Tag Archives: collaboration

The First of the Lasts…

Whenever life begins to transition toward a new path, there exists a series of “lasts”.  Last week, I experienced the first of the lasts in the journey of shutting down the feed yard.  Friday morning, I traveled south of Sumner, Nebraska to load up a group of yearlings at the Karlberg Ranch.

With the approach of fall, grass supplies diminish and feed yards in Nebraska begin the fall run of cattle as animals are gathered off of pastures and shipped to farms like mine.

A feed yard is pretty much like a hotel for cattle — A place where the animals go when seasonal limitations of grass resources require shipping off of the home ranch.  The casserole of forage and grain that they receive on my farm enables them to continue to grow despite the fact that Mother Nature refuses to provide for about 7 months.

David and two of his three children -- I got to watch these folks "grow up" while working with their dad.

David and two of his three children — I got to watch these kids “grow up” while working with their dad.

David Karlberg and I have partnered raising beef for fifteen years.  David cares for his cattle until they are 12-16 months old before sending them to my feed yard.  The animals then make the short 30 mile trip from the ranch to my farm where they spend another four months preparing to make beef.  Birth to harvest, the cattle spend their entire lives in Dawson County Nebraska.

Working with folks like David provides an integral part of my business model of collaboration.  Tracing cattle performance, improving care over the animal’s lifetime, limiting animal stress, and searching for ways to improve quality in the end product: beef.

David and I became smarter together than we could have ever been alone. 

Over the past 15 years, we have cared for and improved the lives of close to 6000 animals — producing more than 5 million pounds of beef and bovine products.  Each one of you has benefited by our dedication and collaboration.

Friday morning provided the last time that I will bring David’s cattle (or any other new cattle) onto my farm.  As we begin to exit the cattle feeding business, we will now stop bringing new cattle into the “hotel”.  The 1835 animals already on my farm will remain with me until their time of shipment, but we will no longer “refill” the home pens with new animals after these cattle travel to Tyson.

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today -- more to come on "Benny" in the next post...

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today — more to come on “Benny” in the next post…

It was an emotional morning for me.  Although I truly believe that it is time for a new journey, the reality of stepping away from what I have worked so hard to build weighs on me.  There is regret and disappointment that I could not make my business model work as my management is a reflection of the values that make me Anne. I am thankful for David and my other ranchers who put time and energy into our partnerships – committing to search for ways to be better tomorrow than we are today.

I found my smile as I ended the day with a group of graduate students from the University of Nebraska @ Lincoln. The students visited the farm as part of the UNL Feed Yard Internship program which strives to prepare college graduates to be good cattle caregivers and businessmen/women. We had great discussions and I was very pleased that the professors and students felt that I had something meaningful to share.  I have faith that some of them will work to continue the legacy that I have tried to foster 🙂

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

Building Bridges…

This is the north channel of the Platte River. The south channel is about 200 yards away and is wider and shallower...

Dawson County, Nebraska is divided in half by the Platte River.  Shortly after I moved to the Cozad area, I learned that there were those known as “north siders” and those known as “south siders”.  In 1997, it amazed me that a river could create such a concept of “dividedness”—after all, it took only about 15 seconds to drive across one of the many bridges that now span the river.

The tradition of “north siders” verses “south siders” took root in a time where the shallow, yet wide Platte River created a chasm between homesteaders on either side of the river banks.  The quick sand found along the bottom of the river made both crossing the river and building the structural supports needed for a bridge very challenging.

Today, what seems an easy trip from one side of the river to the other was virtually impossible when the town of Cozad was settled…

This little one was born on AL Ranch and grew to weigh approximately 850# before being moved to my feed yard.

With the exception of only a very few farms in the United States, the cattle industry is divided into segments.  Mama cows and bulls which provide the breeding herds of our nation’s beef supply are located on cow/calf ranches.  This is where baby calves are born and spend the first 8-18 months of their lives depending on the amount of pasture and feed that is available in any given year (Mother Nature plays a big role in determining this!).  Cattle that are to be grown for the production of beef (not to become part of the future breeding herd), are then moved to either an intermediate farm to be “grown” or into a finishing feed yard to be prepared for harvest.  The feed yard is the last stop for the animal before he is transported to a packing plant for harvest.

#718 and his herd mates line up for breakfast at the feed yard!

When I went to work at our feed yard at age 22, I was amazed at the independence of the cattle farmers that made up the different segments of the beef production cycle…At times it seemed as though one Platte River ran between the cow/calf rancher and the feed yard, and another ran between the feed yard and the packing plant…

I, along with many other cattle farmers, have spent the last 14 years building bridges.  Tradition, economics, and government regulations have kept my cattle production cycle from becoming completely vertically integrated.  However, it is now vertically collaborative.  It takes a concerted team effort to produce the best beef possible!

Collaborating with Al and other ranchers like him is very rewarding...

I work closely with my cow/calf ranchers (like Al and Sallie), and we pass information back and forth to ensure that we set our animals up for success.  A close communication system allows each calf to be traced from birth to harvest.  This also provides for optimal calf care and performance, as well as the most efficient use of natural resources to grow great tasting and healthy beef.   As we have traced Calf #718 over the past couple of months, you have *hopefully* seen the success story of good genetics, good communication, good care based on Beef Quality Assurance protocols, and an efficient use of natural resources to raise cattle and grow beef.

There is a solid bridge made of trust and respect that connects Al and Sallie and I as we work together to raise our cattle and make beef.

So, what happened when Calf #718 left my feed yard and went to harvest? Does the teamwork continue?

Calf #718 was harvested through U.S. Premium Beef, LLC.  Started in 1996, U.S. Premium Beef is a marketing company which provides U.S. beef farmers and ranchers an opportunity to retain ownership of the beef they raise from the ranch to retail. It is owned by beef farmers who produce high quality cattle that will go into value-added beef products designed specifically to meet consumers’ demands. U.S. Premium Beef owns National Beef Packing Company which has harvest facilities in Dodge City and Liberal, Kansas in addition to one in Brawley, California.  Calf #718 was harvested at the Dodge City, Kansas facility which is located approximately 4 hours south and east of my feed yard.

Because U.S. Premium Beef focuses on value-added beef products to meet consumer desires, they make a great partner for my high quality cattle.  They enable me to build a bridge to the consumer of my beef products through a pricing structure that rewards high quality Age and Source Verified beef as well as providing me (and Al and Sallie) with individual carcass performance data on the cattle that are harvested at their facility.  This means that Al and Sallie and I can complete the beef production cycle.  We can literally trace Calf #718 from birth to harvest.  U.S. Premium Beef provides the final “pieces to the puzzle” of our beef production.

The Flat Iron steak was "discovered " in the University of Nebraska meat laboratory. It is part of the Chuck muscle and makes a very tender steak. Thanks to the Nebraska Beef Council for the great picture!

While independence and tradition are important, evolving to meet the needs of our beef consumers is more important.  For that reason, we have become innovative “bridge builders” in a vertically collaborative system which sets us all up for success.  After all, “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner”!

Next week we will look at the different components of “carcass performance data”, and further explore what makes a truly great steak!

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