Juliette and Annaliese Mead are following their family’s roots in the cattle industry
Juliette and Annaliese Mead are learning the ropes of the cattle business, but the young cattlewomen are far from novices.
At 17 and 12, respectively, they each own a herd of 40 to 50 registered and commercial cattle.
Producing high-quality cattle is a tradition in the Mead family. Their father, Alan Mead, owns Mead Farms, which began in 1942. Today, the farm offers high-quality Angus genetics, as well as Red Angus, Charolais and Hereford. Alan’s grandfather, J.W. Mead, was a premier Angus breeder in the region, and helped established the Mead name in the industry.
Juliette and Annaliese can often be found at Mead Farm’s Eldon location, working with herd manager Jennifer Russell.
Juliette had no interest in cattle until about five years ago.
“Jennifer was getting ready to take some calves to the state fair, and I came out with my dad,” Juliette recalled. “I asked if I could lead the heifer and she let me; it went from there. It wasn’t until I started showing that I got involved in other areas of the cattle industry. I enjoy the breeding and working calves. There’s not one aspect of the cattle industry that I don’t love.”
Being a little younger than Juliette, Annaliese quickly followed in her footsteps.
“I really like it,” Annaliese said. “I like working with the cattle and being around on the farm.”
Juliette became AI certified a couple of years ago and assists in the breeding program at Mead Farms. She and Annaliese also manage the breeding of there own females.
“I love it,” she said. “Annaliese and I get to help pick out the sires, which is something she’s good at. She likes to go through all of the magazines and pick out bulls, looking at the EPDs. We like to look around and find proven bulls for our females. It’s something we do with our dad, and it’s not just for show heifers. Some of our show heifers turn into donors for our ET program. We all get together and decide if (breeding) is for production or show and our dad gives us options, then Annaliese and I get our input. We have the option on our cattle, but we ask for advice.”
“When I look at sires, I look at things like high milk production and low birth weights. I also like to look at the overall structure of an animal, and I like to see what their calves look like,” Annaliese said. She recently called a fellow breeder to inquire about the dam of a sire prospect. When asked if she knew any other girls her age who understood enough about cattle to make such a call, Annaliese shyly smiled and said, “No.”
Annaliese may be the youngest person at Mead Farms, but she knows what she likes in cattle.
“Her mother won the Iowa State Fair,” Annaliese said of her heifer Marshmallow. “Her full sister won her division at the National Angus Show. We bought a flush, and she was one of the embryos we brought. I like her bone and rib, but she’s a little on the bigger side, so she doesn’t get much feed. She has a little double chin, so that’s something I would change about her.”
Annaliese and Juliette enjoy spending time in the show barn, which is also the calving barn, and their hard work pays off, even if they don’t top a class.
“When you show, that shows what you have and haven’t done to that point, and it shows all of the time you’ve put in, or haven’t put in,” Juliette said. “This is your finished product.”
“We get up early in the morning and are working with the cattle by around 6,” Annaliese, who is also the daughter of Melissa Morgan, explained. “We mix feed, bring in the heifers and they get washed every day at least once. If it’s hot, we’ll wash them twice a day.”
“The nutrition side is something we’re still learning about,” Juliette added. “We look at what each animal needs. They might need a little more fill to look fuller, or they might be a little over or underweight. No two animals get the same thing.”
Production and show animals go hand-in-hand at Mead Farms. Many of the heifers in the show string are a result of the breeding program at Mead Farms, the state’s top Pathfinder herd and one of the top in the nation.
“We’re a production cattle operation,” Jennifer said. “What we’re trying to do in the showring is twofold, and we are very fortunate Alan lets us do this. With Mead Farms cattle, it’s very easy to do and in the showring looks count. A heifer Juliette is showing goes back 12 generations and her mother was Juliette’s first heifer. The heifer that won her division at nationals last year is a long-term bred and owned heifer. They are good, functional cattle that have an attractive look.”
In addition to Alan, Juliette and Annaliese look to Jennifer for advice and direction in the cattle business.
“She’s pretty honest with us on what we need to do and things we need to learn,” Juliette, whose mother is Amy Mead, said. “She wants to help us achieve our goals. I don’t think we would have gone this far without her. She can do anything, and that’s encouraging to see that.”
“They are my best help,” Jennifer said. “Juliette helps me breed cattle and they help process animals; whatever we need to do. Right now they are focusing on the show cattle, but if I have calves that need weaned, they will be up at 5 a.m. and start that, then come back to the show cattle. I would rather work a set of cattle with them than about anyone else. They are very cattle savvy. We work the cattle in a very calm, easy way so that no one gets hurt. They know how I like to sort cattle and move cattle; they are very good on every aspect of the cattle.”
Being involved in the cattle industry, the sisters say, has helped them learn valuable life lessons, and start planning for their futures.
“Working with cattle has taught me a lot about life,” Juliette, who plans to seek a career in ag law or ag business, said. “You learn a lot of responsibility, and you can get attached to them. I just started out showing cattle, but then I realized that I love cattle, both the competition side and the daily, at-home things you have to do. You gain so many life skills that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Annaliese plans to pursue a career in the agriculture field. She wants to attend Kansas State University and go into beef reproduction and genetics.
“They have learned dedication to something; they know what it’s like to work hard and to be mentally tough,” Jennifer said. “None of us have a crystal ball to know if they are going to continue with cattle, but they can take the skills they learned and know there’s not a damned thing they can’t do. I want them to be strong, independent women, no matter what they decide to do. I hope they stay with the cattle because the cattle industry needs that.
“We always say we are in it to win it, but that doesn’t mean if we don’t win we are devastated. We’re going to go at it the best we can and if we have done everything we can and we lay everything on the table and there’s nothing else we could have done to win, then that’s OK. But, if we go and we don’t win and there’s something else we could have done or made better, that’s a problem. I want them to win with the cattle, but there are other lessons here too.”
Juliette and Annaliese are thankful for their family’s ties to the cattle industry and for the support given to them by Alan. The sisters are close and their shared loved of cattle and the farm has only strengthened that bond.
“Without my sister, I don’t think I would show,” Juliette said. “Having someone in the barn to talk to and relate to is important; I feel like I wouldn’t be where I’m at in the showring or the cattle industry without my sister and having her there for support. I feel like if we keep working like we have been, I will be completely satisfied because it’s not always about winning ribbons.”