Another week of quarantine.
Not much has really changed. The local grocery store is still out of toilet paper and low on produce, and we are still calving and dealing with Mother Nature.
Last week I ventured out of the state to Colorado. I had a trailer load of steers to take to the packing facility. I’ve never been one much for hand sanitizer and being cognizant of germs, but this trip may have made me a believer. It was a weird vibe when diesel pumps don’t take debit cards, stickers on gas station floors mark the distances between customers, and you have to ask for a coffee cup almost anywhere you stop. On the upside, the trip went a lot faster than usual due to fewer stops and a lot less traffic.
On previous trips I’ve either avoided Denver traffic by going directly to Colorado Springs or taking E470 around Denver. This time on the way home I hit Colorado Springs at rush hour, but I never had to slow down and I was able to go right on I-25 through downtown Denver driving the speed limit. That’s something I’ve never experienced before.
Despite the quiet roads, the trip was eventful. I had loaded eight fats at Darnell Feedlot. These boys were held back from a pen that went out a couple weeks earlier, and they were big — a little too big. They averaged 1,770 pounds. I got my first glance and had an “oh, crud” moment. All I could think about was driving over not one but two mountain passes to get to the small, Amish-owned, USDA-certified plant in the San Luis Valley. The pickup was a champ and handled everything great while averaging 11.6 miles per gallon.
Then I started back home.
I was on the worst part of interstate for the entire trip — a stretch between Colorado Springs and Denver that always makes me paranoid. The road department lines both side of the white line with solid concrete blocks. There’s no maneuverability if something happens, and no escape.
I was driving in the left lane, so I had a little more tire clearance between me and the concrete blocks, and my pickup started rumbling. Thinking it was just rumble bars — because who am I kidding, Colorado roads are not the greatest — I pulled into the right line, and the racket didn’t stop.
Long story short, I was able to make it to the next exit, and the Business Partner’s brother and dad drove from an hour out to figure out that the problem was the drive shaft. One drive shaft later, I was on my way back north to make it home around 2 in the morning. My alarm was set for 4 a.m. so we could spend the following day bringing all the old cows home from cornstalks before the next round of weather hit.
So, with all that excitement, there was a purpose for the trip. Myself, my business partner, and one of our other friends finally took the plunge and decided to start our own direct-to-consumer beef business. My family has been raising top genetics for 132 years, and like others I’m tired of putting such hard work into raising a premium product with complete traceability from birth to plate while getting the same price as everyone else. Unfortunately, that price has not fluctuated to keep up with the margins right now, as the middleman seems to be taking home any profit.
At this point, we are offering everything from 45-pound packs up to full carcasses, both prime and choice. A website is in development where consumers can purchase individual cuts, jerky and potentially even pet treats. We will deliver within a certain radius free of charge with our freezer trailer or assist with shipping to those outside the area.
The great part is that with every purchase, you will know exactly what animal that you are getting, and we can utilize the decades of recordkeeping to provide any information on that animal.
The cattle come from our operation, are grass fed and grain finished, and every single one of these animals have not only been humanely handled but raised to the best of our ability.
Another and I have been talking about setting up this business for the last five years. With succession and everything else that has occurred this last year, it seemed like the perfect time. I’m responsible for the cattle — the raising, the handling, getting them to fed weight and making sure they are delivered to the processing facility. Danna is our meat specialist. She will be working with the packing plant to make sure that we are using our cattle to the best of their ability, and Jamie is the marketing and delivery guru. She will be talking consumers through the purchase process and be the one responsible for getting the product on your plate. With our all-female team, we are very excited to share what my family has raised with yours.
If you want more information, please feel free to give me a shout at Jaclyn@flyingdiamondbeef.com.
Meanwhile, stay safe and stay calm. We will get through this together!
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.