Category Archives: General

A Deer In the Headlights…

Cattle outnumber people in the state of Nebraska by a ratio of just under 4:1.  We share our great Cornhusker State with a healthy population of deer who reside amidst the 1800 miles of river ground within our boarders.

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Life on a farm leads to many miles traveled on gravel roads. Learning to drive where the pavement ends initially provided a bit of a learning curve for me, and I remember my favorite farmer giving me driving advice as I adjusted to life on the prairie. After two decades and hundreds of thousands of miles, I recently got to put his what to do when a deer jumps out on the road in front of your vehicle advice to good use…

  • Slow down as much as possible without losing control of the vehicle. 
  • Stay in the middle of the gravel road where the traction is the most consistent.
  • Hold the steering wheel with two hands and drive STRAIGHT.  Do NOT SWERVE.

 Natural human intuition often leads to swerving to avoid the collision.  Swerving results in losing tire traction on the uneven gravel and crashing the vehicle into the ditch.  It is preferable to take the deer head on which allows you to better remain in control with a solid driving surface.

It was pitch black dark the morning that a doe mule deer decided to cross the road in front of my vehicle.  The look she gave me reflected her lack of foresight and thought, but I am glad to report that I had enough to cover both of us.  I followed my favorite farmer’s advice to a T, and all ended well.

anne-ag-meg-treeAs I recounted the experience of saving both myself and the deer to my girls, I took the opportunity to turn it into a teaching moment.

  • PAY ATTENTION to the world around you.
  • TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for both your actions and the situation at large.
  • DON’T BE AFRAID to face things head on.

 Of course, the girls expressed great excitement toward their spontaneous life lesson opportunity with Mama. Now, if I can just get them to consistently wear socks and coats during the winter weather; they might be ready to go off to college in a year or two 😉

Like many of you, we reconnected with family and friends over the holiday season.  In my case, many of these awesome people lead unique lives in places vastly different than my farm on the prairie.  While I deal with deer before dawn on gravel roads dressed in blue jeans and boots, they deal with rush hour traffic while dressed in business suits.

Taking the time to appreciate the diversity in others allows our own lives to take on a new depth of meaning. In doing this, we are able to shed that deer in the headlights look and actively embrace the similarities that exist in our hearts.

**P.S. I am open to any and all advice as to how to convince my teenage daughters that physical care and comfort should come ahead of fashion.  Please leave thoughts in the comment section 🙂 —Thank you, Anne

 

 

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F.E.A.R.

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I found this quote on Instagram a few weeks ago. My girls tease me that I am a quote nerd.  I proudly reply that my grandfather taught me long ago to appreciate the potent message delivered by a cleverly strung cluster of words 😉

While I did not personally coin this particular acronym, it well describes my experiences in 2016.

No one can claim immunity from fear, but fear only defines us if we chose to allow it.   

Fear of the unknown provides one of my greatest personal challenges.  I am a stalwart creature of habit, and I like to be in control.  As a result, my decision last summer to close the feed yard left me terrified. Over the course of 2016, I discovered that a decision takes on an entirely new level of enormity when it involves altering a 45 year old business.

The mental process of defining the cause of fear provides a critical survival practice for me.  While I may occasionally wish that I could forget everything and run; the act of facing the challenge ultimately provides the courage to rise above it. As I reflect on 2016, I acknowledge the personal struggle that marked most of the year.

I end this time period proud of my decisions and the actions that resulted from them.  2017 will bring change; however, I stayed true to my core values and consequently can look with both excitement as well as confidence on into the future.

Sherry Bunting did a wonderful job “telling my story” in a recent article in the Progressive Cattlemen magazine entitled As Will Feed Closes, Reflecting On Twenty Years In the Feed Yard.  You can read it by clicking here.

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Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! 

May 2017 inspire you to face everything and rise…

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Merry Christmas!

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Christmas blessings from our family to yours. 

This holiday season — please take a moment to enjoy and appreciate your food — thank a farmer — and realize that together we are stronger 🙂

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Tis the Season: For a Beard and a Basketball…

Each fall, when the temperatures hoover around O degrees for the first time, I mutter to myself that I need to figure out how to grow a beard. Last week our temperatures hit the zero degree level on the morning that we shipped cattle to Tyson.

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My foreman and I put on a bunch of layers of clothes, and I got out my fake beard for the first time since February.

Winter in Nebraska takes some getting used to.  While figuring out the role of a hood on a sweatshirt came instantaneously to me, learning how to layer correctly to work safely outside in the cold took a little bit longer. I have a few toes with frostbite damage to remind me of the learning curve…

To this day, I vastly prefer the summer and fall months to December and January, but farm chores continue in the winter-time despite the drop in temperature.  This time of year, Mother Nature offers challenges instead of resources so we have to provide care when the cattle need us — every single day.

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 My favorite blonde cowgirl wisely trades her boots for basketball shoes for the winter.  She made the transition this year to high school basketball and brings the same winning attitude to her team as she brings to the feed yard crew.

Her hard work and focus earn her success and she proudly represents the Lady Haymakers this season on three levels:  9th and 10th grade, Junior Varsity, and the Varsity.  She’s playing in games four nights a week and packing her FAITH along the journey.

  • F ortitude
  • A ttitude
  • I ntegrity
  • T rust
  • H umility

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I love to watch her love basketball almost as much as I love to see her awesome work ethic make a positive difference.

When I think of all of the great things that being a farmer has brought to my life, raising my kids on the farm tops the list.  Megan runs a scoop shovel with the best of them.  She became a member of the farm crew at an early age, and learned the art of teamwork working cattle and dealing with weather challenges at the feed yard.

She understands that no necessary action is unimportant — no matter how physically demanding or mentally menial.

The girl has grit.

Last summer, I watched Megan practice basketball in our farm shop — Shooting more than 10,000 baskets during the hours outside of working at the feed yard and training for swim team. Inspired by the awesome set of Lady Haymaker basketball coaches, she combined her farm work ethic with a fledgling love for the game and began building the necessary set of ball handling skills.

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I look at my favorite blonde cowgirl and I see my work-a-hol-ic nature combined with a unique zest for life. This combination packs a powerful punch that we fondly refer to as the art of Meganizing.

I recognize that personal need to make a difference that she wears on her face.  It gleams in her eyes both on the basketball court and on the farm — even when the rest of her face is covered with a matching cold weather mask while she scoops snow out of feed bunks in a blizzard 😉

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The Spirit of Christmas…

I remember when my oldest daughter looked me in the eye and asked me if I believed in Santa Claus.  I replied, “Yes.  I believe that Santa represents the Spirit of Christmas and each one of us plays a role to ensure that it’s magic blesses each holiday season.”

Christmas traditions provide a wonderful way to bolster the Spirit of Christmas. From bringing life into the house with a freshly cut tree, to reading our favorite Christmas books, to making cookies and fudge in the kitchen while singing our favorite Christmas Carols –> the Feed Yard Foodie house is alive with holiday traditions.

This year, I decided to add a new tradition — one that not only provided personal introspection but also gave a special gift to others outside of our family.

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I created a Christmas Scavenger Hunt.

  • I filled 30 index cards with inspirational quotes (10 for each of my daughters).
  • My favorite farmer created hiding places for the index cards around the farm along with hilarious riddles to help the girls figure out the location of the cards.
  • The girls each received their packet of hints and set out to solve the riddles.
  • Once they collected all ten of their quotes and tied them together in a book for keepsakes, they raced back to the kitchen to find the final gift.

The final gift contained a certificate to be rebated with Heifer International. This international charity empowers families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity through donations of farm animals and animal care training. Bringing agriculture and commerce to areas with long histories of poverty, Heifer International projects provide both food and reliable income with products such as milk, honey, and eggs to be traded or sold at market.

Heifer International believes that passing on the gift creates sustainable communities filled with hopeful and proud individuals.  As the gifted farm animals reproduce, their offspring are shared with neighbors bringing an outreach much greater than any one individual animal.  Heifer International is one of my favorite charities for two reasons:

  1. I love to see agriculture play a pivotal role in raising families out of poverty.
  2. I love that the recipients of the gifts also receive training so that they can take the gift and turn it into a better life.

It isn’t just a hand out — It is the means to help end the cycle of poverty.  Focusing on cultivating pride, it provides necessary training to pair with the incredible work ethic indigenous to the recipient communities.

My girls and my favorite farmer chose to donate:

  • A Pig
  • A Share of a Heifer
  • An Alpaca
  • Two sets of Rabbits
  • Multiple flocks of Chickens, Geese, or Ducks

I loved watching them comb the website and discuss which gifts would help the most people. The Christmas Scavenger Hunt provided multiple angles of giving as my girls also collected a keepsake of inspirational quotes to read during the rest of the Christmas Season.  I hope that the memories of the day will help them to realize the true Spirit of Christmas.

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Together we can spread the gift of love — the gift of respect — the gift of hope, both within our families and all across the globe.

*A special thanks to John and Sandy Butler for inspiring me to create the Christmas Scavenger Hunt for my family.  Hopefully their gift of inspiration will continue on with each of you!

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The Moment of Truth…

I am often described as an intense person.  Part of it stems from my natural personality, but a portion of it also comes from my life experiences.  I spent my formative years as a serious competitive athlete — trading Prom for national swimming championships and learning from a young age that success comes to those who work the hardest.  Although I retired from competitive swimming before I started my life on the farm, many of the chores that I do at the feed yard often inspire that same intense Anne.

BovinePhotoBomb.jpgI remember feeling raw fear the first time that I walked among a large group of cattle on the farm.  Commingling with 1500# animals was not something that I learned how to do at Dartmouth College 🙂

Our retired feed yard manager taught me how to herd, sort, and cowboy.  While it took a while to desensitize myself to the LARGENESS of the animals, the bovine mind intrigued me enough to take me past that initial fear.

Working with prey animals requires an intense concentration. Getting distracted not only erodes your effectiveness as the herd leader, but it can also be very dangerous.  Not too long after I started working at the feed yard, I began participating on the ship out crew.  This provided one of my greatest moments of truth.

The amount of power that a herd of 1500# animals exudes is nothing short of awesome. A savvy and seasoned cowboy works effectively to ensure that all that powerful animal energy moves harmoniously in the correct direction.  Moving those giant animals through the corral for the last time always offers me a moment of humility.

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today -- more to come on "Benny" in the next post...My foreman and I greeted last Friday morning early to ship cattle to Tyson. Although the sky was clear, the crescent moon provided little light as we moved through the darkness to herd the animals from the home pen down to the corral.  The 18 degree temperature provided for both a cool experience and poor visibility with steam rising off the animals as well as from our own breaths.  The ground was frozen unevenly due to a recent rain storm and the cold temperatures.

I felt both intensely human as well as intensely vulnerable as the animals moved through the corral and up onto the semi-truck.  Each time that we ship cattle, I accept the personal risk that exists when working with animals almost 15X your size.  I can control my own actions and use my skills to create positive herd movement. However, there are no guarantees.  In a purely physical match, I would lose every time.  This creates a moment of truth.

We ship our cattle without the use of any large equipment: simply a cowboy on foot or on horseback. The art of moving the large animals safely from the home pen up into the semi-truck lies in the hands of a small cowboy crew.  Success requires a blend of intuition and skill, and putting the big ones on the bus provides the most challenging task performed at the feed yard.

In just over two months, I will ship my last pen of cattle to slaughter.  Even though I close that chapter of my life, I will forever carry with me a deep appreciation for all of the cowboys that continue to perform this task on farms all across the Midwest.

The blend of vulnerability and intense strength in the action creates a memory that lasts a lifetime.

 

 

 

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The Glow That Illuminates…

Last week, I joined Idaho rancher Kim Brackett to film a podcast for the monthly joint effort by Purdue University and Beef Magazine known as The Beef Roundtable.  Our podcast will run in December and offers information on “sharing the beef story”.  As I prepared for the filming, I found a quote that resonated with me.  I think that it provides a perfect point of reflection for the week of Thanksgiving.  James Thurber states:

There are two kinds of light — 

The glow that illuminates and the glare that obscures.

Finding the quote sparked some quiet personal introspection in the days that followed.  I asked myself:

  • Do my words and actions provide a glow that illuminates? 
  • Am I a vehicle that allows others to find new and beneficial knowledge for their journey of continuous improvement?
  • Do I make a positive difference in the lives of others?

There exists no greater honor than being a catalyst for positive change.  I not only believe that on a philosophical level, but I also try to work for that in my life.  It starts with a willingness to respect the thoughts of others, and continues with the quiet strength needed to persevere kindly amidst a myriad of opinions.

Over the weekend, I took my oldest daughter to visit Notre Dame University and then attend the Division 1 NCAA College Cross Country Championships. My favorite farmer and I believe that our girls will gain both knowledge and motivation by experiencing life outside of our farm.  While it is hard for us to imagine them leaving home, we realize that a broad perspective will provide an illuminating glow as they make their way to adulthood.

The trip accomplished a number of “bucket list” items for my favorite brunette.

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On the way to Notre Dame, we pulled off the road and found Lake Michigan.  The pure joy you see on my daughter’s face comes not just from seeing the lake and dipping her toes in the water; but also from her realization that I value what is important to her.

Sometimes the glow that illuminates exists by simply allowing others to realize that what holds importance to them holds similar importance to you — just because you care. 

I found this unselfish spirit pervasive on the Notre Dame campus.  It was obvious to me that the culture of compassion and respect found on campus provided a healthy and happy environment for the students. Just as I know that I will always treasure my daughter’s smile, I also realize that fueling it comes from her innate ability to find her passion and express it with kindness.  The true light that illuminates glows from an unselfish desire to improve the lives of others.

Creating this type of culture rests within our reach — we simply need to embrace it.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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How Do You Tear Down a Feed Yard?

Three primary alleyways provide the “blue print” of the feedyard with cattle home pens located on both sides of each alleyway for a total of 24 pens.  Our cattle farm dropped below 1/2 capacity (1500 bovines) last week as we shipped the final pen out of our 1st alley.

Early in the fall, I arranged the logistics so that the first alley pens emptied by early November.  This allows for us to begin the “tear down” phase on part of the farm while still taking care of cattle in the pens that make up the 2nd and 3rd alleyways.

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So, how do you tear down a feed yard?

Returning the cattle pen area to crop farm ground and grass pasture provides the goal for the “tear down” phase.  The logistical process occurs in the following order:

  • Take out the fences to open up the landscape.
  • Scrape the home pen surfaces to remove excess nutrients (manure) which we transport to my favorite farmer’s fields located within a 10 mile radius of the feed yard.  This manure helps to replenish nutrients and maintain good soil health where we grow crops each year.
  • Even up the land by removing “pen mounds” in order to create a flat surface for farming.
  • Disconnect cattle drinking water lines and remove water tanks from the home pens.
  • Remove concrete to be recycled.

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Completing this process for each of our three alleys allows for the transition of 24 cattle pens into approximately 40 acres of farm ground and pasture.  These acres will combine with other adjacent farm ground that already provides us with a nice crop of alfalfa.

November, December, and January will be split months for us as we continue to take care of the remaining cattle on the farm while also working on the transition project.  Once the last pen of cattle ships to slaughter in early February, our efforts will concentrate fully on the conversion of the land. We hope to finish the tear down by summertime in order to plant a transition crop on the irrigated acres and grass for the non-irrigated pasture ground.  The winter and spring weather will play a large role determining if we are successful in meeting that time goal.

While this project provides uncharted waters for us, we are working in consultation with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in addition to the Natural Resources District.  My favorite farmer is an agronomy nerd and I am a passionate believer in the Native American philosophy that the earth was not a gift from your parents, but rather a loan made to you from your children, so managing for good soil health and the protection of our farm’s natural resources drives the decision making process.

Speaking of my favorite farmer, I need to grant him photo credits for the top two pictures shown above.  I am afraid of heights, so he nobly offered to climb the elevator leg at the feed yard to get the aerial photos 😉

 

 

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