Tag Archives: steer

Beef Steers 2014

My last year of FFA.

My last year of FFA (it says ‘got beef?’ on my steer).

Back when I was a youth and heavily involved with 4-H and FFA, I raised market steers. It was a huge source of pride for me, that I would select, raise and show one of my own family’s steers. Our cattle are bred to be beef, not to win grand champion at cattle shows. Because of that I only won champion once in my whole 4-H and FFA career, HOWEVER I won or placed in the carcass contest (that is when the steer’s carcass is graded and judged) almost every year, and for a cattleperson, that values my final product, that meant tons more than a purple ribbon.

My cattle weren’t always “fluffly” at the fair (that means they didn’t have a lot of hair for me to style), but I was confident whoever purchased my calf was going to get a prime piece of beef that they would remember for years to come. I still have this same level of confidence when it comes to our cattle.

These are the steers leftover from our commercial herd this past August.

These are my steers leftover from our commercial herd this past August – they are a whisper over a year old here.

You remember that I quit my full-time job in town last spring. I am now living the dream on the ranch. Since I don’t have a steady income, my parents have graciously given me some steers to supplement my hog and sheep income. It has been a huge transition for me, to go from a salaried check every two weeks, to a couple of unknown checks a year. Budgeting is hard! These steers will be the majority of my income for the year – they will determine my quality of life, they will pay my bills. Because of this, because I know my current way of life depends on these animals, I want to do the best I can.

This is called a "tote" of grain. It is taller than my Dad.

This is called a “tote” of grain. It is taller than my Dad. I buy in bulk because I am feeding so many animals right now

I want my clients to have an opportunity to purchase “prime” beef. Prime is the grade of beef that you get in fancy, expensive steakhouses. It is delicious. To get prime beef you need to have several things:

  • good genetics
  • good feed
  • age (older calves tend to grade better than younger)
  • happy, healthy cattle (no stress and a great vaccination plan)

Since I have excellent herd genetics, I have access to grain, grass, protein minerals, hay and almond parts, my calves will be coming 24 months, and they are not stressed and are healthy, I know I can grow some great beef. I know it.

Good feed - this is rolled barley/corn, almonds and hulls, meadow hay (that we made), and a mineral block.

Good feed – this is rolled barley/corn, almonds and hulls, meadow hay (that we made), and a mineral block.

This week my Dad and I created a place for me to “finish” these steers. Since they already weigh around 1,150 pounds and are fairly fat, they will not take long to finish out. Basically by giving these steers grain, they will gain faster and the meat will taste less like grass and more like creamy, beefy deliciousness. If I had to guess, I will probably have them slaughtered around 1,400 pounds.

I took a felfie (a farmer 'selfie') while moving the steers into their new pasture.

I took a felfie (a farmer ‘selfie’) while moving the steers into their new pasture.

This is what the steers look like right now - it is going to be a blast watching them gain and finish.

This is what the steers look like right now – it is going to be a blast watching them gain and finish.

The only reason I am able to do grain finished steers this year is because the price of corn is low, so I can actually afford it, and the drought. I have no grass to finish cattle on right now – so I either hauled these guys to the auction yard or I feed them grain, and I have too many people that wanted to buy local beef this year to auction yard them. I’ve been after my Dad for a few years to let me finish some beef with grain, so this is actually exciting for me. The one thing I forgot to plan for was – I don’t get to keep one of these to eat. I am raising some of the best beef of my life and it’s already spoken for. It’s my secret hope that this beef is so beautiful (and it will be), that my Dad decides that I need to do this again next year! Come back soon and I’ll let you know how they finished!

For other local meat options check out:

Douglass Ranch 

Book Family Farm

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, food, Know a California Farmer, meat, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: The Boss

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The Silver Dollar Fair Jr. Livestock Auction v Meg

About two years ago, I had a Boss that sent me to our local fair’s junior livestock auction to buy a hog. Not just any hog, a special hog. The young lady, Lilly, whose hog my Boss wanted to purchase, had done a superb job at raising this hog, writing buyers letters, and even gave a presentation to my Boss about pigs (of course I provided my Boss with supplemental hog questions to throw at her, but she was not thrown, she knew her stuff).
Being trusted to buy this important hog for the office was a huge deal to me! I was determined to do the best job I could! Nothing was going to prevent me from my responsibility. Nothing.
The night before I had gone to one of Daniel’s shows at a local venue, I was excited about going to the auction the next day and told a couple of my NEW friends about it. I had met these friends through Daniel, and since he was close friends (and band mates) with their husbands I was eager to have them like me and get to know me. I thought inviting them to see part of my world would be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to get to know each other better.
The next morning my two girlfriends met me at Daniel’s house and us girls carpooled to the fair, it was going to be a great day filled with free food (buyers get snacks!), cotton candy and farm babies! We arrived early, staked our claim to good seats in the auctioneer’s eye-line. I had practiced my steely auctioneer gaze and head nod. We had our buy’s guide; we knew our lot number, and I had coached the girls about giving dirty looks to people bidding against us (come on, 3 pretty girls giving dirty looks? Scary!), we were ready.
We watched the auction and chatted, as our lot number came closer and closer. I spent years working and showing at that fair, so it felt like being back in the saddle again. It was like a reunion of sorts – former 4-H and FFA leaders, members and buyers were everywhere, I had spent the majority of my youth with these people. It was glorious. Until.
Our lot number came up. I was expecting a petite 11 year old girl with a pig, in the ring was a large, male, teenager, with a goat. Not the right 4-H member, not the right species, but the Auctioneer said it was our lot number. I was shocked. One of my friends asked what happened. I didn’t know! I was confused and scared. I was convinced I was going to be fired for failing to do the ONE thing my Boss told me to do. I wanted to cry and puke at the same time.
We sat in the bleachers for a few more minutes as I frantically texted my Boss that SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED. My Boss gave me the phone number for Lilly’s Dad, so I was able to call him and meet up with him to decide what we were going to do.
By this time we had realized what happened. The ring hands got ahead of the auctioneer and had pushed poor Lilly through the ring before her time – basically they skipped her. It wasn’t her fault at all, she was where she needed to be, at the right time. Being the polite 4-H member that she is, she just did what the adults told her to do.
I went to the livestock office and calmly explained what had happened (reminder, I had shown at that fair for a good 9 years and worked at that fair for 5, I was no stranger there). The livestock office manager (who trained me) tried to blame Lilly. I assured her that it was not Lilly’s fault, and again tried to calmly explain what had just happened in the sale ring not 10 minutes before. I even had a picture of Lilly in the sale ring, proving that, indeed, Lilly was where she needed to be. Again, Lilly was blamed. I was told that Lilly would have to wait all day and re-sell at the end of the auction (when there are no buyers left and the prices suck). Nope, I wasn’t going to let that happen. It wasn’t her fault. What kind of example are we setting if the adults won’t even accept responsibility for their errors?
Let’s be frank for a moment. We all know that life is not fair. We all know that whether it is 4-H, high school football, after-school soccer, or room-mothers, there are favorites. There are last names that ‘mean’ more than others. There are people willing to do shady things to make sure their kid wins, or is “the best”. This is a fact of life, and it is no different in the land of agriculture. I have always hated this, I was never that kid with the last name, and my Parents weren’t shady, I hated the unnecessary injustice that tainted positive things for kids. As an adult I do my best not to be a part of this cycle and try and “fix it” if I can.
When Lilly was blamed and punished for something that wasn’t her fault, after I had evidence that proved she had done nothing wrong, and had vouched for her, I absolutely lost my shit (it needs to be noted that Lilly was calm and polite during this whole thing, I think that made it worse for me, she is just so sweet!). Sometimes adults forget that 4-H is about the kids, not about our power trip.
My two girlfriends had never seen a Megan-meltdown before. They had only seen happy, bouncy, giggly Megan (and sometimes the sad, quiet, panic attacky Megan). I scared them. With huge eyes, they politely as possible basically said, ‘omg you are nuts and we are scared, we’ll be at the farm babies exhibit’. By this time I was in phase III, bring it on, I will win, white hot fury. I was so mad I had stopped cussing. That is serious.
I had spoken to every buyer, 4-H leader, auctioneer, runner, member that would listen to my story. I had Lilly’s Parents and Grandma trying to reason with the livestock manager. I left a voicemail with the auctioneer that had skipped Lilly’s hog (he is like a brother to me). Finally I called the fair manager (we were pretty close friends in college and I had worked for him at other fairs), and told him to get over to the livestock office now, he tried to explain that he was busy running the fair, but I wasn’t having that. I was one step away from launching an all out personal war complete with signage and revolting FFA members. I have never had to work so hard to buy a 4-H animal in my life!
Before I made it Office Depot for poster board, I saw the man I knew could fix everything. My former teacher, boss and mentor, Mr. Doug Flesher.
Mr. Flesher is that person that has been involved with 4-H longer than anyone can remember. He’s lead generations of 4-H kids, watched generations of us grow up and go into production agriculture, he’s taught more of us to drive heavy equipment than I can count. In short, he is the most amazing, supportive, positive force in our local ag community and I can only hope to make him proud. I knew if Mr. Flesher got involved he would fix ‘this situation’.
Once Mr. Flesher heard what had happened, he sent me to the corner to calm down, while he spoke with the Powers That Be. The Powers That Be, at that point, realized they had a problem. They said someone else had already bought the hog (I knew that was bullsh*t because we watched the auction, no one even BID on her hog) and I was just told it was Lilly’s fault (PROTIP: get your story straight before you start explaining to me). When the auction runner spoke to the supposed buyer he said no, he bought a goat, not a pig. It was all I could do to not say, “I F’ING TOLD YOU SO”, but I did have a very sassy look on my face.

I did my job! I had to raise hell, but I bought her pig!

I did my job! I had to raise hell, but I bought her pig!

Mr. Flesher and I walked over to the bankers table that financed the sale and arranged it so I could buy the hog. Lilly got a great price, a wrong was righted but I was convinced that A) my friends weren’t my friends anymore because they saw the angry Megan and B) I was going to get fired because I threw such a public hissy fit and my Boss was going to hear about it.

I tentatively searched for my friends in the Farm Baby barn, I was embarrassed they had to witness what they witnessed. But at that point they didn’t care, they found puppies! One friend decided she was going to take one home and gave her husband the best choice ever – a puppy, a baby or a goat. She got the puppy.

Scout the puppy, when she was still a puppy.

Scout the puppy, when she was still a puppy.

After all the excitement I had to go home and have a nap. Actually, let’s be honest. I was convinced my Boss was going to call me into his office on Monday morning and fire my butt, so I was sad, quiet, panic attacky Megan for the rest of the weekend.
Monday rolled around and I sheepishly slunk into the office and quietly put Lilly’s thank you card and picture on his desk. Before I could quietly slink out again my Boss caught me. In tears, I had to explain what happened again. Then, to my surprise he said ‘well, my buddy said I did a good job hiring you’ – I wasn’t fired! My flair for the dramatic had actually been beneficial! FINALLY!
Two years later I am still employed at the same office, the two friends I was sure were going to break up with me? Oh you mean adult 4-H member Kristen, and next year’s adult 4-H member Lesley? Yeah, we are still friends.

See we are all still friends! Plus some!

See we are all still friends! Plus some!

The actual 4-H member Lilly? Yeah, she is raising a steer this year and I get to help her! The puppy? Well Scout is getting ready to be a big sister to Megan Jr. So you see, despite my anxiety, things worked out! Yeah I was deeply sadden by some of the adult’s behavior in the situation, but I fixed it, and until these adults move on, I will support 4-H in other ways, like being a guest leader or support person.

Lilly is now a cool beef kid. The beef barn is way better than the pig barn at the fair!

Lilly is now a cool beef kid. The beef barn is way better than the pig barn at the fair!

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Brown Ranch: Pasture to Plate

I noticed in all my research on the Internets there is no comprehensive pasture to plate photo essay for consumers to see. Explorebeef.org paints a very pretty picture but it definitely has some holes in the process. I give you Brown Ranch – Pasture to Plate:

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Birth – Usually in June/July.

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They hang out with Mama and the herd until they are processed.

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Calves are processed at around 1 and a half months of age.

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They come home to the winter Ranch around 5 months old.

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They graze all winter and are weaned in the spring at about 10 months old.

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At about twenty two months old, the cattle we kept back from the commercial herd get custom exempt slaughtered here on the Ranch. The commercial cattle are sold when they  are around a year old and weigh 900 pounds. The commercial cattle will become the meat that consumers can buy from Whole Foods, Costco, Raley’s – for example. Those cattle will be processed in a facility very much like Cargill’s.

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Mr. Dewey is amazing to watch.

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A hot carcass.

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It will be taken to his meat locker where it will dry age for 18-21 days.

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After it’s aged the meat cutters will break it down into the cuts most consumers are familiar with.

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This is an art, as far as I’m concerned.

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Steaks, glorious steaks.

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The equipment used to cut and package the meat is amazing.

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Jerky in the dehydrator.

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This is the cow my Parents gave me for my 30th birthday. I made it into jerky and ground beef (and a couple of special Megan steaks).

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It says my name!

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BBQ is my favorite steak cooking method.

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Brown Ranch grass finished beef.

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Glossary of Beef Terms

This is a very broad overview of terms I use on the Ranch. I will add more as I think of them.

A.I. – artificial insemination

Average daily gain – pounds of liveweight gained per day

Balling gun – a tool used to discharge pills into the animal’s throat.

Birth weight – the weight of the calf taken within the first 24 hours of birth

Birth weight EPD – The expected average increase of decrease in birth weight of a bull’s calves when compared with other bulls in the same sire summary.

Bloat – abnormal conditions characterized by a distention of the rumen, usually seen on the left side, due to the accumulation of gas.

Bloom – a haircoat that has luster that gives the appearance of a healthy animal.

Bolus – a large pill for treating cattle; you use a balling gun to administer.

Bos indicus – zebu (humped) cattle, including the Brahman breed. They tolerate heat and insects well.

Bos Taurus – European breads that tolerate the cold, such as Hereford, angus.

Brand – a permanent identification of cattle usually made on the hide with a hot iron or freeze brand.

Bred – a cow that has mated with a bull and is pregnant.

Brucellosis – a contagious bacterial disease that results in abortions; also can be called bang’s disease.

Bull –  a male bovine, usually of breeding age.

Bulling – when a cow is in heat or estrus.

Calf – a young male or female bovine under 1 year of age.

Calve – to give birth.

Castrate – to remove the testicles

Cod – scrotal area of a steer remaining after castration.

Colostrum – the first milk given by a female cow following the delivery of a calf. It is high in antibodies that protect the calf from invading microorganisms.

Conditioning – Treatment of cattle by vaccination and other means prior to putting them in a feedlot.

Cow – an adult female

Cow/calf operation – a segment of the cattle industry that manages and produces weaned calves.

Crossbred – animal produced by crossing two different breeds, for example a Brahman and Angus is a Brangus.

Cud – bolus of feed that cattle regurgitate.

Cull – to eliminate one or more animals from your herd.

Dewlap – the flap of loose skin under the chin and neck of cattle.

Direct sales – selling cattle directly to one ranch to another, from ranch to feedlot, or ranch to packer.

Dressed beef – carcasses from cattle.

Ear mark – a method of permanent identification by which slits or notches are placed in the ear.

Ear tag – a method of identification by which a numbered, lettered, or colored tag is placed in the ear, like an earring.

EPD – expected progeny difference, one-half of the breeding value in the sire or dam. The difference in expected performance of future progeny of a sire, when compared with that expected from future progeny of bulls in the same sire summary.

Embryo transfer – transfer of fertilized egg(s) from donor female to one or more recipient females.

Eviscerate – the removal of internal organs during the slaughter process.

Feed bunk – trough or container used to feed cattle.

Feeder – Cattle that need further feeding prior to slaughter or a producer that feeds cattle.

Feedlot – a segment of the industry in which cattle are fed grain and other concentrates for usually 90-120 days then slaughtered.

Finish – Degree of fatness of an animal or the completion of the last feeding phase of slaughter cattle.

Finished cattle – Fed cattle ready for slaughter.

Freemartin – female born twin to a bull (usually these heifers will never conceive).

Grass tetany – Disease of cattle marked by staggering, convulsions, coma, and death that is caused by a mineral imbalance (magnesium) while grazing lush pasture.

Heifer – a young cow, one that has never had a calf.

Hot carcass weight – the weight of the carcass just prior to chilling.

Ionphore – antibiotic the enhances feed efficiency by changing microbial fermentation in the rumen.

Liver flukes – parasitic flatworm in the liver.

Marbling – flecks of intramuscular fat distributed in muscle tissue.

Mastitis – inflammation of the udder.

Natural beef- beef that has not been fed growth stimulates or antibiotics.

Open – non pregnant females

Offal – the organs and tissue removed from the cattle during the slaughter process

Pasture rotation – the rotation of animals from one pasture or field to another so that a field or pasture have no livestock grazing on them during a certain period of time.

Pay weight – the actual weight for which payment of the cattle is made. Usually the actual weight minus the shrink.

Polled – naturally hornless

Preconditioning – preparations of feeder calves for selling and shipping, can include vaccinations, castration, training the calves to eat from a feeder or drink from a trough.

Primal cuts – the wholesale cuts of beef. It can include: round, loin, flank, rib, chuck, brisket, plate and shank.

Progeny – offspring, calves

Quality Grades – grades used in the beef industry to rate the beef; for example – prime, choice, select.

Ration – the feed fed to an animal in a 24 hour period

Replacement heifers – heifers, usually between the ages of 10 – 16 months, that are kept to replace old cows in the breeding program.

Ruminant – a mammal whose stomach has four parts – rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum Cattle, sheep, goats, and elk are some examples.

Scours – profuse, watery diarrhea from the intestines.

Seedstock – breeding animals like bulls. Used interchangeably with purebred.

Shrink – loss of weight. Usually expressed in percentage of liveweight to account for fill (food and water). It is usually around 3 to 4%.

Steer – a male that has been castrated before puberty

Subcutaneous – an injection below the skin of an animal.

Tagging- when we place tags in the ears of the cattle for identification purposes.

Vaccination – when we administer a vaccine or shot.

Weaner – a calf that has been weaned or is near weaning age.

Weaning weight – the weight of the calf when it is removed from the cow.

White muscle disease – muscular disease caused by a deficiency of selenium or vitamin E.

Yearling – animals that are one year old.

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