Tag Archives: Cattle

It Takes a Team…

Where does your food come from?

Apart from food that is completely home raised and never leaves the farm, it takes a team of people to get it from farm to fork. While I believe that many would love to have a simple answer to this often asked question, the reality is that food production in 2015 is not a single story.

It takes a team.

I like to grow what I like to eat. My favorite food is beef. I loved a juicy steak when I was a budding athlete on the East Coast of Florida, and I still love one today. My knowledge of the beef production cycle has increased exponentially over the years as I learned to be a farmer, and my desire to enjoy a wholesome beef dinner with my family holds steadfast.

I rely on my rancher partners to help me humanely raise cattle which grow to become healthy beef.

Pasture Raised...

Pasture Raised


Grain Finished

I rely on my feed yard cooperative, BMG, my packing plant partner, Tyson, and niche brands such as Certified Angus Beef, to help me take my beef all of the way from my farm to your family’s dinner table.

It takes a team.

I had the pleasure of hosting a film crew from Certified Angus Beef at the feed yard last week. Deanna and Josh traveled to Nebraska to help me share the story of the feed yard part of the beef production cycle. CAB is a long-time partner of mine, helping me to market my high quality beef as well as facilitating outreach to retail customers to talk about “where that beef comes from”.

The day and a half that we shared last week was filled with not just filming, but also learning. I love any opportunity to share my farm with others, and it is always such a joy when I get to host people like Josh and Deanna. Their genuine interest and sincere friendliness renews my faith in outreach work, and gives me hope looking forward to the future of my farm.

This project focuses on explaining a cattle feed yard to urban customers.

  • What is a feed yard?
  • What is the role of a feed yard in the beef production cycle?
  • How do feed yard crews offer care to their animals?
  • What role does a veterinarian play at a feed yard?
  • How are feed yards sustainable?
  • How can a feed yard be both a steward to its animals as well as to the environment?
  • What faces lurk on the other side of the farm gate?

Annegate.jpgThe people are the heart and soul of a farm.

I am incredibly excited to see the finished video which is set to unveil at the Certified Angus Beef Annual Retail Conference in late September. You can also look for it on Feed Yard Foodie as I plan to share it as soon as CAB completes the project.

It will provide an authentic view of a feed yard — this nebulous and under-explained part of the beef story. Video footage is complete with filming taken remotely via a camera drone flying over the cattle pens as the sun prepared to set on our farm. What an awesome piece of technology!

The drone and it's fearless leader :)

The drone and its fearless leader!

Many thanks to Deanna, Josh and the entire Certified Angus Beef team for taking the time to understand and also to share. Additional thanks to John Butler of the Beef Marketing Group for inspiring me to continue to share my story.CABjohnfilm

It takes a team…


Filed under CAFO

Through the Eyes Of a Mom…

I became a farmer two and half years before I officially became a mom. June 15th I will celebrate my 19th wedding anniversary and (two days later) my 18th anniversary at the feed yard. Learning to be a farmer, then a mom, then a combination of the two has been an awesome journey.


Sunday we all celebrate Mother’s Day — While thoughts of motherhood and animal care often float through my mind, this week they seem to be on the forefront.

There are five core principles that I hold onto with tremendous tenacity as I navigate the road of motherhood and cattle caregiver. Today, I share them with each of you as food for thought as we approach the celebration of life epitomized by Mother’s Day.

  • Dependability: Consistency and quiet fortitude create a culture of healthy learning. Whether I am building the self-confidence of my daughters or my cattle, steadfast and reliable behavior allows for positive growth and effective leadership.
  • Accountability: At the end of the day, I am ultimately responsible. While my girls are now old enough to make decisions independently, it is my subtle guidance and the lessons that I teach them through my own actions that are reflected in their choices. It warms my heart when they make a good decision as that is a direct reflection of my success as a parent. Watching my animals thrive under my care and tutelage provides that same feeling of pride and accomplishment.
  • Compassion: In all of my 40 years, I have never found anything more powerful than the expression of compassion. Both people and animals respond positively to caring – they sense it, they hunger for it, and they blossom when they come into contact with it. A sentiment being does not appreciate how much you know until they realize how much you care. Good leadership is always based on compassion.
  • Perseverance: Both children and animals will test their caregivers. Human nature is never content without pushing the borders of acceptable behavior. One of the greatest gifts that I give to both my children and my animals is a guidance based on steadfast strength and unbending perseverance. My strength becomes contagious, good habits become the norm.
  • Excellence: While a rewarding life is marked by joy, it also is not always comfortable. To achieve success, to feel that warmth of accomplishment – the pride of good work, you must engage in the quest for excellence. While settling may be easy, not taking the chance to make a true difference prevents positive progress. The sustainability of our country relies on a constant commitment to excellence. I cannot look my girls in the eye and promise them that I will never fail, but I can show them with my actions that I will give everything that I have, every day that I live, constantly striving for excellence.

Together we make a difference – for ourselves, for our neighbors, and for the animals that will ultimately provide nourishment for each of us.


Mother’s Day is not only a celebration of life – it is an inspiration for a life of meaningful action.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Family

Blue Jeans Without Any Bling…

I met my favorite farmer at a Dartmouth College fraternity party more than 22 years ago. No matter how many times they hear it, my daughters love listening to the story.threegirls.jpg

Halloween night the senior football player, wearing devils horns glued to his head, meets the underclassman swimmer. They visit for a few minutes and then the swimmer goes home.

Fast forward three weeks…

The senior football player again meets the underclassman swimmer, same location but without the devils horns. They visit for a few minutes and then the swimmer goes home (early morning swimming practice generally motivated good behavior).

The next week…

The senior football player walks around the underclassman’s dorm looking for her (having only her first name and the knowledge that she was on the swim team to go on). Fate was on his side, and her door was decorated with swimming spirit signs for the season opening meet against Brown. He had found her! But, his luck fell short, his swimmer wasn’t home.

The next week…

The senior football player figures out the underclassman swimmer’s phone number (a landline – in the dark period prior to the invention of a cell phone!), calls and asks her out on a date Thanksgiving weekend. Dinner (she orders chicken because it is the cheapest thing on the menu and she worries that a farmer from Nebraska would be short on money), a movie, ice cream —

and, they fell in love.

Anne and Matt0003The part of the story that always brings the most drama from my daughters is the fact that I wore a flannel shirt and blue jeans (with no bling!) on the nights that we met and on our first date. The look of incredulity on my fifteen year old’s face upon learning this fact was truly priceless. This tidbit of information firmly places me on the bottom end of any teenage girl’s fashion scale. Add onto it the fact that I have never really worn any makeup and consider brushing my hair the extent of getting ready to go out – and you can begin to imagine the dramatic noises that might be uttered during the story telling session.

Today, whenever the occasion warrants blue jeans with bling, I simply go to my daughter’s closet and pull out a pair to borrow. Seeing as how I spend most of my days with large bovines that have no concern for fashion, my own work jeans lack the sparkly detail…


It could be argued that my favorite farmer and I lack bling. We aren’t flashy and ostentatious. The kind of spark that we have comes from a deep love for each other, and a passion for caring for both our farm and our community. While we will likely never been considered sensational, we hope that our contribution is meaningful – that our story gives a glimpse into the lives of the family farmers that grow your food — that our toils produce nourishment for those in need.


Perhaps, most importantly, amidst the dramatic eye rolling is the learned lesson that real bling doesn’t come from jewels on the back seat of your jeans!

Sustainable agriculture begins with the farmer…

And ends with a customer that trusts and empathizes — no bling included :)


Filed under Family, General

Trust but Verify…

I did an interview last week with a reporter who asked,Why does your farm participate in 3rd party animal welfare audits?”

My answer: I ask that my customers trust me to be a good farmer, but I open my farm to auditing so that they can verify that I practice what I preach.

No matter how good a job you do on your farm, an audit is a stressful time.

  • Hundreds of pages of documents are checked to make sure that records accurately demonstrate daily animal care practices.
  • Hours are spent checking the farm’s facilities (feed and feed mixing areas, cattle pens, water tanks, and corrals) to ensure that animals have good living conditions.
  • Cattle handling is observed to ensure that good welfare exists while animals are interacting with their human caregivers.
  • Caregivers are asked questions about farm protocols on many different issues relative to animal care to ensure that those folks who provide daily care for the animals are well trained and educated.
They gather closely around me because they are thoughtful and curious.  They choose to do this despite the large amount of space in the pen that they call home...

They gather around me because they are comfortable, confident, and curious. They choose to come close to me despite the large amount of space in the pen that they call home…

I wear several “hats” at my feed yard. I am the owner and boss lady in addition to being one of the laborers who provide daily cattle care. I tend to greet audit day with mixed feelings. The boss lady realizes how important the audit is, but the farm hand struggles to accept outsiders interfering in the daily workings of life on the farm.

It is hard to have someone from the outside critique everything that you do – there is also no way to have an audit without disrupting the daily schedule of the farm. The combination of these things makes audit day on the farm long and stressful. Additionally, because I love my farm so much, opening it up to the judgement of an auditor creates a feeling of personal vulnerability. I feel it in my heart, and I know that my crew does as well.

Their care is important to me.

Their care is important to me.

Two weeks ago the feed yard had its first 2015 audit. I came home that night with a myriad of emotions fluttering through my head, the greatest being anger. Not anger toward the audit itself, but anger toward an ever growing vocal subset of the population who distrusts and dislikes American farmers like me. Tired from the long day, all I could think about was Why do I bother to go to the extra work of an audit to verify my farm care when nobody trusts me anyway”.

As an active advocate for agriculture, I am painfully aware of the distrust that exists toward modern farmers. An ever growing group of elitist philosophers breed this cynicism by employing an effective blend of zealotry and scare tactics. No matter how much I care or how hard I work to responsibly grow beef – these people ensure that I carry the label of the evil factory farmer. I open the newspaper or bring up the internet and find dozens of derogatory statements about how farms like mine abuse our animals, the environment and ultimately the people that we feed.

I honestly don't understand how this is evil and abusive...

I honestly don’t understand how this is evil and abusive…

Put yourself in my boots for a moment.

  • I work long hours on the farm.
  • I come home at night to write blog posts and share pictures of how I grow beef.
  • I patiently answer questions from reporters and customers.
  • I open my farm to both audits and tours.

And, at the end of the day, I am still belittled by the people that I have dedicated my life to feed.

So, I ask the important question:

What is it going to take for Americans to trust farmers and the practices that they use to grow food?

I believe in Trust but Verify, but verification is simply a burdensome chore if trust is unattainable.


Filed under CAFO

Good Timing…

As winter hints of an end and spring draws my crocuses out of the ground, I spend time putting together my spring shipment schedule. The growing season in Nebraska dictates that many bovines leave the home ranch in the late fall when Mother Nature signals the end of the growing season. After wintering at my feed yard, spring and summer finds these animals ready to make beef.


Good timing enables the ultimate goal as both the environmental footprint of my farm and the quality of my beef rely on my instincts of when to ship cattle to the packing plant.

My judicious dedication to timely cattle shipment makes me a good farmer.

It ensures that an optimal amount of resources (animal feed and water) creates the ultimate nutrient packed, great tasting beef product that we feed to our families.

If I do not feed my cattle long enough, then their beef may be less tender and not provide the best eating experience. If I feed them too long, then the additional resources of my farm are turned into fat that must be trimmed off of the meat before it is packaged to sell to you. I honor the resources of my farm as well as my customers when I do it right; and I get a report card from the packing plant each time that I ship cattle.

Many thanks to Miranda Reiman for taking this picture...

Many thanks to Miranda Reiman for taking this picture…

There are two main components to figuring the optimal time to ship a group of cattle:

  1. Looking at the numbers.
  2. Looking at the cattle.

I feed cattle off of the same ranches almost every year, so I start the process of figuring a shipment date by looking at the report card from the previous year. Did I get an “A” last year, or do I need to make changes to the feeding plan?

I then look at the:

  • Initial weight of the animals when they arrive at the feed yard from the home ranch
  • The estimated average daily gain (which I calculate looking at past years’ performance)
  • The appropriate shipment weight of the animals based on the genetics, age, and phenotype

Using these three numbers, I can theoretically predict the appropriate shipment date. As much as perfection would make life on the farm easier, weather often wreaks havoc with a good plan. Consequently, it is very important to look at each group of animals after figuring the numbers (keeping in mind the weather patterns of the recent months) to make sure that life in the real world fits the plan drafted on paper.


Good timing relative to shipping cattle to the packing plant is both an art and a science. It also requires an inherent desire to be a responsible steward as market conditions may often tempt a cattle feeder to not remain dedicated to timely shipments.

I view good timing as one of the ways that my farm excels at sustainability and the judicious use of resources…


Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General

They Can’t Take It Off…

As part of my NPDES permit issued through the Environmental Protection Agency, I keep daily weather records at the feed yard. I record precipitation, daily high and low temperatures, wind speed and wind direction. In addition to fulfilling my government regulation responsibilities, my favorite farmer uses the weather data during the crop growing season to help him manage irrigation on the farm.

As I reviewed the weather data entered for the last three weeks, I gave thanks that cattle are very resilient creatures. The highest temperature during the 21 day period was 70 degrees and the lowest 4 below zero (-4). In fact, our farm saw seven days from January 23-February 13 marked by more than a 40 degree temperature swing. The record for the period was a low of -4 followed by a high of 61 degrees the next day. We also had two significant winter storms during those three weeks.

While humans view the respite from winter on a beautiful sunny February afternoon a blessing, my cattle suffer from it. Quite simply, we all take our coats off when the weather warms – Cattle don’t have that luxury.


They can’t take it off…

“Shirt sleeve” weather for a bovine is 55 degrees. In Nebraska during the winter, cattle put on heavy coats to protect them from the cold. Instead of shirt sleeves, they spend the winter in a down jacket. As seasons change, cattle acclimate to the resulting changing weather at the rate of approximately 1 degree per day. Using that model, it would take approximately 65 days to acclimate from -4 to 61 degrees. February 5th, Mother Nature asked my animals to do that in 12 hours.

They can handle the cold — They can handle the heat — But the extremes in temperature swings bring significant challenges for them.


When cattle struggle with weather stress, they are more fragile. We place them on a special ration (bovine food casserole) that is easier to digest, make sure that an ample supply of fresh (not frozen!) drinking water is available, and work extra hard to make home pen conditions comfortable for them.

Good care requires an attention to detail, and times of weather challenge make me especially proud of my crew as we work diligently always placing the cattle’s welfare as our top priority.


Filed under Animal Welfare, General

18 Years of Life At a Feed Yard — 4 Years of Blogging…


Matt and I, on stage for the Trailblazer Award, last week in San Antonio at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention.


As a result of the 2014 Trailblazer Award, Beef Magazine asked that I write an article reflecting on important issues for cattle farmers.  This was a great opportunity for me to share thoughts relative to 18 years of working in a feed yard and 4 years of blogging.  The target audience was cattle farmers, but I wanted to share the piece here as well.

In the article, I share lessons personally learned from both my cattle and my beef customers.  You can view it by clicking here.

**On the home front, we are celebrating being free of the flu as well as the crutches that plagued our house for a couple of weeks.

  • My favorite teenager’s 9th and 10th basketball team finished their season with an 8-1 record, and a final game Friday night will end her Junior Varsity season as well.  She is gearing up for the high school musical performance that is a few weeks away, and looking forward to the start of track.  Last but certainly not least, she brought home the 3rd place award for the Nebraska Voice of Democracy Oral Essay contest last week in Lincoln.
  • My favorite blonde cowgirl will have her first competitive gymnastics performance of the year this weekend in Lincoln.  Having mostly healed from her first career pole vaulting accident, she is also gearing up for the start of track.  I am very glad to have her back as a contributing member of the chore brigade and once again helpful on the farm!
  • My favorite 10 year old is rocking the volleyball court with a second place tournament finish last weekend.  I never thought that I would have a child play middle blocker on the volleyball court, but she stands several inches taller than any other teammate so seems well placed!


 I hope that your week is full of joy!


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

Prosperity Amidst the Absence of Population Growth…

High school athletics in rural America are incredibly unique. Not only does the home town come together to support its youth, but the community travels hundreds of miles for “away” games. Distance takes on a new meaning in the Great Plains region of the country, and the school bus drivers get my vote for the unsung hero award as they work hard to safely deliver our kids to competitions all across the state.sandhillsroad.jpg

Saturday, the Cozad Haymakers road tripped north 140 miles to take on the Ainsworth Bulldogs. My favorite teenager is a member of the JV Girls team. I love the drive to Ainsworth — it is just under 3 hours of peaceful beauty and showcases some of Nebraska’s finest views. Both the rolling Sandhills as well as the small towns nestled along its interior are perfect examples of prosperity amidst the absence of population growth.


Outstate Nebraska (the 3rd Congressional District), covers 65,000 square miles and is home to approximately 570,000 people, and many, many more animals. The wide open spaces and abundant wildlife attest to a natural balance, and the friendly cultures of the towns show a beautiful but perhaps nontraditional definition of prosperity.

With each census that passes, rural Nebraska gives up population numbers relative to urban areas. Additionally, several investigative journalists involved in the current food movement seem to have a love affair with disparaging rural America — likening our communities to ghost towns (the antithesis of prosperity).


But, as I drive the corridors of the Cornhusker State, I see a simple beauty that warms my heart and brings peace to my soul. I am surrounded with the feeling of coming home as my eyes witness a harmony between humans and nature that defines the essence of sustainability .


Rural Nebraska (America) houses a unique form of prosperity that goes much deeper than population numbers and mortar. It is based on a culture that is rooted in community, governed by Mother Nature, and marked by a dedication to hard work and core values.


  • We rally to support our youth and the one community school that they all attend together.
  • We volunteer outside of our families and jobs to continue to ensure that our communities are viable.
  • We work with the land to produce food and fiber that provides the foundation of our country.
  • We share the belief that it is the simple things in life that ensure long term prosperity.

We demonstrate with each day that passes that there is indeed prosperity amidst the absence of population growth…


Filed under General, Rural Communities