It makes me human…

My daughters laugh and ask, “So Mom, when are you going to build your hermitage out in the hills?” The question resurfaces as a family joke with each award that I receive for my blogging and “outreach” efforts.

Since they live with me, my girls are very much aware that I am an introvert. That tendency seems to grow stronger as I get older. Being social is difficult for me because I lack the innate confidence that many people naturally enjoy. At this point, I have not allowed myself the liberty of being a recluse but at times I find myself yearning for it.

I think that it amazes my kids that I can rally and open myself up on a daily basis — honestly, sometimes it amazes me. I am a bit of an enigma, but the short answer to the “how” question is that the war between Anne the introvert and Anne the teammate is currently being won by the latter. I keep trucking along because I recognize that in order to do my part to help make the world a better place, I have to dig deep and take one for the team.

During my adult life, I have learned to pull strength from my relationships with animals. As an introvert, I find it relatively easy to use perception and focus to understand my non-verbal four legged friends. When they teach me what they need, it helps to refuel my desire to get out of my comfort zone in order to make their lives better. On a very basic level, I am inspired by their need.

It was hard for me to close down my feed yard. It was harder still to consider walking away from my steadfast and determined effort to improve bovine animal welfare. It was this motivation that led me to start a new venture in February with the Beef Marketing Group. On a personal level, I struggled to find the confidence to take on a new role with a new team; but I found myself forging forward because I wasn’t ready to give up on the dream of getting better for them.

It’s interesting that I seem to receive the majority of my awards for social media outreach; yet what really drives me forward is the ability to improve the lives of the animals that depend on me.

I believe in raising cattle as food animals.

But this belief is strongly coupled with another one that consistently tips the winning scale for Anne the teammate. I believe that it is my duty to honor the sacrifice that my animals make by offering them the best life possible as they work to turn our resources into products that will nourish our bodies and enrich our lives.

Perhaps one day, I will feel as if my mission is complete. Until then, I am finding my way on the continual journey of improvement which enables the animals under my care to reach their God-given potential. I know that they enrich my life; so it is my duty to work to enrich their’s. Interestingly enough, my new job requires much more “people time” than my old one as I now work to inspire others to drink the kool-aid and join the crusade.

I guess that it’s going to be a while before I give in to that yearning to build a hermitage in the hills and take up the life of a recluse…While that yearning makes me human, the ability to move past it and engage despite my insecurities makes me Anne.

 

 

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Respecting the Land…

Since closing the feed yard, I have a new habit of exercising during the dawn hour. As part of my training for the half marathon that I will run in the end of October, on a daily basis I trade off swimming and running. I do this for two reasons:

  1. I love dawn and have a 20 year habit of being outside to watch the birth of the new day.
  2. I love to exercise and am using it to “fill the gap” now that I am not reading bunks every morning at the feed yard.

Sunday morning, I ran round trip from my driveway to the old feed yard facility — high 5’ing the stop sign at the half way point — and meeting a training goal of a 9 mile run. As I saddled up my horse early the next morning to go down to the pasture to move cattle, I questioned my intelligence as my stiff legs caused me to look trepidatiously at my favorite black quarter horse who stands over 16 hands tall.

I am glad to report that my legs cooperated as I consciously filled my head with youthful thoughts while gaining the saddle. We had a beautiful morning to move the cattle as the animals began their return journey to the main corral to ultimately ship to Roberts Cattle Co. in a couple of weeks. Maximizing our grass resources while ensuring good animal care provides the steadfast goal for our family.

As we drove home after moving the cattle, Megan, Karyn and I had a good conversation about always respecting the land. I have a Wendall Berry quote hanging in the hallway of my house that reads:

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children!

As farmers, Matt and I respect the land by using the resources that Mother Nature bestows upon us while also carefully making sure that we tend to it. We recognize that increasing the quality of the land enables it to sustain into the future. There is pride to be found in being a good caretaker and we want to make sure that we pass along that lesson to our girls 🙂

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Filed under Farming, General, Video Fun on the Farm

A Feed Yard Update…

It’s been six months since we shipped the last of our cattle to the packing plant and I shut down the feed yard. I remember someone saying to me last winter, “Anne, it’s going to be so depressing to look at an empty feed yard and think about what it used to be.”

I am a person that always looks forward — reaching toward what will be rather than looking back on what used to be. As a result of that, as soon as the cattle left the feed yard we began to build a plan for what Will Feed would be in the future. That meant tearing out the home pens to convert the facility into a combination crop farm and cattle receiving area to serve as our grass pasture headquarters.

Above: An aerial view of the feed yard. Below: the same land a few days before Matt planted the cover crop…

I am pleased to report that we have been very successful in this effort. My foreman and my cowboy worked all winter to make this conversion possible.

  • Feed bunks and water tanks were sold to neighbors to be used for other local cattle operations.
  • All of the left over concrete was recycled to be used to help maintain local irrigation canals.
  • Fences were reconstructed to fit the needs of our grass cattle operation.
  • Manure was hauled out by my favorite farmer to be used as fertilizer to maintain soil health on his crop fields.

On the 1st of July, my favorite farmer planted a cover crop where the home pens of the feed yard used to be. My original plan was to have this completed by the first of June, but we were slowed down by the weather and the final dirt work on the project. Matt has a solid plan for building soil health over the next several years and we are excited about the farm transition.

Photo credits to Katie Arndt Photography

I have learned many lessons in the past two decades living on a farm; but I think perhaps the most important one is the critical importance of having resilience. Change can be difficult, but packing your FAITH (fortitude, attitude, integrity, trust, and hope) allows for a successful journey.

I saw a t-shirt last weekend that read “Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.” I think that this provides good food for thought as we make our way into a new week 🙂

 

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

A Solid Core…

Ask any member of either the Cozad Swim Team or the Haymaker Cross Country team and they will likely tell you that Coach Anne is a core nut. While there may well be an implied double meaning in that statement, the main reason for my reputation as a core nut is that I believe in the power of having a strong set of core muscles. Regardless of your chosen sport, strong stomach and back muscles improve your body coordination/balance and protect you from injury.

Just like anything meaningful in life, a strong core requires dedicated work to achieve and maintain. The V-up muscles do not appear overnight and planking can be downright uncomfortable the first few weeks; but the exercises give you a solid foundation of fitness that leads to success.

As I close in on a decade of coaching, I think about the core of my athletes not just in a physical sense, but also from an emotional and mental standpoint. While I teach my athletes how to swim and run, likely more importantly I help them to learn how to make good life choices.  The vast majority of my kids will leave organized athletics when they complete their high school careers; but it is my hope that the life lessons that they learn in the swimming pool and on the cross country course will continue to impact them throughout their lives.

The Cozad Swim Team found great success last Saturday at the Plains Tsunami Championship meet. 174 swims by 45 athletes led to 6 records and 143 top 8 medal earning finishes (33 of which were gold); but I do not believe that the success of the season was measured in those statistics. The medals may have resulted from a successful season; but the true value came from the development of a solid core during the hours of practice that led up to the championship meet.

As a coach, I know how to train the athletes’ bodies; but I also recognize that attaining fitness to find success is a personal choice that must be made by each individual team member. I encourage and direct; but it is the responsibility of the athlete to put forth the effort. I watch as the season progresses knowing that the kids who work the hardest will go home with the victory. That victory may not always appear in the form of a medal; but it most certainly creates a tangible culture that propels the athlete to lifelong success.

There is tremendous power to be found in an innate desire to work hard in order to find excellence.

It comes from Packing Your FAITH (fortitude, attitude, integrity, trust, and humility).

It results in Competing with GRACE (gratitude, resilience, awareness, compassion, and eloquence).

It creates a winning culture where believers are born and achievers thrive.

Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂

I love the kids that I coach as well as the sports that together we work hard to find success in; but what leaves the largest imprint on my heart is the knowledge that my leadership may one day result in my athletes working hard to make the world a better place. That’s what carries me through each season and inspires me to pack my own FAITH to coach with GRACE.

How do you work hard to pursue excellence in your life?

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Filed under General, Rural Communities

Advocate of the Year…

I have a half written blog post sitting on my computer and a half made video on my iPhone that I was supposed to get up on Feed Yard Foodie this week.

While a goal without a plan is just a wish, sometimes the plan has to be readjusted to fit life.

It is Championship week for the Cozad Swim Team, and I have more than 50 swimmers who qualified and will represent us as competitors tomorrow. The past eight weeks have been filled with the joys of coaching and all of the responsibilities that go along with it.

I thank each of you for being patient with the blog as I know that I have allowed things to slip a bit. My coaching holds a very special place in my heart and I appreciate you all being willing to grant me the ability to fulfill this calling to the best of my abilities.

In lieu of a regular post, I will share an article up today announcing that I received the inaugural Advocate of the Year award for the beef industry. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association mid-year convention is currently going on in Denver, CO. While I am in Nebraska (on the pool deck), instead of out in Denver — I very much appreciate this honor.

Most of all, I appreciate each and every one of you. You bless me each week with your time and bring smiles to my face with your comments. There is a piece of each one of you in this journey that we take together. Please know how much you bless my life — Together we are stronger!

Click here to read the article.

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

Filling the Gap…


Managing a feed yard for 20 years inspired me to learn to identify and fill meaningful gaps. With thousands of animals relying on me each and every day, recognizing if an important gap existed between the care that I offered and what the animal needed was absolutely critical for good welfare. As an adult, I find myself continuously looking for gaps in all aspects of my life. I have found that when you look for them with the intent to fill them in a positive way, that it gives your life purpose.

Over the past several months, many people have asked about my new job and what I do for the Beef Marketing Group. The short answer is that I work to fill the gaps. An extra set of eyes can be a critical tool for evaluating if and where a meaningful gap exists; and I work with my teams to figure out the best way to fill them. While I enjoy the time that I spend outside at the cattle feed yards the best, helping to create the plans/protocols that ensure good care as well as the communication tools to share our story also refills my cup.

Our swim team mantra for this summer is “A goal without a plan is just a wish”, and I think that is true for any facet of life. Making goals is critical for improvement; but perhaps even more important than creating the goal is building a plan which holds you accountable to see it to fruition. I tell my athletes that no matter how good you are, you can always get better and I carry that same philosophy everyday with me as I go to work for the Beef Marketing Group. It makes for a good fit.

Started by a small group of cattlemen in the late 1980’s, the Beef Marketing Group fulfilled a longstanding dream to create a team and develop cooperation with the end goal of improving beef quality in the meat case. This multi-decade effort eventually led BMG team member Heather Donley to create the Progressive Beef program. Progressive Beef’s three tiered focus concentrates on beef safety, animal welfare and sustainability. It provides the necessary plan to accomplish the goal.

In the more than two decades that I have worked in the beef industry, I have never known a program better suited to finding and filling the gap in cattle care and resulting beef quality. Daily chore protocols come together with onsite visits from animal welfare consultants like me to ensure that we are doing our best every day; and that good cattle care is always the #1 priority. Yearly 3rd party audits ensure integrity of execution and provide verification of our efforts.

It’s pretty awesome to develop the ability to find the gap, but it is even more rewarding when you work within a system that allows for you to help fill the gap in a meaningful way. It gives my life purpose and inspires me to greet every sunrise with the natural enthusiasm that results from knowing that what I do every day makes a difference – not just in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of animals that are cared for by my team, but also for the millions of people that benefit from the high quality beef that we all help to ensure is grown with integrity.

How do you fill the gap to provide a sense of purpose to your life?

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Filed under General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group

Prairie Hay Chores…

Last week the Feed Yard Foodie family (actually Matt, our foreman Doug, and I) took care of the yearly accumulating of our prairie hay bales. We bale extra prairie hay during the summer in order to have for horse and cattle feed in the winter months.

Matt and I prefer to engage our *free labor* in the form of our daughters to help with the manual labor associated with throwing small square hay bales, but this year all three girls were gone. It’s a good thing that Matt and I remain fit and strong…

The weekly video up on YouTube from Feed Yard Foodie comes in the form of “How do farmers feed their animals?” and recaps our afternoon building muscle to ensure that our animals have winter feed 🙂

Happy Summer from our farm to your family!

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Filed under General, Video Fun on the Farm

The Story of the Lazy YN Ranch Yearling Steers…

When I made the difficult decision to close down my feed yard, I knew that I did not want to completely leave the beef industry. A couple of things have allowed me to continue to find my way, and it brings me a lot of pride to be able to blend them together to tell a true story of beef production.

Cal, Tim and Jeff Miller live near Maxwell, Nebraska and we have worked together to grow cattle and make beef for about a decade. I was able to continue purchasing some of their animals to graze my grass pastures this spring and summer thus remaining an “active beef farmer”. This not only fuels my love for cattle, but it also provides great family times as my girls and I work together to take care of the animals.

My job at the Beef Marketing Group opened the door to creating a new partnership this year with Roberts Cattle Company in Lexington, Nebraska. The Roberts Crew does a great job as cattle caregivers, and I know that they share my commitment to high quality animal welfare. Recently, the Lazy YN yearling steers moved off of my grass pastures and into the feed yard.

The following two videos tell the story of the cattle and their caretakers.

  • It is a story of integrity and dedication.
  • It is an example of the real beef story.

I have shared both of these videos already on Facebook and Twitter, but I know that some of you rely only on this WordPress site for a connection to our farm. For that reason, I am sharing the videos here as well. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for sticking with me during my life transition. I am learning new things and trying to build meaningful skills; and I very much appreciate all of the support and feedback that I received as I started this new adventure.

Thank you 🙂

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Filed under ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group, Video Fun on the Farm