Anne Burkholder, Nebraska feedyard operator and author of the Feed Yard Foodie blog, says cattle producers should tell their story and become more transparent in developing relationships with consumers.
“Consumers are very curious about where their food comes from,” Burkholder said. “I think it’s very reasonable for consumers to know where their steak comes from.”
Burkholder is known for her consumer outreach and as an advocate for beef. In 2014 she was awarded Beef Magazine’s Trailblazer Award and in 2013 was voted to Vance Publishing’s 40 under 40 in Agriculture.
She was a recent Texas A&M University department of animal science seminar speaker.
Burkholder’s accolades have led to multiple speaking engagements, traveling across the country to share how she and her husband, Matt, moved back “home” to the family farm in 1996 to operate a cattle feed yard and farm several thousand acres.
Anne leads the 3,000-head feedlot operation, while Matt farms 4,700 acres of alfalfa, corn, wheat and soybeans.
She said she has learned some key lessons from the cattle feedlot operation. Those include limiting stress on the animals.
“There is a total stress load a calf can handle,” she said. “It’s our job to limit that stress.”
She said she believes in a partnership mentality and that all facets of the beef industry, producers, feedlot operators and packers should be working together and “to get smarter.”
“We trace vaccine and health history of incoming cattle,” she said. “I oversee all cattle buying. I also track all feed delivery, making sure we are no more than 20 minutes (off schedule).
”Burkholder said consumers are very curious about where their food comes from and there’s no silver bullet to building trust.
“You have to share yourself to build trust,” she said. “It is people who have relationships and establish trust. We have to make a personal commitment that makes your farm transparent.”
She said the cattle industry is ever changing.
“Future cattlemen and women need a good work ethic, humble attitude, a diverse set of skills, and dedication to humane and effective animal care,” she said. “They also need the ability to think outside the box and a willingness to engage with customers.”
Each day, Burkholder said she is active in the feedlot operation and looks forward to seeing the sunrise.
“I love working with my hands and with a shovel,” she said. “That’s why I stayed (on the farm).”
Burkholder regularly blogs about her experiences in beef production and farm life at https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/.