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