Tag Archives: food animals

Measuring Care By Productivity…

Thoughtful Thursday


Every proud mama is entitled to brag every now and then…

This Thoughtful Thursday I give a special “shout out” to my daughters for their outstanding care to our laying hens, and to my favorite farmer for the nutrient filled alfalfa dehy that we mix with the chickens’ regular feed.  Rhode Island Reds give an average of 220 to 280 eggs per year — that equals approximately 0.6-0.8 eggs per hen per day — with the winter months being the least productive due to cold temperatures and short days.

Ashley Grace’s chickens produced at a rate of 1.08 eggs per hen per day during the month of November and the first week of December.

Good nutrition and quality care = Productive Food Animals

Well Done–You make me proud!


Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., General, Thoughtful Thursday

The Gift…

Animals play important roles in most of our lives. I have never lived in a house without a pet; and we currently have a dog and three cats enjoying the comfort of our home. When I moved to the farm in 1997, I learned about a new type of animal: a food animal. This animal exists for the sole purpose of providing food and other resources for all of us. It serves a very different purpose than a pet.


As much as my pets enrich my life, at the end of the day, I believe that the gift that my bovine food animals give to me is more precious. When my cattle leave the feed yard, they travel to a packing plant in order to give the gift of nutrition. Their gift nourishes my family as well as yours.

  • I believe that my cattle play a critical role in providing needed nourishment.
  • I believe that it is ethical to kill animals for the benefit of humans.
  • I believe that it is possible to end a food animal’s life humanely.

Dr. Temple Grandin has revolutionized cattle handling and humane care at the level of the packing plant over the past twenty years. From changes in equipment – to employee training – to auditing – to camera placement to further verify compliance, Dr. Grandin’s work plays a critical role in bovine care at the time of slaughter.

CAB Anne feedyard

The quality of my bovines’ end of life experience is important to me. As a result, I make it a priority to take periodic trips to the packing plant. I have witnessed every aspect of the slaughter process, and I believe that my packing plant partner does an excellent job of remaining committed to a painless and humane death experience for my cattle.

I cannot imagine my life without cattle and the resources that they provide. I consider myself blessed that I can spend my days caring for animals that give the gift of nutrition. 

AGXC.jpgBeef’s Big Ten pack a powerful health punch:

  • Zinc: helps maintain a healthy immune system
  • Iron: helps the body use oxygen
  • Protein: preserves and builds muscles
  • Vitamins B6 and B 12: help maintain brain function
  • Phosphorus: helps builds bones and teeth
  • Niacin: supports energy production and metabolism
  • Riboflavin: helps convert food into fuel
  • Choline: supports nervous system development
  • Selenium: helps protect cells from damage

Each time that I load my cattle on the truck to ship to the packing plant, I am thankful for their gift. I respect that gift as I appreciate the beef meals that I feed to my family as well as the other beef products that come from cattle.

I recognize the sacrifice that my animals make to improve the quality of my own life, and I honor them by offering quality care while they are on my farm.





Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Diversifying the Farm…

My favorite farmer and I have been known to pontificate to our girls about the importance of diversity in the business context of our farm.  While both of us would argue that our pontifications frequently fall upon deaf ears, the girls obviously listen enough to be able to use our words to manipulate a situation!


Normally our discussions about diversification revolve around cattle, traditional and organically grown crops, and learning how to market the fruits of our farm effectively.  About a month ago, my favorite teenager announced that “in order to further diversify our farm, that our family should get layer chickens.”  After all,

“Dad always says that we should be equal opportunity barnyard supporters.”

My immediate answer was “No” as I was not looking to add to my own chore load.  Because she is a product of two very stubborn people, instead of abandoning the idea, my daughter proceeded to fully research layer hens via the internet and asking questions of chicken enthusiasts.  She impressed me with her thorough research and plan development, and the next thing that I knew she had talked her Dad into going to the lumber yard for supplies to construct a coop.AGMattcoopconstruction1.jpg



What began as a family joke metamorphed into a terrific “father-daughter” project.  The coop that Ashley Grace constructed is beautiful, functional, and should make a nice home for the 5 Rhode Island Red chicks that our family adopted Memorial Day weekend.  The “run” has yet to be constructed because the little chicks will spend the next few weeks growing in an old livestock water tank that she adapted for the chicks.


I am laughing that the new screened in porch that we built last fall is now home to the chicks instead of the patio furniture that I intended to fill it with, and I am chalking this experience up to “the things that we agree to do for our children”.  I hope that this will be a fruitful learning experience for all three of the girls, as they will be the primary caregivers for these new “food animals” at our house.

You might wonder what my favorite teenager has decided to name her new chicks…


In keeping with her “intellectual personality”, Ashley Grace named the chicks after Shakespeare characters and a Norse Mythology God:

  • Lady Macbeth (Macbeth)
  • Juliet (Romeo and Juliet)
  • Ophelia (Hamlet)
  • Moth (Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • Loki (Norse Mythology God)

My favorite farmer is having nightmares about what she may name our future grandchildren…




Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., General

Different Types of Animals…

Thoughtful Thursday


While a farmer cares for all of her animals, she must offer appropriate care relative to animal type.  Care for food animals is made up of a complex blend of cattle welfare, responsible land and resource use, and a focus on human food safety.

It varies from the type of care that my youngest daughter offers to her favorite cat because the animal’s purpose is different!


Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday

Checking Cattle…

Including myself, I have a crew of four that cares for our cattle at the feed yard.  My foreman is in charge of our feeding program as well as being an awesome resource for just about anything else that goes on at the feed yard.  In addition to him, I have a cowboy who is in charge of daily cattle health and also another hired man (Jared) who fixes equipment, helps to feed cattle, is in charge of home pen cleaning as well as filling in wherever necessary in terms of cattle care and chores.

Riding in the feed truck with my foreman, Doug, is a special time for her.  She learns "hands on" problem solving and focus while also having a great time...

My foreman, Doug, in a feed truck with my youngest daughter Karyn.

Throughout my professional life, one of my greatest blessings has been the dedication of my crew.  Day in and day out they give of themselves in order to offer high quality animal care.  Their loyalty and hard work is nothing short of amazing, and I am immensely proud of all of them.

Two weeks out of every year, my cowboy goes on vacation.  When he is gone, I try to fill in Checking CattleChecking Cattle is another term for Riding Pens,
and it consists of looking individually at every animal in the feed yard to make sure that they have optimal health.  I view this job as absolutely critical as I care for cattle and raise beef.

Studly and I, Checkin Cattle...

Studly and I, Checking Cattle…

Studly is my partner when I am Checking Cattle as I think that I can do a better job evaluating the health of my animals on the back of a horse.  This likely stems from the fact that I am height challenged, so being on top of a horse gives me a better view point from which to see my animals.

We do not have a large number of animals get sick at the feed yard, but it is important to me that I offer the appropriate care when one of them becomes compromised by illness.  When I am checking cattle, I look for any type of bovine behavior that does not appear normal.  Because I look at my animals everyday, I have a good mental picture of what normal looks like.  When I notice something abnormal, then I need to more closely assess the animal.

Can you tell which two of these four animals are sick?

Can you tell which two of these four animals are sick?

If I determine that an animal needs individual sick treatment, I take him out of the home pen and down to our main corral area.  There, I can place him in our squeeze chute which immobilizes the animal so that I can get a temperature reading and give a shot of antibiotics if I believe it is necessary.

I work with my veterinarian to create animal health protocols which include a plan of what to do when an animal gets sick.  The symptoms displayed by the animal determine the treatment that he is given.

Jared, treating one of those sick animals with a carefully chosen antibiotic to help him to recover his good health...

Jared, treating one of those sick animals with a carefully chosen antibiotic while he is immobilized in our squeeze chute…

After treatment, the animal is then either placed in one of our hospital pens or taken back to the home pen.  The caregiver makes a judgement call depending on the health of the animal which location is most beneficial.  If the animal spends some time in the hospital pen recovering, then he will be placed back in the home pen after he has once again attained optimal health.


Taking the time to care–that’s always my goal, and it goes along with a promise to provide you and your families with wholesome and delicious beef!

Our daily check of cattle health is one of the most important things that we do at the feed yard.  I truly enjoy the two weeks out of the year when it is my primary responsibility.  I am also very thankful to Jared for his assistance with this chore!


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

Defining the Basic Needs of a Bovine…

What are the basic needs of a bovine which ensure good care and welfare?

I believe that cattle need the following things to thrive and achieve their God-given potential in the production of beef:

  • A consistent and clean source of feed and water.
  • A comfortable environment in which to live and express normal bovine behavior.
  • Good preventative health care that includes proper vaccination, deworming, and vitamin/mineral intake.
  • A caregiver who understands how to properly interact with the animal, and works to consistently reduce the stress that the animal experiences.

I believe that this care can be provided in a variety of environments—on a grazing pasture or in a feed yard. 

There will certainly be times when weather challenges make them temporarily difficult to obtain, but these cornerstones of good care drive quality bovine welfare.

In order to ensure the practical application of these welfare cornerstones, the Beef Quality Assurance Program focuses on 3 basic areas of education for cattle farmers:

  • Feed Ingredient Selection
  • Processing (vaccination) and Animal Treatment Records
  • Animal Care and Husbandry (welfare) Practices

Because cattle are food animals, two other areas of focus exist in the BQA program, to ensure that the beef that our animals produce is safe and healthy:

  • Feed Additives and Medications
  • Injection Site Management

He is grown with the express purpose of providing a high quality source of protein for all of us to eat…

When I asked Dr. Griffin what the most important function of the BQA program was, he responded:

The major focus of BQA today is the accumulation and dissemination of animal husbandry (care/welfare) ideas and techniques from people all across the United States.   As cattle caregivers become more knowledgeable stewards, this allows cattle to grow and reproduce at their God-given genetic potential in the environment in which the cattle are raised and kept. Animal husbandry-appropriate to the animal’s needs- and within its given environment, will accomplish the objectives that we all seek … sustainability and the production of safe beef.

After the Thanksgiving Holiday, we will take a closer look at each of the 5 areas of focus for Beef Quality Assurance and discuss their role in ensuring good cattle welfare.



Filed under Animal Welfare, General

The Basic Premise Behind Quality and Appropriate Cattle Welfare…

He views the world from a different perspective.

Thinking on a different cognitive level.

His needs are basic and may sometimes seem rudimentary to human eyes.

While those needs may appear simplistic, they are innately tied to his vitality.

His good health is intrinsically tied to the safety of our food.

He is a food animal—he feeds our families.

He is a bovine and his job is to produce high quality and safe beef.

I am his caregiver, and it is my job to offer appropriate care that meets his needs and allows him to reach his God-given potential.

When he reaches this potential, the cycle is complete and I have successfully raised a safe and healthy beef product that comes from animals that are humanely cared for.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Learning To Let Go…

Last Friday night, my daughter’s cat “Snickerdoodle” was hit by a car and killed on the road in front of our house.  I wondered why she had not come running the night before, as she usually does, when I called for her at bedtime.

Megan with Snickers when she was a kitten…

Snickers was an adorable gray and white cat that brought our family a tremendous amount of joy.  We buried her on the edge of our horse pasture wrapped in an old t-shirt that Megan had decorated with the message: “I love you Snickers.  You always made me smile and gave such wonderful kisses.  I miss you.  Have fun in heaven.”

Although she is no longer with us, this little cat received nothing but love during her time at the Feed Yard Foodie house…

In the last 15 years, our family has lost two dogs, three cats, and one horse.  We held a funeral for each of the animals, and all but the horse are buried in the pasture.  Every time that we are faced with this I find myself saying, the only thing worse than losing a beloved pet would be never having had them to love and enrich your life. Somehow, that does not seem to make saying goodbye any easier.

Holding a funeral for our lost pets allows my girls to learn to let go.  From the creation of personal prayers, to reminiscing about the lost pet, to singing Amazing Grace as we tearfully end the service, this ritual gives us the opportunity to grieve and acknowledge the loss.  It also provides hope and reaffirms our belief that God will welcome the lost animal into his spiritual oasis.

He is grown for the express purpose of providing food, but his life is still meaningful and it is my responsibility to provide good care to him…

Although I view my cattle at the feed yard in a much different light than our family’s pets, I still feel a sense of loss and disappointment when one of them dies.  It is as though I have failed in my job as caregiver.  I am supposed to care for and raise these animals with the goal of keeping them healthy and creating safe and wholesome beef—when one of them dies, it is like a personal failure.

For me to be successful, every single one of my animals must thrive on my farm…

We benchmark and track the percentage of cattle that die during their stay at the feed yard.  My goal is 0%.  I never seem to quite be able to achieve that, but it is not for a lack of trying.  Severe weather plays a large factor in determining how many animals I lose, but other factors also play a role.  The bottom line is that whenever an animal is stressed, he is more likely to get sick and/or die.

Good care starts on the ranch. For the animal to thrive high quality and consistent care must be provided from the first day that the calf is born…

Over the past 15 years, our death loss percentage at the feed yard has decreased significantly.  I believe that this is due to my focus on reducing total stress on each one of my animals.  It starts with how my rancher partners care for their animals early in their lives, continues with limiting shipment stress, and culminates with ensuring an easy transition and consistent comfort at the feed yard.

The continuation of good care at the feed yard ensures good health and high quality beef.

I tell my children, no matter how good you are—you can always get better and these words are forefront in my mind as I work to improve animal care and hone in on the elusive 0% death loss.  Today, my death loss rate is less than 0.5%.   Somehow, that does not ease the guilt that I feel when we discover a dead animal in one of our pens.

Although they are food animals, not pets, I believe that each bovine’s life holds value and a small part of my heart weeps every time that I lose one.  Living on a farm has made me a realist.  With that metamorphic transition comes the necessity to let go when one of my animals dies.  But, each time that I am forced to let go, I form a greater resolve to work harder to achieve that 0% goal.

I am personally responsible for each one of my animals…

All animals, whether they are pets or food animals, hold intrinsic value to our society.  It is all of our jobs to provide the best possible welfare so that each one has the greatest chance of living a productive life—whether it is a beef animal that is grown to provide high quality protein for human nurishment, or the beloved pet that our family said good bye to last weekend.


Filed under Animal Welfare, General