Rancher(s): Joan Ruskamp
Location: Dodge, NE
Operation Name: J & S Feedlot
What is your favorite part of being a beef rancher?
Joan Ruskamp: My favorite part is walking pens when the morning is absolutely beautiful, the cattle are all spread out and comfortable and content.
How important is animal welfare at your feedyard?
JR: We are always trying to make our cattle as comfortable as possible. In the summer we utilize a sprinkler system to keep the cattle cool. Normally when there is a breeze, cattle can adapt but when it’s really hot and there’s no breeze we utilize methods to help them stay comfortable. This year we bought a tree shade, which is a large awning that provides shade to the cattle, but we discovered that flies also like shade. We found that the cattle were getting agitated from the flies and weren’t staying cool under the shade, so we turned the sprinkler on and they all left the shade and went to the sprinkler. We collaborate with experts to provide the best possible care for our cattle, whether it be through sprinklers, shades, sloping pens so the cattle aren’t standing in mud or even other methods that we haven’t yet explored. We focus on cattle comfort to minimize any suffering that can come due to weather fluctuations and we provide nutritionally balanced rations to meet specific needs each group of cattle has – we also place high importance on low-stress cattle handling to keep the cattle calm when we are administering vaccinations or moving them from pen to pen.
How are you working to carry on your farm’s legacy?
JR: On our farm, we are utilizing the best resources and research that we have available. Even though none of our children are planning to return to the farm, we do have grandchildren so we are looking down the road to keep the farm sustainable for them and to continue to build an environment where cattle can thrive for the next generation. We always want our farm to be better the next year than it was the year before. We are continuously improving and we reinvest money every year to keep getting better. When we bought our farm in 1981 from Steve’s uncle it was important to us to honor those that started this farm by continuously improving it. We are constantly looking back with respect and looking forward with responsibility.
What does sustainability mean to you?
JR: Sustainability is the ability for us to feed cattle in a way that allows them to thrive while having the best impact possible on the environment around us with the economic value allowing our farm and community to thrive year after year after year.
Tell us a little bit about how you use antibiotics on your feedyard.
JR: We use antibiotics as one tool to care for our cattle. Our animals are evaluated to determine the best tool for combating the illness, which may or may not be antibiotics. The animal is kept in a hospital pen for recovery and then returned back to his home pen. If we receive a pen of calves that have been highly stressed we consider giving them an antibiotic to give them a better start. Some of the stresses calves experience can be severe weather, nutritional deficiencies or delays in shipping to our feedyard from the time they were sold. Normal bacteria over-populate quickly when an animal is stressed so providing a veterinarian-prescribed treatment upon arrival allows us to assist the animal in fighting off harmful bacteria.
FAB: What is your favorite cut of beef and preparation method?
JR: My favorite cut of beef is thinly sliced eye of round sandwiches. My husband is the grilling expert in our family and he has perfected a technique of grilling eye of round roasts. The meat is grilled at a low temp for several hours until it reaches 140 degrees. It is important to slice it as you eat it and not let it sit in a roaster. We served this to some five-star chefs from Jordan while they were here on a feedlot tour. They loved it and wanted the recipe!