Alberta’s volunteer spirit shines among cattle feeders: meet Jacob Bueckert

Not content with merely feeding the world, many of Alberta’s cattle feeders also have a strong commitment to building community. We think that’s pretty special, and in upcoming blog posts we will be featuring some of the ways our members volunteer their time to help others.

This week we met Jacob Bueckert, of Driland Feeders in Warner, Alberta. Jacob and his wife, Caroline, recently flew their three children down to Mexico to build homes for a disadvantaged family.

“We went to Vicente Guerrero about four hours south of San Diego to build a house for a family who was basically living in a one-room shack,” said Jacob. “They had one bed for a family of four, and a baby on the way in less than a month.”

building homes for the needy Vicente GuerreroJacob’s family flew down and joined a church group and friends from Burdett, Alberta. In all, the group of 33 people built two houses.

Alberta is well known for being a generous province and, like so many others, Jacob is motivated by a desire to enrich the lives of others.

“I wanted my family to experience the joy of giving, rather than just sending money down,” he said. “When you send money, you enrich the lives of the people receiving, but when you go and help, you enrich your own life, too.”

Jacob’s children found the experience so rewarding that they are keen to forego their usual family vacations in order to do the same again. They are planning another volunteer trip in two years’ time. “When we got back, my son brought me his tablet and laptop and said that he thought he should start reading books instead of playing on these.”

Creating community here in Alberta too 

Jacob sits on the ACFA board of directors and also volunteers as a youth group leader. “Ten teens meet twice a month to have fun,” he explained, “but also to learn how to tackle life in a way that will bring joy.” As the industry struggles to encourage young people to stay in rural areas and work in agriculture, these activities help provide youth with strong roots and a sense of having a future in their communities.

In an upcoming post we will speak with board chair, Martin Zuidhoff, who recently visited South America to help build a school.

Meet the team: Ryan Kasko, vice-chair of the board

Here at the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association we couldn’t truly represent the interests of our industry without input from our board of directors. Comprised of the men and women who work in the cattle feeding industry every day, our board helps provide direction for all our activities.

For this week’s post, we sat down with Ryan Kasko, CEO of Kasko Cattle Company in Coaldale, Alberta, and vice-chair of ACFA’s board of directors, for another installment of our meet the team series.

Ryan grew up just outside Coaldale, the son of a cattle dealer, but it wasn’t until after graduating from the University of Lethbridge, with a bachelor of management degree, that he became involved in the industry himself. At that time he joined his father’s business, and two years later they decided to buy a feedlot together.

That was 20 years ago, and Kasko Cattle Company now has feedlots in four different locations. As it has expanded, it has also provided opportunities for other family members – Ryan’s wife, Shannon, is the office manager, and his brother and brother-in-law, and their wives, also work in the business.

“It’s an exciting industry to be in,” said Ryan. “The technologies we are using today are really sophisticated, and we’ve made significant improvements over the last 20 years, in the way we manage people and how we take care of the animals – it’s an industry that’s just been constantly changing and it’s great to be a part of that change.”

Helping the ACFA represent a changing industry to the government

Ryan has been on the ACFA board for five years now, a responsibility he takes very seriously. “It’s important to serve the industry,” he said, “and I’ve done that in different organizations through the years. I think the ACFA does a very good job representing cattle feeders in Alberta and I thought it was important I take my turn.”

“There’s been a lot of things going on recently,” continued Ryan. “New laws around labour standards and safety, and initiatives like the carbon tax have significant impacts on our operations. The ACFA works with government to help them understand the industry, and what we do every day – to help them make decisions that are going to work for our industry and the people involved in it. As a board, we help provide the association with direction.”

The Kaskos at home

With four children – one in middle school, two in high school and one in his first year of college – Ryan and his wife have a very busy family. They enjoy watching basketball together, and while his kids also play, Ryan says that watching is enough for him. For stress relief, though, he plays squash and competes in triathlons.

In other posts in our meet the team series, we introduced you to Bryan Walton, CEO, Page Stuart, past board chair, Martin Zuidhof, board chair, Casey Vander Ploeg, manager of policy and research, and Jennifer Brunette, manager of events and member services.

Feedlot people – veterinarian Lynn Locatelli

This is the second in our feedlot people series, and this week we meet Dr. Lynn Locatelli from Cattlexpressions. Lynn hails from New Mexico, U.S.A., but she’s a familiar sight in Alberta, where she consults with feedlots and other cattle operations on low stress cattle handling. Read more

Feedlot people: meet a cattle feedlot veterinarian

This is the first post in our Feedlot people series, and this week we’re meeting veterinarian Joyce Van Donkersgoed, the owner of Alberta Beef Health Solutions, in Picture Butte, Alberta.

Joyce grew up in southern Alberta, on a farm just east of Coaldale. Her parents ran a cow calf feedlot and hay/grain operation, and before that a dairy herd, so she grew up as immersed in the cattle world as is possible!

“When I was 12 years old I made my mind up I wanted to be a cow vet”, said Joyce, and she never waivered from that ambition. She trained as a veterinarian at the University of Saskatchewan, and later returned to complete her masters in veterinary science, with a clinical residency in beef cattle production medicine and epidemiology.

Helping discover better ways to care for cattle

Joyce van Donkersgoed

Today Joyce is well known in the industry as a teacher, author and researcher. In fact she collaborated on the Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program (pdf), which we wrote about in last week’s blog post: New assessment tool to audit feedlot animal care.

“I love research because I love solving problems,” said Joyce. “We’re always trying to help our clients find better ways to do things, whether it’s a new vaccine, a better antibiotic or feed additive, or how we handle cattle. I’ve also been involved in building a lot of industry programs and training programs over the years. It’s a great feeling when you see your hard work pay off — when you’ve got through to someone, you’ve trained someone and they get it, and then they’re better at their job and the cattle are being better cared for.”

But research will always be a relatively small part of how Joyce spends her days. “I still go in the field,” she said. “It’s important to walk the walk because it’s hard for me to train staff or help my clients if I don’t understand what’s going on in the yard, and the only way I can do that is if I actually get dirty. I still do my share of calls.”

Over the years Joyce has found herself branching out from cattle, as one of her clients has a lamb feedlot and a ewe operation, but cattle will always be her passion. 

Joyce — a self-confessed workaholic — doesn’t have a great deal of free time, but what she does have is spent caring for her ageing parents, mowing her six acres of grass and enjoying her two chocolate labs. “I bought a piece of my Dad’s farm so that I could live close and they can still live in their own house. And my Dad can still get on his John Deere tractor, even though he probably shouldn’t, because he’s 89!”

Stay tuned for upcoming posts when we will meet more of the people of Alberta’s cattle feedlots.