Category Archives: Foodie Work!

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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Many Hats, One Passion…

IMG_3843Megan and I traveled to Denver last week to spend five days meeting with approximately 650 other cattlemen that haled from all across the United States.  Although the group came together from many different parts of the country, wearing a variety of different types of hats, we gathered to share a passion.

  • A passion for cattle
  • A passion for beef
  • A passion for pooling our thoughts and ideas as we strive for continuous improvement

Our discussions ranged from sustainability and animal welfare, to the taste, tenderness and nutrition of beef.  No matter what the subject matter, the theme was a dedication to continuous improvement.

My favorite cowgirl/chef with Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson...

My favorite cowgirl/chef with Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson…

Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson brought us the exciting news that the National Standards Foundation granted certification to her work defining sustainability relative to beef production.  This is the very first time that a biological sustainable system has been certified, and it allows the beef community to better understand our role, as well as to measure, our improvements as we diligently strive for sustainable beef.

Megan and Dr. Thomson...

Megan and Dr. Thomson…

Dr. Dan Thomson inspired us to continue to cultivate a culture of optimal animal care on our farms and ranches.  A veterinarian and world renowned animal welfare specialist, Dr. Thomson has been a wonderful mentor for me over the years as I strive to better understand my animals and be an optimal caregiver for them.

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Megan and I finished out the week listening to specialists talk about the taste, tenderness and nutrition of beef.  Although caring for cattle is my passion, my ultimate goal is to provide all of you with great tasting and healthy beef to enjoy.  I always get smarter when I learn the intricacies of what makes my beef both delicious and nutritious!

Is it dinner time yet?

Is it dinner time yet?

As a Director to the Nebraska Beef Council and a member of the National Federation of State Beef Councils, I also play an active role in determining funding for science based research projects relative to beef.  Anne the Achiever loves being a part of this commitment for excellence.

It was a long but very productive week.  Megan and I both learned a tremendous amount as we fueled our continuing passion for cattle care and beef production.  I encourage all of you to celebrate tonight with a mouth-watering steak!

You can feel good about your choice knowing that the beef was raised responsibly

Smile and feel good about your meal choice!

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A Fun Evening Chore…

While having to get up in the middle of the night to unload new cattle is not a chore that I enjoy, unloading cattle in the evening with my two favorite blondes is one of my very favorites.

They both learned to count at the feed yard as little kids...

They both learned to count at the feed yard as little kids by verifying the number of cattle coming off of the semi-trucks…

I have vivid memories of trying to keep an accurate animal count while one or the other of the girls randomly spouted out numbers when they were too little to really figure out what they were supposed to be doing.  You might be surprised how difficult it is to count correctly amidst the number chaos of a chattering three year old…

Today, I still use my fingers to help me keep track while unloading cattle (a practice that I adopted while the girls were little).  I am proud to report that all of them are now excellent counters and have become quite a big help!

Making great memories while learning good skills...

Making great memories while learning good skills…

We try very hard to make unloading new cattle a positive experience for our animals.  It is their first impression of their new home and we want it to be a good one.  I like to see the cattle calmly walking off of the truck, and curiously looking at their surroundings.  A bovine only displays curiosity when he is comfortable and confident, and that is always my goal.

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Here this black fall calf is walking calmly off of the truck…

These animals arrived about 8:00 in the evening, with only about another hour of daylight left as we unloaded them.  I made the decision to house the cattle overnight in the corral because of the impending fall of darkness.

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The animals quickly find the prairie hay (grass) that we place in the corral for them to munch on overnight…

When cattle have spent several hours on a semi-truck, they are ready for fresh water to drink and a snack of grass before finding a comfortable place to lay down and rest.  At daylight, we move them to their home pen where more fresh water and feed await them.

Their breakfast consists of more prairie hay (grass) and a little bit of wet distillers grains and roughage...

Their breakfast consists of more prairie hay (grass) and a little bit of wet distillers grains and roughage…

I find that whenever I place cattle in their new home pen that they are likely to head for either the water tank, the feed bunk, or the mineral tub after they walk the fence lines a few times.  I like to see them settled at any one of these three places.

Here the cattle are checking out the water tank and the mineral tub...

Here the cattle are checking out the water tank and the mineral tub…

It brings a smile to my face to watch the cattle find comfort in their new pen.  I spend the next 4-7 days acclimating and exercising them daily.  This helps them to more quickly adapt to feed yard life.  IMG_3519

As a side note, I would like to apologize to all of you who follow Feed Yard Foodie via email for the advertisements that have recently appeared at the bottom of my posts.  WordPress started to do that without my permission and I just became aware of it a few days ago.  I have since changed the settings on the blog site so they should not appear again.

If you have not signed up to follow the blog via email yet, you can click on the “sign me up” button at the right of the home page and then you will receive an email every time that I post.  This is a great way to make sure that you see all of my entertaining ramblings!

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An Infrequent Night-time Chore…

I am mostly a “morning person”.  My body is trained to get up and go to work at 5:30 every morning because I feel that it is important to get breakfast delivered to our cattle shortly after dawn.

My animals are Creatures of Habit and I think that they are more efficient convertors of my natural resources if they are provided with a consistent feeding schedule that involves an early breakfast.  This is especially critical in the summer months when nightly temperatures are in the 60’s but daily temperatures top out in the 90’s.DSC05399

Because I go to work early every morning, I really do not like to work at night.  My body tends to yell at me when I run short of sleep, and it has been years since a nap has appeared on my radar screen.  Despite this, every once in a while I need to be at the feed yard to unload new cattle during the night hours.

A cattle semi-truck backing up to my unloading chute about 12:30am...

A cattle semi-truck backing up to my unloading chute about 12:30am…

This tends to happen most often during the summer months.  It is best to move cattle when it is cool outside so transportation at night (or early in the morning) is often times better for my animals during the warm months of the year.  I also like to place cattle during the summer that were born during the fall months of the prior year.  I call these animals fall calves, and they work really well for my marketing regime.

Nebraska does not have a large number of fall born calves due to Mother Nature’s shorter growing season, so I sometimes look to states south of me to find fall calves.  These animals tolerate the summer time temperatures in Nebraska really well, and they go to the packing plant before winter gets too cold.  The only down side is that they have a longer truck ride coming into the feed yard, and they tend to arrive in the small hours of the morning thereby wreaking havoc on my sleeping schedule.

The cattle coming off of my truck into the alleyway that leads to one of my corral pens...

The cattle coming off of my truck into the alleyway that leads to one of my corral pens…

When I receive cattle in the middle of the night, I unload them off of the semi-truck and place them in one of the corral pens that is adjacent to the unloading chute.  It is important after a long truck ride to provide newly received cattle with fresh long stemmed prairie hay, water and a comfortable place to lie down and rest.  Using our corral areas to do this enables the cattle to remain in a well-lit area of the feed yard so that they can easily see the fences and rest until the sun comes up.

This is long stem prairie hay that we put out for the cattle to munch on in the corral while we way for daylight...

This is long stem prairie hay that we put out for the cattle to munch on in the corral while we way for daylight…

One of the water tanks in our corrals that provides fresh water to the cattle as soon as they get off the truck.  You can see that the Nebraska moonlight kept me company as I unloaded the cattle!

One of the water tanks in our corrals that provides fresh water to the cattle as soon as they get off the truck. You can see the corral lights reflecting of off the water!

In the home pen checking out their new surroundings once the sun came up!

In the home pen checking out their new surroundings once the sun came up!

Once dawn appears, we place them in their new home pen where more fresh feed, water, and a comfortable living space awaits them.  After a short time of eating and drinking, the cattle look for a good place to lie down and take a nap.

A bite to eat and a nap is a good way to spend the day...

I watch this napping with envy as I do believe that they have an easier life than I do!

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Why Blog?

I read a blog post this week that spoke to me so much that I am going to deviate from my Sustainable Spring series to tell you all about it.   The author of the post is Aimee Whetstine who blogs at everyday epistle.

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Aimee

Aimee was one of my very first “virtual friends”.  Although I have never met her in person, I value the relationship that we have built over the past year and a half.  I faithfully read her words each week because she respectfully inspires me to think even when we look at issues from different perspectives.

You can read Aimee’s post at http://projectunderblog.com/debunking-8-rules-of-blogging/ or visit her at http://everydayepistle.com/.

This week, Aimee tackled the issue of “Why Blog”, and what rules a blogger should live by.  It took me back to the weeks preceding my leap into social media in the spring of 2011, and also inspired me to rethink my current goals.

He is a silent contributor, but I could not do it without him...

We’re in this together…

Aimee did this with two short pieces of excellent advice:

  • Publish when you have something to say.
  • Your blog is a reflection of what matters to you.

I began blogging because I had something to say.  I wanted to open up my farm in an effort to have a respectful conversation about how I care for cattle and raise beef in a feed yard.   I believe in transparency and I believe that every consumer has a right to know how their food is raised.

I've become a farm girl and the days that I spend in the processing barn "working cattle" are some of my favorites...

Over the past 16 years I’ve become a farm girl, and the days that I spend in the processing barn “working cattle” are some of my favorites…

I continue to blog because I love to write.  I am a naturally reserved person, but I have found that I love to share my life through pictures and the written word.  From the challenges that I face — to the joys of raising my daughters in rural America, blogging is truly a personal journey that brings me joy.

Because I am not good at separating my life between raising cattle, parenting my girls, and sharing our story; my blog is a reflection of what matters to me.  It is a voluntary “labor of love”, and one that I am very proud of.  While it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the social media hype of blog statistics, I believe that blogging is truly about sharing, conversation, and personal growth.

There are many different types of conversations, but they must all be based on respect...

Conversations come in many types, but they must all be based on respect…

There may be times in the future that I *temporarily* may not have anything to say (my favorite teenager would like to go on record here to say that she doubts it!); but I will always come back because Feed Yard Foodie is an extension of me—a creative and intellectual outlet for the Ivy League educated psychologist turned cattle caregiver.

They are not just a number, they are an animal that deserves to receive good care and will give its life to nourish my children...

They are not just a number, they are animals that deserve to receive good care and will give their lives to nourish many very special people…

Hat’s off to Aimee and the countless other people that inspire me daily to be the best that I can be.  Thank you for respecting the individual that I am, and for choosing to join me in my adventures.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi

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The Teacher in Me…

I love to learn.  I love to teach.  When I was young, I had the notion that I wanted to spend my life being a classroom teacher.   This idea never materialized, but I do still hold true to my love of sharing what I know.

My love of knowledge is only as powerful as the amount of times that I choose to share it...

My love of knowledge is only as powerful as the amount of times that I choose to share it…

Not a week goes by that I do not get a request to do a public speaking engagement.  Because of my loyalties to my family and my farm, I have to turn down 75% of the requests.  It always hurts just a little when I have to say “no” because of my personal love of educating.

The traveling aspect is far more difficult for me than sharing my thoughts...

The traveling aspect is far more difficult for me than sharing my thoughts…

This week, I had three invitations that I felt compelled to honor.  I left home at 5:30 am Wednesday morning and drove 3 and ½ hours to Omaha, Nebraska where I spent the morning speaking to a high school class at Bryan High School, and the afternoon with a class of 3rd graders at Edward “Babe” Gomez Heritage Elementary.

The Bryan High School students...

The Bryan High School students…

The 3rd grade class was my family’s Agriculture in the Classroom Pen Pal (AITC) class and we have been writing letters and sharing pictures with one another all throughout the school year.  What a wonderful class of children and what a great teacher!

Our Ag in the Classroom students...

Our Ag in the Classroom students…

The AITC program is a nation-wide outreach program that connects farm families with urban classrooms so that children can better learn about agriculture.  Interacting “first hand” with these students is a truly gift.  Our family gets to know some wonderful young people every year, and the students are able to better learn how we grow cattle and crops on our farm.

The kids were fascinated with the cattle ear tags!

The kids were fascinated with the cattle ear tags!

On Thursday morning, I headed back to Lincoln, Nebraska to participate in a series of discussions with woman students involved in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska.

The Engler Entrepreneurship panel discussion...

The Engler Entrepreneurship panel discussion…

I love to interact with college students—their passion and excitement is contagious, and it is one of my greatest joys to be able to mentor young adults who want to become involved in the beef community.  I am always thankful for the opportunity to share my knowledge with the next generation of cattle farmers.

Where my heart is...

Where my heart is…

Today as I return home, I am thinking of the future and all of the ways that I can continue to work for improvement both on my farm and in the larger community.

  I know that the personal sacrifices that I make to reach out to others are both my responsibility and my gift.  And, I am thankful for my family and my crew for picking up the “extra chores” that result from my temporary absence from our farm.

Waiting for breakfast...

Waiting for breakfast…

We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started…Henry Ward Beecher

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Winter Storm Q Turns The Feed Yard Foodie Farm White…

What was brown on Wednesday is now white…

Removing snow from the feed bunks before dawn so that we could get breakfast to the cattle...

Removing snow from the feed bunks before dawn so that we could get breakfast to the cattle…

Since the Florida girl is the worst at running the tractor, she gets to clean the ends of the bunks that the tractor-sweeper can not reach with a shovel...

Since the Florida girl is the worst at running the tractor, she gets to use a shovel to clean the ends of the bunks that the tractor-sweeper can not reach…

Getting breakfast delivered is important because the feed helps them to stay warm...

Getting breakfast delivered is important because the feed helps them to stay warm…

Thanks to an early start and my diligent crew, every animal on the farm was fed by 8:30 yesterday morning...My crew makes me proud!

Thanks to an early start and my diligent crew, every animal on the farm was fed by 8:30 yesterday morning despite the challenge of the storm…

Poco was glad for breakfast too...

Poco was glad for breakfast too…

The ground isn't the only thing that turns white with snow and ice...

The ground isn’t the only thing that turns white with snow and ice…

I think that this young hawk wondered where his feed bunk was...

I think that this young hawk wondered where his feed bunk was…

A very special thanks to my three guys for their dedication and hard work. It is a joy to work with you–thanks for putting up with me :)

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Winter Storm Q…

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…

I always think of this quote every time that we prepare for a bad storm.  Mother Nature has a wonderful way of keeping me humble, and keeping my world in perspective.  With Winter Storm Q currently hitting our area, we are glad that we spent the first part of the week preparing.  The goal is to never interrupt good animal care and that takes planning in the event of a large winter storm.

Cattle resting comfortably before the storm...

Cattle resting comfortably before the storm…

So, how do we prepare for a winter storm on the Feed Yard Foodie farm?

  • Check cattle feed supplies to ensure that we have several days of feed “on site” and easy to get to.
  • Check the water tanks to make sure that each one is operational and in good repair going into the storm.
  • Check both generators to make sure that we can hook them up quickly and easily to provide needed electricity if we loose power.
  • Check the equipment (feed trucks, tractors, pay loaders) to make sure that all of them are full of fuel and ready to run in order to move snow and keep the feeding system operational.
  • Park all necessary equipment inside the shop or the feeding barn to ensure that it is more likely to start when you turn the key.
  • Change the cattle ration (casserole) that we feed to our animals to include more forage/roughage which helps them to generate heat from within and stay  warm despite poor weather.
  • Make sure that everyone knows the plan so there is little disruption to the regular routine.
  • Adjust schedules so that there will not be any cattle traveling to or from your farm during the storm.  No matter how bad it is on the farm, it is worse out on the roads!
  • Pray that God will help you in your chores and keep your crew safe.
  • Remember that the sun will eventually come out and things will get better.
    Rolled corn, ground alfalfa, and ground corn stalks inside of our feeding barn...

    Rolled corn, ground alfalfa, and ground corn stalks inside of our feeding barn…

    A further out view of our feeding barn and feed storage area...

    A further out view of our feeding barn and feed storage area…

    A semi-truck delivering wet distillers grains feed...Before a storm we want to make sure that we have several days of feed in inventory so that feeding will not get interrupted in the case that transportation or commerce gets disrupted...

    A semi-truck delivering wet distillers grains feed…Before a storm we want to make sure that we have several days of feed in inventory so that feeding will not get interrupted in the case that transportation or commerce gets disrupted…

    We have two generators at the feed yard (one is pictured here) to ensure that we can continue to deliver feed and water in the case of a power outage...

    We have two generators at the feed yard (one is pictured here) to ensure that we can continue to deliver feed and water in the case of a power outage…

    Here we are fueling the feed trucks--it's no fun to fuel equipment in the middle of a blizzard...

    Here we are fueling the feed trucks–it’s no fun to fuel equipment in the middle of a blizzard…

    He will need more care to try to mitigate weather stress during the storm, so my crew and I do everything that we can to accomplish that...With a reported 12 inches of snow headed our way with 35 mile an hour winds it may be a long couple of days...

    He will need more care to try to mitigate weather stress during the storm, so my crew and I do everything that we can to accomplish that…With a reported 12 inches of snow headed our way with 35 mile an hour winds it may be a long couple of days…

    While I am anal about preparing the feed yard for a storm, sometimes I forget to go to the store and stock up my own kitchen.  Fortunately, I have an organized teenager who isn't shy about reminding me to feed her too!

    While I am anal about preparing the feed yard for a storm, sometimes I forget to go to the store and stock up my own kitchen.  Fortunately, I have an organized teenager who isn’t shy about reminding me to feed her too!

     

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