Tag Archives: responsible animal care

The Report Card…

Every time that I take a “personality” or “strength’s finder” test, I come back labeled as an achiever.  Although I have a tremendous interest in psychology and how the brain works, I am also very analytical with a natural tendency to measure progress.  Add into the equation a bit of competitiveness, and you have a pretty good description of Anne.IMG_3274

I graduated Salutatorian from Cardinal Newman High School and Cum Laude from Dartmouth College not because I was the smartest kid in the class, but because I was likely the most focused and dedicated.  My girls laugh that “Mama has a gold star on her college diploma because she studied a lot.  Daddy doesn’t because he drank too much beer…”

Sixteen years into my professional life, my achiever personality is stronger than ever.  One of my favorite tasks as a feed yard manager is to fine tune both our animal care/management practices and also the quality of the beef that our animals produce.  The Progressive Beef program provides me with a great tool to measure and assess our daily animal care practices, and using a Grid to market my cattle at harvest time provides an excellent report card for beef quality.  The sustainability of my farm is intrinsically linked to my success on these two report cards!

health and the quality of your beef depends on it.

The care that I offer to my animals plays an important role in the quality of the beef that they make…

Those of you who have followed Feed Yard Foodie for a long time will remember the long series of Calf #718 posts where I traced an animal all throughout its lifetime.  (These posts are archived together in a category on the right hand side of the home page if you missed them and would like to read them all!)  At the end of the series, Calf #718 was shipped to the packing plant, and I received a report card in the form of Grid carcass data on the animal.  Today, I send my animals to a different packing plant than Calf #718 went to, but I still harvest them on a grid basis like the one explained in the post linked above.


Delicious and nutritious beef is the ultimate goal…

I not only receive carcass data on every animal that I ship, but I also get paid relative to the quality of the beef that comes from that animal.  In other words: the higher the quality of beef, the better the report card, and ultimately the more money that I receive from the packing plant.  Because I trace the vast majority of my animals from birth to harvest year after year, I am able to challenge myself to constantly improve the beef that is raised on my farm.

It is my job to set my animals up for success so that they can reach their God-given potential to make deliciously tender and healthy beef.  If I put all of the pieces of the puzzle together correctly: high quality animal genetics, outstanding care/welfare, and judicious use of technological tools; then my cattle thrive and produce the kind of mouth-watering beef that I love to serve to my family.

My favorite Cowgirl-Chef loves to cook and eat her Mama's beef!

My favorite Cowgirl-Chef loves to cook and eat her Mama’s beef!

I am a firm believer that you must measure in order make improvements.  Report Cards are tremendous management tools because they provide vital benchmarking information.  Every time that I ship a pen of cattle to the packing plant, I eagerly await the report card that comes a few days later.  With this information, I can assess the quality of the job that I did preparing my animals to become beef.  Then, I can use that data to strive for future improvements relative to animal care and performance.2011_08_01_mr_Will Feed-9-1

It is a like a dream come true for an natural achiever like me!


Filed under General, Progressive Beef QSA Program, Sustainable Spring

Farm Check: The People

Although Tyson has been a partner in the beef industry since their acquisition of IBP more than 10 years ago, I knew very little about the company and its people prior to this winter.

As I headed to Arkansas a little over a week ago for the first Farm Check Animal Welfare Advisory Committee meeting, I was unsure as to what to expect from the executives and employees of such a large corporation.  In addition to this, I also did not personally know any of the other members of this third party welfare committee assembled by Tyson.  I was the lone cattle feeder amongst an impressive group of scientists and professionals that were connected to the world of meat production from an eclectic array of directions.2011_08_01_mr_Will Feed-16-2

I began the trip spending several hours in the women’s bathroom (the designated tornado shelter) of the wrong Arkansas airport as our plane made an unexpected landing to wait out the storms and tornados that threatened the area.  I arrived at the hotel in Springdale, AR about 1:00am the morning of Tuesday the 21st– thankful for safe travels while also full of concern and sorrow for those in the neighboring state of Oklahoma that suffered tremendously at the hand of Mother Nature.

We began our inaugural meeting with a moment of prayer for those affected by the storms, followed by the announcement that the Tyson Family had dispatched teams to the disaster area to help provide food for those in need.  The term Tyson Family was one that I heard repeatedly over the two day meeting—the expression took me by surprise the first time that I heard it, but after many interactions with the leaders and employees of the company I began to see why it was actually very appropriate.Tysonlogo

Quite honestly, I found the large corporation (characterized as a “bully” by Food, Inc. and others in the foodie world) to be a group of compassionate and dedicated individuals.  CEO Donnie Smith’s opening comments focused on the company’s core values and cultural tenets—each one revolving around integrity, compassion and commitment to teamwork.  By the end of the first day, whatever preconceived notions that I might have carried with me on the plane to Arkansas were dispelled by the sincerity that universally characterized the employees that I met.

There is a core group of Tyson employees that are working on the Farm Check program.  This team is led by Dean Danilson PhD; and made up of:

  • Paula Alexander MS
  • Kate Barger DVM
  • Chris Daugherty PhD
  • John Hardiman PhD
  • Russ Nugent PhD
  • Kellye Pfalzgraf DVM
  • Lora Wright MS

    The intern Tyson Farm Check Team...

    The intern Tyson Farm Check Team…

Corporate leadership commitment to the program was evident as CEO Donnie Smith, COO Jim Lochner, and EVP Corporate affairs Sara Lilygren and several others were actively engaged throughout the meeting.

The 3rd partyAnimal Welfare Advisory Committee is made up of:

  • Ryan Best
  • Ed Cooney
  • Gail Golab PhD MD
  • Temple Grandin PhD
  • Chef Karl Guggenmos
  • Tim Loula DVM
  • Miyun Park
  • Ashley Peterson PhD
  • Richard Raymond MD
  • Janeen Salak-Johnson PhD
  • Janice Swanson PhD
  • Bruce Webster PhD
  • Anne Burkholder

    The Advisory Committee members who attended the first meeting...

    Those who attended the first meeting, along with a few Tyson team members…

You can access brief biographical information on each of these folks by clicking here:http://bit.ly/10AxJgd.

I am convinced that my involvement in the Tyson Farm Check Animal Welfare Advisory Committee will result in tremendous learning and personal growth.  It is also my hope that my contributions to the group will result in appropriate improvements and verifications in food animal welfare.  Your trust in the beef that I grow is important to me.  This Animal Welfare Advisory Committee allows me the opportunity to make an impact regarding animal welfare outside of my own farm.

Together we are stronger.

Together we are committed to striving to find the best way to care for food animals and grow healthy meat to nourish ourselves and the families that we are honored to provide for.


Filed under General, Tyson Farm Check Program