Tag Archives: cattle feed yard

5 Reasons Why I Prefer a Cattle Feed Yard To a Shopping Mall…

Thoughtful Thursday

I prefer a cattle feed yard to a shopping mall…

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My daughters went back to school this week.  Just like many teenage girls, they thought that they needed to do  “school shopping” prior to the big day. They bemoan the fact that their Mama is a reluctant shopping participant…

5 Reasons Why I Prefer a Cattle Feed Yard To a Shopping Mall

1.  Cattle are generally respectful creatures, and can be trained to be consistently courteous.

2. Cattle are gregarious, non-verbal creatures; the feed yard is generally a quiet place where there is a blissful lack of bickering.

3. Cattle do not text or use “electronic devices” which allows for more focused personal interactions.

4. Cattle grow their own heavy coats in the winter, and shorter coats in the summer — they do not ask me to spend more than $100.00 to purchase a pair of jeans that already have holes in them.

5. Cattle live in the present and have no concept of the future — As such, they do not ask me to think about Christmas purchases in August…

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Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday

Celebrating Success…

In the spirit of a little bit of friendly competition, all 21 Progressive Beef Certified Feed Yards are ranked twice a year according to how they scored on their last audit.  I have always held a particular fondness for being the best, so my crew and I embraced the challenge.

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Last night we celebrated our victory with a steak dinner.  One of the things that I love best about my crew is that we are like a big family.  Work at the feed yard isn’t simply work, but rather it is a special part of our lives that we share with our families.

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My favorite farmer cooked New York Strip steaks on the Traeger grill…

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I whipped up one casserole of cheesy potatoes, and another of green beans…

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My favorite blondes made a chocolate layer cake to top off the meal…

We enjoyed a great night of fellowship as our children and grandchildren played basketball, ran around the yard, and said hello to the horses — cats — and dog.

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It is nice to take time to share with those most important to you…

To say thank you for hard work and loyalty…

To appreciate the blessings that fill our lives…

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And MOST especially to revel in the knowledge that we make an AWESOME team!

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Filed under General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Becoming a Believer…

I have a quote down at the very bottom of the home page from football player Drew Brees’ book, Coming Back StrongerWhen I read Drew’s book a couple of years ago, it just plain spoke to me.  In fact, I have many pages of notes where I copied down quotes that I loved from the book.  The one below is my favorite…

“Believing—there are several layers to it. There’s the surface-level type of believing, where you acknowledge that something is true. Then there is a deeper kind of belief–the type that gets inside of you and actually changes you. It’s the kind of belief that changes your behavior, your attitude, and your outlook on life, and the people around you can’t help but notice.”

I am a person of very strong beliefs and faith.  I have always been strong-willed, but the confidence that I have attained as an adult stems from the development of personal beliefs and faith.  My life is centered around love, empathy and hard work because I believe that is what allows me to use my talents to achieve greatness.

I work tenaciously as a parent to teach my girls to be believers

Although there are many different people that have served as mentors for me over the years, learning to be a caregiver for animals has inspired in me a deep level of believing that transcends everything else.  Figuring out what an animal needs and then working tenaciously to provide those needs brings me an inner confidence and a sense of peace.

Both of these animals are actively engaged with me and asking me for guidance…

As I watch my cattle thrive and grow, and then trace their performance all of the way to my own dinner plate I become even more of a believer. I am left with a sense of purpose, and inspired to work harder with each day that passes.  My love for animals is diversified and runs deep. I am happiest when I am surrounded by them.

On top of my trusty equine partner and surrounded by cattle…

My daughter, Megan, and I spent a couple of days recently in the Sandhills of Nebraska.  My husband laughs that even when I go on vacation, I take some of my animals with me.  Megan and I joined some friends at “horse camp” riding and learning how to be better communicators with our equine partners.

Megan (right) practicing her “Miss America” wave while sitting side-saddle on her horse.  She is joined by her two friends and their favorite equines…

My favorite part of the trip was watching my daughter in her own journey to becoming a believer.  Our animals not only teach her a sense of personal responsibility as she learns to provide for them and understand them, but living her dream with them also brings a sense of innate self-confidence.

The above picture makes my heart swell.  The absolute joy and personal pride in her expression is priceless to me as a parent.  At the very moment that I took the picture, Megan became a believer.  She realized what it meant to be a partner to her horse and they achieved a unique harmony that only a lucky few will ever feel.

She caught a glimpse of how wonderful it feels to use empathy and feel to successfully and unselfishly communicate.  Going forward, she will view the world differently—with a sense of confidence and understanding that enables her to successfully use the gifts with which she is blessed.

Is there a pivotal moment in your own life that caused you to become a believer?

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Filed under Family, General, Natural Horsemanship

Movie Night With Feed Yard Foodie…

A long way from the Lily Pulitzer clothes that my mom used to buy me...

It has been a while since I posted a video clip from the goings on at the feed yard…

The YouTube video link below shows me taking cattle out of the pen for an exercise session…

If nothing else, it has probably been a while (for most of you) since you saw a short lady in coveralls handling cattle…My fashion sense seems to have changed a bit…

Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXDMQtpntxQ&context=C32ebafcADOEgsToPDskLeYBNVd9eu6zZz-O6Rm6E3

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Cattle Handling Videos starring Feed Yard Foodie!, General

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

Redefining Normal…

As a creature of habit, my days often follow similar patterns. In fact, days and weeks tend to flow into one another and I sometimes lose track of the calendar…Every once in a while, my routine is interrupted by an epiphanic event.  Sometimes this event is a positive experience; sometimes this event is inherently negative in nature.  Regardless, it motivates me to redefine normal.

One of the largest epiphanic events that occurred early in my tenure at the feed yard transpired when agents from the Environmental Protection Agency chose to perform a spot inspection of my feed yard.  Normally, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality routinely inspects the feed yards across the state of Nebraska to ensure compliance with government environmental regulations; however, every once in a while the EPA comes across the region and randomly re-inspects a few of those feed yards to further ensure compliance.

Young and full of naivety and enthusiasm...

The inspection began when the agents walked into my office, flashed their federal badges and informed me that if I lied to them that I would go to prison.  What followed was one of the most unpleasant events in my life.  More than ten years later, I still I remember clearly the blatant antagonistic nature of the inspection, and I have to admit that I was completely unprepared for it.  I was a naïve twenty-four year old woman trying to learn how to run a business and care for animals.  Despite the challenges that I faced daily as a young woman entering the world of cattle feeding, I had never before been confronted with such obvious enmity.

This was my first direct personal involvement with federal government regulation and it is one that, even today, I have a hard time moving past.  That day redefined normal.  Gone was my youthful naivety.  The experience brought into question my idealistic American belief that a citizen is innocent until proven guilty, and it shocked me to my core.

In the days that followed the inspection, I was filled with internal struggle as I tried to realign my patriotism and figure out how the combatively natured inspection correlated with environmental stewardship.  One of the complaints of the agents was that I had failed to mark a zero down in my weather records on the days that we received no precipitation (I only marked down rain/snowfall amounts on the days that we received moisture).  I am enough of a rule follower that I changed my routine to accommodate the demands of the agency, but all the while I struggled to figure out the positive and practical impact that this change would have on the environment.

Redefining priorities with the maturity of motherhood...I realized that they are my legacy and they learn from my actions...

Gaining strength to get past the notion of “Once bitten, twice shy”…

More than a decade later, I took a deep breath and made the decision to voluntarily participate in a federal EQUIP cost share program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to make environmental improvements at my feed yard.  The nature of this agreement was based on collaboration, and consequently was much more within my comfort zone.  As I signed the paperwork, I prayed that this experience with the federal government would be better than my first one…

An aerial view of my new livestock waste control facility...

Today, I have a state of the art livestock waste control facility to move effluent water out of my cattle pens and into a lined holding pond for storage until it can be used for liquid fertilizer and irrigation water on my crop field north of the feed yard.  The new drainage system and durable plastic lined waste control facility allows for better pen drainage, and protects the ground water that flows underneath the feed yard.  It’s increased size (compared to my old livestock waste control facility), also gives me the ability to make better use of the effluent water for irrigation purposes during the crop growing season.  While this was a huge financial undertaking for me, it was an important proactive move for me to make to reduce the environmental footprint of the feed yard and I am so very proud of it.

This is a picture of my old livestock waste control facility that was constructed in the early 1970's when my father-in-law built the feed yard. We are in the final phase of cleaning the old LWCF and have removed all of the settled nutrient matter from the bottom of the LWCF and spread it on our crop ground according to the proper agronomic rates to use to replenish the nutrients on our crop ground.

Right about the time that the project was being completed, I received a phone call from someone who worked at the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in the water quality department.  He asked me, “Anne, why did you volunteer to build a new livestock waste control facility?  It was expensive, and we did not tell you that you were required to do it.”  I responded, “It was the right thing to do, and the cost share program made it a financially viable undertaking.”

The entire answer to his question actually goes a little bit deeper than that…I had a strong desire to redefine normal in my relations with the federal government.  I was searching for a way to work collaboratively to improve the environment, and to demonstrate that the combative and intimidating nature of my previous experience with the EPA was both ineffective and unnecessary.  At the very core of my being, I wanted to lead by example and demonstrate that a positive attitude and collaboration leads to effective change.

The example that I set for her determines the future of our country...

I refused to give up on my belief that collaborative entrepreneurship is the true American way…

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, Foodie Work!

Happy Thanksgiving from The Cattle Feeder…

Today I am thankful for my crew of guys at the feed yard.  It is Thanksgiving morning and we are delivery feed to our animals before we celebrate the holiday with our families.

Do you come to the Thanksgiving dinner table with as much exuberance as my bovines?

http://www.youtube.com/user/FeedYardFoodie#p/a/u/0/c9uYxowTAcI

Have a blessed and thankful day!

Feed Yard Foodie

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Filed under Foodie Work!, General, Nutrition (cattle and human)

Nutrition

At age 36, I am not quite as strong nor do I eat quite as much, but I can still swim backstroke!

Despite the  fact that my “flesh condition” (another cattle term) has always tended to be “green”, I am a really good eater.  Not long after I first met my husband, I invited him to dinner with the Dartmouth Women’s Swim Team.  I still laugh when I remember the look on his face when the food was served and my teammates and I began to eat.  He describes it, quite literally, as a “feeding frenzy”.  To this day, he proudly declares that the women’s swim team could out-eat the football team any day!

Matt's high school senior football picture...ready to go and play at Dartmouth!

Shortly after we moved back to Nebraska, one of my friends called to check in.  When she asked what I had done that day, I told her that I had spent the day with my nutritionist.  Following my statement, there was a fairly long period of silence.  My friend finally said, “Anne, are you ok?”  At first, I had no idea what she was talking about but it finally occurred to me that she thought that I was going to human nutritional counseling…

I have a consulting nutritionist at the feed yard, and he is an important part of our feeding/nutrition team.  He has his PhD in ruminant nutrition.  Cattle are herbivore animals with unique digestive systems.  As herbivores, their diet consists of various plants.  In order to more efficiently digest their plant diet, cattle have flat teeth which help to grind the food up, and a very complex digestive tract consisting of four stomachs.  They are known as “ruminant animals”.  Grazing cattle on land that is not suitable for raising crops for a large portion of their lives (like calf #718) more than doubles the land area that can be used to grow food.  This converts grass that humans are not able to digest into nutrient rich beef that we can.  Finishing cattle in a feed yard, under the tutelage of a trained nutritionist, enables the mature calf to be prepared for harvest using fewer natural resources while also giving it the “grain finished” taste that I love so much!

DJ Jordan, a PhD graduate of the University of Nebraska in Ruminant Nutrition, my "consulting nutritionist"...

From a nutritional standpoint, calf #718 transitions from eating his mama’s milk; to grazing grass; to a weaning diet of wet distillers grains, mineral supplement and hay; to finally a feed yard diet of wet distillers grains, rolled corn, mineral supplement, ground corn stalks, and ground alfalfa hay.  The acclimation time for calf #718 as he enters the feed yard is very important and I rely heavily on my consulting ruminant nutritionist to ensure that it is a smooth transition nutritionally.

Let’s take a look at the cattle’s feed:

The "Finishing Ration" at the feed yard: Wet Distillers Grains, Rolled Corn, Ground Alfalfa, Ground Corn Stalks, Mineral Supplement...

When #718 first entered the feed yard, he was placed on a “receiving ration” that is relatively high in forage (alfalfa hay and corn stalks), and relatively low in grain.  During the first month at the feed yard, his diet is slowly changed as he becomes accustomed to the feed.  The amount of grain is slowly increased and the amount of forage is slowly decreased.  Once he is placed on the “finishing ration” (approximately 30 days after arrival), he will remain on that ration until harvest (approximately 110 days).

In addition to relying on DJ to formulate comprehensive and nutritionally balanced rations for our cattle, we also take frequent samples of our feed to insure that the nutritional content of calf #718’s breakfast is accurate and wholesome!  These feed samples are analyzed in a laboratory.  In other words, we have a quality control system (Based on Beef Quality Assurances Protocols) to ensure that the feed that is fed to the animals matches the nutritional formation that DJ puts together for the cattle.  DJ also visits the feed yard once per month to assess both cattle health, and our crew’s job of delivering fresh and appropriately mixed cattle feed.

Beef Quality Assurance ensures good nutritional care...

As a mom, human nutrition is important to me—I try to offer my girls well balanced meals that ensure that they receive the energy and vitamins/minerals that they need to stay strong and healthy.

My Girls...

As a cattle caregiver, ruminant nutrition is important to me—DJ creates well balanced rations (meals) for the cattle, and my crew and I ensure that the feed is fresh, formulated accurately, and delivered regularly to the cattle.

Eagerly eating a well balanced breakfast--formulated by DJ...

Mixed and Delivered by Doug...

This is another one of the ways that we “take the time it takes to do it right” at the feed yard…

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Filed under Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, General, Nutrition (cattle and human)