Matt’s grandparents moved from Northwestern Ohio to Cozad Nebraska in 1945. Originally, they were Mennonite alfalfa farmers in the Archbold Ohio area. Converted to the Methodist religion, and desiring to travel west, they loaded their family of four
What type of building is this that bears Cozad's name?
(Grandmother Grace, Grandpa Burky, and sons: Dave and Erv) on the Union Pacific Railroad in 1945 to journey west to Cozad. Matt’s dad, Dave, has vague memories of riding the train and arriving in a new town to live.
Grandpa Burky went to work farming alfalfa and was involved in the construction of several alfalfa dehydration plants that were built along the Platte River Valley during that time frame. The Platte River Valley is well suited for growing alfalfa because of both the soil type and the close proximity of the Ogallala Aquifer. In fact, Cozad is rumored to be the “Alfalfa Capitol of the World”. Alfalfa is a perennial legume crop that makes high protein animal feed that is also a good source of both Vitamin A and D. Our growing season is about 6 months long (yes, winter takes up half of the year in Cozad…), and Matt will get 3-4 cuttings of alfalfa during each growing season. Alfalfa will grow back well for 6-8 years after it is planted. Once the alfalfa gets “tired”, Matt will rotate in a corn crop for one year before replanting the alfalfa. This allows him to replace nutrients in the soil in between alfalfa life cycles.
Alfalfa growing in a field right behind my house.
In the late 1960’s Matt’s dad, Dave, graduated from Stanford Business School and decided to go home to Nebraska to farm. He was interested in raising cattle, in addition to alfalfa and corn, and went to work building the cattle feedyard. Archie Curtice, the alfalfa dehydration plant manager at the time, went to work with Dave to build the feedyard. If you watch the video about our feedyard on the home page, Archie is the older gentleman that is featured. Our feedyard was one of the original cattle feedyards built in Dawson County, Nebraska.
Archie and Dave ran the feedyard together with the help of Archie’s son, Doug (my current Foreman at the feedyard) and our cowboy, Rich. I began working at the feedyard in June of 1997 and have learned a tremendous amount from all four of these gentlemen. My father-in-law took a tremendous leap of faith when he hired a city girl psychology major, and Archie welcomed me into both the feedyard and his family. I hired another one of Archie’s sons, Steve, almost ten years ago when Archie started to retire. To this day, Archie is like a grandfather to me, and our crew at the feedyard is more of a family than a work crew.
Matt's Alfalfa Dehydration Plant
So, everyone always asks, why doesn’t your husband run the feedyard? My husband is an engineer by trade and a farmer by heart. He loves farming and operating the alfalfa dehydration plant, but was never really interested in animals. When my father-in-law announced that he was going to sell the feedyard, I asked him if he would keep the feedyard and give me a chance to learn to run it. When he finished laughing and choking on his glass of milk; and realized that I was serious, he took me at my word and put me to work. Fourteen years later, I am the “boss lady” and believe that my guys and I run one of the best cattle feedyards in Nebraska.