Tag Archives: humane care

The Final Days of Summer…

Yesterday morning marked the official end of summer for the youth of Cozad.  Each year, the first day of school creates a natural transition from the summer to the fall.  Transitions always challenge me and this year was no exception to the rule.  I find comfort in routine (perhaps that is why I am a good cattle caregiver), and it tends to throw me off when change occurs.

My favorite blonde cowgirl shares this tendency with me, so this last week has been bittersweet for us.  Megan spent the summer working on her cattle handling skills helping me to exercise calves and also participating on the processing crew.  Last Wednesday we received a group of new cattle into the feed yard, and I gave Megan the responsibility of exercising them during the acclimation period.  While she often acts as an assistant during acclimation, these steers provided the inaugural group for her to acclimate on her own.

Trailing cattle down the alley during a dawn exercising session...

Trailing cattle down the alley during a dawn exercising session…

The previous owner did a great job teaching his calves to trust a human caregiver, so these animals provided an excellent group for Megan to guide through the process. The video below shows her moving the cattle out of the home pen at the beginning of the last acclimation/exercising session Sunday morning.

By the end of the acclimation period, the cattle have learned to attribute comfort to the home pen, and prefer to remain there rather than feeling a natural drive to go somewhere else.  Watching a group of cattle make this shift (from wanting to leave, to desiring to stay) is a fascinating process.  It takes several days (these cattle were on day 5) and requires cattle savvy to guide them to this change.  A few thoughts as you watch the video:

  1. When you have a lone handler and many animals, the first step is to herd the animals together in a group — this both makes them feel more comfortable and also makes leading them easier.
  2. The second step is to ask them to move in a designated direction through the use of alternate pressure.  They should continue moving in this direction until something stops them (like a fence or a closed gate).  An open gate allows for them to leave the pen when asked.
  3. Calm cattle under good leadership walk in straight lines with positive energy.
  4. Consistent and confident handler behavior makes learning easier for the cattle.

    Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session...

    Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session…

Good cattle handling instills important leadership qualities in the caregiver.  Cattle are very sensitive, yet they are willing to look for guidance and leadership when the handler can empathize and correctly gauge their “human interaction bubble”.  I believe that the most important skill to develop when working with animals is the ability to look outside of yourself, viewing the world through their perspective, while still retaining the confidence of a leader.  It has been fun for me, both as an animal welfare enthusiast and as a mom, to watch Megan develop these skills.

One last moment of rambunctious joy before loading in cars to head to the first day of school...

One last moment of rambunctious joy before loading in cars to head to the first day of school…

Yesterday, Megan traded the feed yard for 8th grade.  There, she will learn different things using different learning tools than those developed on the farm.  I do believe that her summer lessons will grant her a broader educational perspective.  I have to admit that we were both very sad to have the summer come to an end.  I will miss my cattle handling assistant and she will miss being a valued member of our feed yard crew.

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 With each summer that draws to an end, I realize how quickly my girls are growing up and find myself wanting to hit the “pause” button. 

Some days it seems that parenting is a bittersweet journey.

 

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

They Can’t Take It Off…

As part of my NPDES permit issued through the Environmental Protection Agency, I keep daily weather records at the feed yard. I record precipitation, daily high and low temperatures, wind speed and wind direction. In addition to fulfilling my government regulation responsibilities, my favorite farmer uses the weather data during the crop growing season to help him manage irrigation on the farm.

As I reviewed the weather data entered for the last three weeks, I gave thanks that cattle are very resilient creatures. The highest temperature during the 21 day period was 70 degrees and the lowest 4 below zero (-4). In fact, our farm saw seven days from January 23-February 13 marked by more than a 40 degree temperature swing. The record for the period was a low of -4 followed by a high of 61 degrees the next day. We also had two significant winter storms during those three weeks.

While humans view the respite from winter on a beautiful sunny February afternoon a blessing, my cattle suffer from it. Quite simply, we all take our coats off when the weather warms – Cattle don’t have that luxury.

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They can’t take it off…

“Shirt sleeve” weather for a bovine is 55 degrees. In Nebraska during the winter, cattle put on heavy coats to protect them from the cold. Instead of shirt sleeves, they spend the winter in a down jacket. As seasons change, cattle acclimate to the resulting changing weather at the rate of approximately 1 degree per day. Using that model, it would take approximately 65 days to acclimate from -4 to 61 degrees. February 5th, Mother Nature asked my animals to do that in 12 hours.

They can handle the cold — They can handle the heat — But the extremes in temperature swings bring significant challenges for them.

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When cattle struggle with weather stress, they are more fragile. We place them on a special ration (bovine food casserole) that is easier to digest, make sure that an ample supply of fresh (not frozen!) drinking water is available, and work extra hard to make home pen conditions comfortable for them.

Good care requires an attention to detail, and times of weather challenge make me especially proud of my crew as we work diligently always placing the cattle’s welfare as our top priority.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

A Necessary Education in Gun Competence…

I remember my dad teaching me to shoot a 22 rifle when I was younger than Karyn.  He would set up a target of aluminum cans and my brother and I would compete to see who was the best shot…

A few years later, my brother "guided" me as I shot my first wild hog with a 12 gauge...

A few years later, my brother “guided” me as I shot my first wild hog with a 12 gauge…

My brother has gone on to become an excellent shot, while I likely remain in the competent category.  Regardless, I was raised to respect guns and I want my girls to grow up with the same education and skills.

Learning how to handle and load the gun is an important step...

Learning how to handle and load the gun is an important educational step…

In continuing with the family tradition, Matt and I are working with the girls and teaching them to shoot a 22 rifle.  We set up pizza hut cardboard boxes on the edge of a dirt berm that boarders one of our farms for targets.DSC06834

My favorite cowgirl/chef hit her first bulls-eye last weekend.   To say that she was excited would be an understatement 🙂

Karyn and Ashley Grace have not yet achieved those bragging rights, but they are slowly gaining confidence.  I have no idea if shooting a gun will be a necessary skill for any of them in their chosen life path, but I do know that the confidence and focus that they gain while learning to properly handle a fire arm will help them no matter where their lives take them.

She's only 8, but will careful instruction she learns to focus and develop good skills...

She’s only 8, but with careful instruction she learns to focus and develop good skills…

On a personal note, I am working on my shooting skills for a very practical reason.  There are times that we have a bovine at the feed yard get very sick or become crippled.  I cannot stand watching an animal suffer, so in those instances we humanely euthanize it.  While it happens only a few times a year, it is important to me that we are both competent and dedicated to using this practice to end suffering.DSC06851

My cowboy has always been in charge of euthanizing at the feed yard, but I am working on honing my shooting skills so that I can also perform this task.  Matt recently purchased me a 9mm pistol for this purpose.  It has been more than twenty years since I fired a pistol, but I am determined to achieve accurateness.  I fired it for the first time this last weekend, and plan to add shooting practice into my routine until I am accurate enough to complete the task with competency.

We do everything that we can to keep our animals healthy like this one pictured above, but sometimes things go wrong...

We do everything that we can to keep our animals healthy like this one pictured above, but sometimes things go wrong…

Ending an animal’s suffering is a gift that I can give.  It is part of my job as a humane caregiver.  While it is always difficult to loose an animal, in some instances it is just plain the right thing to do.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Family, General

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance…

Our swim team t-shirts this season carried one of my very favorite quotes.

She smiled for the picture, but often when I mention this phrase she seems tempted to roll her eyes...

She smiled for the picture, but often when I mention this phrase she appears tempted to roll her eyes…

I not only enjoy telling my swimmers that Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance, I live out the words in my own life.  I am blessed to have a feed yard crew that also is devoted to striving for excellence.  Each of us believes that taking pride in our work and focusing on all of the little things that ensure good care for our animals is an essential part of our every day lives.

This commitment to detail and devotion to good care makes my affiliation with Progressive Beef a great partnership.  Progressive Beef is all about Perfect Practice Making Perfect Performance.  The program combines the core values of sustainability, humane animal care, and food safety with daily care practices which ensure success.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had my second audit for the program (I will have three per year).  An auditor from a third party firm called IMI Global traveled to the feed yard to spend most of the day with us.  He checked our records, watched us work cattle, evaluated our daily cattle care (cattle living conditions), and assessed our feed mill and feed delivery system.

Auditing our cattle handling skills while vaccinating some newly arrived yearling heifers...

Auditing our cattle handling skills while we worked some newly arrived yearling heifers…

The audit was very organized and thorough.  Despite this, and despite our preparation and dedication to detail, having an auditor at the feed yard was still a little bit unnerving.  The bottom line is that it is hard to have someone pick through your life and judge your performance.

Looking at our feed delivery records with my foreman...

Looking at our feed delivery records…

To say that I am proud of my crew’s performance would be an understatement.  We rocked the audit scoring 228.5 out of a possible 228.5 possible points.  I set the bar high and our team delivered perfection.  Despite the fact that I get to spend each day watching our animals thrive and make safe and healthy beef, it is still a thrill to get such an awesome report card.

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Responsible animal care not only matters to you, it matters to me…

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”

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Filed under CAFO, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Caring With Greatness…

Greatness isn’t a product of luck or chance.

Greatness doesn’t occur by accident.

Greatness isn’t even a result of superior talent.

Greatness is simply wanting something more than anyone else and working harder than anyone else to achieve that goal.

Greatness takes immense amounts of dedication and desire to be achieved.

My favorite 7th grader’s club basketball coach posted this last weekend.  He wrote it several hours after my daughter completed her goal of shooting 10,000 baskets (the basket tally began in November).  I do not know if he thought of AG when he wrote it, but I certainly thought of her as I read it.

My face mask has gotten additional use this winter...

My face mask has gotten additional use this winter…

My daughter is an Achiever —she comes by it honestly.  Her personal drive mirrors my own and is fascinating for me to watch.  This week, AG is basking in the glow of accomplishment knowing that she completed more basketball shots in the last couple of months than she ever dreamed she would.

You might be wondering—Is there another reward?

Apart from the confidence and skill gained by completing the baskets, my daughter is also enjoying the knowledge that her basketball coach will spend an afternoon running 5 X 1 mile repeats with her.  You see, that was the deal.

10,000 completed baskets = 5 X 1 mile repeats.  The fact that her motivation for shooting 10,000 baskets was the ability to run 5 X 1 mile repeats with her coach says a lot about my daughter… I think that her coach is envisioning a nice leisurely pace—I can assure you that AG is planning to run fast enough to reach the finish line before he does!

Running

The drive to want to be better today than you were yesterday is a great gift…

We all search for greatness in our lives and we all have different motivations that drive us to pursue that greatness.  My genuine love for animals drives me to care with greatness on my cattle farm.  This is my vocation and I strive to achieve it each and every day.

Good animal care is a daily requirement at a feed yard--their health and the quality of your beef depends on it.

Good animal care is a daily requirement at a feed yard–the cattle’s health and the quality of your beef depends on it.

Caring with greatness takes dedication.

Caring with greatness takes discipline.

Caring with greatness takes empathy and attention to detail.

Caring with greatness ensures healthy animals.

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I am proud to grow your beef while caring with greatness.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, CAFO, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Proving That We Care…

Just a couple of weeks ago, a social media friend forwarded me an email that she had received from a reader.  The email was a cry for help from a fellow mom.  It seems that her daughter, after repeatedly watching horrific videos of animal abuse on the internet, had refused to eat any animal products.

I do not have that added challenge with my daughters because they help to raise the beef that we eat.

I do not have that added parenting challenge with my daughters because they help to raise the beef that we eat.

Concerned about both her daughter’s nutritional needs and the abusive videos, the mom was reaching out to online farmer bloggers in an attempt to find out the truth.  When I sent a link to several videos of my farm to the mom, she responded “Why can’t I find these when I search on YouTube?  These are the types of videos that we need to see!”

The short answer to that question is that search results on YouTube are ranked according to number of views.  This means that the more views a video has, the more likely that it will show up when you search a topic.  I have uploaded four “home-made” videos to YouTube over the last year—they have a total of only 1500 views.

This one is my favorite–it is my 10 year old cowgirl/chef exercising cattle at the feed yard to the tune of her favorite song “Fly Over States”.

  • I love this video because I am proud of my daughter and what a great cattle caregiver she is becoming.
  • I love this video because it shows the simplicity of good cattle handling.
  • I love this video because of the calf with the white spot on his head that kept asking Megan “do I have to” when she asked him to move.  Megan frequently looks at me asking the same question…

    Where did the trust go?

    Where did the trust go?

Twenty years ago, trust existed throughout the food production system.  Farmers were viewed positively, and those outside of the farm believed that farmers had integrity.  Today, that trust is gone.  I believe that this loss of trust is one of the biggest travesties currently affecting our great country.  Quite simply, it hurts my heart to know that many people do not trust that I care.

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My brain recognizes that it is my duty to not only care, but also to document that care in an attempt to rebuild that trust.  The daily care that I offer to my animals is now accompanied by record keeping and documentation that will verify that I not only care, but that I am competent in that care.

My other job---paper work!

My other job—paper work!

Animal Care is the second pillar of the Progressive Beef program.  It is one that I believe in with every fiber of my being.  Outstanding animal care is a trademark of my feed yard.  Progressive Beef has provided me with both a documentation trail, and also a third party independent audit to bring additional integrity to my promise of high quality animal care.

Rest assured that you can feel good about feeding my beef to your family—it came from healthy and humanely raised animals.  You don’t have to just take my word for it!

I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.

Pablo Casals

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Filed under Animal Welfare, CAFO, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Who I am…

Earlier this fall, a camara crew from the Angus Association (Angus is a breed of cattle) tagged along with a group of graduate students from the University of Nebraska and made the trip out to the Feed Yard Foodie farm.

It was a typical windy day at the feed yard: exercising calves, feeding and checking the health of our animals.  I talked with the UNL students about the practical implementation of holistic cattle care and Beef Quality Assurance in a feed yard.

While I always enjoy when students come to learn at the feed yard, this particular visit was extra special for me because of the YouTube video embedded below.   I am so thankful to the Angus Association for putting together this five minute video of me and my cattle.

  • This video explains who I am.
  • This video states what I believe in.
  • This video is my mission statement.DSC03747

I am Anne Burkholder.

I am proud to raise cattle and grow your beef…

Please take a moment to click below and watch it if you missed it on RFD TV last week! Please pass it along to every one that you know that has questions about a cattle feed yard 🙂

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Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General

The Practical Application of Math…

I’ll never forget the day in 3rd grade that my oldest daughter announced that she did not understand why she had to learn math because it was not anything that she would ever use in real life…

She is now in 7th grade and learning pre-algebra...

She is now in 7th grade and learning pre-algebra…

Ever since that moment, I have made it my mission to constantly point out to my girls the use of math in daily life.  Perhaps that is why they are all such good chefs (what better way to learn to use fractions!).

One of the girls' favorites are sliced home grown tomatoes with a touch of butter and Parmesan cheese...

One of the girls’ favorites are sliced home grown tomatoes with a touch of butter and Parmesan cheese…

I am surrounded by math at the feed yard.  From reading bunks and figuring out pounds of feed—to estimating cattle weights—to deciding how many trucks I need to transport my animals—to determining the proper withdrawal times for the animal health products that I use on my cattle.  Math is everywhere and I have to remember not to gloat every time that I proudly show my girls another practical use for it!

I know that I have been successful when they start to point it out to me!

I know that I have been successful when they start to point it out to me!

I use several different animal health products at the feed yard.  By animal health products, I mean both preventative care products (like vaccines) and treatment medications (like antibiotics) for sick animals. The last two core topics for Beef Quality Assurance are Injection Site Management, and Feed Additives and Medications.

These two BQA components exist because my cattle are food animals, and their meat will be used to nourish my family and yours.  As I use animal health products, I must always remember to protect the safety of the food that my animals make.

Here I am giving an injection in the neck of a calf just underneath the skin...

Here I am giving an injection in the neck of a calf just underneath the skin…

Almost all animal health products have withdrawal periods—this is the number of days that must pass before a treated animal can be shipped to harvest.  The withdrawal period insures that there are no residues of any animal health products in the meat that you purchase at the grocery store.

Here I am filling a syringe to treat a sick calf that I found Sunday morning.  I weigh the animal so that I can figure an accurate and appropriate dose.  I also take the temperature of the animal to help me with my diagnosis.

Here I am filling a syringe to treat a sick calf that I found last Sunday morning in Pen 15. I weigh the animal so that I can figure an accurate and appropriate dose. I also take the temperature of the animal to help me with my diagnosis.

It is illegal for me to send a bovine to harvest who has not passed the proper withdrawal time following a treatment (like the one that I administered in the picture above).  Every single time that we give an animal health product to a calf, we write down the animal’s identification number, the product that was given to him, and then figure the date that the animal has cleared withdrawal and is eligible for harvest.

Megan was my helper last weekend.  Here she is writing down the identification numbers of the animal, its temperature, what I treated him with, and then the date that the animal will clear withdrawal...

Megan was my helper last weekend. Here she is writing down the identification numbers of the animal, its temperature, the antibiotic that I treated him with, and then the date that the animal will clear withdrawal…

There is an effective system in place to ensure that beef that you purchase is residue free!  FDA (federal drug administration )mandates it, BQA ensures it, cattle veterinarians and caregivers take many steps every day to make it a reality!DSC03959

So, how often do my cattle receive injections (shots)?   As a part of my protocol to ensure good health, every animal in my feed yard receives at least two vaccinations (given to prevent common bovine illnesses—think of them as the bovine equivalent of the Flu Shot), and one deworming shot.  In addition, somewhere between 2-5% of my animals receive an injection of an antibiotic when they become clinically ill.

Here I am giving a vaccination to a newly arrived animal.  This vaccine will help him to stay healthy and plays an important role in my preventative health plan...

Here I am giving a vaccination to a newly arrived animal. This vaccine will help him to stay healthy and plays an important role in my preventative health plan…

The goal is to do all of the holistic animal welfare practices correctly so that only a very small number of my animals get sick and require an antibiotic treatment.

In addition to motivating her husband and the other "beef boys" to achieve greatness, here she teaches her granddaughter how to cook!

30 years ago this wonderful lady motivated her husband and the other “beef boys” to achieve zero residues in beef, today she teaches her granddaughter how to cook!

Perhaps Dr. Griffin’s wife (pictured above) said it best when she reminded him 30 years ago that it was never acceptable to feed her children meat that contained residues.  I am pleased to report today that the percentage of finished cattle that go to harvest with a residue is 0.000017% which statistically equates to zero.

Dr. Griffin took his wife's message to heart and has dedicated his life to educating cattlemen and achieving the necessary "zero"...

Dr. Griffin took his wife’s message to heart and has dedicated his life to educating cattlemen and achieving the necessary “zero”…

For more information on the topic of antibiotics, take a minute to read this post from December of last year regarding antibiotic use at the feed yard.  https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/the-misunderstood/.

Or, the USFRA just did a dialog on the use of antibiotics in food animals recently in New York City.  You can view the hour and a half long conversation at http://www.fooddialogues.com/ny-food-dialogues/antibiotics-and-your-food.

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