Tag Archives: The Fall Run

Pass the Peanut Butter…

I have enjoyed a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread and a banana for breakfast every day since the 22nd of September. I eat the peanut butter sandwich after I read bunks and exercise calves, and before I check daily cattle health. I eat the banana after the daily health check is completed late-morning.

Reading bunks and determining the daily feeding plan for my cattle begins at 6:00am.  It does not matter if it is Sunday, Halloween or the Thanksgiving holiday that we will celebrate next week – the feed yard day starts at 6:00, and there are thousands of animals that look forward to the morning routine. We start early because my cattle have taught me that a disciplined breakfast schedule benefits their health and comfort, and consequently reduces the environmental footprint of my farm.

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September 22nd provided the first day of the “fall run of calves” at the feed yard. Each year, the extra cowboy chores that I take on during this time period wreak havoc with my breakfast choices. Since Graves Disease necessitated the destruction of my thyroid gland on my 33rd birthday, I am dependent on a pill to provide my body with the thyroid hormones that allow me to function. The thyroid pill is a bit picky, and (for my body) works best if I take it on an empty stomach. This means no breakfast for 30-45 minutes after I start my day by taking the thyroid pill.

Even though I enjoy breakfast, I enjoy sleeping more. I leave the house within 10 minutes of crawling out of bed. The result: a necessitated delayed breakfast after starting my day at the feed yard. During September, October, November, and the first half of December my mornings are so busy that I have to eat on the go. A peanut butter sandwich and a banana provide an easy solution to the challenge. Although it lacks diversity, it does start my day with protein, whole grains, and fruit.

By the time that Christmas rolls around, my pallet cries for a new breakfast flavor – almost as much as my body longs for a morning reprieve from the daily 5:35 wake up call. Such is the life of a feed yard boss lady in the fall months of the year. It’s a good thing that my freezer is full of home grown beef so that I can ensure that dinner promises more flavor and satisfaction than breakfast 🙂

BeefStripSteaksandMushroomKabobs I really prefer a beef meal where I can pass on the peanut butter!

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Filed under Foodie Work!, General

1200 Calves, a Dozen Eggs, and the Start of Winter…

The last six weeks have been truly a blur. This time of year I loose sense of the day of the week as the days all seem to run together amidst a common theme —

Take care of the calves.

Unquestionably, October and the first half of November are the busiest times of the year at our feed yard.  Mother Nature stops giving the gift of grass, so cattle must be moved and fed in order to remain healthy for the winter. Breeding cattle (cows and bulls) are trailed or trucked to winter pastures where they receive supplemental feed or moved to graze the remnants of corn fields after harvest.

Cattle that will become beef are trucked to feed yards.

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The majority of the calves that are moved into feed yards like mine during this time are animals that are 8-9 months of age. Many of them are bawling calves which means that they are weaned from their Mamas at the same time that they leave the home ranch. These cattle are undeniably high maintenance and take a lot of work. Limiting the stress for these animals is critical, and they require a lot of time and care.

I am extremely proud of the care that my crew and I provide — we focus on what is best for each calf and work tirelessly to provide it.

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  • Exercising
  • Acclimating
  • Feeding
  • Maintaining comfortable pen conditions
  • Identifying any sick animals that need special care

All these things fill our days (and likely a few of our nights).

By the middle of November the fatigue sets in, and my crew and I anxiously await the end of the fall run. This week (for the first time in six weeks), we have no new animals set to arrive at the feed yard. This gives us the opportunity to catch up on secondary work that has been set aside as we cared for the new cattle and, hopefully, to take a few deep breathes in order to cast off the weariness.

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On the home front, I am happy to report that Ashley Grace’s chickens have begun to grace us with eggs. The laying process began slowly, but we are up to 2-3 eggs per day from her 5 laying ladies. While I sternly remind the feathered girls that they are food animals, I have to admit that I find myself talking to them while I do home chores…

My favorite farmer was pretty proud to be the one to find the first egg!

My favorite farmer was pretty proud to be the one to find the first egg!

I am sad to report that it appears that winter has arrived in Nebraska. We worked cattle Monday with sub-freezing temperatures and a 50 mph north wind. Today, I exercise calves at dawn with temperatures hovering around zero degrees.

I am reminded that this is the time of year to cowgirl up as working at a feed yard is not for the weak of heart!

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Filed under General

Preparing For the Fall Run…

The month of August can mostly be described as the calm before the storm at the feed yard. It is during this time that we finish up maintenance projects in preparation for the fall run of cattle. In Nebraska, many cattle move off of grass pastures and into feed yards from September to late November. The grass becomes less plentiful and the grazing season draws to an end.

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As the grass growth slows, cattle not involved in breeding herds are typically loaded onto semi-trucks at the ranch and shipped to feed yards in order to save the remaining grass for the mama cows and bulls. The fall run starts with yearlings (15-18 month old cattle) in August and September and then transitions into calves (8-10 month old cattle) in October and November.

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Large numbers of new cattle into the feed yard equates to longer hours and a large work load. Newly arrived cattle are exercised/acclimated, processed (vaccinated, de-wormed, tagged and sometimes implanted), and health is watched very carefully as animals become accustomed to their new life.

In addition to the increasing chore list relative to cowboying at the feed yard, the numbers of feed truck loads increase significantly as well. We have 7 different rations for our cattle depending on their age/size and how long they have been at the feed yard. Rations are similar to casseroles — they are a blend of a variety of feed ingredients.

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At our feed yard, our core ingredients are: Wet Distillers Grains, Rolled Corn, Alfalfa, Ground Corn Stalks/Wheat stubble, Grass Hay, and dry Supplement pellets. When cattle arrive (regardless of size), they are given a casserole that has more forage (alfalfa and ground corn stalk/wheat stubble, and grass hay) and less grain (rolled corn) blended with wet distillers grains. Throughout the time that the cattle spend at the feed yard, the percentage of forage is lessened while the percentage of grain increases.

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Increasing the grain allows for the beef to be more tender and the flavor to be enhanced.

As we prepare for the fall run, I remind myself and my crew a few core work principles:

  1. Initiative: Always look for ways to contribute –this is imperative in effectively handling the chore load in the fall. Don’t wait to be asked to do something – if it needs done, Do It!
  2. Attitude: A positive outlook is critical to maintaining good morale — this leads to effectiveness in cattle care. Taking care of all of the little things while having pride in your work makes the difference in the lives of your animals.
  3. Teamwork: We are a team and a family at the feed yard — focusing on what is good for the group allows for unselfish efforts and a degree of unity amongst the crew. Each one of us experiences times of great fatigue during the fall months, but teamwork creates a culture where we cover for each other so that the quality of our work never diminishes.

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Filed under CAFO, General