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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Beef Connection in the World of Ag

Beef producers work countless hours to ensure they are up-to-date on current beef products and practices. Raising their herd of cattle is their livelihood and depends on the current education and seeking out of answers. Beef producers however do not focus just specifically on successful beef production; they are also continuously gaining knowledge about other agricultural realms.

This past week I had the opportunity to travel with the Collegiate Young Farmers Club from The Ohio State University to take a 5-day road trip to Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to tour equipment production headquarters, southern plantations, and crop facility headquarters. At the end of the trip, I was very grateful that I, along with six other OSU students had the opportunity to gain more knowledge about different sectors of agriculture. Being a part of the beef industry and seeking out continuous education is important, but the world of agriculture is combined through many different pieces and parts.

One of my personal favorites was touring a tea plantation and learning about the tea making process, different equipment used to harvest, as well as the history. Although making tea does not directly correlate to beef production, production methods and innovation is directly compatible between tea production and beef production. As a tea plantation, it is most important to start the new cuttings, or seeds, off with the upmost care for production, which correlates to starting off a baby calf, making sure that it receives the appropriate nutrients and vitamins to grow healthy.

tea combine

The tea harvester ‘combine’- unique to only the production of tea.

Another educational part of the trip was the Phosphorous Mine. As an important part of growing crops all around the world for people and livestock alike, phosphorus is a needed nutrient. While at the mine we had the opportunity to learn about the mining process, as well as see the process in action while in the mine. Spending the morning at the mine learning about the process of mining and why phosphorus is so important to the world of agriculture proved to me the connection between phosphorus, crop production, and beef cattle. Without phosphorus being mined, crops would not yield a product and beef cattle would lack food and nutrients.

mine

Phosphorus Mine in North Carolina

machine

The phosphorus mining machine that scooped up the phosphorus ore

mine2

The part of the mine that loads the phosphorus onto both train and barge.

Learning about the world of beef cattle and beef production as well as promotions and educations is important to me and something that I continue to strive for through learning. However, being a part of agriculture means more than just feeding my cattle, it means understanding the world of agriculture and how different aspects, systems, and other lines of production all correlate and work in conjunction with beef cattle and beef production.

Monsanto

As a final stop of the trip, we toured Monsanto company and had the opportunity to learn and ask our questions about biotechnology corn and soybeans as a grain for livestock, including beef cattle.

 

.Demi

Happy Beef Month!

May is beef month! In honor of beef month, I am going to share the top 5 reasons to eat beef:

  1. 97 percent of beef cattle farms and ranches are family-owned and operated. The same product these family farms and ranches produce is the same product that goes on their dinner plate at the end of the day.

    We are

    Agriculture is a family affair.

  2. Beef is nutritious! All beef choices are a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins like protein, zinc, iron and b vitamins.

    Nutritious

    You only need 3-ounces of beef to receive all of these nutrients.

  3. Beef is versatile! The only limitation on what you can do with beef is your imagination. Try a new cooking method! Have you ever had beef for breakfast? Give it a shot!

    Beef...it's not just for dinner anymore.

    Beef…it’s not just for dinner anymore.

  4. Beef is delicious! Did you know beef is a natural source of the umami flavor? The umami taste is described as meaty, savory and delicious and, when paired with other umami rich foods, the two will have a magnifying effect on each other and produce 8x more flavor! Bacon, aged cheeses, tomatoes or mushrooms are great options to pair with beef.

    Rich

    You can find the recipe for Ribeye Steaks with Sautéed Grape Tomatoes And Brie here

  5. Open space and pastures, managed by farmers and ranchers, provides habitats for 75 percent of America’s wildlife.

     I did not want to disturb the nest, so I did not insert anything for scale. The eggs were about the size of a quarter. Pretty tiny for a great big world!

    Here’s a nest I found in a pasture last summer. Wildlife thrive thanks to farmers and ranchers!

Happy Meaty Monday!

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

Every Day is Earth Day

Earth Day is this week! Farmers and ranchers were environmentalists before environmentalists started. Caring for the animals and the land is what makes working in agriculture so rewarding. You would be hard pressed to find a producer who is not working to improve the sustainability of their operation. We aren’t only concerned about our operation being able to produce for the next decade, but for several centuries to come. Measures such as planting trees, providing wildlife habitat, and rotating the herd to prevent overgrazing are just a few of the steps agriculturalists take to reduce their impact on the planet. These measures might make sense, but did you know agriculturalists are often avid recyclers? Here are some ways my family reuses and repurposes materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

  • Billboards: billboards are changed fairly frequently. After their life as an advertisement is over, they would typically be sent to a landfill. The material that billboards are made out of is very similar to a tarp. We use old billboard advertisements for several purposes. When we stack hay bales, we put a tarp (usually an old billboard) over it to keep the hay from being damaged by precipitation. If a stock tank is leaky, we line the bottom with an old billboard to save water and prevent the leak.
In action!

Leaky water tanks can even  be salvaged with the billboards!

Hay coverage

Billboards can be used as a tarp to protect hay bales from precipitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Rubber Tires: Ever wonder what happens when you need to replace a tire on your car? One way rubber tires are given a second life is by compressing them into “tire bales.” The main way we utilize these tires bales is by arranging them into windbreaks for our animals. Wyoming winds can be very harsh, so the tire bales help the cattle have shelter from the harsh winter storms that frequent our area.

 

The tire bales can be arranged to provide a way to store grain.

The tire bales can be arranged to provide a way to store grain.

close up

The tire bales are made of tires that are no longer usable.

JBS

Tires can be woven into mats that help prevent cattle from slipping when they are handled.

Shelter

These tire bales can be arranged to provide shelter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Mining Tires: Mining is big in Wyoming, and the tires used by mining equipment are not your average tires! These tires range in size from 6 to 13 feet in diameter! By cutting one tire in half, two water tanks can be made.
The cows love them!

The cows love them!

Yay

Repurposing materials doesn’t have to be complicated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Guardrail: We purchase used guardrail that can no longer be used for the highway system. The main use for this is to build very sturdy corrals that will not need to be replaced for an extended period of time.
babe

The guardrail and cable creates a very effective corral!

By no means are these the only recycled materials being used on our farm (or in all of agriculture!). Conveyor belting, sweeper brushes, barrels, pallets, and various containers are also materials that are often reused or repurposed in agriculture. The materials also vary from one location to another (just like feed does!). I would encourage you to speak to a local farmer or rancher to see how they reduce, reuse, or recycle on their operation, I bet their resourcefulness will surprise you!

Happy Meaty Monday!

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

Grazing Cattle: Helping the Environment

Cattle not only produce a nutrient-dense protein by converting forages humans cannot consume and producing beef products  that they can, but they also help protect and enhance the environment and animals within the environment. Approximately 85 percent of the United States grazing lands are unsuitable for growing and producing crops. Grazing cattle on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.

In southern Ohio, there are rolling hills and mountains that make it unable to plant and harvest crops, so as a result, farmers graze their cattle on hillsides. To utilize the land that cannot be used to produce crops on, it is beneficial to utilize it in other ways such as grazing cattle. Planting grasses and grazing cattle on rolling lands also help prevent soil erosion.

cows, hill, hay

Planting grasses and grazing cattle on hills helps to prevent hillside erosion.

 

Maintaining open space for cattle grazing in pastures allows lands to remain natural, free of debris, invasive species and plants.

cow on a hill

Farmers and ranchers are able to utilize hills unsuited for growing crops to graze their cattle.

 

Grazing cattle on grassy pastures benefit plant life. Open grasslands are generally dominated by invasive or non-native grasses and herbs. When left unmanaged, the vegetation of the invasive species tends to overpower the needed nutrients and water in the soil. Grazing livestock controls the growth of these invasive species which allows desirable grasses and herbs to grow and co-generate in pasture lands.

The introduction and maintenance of wild animals and habitats as homes for endangered species and ground nesting birds is protected through cattle grazing. The increase in diversity of species benefits from the vegetation management performed by livestock.

cow eating weed

Cattle herds maintain invasive species by eating as well as walking and laying on the invasive plants.

Grazing cattle on pasture lands also control weeds and prevents residue build-up on pasture land so it does not turn into hot and dangerous fires. Farmers and ranchers properly manage livestock grazing in order to reduce fire hazards by controlling the amount of distribution of grasses and other potential fuels.

Beef cattle can be called ‘dual-purpose’ animals. Not only are they able to take grasses and forages humans are unable to eat and produce a nutrient-rich protein we can consume, they also help maintain a healthy and productive environment. Cattle are utilized on lands unsuited for crop growth to help prevent erosion, wildlife and invasive species, and wildfires. At the end of the day, farmers and ranchers utilize their cattle herds as environmentalists and therefore are stewards of the land.

 

~Demi~

Students Engaging Students With Beef

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There is a major disconnect between beef producers and beef consumers. And being a college kid, the gap is unfortunately even greater among my peers on my university’s campus. I have the opportunity to be apart of an incredible organization known as Oklahoma Collegiate Cattlewomen. Last week, the organization took the initiative to dedicate an entire week to target college students and educate them about beef. The first annual Eat Beef Week was a fantastic hit! Each day offered a unique, creative way of engaging students to tell beef’s story.

Advocacy Workshop – Monday night students had the opportunity to gain useful tips to use when advocating for the beef community. From social media basics, to conversation starters, the workshop focused on encouraging students to tell their beef stories in a transparent, sincere way.

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Twitter Party- On Tuesday, people were encouraged to take part in a Twitter party hosted by OCCW. The topic focused around common questions surrounding the beef community, such as what measures beef producer take to make sure their cattle are taken care of. Participants had the opportunity to win Eat Beef merchandise also.

#EatBeefWeek #EatBeef @OCCW_okstate

 

Interactive Beef Campus Event- Wednesday, stations were set up in a high-traffic area that encouraged engagement from students. Stations included focus areas about the value of beef in a healthy diet, what cattle eat, and beef trivia. Beef samples were also available to passersby. This activity was very successful in encouraging genuine and honest conversation about the modern beef community.

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Beef Taste Testing- Thursday, OCCW members had the opportunity to taste unique cuts of beef that are not as common in our area, such as the tri-tip roast. Those in attendance also gained valuable information about many beef cuts as well as tips that will help to improve their beef-eating experience.

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Farmland, The Movie Screening- Friday evening, Farmland, The Movie was screened at a centralized location on campus as a way to show a transparent representation of where our food comes from.

farmland

 

Moral of the story: those involved in the beef community have an incredible story to tell and we want to share that story with you! Take every opportunity to learn more about your food sources. Research credible sources and ask those directly involved with your food production to learn from the true experts. Educating and learning is all about conversations. Don’t be afraid to have those conversations.

 

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

It’s a Family Thing

Agriculture has always been a big part of my life. Growing up on a farm is a very unique experience, and I would not have changed it for the world. There are many aspects of agriculture that makes it so different than other businesses. One element that is different is the prevalence of family. In fact, 97 percent of beef farms or ranches are family-owned. 54 percent of these farms and ranches have been in the same family for three generations or more!

My brother, Garrett, is also very passionate about agriculte.

My brother, Garrett, shares the passion for agriculture as well.

I am pleased to say that my brother has returned to be the next generation on our operation. The dedication he shows to continuing the legacy is astonishing to me. In addition, one of our extended cousins and his family recently moved from Las Vegas to Wyoming to be a part of the farm. You can read about their adventures here. It can be tough to work together as a family sometimes, and here are the biggest things I personally have learned from working with my family:

    • Everyone is good at something: My brother can rally people together to work towards a common goal like you wouldn’t believe! My mom is great at keeping things in perspective. My dad is a master problem solver. Everyone brings something to the table, and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.
    • Keep your cool: It is very easy to want to snap at one another when working together (especially with the family dynamic). In order to keep your relationships in good standing (both family and work), it is important to be patient with one another.
    • Stay humble: We are all working together. It is important to stay humble (especially if you have been placed in charge of a project!). It is much easier to work with one another if everyone is courteous to each other. Never refuse to do a job because it is “below you.”

      Master planner

      Never be “too good” for any job (even opening the gate!).

    • Keep the end goal in mind: It can be difficult to work with each other sometimes. Situations can get tense, but it is crucial to always remember that everyone is working toward a common goal.
    • Be true to your word: If you say you are going to do something, then do it! We all rely on one another, and trust is critical.

      Hungry animals depend

      This is especially crucial when hungry animals depend on you doing your job.

    • Always try your best: Murphy’s Law (everything that can go wrong will go wrong) always seems to catch up with us! Just because you are having an off day does not mean that you are a failure! It just means that you should dust yourself off and try even harder.
    • Be flexible: It is important not to get too upset when things do not go your way. So much of agriculture is outside of our control (cows can get out, machinery can break down, or hail could demolish a crop) that it is better to just go with the flow. For example, it never fails that machinery breaks down in the middle of harvest. Typically, we need the problem fixed as soon as possible. However, sometimes things are out of our control and we can’t even get the parts in for a few days. It is important to be flexible, because sometimes the situation is simply out of your hands.

      Sometimes bad things happen

      Sometimes bad days just happen.

    • It is okay to take a moment for yourself: I am always taken aback by how beautiful the land is. I am especially reminded of it when I am alone doing work in a pasture. It is okay to take a few moments and just take it all in every now and again.

  • Stick together: We have each other to lean on. Sometimes when it feels like everything is going wrong, family is always there to make things better.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that we are all family. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I have had working with family for anything.

Happy Meaty Monday!

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer