The First of the Lasts…

Whenever life begins to transition toward a new path, there exists a series of “lasts”.  Last week, I experienced the first of the lasts in the journey of shutting down the feed yard.  Friday morning, I traveled south of Sumner, Nebraska to load up a group of yearlings at the Karlberg Ranch.

With the approach of fall, grass supplies diminish and feed yards in Nebraska begin the fall run of cattle as animals are gathered off of pastures and shipped to farms like mine.

A feed yard is pretty much like a hotel for cattle — A place where the animals go when seasonal limitations of grass resources require shipping off of the home ranch.  The casserole of forage and grain that they receive on my farm enables them to continue to grow despite the fact that Mother Nature refuses to provide for about 7 months.

David and two of his three children -- I got to watch these folks "grow up" while working with their dad.

David and two of his three children — I got to watch these kids “grow up” while working with their dad.

David Karlberg and I have partnered raising beef for fifteen years.  David cares for his cattle until they are 12-16 months old before sending them to my feed yard.  The animals then make the short 30 mile trip from the ranch to my farm where they spend another four months preparing to make beef.  Birth to harvest, the cattle spend their entire lives in Dawson County Nebraska.

Working with folks like David provides an integral part of my business model of collaboration.  Tracing cattle performance, improving care over the animal’s lifetime, limiting animal stress, and searching for ways to improve quality in the end product: beef.

David and I became smarter together than we could have ever been alone. 

Over the past 15 years, we have cared for and improved the lives of close to 6000 animals — producing more than 5 million pounds of beef and bovine products.  Each one of you has benefited by our dedication and collaboration.

Friday morning provided the last time that I will bring David’s cattle (or any other new cattle) onto my farm.  As we begin to exit the cattle feeding business, we will now stop bringing new cattle into the “hotel”.  The 1835 animals already on my farm will remain with me until their time of shipment, but we will no longer “refill” the home pens with new animals after these cattle travel to Tyson.

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today -- more to come on "Benny" in the next post...

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today — more to come on “Benny” in the next post…

It was an emotional morning for me.  Although I truly believe that it is time for a new journey, the reality of stepping away from what I have worked so hard to build weighs on me.  There is regret and disappointment that I could not make my business model work as my management is a reflection of the values that make me Anne. I am thankful for David and my other ranchers who put time and energy into our partnerships – committing to search for ways to be better tomorrow than we are today.

I found my smile as I ended the day with a group of graduate students from the University of Nebraska @ Lincoln. The students visited the farm as part of the UNL Feed Yard Internship program which strives to prepare college graduates to be good cattle caregivers and businessmen/women. We had great discussions and I was very pleased that the professors and students felt that I had something meaningful to share.  I have faith that some of them will work to continue the legacy that I have tried to foster🙂

17 Comments

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

17 responses to “The First of the Lasts…

  1. sharon osborn

    I feel your pain as we prepare to exit the dairy business I was born into.

    • There are always “detours” in this journey we call life. I will be thinking of you, Sharon, and hope that you will find a new “calling” to replace the one that you are losing.

      I appreciate you reading and leaving me a note. There is comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone. Take care and good luck to you.

      Best,
      Anne

  2. Kevin Lindly

    I have already experienced what you are now experiencing. In the early 80’s the Production Credit Association (now defunct) decided that unless Dad put the farm/pasture land into hock they would not extend him any additional operating capital. Dad did not want to risk that and tried to change banks but they all wanted collateral worth 5 or 6 times what his operating capital would cost. So after 25 years we got out of farming, sold the equipment, leased the land out and went to work elsewhere. I love the land and we still own every bit of it, so maybe they did us a favor.

    Best of luck in your future endeavors.

    • della

      …a familiar story to me…PCA was all about “sure, we’ll loan you whatever you need….” until times got tough. They tried to take our farm too in the 80’s…didn’t get it and I’m still here.😎

      • Kevin Lindly

        The thing that always amazed me, was that a couple of the directors of the PCA, were the ones that were buying up all the foreclosed on properties. Always thought that was a conflict of interest there. But even though Dad passed this last March, we still have the land. Dad always said “they can make more money, but there will never be any more land made”.

      • Glad that you are still farming, Della! I appreciate you adding to the discussion🙂

        Anne

    • I appreciate your note, Kevin. Yes — the land “lives on” and is likely our most precious asset. Like you, we are fortunate to own the land that we love and call a farm. We are also blessed that we will continue to be able to farm — just with a different blend of crops and without the cattle feed yard. I am certainly taking this adjustment harder than my favorite farmer, as the feed yard has been my “baby” over the years, but I will find my way. We will continue in agriculture — just in an altered manner.

      Thank you for reading and for taking the time to leave me a note. I really appreciate it. I am glad that your family has persevered and still has the land as a legacy. Best of luck to you as well.

      Anne

  3. Julie Little

    I don’t know your circumstances for leaving the cattle feeding business, but please keep writing and let us continue to follow your journey. We also raise cattle and we need to stick together.

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks for the note. Hopefully you have gone back and found the original post about my decision to exit the cattle feeding industry. You can read it here: https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/return-on-investment/ That original post is followed up by a couple more that continue to shed light and all are chronicled under the heading “Chronicles of a retiring feed yard boss lady” and can be accessed by clicking on that topic on the home page.

      The process of closing the feed yard will be a long one that spans at least 6 months. I am planning to continue to “blog through it”. I think that it is an important story to tell, and on a personal level, it really helps me deal with the change to be able to write about it.

      Thank you for reading — Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note.
      Best,
      Anne

  4. Ginger B Hartzog

    Since I only started reading your blog a short while ago, I am confused as to why you are getting out of the business. I will probably go back and read some historical blogs to see if they hold any answers for me. I say this because, my husband and I have a cattle operation of about 400 mama cows. I am retired and fortunately, we don’t need income from the cattle operation to maintain our home and lifestyle. I find myself each month having to transfer thousands of dollars into the cattle operation to meet our obligations. What I can’t get hold of, is it ever going to be able to stand on its own. We have invested a lot of money into facilities, land, etc—-my husband says that is why we don’t have any money to pay the bills—I am just getting scared that after a while, I won’t be able to “loan” the operation anymore money and be able to sustain the lifestyle me and my children are accustomed to. (grown children from a previous marriage) Anyway, just needed to vent I guess. Very confused about my own situation.

    • Rex Peterson

      One of the earliest conversations my wife had with an ag economist has really stuck with me. According to SPA data, a quarter of the beef operations make money almost all the time. A quarter are never profitable, ever. The other half are vulnerable to the market, and we live in very interesting times. We are working hard to break even this year, too.

    • Hello Ginger,

      Thank you for reading and leaving me a note. Hopefully you have looked back and found the other blog posts under the “Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady” as they may be able to offer some insight. I am going to continue to blog about our farm and my decision to close the feed yard. More information will be shared as I move through the process.

      The cattle business is a risky one — A business that requires a lot of capitol and comes with very volatile markets. The cycle can be both generous and unforgiving — depending on the type of your operation and what part of the cycle the industry is in. I very much made a “business decision” when I decided to begin exiting the cattle feeding business. The return on investment was not great enough to rationalize the amount of capitol and hard work that went into sustaining it. I have very mixed emotions relative to closing down that side of our farm as it has played a huge role in my life for the past 20 years; but, at the end of the day, it needs to be consistently profitable to rationalize sustaining it.

      Best of luck to you and your family.
      Anne

  5. John Butler

    Hang in there…..Change is not easy….but with it a bunch of new doors will open!

    JB

  6. Anne… thinking of you so often and praying God gives you comfort though this transition. I respect your decision even though it is so hard. There are thing in my own life where I am “letting a dream die” so I can move on as well. As hard as it is sometimes I keep praying God will lead me in the direction he has for me as his paths usually lead to greater things and it is always best to be in his will… I am proud of you for your bravery and am looking forward to seeing what God has for you in the future.🙂
    -Kim

    • Thank you, Kim. I love your kind and meaningful words. Megan told me the other day that “you are never too old to dream a new dream”. It is scary to dream a new dream, and it is hard to let something go that you feel so deeply about — but I know that “life is a series of callings” and I have faith that God will lead me in the right direction.

      Making a “change of dreams” is an interesting journey. There are good days when you are certain that you are doing the right things, there are bad days when you doubt your judgement, there are happy days when you remember to “pack your faith” and look to the future with optimism, and there are sad days when you look backwards trying to figure out what you did wrong and get “stuck in the past”. I’m doing my best to maximize the number of good and happy days and not get stuck in the bad and sad days.

      Thank you for the thoughts and prayers — sending the same back East to you.
      🙂
      Anne

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