When I moved back to Nebraska in June of 1997 with my husband Matt, my life was filled with both excitement and challenge. Excitement looking toward the life that Matt and I would build together, and challenge as I transitioned from the life of an “Ivy League City Girl” to the life of “Rural Cattle Farmer”.
My lack of practical knowledge about how to care for cattle combined by the challenge that I faced as a twenty two year old woman working in a “predominantly male world” ensured that my days were busy and complex. As I learned how to care for cattle and perform the necessary tasks at the feed yard, my skills and confidence grew. I earned the respect of my crew by working hard and proving that they could count on me.
Earning the respect of other “cattlemen” outside of my crew was a slower process. I was certainly “an outsider”, and my views of cattle care and raising beef were many times viewed as “outside the box”. I used to laugh to Matt that the best thing about meetings with other cattlemen was the fact that “there was not a line at the ladies room”! Gaining respect was one of the greatest challenges that I faced as a young cattlewoman, and it took several years of working hard and “looking in” before I was accepted.
During this time (early 2000’s), I served on the Board of Directors of the Nebraska Cattlemen with Al Atkins. I was beginning to implement my plan to feed Nebraska-born and Beef Quality Assurance certified cattle for a newly developing market called “Age and Source Verified Beef”. My dream was to trace cattle from birth to harvest and “add value” and quality all of the way through the calf life cycle. Al was one of the first to “take a leap of faith” as I developed my vision and set out to find ranchers who wanted to work with me. To this day, I still do not know if Al really believed that I could make it work that first year, or if he saw his own daughters “in me” and felt compelled to give it a try. Either way, I am thankful for his open mindedness.
Over the past decade, Al and I have worked together on both cattle genetics and management practices to add quality and efficiency to our cattle. Raising cattle and growing “beef” is like putting together the pieces of a big jig saw puzzle. The key is finding the best way to put all of the pieces together– from genetics, to nutrition, to vaccination, to cattle handling, to the properly timed use of growth enhancements—all of these require careful planning and implementation in order to raise the safest, most efficient, and highest quality beef. Let’s begin the process of “putting the puzzle together” by learning about Calf #718…
Calf #718 was born on March 17, 2010 as a bull calf (male calf). His mother was a second calf heifer which means that she was approximately 3 years old, and this was her second calf. His father was a ¾ Simmental ¼ Angus bull (Simmental and Angus are two genetic breeds for cattle). #718 was black in color and weighed 86# at birth. His mother was a predominantly Angus cow. The combination of these two breeds gives Calf #718 “hybrid vigor” and allows him to be an efficient calf (highly muscled with good feed conversion) while still produce well marbled beef with great flavor and tenderness. Calf #718 was given an ear tag shortly after birth which tied him to both his mother and father, and also listed his birthdate. This “identity” allows us to trace the performance of the calf from birth to harvest and allows you to know where your beef comes from!