Most mornings, Anne Burkholder is up before sunrise. She has mouths to feed, after all. Because Anne understands that there are lives depending on her.
And I’m not just talking about the lives of her three daughters.
Anne is the owner, head cowboy, feeding foreman, environmental steward and marketing manager of Will Feed, Inc., a cattle feedyard that cares for and raises over 3,000 cattle every day.
So how exactly does a swimmer who was born and raised by an attorney father and high school English teacher mother in Central Florida end up running a cattle feedyard in Nebraska?
With a lot of hard work, determination, a love for animals and the right connections – that’s how.
Anne was a competitive swimmer growing up and found herself with opportunities to swim beyond her high school years. She settled on Dartmouth, where she graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Pshychology in 1997.
While at Dartmouth, Anne met her husband and, after graduating, they decided to head back to rural America where his parents ran a diversified farming business as well as a cattle feedyard.
Upon their return, Anne’s husband took over the farming business and her father-in-law decided he wanted to sell the cattle feedyard. Being a lover of animals, Anne decided she wanted to learn the business and have a shot at running it.
So she started from the ground level, feeding and exercising the animals. She poured herself into the work, eventually learning how to vaccinate the animals, properly care for them, run the computer programs and organize the yard for the most effective care possible.
Then one day, as she put it, she “woke up the boss lady.” Anne has since raised the standards of the Will Feed Inc. program, making sure that the cattle in her care are given the best food, the best exercise and the best care possible. She does all of this to ensure that they produce the best quality meat product possible.
And Anne’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. Recently she was nominated for the National Beef Quality Award, which certifies good animal care within the beef industry. She is also the beef farmer chairman of the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance program. In her leadership roles on both the national and state levels, Anne provides materials and trainings for cattlemen on how to best care for their animals and produce safe, quality beef for their customers.
And lest you think her psychology major is being wasted, Anne is using animal psychology to make sure that the cattle in her care are comfortable and content so that they will be as healthy as they can possibly be. It’s all about holisitic health for the animals in Anne’s care.
While Anne stays busy with her work, she has also made the cattleyard a family affair, bringing her three daughters in on the process. The girls help with the feeding and exercise of the animals and have embraced their responsibility within the business.
“We wanted them to be a part of the family operation,” Anne says. “We wanted them to understand how agriculture works and where their food comes from. And they play a huge role in what we do. It fun to watch them learn and take part in all of it.”
So why does Anne work so hard in this business? Here are her words:
“I am constantly telling my daughters, ‘you need to take the time it takes to do things right.’ Although I’m often met with a groan when they hear these words, I think it’s so important that they understand this concept.
I have animals that are counting on me, and those animals will ultimately be the food that people are providing to their children. So my kids can see, every single day, why it’s important to do things right.
As moms, we are all thinking about, and trying to provide, the healthiest, safest possible nutrition for our children. I want my girls to see that our hard work does not just benefit us, but it benefits everyone around us. This is my motivation for doing what I do.”
To hear more about Anne and her tenacious family, you can watch this short video.
Thank you, Anne, for your hard work and dedication to ensuring that we are receiving the best possible product for our children.