The vast majority of cattle have more than one address during their lifetime. This occurs because of the long life cycle of a bovine as well as the diverse resources needed to grow beef. Most of my cattle spend the first 8-15 months on the home ranch before traveling to my feed yard, and then ultimately a few months later to the Tyson Foods packing plant in Lexington, NE.
About a dozen years ago, my father in law told me to design my own niche business model and start purchasing cattle that would enable it to be successful. The model that I designed is based on tracing cattle from birth to harvest — focusing on building collaborative relationships all along the calf life cycle in order to work toward continuous improvement.
I soon discovered that building relationships with ranchers was much easier if I also acted as the cattle buyer, the person that orchestrated the deal between the rancher and the feed yard. I perform this role in more than 85% of the transitions of cattle off of the ranch of origin into my feed yard. I love the time that I spend interacting with ranchers — getting to know their families as well as their cattle herds — working each year to share information that will improve cattle performance, beef quality, and animal welfare.
I left home Wednesday morning at 5:15am to head north to Donita and Larry Denke’s That A Way ranch. I met Donita and Larry through their son, Tony, who was a member of our Cozad community for a number of years. Our children were friends, and Matt and I helped coach Tony’s kids on the youth track team. Larry and Donita have a beautiful Red Angus cow herd, and their steers that I purchase are phenomenal beef producing animals.
The Denke’s hard work and attention to detail makes them a pleasure to work with. My favorite farmer teases me that Larry is just as particular as I am, and that we make quite a pair. Larry is Beef Quality Assurance certified and works carefully with his vet to ensure that calf vaccinations and health are excellent. The Denke’s are also outstanding herdsmen, practicing the same cattle handling practices that I do at the feed yard.
Connecting the dots in the cattle life cycle and beef farming is incredibly important. When the Denke’s and I remain committed to providing high quality care all across the calf life cycle, each of you benefits by having access to having safe and high quality beef that is humanely raised.
*The Denke’s steers will call my feed yard home until April. Look for periodic posts between now and then following their life as they prepare to make beef.