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What's It Like to Work on a Cattle Ranch?

In the second episode of our Faces of Farming series, we talk to Dr. Tera Barnhardt, coordinator of animal health and welfare for Cattle Empire, about the care and technology that goes into the beef you feed your family. 

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
Episode #502
image of cows at cattle ranch

ND: The majority of consumers will never have a chance to actually come to a feed yard. What might they be really surprised to see if they had a chance to visit your operation? What would they never expect to see, or what do you see the people who visit your yard being surprised by?

TB: We really push our technology to the limit at a feed yard, and I think people would be very surprised to see that. But that should give you a lot of confidence in the beef that you're serving to your family, because there is so much technology behind it. Every animal is tracked in our computer system. We know when it was treated if it was sick, and when its last meal was—we can track down anything for all the animals on the feed yard. And so, that sort of integration of people raising the beef that you're going to eat, putting in so much effort to make sure that the technology is there, is to protect this huge job that we have. We need to make sure that we're doing this correctly and we take that very seriously, and we rely very heavily on technology to make that happen.

ND: So Tera, obviously, this is not an easy way to make a living. It's a lot of work. And as you say, it's the same amount of work whether it's raining, or snowing, or a holiday, or you woke up with a cold—what keeps you in this profession? Surely, there must be easier ways to apply your education and your training.

TB: I'd be lying if I said there weren't days where I think, gosh, there's got to be an easier way to be a vet. There are many ways to apply my education and knowledge and the things I have been fortunate enough to learn in my lifetime. What keeps me in the beef industry is that my family raised me in a way that allowed me to grow up knowing that I could be what I wanted to be. I told myself at a young age that I would not let them down. And every day when I hit the road, I'm excited about what I'm about to do. I cannot think of a more exciting thing. I know that I'm feeding people. That's a noble profession and a noble industry to be a part of, because the population is growing and we hear those challenges. The consumer is changing, and we want to meet those needs and meet those changes with transparency. We want to talk to our consumers because they're the only reason we're still in business. Something as simple as recording a podcast on a Monday morning with a nutritionist is exciting to me because that just links me to the end user of our product and says, ‘hey there is a veterinarian in Kansas who could not care any more about the food that you're serving to your family because she serves it to her family.’ So, if your listeners have questions, if you have questions, we're happy to answer those and be transparent because I hit the road every day to do my job with that much excitement. And that keeps me going, because you're exactly right, it's not an easy way to make a living. There's a lot of risk involved—we can have snow storms, we can have markets that can really hurt us. Think of all the political things that can affect the cattle market and change how we can make a profit. With those kinds of things, it's a very risky business, but it's one that my family has always been involved in and it's one I always found very noble. I'm excited to maybe pass that on to my kids.

ND: Well Tera, I want to thank you for taking some time—some valuable time—out of your day to talk with us today, and I also want to thank the listeners for listening. I'm going to be back next week with the next installment of Faces of Farming. We're going to be talking to Greg France, who grows strawberries, and plenty of them, with his wife in California. You'll find the rest of our Faces of Farming series as well as the entire archive of Nutrition Diva podcasts on our website at nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com, and you can find me on the Nutrition Diva Facebook Page and at nutritionovereasy.com. Have a great week, everyone.

Image © The Beef Checkoff

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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