Tag Archives: where does beef come from

The First of the Lasts…

Whenever life begins to transition toward a new path, there exists a series of “lasts”.  Last week, I experienced the first of the lasts in the journey of shutting down the feed yard.  Friday morning, I traveled south of Sumner, Nebraska to load up a group of yearlings at the Karlberg Ranch.

With the approach of fall, grass supplies diminish and feed yards in Nebraska begin the fall run of cattle as animals are gathered off of pastures and shipped to farms like mine.

A feed yard is pretty much like a hotel for cattle — A place where the animals go when seasonal limitations of grass resources require shipping off of the home ranch.  The casserole of forage and grain that they receive on my farm enables them to continue to grow despite the fact that Mother Nature refuses to provide for about 7 months.

David and two of his three children -- I got to watch these folks "grow up" while working with their dad.

David and two of his three children — I got to watch these kids “grow up” while working with their dad.

David Karlberg and I have partnered raising beef for fifteen years.  David cares for his cattle until they are 12-16 months old before sending them to my feed yard.  The animals then make the short 30 mile trip from the ranch to my farm where they spend another four months preparing to make beef.  Birth to harvest, the cattle spend their entire lives in Dawson County Nebraska.

Working with folks like David provides an integral part of my business model of collaboration.  Tracing cattle performance, improving care over the animal’s lifetime, limiting animal stress, and searching for ways to improve quality in the end product: beef.

David and I became smarter together than we could have ever been alone. 

Over the past 15 years, we have cared for and improved the lives of close to 6000 animals — producing more than 5 million pounds of beef and bovine products.  Each one of you has benefited by our dedication and collaboration.

Friday morning provided the last time that I will bring David’s cattle (or any other new cattle) onto my farm.  As we begin to exit the cattle feeding business, we will now stop bringing new cattle into the “hotel”.  The 1835 animals already on my farm will remain with me until their time of shipment, but we will no longer “refill” the home pens with new animals after these cattle travel to Tyson.

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today -- more to come on "Benny" in the next post...

An older Karlberg steer that shipped to Tyson today — more to come on “Benny” in the next post…

It was an emotional morning for me.  Although I truly believe that it is time for a new journey, the reality of stepping away from what I have worked so hard to build weighs on me.  There is regret and disappointment that I could not make my business model work as my management is a reflection of the values that make me Anne. I am thankful for David and my other ranchers who put time and energy into our partnerships – committing to search for ways to be better tomorrow than we are today.

I found my smile as I ended the day with a group of graduate students from the University of Nebraska @ Lincoln. The students visited the farm as part of the UNL Feed Yard Internship program which strives to prepare college graduates to be good cattle caregivers and businessmen/women. We had great discussions and I was very pleased that the professors and students felt that I had something meaningful to share.  I have faith that some of them will work to continue the legacy that I have tried to foster 🙂

18 Comments

Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

My Story…

We all have a story.

A chronicle of our individual lives or even a moment in time that helped to determine what makes us “unique”.  Because each of us plays a vital role in the success of our families, our communities, and our country; each story carries a meaningful message in this journey we call life.

The above video is my story.  A seven minute glimpse of Anne — the mom, the farmer, the American.  In 2016, many of us spend a significant amount of time studying food: where it comes from and who grows it.  We make a valiant effort to try to understand why is it grown in so many different ways across the United States.

I hope that my story will provide meaningful insight and transparency relative to farming and food production.  It a story of love, pride, hard work, and technology — that is what allows our farm to be successful.  Matt and I began our work as farmers 19 years ago.  We spend each day committed to each other, and working side by side to continuously improve the way that we grow food.

Please take a few minutes to watch my story.  Please take another minute to share it so that others can get a glimpse of life at a feed yard — a segment of beef farming that is often misunderstood.

The next few blog posts will talk specifically about my partners in the beef production cycle: from the ranchers that provide care for our cattle during the first year of their lives all the way to my brand partners that bring our beef to your dinner table.

Together, we will get a better sense of where your beef comes from!

5 Comments

Filed under Animal Welfare, Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, CAFO, Cattle Handling Videos starring Feed Yard Foodie!, Family, Farming, General

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.

familyfeedyard2015.jpg

 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.

 

8 Comments

Filed under Animal Welfare, General

The Lens of a Farmer…

When I moved to Cozad, Nebraska in the summer of 1997, I looked at the world through the lens of a young college educated urbanite.  Living in a small town and being intricately involved in the raising of food was not in my repertoire.  I came with a large number of ideas and very few applicable real world experiences.

Matt and I with my brother two days before we moved back to the farm in Nebraska...

Matt and I with my brother two days before we moved back to the farm in Nebraska…

My first years on the farm were marked by humility.  I spent quality time with a scoop shovel, learned how to ride pens checking cattle and how to run the feed truck.  I also spent time behind a desk with my eyes glued to the computer screen as the commodity markets scrolled across.  My life revolved around learning to ask pertinent questions and observing carefully.

A couple months later on the farm...

A couple months later on the farm…

I had no idea that caring for food animals and growing beef was so complicated…

In 2014, there is no part of agriculture that is simple.  I wear many hats to complete all of the tasks that fall under the job description of feed yard owner and manager.  It took me a decade to become comfortable and confident in the role of boss lady, and after 17 years I am still learning something new every day.

My job is to offer them optimal care while producing great tasting beef and wisely using the resources of our farm...

My job is to offer them optimal care while producing great tasting beef and wisely using the resources of our farm…

Sometime during my tenure on the farm, an evolution began to occur as Americans became interested in where their food comes from.  Not only did this interest manifest itself in the grocery store, but also in college classrooms all across the country.  The discussion of the right way to grow food was taken up, and today continues to be debated by academics as they do their best to observe the modern food production system from 10,000 feet.

From philosophical novelists like Michael Pollan to investigative reporters like Eric Schlosser and Chris Leonard, many urban dwellers have tried to offer advice on what is wrong with the modern food production system.  I believe that many of these critics are challenged by a lack of first-hand experience of being a farmer.  I consider that first hand experience to be a critical link to properly understanding the complexities of modern agriculture and the growth of food in 2014.

It is a great blessing to raise my girls on a farm in rural America...

It is a great blessing to raise my girls on a farm.  I hope that they too will feel the call to use their gifts by contributing to rural America.

I am the first to admit that there are many ways that food animal production can improve; however, I do not often find myself agreeing with the suggestions that come from these philosophical academics.  I find their descriptions of rural America and farming to lack a full perspective and understanding.  It seems as if they discover the story that fits their preconceived notions rather than the entire picture of how and why the modern day food production system operates as it does.

Chris Leonard has a new book that hits the bookshelves today called The Meat Racket.  In it, Leonard paints a dismal picture of both my farm and the small town rural America that I love with all my heart.  While a large part of the book discusses chicken production, a section of it encroaches into beef cattle farming and attempts to discredit the cattle feeding cooperative of which I am a proud member.BMG.jpg

The next few Feed Yard Foodie posts will take a closer look at the Meat Racket , as I share a different perspective on rural America and the growth of food through the:

Lens of a farmer…

13 Comments

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

A Fun Evening Chore…

While having to get up in the middle of the night to unload new cattle is not a chore that I enjoy, unloading cattle in the evening with my two favorite blondes is one of my very favorites.

They both learned to count at the feed yard as little kids...

They both learned to count at the feed yard as little kids by verifying the number of cattle coming off of the semi-trucks…

I have vivid memories of trying to keep an accurate animal count while one or the other of the girls randomly spouted out numbers when they were too little to really figure out what they were supposed to be doing.  You might be surprised how difficult it is to count correctly amidst the number chaos of a chattering three year old…

Today, I still use my fingers to help me keep track while unloading cattle (a practice that I adopted while the girls were little).  I am proud to report that all of them are now excellent counters and have become quite a big help!

Making great memories while learning good skills...

Making great memories while learning good skills…

We try very hard to make unloading new cattle a positive experience for our animals.  It is their first impression of their new home and we want it to be a good one.  I like to see the cattle calmly walking off of the truck, and curiously looking at their surroundings.  A bovine only displays curiosity when he is comfortable and confident, and that is always my goal.

a

Here this black fall calf is walking calmly off of the truck…

These animals arrived about 8:00 in the evening, with only about another hour of daylight left as we unloaded them.  I made the decision to house the cattle overnight in the corral because of the impending fall of darkness.

a

The animals quickly find the prairie hay (grass) that we place in the corral for them to munch on overnight…

When cattle have spent several hours on a semi-truck, they are ready for fresh water to drink and a snack of grass before finding a comfortable place to lay down and rest.  At daylight, we move them to their home pen where more fresh water and feed await them.

Their breakfast consists of more prairie hay (grass) and a little bit of wet distillers grains and roughage...

Their breakfast consists of more prairie hay (grass) and a little bit of wet distillers grains and roughage…

I find that whenever I place cattle in their new home pen that they are likely to head for either the water tank, the feed bunk, or the mineral tub after they walk the fence lines a few times.  I like to see them settled at any one of these three places.

Here the cattle are checking out the water tank and the mineral tub...

Here the cattle are checking out the water tank and the mineral tub…

It brings a smile to my face to watch the cattle find comfort in their new pen.  I spend the next 4-7 days acclimating and exercising them daily.  This helps them to more quickly adapt to feed yard life.  IMG_3519

As a side note, I would like to apologize to all of you who follow Feed Yard Foodie via email for the advertisements that have recently appeared at the bottom of my posts.  WordPress started to do that without my permission and I just became aware of it a few days ago.  I have since changed the settings on the blog site so they should not appear again.

If you have not signed up to follow the blog via email yet, you can click on the “sign me up” button at the right of the home page and then you will receive an email every time that I post.  This is a great way to make sure that you see all of my entertaining ramblings!

Leave a comment

Filed under Foodie Work!, General