Help protect and support animal agriculture in Nebraska.
Welcome to our ranch! Since May is Beef Month, come along with me to see our ranch and talk about why beef is such a great thing to have on your plate!
My husband, Matt, and I instill in our kids that we are responsible for more than just ourselves. We are responsible for the decisions we make on our ranch with our cattle, and thus the beef that will go on your plate.
Enjoy this video!
My name is Dawn Caldwell. I live near Edgar, Nebraska with my best friend and husband, Matt and our two kids, Kaydee (16) and Emmet (14).
I am not one to tell anyone where to buy their food. I am certainly an advocate of choice! My choice is to do everything I can, utilizing some ingenious technology to try to grow enough food to satisfy the needs of our rapidly growing world population. I have heard people talk of “big farming”, and their dislike of the use of GMO’s, and those “horrible hormones”! Well, I am here to tell you, my family is very average and we are not what I would consider big farmers! Granted, there are certainly farms and ranches much larger than ours; my thinking – what a blessing for those people who have that! Even if it is grain or hay that will be fed to an animal, that animal will eventually be consumed by a person. When you do something just ask yourself, “Is it right?” It needs to be right for all involved. We need healthy cows to make a living. In order for the cows to be healthy, the land has to be healthy. For the land to be healthy, we need to use products that reduce insect and fungus damage to plants. We also need to use products that help us make fewer trips over a field and use less water. We spend many of nights warming baby calves and then re-introducing them to their mom.
We keep the kids’ 4-H animals at our house near Edgar and farm in North Central Kansas (about an hour away). Kaydee and Emmet are super involved in everything we do from sitting around the supper table talking about plans to helping build fence, hauling cows, and definitely working calves. At their agers, they are not only VERY helpful, but keep us laughing constantly. Both kids are involved in 4-H and FFA, as many farm kids are, but they also love their sports and music as well. We definitely spend our fair share of time in the bleachers – just like any good parents from anywhere in the world!
Our farm is slightly unique for our area because it is all dryland. For us, that not only means not irrigated, but in some years, nearly desert-like! We have about 800 acres of pasture to summer graze our 100 mother cows. Just to help you visualize, 800 acres is about the equivalent of 800 football fields. We also farm about 700 acres of crop ground, raising hay for the cows, wheat, soybeans, and sorghum. The farm is owned and ran by my husband and his brother as a partnership. My family does 99% of the livestock work – calving, processing, sorting, moving, haying, feeding, etc. Our favorite times of year are calving time and weaning time – probably because there is more hands-on action during those times.
Daily chores can be done by one or two people (weather dependent). Big projects like preg-checking, working calves in the spring/fall, etc. take a minimum of four and we really prefer to have 5 or 6 people there for a project like that. We are very fortunate to have a good hired man and neighbors that we trade labor with. I do have a full time job so we can have some steady income and insurance. However, when it comes to the farming – I try to stay out of the major cropping decisions (my brother-in-law really likes to do that, so that is more of his role), but as for the cows – I am all in. I am the nutrition consultant in the family, so even if I’m not the one carrying the buckets, I decide what should be in them – I make the call on what and how much to feed. I help with tagging and weighing newborn calves, I give nearly all shots, and we have a big family meeting a several times per year on genetic decisions.
Just like the advent of computers, cell phones and video games, farming has evolved and become much more modern! My folks and brother who is back at their place have wonderful working facilities so that even my aging dad can still be helpful by running the hydraulic squeeze chute. Feed wagons hooked on tractors make feeding time much less of an event than the 30 or 40 5-gallon buckets we used to carry. My husband, our kids, my Mom, my Dad and my brother and his wife all depend fully on farming and agriculture for our livelihood. Farming with family can be one of the most rewarding experiences and one of the most challenging.
I have to say, I love family life on the farm. We have trials and tribulations, but we also get to nurture and manage God’s creation to help feed the world. Other than what we do to earn money to take care of our family (bear in mind, farmers do not punch time clocks, they don’t get paid overtime, and they definitely don’t get paid vacation or retirement/insurance benefits).
My husband, kids and I all know that any plans made can be changed abruptly due to the needs of the cows. The cows get fed before the Christmas presents get opened. On weekends, we don’t often go to the mall or movies, but we do take care of cattle projects that require more than 1 or 2 people and we get to marvel at some of the most amazing sunsets you will ever see – usually because we aren’t done working yet. We do like to go out to eat at least once every week or two and I LOVE grocery shopping at HyVee when I have time to drive that far (around an hour). Our kids have their own cow herd from which they sell breeding stock to other cattlemen and women, so we spend several weekends/year at cattle shows. We do enjoy traveling every few years and 4-H has afforded the kids a 15 day tour of the eastern ½ of the U.S. Kaydee and Emmet are thankful to know where food comes from and are amazed at food science/technology, they love drinking fresh well water, and don’t mind driving 10 or 20 miles to visit their friends and classmates.
I’m not one to say farm life is harder than any other life. I know all types of workers who contribute their piece to the wholeness of our country; I know the hours put in by construction workers, health care professionals, restaurant employees, and even over-the-road truck drivers, among many others, can be long and hard. I do want you to know that every time a farmer makes a decision, he or she doesn’t only think about the financial impact on their family, but the well-being of the ground or animal involved and the well-being of the person who will consume what is produced.
As you go to the grocery store, I would never expect you to dwell on an entire growing process of a food item. But try to remember, someone put their time, their dollars, and their back into growing whatever you are eating. Now, if you are eating food that isn’t grown, but is somehow created and packaged. I trust America’s farmers. We know what is good for the land, the animals, and we really know what is good to eat! It is amazingly humbling to think that what my family does feeds about 150 people every year. We have so many choices in our stores and at our restaurants; we would not know what to do if we went backwards 50 years. We live in a great country with the safest, cheapest, and most plentiful food supply in the world. I am blessed to be part of that. In conclusion, thank you for being a purchaser of food and giving my family and others like us the opportunity to do what we love.