Beef Chat



Published by Heath Larson at 8:15 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

I clearly remember feeling completely out of my element when working my first non-farm job.  Each day began and ended at the time clock, punching my card so my hours could be tracked. 

Conversely, in a farm family, "work" is woven into every single fiber of family life.  Vacations happen when rain forces you out of the field.  Summers revolve around wheat harvest, while winters revolve around twice-daily cattle feeding, periodic cattle drives, and late-winter calving.  Fortunately, during the limited amount of down time, the rewards of farm life can't be topped.  Were it not for family farm ground, I probably never would have had the opportunity to bond with my close friends over duck and pheasant hunts.  I grew up picking and eating sweet corn all summer long, the perfect complement to a fresh grilled, home-raised T-bone steak shared in the company of family after a day of hard work.

Today, I still carry these lessons with me.  I don't have to punch a time clock anymore, but, consistent with what I grew up with, I know I will be at work until the job is done, however long it takes.  Meal time is truly a sacred time for our growing family to relax, re-connect, and enjoy a cut of lean beef that supports the farm culture for which we are so thankful.  Perhaps the greatest rewards come when we take the time to return with our children to the farm to help with day-to-day tasks.

Last week, I took my son Andrew with me to help my father out with hauling heifers out of their summer pastures and cutting milo.  While waiting for "Grandpa Craig" to dump another load of milo on the grain cart, I asked Andrew why he liked coming to the farm so much.  His response?  "I just like being with you, Dad."  Now that is a family work culture worthy of much thanksgiving.

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Preparing for Winter

Published by Katie Sawyer at 9:48 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

It’s still doesn’t completely feel like fall on the farm. Temperatures continue to hoover in the 70s and there is no sign of the hard freeze we come to expect as the sure sign of autumn. But the calendar says mid-October and that means it’s time for the cows to come home.


For the past six months, our mother cows and their calves have been grazing and growing in the Kansas Flint Hills. Because we don’t have enough suitable pasture ground near our farm to graze our cattle, we lease pasture ground throughout the Flint Hills to provide grazing resources to our animals.


But when the calendar reads October, we know it’s time to bring the animals home.

For my husband, that means lots of long days in the tractor-trailer loading and driving cattle from the pastures to our farm. The process isn’t over when the truck reaches the farm. The animals must be unloaded, reviewed and ensured all arrived safely.  Additionally food must be ready in the bunks and water flowing in the waterers.



One of the most important aspects of bringing our cattle back to the farm is the transition from grass to a diet that includes grain. The change is made slowly and for the calves, which have never experienced grain in their diet, it’s a process we take time to review and perfect to ensure the new meal plan is meeting their nutritional needs and working with their still-developing digestive systems.


My husband and his father walk among the cows a few times each day to look for signs of sickness, discomfort or other health-related issues. When an animal does appear to be ill, we administer a dose of antibiotics to help them return to full health. The shot is documented and kept on record.


Finally, we update the cattle on all of their vaccines. Just like in humans, different vaccines are necessary for combatting illnesses that seem to strike at different times of the year. We work with our local veterinarian to provide a comprehensive vaccination program that ensures we are doing our part to keep our animals healthy and keep unwanted diseases and illnesses at bay.


Over the next few weeks, all of our animals will be back home on the farm and will have settled into their new environment and meal plan. When the weather finally turns cold and winter hits the Plains, our cattle will be ready to battle the elements and endure another winter season. Until then, we are all ready for some crisp fall weather and happy to have our livestock back home.

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What is Conventional Beef?

Published by Katie Sawyer at 3:21 AM under Agriculture | General

Over the past few years, the idea of conventionally raised beef has come under scrutiny as new forms of beef product gain popularity. However, the practices employed by cattle owners who claim to have grass-fed or antibiotic-free cattle are all part of the conventional cattle growing process.


My husband and his father will care for several hundred cattle during the course of a year. The time of year and age of the cattle will determine their location, feed plan and overall care plan. Our cattle spend a majority of their lives grazing on grass in pastures located both at home and in the Kansas Flint Hills. But during the winter months, when green grass is hard to find and the harsh Kansas cold demands more of new mother cows and small baby calves, we provide a well-rounded meal that meets all of our cows’ and calves’ nutritional needs.


We also practice a very as-needed approach to antibiotic use. We don’t dispense antibiotics to our animals unless they show signs of illness. And through diligent record keeping, we ensure that all antibiotics are out of an animal’s system before they are processed for beef. Regardless of whether it’s conventionally or naturally raised, antibiotics are not allowed in any type of beef sold to consumers.

Allowing our cattle to suffer from a curable condition is simply inhumane and runs contrary to our belief of providing proper care for all animals.


When our cattle enter the feedlot, they are fed a ration of grains with nutritional supplements. Much of the grain fed in feedlots is grown right here in Kansas. There are no “foreign substances” or animal waste in the feed – just grain and hay to provide energy and protein.


Conventional cattle feeding practices allow us, as cattle owners, to use all of our resources, both land and crops, and enables us to raise cattle more efficiently, creating affordable beef products for consumers.


There is no better or worse way to raise cattle, there are just different practices to meet different needs of different farms. We care for our animals, provide safe and nutritious feed and provide consumers with safe and affordable beef products.


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Summer Heat Makes Winter Feed

Published by Katie Sawyer at 2:34 AM under Agriculture | General

According to the Weather.com app on my phone, it’s 102 degrees F on our farm and feels like 108 degrees F. That’s hot by anyone’s standards and when it comes after almost a week of 90-plus-degree days, the app should just state “oven-like conditions outside.”


In addition to our Angus cow herd, we raise crops on our farm outside McPherson, Kan. About half of our acres are irrigated, which means other half are at the whim of Mother Nature. Unfortunately this summer, she hasn’t been too giving with the rain. For our non-irrigated (or dryland) crops, high temperatures and little rain is a recipe for disaster.


But as the heat continues on, we are thinking cool thoughts, specifically about our mother and baby cows who will be home this winter and in need of quality, hearty feedstuffs to thrive during the cold winter months.


One of our successes in raising quality beef is the ability to use feed from our own farm. Outside of any dry distillers used, we grow all of the feed for our cattle on our farm. We control the quality and the nutritional value of that feed and can trace it from the field to the feed bunk.


Our cattle, therefore, have gained a reputation for being not only locally born and raised, but also grown on a diet of local crops, grains and grass. We love watching our cattle grow and thrive and its even better when you know exactly what’s going in the bunk.


Later this week, we will start chopping our dryland corn to create silage. The end product is a mixture of every part of the corn plant, from the stalk to the ear. The cattle end up with an energy-rich meal. In the past, we’ve also created silage from our milo and soybeans that have suffered from a lack of moisture.


We’re never happy to miss the rains but we’re fortunate to be able to put our failed crops to good use in feeding our growing cows. 

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Beef Production, More than Just Steak

Published by Robin Kleine at 8:21 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

Often when we speak of cattle production we only think about the meat we get from these animals. A juicy rib-eye is certainly a good supper (or breakfast or lunch for that matter), but sometimes we over look the MANY other products we get from cattle. These are called by-products, or secondary items that are produced in addition to the principal product.


Image courtesy of the Florida Beef Council


Obviously leather is a by-product, as it is made from the hide of animals. Therefore, items like car upholstery, wallets, purses, coats and footballs. Did you know that you can make 20 footballs with just one cowhide?


From the glands and organs of cattle, we get ingredients for making asphalt, plastic, insulation, medicines and soap. FUN FACT: Insulin is perhaps the best-known pharmaceutical derived from cattle. There are 5 million diabetics in the United States, and 1.25 million of them require insulin daily. It takes the pancreases from 26 cattle to provide enough insulin to keep one diabetic person alive for a year


Additionally, items like piano keys, chewing gum, knife handles and other candies are made from the bones and horns of cattle.


For more information regarding beef cattle and beef by-products, check out this handout from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service -- http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/outreach-extension/uploaded_files/4-h-files/files/beef-handouts/beef%20byproducts.pdf.


Besides beef, which cattle by-products did you use today?


Until next time,


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How Do You Celebrate Beef Month?

Published by Kassie Curran at 7:54 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

May is full of reasons to celebrate – finishing school, graduations, weddings, and rain. May is also Beef Month so there is even more to celebrate! I’ll share some of the ways I like to celebrate Beef Month and I hope you will celebrate it too.


Grill Out – Throw some burgers or steak on the grill, enjoy the beautiful weather and time with family and friends. There are plenty of great recipes here and here.

Enjoy the Scenery – Take a drive out to the country and take in the beautiful scenery. In Kansas, we’ve got lots of green grass at this time of year so I love to go out and enjoy the sights of cattle on grass.

Learn More About Beef – There is always more to learn about everything and many ways to do so. I like to ask questions of people who are more experienced than me in the beef industry. The Beef Council would be happy to get you connected to a rancher who you can talk to about raising beef or even going out to see how and where they raise beef. Another way to learn more about beef is by watching videos on the internet (from trusted sources of course!). This website has a great video on how beef gets from pasture to plate, as well as lots of other educational materials about beef.  


These are just a few ways I like to celebrate Beef Month, but there are so many more. I hope you enjoy these and will find your own ways to celebrate Beef Month. Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.


Happy Beef Month!



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Beef: A Mom’s Secret Weapon

Published by Katie Sawyer at 2:58 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General | Nutrition

By Katie Sawyer

I’m a runner, a professional, an advocate and a wife. But most importantly, I’m a mother. I have a two-year-old son and he keeps me on my toes. In any given day I balance work, graduate school assignments, household duties, mom responsibilities and other odds-and-ends. I need energy to keep me going and meal options that keep me full without expanding my waistline.  

This Sunday, I will celebrate my mom and all of the moms who carry the weight of their kids, spouses and jobs on their shoulders; women who hit the ground running and don’t stop until the work is done and find the time and energy to fit 25 hours of work into a 24 hour day. For those mothers, time is at a premium and nutrition is everything.

In addition to celebrating mothers this weekend, the entire month of May is dedicated to celebrating beef. So it only makes sense to treat mom to a great, lean cut of beef.  Beef is a great protein source for busy mothers and the variety of cuts and preparation options means there is a beef option for every taste and budget. 

The Cattlemen’s Beef Board provides a guide to 29 cuts of beef classified as lean, meaning a single serving has less than 10 grams of fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. That’s important for those moms watching their waistlines.

And for those moms who need energy, all day every day, quality, low-calorie protein is essential. Every single cut of beef is loaded with protein. A single, three-ounce serving contributes less than 10 percent of calories but more than half of the daily value of protein and more than 10 percent of eight additional vitamins and minerals. Protein is vital to staying full and satisfied throughout the day and providing the energy moms need to tackle those tough, and sticky, jobs.

Beef is packed with 10 essential vitamins and nutrients and research shows that about 50 percent of women aged 20 years and older are not meeting their daily recommended intake of iron or protein. Sounds like it should be steaks for all. Women are often so busy taking care of others they forget to care for themselves and quick nutrient boost and well-rounded diet can go a long way in improving women’s health and well-being.

Every mom has one eye on the clock and the other on the family budget which means food choices must be efficient and cost-effective. Beef offers a variety of options, from steaks, to hamburger to roasts and ribs. The variety allows for beef at every meal and for any occasion.

Enjoy your mother this Mother’s Day, treat her to a quality beef meal and let her know how much you appreciate all she does.

101613Nutrient Power Fact Sheet.pdf (524.71 kb)

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Myths - Get the Facts

Published by Katie Sawyer at 10:33 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

We help more than 500 mother cows deliver baby calves every year. It’s not a quick or easy job but it’s what my husband loves to do and a part of farm life I’ve grown to enjoy.  Raising cattle is a big deal in our family and making sure those animals are safe and well taken care of is a top priority.


Lately the issue of antibiotics in livestock has dominated headlines. Many of the articles contain little accuracy and a lot of finger pointing. But if the authors were to look at the facts, they would see a different story. Here are few antibiotic myths, debunked:


Myth: All farms give antibiotics to all animals, all the time

Truth: Most farmers use antibiotics on a very limited basis. Some choose to never use antibiotics at all. On our farm, we practice limited and as-needed use of antibiotics. They are administered only to sick cows and calves as part of a well-rounded rehabilitation process. We have several other options for helping them regain their health so many times antibiotics aren’t even necessary.


Myth: Antibiotics given to animals is found in the meat humans consume

Fact: Farmers and veterinarians are required to log all uses of antibiotics and keep animals with antibiotics out of the food system. On our farm, any animal that is given a dose of antibiotics is tracked and kept out of the herd until the antibiotic has passed through their system. The United States Department of Agriculture checks beef for antibiotic reside, ensuring that the beef sold to consumers is safe and antibiotic free.


Myth: Antibiotics can be spread from animals to humans through soil and water run-off

Fact: Farms, like any business, are regulated by state and federal agencies. Run-off of water and soil is monitored and tracked and is never allowed to interact with water used for human consumption. The Environmental Protection Agency monitors all bodies of water and is notified if a potentially hazardous situation is occurring on or near a farm.


Myth: Animals and humans are prescribed the same antibiotics

Fact: About 75% of the antibiotics given to animals are never or rarely used in humans. There are different families of antibiotics – some are used primarily in humans while others are used mostly in livestock.


Myth: Farmers should never be allowed to use antibiotics in livestock

Fact: Farmers and ranchers are responsible for the health and livelihood of their animals. Removing antibiotics would deprive them of an important tool for helping their animals return to health. No rancher wants to watch a calf perish from a completely treatable disease. That’s not human animal care. Antibiotics have a place in responsible animal care.


For more information about cattle care or myths, get more information at http://factsaboutbeef.com/.

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What Happens at a Bull Sale

Published by Robin Kleine at 7:00 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk

Cattlemen attend cattle sales throughout the year. Here they spend time analyzing the animals, visiting with their friends who traveled from near and far to the sale and ultimately planning for future generations of cattle on their farms or ranches.


When beef producers like my family attend these sales, we want to purchase new animals that will help add value to our herds. These animals could have the potential to producer calves with lighter birth weights or heavier weaning weights, better structure or maternal strength, for example. Every operation wants to make some small improvement in the next generation of cattle born on their ranch.


What happens at a cattle sale?? Today, I’m taking you inside a cattle sale – Lee’s Cattle Co. 11th Annual Bull Sale held on March 18th, 2015.


First, the cattle are put into pens. Cattle sales can be held at the ranch, or another facility. This sale was held at a sale barn, where weekly auctions are held.



­­Second, the cattle are on display for the cattlemen to analyze and look at live and in the flesh, rather than the pictures and videos available prior to the sale.





Finally, it’s sale time! The ringmen (standing outside the sale ring) take bids from the crowd and tell the auctioneer when people are ready to buy a bull!





Below is a video of the action from the sale. Please note that at this specific sale, the cattle were shown on video, rather than being run through sale ring.



Welcome to the life of a cattlemen!






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Bull Buying Basics

Published by Kiley DeDonder at 3:09 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General | Nutrition

Bull sales are in full swing, and my kitchen table is filled with all sorts of different sale catalogs, fliers and various promotions marketing different beef breeds. My family usually purchases several different bulls each year during the month of March. It is really important that we do our homework at home before we step foot in an auction or log in to an online sale.

There is so much to consider when our family looks at buying a new bull – expected progeny differences (EPDs) help to provide insight on the genetic potential of that animal, genomic data, rate of gain, genetic defects, previous history, etc. It can sometimes be difficult to navigate all the data in front of me. It is important to me that I know and understand the family behind the business I’m possibly buying a new animal from. We all know that it takes two-to-tango, but my family places a big focus on the selection of an outstanding bull to sire our calves that we raise.

 Key questions we ask ourselves before we buy an animal for our ranch are:


What values do they have? What guarantees do they offer on the bull after the sale is over? The big one though, is what our goals for our farm are this year, and will we have a market for the type of bull we are purchasing? It sounds a lot like what you might ask yourself before you buy a new pair of shoes. What do I know about the brand, what is their reputation? If something happens, what are the chances they will replace or help find a solution to my problem? Does this shoe coordinate with any of the clothes I have at home?

Why is bull selection important to our ranch?

Bull or sire selection, on average, has a greater impact on the genetic improvement of our cattle herd because the sire is more likely to produce a higher number of calves in his lifetime compared to a cow, a sire has the potential to contribute a larger portion of the genes to the herd.

Why is bull selection important to you?

Our goal is to raise nutritious and great tasting beef for families to enjoy for years to come. When the bull we purchase sires cattle that are able to efficiently perform on our ranch we raise healthy and quality cattle that are able to provide the great tasting and nutritious food that your family deserves!

Until next time,



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