Beef Fuels Boilermaker

This weekend, Justana, Tori and I were given the opportunity to assist the New York Beef Council at the 2014 Boilermaker Race Expo in Utica, New York. The Boilermaker 15K (9.3 mile) race is the biggest one in the entire nation, with thousands of runners and over $40,000 offered in prizes. They also offer a 5K (3.1 miles), a three mile walk, and a children’s race. The Expo takes place during the two days before the race, and is a time for sponsors to promote their cause.  The Beef Ambassadors joined the Beef Council at the beef

The spice bar

The spice bar

booth (really it’s an entire aisle if beef-related promoters), where we served two different beef spices: “Chill-Out” beef chili seasoning and “Mama Mia” Italian steak rub. People got a recipe and a spice bag, and got it put a scoop of each individual spice into their bag to create the seasonings. This interactive method of promoting beef allowed for many conversations; the line was practically to the door.


The Boilermaker Burger

The Boilermaker Burger

The New York Beef Council not only supports the race, but has also developed a “Boilermaker Burger.” The burger is served at local restaurants for only 5 weeks, as a promotion for both beef and the race, and is somewhat of a novelty item. This year, for every burger sold, $0.50 went to the Food Bank of Central New York.

While promoting beef and seeing all of the competitors was a blast,I think the most excitement came from the anticipation or running the 5K. That’s right, the three of us who have never ran three miles in our lives were going to wake up at 5 am Sunday morning and join over a thousand other runners in the 2014 Boikermaker 5 kilometer race!! The thought was both exhilarating and terrifying, but we knew we had to do it for Team Beef. And we did! All three of us (and over 100 other Team Beef runners spread out through both races) finished the race-and ran the whole thing to boot! It was such a fantastic experience and encouraged me to enter more races as a part of team beef. It was a beautiful weekend in Utica, and though I wasn’t expecting to run three miles before boarding my plane, I couldn’t be more happy or proud that I did!

imageHave a great week!


12 Things All Cattle Showmen Know About County Fairs

County fair season is underway! For fairgowers, it’s a fun time filled with concerts, rides, greasy food, and tractor pulls. But for thousands of livestock families across the nation, this week is more anticipated than Christmas Day!

For families with cattle projects, fair week is taken very seriously. Although each fair is different, here are twelve things that ALL cattle showmen can relate to:

1. “Fair food” actually means crockpot meals and loaded coolers.Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 7.38.59 AM

2. The kids who don’t show cattle will never understand why you have to wash and blow EVERYDAY.

3. You will undoubtedly go through an entire bottle of baby powder to get all the ultra-sound oil out of your calf’s top-line. (It all pays off if you make rate-of-gain!)

4. The camper becomes a harbor for multiple changes of clothes, dirty boots, show boots, and the entire grocery store snack aisle.

5. You have to take your own water onto the grounds because cattle are picky drinkers and don’t like city water.Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 7.40.29 AM

6. Naps and showering become a rare and precious amenity.

7. Show day actually starts at 4 AM.

8. You will have the same conversation with your mother every year that goes something like:

“Smile and act like you are having fun in the ring!”
“I am having fun mom. This is just my show face to let the judge know I mean business!”

9. The best part of any day is sitting at tie-outs with the barn crew.Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 7.37.32 AM

10. No matter how hard you try, you always go home with one less scotch comb than you started with.

11. The hardest part of the fair ending is going home to an empty barn.

12. No matter how you do on show day, you always walk away proud of yourself because you know that you put in the time, work and effort to raise and care for the largest market animal on the fair grounds!

To all the cattle showmen preparing for your county fairs; work hard, keep cool, have a blast, and good luck!

All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen

Ag Awareness Day

Ag Day

Talking to fourth graders about beef at the annual Ag Awareness Day

Last week, I attended the annual Ag Awareness Day at my county’s fairgrounds, where all of the fourth graders in Siskiyou County are invited to come learn about agriculture. The kids take the day off school and get to come with their class to see agriculturists and learn firsthand what they do every day to improve agricultural practices. There are Cattlemen and women, Farm Bureau members, Resource Conservation District employees, 4-Hers and members of the FFA there every year to help the kids learn about ag. When I was in fourth grade, I remember going to Ag Awareness Day and thinking it was just about the coolest thing ever. Part of that was because I knew all the presenters (my dad was the FFA advisor and my mom was an active CattleWomen), but I still learned a ton. I remember one of the coolest stations was the roping station where we learned about working cattle and why treating calves and other animals with care when roping them was a big deal. We even got to throw a rope at a calf dummy. Needless to say, when I got to high school and my ag teacher put up the Ag Awareness Day helper sign up sheet, my name was at the top of the list. I’ve helped all four years of high school and it’s been such a great experience! When I was a freshman, I signed up to help in the beef booth (before I even knew what a beef ambassador was), and I’ve been there ever since. My time as a National Beef Ambassador really put this year’s Ag Awareness Day into perspective, and made me realize how truly important it is to advocate—not only for beef, but for agriculture as a whole, especially to young kids. Before, when a fourth grader would tell me they were vegetarian, I would just laugh awkwardly and move on, but this year, I made a point to ask them why they didn’t eat beef.Ag Day 3If they told me it was unhealthy and made them fat, I explained that it was all about portion size and choosing lean cuts. If they said they thought it was cruel to kill the animals, I told them that beef producers work hard every day to make sure their cattle have the best life possible, so people can enjoy the best burgers and steaks possible (happy cattle=better steaks). If they didn’t respond, I didn’t push it. But I was surprised at the number of them who were totally willing to dialogue with me and listen to what I had to say. Granted, I may have some angry parents knocking at my door, but I realized that it’s so important to have positive conversations with kids before they make decisions based on false information. Ag Day used to just be a fun day talking about agriculture, but this year it was much more. Now that I know the amount of misinformation out there, I was better able to read the kids and what they were thinking when I told them facts about beef. I can honestly say they were one of the most positive audiences I’ve ever talked to, and even if only one of them was able to go home and tell their parents how beef can be a part of a healthy diet, it will be a success. It was such an encouraging day and solidified my confidence in the need for more agricultural communication (my intended major)!

Enjoy your week!


Learning about ear notching in pigs

Learning about ear notching in pigs

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

Life Lessons from the Showring

This past weekend at the Ohio Beef Expo, you only had to watch about one or two classes of the steer and heifer show to realize one thing: nine year old’s are tough! The weather was clear and cool outside, making it perfect for the cattle’s thick hides; naturally the animals were feeling a little frisky. But despite a few calves getting loose here and there, you could tell that the young showman were having a blast and that they were all focused on doing their best.

As I watched the young showmen in the ring, I thought back to my first years showing cattle. Even though I have been removed from the show industry for several years, the lessons that I learned from the experience have never left me.  If you are a parent of a young showman or a showman yourself, hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your show experience.

Halter breaking a calf after school during my Junior year of high school.

Halter breaking a calf after school during my Junior year of high school.

Do your work ahead of time:
You never just walk into the show ring and expect to win Grand Champion without a lot of hard work and effort behind the scenes. It takes countless hours of working in the barns, monitoring feed rations, and working hair in order for beef animals to look and feel their best on show day. For me, this meant putting in 8 hours at school, going through grueling soccer practices, and then still staying out in the barns until well after dark, only to get up and do it all again the next day. But by the time show day rolled around, I never regretted those extra hours that I spent in the barns because I knew the beef animals that I walked into the ring were a true representation of my hard work.

Don’t get worked up:
During my fourth year of showing cattle, I vividly remember the terrifying feeling of having a panic attack in the show ring. I was so worked up that I could barely catch my breath and it took everything in me to make it through the class. Once you get a little upset, the effect just keeps snowballing and it’s hard to calm yourself (and your calf) down. The most important thing to remember in that situation is that you are in the ring to have fun! Whether your calf is having a bad day or you feel like you made a few mistakes, take a deep breath, smile, and remember that your time in the ring is what you’ve been looking forward to all year; enjoy it!

Don’t pay attention to the crowd; just do your job:
It’s easy to become nervous when you have hundreds of eyes on you in the show ring; you feel like even the tiniest mistakes are somehow the center of everyone’s attention. But the truth is, once you are in the ring, you have a job to do and nothing else matters. When it’s time to get down to business, let the world fade away and simply focus on giving your best performance for the judge.

It all pays off in the ring!

It all pays off in the ring!

Just keep showing:

It can be frustrating being so small in comparison to such a large animal, and many times it feels like the steer is leading you, rather than the other way around. It’s important, though, to keep showing, no matter how many times that calf swings out of line or moves it’ s feet out of place right after you set them. Your calf knows you and they know when you get frustrated, so just keep working and show the judge that you aren’t giving up, even if your calf is having a bad day.

And most importantly, I learned what it means to be a good producer.

My family knows that to get the purple, you have to work together as a team.

My family knows that to get the purple, you have to work together as a team.

As a nine year old, caring for a market animal is a really tough job. It isn’t like having a pet, because you know that what you are raising serves a greater purpose than simply being a companion. Raising my own cattle to show through 4-H taught me that everything I did as the producer was a direct reflection of my family and our farm. As I now look forward to my future in the beef industry, I know that I have the same responsibility of representing the beef community in a positive light.

Whether you are raising one calf to show through 4-H, an entire herd of beef animals, or maybe you have no connection to cattle at all, these five points can still mean something to everyone. Be prepared, don’t dwell on mistakes, do your job, never give up, and set a good example. It’s incredible what raising livestock at nine years old can teach you and the life lessons that will remain with you throughout the years.

All for the love of beef,
Sierra Jepsen

Spring Break: Skip the beach, go for beef

On Friday, I waved goodbye to six of my friends as they loaded up their cars at 3AM and prepared for an 18-hour drive to Florida to board a cruise ship for spring break. Although I was bummed that I wouldn’t be able to spend a week with them in the sun beside a pool, that thought quickly passed as I realized how great my own spring break was going to be; I get to spend a week with beef! And the coolest part is that I’m not the only college student to choose cattle over the beach.

The Mississippi State Collegiate Cattlemen making a stop at a purebred Brangus farm.

The Mississippi State Collegiate Cattlemen making a stop at a purebred Brangus farm.

At Mississippi State University, my great friend Joanna King excitedly told me about a trip that their Collegiate Cattlemen’s Association takes every year over spring break. The 15 members attending this year will get to travel north to Kentucky, making stops in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee to tour several beef operations, the FPL harvesting facility, UK’s Animal Science department, and Churchill Downs. Joanna said she was really excited to spend a week on the road and see a different side of the industry, including a cloned cow!

Leslie Risch fabricating a heifer carcass in the Ohio State Meat Lab

Leslie Risch fabricating a heifer carcass in the Ohio State Meat Lab

Caitlyn Black, a lamb a pork producer from Marcy, Ohio and a Junior at Ohio State wants to be an honorary beef girl after participating in several beef programs through Ohio State this past weekend. Representatives from Colorado State University came to our animal science department to conduct a beef tenderness study; OSU also wrapped up the two-day Beef 509 program, which is designed to raise awareness about how beef is produced and the reasons why it sometimes misses its mark with consumers’ palates and producers’ pocketbooks. Caitlyn reflects, “It was a great experience being an ‘outsider’ to the industry, to really get a handle on how to produce quality, market ready cattle that can yield and grade high in the system.”

As for the National Beef Ambassador team, we are in Denver! Our team gets to spend an exciting week in Colorado, touring the JBS packing plant and stockyards, participating in leadership training with NCBA and even touring downtown Denver.

Breeding sales are a large part of the Ohio Beef Expo

Breeding sales are a large part of the Ohio Beef Expo

Once returning home, I will spend the rest of my break working at the Ohio Beef Expo alongside the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association. The Ohio Beef Expo is a premier event for Ohio’s beef community, bringing together producers from all over to exhibit and sell some of the best beef cattle that our state has to offer.

What an exciting week for the beef community! Across the nation, students everywhere are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the beef community while not having to worry about missing classes. For me, getting to spend this week with my teammates and learning more about the beef industry is pretty close to a perfect vacation; now if only there were a beach in Colorado!

All for the love of beef,
Sierra Jepsen

Go for the Gold, With Beef!

Following my county’s annual cattlemen’s banquet this past Saturday, my family ended our evening by watching the Olympics together. As we watched, footage came on the television of a girl with flaming red hair rocketing down an ice slope on a skeleton board. My dad instantly turned to me and said, “ Have you heard her story?” Many Olympians have incredible come back stories or interesting backgrounds, but I was puzzled why my dad was so excited about this particular girl. He simply exclaimed to me, “She’s a beef producer from Kansas. When she isn’t competing, she’s back home feeding her cows!”
In my mind, I always thought training for the Olympics was a full time job; however, for this young woman, it’s simply a side project to her ranching career! I was so intrigued by her story that I began to wonder if there were other members of the beef community who moonlighted as professional athletes in the 2014 Olympics. What I found was incredible:

Kaitlyn Farrington, Idaho
Gold Medalist in the Snowboarding half-pipe
Kaitlyn grew up raising beef cattle and used the money she earned to fund her early snowboarding career.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 5.00.20 PM

Farrington goes for the gold with beef

Emily Scott, Missouri
Speed Skater and 2014 Olympic Beef Ambassador for Missouri
Credits the nutritional elements of beef as a key part to her daily workout regime.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 4.55.37 PM

2014 Olympic Beef Ambassador from Missouri, Emily Scott

Katie Uhlaender, Kansas

Placed 4th overall in the Skeleton
Used her Olympic prize money from 2007 and 2008 to buy cattle and follow in her father’s footsteps of being a cattle producer and a professional athlete.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 4.55.11 PM

Katie snaps a felfie while working back home on her Kansas ranch

From sharing the nutritional side, the economic side and the hard-working side, these ladies cover the beef community from every angle. It’s so neat that they are able to share their beef story while competing in the 2014 Olympic games! These women do an incredible job of sharing what beef did for them; what can it do for you?

All for the love of beef,
Sierra Jepsen

Leadership is Give and Take

As I’m sure you know by now (if you follow the Beef Ambassadors), we spent this week at the National Cattlemen Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. There were thousands of attendees from the industry to talk with and learn from, and it was a fantastic opportunity to take a step back and visit with the people that we are representing on a daily basis. I was nothing if not encouraged to see how proactive and involved people in the beef industry are. They are constantly looking for ways to better the industry and send a positive message to consumers.

Talking with Mr. John Sticka of Certified Angus Beef

The Beef Ambassadors had the opportunity of attending a collegiate round-table on our last day in Nashville, where we were privileged to talk to some influential folks in the industry about their roles of leadership. The round-table style was very effective; there were two leaders at each of the five tables (yes, they were round), and they talked about or opened discussion on different facets of leadership. We were at each table for five minutes, at which point we moved to the next table. Some of the leaders included Craig Huffines with the Hereford Association; Forrest Roberts, CEO of National Cattlemens Beef Association; Polly Ruhland, CEO of Cattlemens Beef Board; John Sticka with Certified Angus Beef; Weldon Wynn, Chairman of Cattlemens Beef Board, and more.  Each one of them had very impressive job titles, and were immersed in leadership every day. Five minutes was definitely not enough time, they were all a wealth of leadership knowledge and had lots of advice for us young industry leaders. After the session, we were asked if we had received any “gold nuggets” of wisdom, and one thing in particular jumped to the front of my mind. One of the topics of discussion was whether leadership meant “giving,” and how we could be givers in leadership. Mrs. Tammi Didlot, past president of American National CattleWomen, addressed this question in a way that I found to be quite the “gold nugget”. She said, “Leadership can be defined as a ‘give and take’ job. As leaders, we should always be taking responsibility, and giving respect.” This statement struck me, and made me really think about what it means to be a leader. Leadership is about taking responsibility when things go wrong and giving credit when they go right. I think that mentality truly puts things into perspective when it comes to being a leader. It’s a very big job, and something that doesn’t always come naturally. Theses things we are giving and taking as leaders aren’t necessarily tangible, but they’re very important, and, in my opinion, the key to good, effective leadership. I hope this blog has inspired you in your leadership pursuits! Let us know if you have any more “gold nuggets” to share.


#CIC14 #beefmeet

What a fantastic week it has been at the National Cattlemen’s Convention in Nashville. With 7,000 in attendance it was quite the event. It was such an honor to represent the beef ambassador program and the beef community as a whole. The trade show and cattlefax seminar were my favorite of all the events we attended. I was able to learn so many great things about our community along side my team. Make sure to tune in the next few weeks as a discuss my experiences and the convention.

Beef & Blessings,



Branded Beef

One of the coolest things about today’s beef market is that it’s so versatile, and there are so many options available to the consumer. From grain to grass-finished, and organic to natural, there are more choices than there ever have been. Last weekend, the National Beef Ambassadors traveled to Wooster, Ohio to the headquarters for a specialized market of branded beef called Certified Angus Beef. We spent Monday learning about the Certified Angus Brand and what “branded beef” really is. Personally, I learned a ton. First of all, CAB is a non-profit organization. That’s not to say that they’re not non-revenue, but they put 100% of their funds into education and research of their brand and the influence it has on consumers. I was surprised to find out that Certified Angus Beef doesn’t actually own any product. The only entities that belong to them are their facilities in Wooster and the registered trademark of the Certified Angus brand itself. This is known as intellectual property, and it allows them to invest almost all of their energies into keeping the legacy of their brand relevant and appealing to the consumer. We heard from representatives of several different facets of their business, including marketing, legal, human resources, and public relations. I found it really cool to see how each part of the company worked together for one very predominant goal: making their brand known to the consumer allowing it to represent a quality product.image
There are ten very explicit specifications which beef has to meet in order to be considered Certified Angus Beef:
1. Modest or higher marbling
2. Medium or fine marbling texture
3. Must qualify as “A” maturity (youngest classification of product)
4. 10- to 16-square-inch ribeye area
5. Less than 1,000-pound hot carcass weight
6. Less than 1 inch fat-thickness
7. Superior muscling (restricts influence of dairy cattle)
8. Practically free of capillary ruptures
9. No dark cutters (ensures the most visually appealing steak)
10. No neck hump exceeding 2 inches
Only one in four cattle that are considered for CAB actually meet the requirements. Those that don’t go into the program are simply sold as USDA prime or choice grade beef.
Certified Angus Beef is paid pennies on the dollar for every pound of CAB brand beef that is sold both to retail and then to the consumer (they get paid twice). One of the things that I found most interesting about the Certified Angus Beef business is that they track every single pound of CAB brand beef that is sold. Whether it be to retail, food service, or internationally, they have tabs on literally all of their branded beef. They even had scanned copies of menus from restaurants that sell CAB so they can see how it’s being marketed and make sure all of the information is correct.
We really enjoyed getting to tour the facilities of Certified Angus Beef and getting a peek into what they do on a day to day basis with their branded beef. Their business is just one example of the myriad of beef options available to today’s consumer. If you have a favorite brand, type, or even cut of beef, we’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment or contact us on our Facebook (National Beef Ambassadors) or Twitter (@nationalbeefambassador) accounts.
Thanks for continuing to follow us as we kick off the 2014 year with our CAB trip and our trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the Pennsylvania Farm Show!
Until next time,
Emma Morris