EMS in cattle ranching

Chandra 1My husband and I are both active EMT’s in our community.  Our pager goes off at anytime – day or night.  Motor vehicle accidents, illnesses, ‘help I’ve fallen and can’t get up’ calls.

Well on the farm or ranch we have to be the EMS service to our cattle.  Sometimes we have to pull a calf, doctor a calf for a illness, broken hip or leg. We sometimes have to pull a calf that is too big or a calf that is trying to come backwards (which would be back legs first).

Last Friday, my husband and step mom were checking cows for any signs of water bags or cows in distress, when they did see something not right.  A cow trying to push out a calf tail first or butt first.  That  would be like a human baby coming butt first.  This is a rare emergency event in cattle.  Terry and Cindy were going to try and walk the cow into the barn to better assist the cow.  But the cow went down to the ground and wasn’t able to get back up again.

chandra beef 1

Out in the middle of the calving lot, Cindy laid hay down while Terry put on OB gloves and laid on the ground behind the cow.  He tried to push the calf back in to get the back feet out so the calf could come out. chandra beef 2

With the help of 4-5 people,  three to get the cow to her side,  two trying to pull the back legs in and over the pelvic bone, the calf came out with a pop.   Unfortunately, even with the quick efforts of all the people helping, the calf could not be saved.  And the cow ended being put down.chandra beef 3

We may not have a degree in veterinarian medicine, but we are our cattle’s first doctor.  We see them first when they are sick, when they are limping, and when something  is not right when they are trying to calve.

Equipping Tomorrow’s Farmer

Diane KarrIn honor of today being National Ag Day, it is fitting to talk about the future of agriculture.

As I wrap up tax and budget season, I think of my 14 year old son. He wants to be a farmer.

[He'd be scarred for life if he knew I was writing about him. So let’s not tell him!]

How will he learn everything he needs to know to be a farmer? He’s already helping with irrigation, harvest season, and cattle. He’ll gradually absorb the practical side of farming. He’ll probably work all the new technological gadgets with ease. He doesn’t mind getting up early and working hard. This is not the part that worries me.

diane karr tomorrow's farmerHow will he develop relationships with bankers, brokers, agronomists, insurance agents, landlords, and equipment salesmen? I’m sure as he grows up, he’ll watch his Dad, and will listen and learn from these conversations. Still, this doesn’t worry me much either.

What scares me is this: How will he manage a farmer’s mountain of bookwork?

When corn is $8, everybody can make money. It’s how you make money at $4 corn [or less! GASP!] that keeps children and grandchildren in the game.

There’s an important step he can take to equip himself to farm successfully: get a college degree. It’s just a tool, but if used correctly, and sharpened with use, Mr. Corn Farmer and I believe that this is a highly important step in coming back to the farm and staying there. In fact, we’re going to make a college degree a requirement to coming back to our farm for a variety of reasons.

Right now, Mr. Athletic-Guitar-Playing-Honor-Student-Teenager-With-Headphones-Permanently-Attached-to-His-Head-and-Phone-In-Hand has a long way to go. He loves math. He has all the potential to do just fine in school. He has a few years before he has to think about college, but it’s already entering the back of my mind.

I hope that he will find a college where he can be exposed to people dramatically different than him, but yet find a group of friends where he feels right at home. I hope he can take enough accounting classes to do proper bookkeeping, calculate profit/loss and cost/benefit analysis, and understand how to be organized for his tax professional. I hope he studies enough ag economics so he can understand the markets and know when (and when not) to take a grain broker’s advice. I hope he learns what his banker will expect when asking for a cash flow budget. I hope that he knows what his financial ratios and trends look like before he ever talks to a banker. I hope he gains knowledge in agronomy and animal science to supplement what he has already learned from working with his Dad.

[Oh yeah, I hope he has fun. Lots of it. But not too much. And goes to church on Sunday!]

I hope someday he will return to the farm full of optimism, ideas, confidence, maturity, and energy.

He’ll need other tools. A college degree is nothing without faith, luck, common sense, communication skills, and a work ethic. Of course, there are plenty of successful farmers without college degrees. But, maybe the markets, the weather, or his health won’t go as expected. Maybe he’ll want to shift gears and change his path away from farm, and if so, having a strong educational background will help him do that.

We farmers like tools. Most of us have a shop full of them. Having another tool – like a college education – has been just as helpful to Mr. Corn Farmer and me through the years when markets and weather have made farm management more challenging. It’s also a tool we also want our children to have and be able to use.

Pizza Casserole recipe

Did you know that CommonGround is a group of farm women (like real farmers!) who raise food and have families of their own! They can relate with you when it comes to questions you might have about your food and how it was raised.

Click here:


Now enjoy this Pizza Casserole – freezes great and feeds a small army!commonground-nebraska-pizza-casserole

{Pizza Casserole}
1 (12-oz.) bag wide egg noodles
2 lbs. hamburger
1 onion, chopped
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cans tomato soup
1 (6-oz.) pkg. pepperoni
8 oz. mozzarella cheese
½ tsp. garlic salt
Sliced black olives, optional

1. Cook noodles to al dente.
2. While noodles are cooking, brown hamburger and onion together, then drain.
3. Mix soups and hamburger mix together.
4. Spray a 11 x 15 casserole dish (or make 2 smaller-sized casseroles – this works great in the freezer!) with cooking oil, then add noodles to the bottom of the pan.
5. Layer meat mixture on top of noodles, and top with cheese.
6. Generously layer pepperoni slices on top of cheese. (Add black olives if you want – or add other veggies to make it “supreme”!).
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Speak Up: Don’t Fear Food

Speak Up is a series of blogs where CommonGround volunteers from all over the U.S. speak up to answer questions from consumers. This post is by CommonGround Iowa volunteer, Steph Essick relating to Chipotle’s new series wrongly portraying agriculture. 

iowa farm life steph essickAre you confused about what food to buy for your family? There are labels on everything from meat to ketchup bottles! What does it all mean…GMOs & HFCS?!? Do you wonder if it’s safe to feed to your family? Is organic better? Hormones..antibiotics…?? It’s confusing!

To add to the confusion Chipotle just debuted the first of a ‘comedy’ series they made. According to the chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle and an executive producer of the show “Our goal in making the show was to engage people through entertainment and make them more curious about their food and where it comes from.” He says, “It’s not a show about Chipotle, but rather integrates the values that are at the heart of our business. The more people know about how food is raised, the more likely they will be to choose food made from better ingredients — like the food we serve at Chipotle.”

Really. How are they teaching people how their food is raised? If you haven’t seen, they feed a cow oil pellets & the cow blows up. Why would farmers feed cows oil…farmers care about their cows & seriously if the cows blow up they wouldn’t make any money? Unbelievable. Where to start??

Join along on my journey. I would love to show you the true values that are at the heart of OUR business. I’m a farmer, growing corn, soybeans, & hay that cares about the land & what we grow. I’m a mother that wants the best for my punk. I’m a wife…that occasionally cooks. I’m also a CommonGround volunteer that wants to help answer questions you may have about your food & farming.

CommonGround is a group of volunteer farm women sharing our stories and trying to answer questions you may have about your food. Please ask questions! The great part about CommonGround is if I don’t have the answer there are 100+ ladies, from 16 different states, with a wide range of farming backgrounds that we can ask. Ask a farmer! We really do care. Chipotle’s ‘comedy’ series is a personal attack on us, farm families…97% of farms are family farms.

Please don’t fear your food! And there really are no dumb questions…please ask.

The gate keeper

There are some jobs that are just easier to do with extra help.  One of those on our farm is opening and shutting gates.

I am opening a gate for Steve.

I am opening a gate for Steve.

I was trained for the gate keeper job when I met Steve.  The feedlot Steve had at his dad’s place had wooden feedbunks that were inside the pen.   When the cattle were fed Steve had to drive inside the pen.   That meant four times on and off the tractor to feed one pen.  Since I spent the weekends at Steve’s folks I would often help with cattle chores.  I was the gate keeper during feeding.  I didn’t mind hanging out with my honey and I’m pretty sure he was glad for the help.

Steve is driving on the cement pad and blowing straw for bedding out so the cattle have a dry, comfortable place to lay down.

Steve is driving on the cement pad and blowing straw for bedding out
so the cattle have a dry, comfortable place to lay down.

Our feedlot has fence line bunks which is much better for the cattle and the equipment.  The cattle always have a dry place to stand where they eat.  We do put bedding in the pens and that is when it is nice to have a gate keeper.

 Here is the hay buster that is behind the tractor.  In the old days we had to pitch hay using forks.  Now we can bed the cattle so much faster and easier!

Here is the hay buster that is behind the tractor. In the old days we had to
pitch hay using forks. Now we can bed the cattle so much faster and easier!

Steve was bedding cattle and asked if I had time to open gates.  I know how cumbersome it can be to climb off the tractor, open the gate, drive in, get back out and close the gate, get back in the tractor and so on.

We feel better when our cattle are comfortable.  As you can see they don't always choose to lay on the straw!

We feel better when our cattle are comfortable. As you can see
they don’t always choose to lay on the straw!

There are probably more romantic things we could do together but I have to say that working side by side with Steve has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life!

Why? Buying meat at the grocery store and other questions.

Dawn CaldwellA question I heard many times from the kids when they were little – and still do sometimes!  ~Why?~

Why do we have to go home and chore? ~ Why is it raining when I have a baseball game? ~ Why is that word naughty? Why can’t I say that? ~ Why can’t we have french fries with pizza? ~ Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do those people have white cows? And on, and on, and on…

dawn-caldwell-kids-why-blog-commonground-nebraskaWell, now I have a “Why?” for you…

Why do you choose certain types of food when you shop? I ask this because I have heard more than a few times lately the following statement, “I like beef, but I don’t want to buy what is in the grocery store.”

People often ask me if we eat our own beef. Well, of course we do! We also eat beef at restaurants, from butcher shops, and yes, even from grocery stores. I have to admit – I did a quick Google search on purchasing beef in grocery stores and I found very little (practically nothing) helpful, truthful, or objective. So – I want to help you feel assured if you do your shopping in a grocery store and don’t have a separate meat market to buy your beef at.

First of all – the beef from grocery stores comes from the same packing facilities as that in restaurants, butcher shops, and so on. And prior to arriving at the packing facility, it comes from the farms/ranches and  feed yards of people like myself and those who feed our cattle for us.  (I will qualify now – local meat lockers are WONDERFUL and if you have one nearby to shop at, consider yourself blessed!)  One place I would send you for advice is the Interactive Butcher Counter. There is a lot of helpful information there on how to choose a cut for a particular meal and then how to cook it properly.


All of this meat looks GREAT!

Even though I have a freezer full of beef, sometimes I am in a hurry and the kids are really hungry for my hot beef sundaes. If I don’t have stew chunks thawed out, I grab a pack at the supermarket and we have a great meal done soon after I get home.  When I choose beef at the store, I like to look for some marbling (flecks of fat in the muscle portion of the meat – this helps assure juiciness and flavor); not much fat around the outside of a piece of meat; good color (a little brownness does not bother me, as I know that meat was just exposed to the air for a bit longer than a bright red piece & it is still safe and tender); and, I look for a good value for what I am buying.

So now I leave you with this – WHY don’t you go to the store, purchase some beef, take it home and fix it? Oh wait – what if is doesn’t turn out, you ask? Re-purpose it! More than once I have had a wreck in the kitchen or from the grill! We are all human and that makes it ok for us to make mistakes, right? Golly I hope so!!!! So – if a steak gets too done, chop it in tiny pieces and make steak and egg hash. If your hamburgers crumble, make spaghetti sauce or chili. It will all be just fine and you will still have something delicious and you won’t have wasted any money. :) And if you haven’t cooked with beef much – practice! It is SO worth it in the long run!  If you would like some amazing recipe ideas, go to Beef It’s What’s For Dinner.

Now I get my “Why?” …  Why do us girls say we don’t want flowers for Valentine’s Day when we really do? ~ Why do I procrastinate on certain things and rush others? ~ Why do I get to be so blessed to live in the country and ranch? ~ Why do men get SO giddy over cool vehicles?… And yes, I could go on and on. :)

Time-Saving Tips Every Gal Should Know About Food Safety

CommonGround-Food-Safety-Time-Saving-TipsLet’s start with the fundamentals of food safety. These basic rules can help prevent the majority of foodborne illnesses.

  1. A Clean Start. Before you start, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds under warm water. Clean countertops, knives, utensils…any surfaces that contact food during preparation to prevent foodborne bacteria from spreading. Rinse and repeat. Often.
  2. Divide and Conquer. Separate meat, poultry and seafood from other foods to prevent contamination. Keep them separate.
  3. The 2-Hour Rule.  Always refrigerate perishable foods within two hours to prevent foodborne bacteria from growing. The 1-Hour Rule: When outdoor temperatures exceed 90 F, refrigerate perishable items within one hour.
  4. You Can’t See Done. Proper cooking kills bacteria that may cause illness. Use a thermometer to ensure food is safe. Unsure of the right temperature? Reference the chart below.
  5. The Food Safety Mantra: When in doubt, throw it out.

CommonGround-Food-Safety-Safe-Internal-TemperaturesWe will be featuring food safety videos soon on the website – stay tuned for more! Meanwhile, see more at: http://findourcommonground.com/2013/10/time-sving-tips-every-gal-should-know-about-food-safety/#sthash.tRFGjdJK.dpuf