Stand up! Speak out! Share Ag!

Katharine _ 1My passion for agriculture started when I was a very young. I was barely able to walk (still in diapers) but I would be riding in the tractor with my dad to check cows. By the time I was seven or eight, I knew the numbers and family history behind almost every single cow in our herd. From the age of 9 to 18, I showed cattle, chickens and sheep. I grew up in an area that was very agriculture oriented.  My community promoted agriculture, and everybody understood what I was doing with my livestock and what I was talking about when I said that I was going to move cows, work calves, or haul corn.

Fast forward to high school, when I was showing chickens and sheep at the state fair. The state fair brings in many families from a different background other than agriculture. I was asked so many questions about my animals and what I was doing to prepare them for the show. Being a country kid, I was amazed at how many kids and parents that had never touched a chicken or a sheep. I was so glad that I could share my life style with others. This is the moment that I started to realize how blessed I am to have grown up on a farm and to know where my food comes from. However, I also realized that there is a large population of people who don’t understand what happens to their food before it ends up on their plate.

Katharine_2Now that I’m in college, I can see the great importance of sharing my story of what happens during my daily life on a farm. As farmers and ranchers, we know what happens to the food on our plates, because we know how much care, time, and effort goes into our own crops and livestock. However, many of our consumers don’t know that, and they want to know the story behind the corn and beef on their plate. Let’s tell them that we got up at three in the morning to do calving checks, trudged through the mud, herded a cow/calf pair into the barn because the temperatures were below zero, and the cried because after staying up all night to tube feed a calf, it still didn’t make it. Tell them about planting in the mud, irrigating in the baking sun, and harvesting all through the night just to beat a snowstorm. Simply sharing a picture of what you do daily or telling a story about your day can go a long way. Something so simple can change a person’s perspective of the rural lifestyle. Making a connection and finding a common ground is so important in order to bring together producers and consumers.


Katharine Schudel attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and studies Animal Science. She grew up on a family farm south of North Loup where she raised crops and cattle. Katharine loves sharing the story of the American farmer and rancher to make a connection with people about how agriculture impacts their daily lives.

Calving in the Cold

At the end of January and into February, two of the coldest months of the year, a process more suited to warmer weather unfolds in ranch country. It often requires a midwife who wears boots and spurs, and who can go sleep deprived for a few months. It is called calving season.

Calving in the cold keeps ranchers like 25 year old Tyler Pieper and his wife, Heidi, very, very busy.

Checking Cattle
“When it’s cold we continually check every hour to hour and a half to monitor the cows,” said Pieper, who ranches near Farnam in southwest Nebraska and is a member of the Frontier County Farm Bureau.

Pieper and his wife look over about 275 first calf heifers and 150 cows as they give birth to their babies in sometimes below freezing temperatures. We do what we can to keep them out of extremely cold conditions, and keep them comfortable, he said.

“When it’s cold and we see them start to deliver, we get them in the barn to make sure their calves are born out of the elements. If the weather is nice, we let them have their babies outside,” said Pieper. Of the 275 first calf heifers and 150 cows who are giving birth this season about 115 to 120 of them have gone through the barn at one stage or another because of the cold.

Cattle Come First
Everything the Pieper’s do on the ranch revolves around the cattle. Cattle come first, Pieper said.

“As a rancher, I am responsible for those cows and their calves. Sometimes there is a fine line between life and death. They depend on humans to take care of them, so it is my responsibility to check on them when they are born outside and take them to the warming room in our calving shed and make sure they get dried off. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2:00 in the morning or 2:00 in the afternoon. This is not an eight to five job. There isn’t such a thing in agriculture,” he said.

Keeping Warm
A lot is done to prevent the calves from getting too cold. It’s normal for ranchers to check a calf’s temperature. A good temperature is around 99 to 100 degrees. Anything lower and it’s into the barn for the calf. It’s important to get their temp up to normal so that they are strong enough to get their mother’s first milk, Pieper said.

The first milk is essential, it contains colostrum which supplies the calf with anti-bodies needed for a healthy immune system. It also allows the bond between calf and mother to begin.

“We both grew up around cattle. I would work livestock with my dad, Dr. Kent Pieper, who is the veterinarian in Farnam. My wife, Heidi, grew up in Dunlap, Iowa, and helped her folks run both of their livestock markets, a physical place where farmers and ranchers go to buy and sell cattle. We both have the same passion for agriculture and feel blessed to do what we love,” Pieper said.