattle caregivers and businessmen/women. We had great discussions and I was very pleased that the professors and students felt that I had something meaningful to share.  I have faith that some of them will work to continue the legacy that I have tried to foster🙂


Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General