Tag Archives: cattle farm

Chicken 201…

The Feed Yard Foodie family entered the realm of Chicken 201 this spring as we started our second flock of Rhode Island Red laying hens. After four years, the first flock suffered “laying fatigue” so it was time to replenish with young birds. The plan was to start all six chicks at once — After a cat defugalty, we ended up with two sets of three birds each about 3 weeks apart in age.

The first set of three grew too big for the horse water tank that we start the chicks in, so we spent some time Easter afternoon preparing the coop and moving the larger hens out of the chicken crib and into the big kid house…The smaller set will remain in the chicken crib for a few more weeks while they grow and become better able to keep themselves warm.

My favorite farmer has been fighting a nasty fever virus, but he cowboyed up and helped to fix a few things in the run. He seems to be pretty susceptible to the requests of his girls 😉 One of the things that I like most about the chicks is the projects that they make for Matt and the girls to do together. While on a smaller scale, they are similar to the cattle handling projects that the girls and I share.

Ashley Grace is currently teaching the hens how to leave and re-enter the coop so that they can enjoy the sun, food and water that we put out in the run. It is highly entertaining! We are looking forward to having a constant supply of eggs again.

Grandma spent the Easter weekend visiting from Florida. She got to play farmer a bit between the cattle at the pasture and the chick project at home.

Easter blessings from our family to yours!

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Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., General

Going To Grass…

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 🙂

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group

My Story…

We all have a story.

A chronicle of our individual lives or even a moment in time that helped to determine what makes us “unique”.  Because each of us plays a vital role in the success of our families, our communities, and our country; each story carries a meaningful message in this journey we call life.

The above video is my story.  A seven minute glimpse of Anne — the mom, the farmer, the American.  In 2016, many of us spend a significant amount of time studying food: where it comes from and who grows it.  We make a valiant effort to try to understand why is it grown in so many different ways across the United States.

I hope that my story will provide meaningful insight and transparency relative to farming and food production.  It a story of love, pride, hard work, and technology — that is what allows our farm to be successful.  Matt and I began our work as farmers 19 years ago.  We spend each day committed to each other, and working side by side to continuously improve the way that we grow food.

Please take a few minutes to watch my story.  Please take another minute to share it so that others can get a glimpse of life at a feed yard — a segment of beef farming that is often misunderstood.

The next few blog posts will talk specifically about my partners in the beef production cycle: from the ranchers that provide care for our cattle during the first year of their lives all the way to my brand partners that bring our beef to your dinner table.

Together, we will get a better sense of where your beef comes from!

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, CAFO, Cattle Handling Videos starring Feed Yard Foodie!, Family, Farming, General

Cowboying…

As the “boss lady” of a small feed yard, I often moonlight as a cowboy. Particularly during the fall months, I spend at least half of my time cowboying. While some may think of fast horses and whooping noises when the term cowboy comes to mind, I think of purposeful movements and nonverbal communication. To me a cowboy is a caregiver.

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The cowboy plays one of the most critical roles on a cattle farm. He sets the culture for all cattle-human interactions, as well as acting as the primary caregiver. Although cowboying involves a lot of physical labor, I enjoy that part of my job.

When I was a little girl, I used to sit in my room and dream of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Depending on the day, I settled on different professions but one constant in my dreams was the desire to make a difference in the world. Animals have always tugged at my heart, and I am more at home around them than people. In many ways, cowboying fulfills those childhood dreams as there is nothing more rewarding than working hard to ensure that God’s creatures can thrive.

Denke3April.jpgSo, what does a cowboy do on the Feed Yard Foodie farm?

  • Acclimate newly arrived cattle – teaching them to feel comfortable in the home pen as well as gaining their trust as a caregiver.
  • Work on the processing crew – every animal on our farm receives routine vaccinations (like people getting the flu shot) to bolster their natural immunity to fight off illness. The cowboy gives those vaccinations according to instructions from the veterinarian.
  • Check daily cattle health – every animal on our farm is checked every day. The cowboy knows what the animal looks like when it is healthy, therefore detecting sickness means looking for the absence of health. The veterinarian trains the cowboy to diagnose and treat sick animals, and mentors him for this important chore.
  • Ensure nourishing feed and water are available to each animal.

A good cowboy has both a compassionate and practical nature. A good cowboy puts his animals ahead of himself. A good cowboy recognizes that effective care requires viewing the world through the eyes of the calf rather than the eyes of a human.

After almost twenty years, I remain fascinated by my animals and truly enjoy the daily interactions of working with them. There are days when my body hurts and deep fatigue sets in, but the knowledge that my efforts make a difference enable me to meet each new sunrise with a smile.

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While I am not sure that the little girl ever dreamed of a cattle farm, the animals intrigue the woman and inspire her to be a good cowboy.

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Filed under Animal Welfare

Different Types of Animals…

Thoughtful Thursday

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While a farmer cares for all of her animals, she must offer appropriate care relative to animal type.  Care for food animals is made up of a complex blend of cattle welfare, responsible land and resource use, and a focus on human food safety.

It varies from the type of care that my youngest daughter offers to her favorite cat because the animal’s purpose is different!

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Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday

What’s her feed conversion?

My youngest daughter is built like a colt.  She has always been that way.  She arrived four weeks early having obviously decided that there was not enough room in my 5’3” frame to accommodate her long legs…While she is not a big fan of eating (there always seems to be something more interesting to do) she continues to get taller and taller and taller.  At age seven, she is one of the tallest children in her grade and stands a full head taller than many of her friends.  I laugh that Matt has interjected height into my genetic pool!  He laughs that Karyn has excellent feed conversion

Karyn (my great feed converter) with one of our guides in Kenya...

Feed conversion is one of those cattle terms that 15 years ago was not in my vocabulary.  It is also one of the most important measurements of efficiency that I have for my animals, and tells me how many pounds of food each one requires to put on one pound of animal weight gain on a dry matter basis.  We convert the pounds of feed to a dry matter basis because different types of feed have different amounts of water in them relative to caloric value.  In a very simplistic sense, it tells me how many natural resources it takes for my animals to grow and make beef.

My two favorite blondes showing off one of our cattle feed rations...

There are many things that go into determining how efficient a bovine is.  Genetics play a big role, but there are many environmental influences on feed conversion as well.  I focus on quality at my cattle feed yard—I buy animals with high quality genetics and I offer quality care to them.  This combination allows for my animals to be very efficient converters of feed.  I believe that this plays an important role in reducing the environmental footprint of my farm because it reduces the amount of feed resources that I need to sustain my animals and grow great tasting beef.

Let’s take a minute and talk about what defines quality care relative to animal comfort and subsequent feed efficiency…

What helps to make them comfortable?

*Acclimation of cattle into the feed yard.  Cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing grass pastures, so the transition from eating grass and living on a pasture to eating out of a feed bunk and living in a dirt-based cattle feed yard pen is an important one.  Limiting stress to ensure greater cattle comfort is an important part of good cattle health and resulting feed efficiency.  We use a concept called low stress handling to help us create an acclimation plan for our cattle to ensure a smoother transition from a life on pasture to a life in a feed yard.

When a bovine is comfortable in his environment, he expresses normal behaviors such as this curiousity toward me and the camara...

*Consistent delivery of a balanced blend of quality feed ingredients.  My cattle nutritionist develops the blend or ration of feed that my animals receive.  My crew and I ensure that this feed is delivered in a consistent fashion to our animals.  Breakfast is delivered between 7:00 and 10:00am, and linner (my children’s name for the combination of lunch and dinner that the cattle receive) is delivered between 2:30 and 5:00pm.  We track the timing of feed delivery to our animals and try to ensure that each animal is fed within a half hour window for their meals on a day-to-day basis.  For example, Calf #718 lived in Pen 17 while he was at my feed yard.  His breakfast was delivered between 8:30 and 9:00 every morning, and his linner was delivered between 3:30 and 4:00.  Cattle are creatures of habit, and consistent timing of delivery and feed quality is important to their digestive health.  We also routinely test our feed rations to ensure the quality and consistency of the blend of feed that is offered to the animals.

The feedtruck delivering linner to Calf #718 and his herdmates last spring...

*Comfortable living conditions in the cattle pens.  We place a big focus on pen maintenance which helps to ensure that the pens that our cattle live in are comfortable for them.  We routinely clean our pens and haul out the natural fertilizer that the cattle produce to maintain a clean living space.  Mother Nature can wreak havoc with this at times when we receive large amounts of rain or a blizzard, but we work diligently to ensure the best possible conditions for our cattle.  My new livestock waste control facility has been a tremendous help in maintaining good living conditions for our cattle because it has enabled the moisture to drain out of our pens more efficiently which enables our pen surfaces to dry more quickly.

We use a tractor and box scraper to clean the pens and accumulate the manure so that Matt's crew can come and load the natural fertilizer and spread it on our farm ground...

The bottom line is that healthy and comfortable cattle make healthy and delicious beef grown using fewer nature resources. This reduces the environmental footprint of Matt’s and my farm.  Just like my happy and healthy seven-year old continues to grow with efficient feed conversion, so do my cattle.  It is my responsibility to offer quality care and feed to my animals.

When I set my animals up for success, I also set the consumers of my beef up for success as well as the long term sustainability of our farm...

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General

Life Lessons: One stick at a time…

I believe that our youth is the future of our country, and that our prosperity is intrinsically linked to them.  For that reason, I am very involved in coaching youth sports in our local community.  I believe that participating in sports builds strength of character in addition to muscle strength.  I coach soccer, swimming, track, and t ball and I love every minute of it.

Taking a break near the main pile...

The strength of character that I learned participating in sports as a child and young adult has helped me tremendously as I have adapted to a life on a farm caring for thousands of food animals.  I hope that my children will develop that same personal responsibility and desire to give their best effort every day in everything that they do.  Because this is a huge priority for me, I not only have my children involved in sports and community activities, but also actively engaged in the work on our farm.

We had a series of bad storms come through our area over the past couple of weeks, and these storms blew down quite a few trees and limbs down at our grass

Karyn, age 6, "doing her part"...

pasture.  We do not have any cattle down on the grass pasture right now (see the posts from last week about “the gather”), but we plan to “hay” two of the pastures that were not grazed yet this spring in order to bale feed for the winter months.  “Haying” the pastures means that we will mow down the grass and then, after it has dried for a couple of days, bale the grass.

In order to “mow” the grass, all of the tree limbs that blew down into the pasture have to be moved out of the way.  This is a perfect job for my kids!  So, I loaded them up (with plenty of grumbling) and we headed down to the pasture in the pickup.  When we first began, there was a bit of bickering about who got to drive the pickup and who had to pick up limbs and sticks.  I quietly set out moving the largest limbs and let the girls figure it out themselves.

I was pleasantly surprised that it did not take much time or coaxing on my part to get the girls started working.  They soon were not only doing their “fair share” of the work, but were also working together as a team to move the big branches that they could not lift single- handedly.  We ended up clearing out branches and limbs from about four miles of fence line, and it took close to three hours of work to get it done.  A nearby storm brought high winds and a little bit of rain as we were finishing up the job, and I was proud of the way that the girls kept working until the job was finished despite the bad weather.

All cleared off and ready to "hay"...

The best part of the afternoon was the fact that the girls followed my example and took it upon themselves to do their part.  The grumbling that I heard on the way down to the pasture was replaced by camaraderie and teamwork as they figured out a way to accomplish the goal.  As we drove home, everyone was tired but I could tell that they were proud of what they had accomplished.

I was proud of the fact that my girls not only worked hard, but also worked together using problem solving skills in order to successfully accomplish the task.  I do this every day as I work to care for my animals and raise safe and healthy beef.

Posing in the "cattle chute", the structure that the cattle walk up to get on the truck to be transported back to the feed yard.

Whether it is on a track or on a farm, the lessons that we teach our kids are vitally important.  I believe that it is my job to teach my kids to “do their part” and develop a good work ethic.  I am confident that my girls will be successful wherever their dreams take them because the “life lessons” that they learn on our farm give them the skills that they need in order to be successful—one stick at a time…

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Filed under Family, General, Nutrition (cattle and human)

Fifteen years and counting…an unusual anniversary gift.

June 15, 1996

On June 15, 1996 I awoke in my bed in South Florida and headed to the beach for a run.  It was my wedding day, and since I never had been one to spend a lot of time with hair and makeup it seemed like a good way to start the day.  I was young, I was in love, and I was excited to build a life with my soon to be husband.

On June 15, 2011 I awoke in my bed in Cozad Nebraska and made the short drive to the feedyard to “read bunks” at 6:00am.  The day came in the middle of a very challenging week for me as my cowboy was on vacation and my foreman was away from work due to back problems.  With only four of us at the feedyard, it is pretty tough when half of the crew is gone.

A "horseback" view while riding pens...

It had rained the night before, so I needed to scoop some excess water out of a few of the feedbunks that did not drain properly.  I also needed to get the feedtruck running, ride pens checking cattle, and rush back to town to coach swim team over the noon hour.  My afternoon was packed full as well because we were shipping cattle to harvest.  It was pretty obvious to me that I needed a little bit of extra help.  So what did I do?

An unusual, but much needed anniversary gift...

I called my husband, Matt.  He knew that I was exhausted and had told me the night before that he would do anything that he could to help me out.  Ten minutes later, armed with a scoop shovel, Matt showed up at the feedyard (by the way, its only 6:20am).  It took him about 45 minutes of scooping to get my feedbunks cleared out. As soon as he was finished he headed off to the fields to begin his “regular” day as a farmer.

I had checked about 10 pens of cattle before I remembered that it was our anniversary…

Well, at least he had not remembered either!

As I finished riding pens and checking cattle, I thought about how blessed I was to have Matt.  I thought about how proud I was of the life and the family that we had built together over the last 15 years.  I thought about how appropriate it was that Matt’s 15 year wedding anniversary gift to me had been rolling up his sleeves and running a scoop shovel.

Matt is my partner in every sense of the word—he is my rock that I can always count on—he is my sunshine—he is my best friend.  The last fifteen years have been an incredibly journey for me, and Matt is at the center of that journey.  We have been enormously blessed, and we have also been incredibly challenged.  Through it all, we have always been together, moving forward as a team, and giving our best.

I got home to find that our three daughters had made us a chocolate cake to celebrate our anniversary as well as gotten us flowers to decorate our dinner table.  With tears in my eyes, I

My thoughtful daughters who make me so proud.

knew that life didn’t get any better than that.

The flowers that the girls got for us...

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Filed under Family, General