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   The older I get, the more I realize how different perspective on something can be based on where one is at the time, be it physically, emotionally, spiritually, and so on. This weekend I saw some amazing examples of differences in perspective and thought I would share them with you. Mostly because I had such a fun time and I want to tell about it! 🙂

Here is an all-but empty stadium from the staff and security perspective – 

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And a full stadium from the players’ perspective (or that of us flag holders, who are most essential for opening ceremonies to go as planned!)- 

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A little perspective from the seats, appreciating how well these guys wear their uniforms! – 

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And now, the absolutely amazing women being honored for surviving their fight – from the seats:

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And from up above:

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What an amazingly fun weekend to celebrate Emmet’s 16th birthday!

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And as always, to tie it back to food (you knew this was coming!)…

My perspective as a rancher is that beef producers are wonderful people and the product we raise is absolutely nutritious and delicious. Twice, very recently, I have heard people imply that hormones from today’s meat are causing young ladies to mature more quickly. I know that is simply not true – for at least a couple of reasons. First of all, we are just feeding our children much better these days and young peoples bodies are no longer lacking in nutrition that may have delayed puberty. Secondly, the amount of hormones in meat are minuscule in comparison to other foods that are, hopefully, consumed on a regular basis. A friend of mine did a wonderful blog post using M&M’s to show the comparisons of hormone levels in different foods. You can see it here

So, I say, GO, EAT BEEF WITH CONFIDENCE! YOU WILL NOT CAUSE EARLY BREAST DEVELOPMENT IN YOUR DAUGHTERS! 

Finally, a quick, weeknight recipe for ya…
Stuffed (with whatever you like best) hamburgers!
You will need: 
enough ground beef to make nice size patties for your family
bacon
cheese
Peppers (pickled banana is what I used)
Salt and Pepper
Anything else you think sounds amazingly delicious

Just take the portion of meat for each person and divide equally in half. Make a large, thin patty out of each half. Place the desired stuffing ingredients on top of one side (as shown)
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Cover with the other half and pinch the sides together so the cheese doesn’t leak out into the grill.
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Grill to perfection.
And – enjoy the juicy, flavorful, nutritious, deliciousness…
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What is the first thing you thought of when you saw that title? My guess is any number of thoughts may pop into different people’s minds; maybe seasoning, lighting a grill, a special cut of steak, or even what to have with it.

T-Bones grilled by Emmet

T-Bones grilled by Emmet

Today, I want to help you understand how a rancher or cattle feeder makes steak; what does it take to accomplish that delicious, protein packed meal we all love to enjoy? Grab your boots and gloves – we have to step out of the kitchen for a whole lotta this process!

First of all, of course, we have to start with a herd of cows.

Note our special "herd marker" cow, i.e. the Longhorn, taking up all kinds of space!

Note our special “herd marker” cow, i.e. the Longhorn, taking up all kinds of space!

Next, there has to be a bull to put with those cows. Ranchers study bull pedigrees for weeks and even months, deciding which ones would work best for their situation. They study things such as carcass traits, growth tendancies, maternal traits (in case they want to keep heifers out of him), and of course, structural soundness. One mature bull can cover approximately 30 to 40 cows, depending on the environment. In areas where it takes significantly more acres to sustain a cow, more bulls may be needed to make sure all cows are bred in a timely manner. Many ranchers strive for a 45 day “calving window.” We like to have as many calves born as close together as possible, so we have a nice uniform group to market later.

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Cows and bulls get to hang out together for 45 to  60 days during the summer. I am timing all of this for a spring calving time. Some people prefer to have their cows calve in the fall – which is good for you consumers because that means there is great beef available all through the year!

Pasture Rainbow

During the summer while cows are on the grass, we have to make sure they always have salt and mineral available. They must have access to water for drinking. We also have to make sure fences are in good condition and thistles do not get out of control. Thistles can be sprayed or dug. I definitely prefer spraying if I am the one doing the work!

During the summer we also have to check the cattle regularly to be sure their feet and eyes are not injured. Cattle tend to like to stand in ponds, which can soften their hooves and allow injury to happen more easily, potentially causing a condition called footrot. They can also get pinkeye from flies. Either of those conditions must be treated immediately so the animal does not suffer.

Cow Swimming Party

In the very late summer to early fall, the calves are weaned from the cows. The calves receive vaccination boosters and are put on a very nutrient dense diet. They may either be kept at our place to be “backgrounded” (introduced to feed from a bunk) or they may be sold and go directly to a feedyard. At this point, they are no longer small and cute. They are very much growing animals that want to be fed well, lay around, and grow.

In the fall, in our area, we move the entire herd of cows, calves no longer with them,  to a stalk field after the crops have been harvested. The cows love it, and it is feed we can offer them that is low cost.

Cattle on stalks.

Cattle on stalks.

If we get significant snows during the winter grazing months, we may have to take hay to where the cows are, or if it is bad enough, we may have to bring them in to the lots and calving pastures early and start feeding them hay and supplement. While on the stalks, we have to run water everyday, make sure they have plenty of salt and mineral, and provide a protein supplement. Again, they get checked regularly to make sure they are o.k. Often, deer will run through the fence (which is a temporary electric fence that has to be put up before taking the cows there and removed once they leave) and it has to be repaired.

Are you still with me here? I promise – we really are making steak in this whole process!

Now, when calving time is getting close, the cows are brought to an area to be watched more closely and fed hay and distillers grains (or whatever a producer has and buys to make a nutritionally ballanced ration) daily. Some areas of the country are very fortunate to have winter range and the cows can graze for much of their nutrients. We are not so blessed and we get to deliver feed to them every afternoon.

Emmet driving the tractor and feedwagon to deliver the cows their daily ration.

Emmet driving the tractor and feedwagon to deliver the cows their daily ration.

 Once it is time for calves to start arriving, someone checks the cattle every 2 to 3 hours. Even through the night. And yes – when one member of a couple has been out in the cold to check and all is well so they get to crawl back into bed, their body is cold and now both members of the couple are awake! Another reason 45 days is long enough…sleepless nights!

This is what we are looking for! This heifer is about to give birth to a calf. The water sack is out, the hooves are presented correctly, she just needs to lay down and have it.

This is what we are looking for! This heifer is about to give birth to a calf. The water sack is out, the hooves are presented correctly, she just needs to lay down and have it.

Finally, green grass arrives and we are turning cows and calves out to pasture for the summer. Ideally, with enough moisture, and warm weather, this can happen in very early May.

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Before we turn them out, however, calves are vaccinated, the bull calves are castrated, and we mend fence all the way around the pastures. And once again – we are timing our “turn out” date to put bulls with cows.

Another spring time event –  the afore-mentioned weaned calves are ready to send to the packing plant. The way the particular ones shown below were managed and fed, they were harvested at approximately 14 months of age. I do know that the beef that came from them was very high quality, as we received the carcass data on each one individually. They graded 97% USDA Choice or better – that is amazing!

 Market cattle nearly ready to be harvested for beef.

So, as you can see, there is a significant amount of time, work, and dedication into making steak. As one group or calf crop is going to harvest, the next has just been born and and we are getting ready to breed the cows again for the next one.

Whew! – that took a bit longer to explain than I thought! Of course, there were many daily details that got left out as I wrote this, but I really wanted you to get the jist of what goes on around our outfit…

Please – enjoy beef often, it is good for you and it tastes amazing! And also – our family and many others like ours really and truly love our life of being ranchers and beef producers. Thank you for enjoying what we raise!

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This weekend was a first for our family. Matt and I went away overnight on a date (no, that isn’t the first, but I will admit, it doesn’t happen often!). The “first” I am referring to is Kaydee and Emmet going to a cattle show all by themselves. Oh – they weren’t totally on their own. We had a very nice neighbor that was kind enough to let  our heifers hitch a ride to the show in their trailer. And, another family who lives just down the road was there, too. Not to mention all of the wonderful families we get to visit with only at shows…yes, it takes a community to raise a child and the cattle show community was there for us this weekend. Oh – it took a tremendous amount of TRUST on our part to let our kids go 3 hours away on their own, stay in a hotel on their own, get up in the morning and take care of the heifers on their own; get the heifers show ready and be in the ring on time on their own; and on and on and on. But, they did it! They joined some wonderful friends for a Thanksgiving feast on Thursday night after they got the cattle washed, fed and settled. They got all checked in for the show and into the hotel. The didn’t wreck! Wow! Maybe we have done a few things right getting them to this stage, LOL! I just can’t believe they did all of that, and did well, without me there doing my motherly duty of nagging!

Emmet and Rosa in Final Drive

The kids had a great “Showcation” over Thanksgiving weekend, while Matt and I spent a day celebrating the life of a very good friend who got to spend his Thanksgiving in heaven and then we left for a couple of days in the city – First for us…attending an NFL game.  FUN TIME!!!!  Back to the kids… What is a “Showcation” you might ask? It is time off work that is spent at a cattle show or in a cattle show environment. Showcation often financially replaces a traditional vacation. (for many years). But it is SSSOOO fun!!!

Trust…it has to be earned. It can take years to earn one’s trust and then it can be diminished in one quick wrong choice. Yes – I said choice.  Every decision we make is a choice. For those of us growing food for many others besides ourselves, we make the choice every day to treat our animals well. Our family chooses to raise cattle that will become beef, which we hope many, many others enjoy as part of healthy meals. Our choice to keep our cattle healthy and comfortable will result in a great eating experience for someone else down the road. We want customers to trust that the beef they are buying is tasty, tender, and healthy and that the cattle were treated well along the way.

Life is full of choices and opportunities to earn trust. The kids passed a BIG trust test this weekend. We certainly aren’t ready to let them drive that far on their own with the pickup and trailer! However, we might let them go places on their own more often. And – that means more dates for Matt and I! Plus, I figure that if the kids are hanging out together,  they will look out for each other and we don’t have to worry about them being out on dates – at least for now!

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At first glance, what do you think are the occupations of the gentlemen in this picture? Maybe business executives? Accountants? Professional communicators? Health care professionals? Or, maybe owners of multi-faceted businesses??  And, where do you think they might be from?

Actually, these men hold each and every one of those jobs listed above, along with many more depending on the daily task at hand. How can that be you ask?  Because a farmer or rancher has to be able to do any one of those jobs on any given day. And, they happen to be from different states, all across our great nation.

When any of us head into the grocery store or out to the restaurant, or even to the farmer’s market, it is not uncommon to at least have a fleeting thought about some of the production work that went into growing the food that is there.

What many people often don’t think about is all of the work farmers and ranchers have to do off of the farm in order to have the freedom to continue doing what they love to do. Some days they may visit their banker or insurance agent. Other days can be filled with purchasing supplies and inputs. But why on earth would ranchers be standing around at a meeing in suits? Aren’t they more commonly seen in jeans & boots? Of course they are!

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Common workwear often includes camo!

Today I was in Washington, D.C. with other beef producers discussing the beef community’s challenges and opportunities at hand. Think about teachers or health professionals or country music performers. Each profession has an organization for people with similar interests. In today’s world, those of us raising cattle for beef cannot stand idly by and let others determine our fate. We have to step off the ranch or feedyard – in our boots –

My boot is the fun black one with the super comfortable square toe!

and educate others as to what really needs to happen to keep healthy, safe, nutritious beef as an everyday meal option.

It is completely my honor to serve with absolutely “stand-up” men and women from all over the U.S. with as much passion as I have for beef and the entire beef community.

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Again last night a friend informed all of her Facebook friends that her young child had been given a piece of information at school indicating that red meat should be kept to a very minimum in the diet in order to stay healthy. I am SO happy that I know otherwise, and I would encourage you to check out one of the most recent studies giving me confidence to continue eating red meat regularly. The BOLD diet allows one to include beef in their menu every single day and achieve a more healthy cholesterol level! What? Really? Yes, my friends, you can confidently include beef in your diet every day and know you are doing your body good!

I recently fixed a recipe for my family from The Healthy Beef Cookbook & it was SO delicious that I want to share it with you. I think it only took 30 minutes or less to have supper on the table and ready to eat!

Tenderloin Steaks with Jalapeno Pepper Sauce

Spice Rub
3/4  teaspoon garlic salt
3/4  teaspoon chili powder
1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper
1/4  teaspoon ground cumin
1/4  teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Here are the spices ready to go on the steak:

 

 

Here is the wine that I COMPLETELY enjoyed while cooking supper 🙂

4   beef tenderloin steaks (I used 2 big ones and we shared), cut 1 inch thick (about 4 oz each)
1/2  cup ready to use beef broth
1/4  cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
2  tablespoons jalapeno pepper jelly

1. Combine spice rub ingredients in small bowl; press evenly onto both sides of each beef steak. Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat until hot. Place steaks in skillet; cook 10 to 13 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning once. Remove steaks; keep warm.


 

2.  Add broth, vinegar, and jelly to skillet; increase heat to medium-high. Cook and stir until browned bits attached to skillet are dissolved and sauce thickens slightly. Serve sauce with steaks.

(Sorry, that one’s a little blurry – I might have had a second glass of wine before taking the picture!)

And in just a few short minutes, our meal was ready!

I hope you can enjoy some healthy beef, grown by farmers and ranchers who absolutely love what they get to do everyday to help put food on your table. 🙂

Interesting fact I learned yesterday:  Nebraska farmers are responsible for putting food in one out of every four mouths in the U.S.   ~I am proud to be a Nebraskan!

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This post will probably be my one and only like this – sorry, my intolerance for self-inflicted medical problems is going to sail quickly from my brain to my fingertips to my screen to your screen. There are people around this world wondering where their next meal will come from and then there are people who just maybe have too many choices (no fat, no sugar, diet everything) available!

There are thousands of people from around the world trying to influence the eating choices of everyone else. Their reasons for doing so may range from genuine care to activist driven enthusiasm to economic gain and anything and everything in between.  I tend to write about farming and ranching in general and try to remind folks that the beef my family raises is very good for them in many ways. This post is a little different from my usual.

So, why the title chosen for this post…Just Eat? Sometimes I run across people who make TERRIBLE eating choices that eventually become genuine eating disorders.  My daughter has a friend who got way more than she probably bargained for in a several night stay with our family while her folks are on vacation. I just HATE seeing a beautiful teenage girl not provide her body with the necessary nutrients to function as God intended. We finally got to a point where I think she was hearing what I was saying about necessary calories and physical activity to burn those calories (and, putting on make-up and doing your hair do NOT count in that!) and what should comprise that caloric intake. I am a firm believer that some sort of “chip/cracker things” made primarily of air and a little of seeds or rice or something do not count as breakfast!

Ok, sorry, that may have been a bit more ranting than any of you readers needed. Please, please, please remember that your body needs a balance of nutrients, including protein, in order for all parts and pieces to play together nicely. When you don’t provide your body what it needs, it lets you know by retaliating, sometimes in very serious and potentially fatal ways.

So, if there is anyone out there who was having doubts about including beef in your diet often – let me assure you, almost 6 oz per day can by HEALTHY for you! Not only can you improve your overall cholesterol level, but you get all kinds of protein, Zinc, Iron, and Vitamin B. You can find out more about the BOLD diet here. It is a thorough report, so be ready for detail! In addition, rest assured that the fat that is in beef, which is what adds super delicious flavor and juiciness, is quite good for you. When you let your body take in some fat, you crave less other things like simple carbohydrates, making it much easier to control your overall intake of calories. I say it’s still ok to have some chocolate, too – that’s just necessary for general happiness 🙂

All my life, I have heard from my grandma and teachers and t.v. commercials and who knows where else, “You are what you eat.” Well, I guarantee, I would rather eat and be muscle than some kind of air chip cracker seed kind of thing!

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Wow! I have found my jet lag threshold! A 14-hour time zone change takes some adjusting for this set-in-its-ways body! I was very fortunate this past week to have the opportunity to promote beef in the wonderful city/country of Singapore.

Don’t you love how the Chinese New Year decoration in this store looks like it’s popping right out of my head? Totally festive!!

While there I got to visit with people involved in all different aspects of beef marketing, from importers to retail store managers to chefs. I was truly impressed with everyplace we visited.

At this point in time, we share much of the meat case with beef from Australia, Japan, and even a little from Ireland. U.S. beef is a favorite for many shoppers and they especially love corn-fed beef! I was VERY glad to hear that, as beef from our family’s farm certainly suits their taste buds!

I was not surprised to learn that meat customers there, just like here, appreciate knowing where their food comes from. Consumers who have ample food supplies available to them are all similar in many ways, regardless of what hemisphere they reside in.

Many people in Singapore are preparing to celebrate the Chinese New Year. 2012 is the year of the Dragon & I am told that people try to have a baby in the year of the dragon because it will have much good fortune. HHMMMM….I was born in the year of the Rat – what does that mean?????

Even in a city/country that has strong Chinese influence, there is still a Chinatown – I had to go there on my last night there just to see the decorations & witness the start of the celebrations.

They definitely go all out!

Happy Chinese New Year!

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