Meet Your Rancher: Rodney and Sadie Derstein – Kismet, KS

Rodney and Sadie Derstein - Kansas ranchers

Rodney and Sadie Derstein

Rancher(s): Rodney and Sadie Derstein

Location: Kismet, Kansas

Ages: Rodney, 31 –  Sadie, 26

Segment: Backgrounding

Operation Name: Cimarron River Cattle Company



Facts About Beef (FAB): Tell us a little bit about your operation and what you do at Cimarron River Cattle Company.

Sadie Derstein (SD): We are a custom backgrounding operation, which means we source calves from cow-calf farmers and ranchers and give them the specialized attention and care that they need to continue to grow. One of the most important things that we can do to boost the animal’s immune system is to make sure that they have a well-balanced diet, so we work closely with our cattle nutritionist who formulates our cattle’s diets with the best mixture of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins the cattle need to thrive and grow.

FAB: How is your operation unique? What are some of the challenges?

Rodney Derstein (RD): You could say being a young, married couple who work together every single day makes us unique.  When we first bought our ranch it was just us two doing it all.  We work well together and have found ways to divide responsibilities on ranch.

SD: We are also unique in that Rodney, in addition to helping run our ranch, works full-time for a feed company where he sources unusable by-products, such as wet and dry distillers grains—the unfermented grain byproducts that contain protein, fiber, and fat—that are used as part of the scientifically-balanced diet for cattle.

FAB: How do you use technologies such as growth promotants and antibiotics on your ranch?

RD: All of our cattle are owned by other farmers and ranchers—we’re their caretakers—so we follow the direction of our customers to determine which technologies we can or can’t use on certain animals. Often times, this depends on which marketing program the animal will be entered into once it becomes beef—for example, if the animal will go into a “naturally raised” or “certified organic” marketing program, it cannot and will not be given a growth promotant. When it comes to our antibiotics usage, we work hand in hand with our consulting veterinarian, Dr. Nels, on a weekly basis in order to determine the right amount of antibiotics, use them for the right amount of time and in order to treat the right illness, and we’ve worked out a written treatment protocol which we follow closely.

Location of Kismet, KS. Source: Google Maps

Location of Kismet, KS. Source: Google Maps

FAB: How do you play a role in raising high-quality beef?

SD: We believe that high-quality beef starts with high-quality care, so we follow the BQA (Beef Quality Assurance) standards when handling cattle, making sure that we move animals quietly and in low-stress ways—and we also educate our employees on proper cattle handling.  In addition, cleaning water tanks at least once per week, providing any shelter that we can and making sure the pens are cleaned regularly are always at the top of our list. We want the cattle in our yard to be as comfortable as possible.

FAB: What would you say to critics who call you a “factory farm?”

SD: Well, we would have to invite them to come and spend the day with us.  Come and spend the day  on horseback and see what actually goes on and how the animals are treated. This is our little paradise; we work side-by-side every day and put everything we have into raising beef. The cattle here are comfortable and their needs are put ahead of ours, every single time. We are proud of being able to play a small part in the beef community. Early mornings and long days are worth it when you know that you are helping feed others.

FAB: How do you prepare your favorite cut of beef?

RD: I like my steak medium rare with a dash of salt.

FAB: If readers want to follow your ranch activities on social media, where can they find you?

Instagram: @rderstein and @sderstein

Twitter: @CimarronRiverCC

Facebook: Cimarron River Cattle Co.


Meet Your Rancher: Joan Ruskamp – Dodge, NE




Joan and Steve Ruskamp

Rancher(s): Joan Ruskamp

Location: Dodge, NE

Age: 55

Segment: Feedyard

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?

A tree shade on the Ruskamp feedyard provides shade for cattle during hot summer months.

A tree shade on the Ruskamp feedyard provides shade for cattle during hot summer months.

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.

The pen sprinkler system at J-S Feedyard, owned by Joan and Steve Ruskamp. Source: Joan Ruskamp

The pen sprinkler system at J-S Feedyard, owned by Joan and Steve Ruskamp. Source: Joan Ruskamp

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.

Location of Dodge, NE. Source: Google Maps

Location of Dodge, NE. Source: Google Maps

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!

Meet Your Rancher: Brad Bellah – Throckmorton, TX


Name: Brad Bellah
Location: Throckmorton, TX
Age: 28
Segment: Cow/Calf, Stocker, Feedyard

FactsAboutBeef: What does sustainability mean to you?
Brad Bellah: Sustainability means responsibly and efficiently producing beef. That includes managing resources both for today and tomorrow. One way we do this is through rotational grazing, which helps to utilize native grasses as efficiently as possible by intensively grazing one pasture for a short period of time then providing a long-term rest period. This is based on season and forage availability. Essentially, I want to ensure that future generations of my family will be able to feed future generations of America.

FAB: Why did you decide to move back to the farm after college?
BB: I always knew I would move home eventually but thought it would be after I had done something else for five or 10 years. Despite my plans, I moved home right after college. My dad needed help, and I needed a job. It has worked out really well, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else over the past few years.

FAB: What is a “typical” day like for you?
BB: My work schedule is seasonal. Right now, we’re preparing to receive a shipment of cattle at the ranch, in addition to our home-raised calves. The first couple weeks of September, weather permitting, we’ll be planting wheat for our cattle to graze.

FAB: How important is animal welfare on your ranch?
BB: Animal welfare is an integral part of what we focus on every day. As an animal caretaker, it’s second nature and a priority for me to make sure our cattle aren’t stressed or uncomfortable. We’re constantly looking to professionals for advice and best practices, including our veterinarian and cattle nutritionist as well as animal handling experts like Temple Grandin and the late Bud Williams.

FAB: How do you use technology on your ranch?  
BB: What we do has changed so much because of technology. From checking markets on my iPhone when I’m in the middle of a pasture to keeping detailed inventories of cattle on the iPad while chute-side, we generally use some form of technology in everything we do. Technology has also greatly impacted research within animal genetics, health and nutrition. Cattlemen and women now have more data and resources available to them to ensure herd health.

Throckmorton, TX

Location of Throckmorton, TX. Source: Google Maps

FAB: You raise both “conventional” and “natural” cattle—what does that mean and how does that work?
BB: Essentially the all-natural cattle are marketed differently than our conventional calves. At birth cattle are designated for the all-natural or the conventional herd. The only real difference is that neither antibiotics nor growth promotants are used in the all-natural herd. There are specific guidelines put in place by the program, and if a calf gets sick and requires antibiotics, they have to be moved out of the all-natural program and do not return. This doesn’t mean that growth promotants and antibiotics are always used in our conventional herds, but we haven’t enrolled those cattle in the program so we can leave our options open.

FAB: How are you working to build on your dad’s legacy on your family’s operation?
BB: My ultimate goal is to not only maintain but also improve and grow what my father and grandfather have built. I’m constantly striving to do better.

FAB: What does it mean to you to be raising your twins on your family farm?
BB: The one room school that my Pop and his nine siblings attended sat on a ranch my dad now runs. I can’t put into words how I feel when my dad and I ride past those school steps, and I can’t wait for the day that the twins are riding alongside us. Raising my kids where so many generations of my family grew up and raised their own families adds an element to life that few people today get to experience and that I do not take for granted.

FAB: What is your favorite type of beef and how do you like it prepared?
BB: Nothing in this world compares to a medium-rare ribeye on the grill.

Editor’s Note: Brad is featured in a documentary that focuses on the next generation of farming and ranching, Farmland. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. For more information, visit

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