Jumping into Livingston looks to educate general public about beef agriculture with ranch
Broadwater, Neb. – As Jaslyn Livingston looks over the calves she is finishing in her family’s feedlot in Broadwater, Neb., she thinks about positive ways to portray what she does on a day-to-day basis.
“One of my future goals is to do my part to bridge the gap between agricultural producers and the other 98 percent of the general population that is becoming further and further removed from agriculture and what we do,” the 24-year-old explains.
Livingston and her brother Ryan are the fourth generation to become involved in the family’s farming and ranching operation near Broadwater.
“My first intention was to become a veterinarian, and I was enrolled in the vet science program at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). But after taking my horse to the veterinarian and having the unfortunate experience of fainting at the first sight of blood, I decided I needed to pursue another option,” she explains.
“My dad was pretty much my babysitter since I was a baby, so I think his love of cattle rubbed off on me. I have always liked working with cattle, so I decided to go that route,” she says.
Livingston’s parents, Mark and the late Brandi Livingston, have farmed and ranched in the Broadwater area since the 1980s, taking over from Mark’s parents, Verlin and Dora Livingston.
Pursuing a dream
To pursue her dream of owning and managing her own cattle herd, Livingston earned an associate’s degree in livestock management at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, Neb.
She started taking courses at UNL, but when her mother got sick, Livingston decided to return home to the family operation to work and began taking courses online through UNL to finish a Bachelor of Applied Science degree.
She earned her degree, with honors, last May.
Livingston says starting her own cowherd has been challenging, but she has found a lot of help and support along the way. She had acquired some cows through her involvement in the 4-H program.
“I would keep a cow or stocker-feeder heifer each year, depending upon what I would show,” she explains. “Then, in 2013, I bought 64 heifers of my own. I had taken an artificial insemination (AI) class in college, so I AI’ed them myself and kept half and sold half to reduce the financial burden.”
She also sought out help and advice by networking with other people, which made a significant difference.
“I found out about different programs available through the government and banks,” she says. “My bank was able to offer me a loan through their beginning farmer and rancher program, which is a lower interest loan, to help me get started and ease the financial burden.”
Despite that, Livingston admits being in the cattle business isn’t easy. The biggest obstacles are market volatility and the weather.
“Some years, cattle prices are just a lot better than they are in other years. Sometimes we make money, and some years, we just hope to break even,” she says. “But, I think there are always obstacles to face. We just have to find ways to get around them and survive.”
The devastating drought in 2012 left few families in agriculture unscathed. It was then Livingston realized the value in having a diversified family farming and ranching operation.
The family operation consists of cow/calf, stocker feedlot and farming. They also custom feed some cattle as another source of revenue.
“A lot of people had to sell their cows that year, but we were able to find ways to hang on to ours. Since our family has a feedlot and we grow a lot of our own feed for the feedlot and the cows we have, we were able to put them into the feedlot and feed them,” she says. “We purchased distillers’ grains from the plant in Bridgeport and beet pulp from the sugar factory, which allowed us to hold on.”
Despite working with her dad and brother on the ranch and farm, Livingston says they each have their own cattle and run them separately most of the time for management and breeding purposes.
For her own herd, long-bodied, moderately-framed heifers are selected.
“I AI those heifers to Black Angus sires with good maternal traits to produce black calves to put back in the herd,” she explains.
Livingston uses a Charolais sire as a clean-up bull. The calves born from that mating are automatically finished out in the family feedlot.
“The Charolais cross calves have good growth and carcass characteristics,” she explains.
The cows are kept on cornstalks or pasture year-round, with some supplement when they need it. The heifers calve at the end of February, with the cows following in March and April. Calves are weaned in November, but sometimes, weaning is earlier depending upon pasture conditions.
Despite the long hours and hard work, Livingston can’t see herself doing anything else.
“I continue to ranch because I love working with cattle and being outdoors. The community I live in makes it hard to leave,” she says. “There are times I think I should have been smarter and found a job that pays a little better, but it really isn’t about the money. It is about the experiences.”
“If you really enjoy doing something, it really isn’t considered work,” she adds.
Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.