Category Archives: Progressive Beef QSA Program

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance…

Our swim team t-shirts this season carried one of my very favorite quotes.

She smiled for the picture, but often when I mention this phrase she seems tempted to roll her eyes...

She smiled for the picture, but often when I mention this phrase she appears tempted to roll her eyes…

I not only enjoy telling my swimmers that Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance, I live out the words in my own life.  I am blessed to have a feed yard crew that also is devoted to striving for excellence.  Each of us believes that taking pride in our work and focusing on all of the little things that ensure good care for our animals is an essential part of our every day lives.

This commitment to detail and devotion to good care makes my affiliation with Progressive Beef a great partnership.  Progressive Beef is all about Perfect Practice Making Perfect Performance.  The program combines the core values of sustainability, humane animal care, and food safety with daily care practices which ensure success.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had my second audit for the program (I will have three per year).  An auditor from a third party firm called IMI Global traveled to the feed yard to spend most of the day with us.  He checked our records, watched us work cattle, evaluated our daily cattle care (cattle living conditions), and assessed our feed mill and feed delivery system.

Auditing our cattle handling skills while vaccinating some newly arrived yearling heifers...

Auditing our cattle handling skills while we worked some newly arrived yearling heifers…

The audit was very organized and thorough.  Despite this, and despite our preparation and dedication to detail, having an auditor at the feed yard was still a little bit unnerving.  The bottom line is that it is hard to have someone pick through your life and judge your performance.

Looking at our feed delivery records with my foreman...

Looking at our feed delivery records…

To say that I am proud of my crew’s performance would be an understatement.  We rocked the audit scoring 228.5 out of a possible 228.5 possible points.  I set the bar high and our team delivered perfection.  Despite the fact that I get to spend each day watching our animals thrive and make safe and healthy beef, it is still a thrill to get such an awesome report card.

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Responsible animal care not only matters to you, it matters to me…

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”

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The Report Card…

Every time that I take a “personality” or “strength’s finder” test, I come back labeled as an achiever.  Although I have a tremendous interest in psychology and how the brain works, I am also very analytical with a natural tendency to measure progress.  Add into the equation a bit of competitiveness, and you have a pretty good description of Anne.IMG_3274

I graduated Salutatorian from Cardinal Newman High School and Cum Laude from Dartmouth College not because I was the smartest kid in the class, but because I was likely the most focused and dedicated.  My girls laugh that “Mama has a gold star on her college diploma because she studied a lot.  Daddy doesn’t because he drank too much beer…”

Sixteen years into my professional life, my achiever personality is stronger than ever.  One of my favorite tasks as a feed yard manager is to fine tune both our animal care/management practices and also the quality of the beef that our animals produce.  The Progressive Beef program provides me with a great tool to measure and assess our daily animal care practices, and using a Grid to market my cattle at harvest time provides an excellent report card for beef quality.  The sustainability of my farm is intrinsically linked to my success on these two report cards!

health and the quality of your beef depends on it.

The care that I offer to my animals plays an important role in the quality of the beef that they make…

Those of you who have followed Feed Yard Foodie for a long time will remember the long series of Calf #718 posts where I traced an animal all throughout its lifetime.  (These posts are archived together in a category on the right hand side of the home page if you missed them and would like to read them all!)  At the end of the series, Calf #718 was shipped to the packing plant, and I received a report card in the form of Grid carcass data on the animal.  Today, I send my animals to a different packing plant than Calf #718 went to, but I still harvest them on a grid basis like the one explained in the post linked above.

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Delicious and nutritious beef is the ultimate goal…

I not only receive carcass data on every animal that I ship, but I also get paid relative to the quality of the beef that comes from that animal.  In other words: the higher the quality of beef, the better the report card, and ultimately the more money that I receive from the packing plant.  Because I trace the vast majority of my animals from birth to harvest year after year, I am able to challenge myself to constantly improve the beef that is raised on my farm.

It is my job to set my animals up for success so that they can reach their God-given potential to make deliciously tender and healthy beef.  If I put all of the pieces of the puzzle together correctly: high quality animal genetics, outstanding care/welfare, and judicious use of technological tools; then my cattle thrive and produce the kind of mouth-watering beef that I love to serve to my family.

My favorite Cowgirl-Chef loves to cook and eat her Mama's beef!

My favorite Cowgirl-Chef loves to cook and eat her Mama’s beef!

I am a firm believer that you must measure in order make improvements.  Report Cards are tremendous management tools because they provide vital benchmarking information.  Every time that I ship a pen of cattle to the packing plant, I eagerly await the report card that comes a few days later.  With this information, I can assess the quality of the job that I did preparing my animals to become beef.  Then, I can use that data to strive for future improvements relative to animal care and performance.2011_08_01_mr_Will Feed-9-1

It is a like a dream come true for an natural achiever like me!

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Filed under General, Progressive Beef QSA Program, Sustainable Spring

Raising the Bar Higher…

I have several favorite quotes that I am notorious for reciting.  My girls hear them so often that as soon as I start to say the words, they chime in with me.  Prior to instigating my “push up rule”, the reciting of the quotes seemed to be automatically connected with eye rolling—now they are simply accompanied by dramatic sighs…

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  • It doesn’t matter how good you are, you can always get better!
  • Perfect practice makes perfect performance!
  • Take the time it takes to do it right!

I not only pontificate about these quotes, but I also take the words to heart.  I have pretty high standards, and am constantly pushing myself, my family, and my feed yard crew to continuously raise the bar higher.

I became involved with the Beef Quality Assurance program when I moved to Nebraska in 1997 because I wanted to learn how to understand my cattle and offer them good care.  I recognized early on that good consistent care led to healthy animals and quality beef.  That is what BQA is all about.

The Tyson Farm Check program is intended to be a natural extension of the BQA program and will include an auditing component to verify daily animal care.  It raises the bar one step higher in order to validate the responsible treatment of food animals.

His care is important to me...

His care is important to me…

My involvement in both BQA and Tyson’s Farm Check program stems from my commitment to universally improve care for food animals.  It is rooted in my belief that farmers need to strive for continual improvement through a focus on good daily animal care practices.

I will feel a tremendous amount of pride for my fellow farmers when these programs touch every bovine that is raised in the United States.  Until then, I will keep working for their widespread adoption because I believe that the sustainability of animal agriculture is intrinsically tied to responsible care.

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In the meantime, I will continue to raise the bar even higher on my farm through participation in the Progressive Beef QSA program.  While doing a good job brings me pride, Anne’s standards require always searching for excellence.  The commitment of the Progressive Beef program to outstanding animal welfare, food safety and sustainability standards allow me to continuously challenge myself and my crew.

I began implementing the Progressive Beef QSA program last December, and I have been thrilled with the incredible attention to detail and resulting improvements that I see every day at the feed yard.  I have always been proud of my crew’s dedication to quality care, but we have raised the bar even higher in the last seven months.

Auditing protocols and paperwork...

Auditing protocols and paperwork…

We had our first audit on the 6th of May and were scored on a multitude of things–a few of them include:

  • Water Tank Cleaning
  • Feed Quality
  • Cattle Handling
  • Animal Health (daily care, extreme weather care, general welfare practices)
  • Proper administration of animal health products (vaccines, antibiotics, beta agonists)
  • Equipment and feed yard cleanliness
  • Cattle living space comfort

    Checking feed bunks, water tanks, and cattle home pens...

    Checking feed bunks, water tanks, and cattle home pens…

The final audit document was 20 pages long and the audit itself took about 11 hours.  I am incredibly proud to report that my crew scored 223 points out of a total possible 228.5.   This qualified us for the “Excellent” rating.  We will have a second audit later this summer as we continually strive to raise the bar higher.

Aristotle seems to always be whispering in my ear:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

What do you do in your own life to raise the bar higher?

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Caring With Greatness…

Greatness isn’t a product of luck or chance.

Greatness doesn’t occur by accident.

Greatness isn’t even a result of superior talent.

Greatness is simply wanting something more than anyone else and working harder than anyone else to achieve that goal.

Greatness takes immense amounts of dedication and desire to be achieved.

My favorite 7th grader’s club basketball coach posted this last weekend.  He wrote it several hours after my daughter completed her goal of shooting 10,000 baskets (the basket tally began in November).  I do not know if he thought of AG when he wrote it, but I certainly thought of her as I read it.

My face mask has gotten additional use this winter...

My face mask has gotten additional use this winter…

My daughter is an Achiever —she comes by it honestly.  Her personal drive mirrors my own and is fascinating for me to watch.  This week, AG is basking in the glow of accomplishment knowing that she completed more basketball shots in the last couple of months than she ever dreamed she would.

You might be wondering—Is there another reward?

Apart from the confidence and skill gained by completing the baskets, my daughter is also enjoying the knowledge that her basketball coach will spend an afternoon running 5 X 1 mile repeats with her.  You see, that was the deal.

10,000 completed baskets = 5 X 1 mile repeats.  The fact that her motivation for shooting 10,000 baskets was the ability to run 5 X 1 mile repeats with her coach says a lot about my daughter… I think that her coach is envisioning a nice leisurely pace—I can assure you that AG is planning to run fast enough to reach the finish line before he does!

Running

The drive to want to be better today than you were yesterday is a great gift…

We all search for greatness in our lives and we all have different motivations that drive us to pursue that greatness.  My genuine love for animals drives me to care with greatness on my cattle farm.  This is my vocation and I strive to achieve it each and every day.

Good animal care is a daily requirement at a feed yard--their health and the quality of your beef depends on it.

Good animal care is a daily requirement at a feed yard–the cattle’s health and the quality of your beef depends on it.

Caring with greatness takes dedication.

Caring with greatness takes discipline.

Caring with greatness takes empathy and attention to detail.

Caring with greatness ensures healthy animals.

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I am proud to grow your beef while caring with greatness.

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Proving That We Care…

Just a couple of weeks ago, a social media friend forwarded me an email that she had received from a reader.  The email was a cry for help from a fellow mom.  It seems that her daughter, after repeatedly watching horrific videos of animal abuse on the internet, had refused to eat any animal products.

I do not have that added challenge with my daughters because they help to raise the beef that we eat.

I do not have that added parenting challenge with my daughters because they help to raise the beef that we eat.

Concerned about both her daughter’s nutritional needs and the abusive videos, the mom was reaching out to online farmer bloggers in an attempt to find out the truth.  When I sent a link to several videos of my farm to the mom, she responded “Why can’t I find these when I search on YouTube?  These are the types of videos that we need to see!”

The short answer to that question is that search results on YouTube are ranked according to number of views.  This means that the more views a video has, the more likely that it will show up when you search a topic.  I have uploaded four “home-made” videos to YouTube over the last year—they have a total of only 1500 views.

This one is my favorite–it is my 10 year old cowgirl/chef exercising cattle at the feed yard to the tune of her favorite song “Fly Over States”.

  • I love this video because I am proud of my daughter and what a great cattle caregiver she is becoming.
  • I love this video because it shows the simplicity of good cattle handling.
  • I love this video because of the calf with the white spot on his head that kept asking Megan “do I have to” when she asked him to move.  Megan frequently looks at me asking the same question…

    Where did the trust go?

    Where did the trust go?

Twenty years ago, trust existed throughout the food production system.  Farmers were viewed positively, and those outside of the farm believed that farmers had integrity.  Today, that trust is gone.  I believe that this loss of trust is one of the biggest travesties currently affecting our great country.  Quite simply, it hurts my heart to know that many people do not trust that I care.

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My brain recognizes that it is my duty to not only care, but also to document that care in an attempt to rebuild that trust.  The daily care that I offer to my animals is now accompanied by record keeping and documentation that will verify that I not only care, but that I am competent in that care.

My other job---paper work!

My other job—paper work!

Animal Care is the second pillar of the Progressive Beef program.  It is one that I believe in with every fiber of my being.  Outstanding animal care is a trademark of my feed yard.  Progressive Beef has provided me with both a documentation trail, and also a third party independent audit to bring additional integrity to my promise of high quality animal care.

Rest assured that you can feel good about feeding my beef to your family—it came from healthy and humanely raised animals.  You don’t have to just take my word for it!

I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.

Pablo Casals

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Loving the Journey…

The only place you find success before work is the dictionary.

May Smith

My favorite 13 year old has this quote up on the wall of her room.  When I go into her room and read the saying, I smile knowing that I have mentored her well.  This quote is likely the reason that she set the school’s Junior High Cross Country record this fall.

Learning to love the journey...

Learning to love the journey…

One of the most important life lessons that competitive swimming taught me was to be enthralled with the work that was necessary for successWhile winning was awesome, I learned that true success was realized in the journey.

I transitioned from being a competitive athlete to a recreational athlete almost two decades ago, but I still believe in the value of the journey.  Today it is a journey of safe food production rather than qualification for the elusive US Swimming Senior Nationals, but my goal is still to achieve excellence.

I love the journey...

I  still love the journey…

My role as mentor to my crew at the feed yard is vital to the goal of food safety.  Healthy animals make healthy beef.  Quality and consistent care leads to healthy animals.  The journey is sometimes riddled with challenges, but attention to detail ensures success.

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Tomorrow, I will spend the day with the Progressive Beef team getting one step closer to certification in the program.  It will take many hours to:

  • Finalize the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plan for my feed mill where we store and load feed ingredients.  This will ensure good, consistent feed quality and nutrition for my animals.
  • Finish editing the Standard Operating Procedures (there are many of them) to ensure attention to detail on all daily animal care tasks that are performed at the feed yard.
  • Begin the process of implementing the specific HACCP plan and SOP’s in our daily routine at the feed yard.
  • Inspire my crew to embrace their new record keeping responsibilities as well as continuing the dedicated animal care that is a trademark on my farm.
  • Discuss the strict auditing process that will occur twice a year to ensure certification under the Progressive Beef QSA program.
Looking for the beauty as you travel the journey makes life rewarding...

Looking for the beauty as you travel the journey makes life rewarding…

It is likely that all of us will return home Friday night tired from a long day.  It is my hope that we will also take home with us a lingering excitement toward this new stage in our journey of high quality beef production!

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Progressive Beef’s First Pillar: Food Safety

I will never forget the day that I met Nancy Donley.  My favorite 10 year old and I had lunch with her after touring BPI’s lean finely textured beef facility last spring.  It is impossible to spend more than a few minutes with Nancy without being compelled to attain excellence in food safety measures.

Every child's life is precious...

Every child’s life is precious…

Nancy’s only son, Alex, was killed by Ecoli 0157:H7 in 1993.  Following his death, she became actively involved in volunteer efforts to improve food safety.  Nancy has voluntarily served as the President for STOP Foodborne Illness for more than 10 years, and currently also serves on the USDA’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection.

I truly cannot explain the emotion that I felt when I met Nancy.  It shook me to my very core.  As I look back on it, I view it as an incredible experience which prepared me for what was to come six months later.

  • I can tell you that I will never forget the passion and strength that Nancy exudes.
  • I can tell you that after meeting Nancy, I had a renewed motivation to proactively search for pre-harvest food safety measures to employ at my cattle feed yard.

ProgressiveBeefLogoGreenIt was Nancy and Alex that I thought of the day that the Progressive Beef team sat in my office and told me about a new E Coli 1057 vaccine that can be administered pre-harvest in order to significantly reduce Ecoli pathogens in the intestines of cattle.  As I learned more about the new vaccine technology, I knew that it was something that I was going to implement at my feed yard.

It is my passion to responsibly grow beef.  It is my passion to provide safe and healthy nourishment to my family and to yours.  It is my passion to do the right thing.

Combining this pre-harvest food safety measure with all of the post-harvest measures that my packing plant partner utilizes will effectively increase the safety of the beef that I grow.

I am her Mama--I want to nourish and protect her...

I am her Mama–I want to nourish and protect her…

I began using the E. Coli vaccine in December and we are currently transitioning toward administering it to all newly placed cattle at the feed yard.  By this summer, every animal on my farm will have received the vaccine.

The cost of the vaccine is $2.50 per dose and must be used in a multiple dose vaccination program.  The cost of not using the vaccine is evident in Nancy Donley’s eyes as she talks about the little boy that she lost so many years ago.

This vaccine helps me to make a real contribution to food safety.

This vaccine helps me to make a real contribution to food safety.

Every time that I administer the vaccine, I think of Alex and I thank God for my own daughters who bring such joy and vibrancy to my life.  They, like Nancy, are a constant source of inspiration to me as I search for better ways to raise safe and healthy beef.

When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle
       is wrought in our life or the life of another.
                                                                       – Helen Keller

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Excellence…

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle, a great Greek philosopher, coined those powerful words more than 2000 years ago.  Achieving excellence in our lives becomes a reality when we take pride in our actions and focus on doing all of the little things with greatness.  While striving for excellence starts as a goal, it materializes through dedication, planning, and auditing.

My favorite 13 year old is a big Aristotle fan...

My favorite 13 year old is a big Aristotle fan…

In many ways I am both a perfectionist and a workaholic.  My mom teases me that it is a good thing that I live on a farm where my girls can go with me to work—otherwise they might never see me.  While this is an exaggeration, my life very simply revolves around my family and my farm.

All of my years of athletic training combined with my naturally inclined Type A personality have created a passionate working machine.  When you add into the mix the dreamer that lives somewhere deep in my heart, you get a unique and driven individual.September 23, 2012 008

For better or for worse, I have very high standards that I live my life by.  Because my cattle feed yard is an integral part of my life, it is a natural progression for me to hold it to high standards as well.  When I look for companies and programs to associate my feed yard with, I look for those that share my same commitment to excellence and integrity.

I mentioned in Tuesday’s post that I was currently going through the certification process for a QSA (Quality Systems Assessment) program called Progressive Beef.  The Progressive Beef program is based on three pillars:  food safety, animal care, and sustainability.

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Both the mom and the cattle feed yard manager in me love those pillars.  How could I not?  I spend my life raising animals that will be harvested to feed my children and children all over the world. A focus on these three areas is absolutely critical to achieving the high standards of excellence which Aristotle compels me to accomplish.

They are never far from my thoughts as I make decisions at my cattle feed yard---you and your families are in my thoughts as well...

They are never far from my thoughts as I make decisions at my cattle feed yard—you and your families are also in my thoughts…

Since many customers report that they would like to see their grocery store carry a beef product that uses a verified program, I am hopeful that many of you will share my excitement as I earn the right to participate in Progressive Beef.  I am also hopeful that you will engage in the conversation as I continue to explain the components and auditing process of the program.

I feel compelled to end by sharing some beautiful words from Mother Theresa:

You and I have been created for greater things.  We have not been created to just pass through this life without aim.

What motivates you to strive for excellence?

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