Kansas

Beef Chat

Feb122015

Made to Be Mothers

Published by Katie Sawyer at 8:41 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

I have a love-hate relationship with winter. It’s my favorite season on our farm because it brings a new crop of baby calves and proud mother cows. But it also creates long, sleepless nights for my farmer hubby and the occasional sad news of a calf that just didn’t make it.

But as I soak up the joy that is new calves playing in our backyard, anti-animal-agriculture groups continue to criticize animal owners like my husband and I for breeding our cows each year. They consider it abuse for our animals to be continually pregnant and instead advocate for cattle to spend their days mindlessly munching on green grass and carrying a calf every few years.

 

But I disagree. Our cows are born to be mothers. Not just in the literal sense of reproductive organs and hormones, but in their behaviors and temperaments. It’s their genetic make up and natural calling to carry a calf.

 

Our cows deliver a calf each winter and nurse it through the spring and summer months. In late April and early June they are usually impregnated again. All the while receiving the proper feed and nutrition – which varies according to their stage of pregnancy. We work to ensure all of our cows get pregnant around the time same so that we know when to expect calves.

 

The mothers provide all of their calf’s nutritional needs. She protects it from wildlife and the weather and watch over it as it runs, plays, grows and explores.  Mothers lick their newborns warm and dry and clean a dirty behind with a quick pass of the tongue. Mother cows and calves communicate with moo’s and bellows and pair up each night and throughout the day for food and protection. It’s a relationship not unlike that of my son and I’s and as I hear for the mothers call to their calves at the end of each day I know that motherhood is in their DNA.

 

We treat our cows with respect and a gentle hand and they, in return, allow us to participate in raising their calves. A cow’s job is to raise calves. That is her mission and purpose in life. Cows allow us to grow our herd and continue our dream of handing this farm and way of life to our children. Motherhood is not abuse, it’s a continuing of the life cycle we all depend on for food and fuel and it’s what our cows love to do.



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Feb042015

A Beef-y Vacation

Published by Robin Kleine at 7:42 AM under

Every year during the first week of February, thousands of cattlemen flock the Cattle Industry Convention & National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Tradeshow. The location changes every year, but this year’s convention – going on now – is in San Antonio, TX at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center

 

This event serves as a learning opportunity for cattlemen with any size cattle operation, and those with 20 cows at home can often be found socializing with owners of 50,000 head feed yards.

 

Furthermore, the Cattle Industry Convention serves as a meeting place for five different organizations within the beef industry –

  National Cattlemen's Beef Association www.beef.org

  Cattlemen's Beef Promotion & Research Board  www.beefboard.org

  American National CattleWomen, Inc.  www.ancw.org  

  CattleFax  www.cattlefax.com

  National Cattlemen's Foundation  www.nationalcattlemensfoundation.org

 

There’s more than just socializing at these events. Beef producers have endless learning opportunities, including the Cattlemen’s College. Various sessions take place during each day of the convention, including information about bovine reproduction, ranch management, beef cooking, estate planning, grazing and more! These sessions serve as a way for cattlemen to gather new information to take back home to our farms or ranches, as well as ask follow-up questions to the professionals delivering the information.

Image courtesy of @ChanMulvaney on Twitter

 

Additionally, the NCBA Tradeshow is always a highlight of the event. With hundreds of booths from breed associations and retailers, all highlighting new products and services, there are even more reasons to attend the event.

This event might sound like a bore to some of our audience … but for many, the Cattle Industry Convention is a highlight of our year. It’s a time to meet up with old friends, many of whom live across the country, and to make new friends, all while learning about our livelihood and favorite protein source – beef!

Because we are so passionate about beef cattle production, we’re always trying to learn new ways to do it better. Better might mean more economical practices, safer handling for us and the cattle, healthier end product or even insurance that ranchers will be able to pass on their operations to the next generation.

Until next time,

Robin


P.S. – Who says farmers aren’t hip? Check out the #beefmeet hashtag on Twitter to follow along with what’s happening in San Antonio! [https://twitter.com/hashtag/beefmeet]



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Jan152015

Ranching – a Full Time Job

Published by Kassie Curran at 4:29 AM under Agriculture | General

As a college student, I feel extremely blessed to be able to get the “best of both worlds.” I have opportunities to learn about topics I’m interested in from experts in the field of food and agriculture, but when I get tired of the “big city” of Manhattan, KS I can go home and enjoy the rural lifestyle. When I’m at home I get to help work and feed cattle, care for newborn calves, and take lots of pictures of the scenery to remind me of home when I go back to school.

Something that I’ve been reminded of lately in these frigid temperatures is that while I get to relish the joys of being a rancher whenever I choose (which is usually when I have time and when the weather is nice), there are thousands of ranchers across the country who don’t get to go inside when it gets a little too cold for their liking. Nope – these guys and gals are sacrificing their own comfort for the sake of the cattle. Just as cattlemen and cattlewomen suffer in the heat of summer to care for their cattle, they also suffer in the chill of winter to make sure that cattle are well taken care of, have feed, shelter, and most importantly access to water. Ranching is not something that can be done at your leisure or when it’s most convenient, it’s a full time job – 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

My brothers chopping ice to make sure the cows have access to water.

One could wonder why someone would want to put themselves through this kind of torment and discomfort. It’s a valid question, and a big reason why so many people don’t return to their family farms and ranches in exchange for an 8 to 5 job – usually one that’s inside. This is also one of the reasons why we’ve seen the number of farms and ranches shrink, while the size of them grow. Consequently, farmers and ranchers have needed to adopt innovative technologies that help them be more efficient with less man power. Like most industries, the beef industry has evolved to fit the times and we now see a more technologically advanced industry with fewer than 2% of the population raising the food we eat while 10% of jobs in the U.S. are directly related to agriculture. However, in my opinion nearly any job can be related to agriculture if you think about it.  

Me and my siblings bundled up and feeding cattle.

Regardless of your occupation, let us be grateful to those who are willing to do the job we aren’t so that we can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Next time you take a bite into that juicy steak or savory burger, remember the hard work and sacrifice that ranchers put in to it that allow you to enjoy that delicious and nutritious protein in a nice, warm place.

Thank you to all farmers and ranchers that work every day of the year – rain or shine, heat or cold, wind or snow – to provide food for others throughout the world!

As always, eat beef!

Kassie



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Dec042014

Beef: Handled With Care

Published by Kassie Curran at 1:55 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

As I have shared before, the beef business is a family business for me and my family. As much as we treat our family members with care and respect, we have a similar sense of care and respect towards our cattle. Last week, when I was at home I was reminded of the importance of the care and respect that we must give our animals and its presence in the family business.

 

My brother was already over at my uncle’s ranch working so my dad, two other siblings, and I decided to go over and see what they were doing. As we were getting ready to leave the house I told my sister she didn’t need to wear her work boots since we were just going over to take pictures of my brother for his FFA record book.

I should have known we would end up working!

Not five minutes after we had arrived and taken a few pictures, each of us had assumed a job in the process of working the calves that had recently arrived at the ranch before they were turned out to pasture. One brother was checking to see if the calves needed castrated, doing so when needed, and keeping record of the weights. The other brother helped him by holding the tail out of his face and helped with branding. My sister and my dad gave shots and tagged the calves while I sorted and moved the cattle through the pens and up the alley for their turn to be processed. It was a beautiful fall day that I enjoyed spending outside with the cattle and my family. It also reminded me how much I love being a part of the beef industry that is so family-oriented. The lessons in responsibility and respect are two of the most important to me when I think about all that I’ve learned growing up with cattle.

Providing animals a comfortable environment and treating them with respect takes a lot of responsibility. This is something that is always on my mind when I’m working with cattle, because I know that they will be healthier and perform to their potential when they are treated well. In my experience this is how other beef cattle ranchers treat their animals too, which gives me confidence in the U.S. beef supply.

 

If you’re thinking about a protein for the center of the plate for your family this holiday season, I hope you choose beef and feel confident that beef producers have used care and respect for the beef that feeds our families and yours!

 

Eat Beef and Happy Holidays!

Kassie Curran



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Nov192014

Winter Chill

Published by Katie Sawyer at 4:29 AM under

For those farming only crops, the end is in sight. Most rushed to get the last fields cut before the season’s first snowfall. Those that didn’t make it have only days – maybe hours – left in the field before a slowdown for the holidays and winter chill.

 

But farmers who raise crops and cattle aren’t winding down for the winter. They’re simply catching their breath before winter moves in for good.

 

My husband and his father manage not only our crops but our growing Angus cow herd. Our cows have returned home from a summer of grazing and will be delivering calves starting in January. A calving season typically lasts three months so the men will be on calf watch until nearly April.

 

Between now and New Years Day, my husband will keep himself busy hauling water to our cows grazing in our picked corn and milo fields, vaccinating and tagging heifers and steers as they arrive to our farm and organizing feed sources for the long winter ahead.

 

 

The mother cows are in their final months of pregnancy with their calves, so nutrition and proper medical care – if necessary – is essential. As 2015 approaches, all of our animals will be moved to more secure calving areas that provide protection from the wind and snow. The guys will make daily trips to the fields and facilities to check on each animal and when calves start arriving those trips will become hourly visits to ensure each new calf is up, active and nursing.

 

The work of a cattle farmer is never done and as some farmers settle in for a winter of maintenance and meetings, my husband and others will be busy battling the cold to care for our cows and their newborn calves.



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Oct082014

Planning for the Next Generation

Published by Katie Sawyer at 8:59 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

My 18-month-old son has an affinity for all things cows. I’m guessing this admiration is due to the fact that everything he owns and wears has either cows or tractors on it. He is a farm kid for sure.

 

Still in his Halloween pajamas, my son and a young steer greet one another.

 

Now that he is old enough to not only make the cow sound but recognize and locate cows, there is nothing better than seeing him gaze lovingly at a group of cows and calves and run, with open arms, after a group of steers hoping one of them will decide to befriend him.

 

While I must admit the farm dogs and cats receive the same level of excitement and attention, the cattle are different. They are our livelihood, my husband’s past and hopefully our son’s future and watching my son enjoy them the way I know my husband does makes my heart swell.

 

We care for our animals all day, every day because they are our business - our means to putting food on the table, gas in the truck and money in the bank. And we want to see that business continue to the next generation. We are the fourth generation to own my husband’s family farm but we do not want to be the last.

 

As we bring mother cows and their calves home from a summer of grazing in the Flint Hills, my husband recalls doing the same when he was a boy and recounts the lineage of his cows. He vaccinates and cares for the animals alongside his father and I know he cherishes the day a third generation joins the work.

 

As I watch my son clap with glee at seeing the cows, I pray that he will someday witness the same joy in his children’s eyes. Farming and ranching is a family affair but it takes time, energy and dedication to the land and the animals to ensure the next generation has an opportunity to operate the family farm. We feed, care for and tend to our animals daily to not only ensure our way of life, but to sustain this opportunity for our children to enjoy.



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Oct022014

Cows Aren't Squirrels

Published by Robin Kleine at 5:36 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk

I know that’s a strange title for a blog.

 

 

Image courtesy of National Geographic.

 

But, I’ve been thinking about all of the work happening around our place and I was thinking that our jobs as farmers would be considerably easier if cows could gather their own food for the winter, you know … like squirrels.

 

While cows aren’t squirrels, sometimes I feel like one. It’s up to my family to harvest, protect and distribute the cows’ winter food supply.

 

Here’s how we’ve been preparing –

 

In the past few weeks we’ve been chopping silage, putting up the last cutting of hay and corn harvest is just beginning around these parts.

 

As you very well know, cows graze on grass. They need this grass, or forage, to keep their rumen (one piece of their four part stomachs) going strong. But in the winter … the grass is often dormant and/or covered in snow.

 

The cows still need to keep their stomachs fully functional, so we must provide this forage in other forms such as hay or silage. Silage is usually made from corn or sorghum plants, where the entire green plant is harvested and cut into small pieces. This silage is then put in a silo, silage piles covered in plastic or silage bags (long plastic, sealed tubes). It must undergo a fermentation process before it can be fed. For more information on silage, visit -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silage.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Kansas Ag Network.

 

 

 

After the cows have eaten down the grass in the pasture and the temperature drops, we will begin feeding them big, round bales of hay and a precise amount of silage every day. Together these two feed stuffs (along with minerals we supply to them free choice) will provide enough energy and protein to keep the cows happy and healthy throughout the winter.

 

The corn we didn’t chop for silage will be allowed to dry a little longer in the field, before our favorite farmer harvests it with his big red combine. We then feed the corn to the cattle in the feedlot, to help them get to the “finished” stage/weight and ready for the butcher.

 

Sometimes, we even bale the corn stalks after we harvest the corn. These bales are then laid out for the cows in the pasture. It helps them stay warm in the frigid winter temps too.

 

For today, the cows are enjoying the sunshine and delightful temperatures. Little do they know, we’re working like squirrels to make sure they are properly cared for in the coming months … when the weather won’t likely be as pleasant!

 

Best,

Robin



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Sep102014

Make Life Happen

Published by Kassie Curran at 8:11 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

I’ve been told that time flies and it goes even faster as we get older, which I am continually finding out. What makes this idea so hard to accept sometimes is that life is happening all throughout that time whether we are making the most of it or not. Do you sit around waiting for something to happen? Or do you make the most of each day and make life happen?

This idea has really hit me the past few weeks as I think about the Blythe family. Over the past few weeks Tyler Blythe went through a life-changing medical emergency and needed a liver transplant as an 18 year old. This probably happens more frequently than I’d like to think, but this particular case hit a lot closer to home for me as it was some of my friends’ little brother. Although their lifestyle with a big family of 5 kids can get a bit hectic, just like my family, they are a pretty normal family. The Blythe family has a cattle ranch in the Flint Hills of Kansas and are active in their community – they are great people who do great things. But life throws challenges your way regardless of who you are, what really matters is what you do and who you are in spite of the adversity you face.

Tyler finished his senior year of high school this past May with plans to attend K-State in the fall, but became extremely sick toward the end of the summer. His condition worsened and he was moved up on the liver transplant list and had to postpone his college plans. It’s hard to imagine that something so extreme can happen so fast. After being diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, Tyler received a liver just 20 days later because of how badly his condition has worsened. Luckily, Tyler was blessed with a new liver and will continue to recover thanks to the gracious donation of a liver from a family that didn’t even know him. I know that Tyler will continue to heal and make the most of the gift of life. He plans to come to K-State in January and live his life to the fullest.

If you were given a second chance at life, would you sit around or make life happen? I hope you would choose the latter, but more importantly, why not choose to make life happen every day no matter what?

For more on Tyler’s condition and his recovery, keep up with Debbie’s blog at http://www.kidscowsandgrass.com/. While I don’t wish this tragedy on anyone, it certainly brings up the idea of whether you would consider donating your organs to benefit another life? If you’d like to consider it or learn more check out http://organdonor.gov to become a donor.

Eat Beef & Make Life Happen!

Kassie



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Aug212014

Learning Never Ends

Published by Robin Kleine at 10:39 AM under Agriculture | General

My Grandma Paula used to tell me that that day you stop learning is the day you die. A life long learner and educator, she taught me to enjoy reading, to bake a darn delicious pie and that family was the most important thing.

A picture from my grandparents’ farm in the 90s.


Although she died six years ago, I think of her often. My love of learning stems from my grandmother, and now as we enter fall, I’m reminded of her often.

While I might not be in school anymore, I still think of the end of August and the start of school as a time to start new. When I was a student (although I told my friends otherwise) I always looked forward to the start of school and absorbing as much knowledge as possible.

I’m doing my best to make use of my animal science degree, helping my family raise cattle on our farm. Contrary to popular belief … beef producers have to be proactive and open to learning new methods and/or technologies. Thanks to new advances in genetics, nutrition, vaccines, etc., we are always researching ways to raise our cattle better.

Websites such as Beef Magazine http://beefmagazine.com/ and association publications such as The Angus Journal http://www.angusjournal.com/ or the Kansas Stockman http://www.kla.org/kansasstockman.aspx all provide content about the latest technology and research in the beef industry. Some of the most informative and interesting pieces are stories from ranches and farms similar to ours, where the owners discuss how they are thinking outside the box to meet the consumers’ demands.

Often we begin utilizing these new technologies, products or feed additives in the fall after we wean the calves. On our farm, we’re weaning our spring born calves right now. This means we take the 4-6 month calves away from their mothers, and the calves begin eating grain thus starting their journey to the feedlot or the replacement heifer pen. 

 

Cows in the pasture at RJ Show Cattle


So, you could say that we as cattlemen also get to start new in August. This is a chance to use what we learn from fellow cattle producers in a constructive manner.

One of the things I love most about the agriculture industry is that we’re always willing to share and help other succeed. My grandmother was also entirely selfless, so I think that she would be proud that we are continuing to learn and grow our business. Maybe one day we’ll even venture into Herefords, like she and Grandpa raised.

What does August and the start of school mean to you?

Best,
Robin



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Aug062014

Excuses, Excuses

Published by Heath Larson at 9:47 AM under Agriculture | Beef Team | General | Nutrition

As a longtime runner, I've heard plenty of excuses and smart remarks when others find out about my distance running hobby.  One of the classics I've heard multiple times is:  "I only run if someone is chasing me."  Oh really?  Well, consider the following situations:

 

It's early spring.  On the ranch, that means it's time to round up the cattle from the feedlot and take them to pasture.  While the "take them to pasture" part is the near-celebratory end to a winter of feeding and calving in brutal weather conditions like we had last winter, the "round up" part never fails to create excitement.  There are gates to open, vehicles of all types to drive, and at the end of it, hopefully some 80+ cow/calf pairs and their calves end up in the loading pen for preventive medication before being hauled to pasture for the next 4-5 months.  During our last roundup, we had several cows with no desire of going where they needed to be.  At one point, after an hour of fruitless attempts to bring them into the loading pen, we were close to completing the task.  Then, without warning, the "crazy one" turned around and bolted for the open pasture, with 10 more cows trailing behind.  There was no time to jump in a pickup, turn it around, and give chase.  There was only time to run.  I may not have set a world record for "fastest 3/8 mile across a rutted pasture in jeans and work shoes," but I like to think I came close.  I barely beat the leader to the open gate on the other side of the pasture, and we managed to get the job done shortly thereafter. 

 

I travel for my career, and frequently have tight connections between flights.  Most of the time, I am able to get to my gate in plenty of time by utilizing a brisk walking pace.  However, when I'm trying to catch the last flight home that day and I have 20 minutes to get to the train, go up and down 6 different escalators, and walk at least 1/2 mile with my carry on in tow...well, it's not really a walk anymore.  While I haven't always "made it," I know my family is appreciative when I do get home on time.

 

When it comes to helping out on the ranch or getting home to see my family, there's no time for flimsy excuses.  Do I enjoy training for my next race?  Not usually, because it takes a lot of time and effort to stay in shape!  But I often fall back on my training when life calls for a little extra speed, endurance, or adventure, and that is invaluable to me.

 

Along the same lines, flimsy excuses have no place in your nutritional plan.  I hear how unhealthy "red meat" is from my colleagues frequently...but what is their basis for this?  And have they considered how using beef as a lean source of protein compares with other animal and plant protein sources?  Nothing else comes close!  I also hear "I don't eat red meat because of the hormones they put in it."  First off, if hormones are a problem for you, you can find plenty of non-hormone beef out there.  Second, the hormones in a typical serving of beef are far, far less than are found in many common vegetables that make up a huge part of healthy diets nowadays...not to mention the elevated amount of hormones found in many human medications taken daily!

 

Find the truth.  Ditch the excuses.  Then, go outrun everyone that still thinks you're crazy, and celebrate your victory by refueling with lean beef!



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