For every little girl that dreams of a life in rural America being a cowgirl, there are many others whose dreams take them to beaches, cities, and a diversity of other places. What each little girl holds close to her heart is unique and personal—changing over time to meet her maturing perspective.
When I had grandiose visions of being a cowgirl as a child, I thought of tall grass and beautiful wild flowers with cattle munching as they moved from one mountain meadow to another. The scene was peaceful and picturesque with a rider on horseback guiding and caring for the cattle.
My childhood dreams came back to me last week as Megan and I moved our grazing cattle. The grass was a lush vibrant green, the cattle moved peacefully from one pasture to another, and I had the company of my daughter as we experienced the beauty together.
The cattle ranching component of our farm is the only one that resembles my childhood dreams, however, there are many other parts to our farm that help to make it more viable and sustainable. For us, a diverse farm is what happens when dreams are blended with reality.
This week marks our 15thanniversary on the farm. As I look back, I can see how our dreams and ideas have blended with reality to create innovation and harmony. Our farm evolves and changes daily as Matt and I become better and more experienced caregivers for our land and our cattle. I am confident that 15 years from now, our farm will be even better than it is today.
What are the biggest changes that we have made on our farm over the past 15 years?
- The purchasing and selling of our cattle has become vertically collaborative as I realize my dream of tracing cattle from birth to harvest in order to improve the health and care of our animals and the quality and safety of the beef that they produce.
- With each day that passes, I place an ever increasing importance on animal psychology and holistic care that has a basis in Beef Quality Assurance and low stress cattle handling.
- The ethanol industry brings the feed product of wet distillers grains to our cattle farm which has improved the nutritional care that I offer to my animals. Wet distillers grains is what is left after the ethanol has been extracted from the corn kernel, and it makes a fabulously rumen friendly feed for my cattle. We blend the wet distillers grains with alfalfa and corn stalks / wheat stubble to create a blended feed of grains and forages.
- The capitol purchase of a saw dust burner allows the alfalfa dehydration plant to be fueled by recycled materials instead of natural gas. This reduces the environmental footprint of Matt’s alfalfa business.
- The capitol purchase of a Claas Jaguer chopper (pictured above) allows Matt to harvest more alfalfa using fewer pieces of equipment, fewer man-hours, and fewer amounts of diesel fuel—this makes his crop farm more efficient.
- The production of a blend of traditional crops and organically certified crops gives our farm diversity in sales and products which helps to keep our farm economically viable despite the current volatile markets.
I am very proud of what Matt and I have built over the last 15 years. Our hard work and innovative ideas have allowed the farm to prosper. We have also been blessed to add three new dreamers to the family with the birth of our girls–it’s been a busy 15 years–I wonder what the next 15 will look like?