An Aggie In Nebraska…

Howdy!

My name is Emily and I have the privilege to be a guest on the Feedyard Foodie’s blog this week! I am originally from rural Connecticut but am currently residing in Texas. Both my Fiancé, Garrett, and I are recent graduates of Texas A&M University (just two weeks ago, actually!) with our Bachelor’s in Animal Science and are both currently pursuing a Master’s in Ruminant Nutrition.

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A ruminant refers to an animal with a four compartment stomach (ie. cattle, sheep, or goats), however, both of us are specifically studying the beef cattle sector. Our ultimate goal in the future is to start our own cow-calf operation in Texas. A cow-calf operation essentially raises the animals that will later go to the feedlot.

So how did I end up in Cozad, Nebraska?

As Anne mentioned in her previous post, I had the privilege of hosting her and Megan at Texas A&M in the fall after inviting her for a speaking engagement through the Animal Science Department. Every feed yard utilizes a ruminant nutritionist to make sure the cattle are being fed properly and nutritional requirements are being met. Knowing that I was going to be studying in this field, it seemed fitting to come visit the feed yard for a few weeks over the summer to get an inside view on how the operation is run, even if it isn’t the exact path I plan to take.

The thought behind my visit was that it’s always worth taking advantage of an opportunity to learn.

There is a good chance that my future career will somehow relate back to the feed yard, especially if it includes a cow-calf operation responsible for filling empty pens.

The Feedyard Foodie Family graciously accepted me into their home for three weeks and I have been learning everything from the business side of the operation to running various equipment at the feedyard. As far as the cattle go, we’ve processed, transported, and shipped cattle and will be receiving new calves into the yard next week.

Every day has been something new to do and another skill-set to learn. I’ve even had the opportunity to learn about the various farming sectors in Cozad from planting to harvest and of course the town, and family’s love of sports has led me to a new insight into both the track and swimming season! Anne has been a great mentor sharing her experiences in the industry, as a manager, and making time for what’s important as small business-owning parents. It has been quite the adventure and I look forward to sharing more about my journey as I move into my final week with the family!

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Going to Grass, An Aggie in Nebraska, Summer weather on the prairie, Swim Team!

About ten years ago, our farm purchased about 600 acres of grass pasture south and west of the feed yard.  We use this grass pasture to graze lighter weight animals in the summer months as well as to harvest prairie hay to feed during the winter months.  After a cold and wet spring, the grass has finally grown enough to start grazing so we spent last Thursday going to grass with 134 fall calves.

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While I truly enjoying caring for cattle in a feed yard, I also love to utilize the unique resources on our pasture ground to grow calves on grass.  These animals will spend the summer season grazing and then will head back to the feed yard when Mother Nature begins to shut down for the year.  The animals typically weigh 600# when they go to grass and hopefully will weigh about 750# when they come home in August.

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In addition to going to grass, the Feed Yard Foodie family welcomed Emily, a graduate student at Texas A & M University, this week on the farm.  Emily hosted Megan and I when we traveled down to Aggieland last fall, and will spend three weeks in Nebraska with us this summer.  She arrived on the 16th and we spent the week learning to read bunks, shipping cattle, processing calves, and then taking these fall calves to grassEmily took most of the pictures included in this post as I am trying to inspire her to take up blogging during her remaining two years in the ruminant nutrition department at Texas A & M.

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Emily thinks that her sweatshirt is her best friend in Nebraska, and we are all hoping that she brought some of the Texas warmth with her :)  While the prolific moisture received in April and May helped to turn the grass green, the cold temperatures that accompanied it made the start of our growing season tardy according to the calendar.  My favorite farmer is antsy for a few heat units and drying days so that seeds will germinate and his alfalfa will grow.

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I am hoping to get Emily to write a “guest blog post” or two over the next couple of weeks — giving a glimpse into the Feed Yard Foodie farm from a different perspective.  We are laughing that she is very brave to join the general mayhem at our house which is likely to be more challenging than working at the feed yard…

On the home front over the past week, the girls finished up the spring track and soccer seasons.  Ashley Grace’s 4 X 800 relay team competed in the Nebraska State High School Championships, Megan garnered 3rd place finishes in Pole Vault and the 4 X 100 relay at the Nebraska State Junior High Championships, and Karyn earned gold medals in the 400 and 800 at a couple of local track meets as well as finishing up her spring soccer season.

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After 12 years, I hung up my soccer coaching hat last weekend.  Today, I put on my swim team coaching hat to kick off the start of the swim team season. Emily seems to be game to do anything as long as I don’t ask her to jump in the pool when it is 50 degrees outside…

The entire Haymaker Swim Team is hopeful that each of you will send warm weather out to the prairie as they have a really mean coach who makes them swim regardless of the temperature!

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Track Season in Nebraska…

In Florida, track season is filled with heat and afternoon thunderstorms.  The humidity grabs at you with a consistent tug from March to the end of May.  I ran the two mile, and remember hoping that my races fell in the evening rather than during the full sun of the afternoon.

In Nebraska, track season is filled with wind, snow, cold rain, and the occasional bout of warmth.  It provides a completely different experience for the athletes with a frequently changing set of environmental elements.  The weather toughens the competitors and gives them a firm appreciation for the nice days that occasionally align with the track meet schedule.

With three girls competing in track at three different levels, my favorite farmer and I spend a lot of afternoons/evenings at meets.  It is fortunate that we are track junkies and love every minute of it:)

As we prepare to finish up the second straight week with four meets to attend, I remind myself how awesome it is to watch my girls and their teammates fight for success.  Ashley Grace and Megan both made the record board last week — Ashley Grace in her high school 4 X 800 meter relay, and Megan in the junior high pole vault.

A big smile before the relay...

A big smile before the relay…There was an even bigger one after the run!

It’s always fun to continue to legacy of Burkholder record holders for the Cozad Haymakers.  The girls watched their dad’s 20 year old sprinting records fall a few years ago, and are now enjoying teasing him that they took his place on the record board…

Megan sailing over 9′ — #cowgirlsmakegoodpolevaulters

 Ashley Grace and her team head to the Class B Districts today with aspirations of competing in Omaha next week at the Nebraska State High School track meet.  Megan will end her junior high career pole vaulting Saturday at the Nebraska State Junior High track meet.  Karyn finally will trade the bleachers for the track on Sunday competing in the high jump, 400 and 800 meter runs.  After watching her sisters for 8 weeks, she is ready to be an athlete instead of a spectator!

As for Matt and I, we will celebrate the awesomeness of our girls as we proudly watch them travel down the road to excellence.  I might also be found teasing my favorite farmer as my name still appears on my high school record board:)

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Making Good Choices…

My favorite farmer sarcastically noted shortly after our third daughter’s birth that he was planning to temporarily live in a different house when the girls were 18, 16, and 13.  You can likely imagine how well that went over as I rested on the hospital bed welcoming Karyn into the world…

It seems like that was just yesterday, but the truth is that we are a short year and a half away from the above referenced scenario.  This summer we plan to take a trip back East for our oldest daughter to look at colleges, our middle daughter is old enough to have her rural school driver’s permit, and little Karyn now stands at 5’7”.  Matt likely never really imagined the complete impact of a house full of estrogen, but somehow he seems to thrive in it:)

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As I think back over the last 16 and ½ years, I seem to always come back to the thought that a successful life comes from making good choices.  Perhaps it is living in a house full of teenage girls, but that phrase seems to come out of my mouth multiple times in a day.

The following is a list of things that I have learned help to develop the skill of making good choices:

  1. Love and respect yourself.  Your life is a gift and you only get one body with which to live it.  Feed it well, get enough sleep, and honor it with your actions.
  2. Surround yourself with people who love and respect themselves.  A culture of respect breeds good decision making.
  3. Know when to remove yourself from a situation, and have enough confidence to leave.  If your gut tells you that you should not be there, odds are you shouldn’t be there.
  4. Honor your obligations.  You were placed on this earth to not only accomplish great things but also to bless others with your gifts.  Be dedicated and committed to creating a positive legacy.
  5. Make goals.  Your life will be more meaningful if you have a purpose.  Your purpose will be clear and accomplishable if you set goals along the journey.
  6. Develop a passion for greatness.  The best decision makers not only know what they want, but they want it more and are willing to work for it.
  7. Recognize that mental toughness goes hand in hand with confidence.  Confidence is a choice – Being mentally tough allows you to persevere and make good choices despite distractions, pressure from others, or self-doubt.
  8. Realize that fear and failure are both realities of life.  Acknowledging your fears allows you to use faith to overcome them.  Failure does not define you – It is how you choose to deal with it that does.  Use it to fuel you on your journey rather than letting it stand between you and your goals.
  9. Understand that you are not expected to be perfect.  Success is a journey, not a destination.  Look for mentors to help you navigate the challenges that create unplanned detours.
  10. Never forget that you are loved.  Look to your heart and always remember that God travels along with you on the journey.
As for my favorite farmer, it looks like he is going to make the good choice of sticking around so that he can continue to thrive amidst the harem of women that inhabit his home!

As for my favorite farmer, it looks like he is going to make the good choice of sticking around so that he can continue to thrive amidst the harem of women that inhabit his home!

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Fifty Nifty Questions about Me…

Naomi @ fromthecornerofthecirclel.blogspot.com  tagged me to complete the blog challenge of answering fifty personal questions.  I met Naomi and her friend Terryn @ faithfamilyandbeef.com through a mutual friend and mentor, Robin Coulter Lapaseotes.  Robin and I were Kindred Spirits and I am very thankful to have gotten to know Naomi and Terryn as we work together to carry on Robin’s legacy.BCItshirt.jpg

The psychologist in me enjoyed thinking about and working to answer the questions.  I send many thanks to Naomi for including me in the blogging thread:)

1. Are you a morning or a night person? Morning — reading bunks every morning at 6:00am makes you a morning person!

2. Do you prefer sweet or salty foods? As a child I preferred sweet foods, but as an adult I have decided to like them both…

3. Ninjas or Pirates? Ninjas

4. Ninjas or Pirates, discuss….I was a green belt in Kung Fu during my high school years.

5. Autobots or Decepticons? I have no idea what they are so am unable to answer the question…

6. What was your favorite childhood television program? My mom had a habit of kicking my brother and I outside to play so we watched very little television. The weather in Florida is conducive to being outside year round:)

7. Are you a collector of anything? Animals — we live just north of town and tend to accumulate abandoned animals and are too soft-hearted to turn them away.

8. If you could be any animal, what would you be? One that was able to take up residence at the Feed Yard Foodie house — they tend to have a good life!

9. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?  If I had a superpower it would be the ability to make kids believe — in themselves and their ability to pursue greatness — imagine how awesome our country would be if all of our young people aspired to achieve excellence!

10. What is usually your first thought when you wake up? The first thing I do in the morning when I wake up is remind myself what day it is — since every day begins by reading bunks at the feed yard, I tend to forget which day of the week it is:)

11. What do you usually think about right before falling asleep? I take a moment to count my blessings and be thankful for the wonderful life that my favorite farmer and I work together to build.

12. What’s your favorite color? Green

13. What’s your favorite animal? I love all animals, but I prefer cattle, horses, dogs, and cats.

14. Do you believe in extraterrestrials or life on other planets?  No

15. Do you believe in ghosts? As a “cradle Episcopalian”, I believe in the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — I try to take God with me every day and believe in the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.

16. Ever been addicted to a video/computer game? No, I do not play either.  When I have a little bit of spare time, I either write blog posts or I read books.

17. If you were given 1 million dollars, what would you spend it on? College tuition for my girls — anything left over I would likely donate to local youth sports programs as my passion is developing the next generation of athletes.

18. Have any bad habits? I drink a Pepsi every afternoon.

19. Which bad habits, if any, drive you crazy? People who are so attached to their electronic devices that they do not put them away during conversations, meals, or meetings.

20. List 3 of your best personality traits.  Tenacity, work ethic, altruism

21. List 3 of your worst personality traits. I set high standards and get frustrated with people who don’t share them, I hold grudges, and while I have a vast amount of patience with animals, I do not have enough with people.

22. Have any celebrity crushes? No, I never have.  I must be too much of a realist.

23. List 1 thing that you wish you could change about yourself. I would forgive more easily and not hold grudges against the people that hurt me.

24. Any tattoos or piercings? I used to have my ears pierced but let the holes close.  My girls think that I should have them re-pierced, but I never take the time to do it.

25. What’s the first thing you notice in the opposite sex? How quickly they smile — my favorite farmer had me from the first grin:)

26. What’s your dream date? A sunset walk on the beach, but I tend to settle for checking fields with Matt or cheering on our girls at their various sporting events.

27. What personality traits do you look for in a partner? Loyalty.  My favorite farmer has been my source of strength for more than half my life.  From my own difficult health challenges a decade ago to the pressure of running a farm, Matt has always been my greatest champion.  His love never waivers, and he devotes his life to “his girls”.

28. What personality traits do you dislike in other people? Selfishness.

29. Do you see yourself getting married in the next 5 years? My favorite farmer and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this June, and we are looking forward to 50 more.  My grandparents shared over 70 years of love and devotion — Matt and I have always tried to emulate them in our relationship.

30. Are you mostly a clean or a messy person? I do not like clutter, but I prefer being outside so my house is rarely truly clean.

31. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Nebraska — It’s home to “The Good Life”:)

32. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Scotland and Ireland

33. List 5 goals on your life’s to-do list:

  • Continuous improvement – getting better each and every day
  • Be a loving and supportive wife and mother
  • Inspire kids to look for greatness in their lives
  • Make a meaningful and positive difference in cattle welfare throughout the beef production chain
  • Figure out a way to make my feed yard be financially solvent on a consistent basis to ensure sustainability of the farm.

34. Name 1 regret you have: I regret that I got sick when my youngest daughter was born — it was so hard on Matt and I have very limited memories of Karyn’s first years which saddens me.

35. Name 1 thing that you miss about being a kid: Digging my toes in the sand on a warm beach.

36. Name 1 thing that you love about being an adult: I love being a mom and watching my girls find their way on the journey of life.

37. What’s your favorite song of the moment? “It all started with a beer”, by Frankie Ballard.

38. What’s your favorite song of all time? Any Sawyer Brown song…

39.  What’s your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night? In the fall, we watch college football games as a family.  The rest of the year, I enjoy just hanging out with Matt and the girls decomposing after the week.

40. What’s your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon? I coach weekly swim team practices on Sunday afternoons during the “off season” from September to Mid-May.  I love coaching and the kids ensure that I start the new week off with a smile:)

41. Have any hidden talents? I used to be a sailing instructor during my former life as a Florida teenager.

42. You’re about to walk the green mile, what do you have as your last meal? Beef brisket with cheesy potatoes and broccoli.

43. What would be your dream job? Running a cattle feed yard without having to worry about financial solvency.

44. Which would you rather have, 100 million dollars or true love? True love — my favorite farmer is just that AWESOME!

45. If you could have three wishes granted, what would they be?

  • I wish that our country could have a President and a governing Congress that believed that serving America and being true to the historical pillars of our country was more important than achieving personal power and gain.
  • I wish that people would trust the farmer that grows their food.
  • I wish that all young Americas would grow up valuing integrity, hard work, and empathy.

46. Ever wish that you were born the opposite sex?  No.

47. Name 1 thing that not many people know about you: I was mugged at gun-point at the age of 18, and 23 years later I still cannot walk around a city at night without being afraid.

48. If you HAD to change your name, what would you change it to? I’ve never thought about it — I guess that I would choose one of my girls’ names.

49. Do you believe in the afterlife? Yes.

50. How do you feel about cookies? I love to bake cookies — I find it relaxing.  I am a bit of a “cookie snob” though, and only eat homemade ones.

In keeping with tradition, I now nominate:

Jake and Carolyn at The Cow Docs

Debbie at Kids Cows and Grass

Kim at Seasons Girl

I am calling you all out — think about the questions and answer them on your blog if the spirit moves you.  No pressure, just have fun!

Once again, many thanks to Naomi @ From the Corner of the Circle L:)

 

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Finding Value…

We all search for value in our lives.  I would argue that what we individually value often defines who we are as a person – creating our priorities and the actions that result from them.  There are three core values that make me Anne:

  • Integrity
  • Hard Work
  • Altruism

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I am in-arguably both an idealist and an over-achiever.  Honesty and transparency are high on my list of priorities, and a capacity for hard work seems to be firmly entrenched in my DNA.  When I landed at Dartmouth College as an incoming freshman, I had to take a math test to prove competency due to my less than stellar math SAT scores.  I responded by passing the test, getting an A in college calculus and graduating Cum Laude four years later.  My brain didn’t get any smarter, but determination and dedicated study brought me success.

I grew up believing in working for the greater good.  At age seventy, my mom still spends her days teaching high school English driven by an admirable passion to make a difference in the lives of her students.  While I chose a farm and bovines over a classroom full of teenagers, it is easy to see my mom’s steady influence in my dedication to altruism.  There are likely times when this makes me a less skilled business woman, but I tend to lead with my heart and take faith with me on the journey.

My feed yard crew consists of myself and three employees.  My guys are nothing short of awesome, and it is virtually impossible to find the words to relate how valuable they are to my family and our farm.  The team that we form together ensures that our day to day animal care upholds a standard of excellence.  I know it because I live it – you all can believe it because our Progressive Beef audit scores are always in the “excellent” or highest category possible.  My guys and I find value in doing our best, each and every day, to ensure that we offer appropriate and responsible care to our cattle.  It is easy to do that when you dedicate your life to taking the time to care.

Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session...

Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session…

Ideally, an altruistic person works tirelessly to make the world a better place without ever giving thought to being rewarded for those actions.  Since my guys and I are human, I have to admit that sometimes we get tired.  In the midst of a 60 hour week, we wonder if what we have dedicated our lives to really makes a difference.  We watch our cattle thrive and reach their God-given genetic potential, but we rarely receive any positive feedback from outside of our farm for our efforts.  It is hard to push yourself, day in and day out, to strive for excellence when there is no one rewarding your efforts.

The beauty of the BMG-Progressive Beef-Tyson-Braveheart Beef program exists in the system of support and reward.  The community of food production that we create together refuels itself by adding tangible value to the beef that we grow.  After many, many years, my guys and I are finally able to see that someone outside of our farm really does care that we do our jobs well!

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I’ll never forget the first week that we shipped cattle destined to create beef for the Braveheart brand.   There were proud smiles all across the feed yard as my guys experienced a true sense of accomplishment.  For once, our “face” could appear on a product – our story held significance – our efforts created tangible value to someone outside of our farm.

The demand for Braveheart Beef is growing.  A new partnership to create a Certified Angus Beef – Braveheart beef product launched this year combining two great brands to bring each of you a verified and value added beef eating experience.  The product initially launched in New York City and the boxes of beef keep flying off of the shelf as an impressive demand overpowers supply.

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Meanwhile, my guys and I keep doing our part creating value on the farm.  Focusing on integrity, hard work, and being positive contributors to the country that we love.  We are sporting proud smiles with the knowledge that someone outside of our farm thinks that we do is valuable:)

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, CAFO, General

It Takes a Community…

A few years after I moved to rural Nebraska, an elementary school teacher told me “Anne, it takes a community to raise a child”.  I was a new mother at the time trying to figure my way into the vast responsibilities of having a child, and her words resonated in my heart.  Many years later, I still think of her advice as I continue to raise my own daughters as well as serving as a youth athletic coach in our small town.

A great amount of power exists in a community.  The team work and dedication to a common cause provides strength and longevity.  Just as strength comes in numbers, compassion increases exponentially as the group works to provide for its members and the common good.  Although my vocation is responsibly raising beef, the local kids that I coach and mentor serve as a daily reminder of what is truly important in life.  Of all of the things that my community has given to me over the past twenty years, the ability to positively make a difference in the lives of our youth is the one that I truly treasure.

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While it takes a community to raise a child, it also takes a food production community to raise high quality and traceable beef.  From the ranch all of the way to the dinner plate — an organized supply chain needs to inspire all of the contributors to act with integrity and congruence.  What Virginia, Rachel and I do on our farms makes a difference in the lives of our animals.  In order to complete the circle of quality, we need partners at the retail level of food production to maintain and augment that value all of the way to your dinner table.

The best way to do that is to work together to build a brand.  Three years ago my feed yard became a member of the Beef Marketing Group.  I was looking for a group of like-minded feed yards who focused on quality animal care, and were interested in coming together to sell a value added product. Each feed yard in our cooperative participates in the Progressive Beef QSA program and is audited against animal welfare, food safety and sustainability standards.

The Beef Marketing Group now teams up with Tyson Foods and Performance Food Groups to bring the Braveheart Beef product to your restaurant table.

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This is a unique and true partnership that adds value all across the production chain. Cattle care and farmer integrity are assured, and the Path Proven technology verifies that the DNA of the Braveheart Beef comes from one of our Progressive Beef certified animals.

This adds confidence to the food supply chain by:

  • Audited and verified animal care on the farm
  • Meat testing to ensure traceability and product integrity

BMG, Tyson, and Performance Food Groups come together to let you know that “we’ve got your back” relative to beef quality and farmer integrity.  The product is sold in restaurants all across the country, and we are hopeful that demand for it will continue to grow making it even easier to get to your dinner plate in the future!AnneGirlsApril2016.jpg

My girls are blessed to be able to grow up on “Mama’s beef”, now the Braveheart Beef brand makes it easier for you to be also:)

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Making Beef…

Virginia, Rachel and I spend roughly 15 months raising each calf that originates from the Evert Ranch.  During those months, the calf will grow from 70# to 1300# — gaining the first half of those pounds from a combination of mama’s milk and grass at the ranch and the second half of those pounds on a grain and forage casserole at the feed yard.  It amazes me to think that good nutrition, planning and care can be so effective, but each year the Evert calves get better and better.

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We measure performance on the cattle at each level of the production chain.  Virginia is well-known for the “clipboard” that she carries around — making notes on the calves during their time on the ranch.  Each calf receives a visual tag at birth that correlates to its parents so that genetics can be measured.  Things like disposition (how the calf acts around its human caregivers), phenotype, frame scoring, and general health are all combined to determine the total quality of the animal.

When the calf changes address and comes to the feed yard, I tie the visual ranch tag with an EID (electronic identification tag) that allows us to trace performance at the feed yard as well as at the packing plant.  I track three main things: overall health, total pounds gained, and dry matter feed conversion.Evertfeedyard2.jpg

When the calf leaves my farm, it travels about 20 miles to the Tyson packing plant in Lexington, Nebraska having spent its entire lifetime within a 50 mile radius.  At that point, the EID tag allows the transmission of carcass data which provides over-all beef quality scoring for the animal.  This data collection includes carcass weight, meat tenderness score, steak measurements, and total leanness of the animal.  The carcass data is the final piece of our report card as beef producers, giving Virginia, Rachel and me information that we can use in the future to continuously improve quality.

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Because animal welfare, food safety, and sustainability are important to me, I look to my packing plant partner to share both my passion and my dedication to excellence on these topics.  In addition to supplying cattle to Tyson, I have the unique opportunity of serving on their Farm Check Animal Well-Being Advisory committee.  As a member of this board, I work to understand and improve animal welfare throughout the entire production chain.

The latest Tyson effort to ensure good animal welfare on the farm...Tyson plays a critical role making beef.  As the last stop for the animals that Virginia, Rachel and I raise, their cooperation and hard work finishes the circle in the production of responsible beef.

  • Their impressive food safety and animal welfare auditing practices provide a fitting end to the hard work that goes into raising a healthy food animal.
  • Their commitment to transparency allows for the sharing of information both back to the farmer in the form of carcass data, and forward to the beef consumer who wants to understand the company’s commitment to sustainably raised food.

I believe that the future of food production lies in the building of strong partner relationships.  It is a complicated and difficult task to grow safe, healthy, and great tasting beef.  As a team, we are able to put the pieces of the puzzle together in the ever important journey of continuous improvement.

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Our next blog post takes us into the world of retail and food service – the last critical step of bring beef to your plate:)

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