Tag Archives: calves

Meanwhile On the Farm…

It has been a bit surreal these past few weeks blogging about Ecuador and the Galapagos while working on the farm in Nebraska.  The view from the prairie is a bit different!

So, you might ask “What is January like on the Feed Yard Foodie farm?”.

The tree grove on the west side of the feed yard...

The tree grove on the west side of the feed yard…

Well, it’s cold!  The days seem short, the nights seem long, and any type of moisture (usually snow) just adds to the regular work load.  The truth is that the typical feed yard day stays the same 12 months out of the year.  So, the January work load is not any different  — It’s just darker and colder working outside doing daily chores 🙂


My Sunday morning helpers sporting the new battery operated heated gloves that Megan gave me for Christmas: Girl power on the farm 🙂

Over the past few weeks, my crew and I have been busy feeding, performing our daily cattle health check, shipping cattle to Tyson, and getting new animals into the feed yard.  This time of year, the new animals come from ranches close by that wean their calves at home and “background” feed them for approximately 60 days before shipping them to us.

Background feeding is a term often used in the cattle world.  In the plains states, we must feed our animals during the winter months as Mother Nature does not provide much in the way of plant growth.  Many of my animals are weaned on the home ranch and placed into large pens (or pastures with feed bunks) on the ranch where the animals are fed a casserole of feed that is a blend of forage and corn products.  This allows for the animals to continue to grow on the home ranch and make a smooth transition to the feed yard in January and February.

Most ranchers with spring calving cows (cows that give birth February – April) wean their calves in October in order to give the mama cow the ability to focus on the calf in her belly during the last 5-6 months of gestation.  The mama cows are grazed for the winter on corn stalks with a supplemental feed of alfalfa or wet distillers grains, and the calves are fed separately from their mamas.

Over the past few weeks, more than 500 new animals now call our farm home having traveled less than 30 miles from the ranch where they were born and backgrounded.  Backgrounded calves have an seamless transition coming into the feed yard as the casserole fed on the home ranch is very similar to the receiving rations (casseroles) that we use at the feed yard.


I have partnered with these ranchers for many years as we work together to raise cattle, and am very proud of the teamwork that goes into the healthy and delicious beef that we grow together.

Newly arrived cattle trailing from the corral to the home pen for the first time...

Newly arrived cattle trailing from the receiving corral to the home pen for the first time…

In the home pen, fresh feed and water await along with ample space to rest and play...

In the home pen, fresh feed and water await along with ample space to rest and play…

Not surprisingly, the new cattle chose to head directly to the feed bunk where they enjoy prairie hay grass and a "casserole" blend of nutritious feed...

Not surprisingly, the new cattle choose to head directly to the feed bunk where they enjoy prairie hay grass and a “casserole” blend of nutritious feed that is very similar to what they have been eating on the ranch before traveling to the feed yard…

These steers (pictured above) are almost a year old and weigh 860#. They will spend the next four months on my farm where they will gain an average of 4 pounds per day.  When they leave my farm and make the 20 mile trip to Tyson Fresh Meats, they will weigh close to 1400#.

That’s a lot of great tasting beef!

wintersunset.jpgOne of the things that I love most about our farm is it’s combination of quiet beauty and practical usefulness.


Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General

1200 Calves, a Dozen Eggs, and the Start of Winter…

The last six weeks have been truly a blur. This time of year I loose sense of the day of the week as the days all seem to run together amidst a common theme —

Take care of the calves.

Unquestionably, October and the first half of November are the busiest times of the year at our feed yard.  Mother Nature stops giving the gift of grass, so cattle must be moved and fed in order to remain healthy for the winter. Breeding cattle (cows and bulls) are trailed or trucked to winter pastures where they receive supplemental feed or moved to graze the remnants of corn fields after harvest.

Cattle that will become beef are trucked to feed yards.


The majority of the calves that are moved into feed yards like mine during this time are animals that are 8-9 months of age. Many of them are bawling calves which means that they are weaned from their Mamas at the same time that they leave the home ranch. These cattle are undeniably high maintenance and take a lot of work. Limiting the stress for these animals is critical, and they require a lot of time and care.

I am extremely proud of the care that my crew and I provide — we focus on what is best for each calf and work tirelessly to provide it.


  • Exercising
  • Acclimating
  • Feeding
  • Maintaining comfortable pen conditions
  • Identifying any sick animals that need special care

All these things fill our days (and likely a few of our nights).

By the middle of November the fatigue sets in, and my crew and I anxiously await the end of the fall run. This week (for the first time in six weeks), we have no new animals set to arrive at the feed yard. This gives us the opportunity to catch up on secondary work that has been set aside as we cared for the new cattle and, hopefully, to take a few deep breathes in order to cast off the weariness.


On the home front, I am happy to report that Ashley Grace’s chickens have begun to grace us with eggs. The laying process began slowly, but we are up to 2-3 eggs per day from her 5 laying ladies. While I sternly remind the feathered girls that they are food animals, I have to admit that I find myself talking to them while I do home chores…

My favorite farmer was pretty proud to be the one to find the first egg!

My favorite farmer was pretty proud to be the one to find the first egg!

I am sad to report that it appears that winter has arrived in Nebraska. We worked cattle Monday with sub-freezing temperatures and a 50 mph north wind. Today, I exercise calves at dawn with temperatures hovering around zero degrees.

I am reminded that this is the time of year to cowgirl up as working at a feed yard is not for the weak of heart!


Filed under General

A Woman Of Many Hats…

To say that my life is busy right now would be an understatement.  My days at the feed yard are long as I bring in many new animals.  My girls are also busy with cross country, soccer, volleyball and swimming.  I coach two of the four sports and am an avid fan of the other two…

The sun seems to go down too early these days…

This week I added an extra “hat” to wear in addition to my cowgirl hat and my sports cap.  I also put on my beef advocate hat.  Yesterday, I left home at 4:00am to drive to Denver.  While most Americans are aware that there was a Presidential Debate last night in Denver, I think that it is also important to point out that there was a fantastic seminar for people that wanted to learn more about “where their beef comes from”.  Colorado State University, in partnership with the Beef Checkoff, put on a day long seminar entitled Beef + Transparency = Trust for chefs, dieticians, and foodies.  

Click here to read about the seminar: Beef + Transparency = Trust promotion

While I do not really enjoy the “travel” part of advocacy, I do very much enjoy sharing the story of how I raise cattle and make beef.  I love what I do, and I love to talk about what I do.  I am honored that I was asked to share in this experience.

My two favorite blondes were nice enough to draw a map so that all of you could see where my travels took me this week…

As soon as my portion of the meeting was completed, I drove back to Cozad because this morning I was expected to be on a ranch near Halsey, NE to serve as a cattle buyer and load new cattle destined for my feed yard.

Mike and Peggy are entrusting me with their calves—above is a picture of them visiting their cattle last spring at the feed yard.  I am sure that they will come down to visit this year’s calf crop as well.

I plan to leave the ranch right after the cattle are loaded and head north to Valentine, NE to watch my favorite 7th grader and her AWESOME Cross Country team compete in the Southwest Conference Championships.

I love to watch these kids run. They have so much heart and it is great fun to watch them compete and be successful…

I am likely to get home very late tonight a bit weary from all of my travels, but will rise early to begin the acclimation process on the new calves and give them vaccination shots that will help them to stay healthy…

I hope to also be able to share with you all the great success of my favorite Cross Country team :).  In the meantime, I will dream of taking a nap!


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

Weanin’ Calves…

I remember when I weaned each one of my girls.  It was a transition time and while it was not always easy, it was definitely necessary.

My youngest daughter on the day of her birth–it is hard to believe that she used to be that little!

Time passes, things change, babies turn into toddlers and before you know it they head off to school.  The next day (it seems) you wake up and your “baby” is taller than you…

Almost 8 years later, she is the tallest child in her 2nd grade class–she has a few more inches to go to catch me but not very many! Her oldest sister already has several inches on me which she considers very cool…

While animals are undeniably different than humans, there is also a time to wean.  This time is contingent on available nutrition (for both the cow and the calf), and the age of the calf.  The drought of 2012 has necessitated earlier than normal weaning for many calves in Nebraska.  The availability of nutrient rich grass is scarce as Mother Nature has not provided well for us this summer.

This little guy was only a couple of weeks old when this picture was taken—he will come to me next week as an 8 month old calf that weighs about 500#…He was weaned on his home ranch about 6 weeks ago due to lack of grass for his mama to graze.

The nutritional requirements for a nursing cow are high, and it is a more efficient use of our current limited supply of natural resources to wean the calf from the cow.  Both animals will prosper more efficiently without being dependent on lactation.

The milk requirements for this calf increases as he gets larger with age. When he gets to weighing about 500#, it becomes hard on the mother cow to continue to nurse him. This is a good time to wean the calf…

Sometimes calves are weaned on the home ranch in neighboring pastures from their mamas.  Sometimes the necessary feed is not available on the ranch so the calves are weaned on another farm.  Weaning is undoubtedly a stressful time for both the cow and the calf—it is a time of transition and change.  During this transition time, it is important to teach the calf how to satisfy his own needs without his mama.  There are things that I can provide and teach my animals as their caregiver to help them make this transition.

The water tank and mineral licks shown here are similar to what the animals had on the home ranch.  This familiarity is vitally important during the transition phase…

Through the acclimation process, I teach the calves where the feed bunk and water tank are in addition to helping them realize that everything that they need is in the new home pen.  Acclimation is a very powerful tool for me as I wean calves—by helping the animals realize that a pen with fresh feed, water, and their herd-mates is a good place to be, my calves experience less stress and stay healthier.

The prairie hay we feed to them is also very familiar to the calves as it is the same grass hay that they ate alongside their mama’s before weaning…The added wet distillers grains gives the calf the protein and nutrients that he needs to take the place of mama’s milk…

It is very rewarding for me to watch my calves quickly reclaim contentment and begin the new phase of their lives in the feed yard.  Content calves that look for the feed truck with anticipation as it delivers prairie hay, wheat straw, and wet distillers grains grow well and will ultimately make great tasting beef!

Over the next couple of weeks, I will talk in more detail about the care that I offer to these younger (an average of 8 months old) animals as they move off of the ranch and into the feed yard.  Keeping them content and healthy as they move through the transition is incredibly important (and time consuming).  I will do my best to continue my bi-weekly posting, but if I miss a post please know that it is only because long hours at the feed yard kept me from writing…


Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General