Tag Archives: healthy beef

The Freedom To Thrive…

The popular sustainability discussion often holds references to animal care. From corporate statements made by McDonalds and Walmart to sensational allegations from news sources like Consumer Reports – the way that food animals are raised provides a veritable battle ground for today’s food debates.

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  • What is the correct care?
  • Who defines it?
  • Is it based on science or philosophy – or a blend of both?

With each day that passes, dialogues regarding food production practices trend beyond the farm gate to include the thoughts and ideas of an incredibly diversified audience. In 2015, the general expectation of a safe food supply is constantly expanding to also include philosophical preferences for how it is raised. I am proud of the many different types of systems used to grow food. This diversity is a tribute to the innovation of America’s farmers. It is cause for celebration, not cause for persecution.

Rigorous debates inspire positive critical examination and can result in continuous improvement. However, I grow weary of the sensational drama currently permeating the conversations involving the topic of animal welfare. To me, good cattle welfare can be defined with one simple question.

Do the animals have the freedom to thrive?

Cattle are raised with the sole purpose of contributing to the food supply. Healthy animals make healthy beef – Cattle that are raised with the freedom to thrive are healthy. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not cause for battle. It also should not be sensationalized to instigate media coverage or personal gain. Animal welfare is not about the person who eats the beef, rather it is about the calf that is raised to provide it.

These 1300# steers at my feed yard exhibit exuberant play behavior demonstrating their freedom to thrive…

Many, many different environments exist in which cattle can thrive. The animal welfare debate should not be about the type of system, rather it should be based on whether the system is managed by the farmer to allow for the animals to have the freedom to thrive. Grass pasture or feed yard, organic or traditionally raised – the basis for quality cattle welfare lies in the ability of the farmer to create an environment in which the calf can prosper. A good farmer works tirelessly for this regardless of the label that he/she places on the package of beef.

Long term food sustainability as well as the integrity of the United States protein supply lies in the hands of America’s farmers. It is wrapped up in their ability to nurture – to blend science and practical daily care with the art of intuition. It is providing for the practical needs of the animal while also taking the time to be a compassionate good shepherd.

It’s not about the grass pasture or the feed yard pen, it’s about the culture of caring that exists regardless of the type of farm.

The current discussion of animal welfare has gone terribly awry because it is no longer about the animal. It is lost in a great pit of sensational and politically motivated confusion.

Isn’t it time that Americans once again focus on defining animal welfare from the point of view of the animal receiving the care?

annemattbeef1

It won’t be a sensational story, but it will result in food raised with integrity.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

The Vaccinator…

One of my least favorite parenting memories was spending the night in the hospital enclosed in a breathing tent with my oldest daughter.  She was preschool age, and the worst part of the entire episode was the knowledge that I could have done something proactive to prevent it.  My daughter had influenza and developed an additional complication called “croup”.  The combination of the two made it so that she could not breathe.  I still kick myself for not having taken her to get the flu shot that fall when it was offered…

Ashley Grace being a good "big sister" just a few months after the flu episode...

I did, at least, learn from my mistake and I am pleased to report that my girls and I have all received the flu shot every fall since that episode.  We have a pact with each other:  someone volunteers to go first, and the rule is that if the person before you does not cry, then you can’t cry either…It works like a charm for my oldest two girls…Karyn (my youngest) still ekes out a few tears.

Three smiling angels...

Last week was “flu shot” week, and I have to admit that I was so busy at the feed yard that I forgot about it.  I picked up the kids at school and headed back out to the feed yard…We were about to leave town when my oldest daughter said: “Mama, we have to go and get flu shots today.  Can’t you remember ANYTHING!”  While I laughed at her righteous tone of voice, her sisters groaned and protested loudly stating:  “Why did you have to remind her?!”.  Ashley Grace replied, “Well, getting a little shot is a whole lot better than getting the flu!”

Cattle vaccinations are just as important as human vaccinations, and having a good plan or protocol regarding the timing and type of vaccination is incredibly important for the health and well-being of your calves.  I work closely with my veterinarian to ensure that we have the best vaccination protocol for each set of cattle that arrives at the feed yard.

Vaccinations keep them healthy...

I give all of the vaccines at the feed yard which means that over the past 15 years, I have given close to two hundred thousand shots.  I think that it is important to point out that a vaccine is not an antibiotic, and when you see a picture of someone giving a shot to an animal please do not automatically assume that it is an injection of antibiotic.  I use A LOT more vaccine at my feed yard than I do antibiotics!  I give vaccination injections to ALL of my cattle in order to stimulate their immune systems and keep them healthy—I only administer antibiotic injections to animals that are clinically ill (which averages out to be less than 5% of my cattle).

Here I am giving a respiratory vaccine to a calf. The shot is administered subcutaneously in the animal's neck so that there is no muscle damage...

I rely on my cow/calf partners to give the proper vaccinations to their cattle on the ranch, and then I booster those vaccinations when the cattle arrive at the feed yard.  I call this, “setting my animals up for success” because properly vaccinated cattle are significantly less likely to become clinically ill than cattle who have not been properly vaccinated.

She's quite a few years older now, but she still enjoys her mama's great tasting and healthy beef!

Healthy animals make healthy beef—beef that is feeding my daughters as well as you and your family!  Of all of my jobs at the feed yard, “the vaccinator” is one of the most important…

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Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., Foodie Work!, General

Healthy Animals…Healthy Beef!

Of all of the things that I have accomplished in my 36 and ½ years, I am most proud of my children.  They are the center of my world, and every decision that I make every day involves them in some way…

My talented girls who make me so proud...

My girls are always forefront in my mind as I care for my cattle.  My cattle are food animals, and I will use them to nourish my children.  My number one priority is to keep my cattle healthy because:

Healthy Cattle Make Healthy Beef!

Early immune system development in cattle plays a crucial role in the life-long success of the animals.  It is critical that Al provides his calves with everything that they need from the time of conception to ensure that they will be as healthy as possible throughout their entire life span.  Al does several things “at the ranch” to ensure that his calves remain healthy—I continue to do these things when I receive the cattle “at the feed yard”—this ensures that the beef that our animals produce is safe and healthy to eat.

Calf #718 is a great example of how doing all of the little things right everyday allows for the production of high quality and safe beef—beef that nourishes my children and yours.  Let’s talk about what some of these things are:

  1. Proper Nutrition—High quality feed that is balanced to provide the calf with the proper nutrition allows him to thrive.   He begins nursing his mama’s milk—he then transitions to eating grass—he then transitions to eating a blend of forage (grass) and grain to give his beef the taste and tenderness that we all love.

    One of Calf #718's herd mates...with Mama resting close by.

  2. Later in life and eating out of a feedbunk...

    Proper Mineral Supply—Minerals to cattle are like vitamins to humans.  Providing the proper “trace minerals” to our cattle allows for good development and immune system maturity that is required for the calf to remain healthy and flourish.

    A "trace" mineral tub for cattle...

  3. Proper Vaccination—I am a huge proponent of good vaccination protocols—it doesn’t matter if you are talking about animals or humans.  Properly timed and administered vaccines stimulate the immune system and protect against disease.  Just ask my girls how I feel about vaccinations—they will roll their eyes, remember the flu shot that they got last fall– and then give you an “ear full”!

    Beef Quality Assurance ensures good vaccination technique and selection...

  4. Proper Parasite Control—The reality is that when a bovine grazes on grass, he will come into contact with parasites.  It is important for good digestive function for the calf to be “de-wormed” periodically to get rid of these parasites.

    Grazing on grass...

  5. Limiting Stress—We all know what stress does to us…elevated blood pressure, increased risk of illness, and overall decrease in good health.  Well, a calf is really no different than a human when it comes to stress.  One of the most important things that Al and I can do for our animals is to figure out ways to decrease or limit stress.

    Cattle resting quietly in the home pen---stress free!

There are many days when I am positive that I have done a better job limiting the stress on my animals than I have limiting stress in my own life…We all work to achieve “balance” in our lives.  Al and I also work hard to enable our animals to achieve balance.

Every time I look at my children I am reminded of the importance of good quality animal care…High quality and wholesome beef is “What’s For Dinner” at my house.

One of the perks of having a daughter who raises great tasting Nebraska beef!

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