Tag Archives: BMG

Building a Dream…

At age 70, my mom devotedly continues her teaching ministry at Cardinal Newman High School.  Mrs. Gibson’s high school English classroom exhibits a magical culture of passion as my mom inspires her students to analyze literature, learn to write, and develop personal accountability.  Her vision of inspiring teenagers to greatness continually refills her cup and gives her life a special purpose.

anne-dandyMuch to my mom’s chagrin, I never developed a kinship with Shakespeare.  However, despite the fact that I chose animals over literature, I took a part of her with me as I internalized the belief that a healthy life vision revolves around fueling your passion to make a difference.  When I graduated from Dartmouth College and started my new life on the Nebraska prairie, a feed yard became my personal version of her classroom and I went to work looking for ways to understand the bovine brain in order to improve animal welfare and beef quality.

My cattle taught me patience and perspective.  They instilled in me a new level of maturity as I discovered a fascination with seeing the world through the eyes of a bovine.  Along the way, I developed long term dreams of helping to bring the concept of total fitness (mental, emotional, and physical) to the art of daily cattle care in order to improve both welfare and animal performance.

What started on my farm grew to hold a larger audience as I shared my ideas with other cattlemen in my volunteer efforts on Beef Quality Assurance, as well as hosting interested high school and college students at the feed yard.

When you believe in something, it is natural human tendency to want to share it.

The above video was filmed four years ago.  I had a potent moment this week when I clicked on it and heard myself talking about my passion for cattle, sharing the story of beef production, and realizing that the future would bring change.  In the fall of 2012, I had no idea that I would make the decision to close down my feed yard.  However, as I listened to myself on the video, I heard wisdom and foresight in my attitude toward the future and my role in it.

After this winter, I will no longer be the boss lady at Will Feed, Inc.  Despite that, I plan to continue to build my dream of improving bovine animal welfare and beef quality.  Beginning in February, I start a new phase with a new team as I join the crew of the Beef Marketing Group.

  • I have new goals for expanding the reach of my cattle care philosophy.
  • I have new goals for figuring out better ways to share how cattle are raised and where beef comes from.
  • I have new goals for refilling my cup of passion so that I can continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

I am really excited to be able to tunnel my energy and passion into my two favorite components of being a beef farmer: animal care and sharing the story.  I will work directly with five feed yards in Nebraska on the Progressive Beef QSA program focusing on high quality animal care.  Additionally, I have the privilege of expanding my social media reach beyond Feed Yard Foodie to write blog content and work on communications efforts for my new team.

I will get to do all of this while maintaining a more human friendly schedule that allows for time with family and for volunteer coaching efforts in my rural community.

While I will never have my mom’s talent for making poetry come alive to teenagers, I am confident that this new journey in my quest to build a dream will allow me the ability to make a difference in the lives of others — both two legged and four legged 🙂

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

It Takes a Community…

A few years after I moved to rural Nebraska, an elementary school teacher told me “Anne, it takes a community to raise a child”.  I was a new mother at the time trying to figure my way into the vast responsibilities of having a child, and her words resonated in my heart.  Many years later, I still think of her advice as I continue to raise my own daughters as well as serving as a youth athletic coach in our small town.

A great amount of power exists in a community.  The team work and dedication to a common cause provides strength and longevity.  Just as strength comes in numbers, compassion increases exponentially as the group works to provide for its members and the common good.  Although my vocation is responsibly raising beef, the local kids that I coach and mentor serve as a daily reminder of what is truly important in life.  Of all of the things that my community has given to me over the past twenty years, the ability to positively make a difference in the lives of our youth is the one that I truly treasure.

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While it takes a community to raise a child, it also takes a food production community to raise high quality and traceable beef.  From the ranch all of the way to the dinner plate — an organized supply chain needs to inspire all of the contributors to act with integrity and congruence.  What Virginia, Rachel and I do on our farms makes a difference in the lives of our animals.  In order to complete the circle of quality, we need partners at the retail level of food production to maintain and augment that value all of the way to your dinner table.

The best way to do that is to work together to build a brand.  Three years ago my feed yard became a member of the Beef Marketing Group.  I was looking for a group of like-minded feed yards who focused on quality animal care, and were interested in coming together to sell a value added product. Each feed yard in our cooperative participates in the Progressive Beef QSA program and is audited against animal welfare, food safety and sustainability standards.

The Beef Marketing Group now teams up with Tyson Foods and Performance Food Groups to bring the Braveheart Beef product to your restaurant table.

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This is a unique and true partnership that adds value all across the production chain. Cattle care and farmer integrity are assured, and the Path Proven technology verifies that the DNA of the Braveheart Beef comes from one of our Progressive Beef certified animals.

This adds confidence to the food supply chain by:

  • Audited and verified animal care on the farm
  • Meat testing to ensure traceability and product integrity

BMG, Tyson, and Performance Food Groups come together to let you know that “we’ve got your back” relative to beef quality and farmer integrity.  The product is sold in restaurants all across the country, and we are hopeful that demand for it will continue to grow making it even easier to get to your dinner plate in the future!AnneGirlsApril2016.jpg

My girls are blessed to be able to grow up on “Mama’s beef”, now the Braveheart Beef brand makes it easier for you to be also 🙂

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Audits…

Sometime between my 2nd and 3rd visits to Florida to see my parents this fall, the feed yard had its final internal Progressive Beef Audit for 2013.  In total, my cattle farm is audited three times in a calendar year as a result of my participation in the Progressive Beef program.  The first and third audits are “internal” in nature where a BMG quality assurance director conducts the audit; and the second one is external with a third party consultant conducting the audit.ProgressiveBeefLogoGreen

The Progressive Beef program is based on three tiers:  Food Safety, Animal Welfare, and Sustainability.  In order to ensure that my feed yard is working diligently in these areas, we follow a certified HACCP plan for our feed mill as well as 39 SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures).  These 39 SOP’s cover everything from cleaning water tanks and cattle home pens — to cattle handling — to taking care of and cleaning farm equipment — to food safety measures.

Checking feed bunks, water tanks, and cattle home pens during an audit...

Checking feed bunks, water tanks, and cattle home pens during an audit…

The HACCP plan and SOP’s provide the basis for everything that we do on the farm as well as the standards on which we are audited.  While these audits take time and are a bit intrusive, I believe that they help me to accomplish excellence in cattle care.  They are a necessary second step to verify the high quality daily care practices for my animals as well as the safety of the beef that those animals make.2013_09_27_mr_Will Feed for Drovers-67

The HACCP plan and SOP’s provide the road map…

The audit ensures that we don’t get lost on the journey…willfeedsign3

I am proud to report that my feed yard has scored in the “Excellent” category on all three of our 2013 audits.  I believe that this is proof that we are whole-heartedly dedicated to this journey of excellence in cattle care and beef production…

I would like to take a minute to publicly thank the three awesome men who give of themselves each day to help me to care for our animals.  Their dedication, compassion, and loyalty all play an enormous role in the success of my farm.  Together the four of us make a fabulous team — which ensures success on this important journey.IMG_4534

I hope that sometime during this holiday season you will choose to eat a delicious beef meal as your own personal tribute to us!

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Filed under General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Striving To Always Get Better…

I pride myself on being a good cattle caregiver.  I recognize that effective care is marked by a myriad of things which ensure quality bovine health.

I believe that no matter how good I am, I can always get better.

Watching talented cattle handlers is a great way to learn...

Watching talented cattle handlers is a great way to learn…

A couple of weeks ago, my crew and I attended a cattle care and handling training conducted by Dr. Kip Lukasiewicz and Dr. Shane Terrell in Elba, Nebraska.  We went on a road trip to meet with crews from other BMG feed yards and to learn from Dr. Kip and Dr. Shane.

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Leading from the front of the herd allows for the development of confidence in the animals…

The training was a combination of both classroom time and active cattle handling.  It covered the core concepts of Beef Quality Assurance, as well as basic components of cattle psychology to help us learn to better understand the animals that we care for.

My moment of epiphany during the training came when Dr. Kip said these simple words:

We can never completely remove the stress from our animals’ lives.  Rather what we can do is to teach them how to deal with it, so that they are better able to maintain optimal health as they move through each stage of their lives.

I do not know which Anne this statement spoke the most to:  Anne the cattle caregiver or Anne the parent.  But, I do know that this is powerful advice that will continue to shape my philosophy and increase my effectiveness as a leader and caregiver.

Empowering them to play an active role in solving challenges...

Because I love them, I need to empower them to play an active role in solving challenges…

I think that each one of us, from time to time, is guilty of trying to wrap those that we care for in bubble wrap—attempting to protect them from each and every challenge that comes their way.

Perhaps we would all be better served if we also focused our energy on teaching them how to personally play a role in dealing with challenges…

While my cattle are incredibly different than my children, I am also a leader and a caregiver to them.  This necessitates a personal understanding of a bovine’s unique needs and understandings so that I can help it to learn to deal with stress and stay healthy.

They are vastly different from my children, but I still need to empower them to handle challenges...

My relationship with them is vastly different than what I have with my children, but I still need to empower them to handle challenges…

Like any human, I am challenged by the effective understanding of my cattle as my animals think and perceive the world in a vastly different way.  I must constantly attempt to view the world through their eyes in order to ensure proper care.

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I work to empower myself to always search for improvement…

I enjoy the challenge of working with animals.  They invoke a level of empathy that inspires me to greatness.  I am grateful for those professionals that help me to solve the puzzle of bovine animal understanding.  And, I look toward the future with excitement as I am constantly able to improve my leadership and caregiver skills.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Partnerships Create Sustainability…

I grew up a privileged child.  My parents always provided for me, and I never knew any form of financial insecurity.  I remember my dad sitting in his recliner chair at night watching CNN and worrying about the markets, but I never lacked for anything important.  He worked hard and, as a result, his law practice always persevered.

My parents with my daughters...

My parents enjoying being grandparents many years later…

When my brother and I approached upper elementary school, my mom went back to school and earned her Master’s degree.  She then continued her career teaching at Cardinal Newman High School.  She says that she teaches because it is her vocation, but I am savvy enough to realize that her paycheck also allowed me to graduate from college free of debt.

My parents are planners.  They are providers.  As an adult, I can look back and see that they made sacrifices so that I could pursue my dreams.  Twenty years later, I want that same thing for my own children.

My daughters and their cousin provide the next generation...

My daughters and their cousin provide the next generation…

Today, I worry about the markets looking at a computer screen instead of on a television but my face gets the same little crinkle in between my eyes that I used to see on my dad’s face.  I can now empathize with his worries of making a payroll, running a personal business, managing risk, and never losing sight of the responsibility to provide for my own family.

There are days when I am tremendously proud of my professional accomplishments.  There are days that I am scared to death that my hard work may not be enough.  Even though I believe that it is my vocation to care for cattle and raise beef, financial sustainability is never far from my mind.  It has to be—my farm is a business that must be able to endure.

It is not always easy...

It is not always easy…

Historically, raising cattle and growing beef is commodity based where supply and demand determine the price for the end product.  I believe that the single largest driver toward my financial sustainability is building demand.  The ability for me to endure requires that someone wants to purchase my beef at a price that will allow me to pay my bills and also provide for my family.

I have no financially sustainability if you do not have a desire to purchase this...

I have no financially sustainability if you do not have a desire to purchase this…

Building demand for beef from a farm in rural Nebraska is no easy task.  Cattle outnumber people 4 to 1 in my beloved Cornhusker State, so most of my customers live far away.  Growing beef is also a very capital intensive and heavily regulated business.  There are many obstacles to direct marketing and also to attaining the vertical collaboration that I believe is so critical to long term financial sustainability.

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He is raised with care…

Last week I took a major step toward achieving my dreams of building beef demand through quality.  I have known for a long time that accomplishing this would require partners and collaboration—my small feed yard in rural Nebraska does not produce enough volume of beef to surpass the challenges of building a brand or a demand for my specific product.BMG.jpg

I am incredibly proud of my new alliance with the Beef Marketing Group and am excited to enter into a new phase of learning and development.  My focus on quality will prevail and strengthen as I pool my ideas with a great group of cattlemen.   I have always led with my heart, and today still believe that the things that feel right lead to success.

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I have faith that this new venture with BMG and Progressive Beef will help me to accomplish my goals of continuous improvement in animal welfare and food safety.  It will also help me to further develop a relationship with all of you wonderful people that choose to celebrate your lives over a delicious beef meal.

He still provides through mentoring to both me and my daughters...

He still provides through mentoring…

As I worked these past few weeks to complete the alliance with BMG, I frequently thought of my dad and how he always taught me to persevere while also staying true to my values.  Today I am smiling knowing that I have made him proud while also offering the same example to my daughters.

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Filed under General, Sustainable Spring