Life in the Feedyard

As the beef lifecycle continues, beef farmers and producers have the choice of how to continue raising their product after the backgrounding stage. From this stage, producers make the choice whether they want to finish their cattle as grain-fed or grass-fed. When looking at the sustainability, nutritional benefits, and overall product health, both grain-fed and grass-fed are comparable and offer the consumer a safe, wholesome, and nutritional beef eating experience.

Mature cattle, at approximately 700 pounds are transferred into what we call feed-yards, or feedlots. In this sector of the bovine timeline cattle spend four to six months, during which time they have constant access to water and room to move. In the feedlot, cattle live in pens that house between 100 to 125 animals and allow at least 125 to 250 square feet per animal. The cattle are free to graze at feed bunks containing a balanced diet of roughages, such as hay, grass, and fiber, grains, such as corn or wheat, and local renewable sources, such as beet pulp, dried distiller grains, or potato peelings. Each animal also has about one foot of bunk space to eat during the two times they are fed during the day. Cattle are raised to a market weight in a feedlot of 1,200-1,400 pounds in approximately 12-18 months of age.

feedlot[1]

Cattle finished out in feedlots have ample room to move, lay down, and eat grain. Producers follow the rule of one-thirds where one third of the cattle will be either laying, eating, or walking around.

feedbunk eating

Producers make sure that throughout the day their cattle can graze at the feed bunk with ample space for each head.

Feedlot cattle have a high percentage of grains, such as corn in their diet. The abundance of corn in the United States contributes to the economic viability of producing grain-fed cattle which is the contributing factor to why beef producers choose to feed corn. The availability of this product helps to raise a nutritious beef product for consumers at a lower cost. Raising cattle strictly on pasture grass takes longer for the animal to reach market weight and therefore, grass-finished beef can be more expensive than a grain-finished product.

feed

Feedlot cattle receive a balanced diet of grains, forages, vitamins, and nutrients to help sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Raising healthy cattle is the main priority of all beef producers. At the feedlot, veterinarians, nutritionists, and cattlemen work together to look after each and every animal. All cattle producers take the appropriate measures to produce a safe and healthy product and recognize the importance of animal health and well-being from both a moral and economic standpoint. Cattle producers accept the responsibility of being stewards of the land and protectors of their animals and their care.

 

Have a great Tuesday!

Demi

 

Stage Two: Backgrounding

Approximately 751 total days makes up the complete lifecycle of cattle. For the first 205 days, the calf spends with its mother who provides it milk as its main source of nutrients, and at the end of this time the weaning process occurs. After the weaning process occurs, cow/calf producers can sell their calves to other farms and calves will enter what is called a backgrounding stage for 100 days.

The backgrounding stage is considered the second stage in the bovine lifecycle and is also known as the intermediate stage after weaning and before placement in a feedlot. Background feeding relies heavily on forages such as pasture grasses and hay in a combination with grains, if the producer chooses, to help increase the calf’s weight during this time frame. The goal during the backgrounding stage is for the calves to reach 700 to 800 pounds, as well as build up immunity to diseases before it potentially enters a feedlot. The duration of the backgrounding stage is 3 to 5 months.

Producers that focus consistently on backgrounding cattle maintain heard sizes of cattle that are around the same age, meaning the calves were all born within two to three months of each other. The concept behind keeping all cattle close in age helps with consistency and efficiency of feeding and gaining weight, as well as consistency of the timeline of the cattle growing before they enter a feedlot.

backgrounding

Cattle in the backgrounding stage of the bovine timeline are consistently the same age and weight and spend the majority of their time grazing on grass to convert into lean protein.

Producers by the name of ‘Stockers’ background cattle between the ages of six to twelve months where they will spend the majority of their life grazing on pasture grass with some grain mixtures as a part of the balanced diet. In this stage, cattle gain weight and convert forage and grass into lean protein.

With approximately 100 days out of the total 751 days in the complete bovine timeline (conception to harvest), it is safe to say that all cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass, it is the last four to six months that determines if a producer will finish them out on a grain based or grass fed diet.

 

Check back next Tuesday to learn about the feedlot stages of raising beef cattle.

Have a great Tuesday!

-Demi-

 

Weaning: A Part of Life

The beef industry is more than just the tender and juicy steak that sits on your plate hot off the grill. It is more than just the baby calves running in the pasture or feeding hay to the mama cows; the beef industry is a connection of many different sectors and family farms all working hard to raise a healthy and wholesome product, so that at the end of the day we as producers, as well as consumers can enjoy a hardy cut of steak with both family and friends.

cow and baby

Calves spend the first five to seven months with their mothers receiving nutrients from their milk and learning to eat forages and grains

An essential sector of the beef industry is the cow/calf operation where producers’ birth mother cows and offspring are cared for. Caring for their babies is the top priority of the cow for the first five to seven months as the baby calves receive most of their nutrients such as protein from their mother’s milk. However, at the end of approximately 205 days, or seven months, calves are weaned from their mothers and begin living strictly on their own.

Weaning is known as the process of managing without something or someone on which a species has become dependent on, such as young dependent on its mother’s milk. The mothers need time to put weight back on and have a rest period before birthing another calf. The ruminate of the calf takes four months to develop and after this time frame, the older a calf gets the more mature it becomes and can eat other foods, such as grass, hay, and grain that will sustain its body. The weaning process can be completed in a handful of ways such as fence line weaning or gradual weaning. Both weaning processes allow the calves and cows to be in familiar surroundings, as well as see and smell their mothers during the process of learning to live fully on their own, without their mother’s milk.

calves at gate

Gradual weaning allows calves to be separated by gates from their mothers during the evenings and return with their mothers during the days for approximately 3-4 days

fenceline

Fence line weaning happens in one day with a fence separating the mothers and babies

During the weaning process, both the mama cows and their calves bawl because of being separated. The bawling is more of a psychological factor because the mother and baby are use to being together and bonding and being separated is a life change. As one looks at the process of weaning, mama cows seem to bawl more during the separation than the calves because as the calves get older and bigger, they spend more time away from their mothers playing with the other calves. Weaning is comparable to a mother sending her child to school for the first time, watching him/her get a driver licenses, or dropping them off at college. It is separation from what has been the norm, however it needs to happen and both the mother and child or calf has to learn to be on their own.

It is important that the weaning process takes place around the calf being five to seven months of age for the safety of the mama cows. The calves are old enough to function on their own, so if they are left with their mothers, they would continue to take the nutritional milk that needs to be reproduced for the next offspring. The bull calves would also begin to harass their mothers, which could result in stressful and unhealthy circumstances.

drinking milk

The older a calf gets the better it is able to care for itself. Weaning a calf at 5-7 months of age ensures the mother cow can rest and reproduce milk for her next offspring

Beef producers have the goal to produce a healthy product, on four feet or on the table. To produce a healthy product during the stage of weaning, the cows and calves need to have minimum stress and be closely monitored for injury and sicknesses. The stress level is also minimized when producers wean during adequate temperatures, meaning that the day of weaning is not too hot or cold and rainy which results in the least amount of stress and sickness which overall results in a better product.

calves eating grain

As calves learn to be away from their mothers full time, they eat grain, hay, and other forages to maintain a healthy lifestyle

Weaning calves from their mothers is a natural process that all (animals and humans) go through. For the overall health, safety, and low levels of stress on both the cow and calf, weaning is beneficial and is the beginning of another sector of the beef industry bovine timeline.

~Demi~

Fighting for Freedom: Beef Edition

I hope everyone has recovered from a fun weekend of colorful fireworks, yummy hamburgers and family get-togethers. Independence Day is a wonderful reminder of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, such as the right to bear arms, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. To maintain these freedoms, we are challenged to defend them.  In the same way, beef producers are faced with the challenge of defending their way of life every day.

11079577_10206251951677168_2078713692395220983_o

When it comes to our food supply, our desire for information is insatiable. As consumers, we want to know that our steak was happy and healthy when it was alive. No one understands the importance of that better than the beef producers themselves.

DSC_1161

Now more than ever, we are demanding transparency from agriculture producers. If those who produce the safe, wholesome and nutritious beef our families enjoy do not speak up, people who have no understanding of the business or animal welfare aspects of their operations will speak up for them. Producers cannot afford for their words or production practices to be misconstrued in anyway.

11218564_10206535705530837_4968134375117815955_o

There are many voices in the conversation about meat and food production. Our challenge as consumers is to tune out the “white noise “, or uneducated chatter, created by people who do not understand the logistics and fundamentals of beef production and animal welfare. To accomplish this requires us to research. Our fast-paced, constantly-connected society is guilty of being gullible. Our easily-convinced, drama-seeking nature is aligned to follow the societal norm, even when the information is false.

11054796_10152746402761526_7958008412969473822_n

Moral of the story: The beef producer’s number one concern is their cattle. Ranchers have a responsibility to do what reflects the best for the well-being of their animals. And in order to achieve that, they must maintain their freedom to produce healthy cattle.

10392284_10205582007882223_5508141657550205054_n

In order to meet the demand for transparency and protect their freedom to produce safe, wholesome and nutritious beef, producers must also do everything possible to tell their story. With the same token, consumers have the responsibility to research beyond the tabloid headlines and discover the truth about their food. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! 🙂

#MeetYourMeat

 

God bless, folks!

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

 

4th of July Cattle Facts

The average American eats 65 pounds of beef each year

cattle nose

Cattle can detect smells up to 5 miles away

footballs

One cowhide can produce enough leather to make 20 footballs, 18 soccer balls, 18 volleyballs, 12 basketballs, or 144 baseballs

cattle breeds

There are around 60 different beef breeds present in the United States-pictures is a Belted Galloway

pasture

The U.S. supplies 25% of the world’s beef with just 10% of the world’s cattle

bones

There are 207 bones in a cows body

chewing

The average cow has more than 40,000 jaw movements per day

scale

The United States produces approximately 26.0 billion pounds of beef each year

99pie_400x400[1]

99% of the beef animal is used when processed

burger

40 billion hamburgers are sold in the United States every year

 

Have a happy 4th of July!

-Demi-

 

 

 

Live a Flavorful Life

As a generation, millennials like to show off their creative side when it comes to cooking. Not using a recipe to create a delicious meal can be fun and challenging, yet turn into a delicious new way to prepare a favorite cut of beef! As a summer campaign through the National Beef Checkoff, the entitled, “No Recipe Recipe” videos are a way to showcase to individuals the basics to remember when preparing a cut of beef, but allow the imagination and ingredients used by the chef to be an unlimited supply. The videos simply feature a cut of beef, a way to cook the beef, and simple rules to remember when cooking beef, such as how to check the temperature of a steak, or to season steaks after they come off the grill with salt to keep the flavors in the meat. From taco creations to mixing it up with stir-fry meals and salads, these new videos give everyone a taste of summer and a boost of confidence when it comes to cooking in the kitchen! Featuring easy, quick, and delicious meals, these new ideas are a great way to impress your friends and family alike. These simple 30 second to one minute interactive videos allows the chef to create their own recipe with their own ingredients of choice for a savory eating experience!

Below is the link to view the five different videos on the beefitswhatsfordinner website. http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/easy-dinner-ideas.aspx  

white-chefs-hat[1]

So go-ahead, you be the chef and create a masterpiece tonight!

Happy cooking!

~Demi~

 

 

Lessons From the Passenger Seat of the Feedtruck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am blessed with the very best father and role model anyone could ask for. He is compassionate, dedicated, and doesn’t even know what a “day off” means. Dad and I share a very special bond. Growing up as Little Lyndon, I have always wanted to be just like my daddy.

dadandibigloop

Because of the millions of hours (okay, maybe not that many, but a whole lot) spent alongside my dad on a horse and in a feed truck, I have learned countless vital life lessons!

  1.  Respect your elders. If we have visitors on the ranch, you always offer them the front seat and you still get the gate. It is just one of the unwritten rules of respect.

    1925177_10203375984899796_1931154122_n

  2. Details matter. If there is supposed to be 101 cows in a pasture and you only count 100 cows, you better believe that we will not give up our search until the stray is found. Attention to detail is vital when animals depend on you to provide for them.   

    dadcounting.jpg

  3.  Lessons in listening. Whether it is a pause in conversation to listen to the 860AM market report at 12:00PM or to be briefed on the days plans, listening is imperative to ensure things run smoothly.

    This picture was taken around 1AM after we had finished processing a set of mama cows. Dad sure is a hard worker!

  4. Lessons in learning. Sometimes I just wonder if my generation was absent on the day in school when they taught us how to learn. Sometimes you just have to learn by example. I cannot tell of the many times I have depended on what I’ve learned by watching my dad. From roping cows, to tagging baby calves, I am a product of learning from seeing Dad do.

    daddy.jpg

  5.  Be flexible. Goodness knows plans have a way of changing instantaneously in production agriculture! Cows are out, a neighbor needs help gathering cattle, the weather acts up- any number of reasons- you have to learn to adjust and make things all work. 

    11018844_10205980937381980_441198633608433968_n

  6. Invest in people. There is just something about ranchers that makes them love talking to other farmers and ranchers. Friends, family members, neighbors, complete strangers- whomever it may be- my dad has taught me the value in investing in people. The dividends are much greater than the alternative!

    1377362_10205243287221187_8625720945135041359_n

  7.  Focus. Whether you are checking for sickness in the herd or traveling about from pasture to pasture, focus is vital to ensure you do your job well and are effective.

    dadcounting2.jpg

Moral of the story: I believe I am blessed with the World’s Greatest Dad! He has taught me more life lessons than I could ever say. He has encouraged and helped mold my strong passion for the beef community. I am who I am today, largely because of his influence in my life.Don’t forget to show your dad how much you care.  I love you, Dad!

1233364_10201838577385569_1142738_n

 

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

Baby Calves: A Picture Blog

 

 

In my mind, few things are cuter than baby calves! Calving season is by far one of my favorite times on the ranch, despite the often increased work load. Here are a few of my captured favorites!

 

“Peek-a-boo”

“What’re you lookin’ at?

“Bashful Baby”

“Dinner Time!”

“I know I am small, but I am mighty, I’ll have you know.”

“Are You My Mother?”

 

“That’s the spot!”

“The Staring Game”

 

I hope you enjoyed these!

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

Celebrate Dairy Month

Last month we celebrated beef month and are grateful for beef cattle being the single largest segment of American agriculture. As the month of June is now ahead of us, we celebrate dairy month and are thankful for this industry being a part of the beef industry too! It is estimated that up to 20 percent of all beef in the United States comes from dairy animals and as both the dairy and beef industry, we are proud to work together as cattle producers.

June is Dairy Month NBAP

No matter the livestock production segment that a producer may be a part of, at the end of the day, both beef producers and dairy producers are working together to produce a safe, wholesome, and nutritious product that they, along with consumers, can enjoy.

Many dairy farms are primarily dairy producers, but they understand that they are just as much a part of beef production as they are the dairy industry. Although milk would account for most of the dairy farms income, bull calves and market cows make a difference. Bull calves on dairy farms can be sold to another farmer at one to three weeks of age where they are raised and fed out as dairy beef steers. In addition to the bull calves, after a cow is no longer able to profitability produce milk, she is sold as a market cow for beef as well.

dairy cattle eating

Today we honor our dairy herds, who work hard to be a part of the dairy industry, but also a part of the beef industry!

Veal production is also a part of both the dairy and beef industries combined. Veal is the meat of young cattle, in contrast to the beef from older cattle. Veal can be produced from a calf of both sexes and any breed, however most veal is produced from male calves of the dairy industry.

From both the beef and dairy side of production, survival would not be possible without the consumer. It is the job of producers of beef and dairy herds alike to work on behalf of the industry producing a safe, wholesome, healthy, and nutritious product, on four feet and on the table. As dairy month continues, we want to thank both our dairy and beef producers for the countless hours of dedication and hard work they put forth to raise a product we all enjoy.

dairy and beef calves

Male calves of the dairy and beef industry alike are raised so we as consumers can enjoy a delicious and nutritious juicy steak

 

Happy Tuesday!

Demi

Beef YOUR Way!

One of the coolest things about beef is the abundance of options! Another amazing thing is that we as consumers get to take advantage of those options. We all have our preferences. It is just a matter of making sure we are aware of recommend tips so that we can enjoy our preferences in the comfort of your own homes.

 

Here are a few of the many options we have when eating beef:

 

  • Cut – Whether you prefer tenderloin, brisket, round roast, tri-tip, flat- iron, or a burger, you have endless opportunities to find your favorite flavor and personal  preference when eating beef!
    cuts of beef
  • Degree of Doneness – The degree to which a steak is prepared greatly affects the flavor. Some may prefer rare and others may prefer well done. To ensure you achieve your personal preference, meat thermometers are life savers when it comes to getting the most out of your beef eating experience at home.

doneness chart

  • Raising Method – Grass-fed and grain-finished beef both have very distinct flavors. Even though there is very little nutritional difference between the two options, consumers have yet another level of variety to determine their favorite. Whether the beef is natural, organic or conventional, it is important to remember that all beef is nutritious and delicious.

grainvsgrass

  • Seasoning – There are endless opportunities when it comes to enhancing beefy flavors. If you are looking to liven up your beef, you can get creative with your own mixture of spices! You can put Asian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Italian, and countless other spins on traditional rubs and marinades.

spices

  • Cooking Method – Some cuts of beef reap more desirable results when prepared in specific ways. For instance, more tender cuts like those from the loin are better suited for dry-heat cooking methods such as grilling and searing. Similarly, tougher cuts such as roasts are better suited for moist-heat cooking methods such as braising and stewing. Making sure that the cut is prepared properly can ensure a better beef eating experience!

cooking methods

  • Marbling – Marbling is the fat flecks within the meat that influence the degree of tenderness, juiciness and flavor of the meat. If you enjoy more juicy beef, you may prefer a higher quality grade (Prime or high Choice), but if you prefer more lean beef, a lower quality grade (lower Choice or Select) may be your preference.

marbling

 

Moral of the story: Just like every single person is unique, every person’s beef preference is unique. It is just a matter of figuring out your favorite way to enjoy beef’s incredible flavor. No matter what your preference is, all beef options offer essential nutrients that our bodies need in order to operate perfectly. For more tips on how you can enjoy beef, visit www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com!

 

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe