Tag Archives: feedlot

Eclipse Totality Video…

Learning to make and do “videos” provided a significant challenge for me over the summer months. While I still have much to learn and improve upon, I am confident enough that I am starting to actually enjoy doing them 🙂

Monday, after the Facebook Live broadcast via Innovative Livestock Services, I remained in the pen with my cattle to experience the Eclipse Totality. The following video footage comes from that time — hopefully woven together in an orderly story to give you all a glimpse into what we experienced on cattle farms all across Nebraska.

I hope that you and your families were able to enjoy the awesomeness of Mother Nature last Monday!

What is your favorite eclipse story?

 

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Filed under Video Fun on the Farm

What happens each day at a cattle feedlot?

This has been a week of tremendous learning and growing for me. I did my first Facebook Live broadcast and increased my tech savvy by leaps and bounds. For those of you that do not participate in Facebook, I was able to save the Live Broadcast and upload it to YouTube. This enables me to share it here!

So, take a few minutes — grab a cup of coffee — and watch my favorite blonde cowgirls and I interact with the Lazy YN Fall Calves.

I believe that the Live broadcast was a solid first effort. I have many things still to learn and work on; but I enjoyed the experience. To date, the live video has reached more than 15,500 people — with more than 6300 of them choosing to watch it. It is a raw, from the heart, unedited look at our cattle at the feed yard. I am very thankful that Megan and Karyn were able to help me out — it created a fun experience for the three of us to cap off the summer vacation.

Having gotten my feet wet this week with Live broadcasting, I am going to take the plunge on Monday to do a second broadcast via Innovative Livestock Services. As many of you know, we live within the Path of Totality for the #SolarEclipse2017. The partial eclipse will begin about 11:30am central time, with the short period of total darkness occurring just before 1:00pm.

Brandon and I with the fall calves…

The live broadcast will occur at 12:00pm central time during the partial eclipse. I am going with a “Tail Gate” theme and will be joined by Brandon Sorensen who is the Assistant Manager at Roberts Cattle Company. We are going to hang out with some of our Lazy YN calves and talk about Mother Nature, the eclipse, and how we care for our cattle in the feed yard.

I think that 12 months ago if anyone told me that I would be doing live social media video broadcasts from a feed yard, I would have looked at them like they were crazy. But, life is an interesting journey full of twists and turns.

While live broadcasts are a little bit scary and the end result (at least for an amateur like me) is not professionally polished, I think that they create a necessary level of transparency between farmers and our urban neighbors. Unedited creates a level of truth and trust that is hard to otherwise obtain. For that reason, I am taking the plunge.

I hope that you all will be able to join in and ask questions during the broadcast 🙂

Click here to access the Innovative Livestock Services facebook page.

In order to view the facebook live broadcast, you need to “like” or “follow” the page. Then click the “following” button just below the cover photo and make sure that you click “see first” and turn your notifications “on”.

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Filed under General, Video Fun on the Farm

Facebook Live!

Despite their remarks that summer has gone too fast, my girls head back to school on Wednesday. They’ve been on vacation for three months, but I have to admit that it seems like last week when we transitioned from school to the swim team season.

The warm summer months were filled with:

  • Fitness training for both swimming and Cross Country
  • Shooting thousands of baskets to prepare for basketball
  • Taking care of our grass cattle and pasture ground
  • And doing other farm chores….
  • And welcoming a new puppy into our family!

 

I’m not sure exactly what the girls had in mind for their last day of summer, but their Mama decided to finish out the vacation with a Facebook Live broadcast from Roberts Cattle Company to visit our cattle at the feed yard.

I tell my girls that the road to excellence isn’t comfortable, so it seems appropriate to finish up the summer pushing my comfortable limits and forging into new territory. I’ve never done a Facebook Live broadcast, but I think that it is a great way to increase transparency and allow folks to have insight into life at a cattle feed yard.

I would ask that you all support me in this new endeavor by both sharing the news of the broadcast and getting online to participate in it. It will be at 7:30am central time tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Just hop onto Facebook to the FeedYard Foodie page to watch. I plan for the broadcast to go approximately 10 minutes, so you can hang out with Karyn, Megan and I (along with our bovines) as you enjoy your morning coffee!

Please feel free to ask questions during the broadcast, or you can leave them here in the comment section of this blog prior to tomorrow morning.

  • Have you ever wondered about the story of where your beef comes from?
  • Do you want to know about life in a Nebraska feedlot?
  • Are you looking for a way to start your day with a smile?

Join us tomorrow morning at 7:30am via Facebook Live 😊

See you then!

 

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Filed under General, Video Fun on the Farm

Macro vs. Micro…

I became familiar with the words “macro” and “micro” when I took my first college economics class.  I signed up for two economics courses during my tenure at Dartmouth, not because I was really very interested in the subject, but because understanding basic economics fell under the “Anne’s necessary life skills” category.

I never developed a love for economics, but the psychologist in me became fascinated with all of the ways that I could interpret the world under the concept of macro vs micro.  It fascinated me to see how the big picture (macro) relied on the small details (micros) in order to be effective. familypicturefall2016

Last week I talked about my 5 Nuggets of Wisdom from a feed yard Boss Lady.  The first nugget, Be prepared to develop yourself and learn how to problem solve, holds the key to living a focused life. I am a believer in setting goals and creating a personal system of accountability.  This ensures both loyalty to personal core values and a purposeful life journey.  While I always pack my faith, I remember that LIFE is a verb.  As such, I set myself up for success by constantly developing plans to help me attain my goals.

A goal without a plan is simply a wish…

Let me offer an example.

One of my career goals is to improve animal welfare for cattle.  I made this commitment the day that I began my journey as a cowgirl, and twenty years later it still remains my passion.  This goal provides the macro. I recognized in June of 1997 that I needed to learn many things in order to improve welfare in a meaningful way. So, I developed a plan that allowed me to create the micros to help accomplish the goal.

  1. Learn bovine psychology and build an understanding of a prey animal’s brain.
  2. Develop the ability to *think like a bovine* thereby gaining insight into what is important to a calf.
  3. Understand the beef industry life cycle and the resources that drive that system.

After I accomplished these three necessary prerequisites, I could then begin to figure out ways to improve the system of raising cattle in order to make meaningful improvement in welfare. I recognized that long-lasting and meaningful change came from within, so I began the process on my farm.

  1. I became my own cattle buyer so that I could develop relationships with my ranchers and follow the animals all of the way through the production system. Once those relationships became developed, we worked on improved nutrition, vaccination, and cattle handling to create a lower stress environment over the lifetime of the animals. This enabled them to thrive and reach their God-given potential.
  2. I forged a bridge with a packing plant (I actually did with two different packing plants during my twenty-year tenure) so that my ranchers and I could trace the quality of our beef and make management decisions on our farms to continuously improve it.
  3. I adopted a management system at the feed yard to hold my crew and I accountable for animal care on a daily basis. We began with the Beef Quality Assurance Program and eventually raised the bar to begin using the Progressive Beef Quality Management System.  At that time, we began allowing outside auditors onto the farm to verify our care.

denke3april-jpgToday, the animal care at my feed yard looks a lot different than it did that inaugural day in the summer of 1997.  Incremental but significant change occurred over time as the focus on appropriate micros ensured an improvement for a macro concept. The dedication to the goal of improved welfare quite literally drove my career as a feed yard boss lady.

Because of it:

  • I was willing to work harder than my peers in order to prove myself.
  • I weathered awkward moments with grace and class.
  • I recognized that not everyone viewed the world as I did, and worked to build bridges in order to further the cause.

As I simultaneously raised my family, I shared my work with my three girls always reminding them to lead with your heart, but always take your brain along for the journey 🙂

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

How Do You Tear Down a Feed Yard?

Three primary alleyways provide the “blue print” of the feedyard with cattle home pens located on both sides of each alleyway for a total of 24 pens.  Our cattle farm dropped below 1/2 capacity (1500 bovines) last week as we shipped the final pen out of our 1st alley.

Early in the fall, I arranged the logistics so that the first alley pens emptied by early November.  This allows for us to begin the “tear down” phase on part of the farm while still taking care of cattle in the pens that make up the 2nd and 3rd alleyways.

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So, how do you tear down a feed yard?

Returning the cattle pen area to crop farm ground and grass pasture provides the goal for the “tear down” phase.  The logistical process occurs in the following order:

  • Take out the fences to open up the landscape.
  • Scrape the home pen surfaces to remove excess nutrients (manure) which we transport to my favorite farmer’s fields located within a 10 mile radius of the feed yard.  This manure helps to replenish nutrients and maintain good soil health where we grow crops each year.
  • Even up the land by removing “pen mounds” in order to create a flat surface for farming.
  • Disconnect cattle drinking water lines and remove water tanks from the home pens.
  • Remove concrete to be recycled.

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Completing this process for each of our three alleys allows for the transition of 24 cattle pens into approximately 40 acres of farm ground and pasture.  These acres will combine with other adjacent farm ground that already provides us with a nice crop of alfalfa.

November, December, and January will be split months for us as we continue to take care of the remaining cattle on the farm while also working on the transition project.  Once the last pen of cattle ships to slaughter in early February, our efforts will concentrate fully on the conversion of the land. We hope to finish the tear down by summertime in order to plant a transition crop on the irrigated acres and grass for the non-irrigated pasture ground.  The winter and spring weather will play a large role determining if we are successful in meeting that time goal.

While this project provides uncharted waters for us, we are working in consultation with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in addition to the Natural Resources District.  My favorite farmer is an agronomy nerd and I am a passionate believer in the Native American philosophy that the earth was not a gift from your parents, but rather a loan made to you from your children, so managing for good soil health and the protection of our farm’s natural resources drives the decision making process.

Speaking of my favorite farmer, I need to grant him photo credits for the top two pictures shown above.  I am afraid of heights, so he nobly offered to climb the elevator leg at the feed yard to get the aerial photos 😉

 

 

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

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

The Rainbow Ends At the Pot Of Gold…

megfeedyardcollageAfter 14 years living, working, and growing up under the magnificent Nebraska sky I learned a lot from the people who were kind enough to share it with me. Now I want to share it with you. My experiences in our little town are not ones that many people get to have. There are lessons hidden in each memory and each story — lessons that most people in our country may miss or look over. These are my 15 favorite lessons that I have learned growing up on a farm — Megan 🙂

  1. Home is where the heart is… When I first went to kindergarten I cried every day because I did not understand why I had to sit in a classroom and count whatever was on my piece of paper instead of counting cattle at the feedyard. I did not want to leave my comfort zone where I loved to be.
  2. Two wrongs don’t make a right… I first learned this when perched on the arm of the chair in the inner cubical of the office, staring blankly at the computer screen full of numbers – never leave a mistake without correcting it. Always fix what went wrong even if it means admitting that you are human and you made a mistake. If you do not correct a mistake, the problem just grows.
  3. For the love of Pete… Whenever our cowboy is agitated but not quite angry enough to start cussing, he starts loving Pete. Usually he says this under his breath, but after a while you can understand the mumbling language. We have never figured out who Pete is but wherever he is, he is much loved.
  4. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life… People come to stay with us every once and a while and right before they leave Doug, our beloved foreman, always tells them that he has never worked a day in his life. They get very confused because they have just watched him working hard. He explains to them that he loves the job that he has; consequently, he has never worked a day in his life.
  5. Work smarter, not harder… My mom always says that you should work smarter so therefore your work is easier. Do not get me wrong, hard work is essential to any job, especially those on a farm, but if you work hard and smart then you will be more efficient and do a better job.
  6. Sarcasm… It is not just the words that come out of your mouth; it is a lifestyle. Sarcasm can lighten any day if put in the correct context. Doug is especially good at adding a little to our day, and I have learned from the best. He always told me when I was little that he never called the bunk a C when the cattle did not clean up all of their feed. The bunk was always a D because he skipped C. He told me that was because he could actually spell the words that started with D – I think perhaps it is because his name starts with a “D” but I humor him 🙂
  7. Count in your head… When the cattle come off the truck and into the feedyard we always count them to make sure we have the correct number. When my sisters and I were little, this was one of our first jobs. We would climb up so that we were tall enough to see into the unloading chute and then “count” the cattle that came off the truck. My mom had to start counting using her hands because we would say the wrong numbers aloud. To this day she still counts cattle with her fingers. Doug used to try to teach us to count ears instead of tails. Or sometimes he tried to have us count feet…
  8. Leave it how you found it… When cooperating with members of a “team” you should always: leave things how you found them, replace tools to their proper “home”, and, when in doubt, shut the gate. When working with farmers, mechanics, or welders always put their tools back where they belong. They get very angry very quickly if they cannot find the tool they are looking for. Always shut the gate behind you. A feedyard manager’s worst nightmare is leaving a gate open. My mom has nightmares about accidentally letting loose a pen of cattle on the county road.
  9. Think like a calf… It is important for any cattle handler to step into the calf’s hooves. Looking through a calf’s eyes can be tricky. In order to do that you have to have empathy and think like a prey animal. I learned this when I was little so it comes like second nature to me but some people struggle changing their perspective.
  10. Give it to God… Some things you cannot control. Mother Nature likes to throw everything she can at us farmers. We cannot hope to control it; we can only try to manage what comes our way. Rain is a good thing for dad but not for mom. When it rains no one in our house sleeps very well. Snow is even worse. Before I was actually put to work, I thought snow was the best part of winter. I was wrong, snow means work.
  11. Gnats are extra protein… In the summers there are a lot of bugs. There are an especially large number of them this year because we had a wet spring. When you walk through the feedyard you cannot help but get a gnat somewhere you really probably did not want a gnat to be. That is not at a total loss because gnats are extra protein (not that a beef farmer needs that)…
  12. Cowgirls don’t cry… When you are working with animals, they depend on you. They need fed on Easter and Christmas and Sundays. This does not give you time to sit down and feel sorry for yourself. If you fall, you get back up again because there is always more work to be done. When your finger gets caught in a gate you do not have time to watch it turn purple and swell, there are still cattle that need tending to.
  13. Help will always come to those who ask for it… No one can give you a helping hand if they do not know you need it. It is not a bad thing to request help. Needing help does not make you weak or incompetent.
  14. Build character… There are many ways on a farm to build character. Scooping bunks is one of the most common ways. Another good one is throwing small square hay bales. I can also tell you that touching the hot electric fence does not build as much character as you would think…
  15. A little dirt never hurt anyone… Sometimes it is okay to get a little dirt on your hands. The work that results in that dirt is worth something to someone.ResizedImage951374766405614

The pot of gold in Nebraska that sits under all the morning rainbows is the hay carefully stacked by loving hands that feeds the animals which give us food.

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Filed under CAFO, Family, Foodie Work!, General

An Aggie In Nebraska…

Howdy!

My name is Emily and I have the privilege to be a guest on the Feedyard Foodie’s blog this week! I am originally from rural Connecticut but am currently residing in Texas. Both my Fiancé, Garrett, and I are recent graduates of Texas A&M University (just two weeks ago, actually!) with our Bachelor’s in Animal Science and are both currently pursuing a Master’s in Ruminant Nutrition.

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A ruminant refers to an animal with a four compartment stomach (ie. cattle, sheep, or goats), however, both of us are specifically studying the beef cattle sector. Our ultimate goal in the future is to start our own cow-calf operation in Texas. A cow-calf operation essentially raises the animals that will later go to the feedlot.

So how did I end up in Cozad, Nebraska?

As Anne mentioned in her previous post, I had the privilege of hosting her and Megan at Texas A&M in the fall after inviting her for a speaking engagement through the Animal Science Department. Every feed yard utilizes a ruminant nutritionist to make sure the cattle are being fed properly and nutritional requirements are being met. Knowing that I was going to be studying in this field, it seemed fitting to come visit the feed yard for a few weeks over the summer to get an inside view on how the operation is run, even if it isn’t the exact path I plan to take.

The thought behind my visit was that it’s always worth taking advantage of an opportunity to learn.

There is a good chance that my future career will somehow relate back to the feed yard, especially if it includes a cow-calf operation responsible for filling empty pens.

The Feedyard Foodie Family graciously accepted me into their home for three weeks and I have been learning everything from the business side of the operation to running various equipment at the feedyard. As far as the cattle go, we’ve processed, transported, and shipped cattle and will be receiving new calves into the yard next week.

Every day has been something new to do and another skill-set to learn. I’ve even had the opportunity to learn about the various farming sectors in Cozad from planting to harvest and of course the town, and family’s love of sports has led me to a new insight into both the track and swimming season! Anne has been a great mentor sharing her experiences in the industry, as a manager, and making time for what’s important as small business-owning parents. It has been quite the adventure and I look forward to sharing more about my journey as I move into my final week with the family!

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Filed under Family, General, Nutrition (cattle and human)