The Heart of “Where Your Beef Comes From”…

Mike and Peggy Coffman live “just north of Halsey, NE on the oil road”.  If you stop within 50 miles of Halsey to ask for directions to the ranch, those are the instructions that you will likely receive.  There is only one paved road that goes north out of Halsey so it is actually pretty hard to get lost as long as you watch for the ranch sign.

Angus cattle and quarter horses are the heart of the Coffman Ranch…

I met Mike and Peggy almost eight years ago.  We were introduced by Al Atkins when Mike was looking for a feed yard that was interested in buying his cattle.  Many of you will remember Al and Sallie Atkins from a little over a year ago when I traced calf #718 from birth to harvest (see the category “Beef Life Cycle-Calf #718 if you missed the series).

I have  a soft place in my heart for Mike and Peggy because not only do they produce outstanding cattle, but I also purchased my beloved quarter horse (Dandy) from Mike in 2005.

I love this big guy…

So, what exactly happens on the day that Mike and Peggy send their cattle down to the feed yard?

Last Thursday, after my quick trip to Denver and before I watched my favorite Cross Country team at our Conference Championships, I spent the morning at Mike and Peggy’s loading their calves.  It takes me just under 2 hours to drive north to the ranch.  Mike started the morning early by gathering the cattle off of grass pastures and trailing them to the corrals.  About the time that I arrived, Mike and his neighbors who came to help that morning were sorting the steers and the heifers.

The cattle are brought down the alleyway one at a time, and the steers are sent through the gate one direction while the heifers are sent the other direction through another gate…

In addition to separating the steers and the heifers from one another, Mike and his cowboy crew also sorted off about 50 “replacement heifers” that will remain on the ranch to become mama cows.  It is important for the ranch to keep good heifers to use in the breeding (reproductive) herd so that they can continue to make outstanding calves year after year.

The horses’ jobs are finished now that the cattle are gathered off of the pastures. They get to take a rest while the cowboys sort the cattle in the corral…

After the cattle are sorted, they are counted and brand inspected by an employee of the Nebraska Brand Committee to ensure that all of the cattle are eligible for shipment.  Then the trucks are weighed at a local scale about 5 miles north of the ranch both before and after the cattle are loaded to determine the weight of the animals.

Here, Mike adjusts the balance scale to weigh the trucks…

After the truck is weighed, he travels back to the ranch to load the cattle. Then he returns to the scale again to be weighed a second time…

It is important to weigh the cattle because I purchase part of them from Mike and Peggy as they move from the ranch into the feed yard.  Mike and Peggy also retain ownership on some of the cattle so that we become financial partners in addition to being joint caregivers for the cattle.

The calves quickly find the prairie (grass) hay, wet distillers grains and corn stalks that are in the feed bunk…

While Mike and I settle up the bill and our plan for the cattle, Peggy serves us a great tasting hamburger casserole.  At the same time, the trucks and the cattle travel to the feed yard where they are placed in their new home pen with a feed bunk containing a tasty casserole for cattle.

The casserole and dinner plate look different than what I have at my house, but the meal is still a healthy and appropriate blend of nutritious food…

Mike and Peggy’s cattle easily transition into a new life at the feed yard.  They are a joy to care for and I am very thankful for the good care that Mike and Peggy provide them with on the home ranch.  That care sets the calves up for success and makes my job at the feed yard much easier.  Come the spring, the calves will make high quality beef that I am proud to feed to all of you!

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