Dust In My Coffee

Loving my life as a woman in agriculture one sip at a time

“It’s a good thing you guys are doing here” said the bus driver for a third grade class visiting our farm.  We have a pen pal class from an Omaha school through the Nebraska Farm Bureau Ag Pen Pal Program.  Throughout the year we have been sending letters back and forth learning about one another.   The visit to the farm involves all the senses as the students taste, see, hear, smell and touch farm life.

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One of the stations taught the students about the different ingredients used to feed cattle and how each ingredient is carefully weighed and mixed.  They loved taking turns mixing the corn, hay, vitamins, ground ear corn and distiller’s grain.

Steve and I have been ag pen pals for many years.  This is a great program to connect urban kids with farm families.  We have two schools, one in Omaha and one in Newman Grove, we correspond with throughout the year.   The students tell us a little bit about themselves, what they like and questions about our farm.  The questions over the years have ranged from “Do you ever go to the city?” to “Do the cattle live outside?”.  One student from a Lincoln, NE school asked us if we had a CB radio name what would it be.  The student thought it was quite funny when Steve replied “T-bone!”.

Most of the students we correspond with have no direct connection to a farm.  Through the correspondence we are able to provide answers to their questions and tell the story about how cattle are cared for on our feedlot.  We have also provided our current pen pal classes with a picture book to help them see the farm throughout the seasons and what kinds of jobs we do.

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This is an excerpt from the book showing how we unload ground ear corn and put it on a pile.  The visiting students were able to see how we cut the plastic cover in straight lines across the front as we take payloader bucket fulls to load on the feedtruck.  They could see how we store the ingredients as well as touch, see and smell the feed.

The farm visit takes a lot of time to prepare for.  We line up small animals for a petting zoo from 4-H families in our area.  The students are also served a beef lunch.  This year we ordered t-shirts for them to wear.   Our “Beef gives you ZIP” slogan is a great reminder of the nutritional benefits of eating beef.  Zinc, iron and protein are just a few of ten essential nutrients beef provides!

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Steve is serving up the hamburgers with chips, water and ice cream for dessert.  Many of the students came back for seconds on the hamburgers.  We receive comments like “These are the best hamburgers I’ve ever had!” from every class.

The comments from the bus driver reassured me about the value of hosting all ages to visit our farm.  He mentioned the good memory he had of visiting a farm when he was in grade school.  The pen pal program is more than sharing facts and information.  The program helps us build relationships between farmers and our urban friends.  These students will forever have a special place in our hearts and we hope they will have the same for us.

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Cleaning the shop, families bringing in small animals and getting food ready are all worth the look of this little girl loving on this rabbit!  The t-shirts say “BEEF, Gives you ZIP, Good 4 me, Good 4 you”.  Many thanks to Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Beef Council, Nebraska Soybean Board, Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation and my 4-H families for helping us share the story of agriculture through donations and support!

 

 

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Dear God,
You make all things new.  Thank you for the victory and power over sin and death we have through the name of Jesus.  Thank you that by your might, Jesus was raised from the grave, paving the way for us to have new life with you. Thank you for calling each one of us into existence.  Thank you for your eternal love and mercy calling each of us back to you when we stray.  Thank you for placing your spirit in our hearts so we may be the hands and feet of Jesus for one another.

We ask for your grace to see with eyes of faith,  We ask that you renew our hearts, minds, and lives, for the days ahead. We pray for your refreshing over us.

Keep your words of truth planted firm within us, help us to keep focused on what is pure and right, give us the power to be obedient to your word. And when the enemy reminds us where we have been, hissing his lies and attacks our way, we trust that your voice speaks louder and stronger, reminding us we are safe with you and that your purposes and plans will not fail. We ask that you will be our defense and rear guard, keeping our way clear, removing the obstacles, and covering the pitfalls. Lord, lead us with the gift of your most Holy Spirit to pick ourselves back up when we stumble to seek your mercy.  Allow the mercy we seek from you flow out into our family, friends, community and world to strengthen relationships and build peace.

Shine your light in us, through us, over us. May we make a difference in this world, for your glory and purposes. Set you way before us. May all your plans succeed. We may reflect your peace and hope to a world that so desperately needs your presence and healing.  Bring your healing love to those in the darkest moments of despair, to those in the greatest agony of pain and to each soul who cries out to you for help.

Thanks be to you God, for your indescribable gift! To you be all the glory, all the praise and all the worship on this Resurrection Day, and forever.  He is risen!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen Alleluia!

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Cattle are amazing creatures with the ability to live all over the world including arid climates, humid climates, mountainous regions and the plains.  Cattle are designed to convert forages into protein in large part because they have a ruminant digestive system.  Cattle help farmers and ranchers maintain a healthy ecosystem of plants with animals while providing needed dietary nutrients for people.  With many protein sources for people to choose from, the cow continues to wow us with more than beef.

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The nutrient density of one serving of beef for only 150 calories continues to be a great reason many people choose to include beef in their diet.  Taste and convenience are two more reasons beef has been center of the plate in our family.

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This soup is a family favorite.  You can find the recipe here

The beef community recognizes the importance of offering information to consumers about beef cuts, nutrition, recipes and how beef is raised.  You can learn what cuts of beef are great for grilling and those needing longer cooking time.  You can get recipes for family meals and large gatherings.  You can also meet farmers and ranchers like us to understand how beef gets to the plate.  All of that information can be found on one website you can go to by clicking here

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Steve has been the grill master here for many years.  He likes to try new seasonings, different types of grills and loves to serve beef to family and friends.

In addition to great tasting beef, cattle provide numerous by-products we often take for granted.  You might find some of these products in your closet, pantry, medicine chest and in the tires of your car!  The three categories of by-products are: Edible, Inedible and Medicinal.   Here is a sample of each category

Edible: 640 Pounds of beef products like roasts, steaks and hamburgers

Inedible: 1 Cow Hide can make 12 basketballs or 18 volleyballs or 20 footballs

Medicinal: 100 Individual drugs for humans like insulin from the pancreas

You can read more about by-products we get from beef by clicking here.

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Wow!  Cattle truly are amazing! We all benefit from a beef community dedicated to reducing waste, increasing quality and continually improving animal care.  Cattle reduce waste by keeping products like beet tops, soybean hulls and potato skins out of the landfill because they can eat them.  A nutritionist helps farmers and ranchers make sure cattle are getting a balanced diet with whatever ingredients the cattle are getting fed.   Our cattle are fed a diet including an ethanol by-product from corn.  I think I would enjoy living near a chocolate candy factory if some of that by-product ended up here!

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This is a sample of a ration cattle are fed.  You can see there is a mix of corn, supplement and roughage.  Ruminant animals need a certain percent of roughage throughout their lives.  Can you see the steer licking his mouth in the background?

From the tongue to the tail cattle are truly a wonder of nature.  Can you get through one day without one of the many products cattle can give us?   When you enjoy that next bite of savory roast beef remember the leather shoes you walk around in, the paintbrush bristles used by your child to create a masterpiece hanging on the refrigerator, the chewiness of the Rice Krispie Bar for dessert and the local game of basketball are all benefits we enjoy when cattle are part of our lives.

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We all win when we work as a team!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Bichon, Zoey, joined our family about twelve years ago.  Zoey was a dream come true for our youngest daughter, Kim.  Kim was in seventh grade when she started asking Steve and I for a dog.  I encouraged Kim to seek a dog we could keep in the house.  My husband told her if she could find one that did not shed and would not get very big he would allow a house dog.  Kim began the search for the dog we’d all come to love.

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Kim and I researched different breeds of dogs looking for one that wouldn’t shed.  We discovered the Bichon Frise breed.   We learned this breed of dog is known for not shedding and as a good dog for kids.  Kim started her process of winning Steve over to get a dog.  She cut out pictures of a Bichon and of our family.  We had taped up pictures on our bathroom mirror and other places in the house of a Bichon with a dream cloud above it’s head with our family in it.  Steve weakened pretty fast!

When we were given the green light to look for a puppy we immediately started our search.  We found a family in Lincoln, NE with a litter nearly ready to go.  We called.  We talked. We decided to drive to Lincoln and pick out our puppy.

The drive to Lincoln only takes about an hour and a half.  Kim kept asking “How much longer?” as we drove.  She was so excited she could hardly contain herself.  Little did Steve and I know how important this puppy was to her.  Our daughter, Emily, thought Kim was just missing her as she had recently graduated and went off to college.  Whatever the reason, Kim was definitely excited to get this dog.

We picked out our puppy, named her Zoey, and took her to her new home.  Before long we started watching “The Dog Whisperer” so we could learn what it meant to be a pack leader to help Zoey and her caretakers learn good habits.

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Kim continued training Zoey for obedience and agility in the 4-H program.  Zoey was not the best at the lay/stay position for one minute.  The noises at the fairgrounds were more interesting than listening to Kim!

Every morning when Kim would leave for school I would leave the house to go down to our feedlot.  The feedlot is downhill from the house so that is why we say we’re going down to the feedlot or up to the house!  We couldn’t leave Zoey in the house all day with no one to hang out with so she went with me and hung out in the office.  Over the past twelve years Zoey has continued her routine of going to the feedlot office in the morning to greet salesmen, bark at strangers and keep my office chair warm when I am outside.

zoey in chairZoey learned not to jump up on people and only barks at unusual noises or unfamiliar people.  She learned to recognize my father-in-law’s car, the Synergy truck, the garbage man, the neighbors who bring us corn and employee vehicles.  Zoey’s bark only lasts as long as it takes for visitors to reach down and pet her!zoey in office window

 

Zoey watches most of the feedlot activity from the office window.  Our family has also spent time with Zoey by going for walks…

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riding around on the ATV…

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playing the piano…

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playing in the snow…

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and countless other activities around the farm.  In the evening you can find Zoey curled up near my feet on the couch and later at the foot of our bed.  Every family should be so lucky to have a dog like our Zoey!

sleeping Zoey and Kim

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.” -Doris Day

The month of March brings a variety of changes to Nebraska.  We are privileged to live on a migration route for millions of geese, cranes and other birds as they head north signaling the start of spring.  March can be frustrating to birds and people when we are teased with sunny, springtime weather one day and a blustery snowstorm the next.

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We’ve had geese spend some time with us each spring.  They will swim on this small fish pond and then fly to the east side of our feedlot and swim on our holding pond.  Last year we watched one pair hatch and raise their ducklings on our holding pond.

 

No matter what Mother Nature decides to give us it is important to be prepared for the best and worst of weather conditions.  Here are some of the steps we take to be prepared for winter storms in March or any other month:

  1. Make sure the pantry is full.  For our feedlot it means making sure we have plenty of ingredients like corn, Synergy (a corn by-product made by ADM), supplement and ground hay.  Our pantry includes bins, open front buildings with bays for different feed ingredients and home grown feed kept under a large plastic tarp held down with a large number of tires.
  2. Make sure there is plenty of fuel in the barrels.  We store diesel and gas on the farm to use in our tractors.  Winter storms can delay delivery of fuel and more fuel will be used to take care of the cattle during and after the storm.
  3. Make sure the generator is ready to go.  Losing power can happen during any severe weather.  A tractor is used to run the generator. The generator is plugged into a power source providing electricity to keep wells running for water and many other electrical needs the farm has.
  4. Make sure snow removal equipment is ready to go.  We have a bunk blower to remove snow from the feedbunks saving our backs from scooping.  We also have a tractor mounted snow blower to move larger quantities of snow.  There are several other implements we used to move snow including a front mounted blade, a rear-end bucket and a box scraper.

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The goal during any storm is to make sure the cattle are fed as close to the normal time as possible and then get them comfortable places to lay down.  Our feedlot is designed to give protection from high winds with trees and metal windbreaks to help cattle handle Nebraska blizzards.

 

We have cement pads running along the feedbunk on the inside of the pen.  Those pads allow us to utilize cornstalk bedding for the cattle to lay on.  If we did not have the cement then the bedding would go on wet ground and not last as long as it does on the cement.   Here are some of the actions we take during and following a winter storm to care for our cattle:

  1. Clean the roads around the feedlot to allow the feedtruck to get to feed to the cattle. Sometimes this requires a very early wake up call to get a good start before step 2.
  2. Clean the bunks of snow before the cattle get fed.  If the snow is too wet or too deep we have to help with scoop shovels.
  3. Feed the cattle as close to the normal time as possible.
  4. Clean the cement pads in the cattle pens.
  5. Use the bale processor to put bedding in pens.
  6. Take the box scraper or bucket into pens to pile snow if needed.
  7. Haul piled snow out of pens to keep pens as dry as possible.
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Steve is using the box scraper to move snow.  The box scraper is used year-round on our feedlot for a variety of purposes including keeping the cattle pens in good condition.

Farmers and ranchers know Mother Nature is a force to work with.  During the month of March she sends us the spring wake up call of geese honking as they fly overhead.  She also sends the Robins and Cardinals into the trees as they take cover for a March blizzard.  Having a plan and being prepared is what enables us to take better care of our cattle no matter what March, April, May and every other month of the year brings us for weather.

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“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.”  –  Geoffrey B. Charlesworth