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Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.

If you have zipped up a blue and gold corduroy jacket you know exactly what those words stand for; if you haven’t you might not know that is the motto of the FFA.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about this motto this weekend (a lot of seat time will do that to you whether it is a saddle, tractor or car.) 

I have specifically been thinking about the first 2 lines and how following this motto since I was a greenhand FFA member has led me to be the woman I am today! 

Learning to do…Doing to learn

My mind started swirling a little on Friday as my Mom and I tackled a few things (just the two of us) it started with a plan to go trail riding but a feisty quarter pony thought she would give us a run for our money in the trailer loading department.  Mom and I worked together on something we had “learned to do” years ago, we kept working with her and did not give up. Once she was loaded she was unloaded and loaded again! Why? Because she needed to “do to learn” to know we weren’t going to let her by with being a stinker. 

Jen and Mom riding horses
Trail to Mitchell

After our ride and some lunch we noticed a few things that needed to be done around my parents’ farm, but in reality knew the guys wouldn’t be getting to them until November at best with harvest in full and sometimes slow swing, as it often goes.  I had never operated my Dad’s extremely fancy skid loader but knew just enough of how to run it to be dangerous, so off we went to move some bale rings around and move some bales. Next up was unloading and setting up a 14 panel round pen for the horses.  We worked together to get them unloaded, undo each wire, and set the pen up with 0 problems!  I couldn’t help but think to myself if I hadn’t been taught to tackle hard things and didn’t learn by doing I probably wouldn’t have even suggested we try to get the “honey-do list” done. We were pretty darn proud of ourselves and only needed to do one quick facetime to my honey for a skid loader question otherwise projects done and complete on our own!

Corn

Then came Saturday, another opportunity to live out the motto!  I woke up with a to-do list in my head, but that quickly changed when the decision was made to combine the cornfield to the south of our house.  I completely stepped out of my comfort zone hauled wagons with our neighbor's tractor, dumped grain, and ran the auger on my own.  Why? Because I am learning by doing and doing to learn. Learning to do things I may have never done without the drive instilled by my family and the FFA.

You see this operation is not just my husband’s operation, this is our operation and while it may be small it is still ours and it allows us to live out dreams we have had since being those young greenhands.  I wasn’t just out helping my husband yesterday either, I was doing my part to haul in our grain while using the phone to bid on cattle at auction that I had hoped we could add to our operation. I say this because I often hear it is nice of you to help out, but when I hear that I can’t help but think it is part of who I am and my role in this operation. I liken it to someone saying a Dad is babysitting.  A dad is not babysitting, they are parenting their children just like I am working on our farm. 

Jen hauling corn with a tractor and wagon
Hauling corn

Without the motto of Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to serve on repeat in my head I am not sure I would have tackled half of the things I have in life, let alone the things accomplished this weekend. I hope I am serving as a role model for others that need to dig in and try things to learn and serve as a role model for those wanting to tackle things that they may be afraid of trying. I am here to tell you that you can tackle the things you put your mind to and when in doubt, thanks to technology, you can always check on YouTube,  facetime a brother or facetime a husband for a little help! 😉

Jen unloading corn from wagon into an auger.

What have you tackled this weekend?

How do you live out the FFA Motto?

From the gravel road,

Jen

2

Where does your beef come from?  I know this is a topic that some have thought about before, but thanks to a pandemic it is becoming something of great concern for many consumers. With announcements of Wendy’s being short on beef and grocery stores limiting protein purchases the concern is growing. I have written about this topic before, but thought I would give a little further explanation of the process start to finish for our farm.  For fun I am going to take you through the process for beef being harvested in the Summer/Fall of 2020.

*DISCLAIMER* this is how things work for us, this is not always the way that each farmer or rancher does things.  Some sell directly to buyers that then sell to packing plants, some sell directly from their farms, etc. I am in no way saying our way is the only way, it is just one option. That is the beauty of where we live, many options! The actual time it takes for the process to occur doesn’t really change though, raising delicious, nutritious beef that ends up on your table takes time.

Planning and Preparation

The first thing in the process for Rob and I is picking semen to use in our heifers and cows. Yes, imagine us sitting on our couch in March of 2018 choosing which bulls we thought would be the best Daddy’s for our cattle that would be harvested in 2020.  We discuss choosing bull semen that will allow heifers and cows to calve easily while giving the calf the structure it needs to grow and flourish. Calving ease is just one of the qualities we look for in a list of many. 

Artificial Insemination

I will spare you all of the details of the heat checks, shots, and herd health that goes into this and save it for another post, but in May-July 2018 we then artificially inseminated heifers and cows that would eventually deliver our Summer/Fall 2020 “crop.”  A clean up bull is put out with the herd once we have finished AI'ing. Yes, clean up meaning if any of the artificial insemination didn’t work then the heifer or cow is bull bred.

Fall 2018

In the fall of 2018 we would have preg checked these mama’s that were artificially inseminated or bull bred.  I wrote about our 2019 fall cattle work here. This is similar to having an ultrasound to check to make sure a human is pregnant and can even include a baby calf gender reveal.  We do this to ensure the heifers and cows are healthy and that they are indeed carrying a calf.

Happy Birthday

Summer/Fall 2020 calves were born in 2019!  Typically when bull calves are born they are banded or castrated to become steers. The calf that you will see pictured a few times in this post was born in 2019.

 Mama’s and babies graze all summer on green pastures with the occasional bale of hay if we don’t get much rain for the grass to grow.  Calves enjoy their mother’s milk and as the summer goes on they will begin to enjoy a little creep feed. Again, sparing you some details here in regards to animal care and vaccinations that would be given.  Please just know that when you purchase your beef whether it is from a grocery store or directly from a farmer/rancher that there is a lot of care that goes into these babies. 

Weaning

When calves are around 500 pounds, they are weaned off of their Mama’s to focus on growing new babies and to allow calves to start being fed a ration of feed that would promote growth.

Feeding and Growing 

Through the winter of 2018/2019 our calves were fed a grain mix of cracked corn, protein, oats, etc. and they have full access to hay and water at all times.  During this time they are usually out of the winter wind and lounging on some nice straw or corn stalk bedding.  This helps them stay warm and clean in the cattle yard or barn.

Harvest

If you have been following the math and followed the timeline on this you can see that from the time a calf is weaned from its mother it is around a year or a little more before that calf is harvested.  When I say harvested I am referring to the animal being processed to be sold for consumption. Harvesting begins in the summer of 2020 and goes through the fall. Remember these are animals that we planned and prepared for in March of 2018.

Processing

We market our beef directly to the consumer through beef being sold in ¼, ½ or whole amounts. Locker appointments are made well in advance to prepare for the upcoming harvest. (Right now, during the pandemic, locker appointments are difficult to find.)We deliver the live animal to the locker, the carcass then hangs for a certain period of time to allow enzymes to increase tenderness. The consumer/buyer calls the locker to inform them of  how they would like their portion of the beef processed or cut.  We charge a price per pound on the hanging weight of the animal at the locker.  Once the carcass is hanging we get the hanging weights from the locker (typical 60% of live weight) and then inform the consumer of the amount they owe us for the animal.  The consumer pays the locker for the processing fees based on their cuts of meat (steak, roast, ground beef, etc). The consumer then picks the beef up from the locker and it heads to their freezer for consumption.

I am sure there are details that I have forgotten and questions that you have. So ask, ask away!  Ask me or ask your local producer. We want you to understand where your beef comes from and we are happy to talk about it.

From the gravel road,

Jen 

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