32 Questions for your Rancher...

An In-depth Q&A with your rancher, Shanen (Mama to the MommaCows at the ECC Ranch)

If you're looking to find a rancher that is a great fit to feed your family. Here are 32 questions to ask.

It’s a deep calling within each of us to be connected to our food source, just as our ancestors were.

While there’s been a resurgence in backyard gardens, being able to raise your own meat is a whole other world to try to enter.

While it’s not possible for many people today to raise their own meat, knowing the importance of having high-quality red meat, like beef, in our daily diets leaves you searching for the next best thing - finding a rancher you can trust.

You might have found a few farmers near you, or even ranchers online, but you don’t know where to start in making sure their values align with yours.

As a rancher, I want to give you a conversation guide to get you started in finding the perfect rancher for you. I'd love to talk details with you and see if our values align and if we are a good fit, I would be honored to be your rancher.

Tell me about your ranch and your ranching practices

1-Why do you call yourself a RancHer and not a Farmer?

I always joke and say, "I'm a Rancher, not a farmer because I don't like tractors and tractors don't like me."  But the facts are that we do not till the land or disturb the land by tearing it up.  As Ranchers, we keep the grass on the ground and let the cows harvest and fertilize our pastures.  Around here, the cows are the workers!  We move them around the ranch to harvest, fertilize and improve the land and add carbon to our soils!

2- Is your ranch family run or do you have additional ranch employees?

We are first generation ranchers, and our kids are the only help we have on the ranch.  Addie and Jolene are currently working on the ranch alongside us!  Wyatt is in high school and a huge help on the ranch too! 

3- Do you raise anything other than cattle?

Yes, we have Chickens, sheep and we also work with our neighbor to offer the most amazing Berkshire, Duroc Pork!  

4- What area of ranching are you most passionate about?

I love my MommaCows!!  But I really enjoy all aspects of ranching.  In the summer I love my daily fence moving and letting the cows have fresh grass each day.  Hearing the cows munch on fresh grass is one of my favorite sounds!!  I could go on and make another long list of all the things I enjoy about ranch life.

5- Would you consider yourself a regenerative rancher? If so, can you tell me about some of the regenerative practices you’ve implemented on your ranch?


"Take Care of the Land; and the Land will take care of you." To me, that means taking care of the land for my great-great grandchildren.  The land here in Southern Iowa has been used and abused for many years.  Our hills eroded and invasive trees run rampant.  So, I believe that by using cows to move over the land quickly, we can improve all our problem areas. 

First, the cows *add* carbon to the soil as we graze.  In the summer, we take half & leave half of the grass each time we graze.  This allows the grasses to develop deeper roots and also feed the soil microbes.  The cows also stimulate the grass to keep growing in the summer and add fertilizer to each area.  

We are careful about how we graze our timber areas that provide much needed shade in the very hot months.  And in the fall we start saving grass for the winter.  We also purchase hay and roll it out over our pastures to feed the cows and spread the roughage and fertilizer in the most needed areas.

We focus on building our soil health naturally, with no added chemical fertilizers or weed sprays. The only weed we spray is poison ivy, because I'm (Shanen) extremely allergic to it (even if the cows or dogs touch it).

6- As you are building your ranching legacy, if you had to pick just one contribution to the ranch to be remembered for, what would it be?

Great Cattle that make amazing beef.  We are Maine-Anjou Cattle Breeders.  We know the pedigree of every registered cow on the ranch for many generations.  We are proud that we have bred most of these MommaCows for 3-4 generations!  We focus on breeding cows that are easy to handle, great mothers, that grow on grass!  

We also show many of our heifers (young female cattle) all across the country and have Grand Champions in our pastures and banners on the walls.  We love sharing the love of cattle with the future generations and helping young cattlemen and women to grow their herds!

I also believe that these great cattle make the most amazing food to nourish our bodies and I love sharing our beef with families across the midwest!

About The Herd

7- What breed of cattle do you have?

Maine Anjou, and a few Angus.  We have one of the largest FullBlood Maine Anjou Herds in the nation and we use Angus cows to cross with our FullBlood Maine Anjou to make halfbloods.

8- Are your cattle born and raised on their ranch? 

Yes! The bulk of our herd is born right here on the ranch. In fact, I love calving season and see almost every calf be born! The MommaCows have names & their own unique personalities.

9- Can you share about your herd health protocols?

We do believe in keeping our herd healthy and thriving and we prefer to do that as naturally as possible with a “less is more” mindset. Our mother cows receive a shot of minerals before breeding season each Spring along with an 8-way vaccine. Our calves get that same mineral shot at birth along with an 8-way vaccine, with the 8-way being repeated at about 8 weeks old. We do not use any mRNA vaccines and do not choose to use any Pfizer vaccines on the ranch. 

10- What can you share about cattle handling practices?

We always say that we raise Healthy.HAPPY.Beef, because that is the most important part of our cattle handling.  We focus on handling cattle in ways that work with the natural instincts of our cows and reduce stress.  We move cows slowly on horseback and our cows know that each time we move there are treats! Like fresh grass, alfalfa cubes and new 


Cattle Feed & Environment

11- Are your cattle pasture-raised their entire life or do they spend a portion of their life in a feedlot? 

All of our cattle are pasture raised their entire life, just as they were intended to be!  

12- Are they grass finished animals?

We offer 100% grass finished beef! These cattle eat 100% native grasses and forage. Whether that is grazing in the pastures during the growing season or eating hay during the winter months. 

13- Do you feed any grain to your cattle?

Our ShowCattle eat grains, and these heifers will become MommaCows on the ranch.  But our beef is from our 100% Grassfed Cattle.

14- Tell me about what area your cattle are raised in.


We live in the rolling hills of Southern Iowa.  Every year more of this land is being torn up to be farmland and raise corn and soybeans.  We love keeping our hills seeded down in grass, and watching the cows graze the hills.  Our grass includes Tall Fescue, a native grass that has roots up to 20 feet deep.  We balance our Fescue with clovers and trefoils to balance the pasture.

Beef Details

15- How old are the cattle that you are butchering?

We harvest our GrassFed Beef typically somewhere between 18-24 months old at harvest. 

16- What indications are you looking for to determine the animal is ready for harvest?

We harvest our beef lean and tender.  So we are looking for a harvest weight about 1100 pounds.  We look for nice rounded hind ends and an animal that has finished growing.

17- Do you harvest seasonally or regularly throughout the year?

We harvest 3 times each year.  Our GrassFed Cattle usually stay with their MommaCow in the winter, and we wean them to fresh grass in the spring.  The larger beef will be harvested in June/July. The next two groups will be ready before winter arrives.  This prevents the beef from needing a second winter of eating hay.

18- Will my meat bundle come from one single cow or from multiple cows?

Your meat will all be from one beef! This is one of the perks in buying direct from your own rancher, you can rest assured that all of your meat is coming from one single animal.

19- How long have you been selling beef directly to consumers?

We have been offering our beef to the Des Moines Metro area for the past 17 years.  In the past two years we have started shipping to the Midwest and beyond.  We ship every Monday, and your beef will arrive by Friday.

20- What kind of feedback have you received on the quality of your beef?

OMG – I have received such tremendous feedback from our customers! Many say this is the BEST beef they have EVER eaten and that my beef is the only beef they will eat going forward, truly such an honor!

I’ve been incredibly touched by the stories of many customers who were previously vegetarians and have come back to eating meat but will only buy their meat from us based on how much we love our cows and how well cared for they are – this is why we do what we do!!  

21- Do you personally eat your own beef?

I don’t buy any other beef.  We eat everything we raise!  Beef, pork, eggs, and Lamb are all from our ranch.  We rarely buy any proteins, and we enjoy talking about beef like most people talk about wine.

Beef Harvest Process

22- Where are your animals harvested?

All of our beef is harvested and processed at a USDA inspected Artisinal ButcherShop. They are the cleanest and most careful ButcherShop we have ever found.  In the past we have tried over 10 different processors.  We have used our current ButcherShop for 6 years and they continue to improve!

23- How are they transported to harvest?

Shanen hauls all of our cattle to harvest.  Every animal is carefully loaded and unloaded with the utmost care and respect.   

24- Do they arrive the day of harvest or the day before harvest?

We arrive the day before harvest. I prefer this style as it gives the cattle a chance to settle in after the trailer ride to the butcher, to make sure they come back to a place of calm and peace after having their feet back on the ground like they are used to. 

25- Do the animals receive food and water after arriving at the butcher?

I always have the cattle on feed before they leave the ranch. So, they load the trailers with full bellies and I like to time it so we arrive at the butcher in the late evening or an hour or two before harvest in the morning. Once they get to the butcher, they have all the water they choose to drink.  

Our beef is the first group harvested in the morning.  The pens are all smooth flowing and free from any areas that may surprise or startle them. 


26- Can you tell me about the holding pens the cattle are in prior to harvest?

The pens are modeled after Temple Grandin humane handling pens to help keep the cattle calm right up to the very end.

27- Are the staff handling the animals well trained cattlemen?

Every person that handles our beef is highly trained and works to ensure a calm peaceful environment.


28- Would you say the animals are handled humanely, calmly, and peacefully through the entire harvest process?

29 - Why does your Rancher Matter?

It matters that you know your rancher, and feel comfortable to ask ~any~ questions you have! Even if you choose a different rancher, ask all the questions, get to know them and continue to learn and have a relationship with them!

Personal Questions

30 - How do you know your rancher is real??

Look deeper.  What are they showing in their day to day facebook pictures.  Are there cows in the background? What excites them? What makes them smile?  Are they excited to talk in detail with you?  If they don't smile when they talk about their cows, keep asking questions......

31 - What excites you on a personal level?

I get excited by all the little things.  I love pushing myself with my cowhorse and competing in new arenas.  But I love being at home and scratching my MommaCows, and watching them graze.  I love all animals and love nurturing them.

32 - What is your favorite thing to cook?

I'm not a great cook.  But I love feeding my family.  So, I love when I can cook one night and quickly make meals for 3-4 additional nights.  I love making casseroles and one pot meals too.  I think my favorite meal is "Nebraska Potatoes".  Its a meal that can be created with any simple ingredients we have in the house & reminds me of being a newlywed in the middle of nowhere Nebraska.

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