Life on a Dairy Farm

Shelby - Dairy Farming 2We put it in our cereal. Kids drink it in their sippy cups. It is used as an ingredient in many of the things we make, yet it is something that most kids don’t get enough of. That’s right, I mean milk!

For this blog, I wanted to learn more about something I don’t know much about. I chose dairy as my subject to dive into, and because of this reason I got the opportunity to spend some time with some of my relatives on their dairy farm, Beauty View Guernseys, just west of Wahoo, NE. Continue reading

Sam’s Shepard’s Pie

Looking for a fun, easy recipe to fulfill your week? This recipe by Crew Member, Sam Steward, is a quick and delicious version of Shepard’s Pie. Try it tonight!

Shepards Pie - cropped


1 pound of hamburger

1 can of corn

1 can of cream of celery

3 cups of cheese

1 ½ cups onion

3 large potatoes

½ a stick of butter



  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease an 8×13 pan.
  2. Start by peeling and quarter the potatoes in a medium sized pot and boil until tender.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, begin chopping 1 ½ cup of onion. Then in a medium sauce pan, melt ¼ stick of butter and start cooking the chopped onion until tender.
  4. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the can of corn and continue cooking until tender.
  5. Once the onion and corn are cooked until tender, add the 1 pound of hamburger and cook until brown.
  6. Salt and pepper the corn, onion and hamburger mixture to taste.
  7. Add the can of cream of celery to the corn, onion, and hamburger mixture.
  8. Once potatoes are cooked, you can start mashing them.
  9. In the greased, 8×13 pan, layer the hamburger mixture on the bottom. Then you can layer the mashed potatoes over top the hamburger mixture.
  10. Sprinkle the three cups of cheese over top and cover with foil.
  11. Place in oven and bake on 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
  12. To get browning of the cheese, broil for 5 minutes.


Dairy and Bacon Prices Down, Apples Too

Lower retail prices for several foods, including whole milk, cheddar cheese, bacon and apples resulted in a slight decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fall Harvest Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $54.14, down $.12 or less than 1 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 decreased and six increased in average price.

Higher milk and pork production this year has contributed to the decrease in prices on some key foods.

“Energy prices, which affect everything in the marketbasket, have been quite a bit lower compared to a year ago. Processing, packaging, transportation and retail operations are all fairly energy-intensive,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. Lower energy prices account for much of the modest decrease in the marketbasket.

CS15_128 Fall Harvest Marketbasket SurveyThe following items showed retail price decreases from a year ago:

  • whole milk, down 17 percent to $3.14 per gallon
  • bacon, down 11 percent to $4.55 per pound
  • apples, down 7 percent $1.45 per pound
  • shredded cheddar, down 5 percent to $4.56 per pound
  • flour, down 4 percent to $2.37 per five-pound bag
  • bagged salad, down 4 percent to $2.46 per pound
  • vegetable oil, down 3 percent to $2.61 for a 32-ounce bottle
  • Russet potatoes, down 3 percent to $2.64 for a five-pound bag
  • white bread, down 1 percent to $1.69 for a 20-ounce loaf
  • chicken breast, down 1 percent to $3.42 per pound

These items showed modest retail price increases compared to a year ago:

  • eggs, up 56 percent to $3.04 per dozen
  • orange juice, up 7 percent to $3.43 per half-gallon
  • ground chuck, up 6 percent to $4.55 per pound
  • toasted oat cereal, up 3 percent to $3.09 for a nine-ounce box
  • sirloin tip roast, up 3 percent to $5.67 per pound
  • sliced deli ham, up 1 percent to $5.47 per pound

“As expected we saw higher egg prices because we lost so much production earlier this year due to the avian influenza situation in Iowa, Minnesota and some other Midwestern states,” Anderson said.

Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $2.21; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.79; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $4.16.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.


“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $54.14 marketbasket would be $8.66.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a Spring Picnic survey, Summer Cookout survey, Fall Harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 69 shoppers in 24 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in September.

City Life Meets Country Living

This past weekend, my family, my husband and I packed up and headed to the big city – Chicago. (Our dog spent the weekend on the farm with my dad) My cousin got married in a small town about two hours outside the city, but we thought we would take the opportunity to do a little sight-seeing.

This was my husband and my second trip to Chicago, but the first time there for my mother and sister. We hit all the usual spots — Navy Pier, Wrigley Field and Magnificent Mile. And of course, we had Chicago style pizza. wrigley

I wanted to visit Lincoln Park Zoo, which, let me tell you, is a wonderful little zoo and it’s free! It was a bit of a trek from our hotel. (Sat on the train for a while and then walked several blocks.) The first view we got of the zoo was kind of like seeing the farm back home! It was a barnyard right in the middle of Chicago, complete with cattle, goats, sheep and all the animals. It was actually very cool to see a city take this step to teach urban children about another lifestyle and where their food comes from. They even had a milking demonstration. They showed the old fashioned hand-milking, as well as the modern machine based milking. (I wanted my husband to step in and show off his skills. He grew up on a dairy farm. He is always boasting about how well he can milk a cow.)

While we saw several children and school groups excited to see the monkeys, bears and sea lions, it was nice to see the same energetic faces get excited over a cow, chickens and goats. (A while the city is fun to visit, the green zoo was nice to get a little break from the concrete jungle.)

The day after sight-seeing, we made the quick two hour drive to a small town outside of Chicago. My cousin got married in a small country church with their reception on his wife’s family Illinois farm. (Complete with a barn dance!) It may sound silly, but I think a lot of farmers do this. My husband and I kept checking out the crops. Was the corn taller here than back home? How do their beans look?cooling tower

One image I will definitely remember is, while we were driving through the country to the church, we kept getting closer and closer to these huge cooling towers of a power plant. When we drove right past the smoking towers, we all thought there is no way this is a nuclear plant. They would never let a road get that close right? Wrong. A quick web search revealed it was indeed a nuclear power plant surrounded by corn fields.

It was just amazing to see power for millions of people being produced in the heartland where food grows every day for millions of people.

As a look back, this past weekend was filled with city life meets country living.





Blog Bio Pic with Color

The USDA Issued a What for What?

Just before the Christmas holiday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a final ruling to establish regulations for tracing livestock moving interstate. But, what does this mean?


Animal disease traceability is knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they’ve been and when they were there. This is very important to ensure a rapid response when animal disease events take place. An efficient and accurate animal disease traceability system helps speed up response time by reducing the number of animals involved in an investigation and decreases the cost to producers and the government.

The ruling will allow for increased food security providing dependability in terms of supply and quality, among other attributes.  Should there be an animal disease occurrence, the final ruling would allow for efficient trace back of infected animals and the rapid quarantine of potentially exposed animals. This ensures that healthy animals can continue to move freely to processing facilities, providing a dependable and affordable source for consumers and protect producer’s livelihoods. At that point, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service methods for quality assurance take over and assure further safety and security of the food supply.


The USDA presented an original plan for traceability in August 2011 and opened the original plan up for consumer and producer comment. Those comments closed and a final ruling was made on Dec. 20, 2012. The ruling will take effect at the end of February 2013.


Under the final rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate (across state lines) would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates. An additional ruling for beef cattle less than 18 months of age will be coming, but for now they are exempt from the official identification requirement in this rule.

Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection

Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection

For more specific details about the regulation and how it will affect producers, visit


— Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter growing up on a cow/calf and grain farm in Iowa. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, majoring in both animal science and public relations. She has been involved with agriculture from birth, working in multiple facets of the industry including the USDA and Extension. Kassi relocated to Nebraska in 2010 to work for a marketing communications agency for a multitude of agriculture clients. 

Fiscal Cliff Breakdown

Lawmakers finally broke a deal in the 13th hour of first day of 2013, below are details of the fiscal cliff deal that was passed by the House last night and signed into law this morning by the president. The deal prevents numerous taxes credits and the expiration of President Bush tax rates. However, the bill also sets the stage for continuing battles on spending for the duration of 2013.

U.S. Capitol night2

Income Taxes

  • Permanently extends the 10% income tax bracket
  • Permanently extends the 25%, 28% and 33% income tax rates on income at or below $400,000 for individual filers, $425,000 for heads of households and $450,000 for married couples filing jointly
  • Increases to 39.6% the rate on incomes above $400,000 for individual filers, $425,000 for heads of households and $450,000 for married couples filing jointly

Estate Taxes

“We encouraged Congress to extend 2012 estate tax provisions to preserve the $5 million exemption level and maintain a 35 percent tax rate to protect a significant number of Nebraska farm and ranch families from being subject to the death tax. Had Congress failed to act the exemption would have lowered to $1 million which would have broadened the reach of the estate tax to more Nebraska farms. Congress’ action to keep the $5 million exemption is a positive. However, Congress ultimately raised the rate to 40 percent which is a concern,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation president.

  • Permanently extends the current exemption amount, exempting estates up to $5.12 million ($5 million indexed for inflation for years after 2011)
  • Increases the maximum rate to 40% — an increase from the current 35% rate — for estate values above the exemption amount
  • Extends gift tax levels of a $5.12 million ($5 million indexed for inflation) exemption and a 40% top rate

Capital Gains and Dividends

  • Extends the current capital gains and dividends rates on income at or below $400,000 (individual filers), $425,000 (heads of households) and $450,000 (married filing jointly)
  • Under current law, the capital gains and dividend rates for taxpayers below the 25% bracket is equal to zero percent. For those in the 25% bracket and above, the capital gains and dividend rates are currently 15%.
    • Increases the rate to 20% for both capital gains and dividends for income in excess of $400,000 for individual filers, $425,000 for heads of households and $450,000 for married couples filing jointly

Small Business Tax Credits

“We are pleased Congress included tax provisions to help small businesses, the backbone of America’s economy. Congress increased the maximum amount small businesses can expense for capital purchases up to $500,000 for next year while also extending the 50 percent bonus depreciation for the purchases of capital assets. Both provisions will help farmers, ranchers and other small businesses when they invest in new equipment and assets to improve their operations,” said Nelson.

  • Extends the provision to allow businesses to deduct from their taxes 50% of the value for property placed in service before the end of 2013 in addition to amounts that they could otherwise claim under depreciation rules. Bonus depreciation is allowed against both the regular tax system and the Alternative Minimum Tax.
  • Increases for 2012 and 2013 the Section 179 expensing limit to $500,000, with the phase-out beginning when investments exceed $2 million

Individual Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Relief

  • Increases the AMT exemption amounts for 2012 to $50,600 for individuals and $78,750 for married couples filing jointly and indexes the exemption and phase out amounts thereafter

Farm Bill Programs Extension

“Disappointing for Nebraska farmers and ranchers is the decision to include, but not fund, much needed livestock disaster programs, despite the fact that both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate supported re-authorization for these programs. Given the seriousness and impacts of the lingering drought, re-authorization and funding for these programs was critical, and now all we have is uncertainty and a reality that funding is highly questionable,” said  Nelson. “It is our hope that a new Congress will use 2013 to reevaluate the opportunities to address these issues through a new five-year farm bill.”

  • Extends through the end of FY 2013 (Sept. 30, 2013) most provisions of farm policy as they were in effect on Sept. 30, 2012, under the 2008 Farm Bill, including direct payments
  • Extends current commodity terms and conditions for all commodities for the 2013 crop year including sugar beets
  • Extends through Dec. 31, 2013, the Dairy Product Price Support Program and the Milk Income Loss Contract Program
  • Maintains the maximum enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program at the same level (32 million acres) that has applied for fiscal years 2010 through 2012
  • Authorizes $30 million in discretionary funding for the beginning farmer and rancher development program, which received $49 million in mandatory funding in FY 2012
  • Authorizes funding, but does not provide actual dollars, for certain agricultural disaster assistance programs for FY 2012 and 2013, including:
  1. $80 million a year for livestock indemnity payment
  2. $400 million a year for the livestock forage disaster program
  3. $50 million a year for emergency assistance for livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish
  4. $20 million a year for the tree assistance program
  • Authorizes discretionary funding for two programs under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). SNAP’s employment and training programs would be authorized at $79 million for FY 2013 (an $11 million reduction from the $90 million in mandatory spending it received in FY 2012).

What are your thoughts on the deal? Take action and contact your senator or representative.

2012 Farm & Ranch Recap

Farming and ranching has been a way of life since the beginning of time, and from that broad history farmers and ranchers have been able to learn from past issues and even mistakes to become better and more efficient. While we made it through the holiday season and into 2013, let’s take one last look at the notable issues and topics from 2012.


The number one issue for Nebraska and the nation in 2012 was the drought. At the Bayer CropScience exhibit during the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, 73 percent of respondents to the daily survey noted climate and weather problems as the biggest challenge experienced on their farm this year. Nebraska farmers were especially hard hit, with Nebraska being one of the most affected states in the nation according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Farmers and ranchers faced sharply reduced yields across the board from corn, to soybeans, wheat and many forage crops that pushed market prices to record levels due to the drought. These commodity price increases drove production costs higher for the beef, pork, dairy and poultry operations.


Farm Bill

 Before we get started, let’s review the process of how a bill becomes a law with Schoolhouse Rock –

Dubbed the “Farm Bill,” this bill affects much more than just farming including extensive national impact through programs in nutrition ($772 billion), crop insurance ($91 billion), conservation ($64 billion), commodities ($63 billion) and other areas. While this issue remains tied-up in Washington, D.C., the Farm Bill became urgent when programs under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 ended Sept. 30, as according to language in the 2008 Farm Bill, programs reverted back to 1938 and 1949 Farm Bill levels of funding and coverage for commodity programs, including crop insurance. This feature normally induces Congress to get its work done on a new farm bill in a timely fashion.

Prior to September, the senate approved its version of the new Farm Bill in June, with the House Agriculture Committee approving a different version in July. However, House leaders have failed to put either new version of the Farm Bill up to a vote referencing need for additional spending cuts. The continued stalling of the Farm Bill is especially frustrating as, believe it or not, the majority of Republicans and Democrats largely agree on the changes to be made.

With high costs of inputs such as seed and fertilizer to take care of the soil, farming is a risky business that has no other type of financial safety net. Crop insurance is federally regulated and current agricultural commodity programs support farmers through direct and counter-cyclical payments based both on production and market prices. While 62 percent of U.S. farms did not collect any crop insurance payments, crop insurance is major concern among farming and ranching families as experts expect the drought to continue into 2013.

Child Labor Issue

“The decision to withdraw this rule — including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ — was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms,” – Department of Labor

In a victory to sustaining the way of rural life, a proposed rule was withdrawn that would have applied labor laws to family farms. The U.S. Department of Labor cited public outcry as the reason for withdrawing the rule. The regulations within the proposed bill would have drastically impacted how children could be involved with and learn about the family farm.  The rule would have dramatically changed what types of chores children under the age of 16 could perform on and around American farms and  farming locations including grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions. It would have prohibited them from working with tobacco, operating almost all types of power-driven equipment and being employed to work with raw farm materials, including tasks such as detasseling corn.


Sadly, the drought and Farm Bill will continue to be issues moving into 2013. However, the noted take-away point from 2012 issues is the fact that when united, the rural and agriculture community’s voice will be heard.

Please continue to make your voice heard on issues into the new year!

— Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter growing up on a cow/calf and grain farm in Iowa. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, majoring in both animal science and public relations. She has been involved with agriculture from birth, working in multiple facets of the industry including the USDA and Extension. Kassi relocated to Nebraska in 2010 to work for a marketing communications agency for a multitude of agriculture clients. 

Get to know your Nebraska farmer: Dave Murman

The dairy farm near Glenvil where Dave Murman lives now was started by his grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. with David’s grandmother in 1921. He started working for other German farmers in the Glenvil area and Dave’s heard from an old-timer that “the farmers all around gave my grandpa a cow or a calf or a hog or a turkey, and then he had more livestock than anyone else!”

Dave’s grandfather started his dairy in the late 1920s/early ’30s with 10 cows. When Grandpa moved to town, Dave’s Dad took over.  Dave remembers the family had 30 cows when he was in grade school, 50 by high school and close to 70 when he returned from college. Today the Grade A dairy has 240 cows and because the dairy raises its own replacement heifers, the herd is about 500 all told.

Dave majored in dairy management and business at UNL and came close to a minor in political science. He’d always been interested in politics, and “Hey, it was the late ’60s, early ’70s, a pivotal time in U.S. history,” he says.

He came back to the family farm in 1976. Today he farms in partnership with his younger brother, Jim. Their farm is four miles south and four miles east of Hastings in south-central Nebraska.

Jim manages their 1,250-acre farming operation. Nearly all of the Murman land is irrigated corn with 100 acres of alfalfa for the cows. Dave is in charge of the dairy and enjoys the management challenges that come with dairying today.

Dave’s barns are free-stall, with fans with misters to keep the cows cool during hot weather. They stay warm in the winter and are protected from predators – coyotes, and possibly cougars that have been sighted in the area. The dairy’s milk goes to the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative, usually to Ravenna but sometimes to Omaha where it becomes Roberts Milk.

American farmers do a great job of raising food and taking care of their animals, Dave says. “We care for our animals very much. That’s just part of our lifestyle. Most of us have grown up on farms and it’s just part of our nature to be good to our animals. If it means staying up all night during calving or storms, that’s what we do.

“The cows are a close second behind our families for what we care about.”

Dave’s wife Kathy is also from Glenvil. They have three young adult children:  Kelsi, who’s married to Grant Hewitt,  worked as a bank examiner after graduating from UNL and is now a full-time mother of two: Carter, 2-1/2, and Calvin, 1-1/2.

Whitney lives at home with her parents and always will. She was born with Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder, and is totally disabled and unable to talk. Neighbors and college students help the Murman family with her care.

Chase just graduated from Sandy Creek High and will attend Concordia University in Seward on a football scholarship, possibly studying physical therapy or business.

Dave was a member of LEAD Group IX and is a graduate of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Leadership Academy.  He’s a past state president of the Nebraska State Dairy Association and serves on the corporate resolutions committee for the upcoming DFA national convention. He’s also been a member of the Sandy Creek School Board.

Dave’s thinking about retiring from dairying in a few years and a run for the Nebraska Legislature may be in his future, he says, because, hey, it’s a pivotal time in U.S. history.

Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Tour Takes Influencers Out of the City and Onto the Farm

A recent Farm Road Rally hosted by the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) took nine “influencers” out of their offices and onto the farm in an effort to help answer questions about modern food production in order to help them make better food choices for their family. The group which was comprised of dieticians, a chef, administrative assistant and several urban consumers, made its first pit stop at the Kevin Sladky Farm south of Wahoo.

Beef: Kevin and his wife Brandy operate a third generation farm raising corn, soybeans, alfalfa, seed corn and seed soybeans. In 2004, Kevin started his beef herd becoming a first generation livestock farmer. The group discussed row-crop farming and watched them harvest soybeans, talked about the environment, input costs and economics, and heard more about the lifecycle of beef animals, including diet and health programs.

Carrie Nielsen, Linden Market Hy-Vee Dietitian in Omaha, says the tour was important in that it helped her see how agriculture has changed and evolved.

Pork: The tour’s second stop was with Jim Pillen and his daughter Sarah at the PST Danbred facility by Brainard. The group toured their breeding stock development facility while hearing about individual housing for the sows to enhance their individual care, keeping them safe, health, well-fed and comfortable in controlled environment buildings.

Dairy: The last stop of the day took the group to Surprise to visit Tuls Dairies. Attendees heard about all aspects of the dairy from the feed sheds, to barns, through the maternity ward and they were fortunate enough to witness a calf being born! They then visited the milking parlor to see the technology in moving the milk, cooling it and into the tankers to be shipped.

Nielsen says the tour provided learning opportunities that she can take home to her own children, who then interact with peers at a large Omaha school.

Farm Bureau is one of six founding partners of A-FAN. Farm Bureau funding and support of A-FAN is crucial to the organization’s success.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.