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?
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 🙂
The Feed Yard Foodie family is one short this week as my favorite brunette is competing in an Extemporaneous Speaking competition at the National Forensics League finals in Alabama; but my favorite farmer and I headed down to the pasture with our blondes yesterday morning to do a few chores.
My favorite 12 year old did an awesome job taking video and pictures that I was able to use to make the below video 🙂
Happy Father’s Day!
Sometimes Plan A doesn’t work, so smart people have a Plan B.
Saturday morning we headed down to our pasture to move the Lazy YN steers to new grass. I decided that this was a perfect opportunity for video #3.
I *think* I’m getting better — Please let me know your thoughts!
Even in the land of crazy weather it is not often that we celebrate the 1st of May with a power outage due to a winter storm. My favorite blonde cowgirl and I checked cattle Saturday late morning amidst a few snow flurries, still a bit in disbelief of the weather man’s report of a winter storm for Sunday.
Regardless of my desires to see sunshine and warmth, Sunday afternoon brought 8 inches of wet snow, a mean north wind, and fairly widespread power outages in rural Dawson County.
We lost power at our house. We lost power at Will Feed. We lost power at our pasture ground.
It’s amazing how different things can look in a short period of time.
After being out of power for 24 hours, things have returned to a more normal state.
We are hoping for sunshine and warmer temperatures this week as our second set of cattle from the Lazy YN Ranch are scheduled to come in today.
*Stay tuned for Video #2 which will be up on Thursday 🙂
Last weekend, I decided that I needed to learn how to use iMovie to create short videos to share. Fortunately for this old dog, I have technologically savvy teenagers to teach me new tricks.
My favorite pole vaulting blonde cowgirl and I loaded up the horses Sunday morning to go to check our grass pasture cattle. While there, we used our iPhone 6’s to shoot short videos and take a few still pictures. Megan then packed her patience and taught me how to edit, string video together, and incorporate some still pictures to add variety. Finally, I drafted a script to record and add to the visuals.
Below find my official 1st video shot via horseback and edited via cowgirl tech savvy 😉 I kept it short — 37 seconds — as starting short seemed to be the intelligent thing to do. I would ask that you all please offer feedback for me in the comment section. The video is a bit bouncy (due to being shot on horseback), and the editing is a bit raw (due to my lack of expertise). But, the good news is that I am sure that I have lots of room for improvement — so please help me to sharpen my skills!
Thank you for taking the time to watch, offer feedback, and share if the quality warrants it!
After twenty years in Nebraska, I can report that the world turning green in the springtime provides one of the year’s greatest blessings. A little bit of rain, some sunshine, and warming temperatures brings the countryside to life after a long winter.
We celebrated the start of spring yesterday taking our first set of cattle to grass. These yearling steers shipped from a ranch about 25 miles from our farm and will grow on our pastures for the first part of the summer.
It is good to have some cattle on the farm again. The beautiful blue skies and 70 degree temperatures provided an awesome day to go to grass. My two blondes are looking forward to helping to care for the cattle while they graze our pastures.
After these cattle finish growing on grass, they will ship to Roberts Cattle Company in Lexington, Nebraska. My new job at the Beef Marketing Group allows me to play a role on the feed yard team at Roberts, helping them with their cattle care and responsibilities with the Progressive Beef program. I am looking forward to being able to trace these calves and their care all of the way through the feeding period and on into the packing plant.
Look for periodic updates on these yearling steers and the fall calves also born on the Lazy YN Ranch that will be spending quality time on the Feed Yard Foodie farm this spring/summer.
It’s always fun to see some awesome smiles accompany the green grass and great looking cattle 🙂
I became familiar with the words “macro” and “micro” when I took my first college economics class. I signed up for two economics courses during my tenure at Dartmouth, not because I was really very interested in the subject, but because understanding basic economics fell under the “Anne’s necessary life skills” category.
I never developed a love for economics, but the psychologist in me became fascinated with all of the ways that I could interpret the world under the concept of macro vs micro. It fascinated me to see how the big picture (macro) relied on the small details (micros) in order to be effective.
Last week I talked about my 5 Nuggets of Wisdom from a feed yard Boss Lady. The first nugget, Be prepared to develop yourself and learn how to problem solve, holds the key to living a focused life. I am a believer in setting goals and creating a personal system of accountability. This ensures both loyalty to personal core values and a purposeful life journey. While I always pack my faith, I remember that LIFE is a verb. As such, I set myself up for success by constantly developing plans to help me attain my goals.
A goal without a plan is simply a wish…
Let me offer an example.
One of my career goals is to improve animal welfare for cattle. I made this commitment the day that I began my journey as a cowgirl, and twenty years later it still remains my passion. This goal provides the macro. I recognized in June of 1997 that I needed to learn many things in order to improve welfare in a meaningful way. So, I developed a plan that allowed me to create the micros to help accomplish the goal.
- Learn bovine psychology and build an understanding of a prey animal’s brain.
- Develop the ability to *think like a bovine* thereby gaining insight into what is important to a calf.
- Understand the beef industry life cycle and the resources that drive that system.
After I accomplished these three necessary prerequisites, I could then begin to figure out ways to improve the system of raising cattle in order to make meaningful improvement in welfare. I recognized that long-lasting and meaningful change came from within, so I began the process on my farm.
- I became my own cattle buyer so that I could develop relationships with my ranchers and follow the animals all of the way through the production system. Once those relationships became developed, we worked on improved nutrition, vaccination, and cattle handling to create a lower stress environment over the lifetime of the animals. This enabled them to thrive and reach their God-given potential.
- I forged a bridge with a packing plant (I actually did with two different packing plants during my twenty-year tenure) so that my ranchers and I could trace the quality of our beef and make management decisions on our farms to continuously improve it.
- I adopted a management system at the feed yard to hold my crew and I accountable for animal care on a daily basis. We began with the Beef Quality Assurance Program and eventually raised the bar to begin using the Progressive Beef Quality Management System. At that time, we began allowing outside auditors onto the farm to verify our care.
Today, the animal care at my feed yard looks a lot different than it did that inaugural day in the summer of 1997. Incremental but significant change occurred over time as the focus on appropriate micros ensured an improvement for a macro concept. The dedication to the goal of improved welfare quite literally drove my career as a feed yard boss lady.
Because of it:
- I was willing to work harder than my peers in order to prove myself.
- I weathered awkward moments with grace and class.
- I recognized that not everyone viewed the world as I did, and worked to build bridges in order to further the cause.
As I simultaneously raised my family, I shared my work with my three girls always reminding them to lead with your heart, but always take your brain along for the journey 🙂