Meet Your Dairyman: Wes Kerr

The beef community has many volunteer leaders who dedicate countless hours to sharing how beef is raised and how they care for their cattle. Wes Kerr, fourth generation dairyman, is the chairman of the Arizona Beef Council. He and the other directors carefully plan the Council’s promotion and education efforts, striving to connect Arizona families to the men and women who raise both beef and dairy cattle. Meet Wes!

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My great-grandfather John Kerr Sr. was born in Michigan in 1900 and was the first Kerr to be born in America. He was interested in agriculture from a young age. In 1927 he decided to buy a small herd of Jersey cattle and became the first in our family to be a dairy farmer.

After becoming tired of the harsh Michigan winters he decided to sell the Jerseys and move to Arizona in 1940. He started working for a dairy farmer in Tempe, and when the farmer told him he was planning to sell his cows my great-grandfather bought the herd. This is how my family became Arizona dairy farmers.

I only have one memory of my great-grandfather, however I find it very interesting that the life decisions that he made are largely responsible for what I do today. My family’s passion for caring for animals and raising crops lives on today, four generations later. Those are the main drivers that get me out of bed in the morning. For our family dairy farming is more than just a business, it is a way of life.

For me it is so interesting to see how much dairy farming has changed over the years. Looking at old photographs, one can see how different things looked when compared to today. The cattle in those days looked fleshier and less defined. Instead of metal shades with fans and misters, the cows were shaded by palm fronds thatched together. They were fed hay and during milking a little grain was given. A dairy cattle nutritionist was unimagined in those days. All of the cows were bred to a herd bull using natural service.

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A photo from Kerr Dairy circa 1963-1964, as printed in United Dairymen of Arizona’s magazines.
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Today’s dairy with a more sophisticated shade and cooling system for the cows.

Taking stock of all of these apparent differences one can ask, “Has anything stayed the same?” The answer to that question is definitely yes! Our family, like so many farm and ranch families, has continued to use the best technology and know-how available at the time. Each generation worked hard to improve over the previous one.

Today dairy cattle are far more productive, healthier and produce higher quality milk than ever before in history. People often speak of “the good old days”, but when I look at the data it becomes apparent to me that perhaps the “the good old days” are today. I sometimes wonder what my great-grandfather would say if he could see the practices we use today. I suspect that he would find them incredible.

I believe that our job as modern agriculturalists is to share our unique stories with consumers. We food producers are not faceless greedy people who cut corners trying to make a quick buck. We food producers are made up of families who work hard every day through the good times and the difficult times, to bring quality products to feed families.

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Wes with this wife Lauren and daughters Madelyn and Caroline.

Meet Your Rancher: Dave Schafer

This week’s feature is Dave Schafer, Resident Director at the University of Arizona’s V Bar V Ranch located in Rimrock, Arizona. Learn how Dave got into the ranching business, low-stress cattle handling and why it is important for a productive ranch.

Resized DaveArizona Beef: How did you get involved with beef cattle? The University of Arizona ranch, the V Bar V?

Dave Schafer: I grew up on a farm in NW Missouri and we raised cattle but it was not until I entered college that I found I really liked working with beef cattle and wanted to make a career of it.  I obtained a B.S. Degree from Northwest Missouri State University then went on to Colorado State University (CSU) to obtain a M.S. and PhD degrees in Animal Breeding/Genetics with emphasis in beef cattle.  When I finished my M.S. degree, I was hired by CSU to manage the cattle records and activities for the CSU-Beef Improvement Center, the San Juan Basin Research Center and Four Corners Bull Test.  Upon finishing my PhD, I accepted a two-year postdoctoral position at the San Juan Basin Research Center and then assumed management of that facility at the end of my post-doc.

Dr. Roy Ax approached me in 1999 about the possibility of coming to Arizona to run the V Bar V Ranch.  I saw many possibilities and a great opportunity so I applied and was fortunate to get the job as Resident Director.

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An example of flight zone. Cattle create a similar pattern.*

Arizona Beef: What is low-stress cattle handling?

Dave Schafer:  Low-stress cattle handling is basically a form of communication between the animal and handler.  Animals are usually willing to do the activities we want them to but there is an obvious communication barrier.  Therefore, it is the responsibility of the handler to make the animal understand what you want it to do by utilizing the animal’s flight zone and point of balance** to move the animal.  Using these techniques, you build trust with your animals and they move more easily and are less frightened.

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Diagram of flight zone and point of balance.**

Arizona Beef: Why is low-stress cattle handling important to you and your ranch?

Dave Schafer:Stressed animals are more susceptible to sickness and their weight gains are affected.  As a producer, we want the animals to be healthy not only for the sake of animal but also the economics.  Stressed animals cost producers money.

Arizona Beef: How do you ensure low-stress cattle handling happens on your ranch?
Dave Schafer: We use the animal’s flight zone* and point of balance** to move them and do it in a quiet non-threatening way.  Another part of low-stress handling is having good facilities.  Good facilities ensure not only your workers’ safety but also the safety of the animals.  Designing facilities to work with the natural movement of livestock and understanding potential distractions around your facilities can help you move the animals quietly and efficiently.  We have tried to design our facilities to be as efficient as possible.

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A diagram of point of balance.***

Arizona Beef: How do genetics play into this?

Dave Schafer: There is a genetic component to docility in animals.  Therefore, we can collect a chute score on an animal to assess their response to handling.  Some animals are naturally more nervous than others despite being treated the same.  We can make selection decisions using these scores to select the tamer animals and thereby reduce stress levels within the herd.


*This photo “illustrates the flight zone of a large flock of sheep, herds of cattle behave much the same way. Notice that the sheep are circling around the handlers while maintaining a safe distance and keeping the people in sight. Note that the sheep tend to move in the opposite direction of handler movement.” (Source)

** The point of balance is usually at the animal’s shoulder and it is determined by the animal’s wide angle vision. All species of livestock will move forward if the handler stands behind the point of balance. They will back up if the handler stands in front of the point of balance.

***This photo provides a bird’s eye view and allows one to see the point of balance. Where the handler is currently standing is called the point of balance because the animal will not move (if out of the flight zone). If the handler moves towards the back of the animal, behind the point of balance, the animal will move forward. If the handler moves towards the head of the animal, it will move backward.

For more information on the V Bar V Ranch visit their website here. To learn more about low-stress cattle handling visit Dr. Temple Grandin’s website.

Ugh, What’s for Dinner?

Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.® Of course.

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Hi, all! I’m Lauren. I love beef, red wine, and pie.

I think we can all agree on one thing: no one wants to get home from a long day at work and slave over the stove as our precious time ticks away. Maybe you’ve just sat in traffic for an hour or maybe you just got home from sweating up a storm at the gym. Either way, something quick and easy for dinner is in order.

I’d like to share with you one of my go-to weeknight dinners: steak salad. The ingredient options are endless and they can be a snap to throw together, while also remaining healthy and delicious. Have New York Strip leftover from last night’s steak house outing? Toss it in a salad. Out of ideas for that shredded or Ground Beef from Taco Tuesday? Make a salad. What to do with some of our favorite lean beef cuts (like Flank Steak)? Marinate them and, you guessed it, make a salad! Plus, it gets hot here in the desert and who wants to slave over a hot stove in the summer? Not me.

This week, I found my inspiration from a BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com recipe: Beef Steak Salad with Dried Cherries. I had a Skirt Steak ready to marinate and violà – a delicious, nutritious and fulfilling meal option. Prep was a snap. It could even be packed for lunch at work. Salad ingredients are easy to keep prepped in the fridge as easy go-tos. Then you can say a little “abracadabra” while tossing the salad ingredients in bowl and you are set in a jiffy.

The beauty of salad recipes? You don’t have to follow them exactly. If you don’t like blue cheese – exchange for feta. Have Tri-Tip to use? Go for it. Here are my ideas but don’t let me stifle your creativity. This is in the style of a no-recipe-recipe. If you are the type who needs a recipe, click on the link below.

BEEF STEAK SALAD (modified from this inspiration)

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INGREDIENTS

  1. Beef Skirt Steak (or Top Sirloin, Flank Steak, any leftover steak). Note: see marinade idea below.
  2. Lettuce – I used romaine that I cleaned and chopped. Spring mix or Boston/Bib/Butter lettuce (apparently they are different) will also do.
  3. Dried cherries or cranberries or golden raisins. Use your discretion on how much you like.
  4. Crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese
  5. Sliced red onion
  6. Some nuts: I really like sweet and spicy pecans but other options are pine nuts or coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted.
  7. Diced avocado

DRESSING (I did follow this recipe and it was tasty. Or you can simply use extra virgin olive oil and red wine or balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper).

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

INSTRUCTIONS
Important: If you are pre-marinating the beef (Flank and Skirt Steak need this extra treatment), here is a marinade you could use and follow these marinade tips. Or use the one in the original inspiration recipe.

  1. Combine dressing ingredients in medium bowl.
  2. Cut steak lengthwise in half and then crosswise into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick strips. Add beef to remaining dressing; toss to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.
  3. Remove beef from marinade; discard marinade. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1/2 of beef; stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until outside surface of beef is no longer pink. (Do not overcook.) Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining beef.

If you are using leftover beef, start here (so easy!):

4. Combine lettuce and reserved dressing in large bowl; toss to coat. Don’t over dress! No one like a soggy salad. Arrange beef over lettuce; sprinkle with cheese, cherries, red onion, nuts, and avocado, as desired. Serve immediately.

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Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an exper food photograher. Just good enough for Instagram. 

Enjoy! What are your favorite salad ingredients to go with beef?

Fueled by Beef

In Arizona, and other states across the country, there is a group of athletes who proudly wear their T-Bone-emblazoned jerseys as they run, cycle, CrossFit, and hike on their quest to lead healthy lives through physical activity. Though they hail from different backgrounds, the one thing Arizona Team Beef members share is the need for high-quality protein in their diets and for these athletes, beef is what fuels them.

Team Beef Arizona

 

Arizona Team Beef has participated in marathons, adventure runs, triathlons and even spends many days horseback gathering cattle on the Arizona range. Athletic skill ranges from beginner to record holding race winners but, no matter the level of fitness, we all recognize the nutritional benefits of protein in one’s diet. Lean beef can play an important role in repairing and building muscle, maintaining weight, and benefit heart health, all while providing fuel for the finish.

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Beef provides 10 essential nutrients including iron, which shuttles oxygen from your lungs to your hard-working muscles ensuring you sustain and maximize your performance throughout the whole race (or whatever activity in which you engage). It also begins and speeds post-activity recovery leading to stronger muscles in a shorter amount of time. Include lean beef in your post-race regimen, just like our Team Beef members, to give your muscles what they need to recover quickly for your next adventure.

Bottom line? Beef really helps you perform.

 

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As April begins, so does Million Mile Month, an athletic movement empowering people across the country to live healthier lives. Team Beef members from many states are logging their miles and/or minutes of activity (running, walking, biking, yoga-ing, CrossFitting, gardening, farming, swimming, zumba-ing). Sign up if you are interested – there are prizes for leaders nation-wide as well as Arizona specific! Running the month of April, this challenge is a great way for Team BEEF members, beef farmers and ranchers, and other beef lovers to participate together in this all-abilities challenge as we power up with protein.

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Arizona Team Beef members burning up the asphalt