Being ranchers in the Sandhills of Nebraska, my husband, Kerry, and I are all about being good stewards of our land and our livestock. We do what we can to improve our land and water to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our cattle. We do this to provide affordable, nutritious, safe beef for you, while preserving our resources for future generations. Our fourth-generation cow-calf ranch, “Keys Ranch,” is located near Elsmere, in the southeast corner of Cherry County.
The Sandhills provide a unique ecosystem with sandy soil that is best used for growing native grasses. Row crops don’t grow well here. We’re on top of the Ogallala Aquifer that provides us and our cattle with delicious, clean water. Cattle have a four-part stomach that can digest and get nutrients from grass and other food byproducts that humans can’t digest. We continue to use fewer resources to produce more beef, all the while improving the environment by preventing the sandy soils from erosion, increasing wildlife habitat, adding biodiversity and preventing wildfires. Grazing works in the Sandhills! Our cows are turning that nutritious grass into those juicy steaks and grilled hamburgers your family enjoys, since we humans aren’t much on eating grass.
Being stewards of our cattle means keeping them healthy. At the Keys Ranch, we work with a local veterinarian to implement the best nutrition program for our cows and calves. This might include testing the hay bales for nutrient content, providing additional supplements, doctoring them when they’re sick and monitoring their overall condition. Healthy, content cattle reproduce better, have increased weight gain and are more resistant to disease.
As ranchers, the well-being of our livestock is our top priority. Our livelihood and future depend on those animals. We keep them comfortable by providing shade from the heat or windbreaks to block the cold Nebraska wind. When caring for them, we strive for low-stress handling through the design of our corrals, calm voices and consistent care.
Everyone working with nature and animals faces challenges. In the past few years, we’ve had drought, flooding, and extreme cold. We do what we can to anticipate problems. We’re constantly checking the weather to see if we need to move the cattle for protection from a storm or feed them before it rains.
Since our ranch is a multi-generational operation, we strive to leave it more productive and in better condition for the generations that will follow. We are committed to being caretakers for the future of agriculture. By being good stewards of the land and the livestock, we’re doing our part to provide safe, healthy beef for our family, your family, our country and even the world!