Bottle Baby Care

This past week, one of my first time heifers calved. Unfortunately this heifer did not have any milk to be a mother to her new baby calf. In situations like this, it is a beef producers’ duty to take care of the calf and make sure that it remains healthy and growing. Because the baby’s mother did not have milk to feed her calf, we now have a “bottle baby” at my farm. It is our responsibility as beef producers to ensure our newborns receive the nutrients and proper care they need, even when their mother does not take care or feed them.


Colostrum is important for baby calves to receive with the first 24 hours of their life. As a colostrum supplement, my family chooses to use Lifeline or frozen colostrum from other cows we have milked out to ensure the calf gets the needed nutrients and vitamins to sustain a healthy, quality life.

mixing milk

As a milk supplement, we mix milk replacer and warm water together.

pooring milk

The milk replacer used per feeding is 10 ounces of dry matter with a 4 pint bottle of water. Mix the two together, poor it in a calf bottle, and it is time to feed!

frog eating

Baby “Frog” gets fed 4 pints of milk twice a day. The milk replacer used has needed vitamins and minerals to compliment the same nutrients she would receive if she was drinking milk from her mom.


Like all newborn babies, once her tummy is full, she is happy and content. We will feed “Frog” approximately one month before introducing her to dry feed-then she will drink milk and eat hay and feed just like all the other baby calves that are still able to drink from their mothers.

Have a happy Tuesday!




7 Life-Lesson I have Learned From the Pros

It is no secret that I have a very special place in my heart for the older generations. It isn’t necessarily that my generation is completely uninteresting and boring, they just don’t seem to offer the same amount of common sense that those of our elders offer. Growing up raising cattle, I have met and worked with many seasoned cowmen. A better atmosphere for learning does not exist but inside a feed truck or a sorting pen.

Here are a few life lessons I have learned:

  • Speak kindly and leave the rest to God.

We have to realize that sometimes things are out of our hands. We are responsible for our own actions, not the actions of others.


  • Don’t judge folks by their relatives.

Even though I have been blessed with an incredible family, we all make mistakes at one time or another. It is important to remember that we are our are in charge of our own lives, and the lives of relatives do not always directly reflect that of ourselves.


  • Every path has a few puddles.

Puddles aren’t always bad. They just have a way of revealing what people are really made of.


  • Cows will eat just as well out of a $2,000 feed truck as they will out of a $50,000 feed truck.

Be a good steward and remember the things that really matter.


  • The best sermons are lived, not preached.

I am incredibly blessed to have the best role models in my life. Things like humility and integrity are most effectively demonstrated, not told.


  • Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.

Be someone who is slow to anger and who is always willing to thoughtfully instruct.


  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

And a little (or a lot) of help from above!


God bless, folks!


Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe


Youth Beef Industry Day

This past weekend I had the opportunity to mingle and learn with youth and parents of the beef industry about responsible beef practices in and out of the show ring. For the past 16 years, Ohio has brought together youth and families allowing them the opportunity to exhibit their 4-H and FFA projects in a winter show program called the BEST circuit, which stands for beef exhibitor show total. The opportunities, showmanship skills, and leadership lessons learned throughout this program expand beyond the barn and the show ring, helping teach kids of all ages the responsibility, care, sportsmanship, and educational promotions that are all intertwined within the beef community.

Members of the program partook in a Youth Beef Industry Day, where they were able to listen to guest speaker Kirk Stierwalt in a Livestock Evaluation and Showmanship Session, as well as a social media as a communication session, learning different cuts of meat, and prominent issues in the beef industry-answering the question, what is our role?

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BEST youth participants engaged and asking questions throughout the days worth of advocacy presentations.

If you are in the BEST Program in Ohio, chances are you love showing, making friends and memories and most importantly, you love spending back-to-back weekends standing in Ohio’s cold weather. The first two sessions were geared towards the showman side of the beef industry. It is important as we look at showing our steers and heifers, that we first know the proper showmanship techniques in the ring, as well as the proper showman techniques out of the ring. Everyone loves to win, but it is obvious there is only one winner, and showing cattle teaches kids to win and loose with dignity and grace as well as being a good sport and congratulating others. It is also important that we teach our youth how to evaluate their animals. Not only is this important from the show side of the industry, but it is also important that at a young age, we learn how to evaluate our cattle for sicknesses so we can make the proper assessments to get them healthy again.

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Kirk Stierwalt talking about the proper evaluations to make on your show project.

Outside of the show ring, communication about the beef industry is important. Whether you are at your school lunch table, county fair, or on a social media site, portraying the beef industry in a positive light is necessary for all ages. It is important to teach these youth that all of us are advocates for the beef industry. While at the county fair, you have the power to engage in conversations with someone from a non-agricultural background, or you have the opportunity to tell your beef story about your daily work regnum before show ring time on your social media page.  Understanding the current topics in the beef industry and the best way to answer them is important for the youth and their parents. The power of communication is strong and promoting social media savviness and communication is a key to success.

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Dr. Garcia of The Ohio State University engages in conversation with youth in steak school…beyond the fluff.

Opportunities like this are vitally important as we prepare our next generation of leaders. It is important and necessary that they understand showing cattle is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can help you make new friends and memories, but showing cattle and being a part of a winter circuit allows you to learn so much more about leadership skills, hard work and responsibility, as well as the importance of promotions outside of the show ring. The beef industry is more than the end of a show halter and a shiny show stick, and teaching these youth of the beef industry that we all have a part to be advocates and promote our livelihood is extremely important.

It’s all about that BEEF!

Why Beef Sustainability is So Hard

Sustainability is a big deal. Ranchers depend on natural resources to make a living, because in the end, that is what ranchers are: grass-salesmen. In addition to the environmental side of sustainability, there is another much more personal aspect.

The idea of sustainability is centered around the goal of making things better for the next generation; conserving natural resources, creating new, better management practices, preserving a culture, et cetera. As a fifth generation agriculture producer, it is sometimes assumed that I was born knowing the ropes- like I just hopped out of the womb knowing exactly how to manage cash inflows and outflows, when to plant certain feed crops and what to do when mama cows are having a hard time giving birth.

Even though I wasn’t born automatically knowing how to do everything that goes into running a ranch, I have had the opportunity to learn from the very best: my dad.


My dad is responsible for every thing I know about cattle, and more. I am very blessed to have him as a role model.


Here are a few things that I have found to make beef sustainability challenging:

1. Times change.

Things have a way of changing. Diet fads change, celebrity relationship statuses change, and fashion trends change (thank goodness!). Agriculture is no different. In 1960, one farmer fed 25 people. Today, one farmer feeds more than 150 people world-wide. Food production has had to change over the years to accommodate for an exponentially expanding population.

2. Demand changes.

In 1998, the most requested Christmas gift was the Furby,  a creepy little owl-like furry robot. In contrast, the most requested Christmas items of 2014 were personal technology gadgets, such as tablets, smart phones and laptops. It is safe to say that demand changes over time.

Over the years, demand for beef has changed also. Early twentieth century consumers preferred a higher-fat content beef. Today, consumers prefer a leaner beef. Each new generation seems to bring with it new ideas and things they find important. Beef producers have to follow the demands of consumers in order to survive. Demand causes supply.

3. Technology changes.

The horse-driven plow used by my great, great grandfather has been replaced by progressive, precise production technologies. Staying on top of changing technologies is imperative to insure that ranchers and farmers are capable of meeting the ever-changing needs of societies.


Learning what to do and not do can sometimes be a lengthy process, but it is worth every ounce of hard work in the end. Here’s Dad and I after working a set of cows at 2am, in 20 degree temperatures.


4.  Weather patterns change.

Drought stricken summers, blizzard blasted winters, soupy, soggy springs and blustery falls. Every season, every year, every decade brings with it weather challenges that producers have to over come. If producers do not find ways to get through the hard times, producers are sometimes forced to sell out of the business.

5. Motivation changes.

As with every profession, everything is not always roses and butterflies in beef production. There are hard times. Often, more hard times than great times. Producers are incredibly sensitive to externalities, unlike other businesses. Input prices can be high (and there are a lot of inputs!), markets can crash, weather can wipe out harvest and marketing plans, in addition to the tax exhausting hours can have in the home.

Despite passion, sometimes people get tired. Sometimes, people have a hard time getting back up after being knocked down countless times. Sometimes, people can no longer afford to do what they love to do. Ranchers are real people who face real, everyday challenges.


Learning is a never-ending process. Sometimes we have to learn from failures. I am thankful to have such a wonderful mentor who allows me to fail sometimes in order to learn from my mistakes.


Moral of the story: Agriculture producers are forced to adapt to ever-changing conditions. Dealing with the every day challenges in a successful way will help ensure the sustainability of beef production for future generations. AKA, learn from those who have traveled the path before us!


God bless, folks!


Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe



What Can We Do to Help the Beef Community?


Last week, your beef ambassadors attended the NCBA conference in (Not So) Sizzlin’ San Antonio! A popular question we were asked while talking to attendees was, “What are problems facing the beef industry?” and “How can we help to fix them?” These problems aren’t going to go away, and it is imperative that we be proactive in facing them. Most important, we need to tell our stories and be transparent about what we do with our animals.

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Antibiotic Usage

This is a hot topic among consumers. Myths are circulating about why we use antibiotics and that through our usage, we will be contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and viruses, which will then affect consumers. As producers, we know this to be untrue. Explain to consumers about why we use antibiotics to help our animals and that we adhere to strict withdrawal times!


Using antibiotics helps to keep our cattle healthy and happy!


There’s Hormones in my Beef?!

Another major concern, and one that is being propagated by anti-beef organizations, is use of hormones or beta-agonists in raising cattle for beef. It is believed that these will cause early puberty, particularly in young girls. Again, we know different, and can explain to the public the various studies proving that consumption of these meat products is safe, as these hormones and other exogenous factors are completely metabolized by the animal’s body.


Beef treated with hormones is perfectly safe to eat, and has no adverse side effects!


Animal Welfare

We have all seen the horrific videos of animals being mistreated. And though we want to fight this with all our might, these things do happen. We need to communicate to consumers these are extremely rare events, and most importantly we are working to better our industry to where they don’t happen at all! I have found that talking to them about your own herd and the various practices we use certainly helps, not only to underscore your credibility, but makes it relatable.


Sometimes the practices we utilize is confusing, so make sure to explain why we do what we do!


Beef Nutrition

With weight loss program ads appearing everywhere, it’s no wonder people are concerned about what is in their food! Everyone wants to be healthy, and most do not realize how nutritious beef is! It is the number one food source for Iron, and is also high in zinc, protein and B vitamins. Unfortunately, beef has gotten a bad rap for being high in calories and saturated fat. It important to utilize information and pamphlets from the Beef Checkoff to show consumers that beef packs a powerful punch and is part of a healthy diet! We all eat beef several times a week, so show them how healthy you are!

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Packed full of nutrients, beef is delicious and wholesome!


Across all these topics, it is most important that we start communicating and sharing our story. Anti-beef organizations have beat us to the punch, and we need to start playing catch-up! We do have it in our favor that most people already love beef, but we need to make sure it stays that way!

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Open the communication lines and start telling your story!


“Big Ag” – Who are they?

The term “Factory Farms”, or “Big Ag” gets thrown around so much in relation to the beef industry, but do we really know what these terms actually mean? From my perspective, it is usually in reference to some ag company, or beef ranch, that has income in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or possibly even millions.


Today, during one of the Cattlemen’s College Breakouts, at the 2015 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) conference, I gained a unique perspective on who is sometimes referred to as “Big Ag”. This particular session was on wealth management, and we had a certified public accountant there as one of the speakers. This CPA, Larry Kopsa, spoke in length about tax reforms, then talked about the tax breaks for different income levels. Much of this was beyond my realm of knowledge, or pertinence to my particular operation, and I was left wondering who this information might be relevant to. Upon completion of the two presenter’s speeches, the floor was opened up for questions.


I was so very surprised to learn the number of ranchers who were dealing in these large numbers, and many had incomes that exceeded $400,000 per year. But when you start to think about these operations, this makes perfect sense. Ranches are being forced to consolidate into bigger operations in order to survive, so logically, the income is larger from the sale of cattle. BUT, it is important to remember that these are still families, just like you and I have, they are just dealing in larger numbers. Furthermore, and possibly most important, is that these income levels do not make ranchers rich. Sure, they may be bringing in that much money, but think of the amount they have invested into these animals, and especially right now, are using to reinvest back into cows to rebuild our nationwide cowherd. At the end of the day, that rancher may only be taking home a small portion of that income. In fact, most only take home a profit of $50,000.

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These numbers can be very deceiving, and lead us to draw incorrect conclusions about farmers and ranchers. The best way I was able to put it and to make it relatable is that while we are dealing in hundreds in our daily lives, ranchers are dealing in thousands. And at the end of the year, their profit margin is still tight due to their commitment to invest in the future.

The Amazing Ruminant!

Did you know that cows really only have one stomach? It is a common myth that cattle have four different stomachs, when in fact, it is one stomach with four compartments. This specialized st01573_CowEatsHayomach is a characteristic of a ruminant animal, and allows these creatures to effectively digest and utilize feed that is high in fiber.


So what are the four compartments of the ruminant stomach? And how do these allow the cow to digest feed? In order of the way feed travels, the four compartments are: the Reticulum, Rumen, Omasum and Abomasum. These compartments are separated by half walls that allow feed to move in between them.

ruminant digestive tract


As many of you know, cattle can intake large volumes of feed quite rapidly. This is due to the fact that, as they eat, grass is collected and then rolled into a ball by the tongue before being swallowed. This bolus then moves into the reticulum to await further digestion. After the cow has eaten her fill, she moves into a shady spot and starts to Ruminate. This means, she regurgitates that grass bolus, chews it thoroughly and then swallows it again. This is an evolutionary feature that allowed these prey animals to consume feed quickly while predators were away, and then find a safe place to finish breaking down that feed.


Honeycomb texture of the Reticulum

Honeycomb texture of the Reticulum


From the reticulum, these now chewed grass boluses are transferred into the rumen, and can actually pass back and forth between it and the reticulum. The Rumen makes up 54% of the cow’s stomach. In here, microbes begin to digest the feed using fermentation. In fact, there are about 50-100 billion bacteria and protozoa per milliliter of rumen fluid! Some volatile fatty acids, ammonia and water are absorbed here.

The Papillae (finger-like projections of the rumen) increase it's surface area and help with absorption

The Papillae (finger-like projections of the rumen) increase it’s surface area and help with absorption



The omasum is a second chance to absorb nutrients that may not have been caught by the rumen. It helps to slow down the rate of passage of the feed, and absorbs more volatile fatty acids and water.


Similar to the folded pages of a book, the piles of the Omasum slow down rate of passage



Finally, the feed enters the abomasum, or the true stomach. This organ contains hydrochloric acid and pepsinogen, just like ours! This compartment helps to digest starches and denatures protein so the animal can use it effectively. From here, the contents will enter the small intestine, where the last of the nutrients are absorbed.


The "True Stomach"

The “True Stomach”

As you can see, cattle are incredible at utilizing the feed they are given, and can turn an inedible product like grass into a juicy and delicious beef product!



Lessons from Rapper

This week has been rough. I had to say good bye to my best friend (which happens to be a horse). Rapper has been my buddy for a long time. Rapper was my first horse. We have had horses most of my life, but he was the first that I could call my own. Not only do horses give us companionship, they also help out on the ranch. We use horses for many jobs on the ranch. When we move cattle, check cattle, doctor calves, or even just check fence we are often times horseback. Through working with Rapper, I learned a lot and I thought I would share some of those lessons.


Best buddies

  1. Faster is not always better. Rapper was a wise old man, and a big thing I learned from him is that sometimes it is worth it to slow down. When we would check cows, he taught me to take the time to walk through the whole herd and ensure that every animal was in good health.
  2. Sometimes the best way to get a job done is to get down and dirty. When trying to move calves, sometimes they would walk right under his belly. To prevent this, Rapper would lower his nose, and push the calves to where they needed to go.


    Even at the end of a hard day of work, it’s important to still give it your all.

  3. Always pay attention. There were times when Rapper would not go a certain direction that I wanted to go. Most of the time, it was because something was wrong with the way I wanted to go (for example, a snake could be in the road). Rapper had a keen eye and was always looking out for me.
  4. Remember to kick back at the end of a hard day of work! Every day, after I unsaddled Rapper and finished brushing him, he would roll in the dirt to kick back. It’s important to take some time off and enjoy yourself.

    Rapper always loved rolling in the dirt after I groomed him.

    Rapper always loved rolling in the dirt after I groomed him.

  5. Stay humble. I could not even begin to count the number of people Rapper has given rides to. Rapper was so gentle I felt comfortable even putting kids on him. Even though Rapper was a brilliant ranch horse, he still would give “pony rides.” Rapper would also humor me and let me braid his mane and tail. I actually learned how to braid hair when I was fifteen on Rapper! He put up with all of my shenanigans.

    Rapper was great at giving beginner riders confidence.

    Rapper was great at giving beginner riders confidence.

  6. Remember to help out anyone you can. Rapper was a great mentor to the other horses. It is amazing how one horse can calm down the others.

    Chrome and Kernel calmed down immensely with Rapper's presence

    Chrome and Kernel calmed down immensely with Rapper’s presence

Although Rapper leaves a gaping hole in my life, I am very thankful that I had the chance to know him.

SunsetRachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

And They Call the Thing a Cattle Show

If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be showing cattle, I would have asked you why anyone would want to do that. Somehow, in a roundabout way, my love of horses led me to my passion of cattle. Showing cattle has developed me into the person I am today and given me a love of the beef industry. I can honestly say, that without this experience, I would be nowhere near where I am today, and I most certainly wouldn’t be a National Beef Ambassador!  I get asked a lot what exactly showing cattle entails, and people are often surprised at the answer! I would like to briefly share a little bit about the world of cattle showing with y’all today.

The first thing y’all should know is that show cattle kids are CRAZY. We spend hours upon hours working and growing hair on our cattle, formulating special rations and spending time with our animals. Show cattle are more pets than anything else!


The little monster, “Elsie”, hanging out in the house

Long before show day ever happens, we spend time rinsing our cattle everyday (sometimes multiple times a day) and working hair. This involves brushing them, putting in conditioners and then using a blower(essentially a very powerful hairdryer) to get them dry and make the hair “pop”.   All of these things are necessary to make the hair work for us on show day and be easier to clip.  A couple days before the show, we clip out our animals. Many people think this is simply shaving the cattle, but it would be more similar to sculpting. We shape the cattle’s hair so that it highlights their good features and can help to hide some of their bad. Clipping cattle requires great expertise and can truly transform a calf!












Finally, on show day, we give our animals a good bath, get them blown out just right and add oils to make them shine. We give them a final clip to make sure they look perfect, and add adhesives in their legs to make them look stockier.  Their halters are polished, and with show stick in hand, we head to the show ring to try and make a go for Grand!


Showing a Cow/Calf Pair at AZ Nationals

Some of my best memories are hanging out at stock shows. There is just something magical about walking in the ring, and there is no better feeling than getting the “Champion Slap”. I am lucky that every year, I get to attend the Arizona National Livestock Show, in fact, it is one of my favorite things about coming home for Winter Break. We had a great show these past few days, and now we get ready for the next set of babies to start pampering for show season!


Breakfast time at the Show!


Pretty Proud!




Happy New Year Everyone!





beef Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the pasture!


The holidays are often a time when folks look forward to spending time with family, relaxing, and indulging in way too much festive candy to satisfy the unrelenting sweet tooth. As a college student, I start counting down the days to Christmas break as soon as the fall semester begins. For some, however, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s, and other holidays are not necessarily guaranteed work holidays.


“The Post Man”, without holidays off.



Ranching is a full-time, 24/7, 365-days-a-year occupation. Vacations are often very few and far between. Social engagements are sometimes unexpectedly replaced with unplanned cattle care responsibilities such as cows being out or emergency health problems. And there is no such thing as overtime pay.


Last winter we were not able to drive our feed trucks to some of the pastures because of a bad ice storm. So we drove tractors, on New Year’s Eve!


Growing up, I have learned that cattle’s needs often come before our own. In times of bad winter weather, many hours of sleep are lost to ensure babies being born have the best chance to survive extreme elements. Many social engagements are sacrificed in order to make sure cattle are in the right pen and have plenty to eat. As a result, ranchers often have more than their fair share of cold meals, late nights and early mornings.


In cold and hot temperatures, we work hard to make sure the cattle have access to clean, fresh water.



At the end of the day, ranching is not an easy, get-rich-quick occupation. Ranchers have to love what they do to somehow find the perseverance to overcome the many challenges they face everyday to make sure their cattle are healthy. We would like to extend our humble gratitude to those who sacrifice their holidays to provide for us. To our servicemen and women, industry workers and of course our farmers and ranchers; we say thank you!


God bless, folks!


Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe