Tag Archives: Nebraska farms

Burkholder Family Christmas Letter – Long version 2020…

While I sent out a few paper Christmas cards this year, the “letter” included with them is fairly abridged.

So, in honor of the 24th annual Burkholder Christmas letter tradition, I am including here a longer version for those inclined to read it 😊


As I reflect on 2020, what God places firmly on my heart is the rekindling of a deep gratitude for our farm, our community and the place that we get to call “home”. I think that both Matt and I would report that our ability to “work the land” and live in the midst of “God’s country” frees our hearts and brings peace to our minds even in the midst of chaos and upheaval. We are closing in on 25 years of marriage and 24 years of farming! Matt’s hair is a little bit grayer and I seem to develop more wrinkles with each year that passes, but we are so blessed to have each other – our family – and all those whom God brings into our daily lives.

Matt continues to manage the farm and “play in the dirt” as the girls and I like to tease him. He loves studying the soil and figuring out ways to better care for our land. He uses his “engineering problem solving skills” to help his crew harvest alfalfa and create alfalfa dehy pellets that feed animals all across the United States. In addition, he works with partners to grow a blend of rotational corn, soy beans, wheat, oats and cover crops to ensure good long-term soil health. In his spare time, he serves on several community boards, water skis like he is still 18, and chases determinedly after his girls 🙂

I “retired” from my animal (cattle) welfare job with the Beef Marketing Group on May 1st. I’m keeping busy helping Matt on the farm and taking care of our grass cattle during the spring and summer months. I also continue to coach swim team and cross country, serve as a small group leader for local middle school girls through our church, and added on substitute teaching at our local public middle school this fall. I’m finding that 6th-8th graders are just as ornery as cattle caregivers, but they bring a new sense of hope to my heart as I shake my head at their antics. I am truly enjoying this new door that God has opened in my life.

Ashley Grace is a Junior at Notre Dame University. She is a dual major in Political Science and Theology with a minor in Public Service. In her “free time” she works as a writing tutor for the university, and spent the fall tutoring football players. She is very proud that “her boys” are in the running for the National Championship title. She also is learning the sport of boxing and continues to run a bit on the side. She heads to Milwaukee, Wisconsin next summer to work as a summer school teacher before completing her final year as an undergraduate at ND.

Megan began her tenure at Davidson College this fall. She plans to be a STEM major of some sort – likely either chemistry or physics – with a long term goal of being a teacher and coach. She is a member of the track team where she pole vaults and is looking forward to the winter and spring season! Covid made for a difficult transition to college, but we are very proud of her tenacity. We are also incredibly thankful for God’s blessing of helping her to find a supportive group of awesome young Christians to “do life with” during her time in North Carolina.

Karyn is surviving living as “an only child” with Matt and I. She adopted an “emotional support kitten” this summer right before her sisters both left for college, and persevered with greatness through both the Nebraska State Cross Country Championships and the Nebraska State One Act Championships this fall. She is currently keeping busy with basketball and claims chemistry and math as her favorite subjects. We are extremely thankful that “in-person” school and activities persevered across Nebraska this fall. Our local school board, administrators, teachers, coaches, custodians, and bus drivers are a beautiful set of humans who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the children of our community are loved each day.

We wish each of you the peace and love of Jesus this Christmas Season. As always, our door is open for those who travel past the farm.

Matt, Anne, Ashley Grace, Megan, Karyn and all the 4-legged members of the Burkholder family 🙂

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Meanwhile On the Farm…

It has been a bit surreal these past few weeks blogging about Ecuador and the Galapagos while working on the farm in Nebraska.  The view from the prairie is a bit different!

So, you might ask “What is January like on the Feed Yard Foodie farm?”.

The tree grove on the west side of the feed yard...

The tree grove on the west side of the feed yard…

Well, it’s cold!  The days seem short, the nights seem long, and any type of moisture (usually snow) just adds to the regular work load.  The truth is that the typical feed yard day stays the same 12 months out of the year.  So, the January work load is not any different  — It’s just darker and colder working outside doing daily chores 🙂

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My Sunday morning helpers sporting the new battery operated heated gloves that Megan gave me for Christmas: Girl power on the farm 🙂

Over the past few weeks, my crew and I have been busy feeding, performing our daily cattle health check, shipping cattle to Tyson, and getting new animals into the feed yard.  This time of year, the new animals come from ranches close by that wean their calves at home and “background” feed them for approximately 60 days before shipping them to us.

Background feeding is a term often used in the cattle world.  In the plains states, we must feed our animals during the winter months as Mother Nature does not provide much in the way of plant growth.  Many of my animals are weaned on the home ranch and placed into large pens (or pastures with feed bunks) on the ranch where the animals are fed a casserole of feed that is a blend of forage and corn products.  This allows for the animals to continue to grow on the home ranch and make a smooth transition to the feed yard in January and February.

Most ranchers with spring calving cows (cows that give birth February – April) wean their calves in October in order to give the mama cow the ability to focus on the calf in her belly during the last 5-6 months of gestation.  The mama cows are grazed for the winter on corn stalks with a supplemental feed of alfalfa or wet distillers grains, and the calves are fed separately from their mamas.

Over the past few weeks, more than 500 new animals now call our farm home having traveled less than 30 miles from the ranch where they were born and backgrounded.  Backgrounded calves have an seamless transition coming into the feed yard as the casserole fed on the home ranch is very similar to the receiving rations (casseroles) that we use at the feed yard.

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I have partnered with these ranchers for many years as we work together to raise cattle, and am very proud of the teamwork that goes into the healthy and delicious beef that we grow together.

Newly arrived cattle trailing from the corral to the home pen for the first time...

Newly arrived cattle trailing from the receiving corral to the home pen for the first time…

In the home pen, fresh feed and water await along with ample space to rest and play...

In the home pen, fresh feed and water await along with ample space to rest and play…

Not surprisingly, the new cattle chose to head directly to the feed bunk where they enjoy prairie hay grass and a "casserole" blend of nutritious feed...

Not surprisingly, the new cattle choose to head directly to the feed bunk where they enjoy prairie hay grass and a “casserole” blend of nutritious feed that is very similar to what they have been eating on the ranch before traveling to the feed yard…

These steers (pictured above) are almost a year old and weigh 860#. They will spend the next four months on my farm where they will gain an average of 4 pounds per day.  When they leave my farm and make the 20 mile trip to Tyson Fresh Meats, they will weigh close to 1400#.

That’s a lot of great tasting beef!

wintersunset.jpgOne of the things that I love most about our farm is it’s combination of quiet beauty and practical usefulness.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General