Tag Archives: Cattle

Caring for God’s Creatures…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Genesis 1:24

“Then God said, ‘Let the earth produce every sort of animals, each producing offspring of the same kind – livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.”


Two days after I dropped my favorite brunette off at college, I headed to Dakota Dunes, SD for a Tyson Animal Well-being Advisory Committee meeting. The advisory panel provides a pillar of the FarmCheck program and I have been honored to participate since it’s inception in 2013.  The 15 member committee consists of dedicated people from all across the world who gather for “think tank” discussions as we work to intentionally strive to improve farm animal welfare.

Are we perfect? No! Do we care? Yes! The intensity and devotion to doing the right thing for our animals provides a tangible presence in the meeting room. We have hard and detailed discussions on the complex challenges that we face raising food animals. The goal is to honor the sacrifice that our animals give to us when they become food by doing our very best to provide them with a good life during their time on earth. In short, we talk about how we can care for God’s creatures.

 

I’ve laughed to my favorite farmer many times over the years that I may be the only one in the room without a graduate degree 🙂  I try to make up for that by offering a boots on the ground perspective on animal welfare issues that affect cattle on their life journey. I began my personal cattle adventure more than two decades ago —  driven by a love for animals and a gratitude toward the nutritious beef that often provides the center of my dinner plate. You could likely debate whether or not I’m an animal welfare expert but my heart holds tightly to a God-given passion to serve His creatures with integrity.


As we move forward in a world where ethics play an increasingly important role in the food discussion, I think that they are a few key ideas to hold tightly to:

  1. God created man to have dominion over animals. It is our job to care for them, but it is also our right to use their meat to nourish our bodies.
  2. While it is clearly important to raise food with integrity, it is critically important that we come together as a team to find answers to challenges. Farmers, packing plants, scientists, NGO’s, government officials, individual Americans — the list is long, but we will find meaningful answers TOGETHER.
  3. While many in our country are food secure, many are not. The need of those challenged for food security is just as important as that of the privileged. We must never forget the quiet voice of the child who struggles for daily nutrition.
  4. Farmers are not perfect, but we are dedicated to doing the best that we can. A basis of trust and agape love is necessary for meaningful discussion about how and why we raise food animals. As a city kid turned farmer, I’ve found that the more that I understand my animals, the better job I can do caring for them in a meaningful way. I want to have a “seat at the table” for discussions about animal welfare so please leave me a chair!

One of the things that I like most about serving on Tyson’s Animal Wellbeing Advisory Committee is my ability to honor all four of those ideas. It was a great meeting — full of awesome people — that generated innovational thoughts of how we can better understand, care, and honor our animals. I am incredibly thankful to be included in this effort as it helps to fulfill an ongoing ministry for me as we care for God’s creatures.

 

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Greener Pastures…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Psalm 23: 1-3

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”


It is impossible to live in Central Nebraska in late spring without thinking of green pastures. Either we are blessed with an abundance of rain that brings strong and healthy grass to our native plains, or else we pray for the moisture that we need to turn our brown pastures into a verdant green. In either instance, the thought of green pastures dominates a rancher’s mind.

Nebraska is home to 24 million acres of rangeland and pastures (more than 1/2 of the state) where cattle turn grass into a human edible protein source (beef) and other needed products. Cattle are the great “up-cyclers” as they up-cycle grass into human nourishment. Leading cattle to greener pastures is relatively easy, especially after a little bit of classical conditioning where they learn that when we move them that they get to go to a place with better food!


The New Testament is filled with instances where Jesus is described as the good shepherd, but we also find references to our Father God as a shepherd in the Old Testament. The above verse in Psalms reminds me of two very important components of faith.

  1. God’s love never waivers and his care for us is unconditional
  2. Because of his gift of free will, we must submit and lean on Him in order to understand the vast breath of his love and guidance

There is a necessary leap of faith for us to fully abide in God — we must actively accept Jesus’ gift and love in our hearts as well as embracing the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our minds. Questions often outnumber answers but, when we listen with care and intention, God always gives us enough guidance that we can follow his desired life path. It is there that we find the greenest pastures as our hearts fill with peace, strength and purpose.

I think that I never really understood the importance of a “good shepherd” until I became an animal caregiver in the late 1990’s. I’d read about it, but the full magnitude of what it meant did not become clear in my mind until I learned to be a cattle caregiver. My animals depend on me for their basic needs — they look to me for leadership — and they submit to my guidance in order to thrive.

How do they know that I will lead them to greener pastures? Because I consistently provide for their needs.

As humans, we ask a lot more questions than cattle do. We’re a lot smarter and it takes more than physical satisfaction for us to live a meaningful life. It is important for us to ask God questions, but it is equally important for us to trust that he will lead us to an honorable life. We don’t need to have all of the answers — that is why we have faith. We can look to many things to provide meaning in our lives, but there is only one source of living water that fills our hearts with joy and brings honor and purpose to our existence.

Faith is a verb. It requires patience as well as perseverance. It comes from a beautiful blend of submission and guidance, and comes wrapped up in a package of love. God is a good shepherd — and we bring honor to Him as we choose to live our lives embracing his purpose.

 

 

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The Draw…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Scripture for today’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from Luke 6: 19

“Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.”


The New Testament is full of stories that demonstrate the power of Jesus’s draw. His heart, full of unconditional love, worked as a magnet toward many. Two things happened on the farm this week that caused me to further focus my thoughts on the concept of the draw.

  1. I attended an educational summit on low stress cattle handling put on by the PAC Veterinary Consultants
  2. I took a group of yearling steers from the Lazy YN Ranch to our spring grass pasture by Willow Island, NE.

As a cattle handling tool, the draw acts like a magnet — inspiring movement toward something meaningful. The draw pulls cattle in a certain direction in an orderly and calm fashion. It provides an incredibly effective tool when you need to move your animals from one place to another.

Creating the draw takes a little bit of homework because it serves as an inspiration for cooperation rather than a forceful submission. I want my animals to naturally follow my leadership because this is how we are able to create a harmonious partnership on the farm. It takes trust and understanding, as well as patience and empathy.


While it is likely a bit unorthodox, I tend to draw parallels from being a cattle caregiver into my own faith. Just as I lead my animals, God leads me. He draws me in as we travel the journey together. It is a natural draw that inspires my cooperation rather than a forceful submission. As I abide in Him, we are able to move forward together.

My “cattle trail” is not a perfectly straight line, as I falter at times, but the draw seems to always bring me back. One of the things that fascinates me the most about the New Testament stories of Jesus’s draw is his ability use goodness to draw others into faith. Luke reminds us that everyone wanted to touch Jesus because of his healing power. That healing power was not just a physical one — rather it was one that also touched the soul.

  • Have you ever come in contact with someone who radiates joy?
  • Is there someone who consistently brightens your day and inspires you to mature in your perspective?

None of us are blessed on earth with the ability to physically touch Jesus, but we can receive His love and guidance through our relationship with the Holy Spirit as well as other people that we meet along the journey.

Perhaps we can all receive healing as we share God’s love together.

There is no greater gift than love.

There is no greater draw than the joy and hope that come from living in faith.

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Cranial Christians…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture comes from Hebrews 10: 23-24

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”


Good cattle caregivers are good students. They consistently strive to learn more about the animals that depend on them — seeking to understand what they need in order to provide the leadership that brings comfort and good health. Good leadership requires cranial cleverness.

However, *thinking* like a calf takes more than mental understanding, it requires a leap of faith as you must  leave your human tendencies behind to embrace those of the animal. When I handle cattle my very presence needs to change so that we can find harmony as a team. When I find the sweet spot of understanding with the cattle, my leadership creates a magnet that draws them in.

My animals don’t really care how much I know until they understand how much I care. 

What you know is important, but it is what is inside of your heart that inspires you to lead with compassion.


As a cradle Episcopalian, I’ve intellectually known God for more than four decades. I went to church on Sunday and attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade. My parents taught me right from wrong and instilled in me a desire to help others.

I grew up a cranial christian. I knew about God — I believed in him. I tried to live my life doing the right thing because that was what I was supposed to do.

But sometimes I got tired as my cup seemed to refuse to refill. As a result, I wasn’t always a cheerful giver. Instead of my heart being grateful for the beauty of sharing, my head compared and judged — like life was a race and the “should do’s” led their way to the finish line.

God was in my head, but I had not yet let Him become a permanent resident in my heart. I was the worker ant who toiled out of duty. It was a hard and exhausting job. Fortunately, God is a good caregiver, and persistently pursued my heart. He knew that what was in my head would not sustain me without support from what needed to be in my heart.

I think it’s normal human tendency to rely heavily on our minds. We want to logically understand things and are quick to shut the door when things get messy. It take a leap of faith to lead with your heart — transitioning from a cranial christian to a heart-felt christian. Just as my animals don’t care how much I know until they see how much I care, God desires a place in our hearts — not just intellectual residence in our heads.

Perhaps that is the answer to inspiring unending motivation for acts of love and good works. With God in our hearts, the cup overflows and we learn that giving for the sake of sharing creates a special bond that not only helps others, but also refills our own hearts.

Through his gift of Jesus, God has the finish line taken care of — life isn’t just a race for goodness. When we trust in God’s promise, we open our hearts and life becomes a journey grounded in sharing the love that He abundantly places in our hearts.

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Gates and Doors…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture can be found in Revelations 3: 20.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.


As a cattle farmer, I spend a lot of time thinking about gates. Gates are essentially doors used for animals and provide critical tools for a cattle caregiver. Sometimes gates are physical, and sometimes they are the metaphorical ones that lead to a mental connection — either way, they are the pathways for forward progress.

I often think to myself:

  • Are the correct gates open to allow my cattle to go where I need them to go?
  • Are the correct gates closed to keep my cattle from going somewhere that I do not want them to go?
  • As a leader, do I correctly manage the gates as I either invite or discourage my cattle?

The simplest way to lead my animals is to cause my idea to be their idea. When we share the same thought, then we find harmony in whatever farm chore is being done. The first part to sharing a thought is gaining attention. While I don’t “stand at the door and knock” — I do the cow equivalent and enter their space until they lift their eyes and grant me their curious attention.  The moment that I become their focus, then I can begin to open the communication gate and guide them to the correct physical gate. 

There is always a choice involved, and sometimes I need to be persistent in the proper position with my animals until they chose to make that connection with me. I must be patient as well as sensitive because if I link up with them at the right moment and in the right way, then the cattle not only follow my direction but they also continue to view me as their trusted leader and caregiver. While I use physical gates and fences to help guide them, finding the doorway to their brains provides the key to having a healthy and low stress experience.


It seems to me that God makes a perfect cowboy. As a tenaciously patient and loving leader, he uses the Holy Spirit to stand at my door and knock. My awareness and willingness to engage drives whether or not we travel the journey together. He persistently pursues — always knocking and waiting for me to respond.

  • I know that there are times that God knocks and I miss it — either letting the chaos of daily life distract me from the call, or ignoring the invitation because I fail to get my priorities in the correct order.
  • I also know that my hours are better – my days are better – and my life is better when I open the door to my heart and mind to answer the call.

Sharing time with God makes life meaningful. It brings peace to the world’s chaos and reminds me of the importance of centering my life with love. Like a good friend, God offers unconditional strength and support as I travel the journey. The trinity makes a remarkably powerful combination and I have come to realize how important it is to be a part of His team.

There are many farming references in the Bible, and I think that my life is most complete when I am both one of God’s sheep as well as a loving shepard to those whom God places along my path.

Love, strength, and purpose all live on the other side of the door — We simply need to answer the knock.

 

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Touching Base…

It seems that although I have been busy engaging on social media, that I have not done a good job checking in with each of you at Feed Yard Foodie. I am in the process of developing a new weekly theme to carry through the winter; but have not had the opportunity to get it completely lined out in my mind. I hope to have this started next week.

In the meantime, I figured that I would share links to my work on social media for Innovative Livestock Services and the Beef Marketing Group. For those of you that follow me on facebook, you have seen this content. For those of you that don’t, I hope that you will take a look at it. I found it very personally meaningful to create 🙂

2018 started with a video describing the Beef Marketing Group — who we are — and what we value. For those of you who wonder about the agricultural cooperative that I work for, this will give you a glimpse of the people and our focus.

This week premiered another video talking about “What is life like in a cattle feedlot?” This video appeared on Innovative Livestock Services as part of our educational series to provide accurate information to folks interesting in learning about “where their beef comes from”. The video is performing amazingly well on facebook with over 30,500 views in the two days that it has been up 🙂

For those of you that like to read words instead of watching videos, here is a link to a blog post that I recently wrote comparing living space in a feedlot to New York City.

I hope that each one of you experienced a blessed Christmas season and a Happy New Year! Thank you for all that you do to support me on this social media journey. #togetherwearestronger

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Merry Christmas!

The annual Burkholder Christmas letter — 21 years in the running 🙂

2017 brought the year of the teenagers to the Burkholder residence. Ashley Grace achieved the big 18 this month, Megan quickly approaches 16, and Karyn celebrated the fall with 13. Despite the fact that he is surrounded by women, Matt continues to thrive on the Nebraska prairie 🙂 The girls are truly our greatest blessings and the farm is alive with the love and joy that comes with family.

While Ashley Grace rocks her senior year in high school, Matt and I are left pondering how in the world we have a child old enough to leave for college! Last week brought the news that she will join the Notre Dame family in August of 2018. Her excitement rivals the pride that we feel toward the beautiful, compassionate young woman she has become. 2017 brought competition in the National Forensics League Extemporaneous Speaking finals as well as the completion of a successful four year state qualifying cross country career.

Megan expanded her repertoire this year to include set building for the Haymaker State Runner Up One Act play, and state appearances in pole vaulting (along with a school record) and cross country. She is in the midst of a great sophomore basketball season and still makes time to help out with cattle on the farm. Her smile is contagious and she packs her faith with a dedication that makes this Mama proud.

Karyn began her Junior High career this fall bringing home hardware on the cross country course and a successful basketball season. She relishes the fact that although she is the youngest of the Burkholder girls, she is the tallest. Karyn’s greatest dream came true this summer when we welcomed a yellow Labrador named Theodore into the family. Theodore brings a whole new level of antics and laughter to our home; and I have to admit that she is not the only one who adores him 🙂

Matt and I celebrated 21 years of marriage last June although he swears that I turn 29 with every birthday that passes…I am thankful each day to be able to share my life with him. He continues to manage the farm with a dedication to sustainability and integrity, although I think that he would tell you that being a good daddy dominates the top of his priority list.

Ashley Grace challenged me to run in my first half marathon this fall. I found a unique element of good health and strength amidst the 550 miles of training. I finished the race with a smile on my face, peace in my heart, and a time of 1:42.49. I continue to coach the local swim team as well as acting as an assistant coach for the Haymaker Junior High and High School Cross Country team. I truly believe that it takes a community to raise a child, and hope that I positively influence the athletes that I coach.

We wish you and your family the very best this holiday season. As always, if your path ever brings you across Nebraska please stop by and say hello!

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What Role Does a Veterinarian Play Taking Care Of Cattle?

Sometime in the later part of the 90’s, not too long after I moved to Nebraska and went to work at the feed yard, I asked my consulting veterinarian to come out to the farm and help me diagnose a calf.  I knew that something was wrong with it, but I was struggling to pin point the specific illness.

When the vet arrived, he looked at the calf and said, “Anne, this calf is ADR”.

I replied, “Doc, what does ADR mean?”

He responded, “Well Anne, ADR means ‘ain’t doin right’.”

Over the years, I came to appreciate Doc’s humor almost as much as his tutelage regarding animal health. He helped me to guide the above-mentioned calf back to good health and his mentoring went a long way to developing my skills as a savvy animal caregiver. Together, we developed:

  • Biosecurity plans to keep our farm as clean as possible
  • Preventative Health Programs (including vaccination schedules) to keep our animals as healthy as possible
  • Individual animal treatment protocols for a variety of illnesses that sometimes challenge our animals on the farm

His routine visits to the farm as well as our conversations by phone in between those visits kept me moving effectively down the road of good animal care. Much to my children’s chagrin, I started bringing home his interesting verbal lingo. I’ll never forget the look on the family practitioner’s face the first time I told him that one of my girls was ADR. His level of surprise mirrored the level of embarrassment on my daughter’s face as she informed both of us that she was not a calf!

Anyone who has children recognizes that their good health will be interrupted with bouts of sickness. The key to being a good caregiver is recognizing the point that the pendulum shifts from healthy to ill. We take our kids to the doctor when they get sick and are their devoted advocate and caregiver until they are well. It’s really not very different from the relationship that I have with my veterinarian caring for my cattle.

We create an effective team that drives both good health and an accountable trail for good animal care. Many animals will never get sick in their tenure on my farm, but I am prepared to work with my veterinarian to help them get better when illness strikes.

Together we are stronger!

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Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General