Category Archives: Animal Welfare

Finding Faith Amidst Challenges…

The Feed Yard Foodie farm was lucky to not be in the path of last week’s winter storm.  We received high winds and cold temperatures, but were blessedly missed by the blizzard.  My heart hurts for all of those folks who lost livestock in the storm.  The devastation is horrific, and this type of event always leaves me asking “Why”.

Today I am thankful for all of the animals that have been entrusted to me, as well as all of the wonderful people who help me to care for them...

Today I am thankful for all of the animals that have been entrusted to me, as well as all of the wonderful people who help me to care for them…

All of us face challenges in our lives.  That is something that we share regardless of our address or occupation.  I believe that the way that we deal with those challenges shows both our personal character and what role faith plays in our hearts.

The prayer below found me on Facebook last night.  I was struck at the beauty of the words, the tenacity of the writer, and the tremendous faith that the prayer demonstrates.  Every where that we look, there are people in need.  I encourage you today to share a bit of kindness—a bit of yourself—with someone who could use a helping hand.

Many thanks to Bobette Schofield for sharing these beautiful words.  They touched my heart and reminded me of the true strength that is found in faith.

The Rancher’s Prayer

The rancher looked toward heaven
And said, “God where have you been?
Do you know we had a blizzard,
With rain and snow and wind?

You know I built this herd of mine____
With blood and sweat and tears.
You know the work and worry,
As I struggled through the years.

Now as I stand and look around,
I see that it is gone.
I don’t know if I have the strength
To rebuild or go on.”

God looked down from heaven____
Saw the pain there in his eyes.
He heard the sadness in his voice.
He knew the sacrifice.

He said, “My son, you’re not alone.
I’m walking there with you____
I’ll give you all the strength you need
For what you have to do.

I’ll give you courage to go on,
Through all this loss and pain.
I’ll give you hope to start once more,
And build your herd again.

I know that this is who you are____
And not just what you do.
And as you’re making your fresh start,
I’ll be right there with you.

Do not think this is a failure,
Or that you’ve done something wrong.
You’re an example of the spirit
That makes South Dakota strong.

So stand up straight and tall my son,
For I have faith in you.
Put yesterday behind you now,
For we’ve got work to do!”

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

A Necessary Education in Gun Competence…

I remember my dad teaching me to shoot a 22 rifle when I was younger than Karyn.  He would set up a target of aluminum cans and my brother and I would compete to see who was the best shot…

A few years later, my brother "guided" me as I shot my first wild hog with a 12 gauge...

A few years later, my brother “guided” me as I shot my first wild hog with a 12 gauge…

My brother has gone on to become an excellent shot, while I likely remain in the competent category.  Regardless, I was raised to respect guns and I want my girls to grow up with the same education and skills.

Learning how to handle and load the gun is an important step...

Learning how to handle and load the gun is an important educational step…

In continuing with the family tradition, Matt and I are working with the girls and teaching them to shoot a 22 rifle.  We set up pizza hut cardboard boxes on the edge of a dirt berm that boarders one of our farms for targets.DSC06834

My favorite cowgirl/chef hit her first bulls-eye last weekend.   To say that she was excited would be an understatement :)

Karyn and Ashley Grace have not yet achieved those bragging rights, but they are slowly gaining confidence.  I have no idea if shooting a gun will be a necessary skill for any of them in their chosen life path, but I do know that the confidence and focus that they gain while learning to properly handle a fire arm will help them no matter where their lives take them.

She's only 8, but will careful instruction she learns to focus and develop good skills...

She’s only 8, but with careful instruction she learns to focus and develop good skills…

On a personal note, I am working on my shooting skills for a very practical reason.  There are times that we have a bovine at the feed yard get very sick or become crippled.  I cannot stand watching an animal suffer, so in those instances we humanely euthanize it.  While it happens only a few times a year, it is important to me that we are both competent and dedicated to using this practice to end suffering.DSC06851

My cowboy has always been in charge of euthanizing at the feed yard, but I am working on honing my shooting skills so that I can also perform this task.  Matt recently purchased me a 9mm pistol for this purpose.  It has been more than twenty years since I fired a pistol, but I am determined to achieve accurateness.  I fired it for the first time this last weekend, and plan to add shooting practice into my routine until I am accurate enough to complete the task with competency.

We do everything that we can to keep our animals healthy like this one pictured above, but sometimes things go wrong...

We do everything that we can to keep our animals healthy like this one pictured above, but sometimes things go wrong…

Ending an animal’s suffering is a gift that I can give.  It is part of my job as a humane caregiver.  While it is always difficult to loose an animal, in some instances it is just plain the right thing to do.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Family, General

My Sunday Morning Helper…

We run what I call a skeleton crew on Sundays at the feed yard.  One of my guys comes to work to feed the cattle both in the morning and the afternoon, and I am there in the morning to read bunks, check cattle, and exercise any pens that need it.

During the fall months we are particularly busy getting in many younger animals that take a higher level of care.  I often roll my Sunday morning helper out of bed and into the car at 5:45 to provide an extra set of hands.  Megan is not only good help, but her eternally sunny disposition never fails to make me smile.

Pausing for a moment at dawn to try yoga on one of the feed yard fences...

In typical Megan fashion, pausing for a moment at dawn to try yoga on one of the feed yard fences…

One of the added bonuses of having a Sunday morning helper is that I know how many memories and life lessons Megan learns while working with me at the yard.  She is developing a great level of animal savvy, and is on her way to being an excellent cattle handler.  Outside of that, she also learns how important it is to follow directions and take responsibility for both her actions and the animals that we care for.

Here Megan is trailing cattle down the alleyway going back to the home pen at the end of an exercising session...

Here Megan is trailing cattle down the alleyway headed back to the home pen at the end of an exercising session…

Megan is Beef Quality Assurance Certified–having attended two different trainings with our consulting veterinarian.  I also try to take the time to explain BQA care practices to her as we work together at the yard.  I know that hands on training is critical to her understanding and retention of the principals of good animal and environmental stewardship.

Our vet, Ryan O'hare, doing our yearly BQA training at the feed yard...

Our vet, Ryan O’Hare, doing our yearly BQA training at the feed yard…

I truly cherish the time that I spend with my girls.  It is a constant reminder that the best thing that I have done with my life are my three confident and compassionate daughters.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Family, General

Striving To Always Get Better…

I pride myself on being a good cattle caregiver.  I recognize that effective care is marked by a myriad of things which ensure quality bovine health.

I believe that no matter how good I am, I can always get better.

Watching talented cattle handlers is a great way to learn...

Watching talented cattle handlers is a great way to learn…

A couple of weeks ago, my crew and I attended a cattle care and handling training conducted by Dr. Kip Lukasiewicz and Dr. Shane Terrell in Elba, Nebraska.  We went on a road trip to meet with crews from other BMG feed yards and to learn from Dr. Kip and Dr. Shane.

DSC06487

Leading from the front of the herd allows for the development of confidence in the animals…

The training was a combination of both classroom time and active cattle handling.  It covered the core concepts of Beef Quality Assurance, as well as basic components of cattle psychology to help us learn to better understand the animals that we care for.

My moment of epiphany during the training came when Dr. Kip said these simple words:

We can never completely remove the stress from our animals’ lives.  Rather what we can do is to teach them how to deal with it, so that they are better able to maintain optimal health as they move through each stage of their lives.

I do not know which Anne this statement spoke the most to:  Anne the cattle caregiver or Anne the parent.  But, I do know that this is powerful advice that will continue to shape my philosophy and increase my effectiveness as a leader and caregiver.

Empowering them to play an active role in solving challenges...

Because I love them, I need to empower them to play an active role in solving challenges…

I think that each one of us, from time to time, is guilty of trying to wrap those that we care for in bubble wrap—attempting to protect them from each and every challenge that comes their way.

Perhaps we would all be better served if we also focused our energy on teaching them how to personally play a role in dealing with challenges…

While my cattle are incredibly different than my children, I am also a leader and a caregiver to them.  This necessitates a personal understanding of a bovine’s unique needs and understandings so that I can help it to learn to deal with stress and stay healthy.

They are vastly different from my children, but I still need to empower them to handle challenges...

My relationship with them is vastly different than what I have with my children, but I still need to empower them to handle challenges…

Like any human, I am challenged by the effective understanding of my cattle as my animals think and perceive the world in a vastly different way.  I must constantly attempt to view the world through their eyes in order to ensure proper care.

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I work to empower myself to always search for improvement…

I enjoy the challenge of working with animals.  They invoke a level of empathy that inspires me to greatness.  I am grateful for those professionals that help me to solve the puzzle of bovine animal understanding.  And, I look toward the future with excitement as I am constantly able to improve my leadership and caregiver skills.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Loosing a Good Partner…

I purchased Studly from a cattle rancher near Dunning, Nebraska about 10 years ago.  He was a 7 year old gelding that had been used as a “stud” horse early in life, and then moonlighted as a general ranch horse.   I always purchase horses from cattlemen that I know because that helps to ensure that I will gain a good equine partner out of the exchange.

I think that I was always more excited to go to work than he was...

I think that I was always more excited to go to work than he was…

We normally have more than one horse at the feed yard, but Studly has always been my favorite.  I have never known a more solid or dependable horse.  I remember a few years ago when I dropped the chain to a pen gate onto the electric hot wire while Doing Gates.  Studly and I both got a pretty big electric jolt, but he still took care of me.

Riding pens...

Riding pens…

Early Saturday morning my cowboy greeted me with a solemn face and the simple message, “Studly is dead”.  I was so shocked that it took several moments for it to sink in.  Just the day before he was out grazing in our pasture and driving our other horse around playing his favorite game of herd boss.  It was difficult to believe that my strong and healthy horse was gone.

Doing gates...

Doing gates…

I exercised calves that morning with tears running down my face.  My horse was lying along the pasture fence line not far from our main alleyway never to get up again—As I walked the cattle past him my composure broke and the facade of the strong boss lady disappeared.

I loved that horse.  His loyalty was unwaivering and, like all good things, he will never be able to be replaced.

I console myself with the knowledge that he had a good life, and that he is now in heaven where the green grass is belly-deep and there are no annoying flies to ruin the pleasure of a beautiful day.  I try to remember that, deep down, Studly was just a tad bit lazy and he is likely happier now than he ever was working with me at the feed yard…

Horse heaven...

Horse heaven…

Today, I take my hat off to a great horse–a good partner–and a beautiful creature.  Thank you, Studly, for all of those good rides.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General

Checking Cattle…

Including myself, I have a crew of four that cares for our cattle at the feed yard.  My foreman is in charge of our feeding program as well as being an awesome resource for just about anything else that goes on at the feed yard.  In addition to him, I have a cowboy who is in charge of daily cattle health and also another hired man (Jared) who fixes equipment, helps to feed cattle, is in charge of home pen cleaning as well as filling in wherever necessary in terms of cattle care and chores.

Riding in the feed truck with my foreman, Doug, is a special time for her.  She learns "hands on" problem solving and focus while also having a great time...

My foreman, Doug, in a feed truck with my youngest daughter Karyn.

Throughout my professional life, one of my greatest blessings has been the dedication of my crew.  Day in and day out they give of themselves in order to offer high quality animal care.  Their loyalty and hard work is nothing short of amazing, and I am immensely proud of all of them.

Two weeks out of every year, my cowboy goes on vacation.  When he is gone, I try to fill in Checking CattleChecking Cattle is another term for Riding Pens,
and it consists of looking individually at every animal in the feed yard to make sure that they have optimal health.  I view this job as absolutely critical as I care for cattle and raise beef.

Studly and I, Checkin Cattle...

Studly and I, Checking Cattle…

Studly is my partner when I am Checking Cattle as I think that I can do a better job evaluating the health of my animals on the back of a horse.  This likely stems from the fact that I am height challenged, so being on top of a horse gives me a better view point from which to see my animals.

We do not have a large number of animals get sick at the feed yard, but it is important to me that I offer the appropriate care when one of them becomes compromised by illness.  When I am checking cattle, I look for any type of bovine behavior that does not appear normal.  Because I look at my animals everyday, I have a good mental picture of what normal looks like.  When I notice something abnormal, then I need to more closely assess the animal.

Can you tell which two of these four animals are sick?

Can you tell which two of these four animals are sick?

If I determine that an animal needs individual sick treatment, I take him out of the home pen and down to our main corral area.  There, I can place him in our squeeze chute which immobilizes the animal so that I can get a temperature reading and give a shot of antibiotics if I believe it is necessary.

I work with my veterinarian to create animal health protocols which include a plan of what to do when an animal gets sick.  The symptoms displayed by the animal determine the treatment that he is given.

Jared, treating one of those sick animals with a carefully chosen antibiotic to help him to recover his good health...

Jared, treating one of those sick animals with a carefully chosen antibiotic while he is immobilized in our squeeze chute…

After treatment, the animal is then either placed in one of our hospital pens or taken back to the home pen.  The caregiver makes a judgement call depending on the health of the animal which location is most beneficial.  If the animal spends some time in the hospital pen recovering, then he will be placed back in the home pen after he has once again attained optimal health.

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Taking the time to care–that’s always my goal, and it goes along with a promise to provide you and your families with wholesome and delicious beef!

Our daily check of cattle health is one of the most important things that we do at the feed yard.  I truly enjoy the two weeks out of the year when it is my primary responsibility.  I am also very thankful to Jared for his assistance with this chore!

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General

National Ag Day…

If you had asked me 20 years ago what the letters Ag stood for, I would not have been able to tell you.  Those initials represented a community of people that I seldom ran across in the swimming pools of South Florida.

This week our country celebrated National Ag Day and many social media posts thanking farmers permeated the cyber sphere.  I have no memory as a child of being any more aware of National Ag Day than the term Ag.  Today, I wonder how many people outside of farmers celebrated this special day?

Sometimes you just have to take the plunge...

Sometimes you just have to take the plunge…

As I think about our farm and what Matt and I have worked for over the past 16 years, I feel a myriad of emotions.  Most of all, I marvel at the maturity and the insight that I have gained.  I find myself struggling to remember the 22 year old young woman that moved to Nebraska and set out to learn how to be the Boss Lady at the cattle feed yard.

He teaches me compassion and compels me to understand his needs...

He teaches me compassion and compels me to understand his needs…

While I am sure that parts of me (namely the stubbornness and determination) are still relatively prominent, I look at the world very differently today than I did when I moved to Nebraska in 1997.  As I remember the girl with unusual dreams and stars in her eyes, I marvel at her confidence.

I have loved him more than half my life...

I have loved him more than half my life…

Youthful optimism is a powerful mental tool—Just as I never doubted that Matt and I were meant to build a life together, I also never doubted that I could learn to be a good cattle caregiver.  As I became successful at the feed yard, I began to broaden my spectrum and to work in a volunteer status to improve cattle care practices through the Beef Quality Assurance program.

My belief was so strong that I never looked back...

My belief was so strong that I never looked back…

Quite honestly, it never occurred to me that I would fail.  That is the beauty of youthful passion and faith.   Through the years, it seems as though maturity has replaced that youthful confidence. Today, as I look at agriculture from the eyes of a 38 year old mother of three, there are days that I can no longer find the stars that used to inhabit my eyes.  A myriad of challenges threaten to replace those stars with doubts.

  • Mother Nature
  • Volatile commodity markets
  • Pressures from both increased government regulations and activist groups
  • Lack of unity within the agricultural community
  • Lack of trust between farmers and urbanites

In particular, the last three weigh heavily on my “not so youthful” optimism. Quite frankly, I worry about this at night when I should be sleeping.  I find myself imploring both farmers and non-farmers to open up the needed conversation regarding food animal production practices.

Caring for our animals is much easier for us than sharing how we care to you--it is the nature of the cowboy to be introverted...

Caring for our animals is much easier for us than sharing how we care with you–it is the nature of the cowboy to be introverted…

I feel the tremendous need for this conversation at the same time that my heart is concerned that it may be too late, or that we will not be able to see through the emotion clearly enough to respect each other and have a meaningful conversation.

When I look at her, I see the optimism and confidence of youth...

When I look at her, I see the optimism and confidence of youth…

As I celebrate National Ag Day in 2013, I look to my faith and to my children to give me the needed strength to keep moving forward.  I look into my girls’ eyes and draw on that optimism that so closely resembles what I used to see when I looked in the mirror.  I recharge my soul with the knowledge that this challenge is too important for us to not be successful.  I pray that we can come together as a country to find a sustainable and appropriate blend of food production systems in order to ensure the security of our future.

We must always look for the beauty in one another...

We must always look for the beauty in one another…

Today, in honor of National Ag Day, don’t just thank the farmer—ask questions and help start the conversation.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Empowering Myself as a Woman Entrepreneur…

I remember vividly as a child listening to my grandfather say, “Anne, strive to be unemployable!”  My grandfather’s definition of a successful entrepreneur was someone who owns and operates a personal business.  He wanted me to be my own Boss Lady.

December 2012, age 91...

December 2012 at age 91 with my girls…

Last week when I was speaking to a group of young women involved in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska, I was asked to define a successful entrepreneur.  While my grandfather’s words circled around in my head, they were not the ones that came out of my mouth when I answered the question.

Answering questions at the panel discussion...

Answering questions at the panel discussion…

While I have most definitely followed my grandfather’s advice by running my own business, that is not what drives me as a woman.  Consequently, I found myself giving the group of young women entrepreneurs different words of wisdom.  I told them:

Figure out what your talents and strengths are, then, go out and find the best way to share them in order to be a positive contributor to your community and your country.

I continued with:

When my life is over and I leave this world, I do not want to have any part of myself left.  I want to have used all of my gifts and talents in order to have made a positive difference.

This is my goal in life and my definition of success.  It explains why I spend so much of my time working on volunteer projects while also owning and managing a small business.  As one of only a small number of women who owns and manages a cattle feed yard, it is likely that others would define me as a unique entrepreneur, but that’s not all that makes me tick

I often speak my mind but it is only because I want to invoke positive change...

I often speak my mind but it is only because I want to invoke positive change…

I am indeed proud that I am the boss lady at the feed yard; however, I am most proud of the work that I do to both advance cattle welfare and make improvements in the beef community at large.  I do this while simultaneously being an active member in my community and raising my children with the core values that they will need in order to be positive contributors.DSC04809

That’s what really makes me tick…

 In my heart, I am a determined woman who believes in making my life journey be one of hard work and outreach.   That’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General