Beef Chat


Bucket Calves

Published by Kiley Stinson at 5:07 AM under Agriculture | General

Finally, the forecast has featured 70 degree weather all week long and I think we’ve waved old man winter goodbye!  Yippy Skippy! The grass is greening up, trees are budding and it’s much more fun to feed bucket calves in shorts and boots vs. snow suits and gloves!


“What’s a bucket calf you ask?”


A bucket calf is the term we use to describe a baby calf that has lost its mother. Sometimes a momma cow has twins and doesn’t have enough milk to feed two babies or momma might not claim her new born baby period. When something like this happens, farmers and ranchers quickly take the young calves under their wing and provide immediate care for them. At this point the calves are fed milk through bottles or buckets; hence the name “bucket calf.”



Bethany helps love on a new calf that had a rough start during a snow storm earlier in the year.


Since we raise beef cattle, we don’t have access to fresh cow’s milk like dairy farms do to feed orphan calves, so we select a quality milk replacer; I think of it as baby formula for cattle! Milk replacer is the primary source of food for the first few weeks of a calf's life.



Owen lent a helping hand with mixing the powdered milk replacer and water.


Young calves cannot yet digest grains or hay like an adult cow can. Once a calf is old enough to begin digesting grains and fiber, we will begin the transition from milk replacer to then providing a starter feed. Bucket calves also need a routine; therefore the kiddos feed calves twice a day at the same times each day.




Dinner Time!!!

Twins Andrea and Owen help feed one of the calves while Leo feeds the other. 


Since my soon –to– be niece Bethany is old enough to be in 4-H she will be working hard every day to care for these calves as part of the bucket calf project that she is enrolled in. The bucket calf project is a fantastic way to teach kids responsibility, proper health and nutritional requirements of young cattle, basic beef management skills and record-keeping skills!

Stay tuned for future updates on the bucket calf project!

Until next time,


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Lifecycle of a Cow

Published by Katie Sawyer at 2:23 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

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Not Exactly What I Call A Snow Day

Published by Kiley Stinson at 3:03 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

Saturday marks the 1st of March and most of you are thinking, ‘yay spring is right around the corner’ …but not so fast, the latest weather forecast is predicting another nice sized snow storm for our area this weekend. I won’t say too many things about old man winter, because we really did need some serious moisture this winter out on the prairie.  But, heavy snow and extended periods of below freezing temperatures can sure take a toll on life on a cattle ranch.

Winter on the ranch is a beautiful sight, but it also means a lot of work for those caring for the animals. Ranchers feed them, break ice for them so they can drink from water tanks and ponds, build windbreaks and lay down straw and hay in the pastures to provide a warmer place for them to lie.  Cattle can handle below freezing temperatures if they are kept dry, adequately fed, and have plenty of water. Here are a few pictures that have been taken this winter in the northern parts of Lyon County, Kansas on the ranch of Keith Cattle Company.

Soon to be mommas being called in for dinner time.

One last drink for the cows before they head back to shelter from the snow.

Sick calves still need to be cared for when the weather isn’t so kind to the cowboys.

And then God gives you this moment. Complete peace surrounds you and you’re reminded why we’re caretakers of this land and caregivers for these wonderful cows.

Until next time,

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What It Takes

Published by Heath Larson at 10:15 AM under Agriculture | Beef Team | Coffee Shop Talk | General

It's Time for the Winter Olympics!  And whether you're a curling fanatic or a downhill skiing fan, chances are strong that you heard about the Jamaican bobsled team's improbable run to this year's Olympic Games.  They qualified for the games for the first time since 2002, only to realize they had one week to raise $80,000 for team costs in order to compete at the games.  But nothing is impossible when you're a Jamaican bobsledder.  They raised the cash, and managed to compete in Sochi, against obstacles most would find insurmountable. 


The first ever Olympic Jamaican bobsled team was of course immortalized in the 1993 Disney Classic "Cool Runnings."  One of my favorite parts of the film occurs between the coach (Irv) and Sanka, who thinks he should be the driver, instead of his more dedicated friend, Derice: 

Irv: You see Sanka, the driver has to work harder than anyone. He's the first to show up, and the last to leave. When his buddies are all out drinking beer, he's up in his room studying pictures of turns. You see, a driver must remain focused one hundred percent at all times. Not only is he responsible for knowing every inch of every course he races, he's also responsible for the lives of the other men in the sled. Now do you want that responsibility?

Sanka: I say we make Derice the driver. 

Irv: So do I, Sanka. So do I.


This spring, I will be running the Boston Marathon, which is essentially a combination of a world class 3 hour foot race and a parade.  The weather will be nice (hopefully), and the crowd of 500,000 spectators will be incredibly supportive.  What few people realize is how much sacrifice, how much time "studying pictures of turns" each runner has put into that one single race.  Without a treadmill at home and no gym membership, I am often out running for 2-3 hours in very unfriendly late winter weather in preparation for Boston.  Two days ago, the wind was so strong on my 15 miler that I wasn't even sure I'd be able to finish.    However, that's the price that must be paid for a strong race in Boston.


In a similar vein, it's calving season on most ranches across the state.  While everyone loves seeing new baby calves take their first steps, few understand the sacrifice it takes on behalf of the rancher to keep each calf alive.  New calves must be protected from brutal late winter snowstorms and "rookie" heifers that don't know how to take care of them.  It's often the case that the rancher has to help pull the calf out by hand during labor.  And during calving season, there are no hours or schedules.  Ranchers are up at all hours of the night and day, sacrificing sleep and sanity, ensuring that the newest members of their herd (and their mothers) are safe and sound.


So whether you're sitting inside watching the luge, or out playing with your kids in the next winter storm, don't forget to say a prayer for the ranchers working overtime to protect their cattle from the elements.  And while our task isn't remotely as important, don't forget about the crazy spring marathoners trying to grind out another long training run in the cold!

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Enjoy the Holidays!

Published by Kassie Curran at 3:19 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

I know I’ve said this before, but I love summer time! While Kansas summers can be extremely hot, I think I would rather be sweating than frozen. Regardless of my love for summer, I still find plenty of things to enjoy about winter time too. The holiday season can be stressful, but it is also one of the best times of the year to remember what we are thankful for and to spend time with family.

On our way home from college for Thanksgiving Break, my sisters and I stopped at my grandpa’s house just to say, “Hi” before going home. That stop to say “Hi” turned into an afternoon spent feeding cattle and helping Papa on the ranch before driving on home to see our parents and brothers.

Days like this remind me how lucky I am to be able to spend time with my family doing what we love – carrying on our family tradition and feeding the world. One of the things I love about being involved in agriculture is that by our hard work and dedication, we are providing other people with food all around the world.

For me, combining something I love to do and be a part of, with people I love is true happiness. Knowing that being involved in agriculture helps feed the world – regardless of what part of agriculture, is inspiring. I am excited to start graduate school in agricultural economics so that I can continue learning more and prepare for a career in agriculture, doing what I love.  

Remember to take time this holiday season to enjoy your family and the people you love, even if you are stressed over hosting, cleaning, or what to cook for all of them. Also take time to reflect on what you love so that you can enjoy being a part of it every day.

Hope your holiday season is an enjoyable one! Eat Beef!


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Vegas Strip Making Waves in the Beef Industry

Published by Katie Sawyer at 2:09 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General | Nutrition

Beef has always come from a cow. But cows and the beef they produce have substantially improved over the past decade. While beef cuts are as juicy and tender as ever and consumers have as many choices as there are tastes, the beef industry continues to look for new ways to deliver its product and keep consumers satisfied.


The Vegas Strip Steak is now the newest cut to hit menus. The 14-ounce steak can be cut into smaller portions but boasts tenderness on par with the New York Strip Steak, a robust flavor and has a visual appeal that helps with plating and presentation.


The cut was crafted by Dallas, Texas, meat scientist Tony Mata, and comes from the muscle under the animal’s shoulder blade. Mata and others believe there are still a few more cuts to mine from the well-researched animal – the Vegas Strip Steak proves as much.


It’s people like Mata that allow the beef industry to consistently evolve and enhance its offerings.  As consumers continue to demand more affordable options, both at home and in restaurants, the beef industry continues to respond.


As cattle owners, it’s both inspiring and rewarding to see scientists and processors finding even more opportunities for our animals. We work hard to raise high-quality animals so chefs and mothers alike can serve tasty, high-quality beef.


Learn more about the Vegas Strip Steak at http://vegasstripsteak.com/site/


Katie and her husband, Derek, are the fourth generation to own and operate the Sawyer family farm and cattle operation. The couple owns a certified Angus cow herd and background cattle on their farm outside McPherson. Follow Katie on Twitter @Sawyerfarm

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A Reason to be Thankful

Published by Robin Kleine at 7:21 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

You may remember a post, back in early October about a “freak snowstorm” that hit South Dakota and left ranchers across the western part of the state in desperate need.


The snowstorm, “Atlas,” killed more than 15,000 head of cattle, sheep, horses and bison in the western part of the state. The first shipments of donated cattle began arriving in South Dakota last week and continue. Stories like this remind me of why I love agriculture and the people involved.


One report this week from FoxNews.com included the headline – “Holy cow! Farmers donate cattle after South Dakota blizzard kills livestock”


The opening line of the story says, “Hope on hooves is arriving in South Dakota, one heifer at a time.”


Also quoted in the story, “The support from other states has been phenomenal,” Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, told FoxNews.com early Monday. “We have volunteers from in the state who have helped with cleanup, we have people from surrounding states who shipped heifers and about $1.5 million has been donated to the Rancher Relief Fund.”


To read the entire story, visit http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/11/25/donated-cattle-sent-to-south-dakota-following-freak-blizzard-that-killed/.


People from across the nation have come together to support the ranchers in this area, donating to various charities to help out the victims – like the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund and Heifers for S. Dakota.


The Heifers for S. Dakota organization has been documenting their success and donations through their Facebook account. To view and “like” their page, visit https://www.facebook.com/pledgeheifer.


One post from Nov. 19th said, Over 600 head of quality animals will be delivered within this next week. Over 300 donor's giving livestock. Untold hundreds donating monetarily. More than a dozen truckers giving of their time and equipment with several of them donating all of their fuel as well. More than a dozen veterinarians donating their services. More than a dozen brand inspectors donating their services. Local businesses covering the expenses where they are needed. Numerous individuals volunteering their time and giving of themselves to extraordinary lengths. All of this without a penny being taken out for compensation by the organizations. And one storm having wreaked it's havoc which made this necessary.

This is Heifers for South Dakota. We are merely a group of like-minded individuals trying to love our neighbor as ourselves. And folks we will make a difference to the more than 40 recipients chosen.”


Additionally, many Kansas ranch families have donated animals to the relief efforts. While, not all of us can physically be in South Dakota to assist in the clean-up efforts, we are trying to make the devastating loss a little better for the families’ affected by the storm.


As we gather for Thanksgiving, let’s take time to be thankful for all that we have, as well as take the time to say a prayer for the people elsewhere who will need strength to get through the upcoming days, weeks and years after “Atlas.”


Until Next Time,

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Ensuring Consumer Condfidence

Published by Kassie Curran at 9:42 AM under Agriculture | General

A Message for cattlemen and cattlewomen-
The United States meat industry has continually evolved throughout its history, which has also led to fewer people being involved in the actual production of the meat they consume. These changes have impacted the producer/consumer relationship, which often experiences a knowledge gap, because consumers do not know how their meat is produced. Therefore, it is important for the meat industry to have an understanding of consumer perceptions, the concerns involved and why they are important, as well as challenges and opportunities of meeting demands of the consumers that determine their profitability and economic success. 
Consumer perceptions are very complex and difficult to understand, however they are critically important. These perceptions of the meat industry are shaped by what consumers need and what is available to meet those needs. Due to the constant change in the factors that perception depends on, consumer perception constantly changes and cannot be categorized based on one type of behavior. Concerns that today’s consumers have include price, food quality, food safety, animal welfare, health and nutrition, science, and sustainability. These factors are what consumers take into consideration when determining what products to purchase and while some may affect their decisions more than others, they are all important. Therefore the meat industry must keep making improvements in these areas in order to better serve their consumers.
As the meat industry is a very competitive one, it is important to understand consumer perception as it is a strong economic driver of the industry and the sustainability of the industry depends on consumers demanding and paying for products. Challenges for the meat industry include the distance most consumers are from food production, the increase in vegetarians and vegans, as well as the growing trend of meat consumption being related to greenhouse gas emissions. However, just because there are challenges and it will be hard, does not make any effort insignificant. Each and every farmer and rancher can contribute to the advancement of the industry by improving consumer perceptions.
In addition to investing in innovative production practices to improve price and quality of beef products, I believe farmers and ranchers can be promoting their products to consumers every day in ways that do not take a big time or energy investment. By engaging in conversations with neighbors, friends, and members of your community, farmers and ranchers can promote the safety and healthfulness of the beef products they produce. These conversations can also ensure consumer confidence in animal welfare, sustainability, and the science used to raise cattle and beef products. Every person that raises cattle is a face of the entire industry to someone who is removed from the farm. While it may seem unimportant and trivial, it is incredibly important to exhibit belief and confidence in our own industry that we care about so much, and the way we raise our own cattle so that other consumers have a connection that builds confidence in the entire beef industry.
I challenge you to engage in a conversation this week that encourages consumer confidence – not only in your personal cattle operation and what you produce, but in the entire industry. We must help each other and pass on the passion and confidence we have for the beef industry or the future will be even more challenging for the next generation of cattlemen and cattlewomen.
Eat Beef and Pass On Your Passion!

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Storm Atlas and Her Aftermath

Published by Kiley Stinson at 2:41 AM under Agriculture | General

Each night this week as I’ve sat down to catch the evening news, I feel as if I’ve been slammed left and right with reports of the recent government shutdown and little national media coverage of a devastating snow storm.  Social Media was where I found my initial glimpse of coverage on Winter Storm Atlas. This record-breaking storm dumped nearly 58” of snow with wind gusts of more than 60 miles per hour in parts of western South Dakota this week, leaving communities and ranchers to deal with some terrifying losses.

The Rapid City Journal reports, “Tens of thousands of cattle lie dead across South Dakota on Monday following a blizzard that could become one of the most costly in the history of the state’s agriculture industry.” That means many ranchers lost this year’s entire calf crop and a good majority of their cow herds. Many of the livestock were out on summer and fall pastures, nowhere near shelter better suited for winter storms. Even horses and livestock closer to homes perished in the feet of snow, strong winds, and cold that came unseasonably early. Many cattle were driven by the wind and when they found shelter were buried as snow drifted and covered them.

Now as the storm has passed, ranchers face the grim task of documenting the losses and cleaning up the devastation. The images, video, and stories coming out of the communities are devastating and graphic. As a rancher, I’ve experienced losing cattle due to the extremes of Mother Nature, in particular having several cattle all at once struck dead by a single bolt of lightning. Even so, I cannot imagine what it must be like to witness what South Dakota ranchers are going through this week. Not only is it a financial loss for these farming families, it’s even more personal…when a rancher loses an animal, it is a loss of years and often generations within their family of building solid foundations of genetics and legacies throughout their herds.

On Tuesday, The South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund was established by Black Hills Area Community Foundation to provide support and relief assistance to those in the agriculture industry impacted by the blizzard. The fund will be administered by BHACF in cooperation with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association for the direct benefit of the livestock producers impacted by this devastating blizzard.

For more information on donating to help our South Dakota ranching families visit https://www.giveblackhills.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Organizations.Overview&Organization_ID=27677 

Please feel free to pass along encouraging words and to let the ranching families know we are thinking of them. 


Kiley Stinson

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When The Cows Come Home

Published by Katie Sawyer at 4:36 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

The cows are coming home! To the Sawyer Farm, that is.
Each spring, after a long winter of welcoming new calves to the farm, we move our mother cows and calves to pastures in the Kansas Flint Hills. The mother-calf pairs spend the summer grazing on the lush, green grass found only in that region. But once fall comes the animals must be returned to the farm.
The transition back to the farm is a time-consuming one. The animals must be rounded up and transported back home. That, in itself, takes a full day. Then comes the process of checking each one, updating their shots and ensuring each one is in proper health.
Once back at the farm, the mother cows, pregnant with a new calf, are checked by a veterinarian and immunized to protect themselves and their new offspring from potentially deadly diseases. The calves, now weighing about 500 pounds, are weaned from their mothers and moved to a new food ration.
With several hundred acres of grass near our home, we allow our animals to continue grazing but as the number of daylight hours shorten, so too does the grass, which means the cattle aren’t getting all of the calories and nutrients they need.
We then begin supplementing their diet with hay or a feed mixture that includes corn, grain sorghum, alfalfa and distillers grain. All of the crops are grown on our farm or purchased from a neighboring farm and stored and blended on-site. We know exactly what is fed to our animals and the nutritional make-up of each feed ration.
Because the transition back home can create stress, we monitor all of the animals, watching for sickness or infection. We also watch to make sure they are adapting to the cooler weather and new food source.
The animals remain on our farm through the fall and winter. In late January we will begin a new round of calving, welcoming about 500 new calves to our farm and starting process over once again.
I always enjoy watching our cattle come back home. It’s great to see them graze in the Flint Hills but there is nothing like having my cattle in my very own backyard.

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