Return on Investment…

annemattbale1.jpgLess than a week after graduating from Dartmouth College, I put on my jeans and went to work at the cattle feed yard.  I knew almost nothing about taking care of cattle, but I packed my integrity and my work ethic in order to learn the job.  Looking back over the past two decades, I would like to think that I have transitioned into a savvy cattle caregiver — learning from my animals and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

Last Sunday morning, as I watched the sun rise while cleaning feed bunks with a scoop shovel, I thought about that young girl and how she evolved into the woman that I am today.  I pondered how things change, and I acknowledged that – despite my romantic nature – there are times when reality demands to be considered.

I went to work at the feed yard to continue the family legacy in cattle feeding.  There was a need and I worked hard to fill it.  It was to be my forever job as Matt and I worked together to grow what his dad and granddad started.  My favorite farmer has done an exceptional job of ensuring that the crop farm prospered — evolving the farm to meet the changing markets and using his entrepreneurial talents to remain relevant in the world of agriculture.

I have struggled to do the same with the feed yard.  While I truly believe in my business model and what I have worked to build, the daily struggle to remain viable in the ever-changing and often volatile markets has left me drained.  Today when I look in the mirror, I fail to find the optimistic spark that plays a large role in making me Anne.  My cup is closer to empty than full, and I am not able to effectively refill it.

My balance sheet tells me that I am not garnering a decent monetary return on investment, and my heart tells me that I need to rediscover my passion by taking an altered professional route.  Recently, I made the decision to begin the process of closing down the feed yard.  While I will remain a “feed yard boss lady” until Mid-February, I do not intend to refill the pens as they empty this fall and winter.

Matt and I plan to return the feed yard pen area to farm ground, and use the shop and feedmill buildings to further enhance our crop farming operation.  My two long time employees will transfer over to the farming business continuing to work for our family.  This has been a long and difficult decision to make, but I am confident that it is the correct one.  I truly believe that fear of change should not dictate the future — rather looking for new ideas to improve your legacy should drive the long term decision making process.

Easterfamily2.jpgThis transition will be a long one — spanning many months to possibly a year — as I am determined to close my feed yard with the same integrity that has marked my twenty years of management.  Our dedication to animal welfare, environmental responsibility, and quality beef production will continue to drive the daily care on our farm.  I plan to share our transition story with each of you — continuing to blog and cataloging our shifting lives on the farm.

There are still many details to be worked out and much work to be done; but my commitment to transparency necessitates me sharing the news.  I hope that each one of you will stand by me as I travel down this new fork in the road.  Your support is important to me.




Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Family, Farming, General

32 responses to “Return on Investment…

  1. We used to raise hogs until about ten years ago. 35 year old buildings under constant repair, and a changing market meant build new or get out. I was working off the farm at the time so I wasn’t involved then. But that’s okay because plants were always my passion not pigs. I’m sure you will all do great going forward! We are a leaner, meaner crop farm now than we ever were before!

    • Thanks for the note, Brian. I appreciate your support and I know that you can empathize with our situation. Change is a reality of life and it’s our job as farmers to figure out how to keep moving forward in the long run as we grow food.


  2. Gerald Stokka

    i trust you will continue your feedlot, stewardship, animal handling messaging, Your voice is important to us

    • Thank you, Doc. I am pleased to hear that you think that I still have gifts to share. I am pondering my personal future in the beef industry right now. I need time to figure things out. There is much work still to be done at my feed yard as I will have animals under my care for another six months.

      I appreciate your note.

  3. What a big change for you and hearing you talk about it… I can tell you are ready for the change even if at times it is a bit frightening. Congratulations on considering things fully and choosing a new course! You’ve got this!

    • Thank you, Janice. I really appreciate you taking the time to leave me a note! It will be a slow transition and I am sure that my path will lead me somewhere meaningful.

      Thank you for the kind words and support.

  4. Kathy Bottrell

    Anne, how heartbreaking, terrifying, and exciting all rolled into one. I know that you will continue to use your many talents to make this world a better place. Your words sounded familiar to me, back in the early 80’s my husband took over the family farm, and after a few years checked the balance sheet yet again and said “the return on my investment just wasn’t there”. Wishing you much success in your future endeavors.

    • Thank you, Kathy — It is always good to hear from you. It will be different with no cattle feed yard as a part of the farm, but we will persevere and find a “new normal”. The transition will be slow as I will still have cattle to care for until February 🙂

      I hope that you will continue to read the blog.

      • Kathy Bottrell

        Of course I will continue to read the blog. At this point I feel as if, in some small way, I know your family.

  5. brandibuzzard

    Although you won’t be in the feedyard sector anymore, it’s encouraging to know you will still be a leader in animal welfare and sustainability, forging a path for the beef community. Thanks for all you have, and will continue to do, for the beef industry.

    • Thank you for everything — Brandi. I so appreciate your continued support. The journey is always an interesting one, and it will be interesting to see where it takes me.


  6. Marcos Gimenez Zapiola

    Thank you very much for your honesty. We can learn a lot from people like you. I will miss your posts on the feedyard, but hope you’ll keep writing on other valuable topics of country life. Thanks again.

    • Thank you, Marcos. I appreciate your thoughts and support. You will get another good six months of feed yard posts before the path deviates very much. I plan to keep blogging and I appreciate you taking the time to read.


  7. Peg Montgomery

    Anne: You have accomplished so much and we are definitely proud of you. Sadly changing times have altered all our plans.

    • Thank you, Peg! I really appreciate your note and kind words. You all have always been great supporters of Matt and I, and demonstrate why living in a small town is so wonderful. Thank you for being You 🙂


  8. Rex Peterson

    You have done such much for cattlemen. Unfortunately, like many others, feeding America at you expense has caused Will Feed to join the 75% of feedyards that have closed in the past decade. In the next decade you and Matt will also become empty nesters. I look forward to seeing who you become.

  9. dell

    You will do great! Bon chance!

  10. Anne,
    I am surprised and sad that times have changed so much that you can no longer get fulfillment out of a job you are so good at. But times, regulation, and people have changed, people are so judgmental and feed off of lies… so much that it is hard to keep doing the right thing and keep your personal cup full… so as sad as it is that this part of your professional life is close to over, I am glad you are taking care of yourself and your family. I have so enjoyed getting to know you though our blogs, comments, and e-mails. I am so glad you will keep posting and educating about farming and what other topics you decide to. Your voice is important to a lot of people out there as it is an honest voice of truth. Thanks you for all you have done for the cattle industry. As this part of your professional life comes to a close know you have made a difference. I wish you equal success in what ever you choose to do next and hopefully it will help you keep your own cup full as well. Best to the girls as they are staring a new school year 🙂

    • Thank you, Kim — both for the words and for the support that you have offered to me over the years. I have never met you, but you have influenced me along the journey in such a positive way. You have unknowingly refilled my cup many times. Thank you 🙂

      Yes, the girls are back in school. They started about 10 days ago. Two in high school and one in middle school — they grow up fast. I took on a volunteer job helping to coach the high school and junior high Cross Country teams this fall and I am really excited about it.

      I hope that all is well for you back East 🙂

  11. Doug

    Anne, I had heard rumors of this but did not believe it until a friend texted me a link to this post. From what I’ve been able to get a read on your father in law, and I’m purely guessing here, I imagine you had to work twice as hard to prove yourself worthy in his eyes. Having accomplished that is enough to command respect from anybody. I can not imagine what it must feel like to make this decision.

    • Thank you for the note, Doug. This was a very difficult decision to make — and one that I pondered for a long time before deciding that it was necessary. My father in law has always been one of my biggest fans. We are both picky about getting things done correctly, so we have worked well together over the years. He has been a tremendous mentor for me, and I feel truly blessed that he is in my life.

      I appreciate the support.

  12. Anne,
    I wish you, your family, and employees the best during this transition. Over the years I have very much enjoyed your expertise, knowledge, and commitment to the industry. I also understand that every once in awhile we need to hit the reset button on ourselves. Several years ago my parents made the decision to sell their cattle herd, after generations of the ranch raising cattle. Recently we were talking about it and they said they missed seeing the babies in the spring, but didn’t miss all of the “other” stuff that goes into it too. They are enjoying leasing out the pasture to the gentleman who bought the majority of the herd, so some of “their” cows still come “home” every summer. Thanks again for all of your dedication to the beef industry. It will be fun to see where you go and what you do next.

    • I do have to admit that (like your parents) I have a list of “other stuff” that I will not miss once the feed yard is closed. As much as I love caring for cattle, there are aspects of the farm that are just plain “chores” and do not bring a whole lot of joy — unloading newly arrived cattle in the middle of the night would top that list to be followed by some of the business aspects of the job that I seem to not be well-suited for.

      As you know, change can be hard, but learning to face the future with a degree of optimism and joy is a necessary life skill. We all end up where we belong — sometimes we just have to take a moment to grow into our new skin 🙂

      I appreciate all that you have done for the industry as well. I am glad to hear that your new home is treating you well.


  13. Bart Beattie

    We wish you and your family all the best on this next phase in your lives. We have grown to cherish the relationship that has developed over the last 20 years and will sorely miss shipping our cattle off to Willfeed. We always knew with out a doubt that when our cattle left the ranch they were in “great hands” and the extraordinary care that they received was truly the best. Thanks for providing input back to us each year and helping us become better! Bart & Shana Beattie and the crew at FL Beattie, Inc

    • Bart,

      You and Shana have always been great supporters and friends. I truly enjoyed doing business with you and greatly appreciate the respect that you always offered to me as a “beef partner”. I will miss feeding your cattle and may have to stop by sometime to just visit.

      You all have much to be proud of and I look forward to watch your kids continue to grow up to be awesome young adults 🙂


  14. Nevil Speer

    You are an important leader for the beef industry – and animal agriculture in general. I’m hopeful that you will remain fully engaged. We need more voices like yours – reason, objectivity, honesty, transparency. Thank you for all you do!

    • Thank you, Doc. I appreciate your kind words. It has been an interesting journey and I am sure that the next 20 years will bring new adventures. I have always hoped to “make a difference” and that goal has not changed. It was simply time to redefine the dream. We’ll see where I end up.

      Thank you,

  15. bruce bass

    what a tough decision to have to make.. i am sure you have thought it through completely… and i am sure you made the right one…if you ever have any doubts sure to talk to me.. don’t really know who you recognize the name.. would be willing to run through it with you and offer any advice i may come up with..

  16. Anne, I want to thank you. Your commitment to animals and selfless sharing have been a treasure for me to share with the nutrition professionals in the northeast. Good luck with the transition. No doubt your commitment will take you over the bump back home to where Anne’s passion is.

    • Thank you, Cindy! I loved getting your note. Many thanks to you for all your hard work in New York. We are lucky to have you! Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.


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