Tag Archives: Cattle

Pass the Peanut Butter…

I have enjoyed a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread and a banana for breakfast every day since the 22nd of September. I eat the peanut butter sandwich after I read bunks and exercise calves, and before I check daily cattle health. I eat the banana after the daily health check is completed late-morning.

Reading bunks and determining the daily feeding plan for my cattle begins at 6:00am.  It does not matter if it is Sunday, Halloween or the Thanksgiving holiday that we will celebrate next week – the feed yard day starts at 6:00, and there are thousands of animals that look forward to the morning routine. We start early because my cattle have taught me that a disciplined breakfast schedule benefits their health and comfort, and consequently reduces the environmental footprint of my farm.


September 22nd provided the first day of the “fall run of calves” at the feed yard. Each year, the extra cowboy chores that I take on during this time period wreak havoc with my breakfast choices. Since Graves Disease necessitated the destruction of my thyroid gland on my 33rd birthday, I am dependent on a pill to provide my body with the thyroid hormones that allow me to function. The thyroid pill is a bit picky, and (for my body) works best if I take it on an empty stomach. This means no breakfast for 30-45 minutes after I start my day by taking the thyroid pill.

Even though I enjoy breakfast, I enjoy sleeping more. I leave the house within 10 minutes of crawling out of bed. The result: a necessitated delayed breakfast after starting my day at the feed yard. During September, October, November, and the first half of December my mornings are so busy that I have to eat on the go. A peanut butter sandwich and a banana provide an easy solution to the challenge. Although it lacks diversity, it does start my day with protein, whole grains, and fruit.

By the time that Christmas rolls around, my pallet cries for a new breakfast flavor – almost as much as my body longs for a morning reprieve from the daily 5:35 wake up call. Such is the life of a feed yard boss lady in the fall months of the year. It’s a good thing that my freezer is full of home grown beef so that I can ensure that dinner promises more flavor and satisfaction than breakfast :)

BeefStripSteaksandMushroomKabobs I really prefer a beef meal where I can pass on the peanut butter!


Filed under Foodie Work!, General

We’re In This Together…

My favorite farmer’s and my mantra has always been, We’re In This Together. We met the fall of my freshman year at Dartmouth and quickly became the couple that we still are today. We are the ones that do everything together – from home, to work on the farm, to parenting our three beautiful girls.


The driving factor in our decision to head from the East coast back to the family farm in 1997 was our desire to build something meaningful together. Matt is my rock – the steady intelligent entrepreneur who somehow manages to thrive in a house of four very driven females.

My dedication to doing things right often makes me a work-a-hol-ic. I don’t rest until my animals have all that they need. That is just the way that God made me. I shrug off the fatigue and keep going, never stopping until the job is done. There are days that I am pretty sure that I exhaust both my husband and my crew, but they loyally stay and work alongside me. That is just the way that God made them.


There are two young ladies that make us all smile. Their presence puts everything into perspective, and their good humor breaks up the long weeks of the fall. I look forward to the weekends and rely on them to practically help complete chores while also to lighten the mood at the feed yard.

It struck me Sunday morning, just how much I need them. It left me a bit in awe as I realized how well they listen, how quickly they learn, and how incredibly capable they are. From scooping bunks, to exercising calves, to checking daily animal health, to spouting Beef Quality Assurance and Progressive Beef protocols — all with a smile, and all with the work ethic and responsibility that permeates the culture of the farm. They GET IT.


After we finished morning chores, we headed over to the feed yard office. Every Sunday morning, Megan writes a new inspirational quote on the white board in the office. The one she chose for this week could not have been more appropriate.


Some might think that I expect too much of my girls, but one of my greatest responsibilities as a parent is to place them in situations where they can develop maturity, responsibility, accountability, and the resulting self-confidence that comes from true accomplishment.

My gift to them comes in the form of a shovel, coveralls, and Bogg boots all wrapped up with the knowledge of how to use these tools to benefit the animals on our farm and ultimately the people that those animals will go on to nourish.


Between our home and our farm, our girls learn every day that life is more meaningful if we’re in this together.  I look at them and recognize Matt’s and my greatest success in our journey…


Filed under Family


As the “boss lady” of a small feed yard, I often moonlight as a cowboy. Particularly during the fall months, I spend at least half of my time cowboying. While some may think of fast horses and whooping noises when the term cowboy comes to mind, I think of purposeful movements and nonverbal communication. To me a cowboy is a caregiver.


The cowboy plays one of the most critical roles on a cattle farm. He sets the culture for all cattle-human interactions, as well as acting as the primary caregiver. Although cowboying involves a lot of physical labor, I enjoy that part of my job.

When I was a little girl, I used to sit in my room and dream of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Depending on the day, I settled on different professions but one constant in my dreams was the desire to make a difference in the world. Animals have always tugged at my heart, and I am more at home around them than people. In many ways, cowboying fulfills those childhood dreams as there is nothing more rewarding than working hard to ensure that God’s creatures can thrive.

Denke3April.jpgSo, what does a cowboy do on the Feed Yard Foodie farm?

  • Acclimate newly arrived cattle – teaching them to feel comfortable in the home pen as well as gaining their trust as a caregiver.
  • Work on the processing crew – every animal on our farm receives routine vaccinations (like people getting the flu shot) to bolster their natural immunity to fight off illness. The cowboy gives those vaccinations according to instructions from the veterinarian.
  • Check daily cattle health – every animal on our farm is checked every day. The cowboy knows what the animal looks like when it is healthy, therefore detecting sickness means looking for the absence of health. The veterinarian trains the cowboy to diagnose and treat sick animals, and mentors him for this important chore.
  • Ensure nourishing feed and water are available to each animal.

A good cowboy has both a compassionate and practical nature. A good cowboy puts his animals ahead of himself. A good cowboy recognizes that effective care requires viewing the world through the eyes of the calf rather than the eyes of a human.

After almost twenty years, I remain fascinated by my animals and truly enjoy the daily interactions of working with them. There are days when my body hurts and deep fatigue sets in, but the knowledge that my efforts make a difference enable me to meet each new sunrise with a smile.


While I am not sure that the little girl ever dreamed of a cattle farm, the animals intrigue the woman and inspire her to be a good cowboy.


Filed under Animal Welfare

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