Learning to Ride Bikes and Advocate For Beef

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If you were to look up Passion in the dictionary, you would most likely see a picture of my sister, Keili (Kay-lee) Summey. There is no one I know that possess more character, integrity, and dedication for what they do. Ever since I could remember I have always looked up to my sister, and being the typical younger sibling that meant trying to be just like her. The inspiration I received from having Keili as a constant role model is what motivated me to learn how to ride a bike and advocate for beef.

We were at the park. She had just gotten her training wheels off and was about to try riding for the first time. From the second she got on her bike I wanted to do it too and begged my father to take my training wheels off. He tried to explain to me that since Keili was a year older than me, she could do things that I couldn’t and that my bike wasn’t built to have the training wheels taken off. But there’s no use reasoning with a four year old. The next time I saw Keili’s bike alone I grabbed it and began to take off. Before I knew it I had taught myself to ride. Ever since then my desire to be more like my sister has continued to push me past my own limitations.

My sister use to be VERY shy, I mean afraid to ask a waiter for Ketchup shy. Somehow when she started high school this new, more outgoing, confident side came out of her and she was doing things I never would have expected like raising animals, public speaking, running for office, and taking agriculture classes (and more importantly, she was good at it!). I couldn’t help but become fascinated with the change in her and wanted to know the cause. I joined FFA, started taking Ag classes, and before I knew it I was hooked!! It wasn’t too long after that we both found our love for the beef community and became Ambassadors (she was the Arizona Beef Ambassador before me).

Now Keili and I are both living together, working together, serving as OCCW (Oklahoma Collegiate CattleWomen) officers together, and attending Oklahoma State University to obtain degrees in Agriculture (her in Agriculture Education and me in Agriculture Communication). Our fridge is always stocked with beef and whenever I need advice on anything beef related (like how to talk to consumers, or how to teach a class on beef), or even general life advice, she is always my go-to person. Some may think that it would be annoying having a sister that is in to all of the same things as you, and follows the same career path would be very annoying, but to us it’s all we’ve ever known and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Peace, Love, Beef (and National Sibling Day),

Tori

An American Cowboy

Along with my fellow beef ambassadors, this week we are blogging about our siblings in honor of National Sibling day last Thursday. So here we go! I have one little brother, although he’s out grown me by a good 4-5 inches, he will always remain my “little” brother. Kater Buck Tate, if his name alone doesn’t tell you, he is quite the character. “Buck” was our great grandfather’s name.

Like most siblings we can't "just smile" in any picture!

Like most siblings we can’t “just smile” in any picture!

 

When I first started thinking about how I could write a blog about my brother and beef, I soon came to the conclusions of “An American Cowboy.” Growing up on a ranch we have learned spending more time with cattle than people is completely normal, although I don’t mind a little socializing. Kater on the other hand had always rather spend his time with his horses and cattle than people. Being a “cowboy” isn’t a gold buckle at the NFR or wearing your hat around town. Being a cowboy is exactly what is sounds like… a cow boy. According to the dictionary a cowboy is “a man, typically one on horseback, who herds and tends cattle.” When you break it down it might not sound quiet as glamorous, but it also takes a special kind of person to be one, someone who has a true passion for livestock. He doesn’t need fame or fortune; he just needs a good horse and a place to call home. I can honestly say my little brother is one. He had rather wake up at 5 a.m. to take care of cattle, than get to sleep in until 7a.m. and go to school; he loves his horses and cattle more than just about anything; he doesn’t mind a hard days’ work; most of all he thanks the Lord each day for having the freedom to be a “cowboy.” As a 5th generation cowboy, you could say it is in his blood.

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Beef & Blessings,

Justana

My Sister, Cheyenne

I can’t imagine growing up as an only child. Interestingly enough, none of the members on our 2014 National Beef Ambassador team did! In honor of National Siblings Day, which occurred last Thursday, our team would like to dedicate our blogs this week to our siblings as a reflection of how they have made us better people and better agriculturalists.

Meet my older sister, Cheyenne! Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 11.05.50 PM

My sister receiving her American FFA Degree.

My sister receiving her American FFA Degree.

Cheyenne has always been a great role model to me and has taken a lot of time throughout the years to help me be my best. Being the little sister that I am, I always watched Cheyenne and involved myself in the same activities. Although she doesn’t know it, I credit my sister for being the reason that I became so involved in the FFA. After seeing her compete in various CDE contests, start her own herd of beef cattle for her SAE project, and especially, serve as an assistant officer for our chapter so she could earn her State and American FFA degree, I knew that I wanted to become more involved in the FFA and agriculture, as a whole. If it hadn’t been for my sister, I may never have fallen as deeply in love with the beef community as I am today.

My sister and I have always bonded over our love for the cattle that we raise on our farm, whether it was walking the pastures together on calf checks, working with our 4-H steers in the barn, or helping dad with vet visits in the summer. However, my sister wanted to take her passion one step further and, naturally, her little sister followed suit. Cheyenne and I both served as our county’s Queen of Beef, Cheyenne first in 2010, and then myself in 2012. If it hadn’t been for that experience, I would have never become an Ohio Beef Ambassador or a National Beef Ambassador.

My sister has always been there for me, even if it was just helping me drink from the water hose!

My sister has always been there for me, even if it was just helping me drink from the water hose!

I honestly can’t say where I would be in life without agriculture, beef, and especially, my sister. Starting from a very young age, my sister and I quickly realized how much fun two girls can have on a farm, from wrangling kitties, riding ponies, bottle-feeding calves, and chasing our grandpa’s sheep. Who would have known that years later, we would still be having just as much fun together working in agriculture, whether it is singing together in the hay mows, laughing at how poorly I shift gears on the 4-wheeler, or having late night talks about internships and career goals. I am always reminded of why having a sister is so great, especially when looking back on how I became so connected to agriculture. Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 10.59.21 PM

As a lesson to everyone with younger siblings, know that they are learning from you every step of the way. Thank you, Cheyenne, for working hard every day and setting such an excellent example for me to lead by.

All for the Love of Beef,

Sierra Jepsen

Being a Californian

As I mentioned in my first blog, whenever I introduce myself as being from California, I always get responses like, “You must surf to school then,” or, “Oh, so what celebrities do you know?” Needless to say, my response: “Oh, no, Northern California…no beaches (slight frown) or celebrities,” gets old real quick. I’ve thought about it more, and I realized that California is a very unique state in that it really is so diversified. I may be biased, but I think it’s cool that California is such a big state that most of the stereotypes don’t even fit half of the state. So, I thought I’d share some fun facts about the lesser-known part of California and the huge agricultural industry that it contains:image

  1. The top five agricultural commodities in CA are dairy, grapes, almonds, nursery, and cattle.
  2. There are a total of 81,700 farms in CA covering a total of 25.4 million acres.
  3. The average farm size is 313 acres.
  4. California is the top agricultural-producing state in the United States, and if it were a country it would be the fifth largest agricultural-producing country in the world.
  5. There are over 400 different commodities in California that generate nearly $10 billion each year.

I guess this was a bit of a #farmfactfriday #californiastyle #exceptonsunday, but I hope you enjoyed!

The 100th Little International

The 100th Little International was held this past Saturday at Ohio State, which happens to be my favorite collegiate event!  The Little International is a university-wide showmanship competition where participants have the choice of showing a beef animal, a hog, a lamb or a horse. Naturally, I chose showing cattle.

This picture was taken on "Drawing Day" when our team selected our heifer, Lady.

This picture was taken on “Drawing Day” when our team selected our heifer, Lady.

It's hard work to break a beef animal to lead,  and sometimes you walk away with a few battle scars.

It’s hard work to break a beef animal to lead, and sometimes you walk away with a few battle scars.

Preparation for the Little International actually began the first week in March when our group went out to Ohio State’s livestock facilities and selected our heifer. From there on, we had exactly one month to prepare for the contest. Our team spent several hours each day at the barn, walking our heifer and getting her used to being worked with. This may sound like a simple task, but all the heifers we had to choose from this year were older than the ideal age to break cattle (which is about 6 months of age) and already weighed 850 lbs, so we definitely had our hands full. Of course, it also didn’t help that we selected the largest heifer in the lot!

My favorite part about the Little International is that there are both experienced and inexperienced divisions; so even if you have never shown a particular species before, you can still learn from an experienced showman and compete against other individuals who are still learning as well. This year was especially fun because I got to work with two of my best friends to teach them how to show cattle. Although it’s great to talk with my friends about beef, there is no better feeling than actually involving my peers in the cattle industry and giving them the opportunity to work with the animals one on one.

This great shot of our team was taken as we gave our heifer a pep talk before going into the final drive of the competition.

This great shot of our team was taken as we gave our heifer a pep talk before going into the final drive of the competition.

On show day, as I watched my inexperienced showmen in the ring, it reminded me of how my dad used to stand along the gate watching my sister and I show. No matter how much fun it is to be in the ring personally, it’s an even greater reward to watch your friends succeed in the ring. I am so proud of both my inexperienced showmen for working so hard this past month and for always smiling, even if they were frustrated. It’s a relief to finally see all of our hard work pay off; I’m already looking forward to next year’s Little International competition!
All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen

The Beef Lifecycle: Weaning and Stocker Calves

Every pasture you visit around the ranch this time of year is filled with rambunctious young calves.  It is fun to watch the newborn calves stumbling around and the older ones running and playing alongside each other.  Week to week you can see how much the calves have grown.  Before long the calves will be old enough they will no longer need their mother’s milk and it will be time to wean the calves.

When we wean calves on my family’s ranch all calves and given booster shots.  This ensures that they are protected against the most harmful diseases.  Even though the calves are old enough to eat on their own and no longer need milk, they are still a little lost without their mother to follow around.  For the first few weeks after weaning calves, they are kept in large pens. Keeping fresh feed, hay, and water out for the calves is essential; the faster they learn to eat, the easier it will be for them.  If the freshly weaned calves were returned to a pasture they would have no idea what to do other than run until they found their mother.  After a few weeks of being penned we gradually turn them out onto high quality grass or wheat pasture.

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When calves are weaned they generally weigh around 400 to 500 pounds.  Cattle don’t tend to enter a feed yard until they are close to 750 pounds.  So what happens in the middle? After weaning, if enough grass or wheat is available we will keep the calves until they are big enough to enter a feed yard.  In cases of drought, after the calves have gotten over the stress of weaning, we sell them to a stocker cattle operation, or a preconditioning yard.  Both of these are designed for calves between the weaning  and feedlot weighs.  Cattle are fed optimum diets that will help them make the transition from grass and milk onto a “feedlot diet” made of grains and grinded forage.  This is an extremely valuable piece of how beef is raised that sometimes gets over looked.

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Beef & Blessings,

Justana

Where’s the Beef (Advocating)?!? Arizona!!

Introducing the new Arizona Beef Ambassador, Brooke Griggeory!

Introducing the new Arizona Beef Ambassador, Brooke Griggeory!

It seems my entire beef journey has started with the asking of one crucial question, and it is one that has been asked for may years… Where’s the beef???  I can recall back to high school when my sister first told me about the Arizona FFA Beef Speaking Competition.  I didn’t know a whole lot about beef at the time except what was taught in my Intro to Animal Science class, but I enjoyed public speaking so I decided to give it a go.  Little did I know that my speech entitled “Where’s the Beef?” would ignite a passion for the beef community I never knew I had.  2 years later I had the opportunity to serve as Arizona Beef Ambassador and represent Arizona’s farmers and ranchers at different events throughout the state. Fast forward to last weekend when I got to see that honor passed to one of my good friends, Brooke Griggeory, and watch a new batch of beef enthusiasts share their beef story and grow their passion just as I had.  It’s talented individuals such as these that give me hope for the future of our industry and remind us of why we advocate in the first place.

Brooke Griggeory, Madeline Fraker, and Maya Wallace all did a great job!  So proud to have such amazing ladies telling the beef story.

Brooke Griggeory, Madeline Fraker, and Maya Wallace all did a great job! So proud to have such amazing ladies telling the beef story.

I know that no matter what these ladies go on to do they will be   successful, this is only the beginning of their journey.  And while I’ll look back on my adventures as Arizona Beef Ambassador and miss traveling to different events around the state visiting with consumers, and representing Arizona’s farming and ranching families, the one thing I will not miss is the ability to tell my beef story, because you don’t need to be a “Beef Ambassador” to be an advocate for beef.  One thing I’ve learned for absolute certain in my travels this year is that advocating comes in all shapes and sizes. Arizona for example is not a place that the average consumer would think to find a great amount of agriculture (since you don’t exactly picture rolling hills and green pastures when you think of Arizona). However,  beef is one our leading agriculture products along with dairy, citrus, lettuce, and cotton. More than that though, is the strong community of hard working and caring people that are the driving force behind those agricultural products.  You think their job would stop at producing food to feed millions, but they go above an beyond that to make personal connections with consumers and constantly find new ways to improve the ways in which they provide safe, wholesome, and nutritious beef while still caring for our environment, our cattle, and most importantly our families.  It is these individuals that make me fall in love with beef everyday and I wish there was a way to thank them for all that they do.

So if you ever find yourself asking the question Where’s the Beef?? Well look around you, they might only make up less than 2% of the population, but no matter what state you live in there’s a community of beef advocates committed to supporting your family. I challenge you to take the time to get to know them. It might surprise you how much you have in common.

Peace, love, and beef (from a former Arizona Beef Ambassador).

Tori Summey

 

Privileged to be a Farmer

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This evening I was called into work out on the farm to take care of a calf that wasn’t doing so well. In fact the farmer that brought it to the farm thought that it might have been injured or have some neurological damage. With that being said, I spent an hour this evening giving the little guy a bottle, checking his vital signs and giving him some ear scratches. As I sat with him for just a few minutes before getting back to studying for my animal science test that is in the morning, I realized that for farmers, its not just about abiding by the welfare regulations that are legally mandated, but rather it is an inner moral code that we all live by. We know that animals are not people, but that does not mean that we should not care for them with respect. We raise beef cattle on my farm to be consumed as beef, but that does not mean that we don’t give them the upmost care when they are on our farm. I take pride in the level of care that my animals receive. And I’m sure farmers everywhere can say the same. Sometimes it’s the little things, like feeding a bottle calf on a beautiful spring evening that reminds me of how privileged I am to be farmer.

Rachael

Spring Means Calving Season!

Last week during a student council meeting, the role call question was, “What is your favorite part about spring?” While other students answered thunderstorms or baseball, my response was obvious; calving season!

Seeing all the happy and healthy baby calves is definitely a highlight of being a cattle producer.

Seeing all the happy and healthy baby calves is definitely a highlight of being a cattle producer.

My favorite memory from calving season was on April 1st when I was about five years old. My dad came home late from the fields, tired as could be, only to be greeted by two snickering little girls, and their mother with a big smirk on her face. We convinced my dad that an all white calf had been born in the back pond pasture and we wanted him to go see it right away! (Keep in mind, all of our cattle at the time were black.) Even though my sister and I had just had our baths, our whole family put on our boots and started out to the back pasture. As my dad searched around the field on his 4-wheeler with a massive flashlight, my sister and I couldn’t contain our laughter any longer, and we shouted “APRIL FOOLS!” We couldn’t tell if he was amused by the joke, or glad that he could finally stop looking for the white calf and go to bed.

Ironically enough, we actually had an all white calf born last year!

Ironically enough, we actually had an all white calf born last year!

Whether it is late night calf checks with my dad, running out to the barns after school to check on the “maternity ward,” or bottle feeding twins with my sister, some of my fondest memories from spring will always be those moments spent with my family, welcoming new calves to our farm.

All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen

Why Agriculture is Worth Celebrating: Proactive Agriculturists

Agriculturists try to always be proactive

As my fellow beef ambassadors mentioned, there are so, so many reasons that we should take this week dedicated to celebrating agriculture and reflect on why we should be celebrating it. As Sierra mentioned, we need to remember that every day, three times a day, we need a farmer. Farmers are the lifeblood of our society, almost literally, as they provide us with necessary nourishment. I grew up-as I’ve mentioned before-as the sixth generation on my family’s ranch, so I have some very obvious reasons for celebrating agriculture. It’s my family’s livelihood. Not only does it put the food on my table and clothes on my back (in a literal sense), it even pays my cell phone bill!
I have tons of reasons to celebrate agriculture, but most the predominant reason currently in my mind is the proactive nature and progressive attitude expressed by agriculturists. I can’t think of any other industry that puts more time, money, and research into constantly bettering itself and I find that very worthy of celebration.
Let’s take a step back and look at some of the earliest forms of progressive production agriculture demonstrated by Indus River civilization over 4,000 years ago. The Indus River people knew that artificial application of water and selection of specific high-yielding crops would allow them to feed people in one area rather than having to constantly move. Thus, some of the earliest cities were formed around the advent of intentionally producing selected crops. This “breakthrough” may seem obvious now, but to the people of 4,000 years ago it opened doors that they hadn’t even imagined.
Today, we face similar issues and are looking at similar progressions. With an ever-growing population, farmers and ranchers need to invent a sustainable way to feed people on a larger scale than ever before with less resources available. Through the improved efficiently of irrigation and the implementation of higher-yielding hybrid and genetically modified seeds, as well as improved livestock growth efficiency, agriculturists are rising to the challenge.
We’ve come a long way since the times of the Indus River Civilization, but the progressive nature still holds true among the agricultural industry. Progression is necessary in the growing and improving world in which we live, but what’s even more uniquely characteristic of agriculturists is their desire to be proactive in promoting their industry. There are so many programs and organizations dedicated to promoting agriculture. One of the most prime examples is the beef ambassador program. This program consists of youth being educated on the beef industry (one of the biggest parts of the agricultural industry) and then educating consumers and fellow agriculturists. Personally, I have learned so much, not only about the beef industry, but about how to relate with consumer and talk to people about agriculture. I sometimes take for granted the fact that the agricultural industry is paying for programs like this to be in place so that they can train people to educate others and promote their products and production methods.
With that, have a fantastic end to your “Ag Celebration Week” and be sure to come up with some reasons why agriculture is worth celebrating (if you have any great ideas, be sure to share them with us through your comments, or our Twitter @beefambassador)!

Emma