Tag Archives: team work

Pursuing Excellence…

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Our Dartmouth College swim team shirts boasted the saying Pursuing Excellence across the back.  It provided a good fit for me as I have always felt the need to raise the bar.

My favorite farmer laughs and tells me that my standards are too high –To which I remind him that I am hardest on myself so everyone else should be in good shape 😉

Managing a feed yard for twenty years taught me the critical importance of a good team.  When you care for thousands of animals, it is impossible to do the job without the help of others.  Because the welfare of those animals is dependent on you, anything less than excellence in care is unacceptable.

A willingness to unselfishly give your all while simultaneously inspiring others to do the same allows for success.

Last week we shipped the final pen of cattle from our feed yard, and I officially started a new journey. I joined the team of Innovative Livestock Services and the Beef Marketing Group. BMG is a cooperative of feed yards in Kansas and Nebraska that operate under the Progressive Beef QMS.  My feed yard spent the last four years as a member of this coop and, during that time, I discovered a group of kindred spirits.

The mission statement of my new team states:

Combining innovation with the passion of our people to empower our rural communities and grow great tasting and sustainable beef.

Anyone who knows me can read that statement and see what a perfect fit this opportunity  is for me. I will play a dual role working on quality assurance and communications projects.  The quality assurance role enables me to continue to work to improve cattle welfare, and the communications projects allow me to empower my voice as an advocate for agriculture.

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While change is hard and transitions are not naturally comfortable for me, I am truly excited to begin this next leg of the journey. For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I invite you to like and follow my new team’s work on Facebook at Innovative Livestock Services or Twitter @ILSBeef.  I am striving to do a more dependable job posting multiple social media messages a week on these new outlets 🙂

As for Feed Yard Foodie, look for the usual weekly ramblings on our family, our farm, and my new adventures as the Burkholder clan continues on the pursuit of excellence.

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Filed under General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group

It Takes a Team…

This morning my family heads to Lincoln, Nebraska to watch our Haymaker Boys Basketball team compete in the Nebraska State Basketball tournament.  While our team is made up of many athletically talented individual players, it is likely that a successful tournament will depend on their ability to work as a team toward a common goal.

The 2014 Haymaker Boys Basketball Team...

The 2014 Haymaker Boys Basketball Team…

I laugh that the closest thing to a team sport that I did during my own athletic tenure was a relay.  There were many reasons that I chose swimming and running as my preferred sports, but at the core of my decision was a desire to rely heavily on myself rather than others.  I have always been an over-achiever, and my drive to succeed as an athlete left very little tolerance toward those who did not share the same intensity.

A desire for independence and self-reliance is a common personality trait amongst cattlemen.  We all have a myriad of opinions and beliefs on any given topic which is further enhanced by the clearly defined segments of the calf life-cycle and the production of beef (cow-calf, stocker-backgrounder, feed yard, and packing plant).  Traditionally, in addition to this natural streak of cowboy independence, there has also existed a sense of animosity between the segments.

The team experience that I shied away from during my teenage years as an athlete has been replaced with the mature realization that in beef production together we are better.  As much as I still pride myself on hard work and independent critical thinking, my adult years have taught me that collaboration is a good recipe for success.DSC04673

When the goal is responsibly raised safe and delicious beef, it takes a team.

That team starts with the cow-calf rancher and ends with the beef customer (You!).  As important as it is that I work with my ranchers; it is equally important that I work with my packing plant in order to bring a quality beef product to each one of you.  Cattle marketing from the feed yard to the packing plant is a complicated process…

When a group of cattle are ready for slaughter, they are generally sold to packing plants in one of three ways:

  • On a live (cash) basis where the worth of the cattle is negotiated prior to the weigh up of the cattle, and multiplied by the total number of pounds of the entire group of animals at the feed yard.
  • On a dressed basis where the worth of the cattle is negotiated prior to the shipment of the cattle, and this price is multiplied by the total weight of the carcasses after the slaughter process.
  • On a grid basis where the base price of the meat is determined by either the cash basis or dressed price of other cattle that trade (usually the week prior to shipment), but then final payment fluctuates with a series of premiums and discounts relative to the quality and weight of the beef that each individual animal provides.

    Here I am, many years ago, trying to learn how to cut up beef in my search to understand the entire beef production cycle...

    Here I am, many years ago, trying to learn how to cut up beef in my search to understand the entire beef production cycle…

Our feed yard has historically sold cattle on a grid basis.  Even back in the early 1970’s, we marketed our animals in this manner as it has always been our philosophy that the quality beef should ultimately determine the worth of the animal.  This type of marketing system has become more commonplace in the last 15 years because it carries with it certain advantages.

  1. Higher quality animals receive higher compensation which allows someone like me (and my ranchers) to be rewarded for superior quality.
  2. Information on the beef that my animals provide (carcass data) is shared by the packing plant so that my ranchers and I can continue to work on improving the quality of our beef.
  3. Cross segment food safety measures can be put in place to further enhance the safety of our beef products.
  4. Improvements in animal welfare can be carried out across the animal’s lifetime through teamwork and fewer logistical challenges during transportation as the cattle move through the different segments of the beef industry.
  5. Working with a packing plant helps to bring me (as a farmer) closer to my beef customers.  Together, we can work to answer your question of Where does your beef come from?

In the case of beef production, just as on the basketball court, it takes a team to bring success!

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Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., General

The Team

My daughter came home one night last summer and announced that she did not want to be the student manager and practice with the Cross Country team as a 6thgrader when school started in the fall.  I then asked her if she was planning to play club volleyball instead.  When she responded with a resounding, “NO”, I looked at her and said:  “Sweetheart, your last name is Burkholder.  Burkholders are involved and we participate.  You can make the decision as to which sport you would like to do, but you are going to contribute to one of the teams.”

Learning personal determination as well as being a team contributor...

My daughter not only had a fabulous time participating in Cross Country this fall, but she also proved to be a tremendous runner finishing a middle school 1 mile race in 6 minutes flat and taking second place.  It was truly a joy for me to watch her confidence build as she became a member of the team.

As a cattle farmer, I spend most of my time working independently with my animals or with one of my feed yard crew members.  This is the work that I love, and it is my primary focus.  That being said, I am also a member of the team of cattlemen across Nebraska and nationally that works to improve animal care, beef safety, and other issues pertaining to raising cattle.  In support of the team, I give my time and my talents.  In return, I also receive the latest scientific and regulatory updates that affect my cattle farm.

I spent time last week at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Annual Convention.  As a team, we discussed issues such as cattle health, environmental regulations, taxes, brand inspection laws, and educational issues relative to the University of Nebraska and its animal science outreach extension programs.  We also received an update on national issues from Colin Woodall who leads the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s office in Washington DC.

Members of the team learning and participating...

It is always a sacrifice for me to leave my farm and attend meetings, but I am always so glad that I did because it is such an important part of my own personal continuing education.  I learn both how to improve my farm and also to be in compliance with state and federal regulations.  Being a part of the team has allowed me to meet some of the best beef farmers and scientists in the country.  In addition, I find that my “beef industry” work and involvement continually challenges me to strive for excellence in the everyday operations of my farm.

Perhaps most importantly, I find that the team camaraderie provides support for me, and allows for the growth of both personal knowledge and confidence.  I am very thankful that I am a participator (just like my daughter), and hope that my work for the beef team helps to continually improve the industry that I love so much.

What Team are you a part of?

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Filed under Foodie Work!, General