Tag Archives: Cattle

What Makes a Good Animal Trainer?

Learning about cattle…

I remember the first time that I stepped into a pen filled with cattle at our feed yard. I was 21 years old and had never been within a quarter of a mile of a bovine before. The first thought that ran through my mind was “They’re huge”, followed simultaneously with an almost automatic feeling of fear.

I’ve always believed in the saying Mind over Matter and, in that instant, I made the decision to figure out how these very large creatures viewed the world (and me). My gut pushed me to learn their story so that I could become a part of it. It’s been an awesome journey. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with those big, hairy creatures. Their minds fascinate me, and I overcame my fear as I traded inexperience for knowledge.

Learning to work with cattle taught me more about myself than I would have ever imagined. Cattle’s ability to sense emotions and see the world in pictures challenged my natural linear thought process. I figured out relatively quickly that they were not able to think like me – that, in fact, it was not their job to think like me. Rather, it was my job as their caregiver to learn to think like them.

Empathy creates a powerful tool…

Today, I don’t handle cattle as often as I used to. I get my fill during the spring and summer months when we run cattle on grass pasture. But, once our grass is eaten up and I move them into the feed yard, I pass off the job of “primary caregiver” to the knowledgeable crew at Roberts Cattle Co.

Honestly, there are days when I miss that daily bovine-human interaction tremendously.

I’ve learned during my adult life that happiness is a self-fulfilling prophesy. I determine my own fate and my attitude defines my level of joy. When I sense a personal gap, I look to fill it in a meaningful way as that helps me to find daily fulfillment.

Enter Theodore…

Six months after closing down my own feed yard, I brought a 7 week old yellow lab puppy into my life. Labrador Retrievers have a special place in my heart. I shared a love for them with my Dad, and I have fond childhood memories of watching him train his hunting dogs. Theodore has helped me to fill the gap and I am broadening my animal training prowess. Just like cattle, learning to understand Theodore is a journey. We have a partnership with each of us having responsibilities to fill in order to find harmony together.

The following is a short list of qualities that I believe make a good animal trainer. While cattle are incredibly different creatures than dogs, I am finding that the qualities that make me effective in training them are remarkably similar.

  1. Patience: Animals have a way of trying to “outlast” their handlers. Being patient tips the scale in your favor as it allows you to control your own emotions and wait for the right moment as you teach.
  2. Consistency: Just as patience allows for success, consistent boundaries are critical for effective training. Animals learn what happens before what happens happens which means that good caregivers must be consistent with their feedback.
  3. Communication: Clear communication sets everyone up for success. Expectations and asks can only be effectively answered by the animal if he understands what you want. Be clear.
  4. Empathy: Animals are not smart enough to think like you, so to be an effective trainer you have to learn how to think like them. When you are able to put yourself in their shoes, then you can ask in a way that is meaningful to them which leads to your idea becoming their idea.
  5. Love: Someone once told me animals don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. A good leader always cares.

I am so very thankful for the lessons that my animals teach me. They enrich my life in countless ways as we make the journey together. Theodore’s a pretty awesome little partner 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping Our Cool…

I had an unwritten protocol at the feed yard for myself and the rest of my crew in the event that someone lost their temper:

  1. Make sure that all animals are safe in an appropriate pen.
  2. Walk away until you are once again calm.

The flip side of losing your temper is keeping your cool. Spending 20 years caring for cattle taught me the importance of rationally assessing a situation while simultaneously controlling my temper. For years, my girls claimed that I had twice as much patience with my cattle as I did with them. In all fairness, this was likely true as my steadfast mantra as feed yard boss lady was:

The cattle come first. They do not understand your brain but can sense and cue off of your emotions. Calm cattle caregivers lead to calm and well comfortable cattle.

ALWAYS KEEP YOUR COOL!

Over the years, I periodically lost my temper with myself, my crew, and the occasional truck driver that serviced us at the feed yard; but I tried to recover quickly to ensure that my cattle did not feel my frustration. I think this was one of the keys to my success as a cowgirl. Sometimes, you just have to take a moment to collect yourself before continuing the journey. That is what I call being a responsible caregiver.

A month ago, my favorite brunette bet me that I could not go a week without losing my temper. She spent a good part of her childhood comparing me to Old Faithful, laughingly explaining to anyone who would listen that her mom displayed frequent and predictable displays of emotion 😉  It is 100% true that for years I placed a higher priority on keeping my cool with my animals than I did with the people in my life. The moment that she wagered the bet, I made the decision to strengthen this personal weakness.

I am proud to say that Old Faithful remains calm and has not erupted in more than 30 days. I’ve learned a few important things along the way.

  • Conveying your passion in a respectful way provides an effective way to inspire others to do the same.
  • The key (for me) to warding off anger is to take on a perspective of thankfulness. I’ve found that it is difficult to become angry when I focus thankfully on my blessings.
  • Patience and encouragement combined with a steadfast persistence helps to bring about positive change – both in yourself and in others.

At the bottom of the Feed Yard Foodie home page is a quote by quarterback Drew Brees from his book Coming Back Stronger. The book is a favorite of mine and it makes an important observation:

“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 need to give credit to my favorite brunette for inspiring me to enable my beliefs to permeate to a deeper level in order to create an important behavioral change. I may occasionally revert back to bad habits; but I am confident that Old Faithful has been put to rest. I have become a believer in keeping my cool 🙂

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

Eclipse Totality Video…

Learning to make and do “videos” provided a significant challenge for me over the summer months. While I still have much to learn and improve upon, I am confident enough that I am starting to actually enjoy doing them 🙂

Monday, after the Facebook Live broadcast via Innovative Livestock Services, I remained in the pen with my cattle to experience the Eclipse Totality. The following video footage comes from that time — hopefully woven together in an orderly story to give you all a glimpse into what we experienced on cattle farms all across Nebraska.

I hope that you and your families were able to enjoy the awesomeness of Mother Nature last Monday!

What is your favorite eclipse story?

 

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Eclipse Fun…

I hope that everyone had as awesome a day watching the eclipse as I did! The Facebook Live stream that I did with Brandon Sorensen at Roberts Cattle Company with our fall calves was a lot of fun. I am really enjoying building this new skill 🙂  You can see the livestream broadcast here:

We did the live broadcast during the partial eclipse leading up to the period of totality (when the plains of Nebraska briefly said goodbye to the sun). Watching the beginning partial stages of the eclipse reminded me of Cookie Monster taking bites out of his favorite cookie — it was fascinating to watch the “bites” get bigger and bigger until the sun was completely covered.

The live broadcast ended about 12:20pm which was 36 minutes prior to eclipse totality. I allowed my “cattle nerdiness” take over at the time and spent those next 45 minutes hanging out with the cattle. I loved being able to take the time to just stand in the middle of the herd — watching and interacting with them during this awesome event. It made me smile when “Freckles” the calf ambled over to stand next to me just prior to the decent of darkness and during the totality.

I was pleased to see my animals remain calm during the eclipse. By understanding the cattle and intuitively providing for all of their needs, the crew at Roberts set them up for success. It was a stress-free experience for the cattle which kept them comfortable and enabled them to thrive on a day filled with uncertainty. Cattle are creatures of habit so the occurrence of darkness in the middle of the day certainly provided a strange event for them. A big “thank you” to Greg, Brandon and all of the guys at Roberts who play such an important role taking care of my animals. You all are awesome!

I took some video and a few still pictures during the minutes leading up to the totality and during the short time of darkness. I am planning to put together a video of it for all of you that were not able to spend the eclipse surrounded by farm animals. Look for that later this week 🙂

Happy Eclipse Day!

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What happens each day at a cattle feedlot?

This has been a week of tremendous learning and growing for me. I did my first Facebook Live broadcast and increased my tech savvy by leaps and bounds. For those of you that do not participate in Facebook, I was able to save the Live Broadcast and upload it to YouTube. This enables me to share it here!

So, take a few minutes — grab a cup of coffee — and watch my favorite blonde cowgirls and I interact with the Lazy YN Fall Calves.

I believe that the Live broadcast was a solid first effort. I have many things still to learn and work on; but I enjoyed the experience. To date, the live video has reached more than 15,500 people — with more than 6300 of them choosing to watch it. It is a raw, from the heart, unedited look at our cattle at the feed yard. I am very thankful that Megan and Karyn were able to help me out — it created a fun experience for the three of us to cap off the summer vacation.

Having gotten my feet wet this week with Live broadcasting, I am going to take the plunge on Monday to do a second broadcast via Innovative Livestock Services. As many of you know, we live within the Path of Totality for the #SolarEclipse2017. The partial eclipse will begin about 11:30am central time, with the short period of total darkness occurring just before 1:00pm.

Brandon and I with the fall calves…

The live broadcast will occur at 12:00pm central time during the partial eclipse. I am going with a “Tail Gate” theme and will be joined by Brandon Sorensen who is the Assistant Manager at Roberts Cattle Company. We are going to hang out with some of our Lazy YN calves and talk about Mother Nature, the eclipse, and how we care for our cattle in the feed yard.

I think that 12 months ago if anyone told me that I would be doing live social media video broadcasts from a feed yard, I would have looked at them like they were crazy. But, life is an interesting journey full of twists and turns.

While live broadcasts are a little bit scary and the end result (at least for an amateur like me) is not professionally polished, I think that they create a necessary level of transparency between farmers and our urban neighbors. Unedited creates a level of truth and trust that is hard to otherwise obtain. For that reason, I am taking the plunge.

I hope that you all will be able to join in and ask questions during the broadcast 🙂

Click here to access the Innovative Livestock Services facebook page.

In order to view the facebook live broadcast, you need to “like” or “follow” the page. Then click the “following” button just below the cover photo and make sure that you click “see first” and turn your notifications “on”.

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Filed under General, Video Fun on the Farm

Facebook Live!

Despite their remarks that summer has gone too fast, my girls head back to school on Wednesday. They’ve been on vacation for three months, but I have to admit that it seems like last week when we transitioned from school to the swim team season.

The warm summer months were filled with:

  • Fitness training for both swimming and Cross Country
  • Shooting thousands of baskets to prepare for basketball
  • Taking care of our grass cattle and pasture ground
  • And doing other farm chores….
  • And welcoming a new puppy into our family!

 

I’m not sure exactly what the girls had in mind for their last day of summer, but their Mama decided to finish out the vacation with a Facebook Live broadcast from Roberts Cattle Company to visit our cattle at the feed yard.

I tell my girls that the road to excellence isn’t comfortable, so it seems appropriate to finish up the summer pushing my comfortable limits and forging into new territory. I’ve never done a Facebook Live broadcast, but I think that it is a great way to increase transparency and allow folks to have insight into life at a cattle feed yard.

I would ask that you all support me in this new endeavor by both sharing the news of the broadcast and getting online to participate in it. It will be at 7:30am central time tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Just hop onto Facebook to the FeedYard Foodie page to watch. I plan for the broadcast to go approximately 10 minutes, so you can hang out with Karyn, Megan and I (along with our bovines) as you enjoy your morning coffee!

Please feel free to ask questions during the broadcast, or you can leave them here in the comment section of this blog prior to tomorrow morning.

  • Have you ever wondered about the story of where your beef comes from?
  • Do you want to know about life in a Nebraska feedlot?
  • Are you looking for a way to start your day with a smile?

Join us tomorrow morning at 7:30am via Facebook Live 😊

See you then!

 

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Visiting the Lazy YN Ranch Yearling Steers.

My favorite blondes and I visited the Lazy YN Ranch yearling steers this week at Roberts Cattle Company. The steers are living it up in Pen 73 and doing an amazing job of getting bigger! Hats off to the feed yard crew as the guys are doing an awesome job taking care of the cattle 🙂

Megan and Karyn were glad to see that the steers remembered us, and I am very thankful that my girls can continue to watch the calves through their entire life cycle as it serves as a great reminder of both where their food comes from and the dedicated people that it takes to raise beef with integrity.

We also moved the fall calves off of grass and into the feed yard this week as our grass supply is depleted. The fall calves have taken up residence at Roberts Cattle Company a couple of pens down from the yearling steers…

Megan celebrated moving the cattle with her first semi-truck ride 🙂

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It makes me human…

My daughters laugh and ask, “So Mom, when are you going to build your hermitage out in the hills?” The question resurfaces as a family joke with each award that I receive for my blogging and “outreach” efforts.

Since they live with me, my girls are very much aware that I am an introvert. That tendency seems to grow stronger as I get older. Being social is difficult for me because I lack the innate confidence that many people naturally enjoy. At this point, I have not allowed myself the liberty of being a recluse but at times I find myself yearning for it.

I think that it amazes my kids that I can rally and open myself up on a daily basis — honestly, sometimes it amazes me. I am a bit of an enigma, but the short answer to the “how” question is that the war between Anne the introvert and Anne the teammate is currently being won by the latter. I keep trucking along because I recognize that in order to do my part to help make the world a better place, I have to dig deep and take one for the team.

During my adult life, I have learned to pull strength from my relationships with animals. As an introvert, I find it relatively easy to use perception and focus to understand my non-verbal four legged friends. When they teach me what they need, it helps to refuel my desire to get out of my comfort zone in order to make their lives better. On a very basic level, I am inspired by their need.

It was hard for me to close down my feed yard. It was harder still to consider walking away from my steadfast and determined effort to improve bovine animal welfare. It was this motivation that led me to start a new venture in February with the Beef Marketing Group. On a personal level, I struggled to find the confidence to take on a new role with a new team; but I found myself forging forward because I wasn’t ready to give up on the dream of getting better for them.

It’s interesting that I seem to receive the majority of my awards for social media outreach; yet what really drives me forward is the ability to improve the lives of the animals that depend on me.

I believe in raising cattle as food animals.

But this belief is strongly coupled with another one that consistently tips the winning scale for Anne the teammate. I believe that it is my duty to honor the sacrifice that my animals make by offering them the best life possible as they work to turn our resources into products that will nourish our bodies and enrich our lives.

Perhaps one day, I will feel as if my mission is complete. Until then, I am finding my way on the continual journey of improvement which enables the animals under my care to reach their God-given potential. I know that they enrich my life; so it is my duty to work to enrich their’s. Interestingly enough, my new job requires much more “people time” than my old one as I now work to inspire others to drink the kool-aid and join the crusade.

I guess that it’s going to be a while before I give in to that yearning to build a hermitage in the hills and take up the life of a recluse…While that yearning makes me human, the ability to move past it and engage despite my insecurities makes me Anne.

 

 

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