Tag Archives: cattle life cycle

The Story of the Lazy YN Ranch Yearling Steers…

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 🙂

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Filed under ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group, Video Fun on the Farm

Making Beef…

Virginia, Rachel and I spend roughly 15 months raising each calf that originates from the Evert Ranch.  During those months, the calf will grow from 70# to 1300# — gaining the first half of those pounds from a combination of mama’s milk and grass at the ranch and the second half of those pounds on a grain and forage casserole at the feed yard.  It amazes me to think that good nutrition, planning and care can be so effective, but each year the Evert calves get better and better.

Evertcalves7a.jpg

We measure performance on the cattle at each level of the production chain.  Virginia is well-known for the “clipboard” that she carries around — making notes on the calves during their time on the ranch.  Each calf receives a visual tag at birth that correlates to its parents so that genetics can be measured.  Things like disposition (how the calf acts around its human caregivers), phenotype, frame scoring, and general health are all combined to determine the total quality of the animal.

When the calf changes address and comes to the feed yard, I tie the visual ranch tag with an EID (electronic identification tag) that allows us to trace performance at the feed yard as well as at the packing plant.  I track three main things: overall health, total pounds gained, and dry matter feed conversion.Evertfeedyard2.jpg

When the calf leaves my farm, it travels about 20 miles to the Tyson packing plant in Lexington, Nebraska having spent its entire lifetime within a 50 mile radius.  At that point, the EID tag allows the transmission of carcass data which provides over-all beef quality scoring for the animal.  This data collection includes carcass weight, meat tenderness score, steak measurements, and total leanness of the animal.  The carcass data is the final piece of our report card as beef producers, giving Virginia, Rachel and me information that we can use in the future to continuously improve quality.

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Because animal welfare, food safety, and sustainability are important to me, I look to my packing plant partner to share both my passion and my dedication to excellence on these topics.  In addition to supplying cattle to Tyson, I have the unique opportunity of serving on their Farm Check Animal Well-Being Advisory committee.  As a member of this board, I work to understand and improve animal welfare throughout the entire production chain.

The latest Tyson effort to ensure good animal welfare on the farm...Tyson plays a critical role making beef.  As the last stop for the animals that Virginia, Rachel and I raise, their cooperation and hard work finishes the circle in the production of responsible beef.

  • Their impressive food safety and animal welfare auditing practices provide a fitting end to the hard work that goes into raising a healthy food animal.
  • Their commitment to transparency allows for the sharing of information both back to the farmer in the form of carcass data, and forward to the beef consumer who wants to understand the company’s commitment to sustainably raised food.

I believe that the future of food production lies in the building of strong partner relationships.  It is a complicated and difficult task to grow safe, healthy, and great tasting beef.  As a team, we are able to put the pieces of the puzzle together in the ever important journey of continuous improvement.

annemattbeef1

Our next blog post takes us into the world of retail and food service – the last critical step of bring beef to your plate 🙂

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

Milestones…

Where has time gone??

She is now taller than I am and heading off to middle school…

I remember vividly when my children were born…I remember vividly when I weaned each of my girls…I remember vividly the “art” and “act” of potty training…I remember vividly the day that each of the girls went to preschool for the first time…I remember vividly the “big day” of Kindergarten…My oldest daughter will go to middle school in just a few weeks (oh, my goodness—how did I get that old?!). 

My "middle schooler" with her dog Shelley...

All of these are “milestones” in development.  When you look at a calf’s life, you can trace milestones of development as well.  Each segment of a calf’s life is marked by important events.  Let’s divide up these segments and look at them for Calf #718.

Al "checking" his cows and calves...

*Birth to “Branding”—Birth to approximately 3-4 months of age (March-May).  #718 is very dependent on his mama, and the vast majority of his nutrition comes from “mama’s milk”.  #718 and his mama are kept on pastures in close proximity to Al and his crew so that they can be watched carefully during this critical time. 

*Branding time- It is at this time that #718 receives his first vaccinations, is castrated, and branded.  To accomplish this, #718 is separated from his mother for a short period of time while Al and his crew “work” him.  Calf-hood vaccinations are critically important, and allow for continued good immune system development.  A castration procedure is done at this time as well.  Young bull calves that are destined for harvest (will not be used in the breeding herd) are castrated at an early age so that they will have an improved “disposition” and will handle better.  These calves also get along more easily with their herd-mates without the increasing levels of testosterone.  In addition, I prefer the taste and tenderness of a castrated steer to an “intact bull”.

*Branding to Preconditioning—By early summer, #718 is becoming more independent and will separate himself from his mama for short times of play and rest.  He has also learned to eat some grass and is starting to graze and gain some of his nutrition on his own.  Following “branding”, #718 and his mama are moved to pastures further away from the ranch head-quarters because they are more self-sufficient.  Al leases “forest ground” near Halsey, Nebraska and #718 and his mama spend the summer grazing on the “forest ground”.

The Halsey Forrest...Where #718 grazed with his mama during the summer months...

*Preconditioning—In Mid-September, #718 is again “worked” and receives his preconditioning vaccinations.  This is approximately 1 month prior to weaning, and a critical time to booster the calf’s immune system.  Good nutrition and good immune system function allow the calf to enter the weaning phase of his life with good health.

*Weaning—In Mid-October, #718 is gathered on horseback and separated from his mama.  He is then moved back to the ranch headquarters in a stock trailer.  His mama will remain on the forest ground for a few more weeks until she is trailed back to the ranch headquarters.  “Trailed” means that the herd is gathered and moved by cowboys on horseback.

One of Al's "Stock Trailers" is pictured here in the background...

Once he arrives back at the headquarters, #718 is placed in a pasture with his herd-mates.  During this time, he “acclimates” to eating grass and being without his mama.  His mama, in turn, is able to regain strength and prepare herself to have another calf.

*Post-weaning to feed yard shipment time—Calf #718 learns to eat out of a feed bunk (he is “bunk broke”).  His feed consists of a “growing” ration of hay, distillers grains, and mineral supplement.  A few weeks after “weaning”, #718 receives his “booster vaccinations” and is “de-wormed”.  This completes the vaccination process that Al follows at the ranch level.  The three sets of vaccinations (calf-hood, preconditioning, and boostering) gives the calf good immune system protection from disease.

The corrals and "chute" area at AL Ranch...

A couple of important additional things to note:  Calf #718 has access to an abundant supply of fresh water throughout his life span on the ranch.  His mama taught him how to drink out of a water tank at an early age.  Calf #718 also has constant access to “free choice minerals” on the ranch.  Al puts out mineral tubs for his cattle and they have constant access to them.  They are termed “free choice” because they are always available to the calf and his mama.

Stay tuned for the two milestones left in the life cycle as #718 makes the trip to my feed yard and then to harvest!

Proud to grow your beef!

 

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, General

From the Grass Pasture to the Feedyard…

After Megan and I moved the cattle, my cowboy and I loaded them on the trucks and took them to the feedyard.

Getting ready to load the cattle on the trucks...

Upon arrival at the feedyard, the cattle began the acclimation process which allows them to transition from life on a grass pasture to life in the feedyard.  The cattle are exercised for several days first thing in the morning to give them the ability to move outside of the home pen and get some additional exercise as well as become accustomed to being handled “on foot” in a feedyard setting. After each exercising session, the cattle are moved back into the home pen where fresh feed

Unloading off of the truck at the feedyard...

awaits.  This allows them to attribute “comfort” toward the home pen and learn to eat out of a feedbunk.

The acclimation period lasts anywhere from 4 to 10 days, depending on how easily the cattle transition.  I let the cattle’s actions tell me when they are fully transitioned and comfortable in their “new home”.  I look at how they move for me and handle when I ask them to leave the “home pen” and also how they act when they are asked to walk past me in the corral area.  Additionally, I look at their behavior in the home pen and how they are transitioning onto feed (how much are they eating).

Finding the feedbunk and eating breakfast!

The acclimation process is a very important component of lowering stress for my animals and plays a huge role in my “holistic cattle care” program at the feedyard.  It ensures “mental and emotional fitness” in my cattle which leads to better physical health.

My goal at the feedyard is to “set my animals up for success” so that they will be as healthy as possible.  Healthy cattle make healthy beef.  Beef that I feed to my family and you feed to yours.  Acclimating calves is one of my favorite things to do at the feedyard.  I love to watch my animals learn and thrive.  It brings me a tremendous sense of personal pride and satisfaction because I know that my cattle are not only comfortable and well cared for, but also will provide a high quality protein source that will quite literally “feed the world”.

Picture complements of National Beef...

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Filed under Animal Welfare, CAFO, General