Meanwhile On the Farm…

It has been a bit surreal these past few weeks blogging about Ecuador and the Galapagos while working on the farm in Nebraska.  The view from the prairie is a bit different!

So, you might ask “What is January like on the Feed Yard Foodie farm?”.

The tree grove on the west side of the feed yard...

The tree grove on the west side of the feed yard…

Well, it’s cold!  The days seem short, the nights seem long, and any type of moisture (usually snow) just adds to the regular work load.  The truth is that the typical feed yard day stays the same 12 months out of the year.  So, the January work load is not any different  — It’s just darker and colder working outside doing daily chores 🙂


My Sunday morning helpers sporting the new battery operated heated gloves that Megan gave me for Christmas: Girl power on the farm 🙂

Over the past few weeks, my crew and I have been busy feeding, performing our daily cattle health check, shipping cattle to Tyson, and getting new animals into the feed yard.  This time of year, the new animals come from ranches close by that wean their calves at home and “background” feed them for approximately 60 days before shipping them to us.

Background feeding is a term often used in the cattle world.  In the plains states, we must feed our animals during the winter months as Mother Nature does not provide much in the way of plant growth.  Many of my animals are weaned on the home ranch and placed into large pens (or pastures with feed bunks) on the ranch where the animals are fed a casserole of feed that is a blend of forage and corn products.  This allows for the animals to continue to grow on the home ranch and make a smooth transition to the feed yard in January and February.

Most ranchers with spring calving cows (cows that give birth February – April) wean their calves in October in order to give the mama cow the ability to focus on the calf in her belly during the last 5-6 months of gestation.  The mama cows are grazed for the winter on corn stalks with a supplemental feed of alfalfa or wet distillers grains, and the calves are fed separately from their mamas.

Over the past few weeks, more than 500 new animals now call our farm home having traveled less than 30 miles from the ranch where they were born and backgrounded.  Backgrounded calves have an seamless transition coming into the feed yard as the casserole fed on the home ranch is very similar to the receiving rations (casseroles) that we use at the feed yard.


I have partnered with these ranchers for many years as we work together to raise cattle, and am very proud of the teamwork that goes into the healthy and delicious beef that we grow together.

Newly arrived cattle trailing from the corral to the home pen for the first time...

Newly arrived cattle trailing from the receiving corral to the home pen for the first time…

In the home pen, fresh feed and water await along with ample space to rest and play...

In the home pen, fresh feed and water await along with ample space to rest and play…

Not surprisingly, the new cattle chose to head directly to the feed bunk where they enjoy prairie hay grass and a "casserole" blend of nutritious feed...

Not surprisingly, the new cattle choose to head directly to the feed bunk where they enjoy prairie hay grass and a “casserole” blend of nutritious feed that is very similar to what they have been eating on the ranch before traveling to the feed yard…

These steers (pictured above) are almost a year old and weigh 860#. They will spend the next four months on my farm where they will gain an average of 4 pounds per day.  When they leave my farm and make the 20 mile trip to Tyson Fresh Meats, they will weigh close to 1400#.

That’s a lot of great tasting beef!

wintersunset.jpgOne of the things that I love most about our farm is it’s combination of quiet beauty and practical usefulness.


Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General

7 responses to “Meanwhile On the Farm…

  1. Ahh, yes, brings back memories of my short stay at Adams in BB. There’s a number that I always found interesting, that I’m sure you track, and your readers might find it interesting too. How many pounds of “casserole” does it take to make 4 pounds of weight gain — ideally speaking?

    • (PS That was from Jim, not Carol!)

      • Hi Jim,

        A normal feed conversion rate for us at the feed yard for this size of animal is about 6# of dry matter feed for every pound of gain. So, a steer that gains 4# per day consumes on the average about 24# of dry matter feed.

        To me, feed conversion is my ultimate report card because it determines the environmental footprint of the farm. It answers the question “how many feed resources does it take to make beef?” Low stress handling has gone a long way to helping us improve our feed conversion as calm and comfortable animals are more efficient converters of feed. I actually hope that these steers pictured above convert for under 6# but the weather will play a role in that as well and (as you know) the weather is not predictable!

        I hope that you all are doing well! Good question 🙂

  2. K & M

    Good post. Here is a blog post from last week done by a guy who runs a backgrounding operation, talking about the cold weather and what he does.

  3. We got 3 feet of snow in our most recent snow storm and drifts up to 4-5 ft. So I feel your pain in a smaller scale with our animals 😉 Its exhausting to make your paths and stuff to get out to them and we do a lot of it with our bodies and shovels. The dogs are enjoying their trails though and our kitten is loving watching the birds from inside at feeders or go from tree to tree. It’s been an adventure 🙂 Hope all is well with you all… stay warm and I love the girls new gloves I need me a pair of those 🙂

    • Oh my, Kim — 3′ of snow! That is a real bummer and I can imagine how difficult chores have been for you all. I guess that you have to look on the bright side and take in the beauty of the snowy countryside, but wow — that is a tough one to get through.

      Yes, you definitely need to get a pair of the gloves. I really like them. The only thing is that I have to remember to charge the battery packs every few days. I wish that the battery would hold a charge for longer than that. I also wish that they came in women’s sizes as they are pretty big and bulky on my smaller hands. BUT, they do a nice job of keeping my hands warm when I am moving cattle around 🙂

      I imagine that your chickens are not happy, as ours really do not like the snow at all. Ours will choose to stay in the coop instead of venturing out into the white stuff…

      Take care and stay warm!

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