"We are feeding and raising our animals well so our neighbors can be fed well."
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“We love Graze Master Beef”


Graze Master Neighbors are huge fans of homegrown beef



Ron and Susan Minchow of rural Pleasant Dale, Neb. love Graze Master beef and love sharing it with their family.  They love it because they know how it is raised and what the cattle are eating. 


PLEASANT DALE, Neb. – “We love Graze Master beef,” said Ron Minchow, a Graze Master Neighbor who not only believes in the movement but regularly partakes in burgers or ribeye raised right down the road from him at Ficke Cattle Company. 

“I am a huge ribeye fan and Del’s ribeyes are very, very tender.  This last beef we ordered was so tender it’s unbelievable.  My wife Susan and I eat our meat rare – we like beef and love Del’s.  My steaks are cut an inch and a half to an inch and ¾ thick.  The ground beef is flavorful without a lot of fat.  We know our beef and Del’s is the best,” Ron said.
“I also love the fact that we are eating beef raised in a healthy fashion and locally produced,” said Susan.  “A lot of the meat we purchase is going to our children and grandchildren and it makes me feel good that Del’s beef is what they are eating.” 
Ron Minchow is also literally watching the beef he is raised cared for right over the fence.  Ron has known Del his entire life and been in the cattle business with him as well. 

“Del is a completely vested owner and manager of Ficke Cattle Company.  That means he is putting his life into the stewardship of the cattle and land.  He’s not just putting up a fence and leaving them.  What Del is doing in his grazing scenarios takes careful attention and constant vigilance and that extra effort shows up in the beef we purchase from him,” Ron said.
“Ron has been a great neighbor,” Del said.  “We started in the cattle business together with some Herefords.  Then we started talking Aubracs.  Ron was a huge player in the second, national Aubrac sale we held at Ficke Cattle Company.  He may say that he’s just a hobby cattleman, but he knows agriculture and cattle because he’s lived it.”
“I worked for IBM 31 years,” Ron said.  “But, I grew up on a farm like Del is recreating.  Del is getting back to what farms used to do really well.  You raised a variety of species and raised them well.  You raised your own and butchered your own.  The sense of community was more home grown.  We need to get back to a more community-based system like that in agriculture and Del clearly understands that and is practicing what he is preaching.” 


Graze Master Beef is available in the following options directly from the farm:

  • One-pound hamburger packages
  • Quarters
  • Halves
  • Wholes

Contact Del at (402) 499-0329 to make your order today.

Become a Graze Master Neighbor today: 
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The Graze Master Composite Story
A compilation of the best of breeds and the best of all of us
By Del Ficke 

A pair of Graze Master bull calves that exhibit the quality and consistency that we strive for in our breeding program. 

PLEASANT DALE, Neb. - There’s a reason I have preferred to use the term “composite” since working to build the “perfect beast” ever since I was a boy being mentored by my father, Kenneth Ficke.  Ficke Cattle Company and our Graze Master™ composite herd is an extension of a story that began to be compiled thousands of years ago back to the ancient herds of wild aurochs that used to live on the grass plains of Asia, Africa and Europe that led to the domesticated cattle of today.  It begins with the knowledge that all cattle are derived from that original herd and only the best must be compositely bred for a better future for the beef industry and most importantly our neighbors who consume our Graze Master beef. 
As the earth’s economies have grown increasingly localized and global in nature it is vital that we deeply study and understand our own environments as we continue to work to attempt to build the “perfect beast” and more perfect systems for producing all food for our neighbors.  The Graze Master Composite is a brand regarding both cattle genetics and people.  It’s about discovering, uncovering, igniting and uniting the best of breeds and the best of all of us to design healthier farms, ranches, communities, states, nations and ultimately – a healthier world. 
Composite is a word describing an architectural design of something.  Our Graze Master Composite herd is just that – a holistic foundation of genetics we have tirelessly given our attention to for generations in order to build the most efficient animal.  Ours is a strategic approach at a targeted end product using breeds that complement each other.  Just as an enticing, sound structure cannot be built with mortar and bricks alone, cattle are built best from the best within each breed. 
Early on, my father Kenneth turned me on to the potential of composite cattle when he was selling bulls for then Pioneer Beef Cattle (a division of the DuPont Pioneer seed company we know today).  Pioneer was experimenting with the use of multiple breeds.  Early on I witnessed the composite bred calves were always producing better.  The vigor at birth was evident, weaning weights were higher and they were gaining easier on less feed. 
Then, in 1984, I met Frank Padilla who was doing amazing things managing operations at Schroeder Cattle Company in Palisade, Neb.  Frank’s composite cattle expertise heightened my interest and deepened my knowledge.  Frank really pushed the value of composite cattle, especially from the maternal heterosis side.  I learned and witnessed composite cows reaching puberty earlier on with fewer inputs, breeding sooner, calving sooner, breeding back sooner and lasting longer in the herd than the straight-bred cows. 
This was the nurturing and knowledge I needed to develop my now time-tested theory, if a composite cow is ideal, a composite cow bred to a composite bull is even better with his attributes of also reaching puberty earlier, lasting longer in the herd and breeding more cows.  Ficke Cattle Company has been a proving ground for this.  We have tried every different variation imaginable to test the breeds that work together and those that do not. 
Today our Graze Master composite consists of two variations that still look identical through careful selection.  The first is a Red Angus, Simmental, Hereford cross and the second is a Red Angus, Simmental, Hereford, Aubrac cross.  We are also working on a four-way cross that will include South Devon. 
Recently I also had the pleasure of meeting with Graze Master Liberators Mae and her nephew Sajun Folsom outside Norwood, Colo.  Mae, and now Sajun, have assembled an elite herd of Aubrac genetics specifically suited for forage production.  Years ago I spent considerable time adding the Aubrac breed to our composite program because of the breed’s forage efficiency and meat qualities.  It was very rewarding to see Mae’s offspring out of the Aubrac bulls we have sold to her through the years. 
The drive through Colorado was refreshing and also expanded my Graze Master Composite view of all agriculture – maximizing the best of all of us on the local level with home grown products and services.  In the theme of our composite herd, we discovered a composite theory in terms of both agriculture and community development being displayed in Norwood that is 20-plus years ahead of where we are in Nebraska.    
Sajun took me to see Indian Ridge Farm, a vibrant CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farming endeavor complete with multiple species including hogs, chickens, turkeys and cattle as well as vegetable production.  In addition, the CSA was processing the meat right on the farm and there was a bakery attached.  They were using CSA shares to trade products for labor and a variety of other community-driven practices.  In essence, like building the “perfect beast,” they were discovering the strengths of their community and melding them together to build a healthier lifestyle for all involved and in turn creating a healthier environment for the growth of their plants and animals. 
While I have 30-plus years of experience building composite cattle programs across the country that are suited for an array of environments in states such as South Dakota, Alabama, Colorado and Missouri, I never stop learning.  It all begins with that “composite” theory, not just in cattle, but when it comes to all of agriculture, its people and potential.  It’s about looking at the bottom line in a different way and doing true cost accounting that recognizes the health of the system in its entirety is most important – everything from the family, to plants, animals and ultimately the soil and water.  The foundation of the “perfect beast” and the ideal agricultural community is a composite of the best of beef breeds and the best of all of us. 
Check out Del Ficke consultant offerings at: or call Del at (402) 499-0329. 
Learn about Mae and Sajun’s efforts at:

Graze Master Liberators
Liberator families are the core of the composite story


Del talks to Russell and Ashley Heine while looking at the health of their pastures and cattle.  The Liberator program is all about building strong relationships and expanding the Ficke Cattle Company family.

In this Liberator scenario, Del owns the Red Angus cows pictured in this photo and is leasing them to Russell to begin his Highland breeding program.  Del and Russell look forward to exploring the opportunities of marketing the cattle through the Graze Master Composite program

“The Liberator program is about one family, one farm, one ranch and one community at a time.  It’s about working with people who have one to two cattle to larger herds.  It’s about raising great cattle and building great communities.”
– Del Ficke


YORK, Neb. - “Our Liberators are people who are excited and want to learn.  Russell Heine and his wife Ashley are those type of people.  They can think differently right from the start,” Del Ficke said about a new Liberator family from York County, Neb. who has joined the Ficke Cattle Company family. 
Russell Heine grew up on a York County farm but always dreamed of raising cattle.  In 2005, he left Nebraska to attend Morningside College in Sioux City, IA.  Then he received an open door from his father Dean. 
“In November 2014 my dad somewhat unexpectedly presented us with an opportunity to move back to the family farm.  Growing up, I had always wanted to find a way to make our family farm more sustainable with a holistic approach rather than relying so much on the commodities market.  With the support of my wife Ashley and family, we started Morningside Cattle Ranch, LLC on St. Patrick’s Day 2015.  My family, including our two daughters – Vivian and Eleanor, have been blessed to be connected with Del who shares my mindset of raising forage-fed cattle and who has been highly supportive and enthusiastic about my ideas and where I want to take my Scottish Highland-based breeding program.”
“Highland cattle are a break-through breed,” Ficke said.  “The Highland’s calving vigor, smallness at birth, foraging ability and meat quality offer a lot of potential to our composite program.  We’re proud to be building off of Russell’s passion for the Highland breed and I have confidence in what he is doing and where he wants to go.  There’s something good about every breed out there and there’s nothing too farfetched for me to try.”
“We are taking Red Angus, the premier straight-bred cow and their maternal traits, great disposition combined with their range performance and breeding them to Russell’s purebred Scottish Highland Bull to achieve 50 percent Highland calves,” Ficke explained.  “Russell will then retain the half-blood Highland heifers to breed up into the Graze Master Composite program.  If we get some half-blood bull calves, I am talking to some contacts in the Dakotas and other areas who are still calving when it’s cold that think this composite makes a lot of sense with the added vigor from the Highland genetics.  The Red Angus is the most consistent foundation-type cow across the board.  That is why we use them in our Graze Master Composite program.  The Red Angus combined with the attributes of the Scottish Highland makes an exciting scenario to see unfold.” 
“It just makes sense,” Russell said about working with Del.  “I am new to the cattle business.  I can do a lot of research, but Del has 30-plus years of experience working directly in the beef industry.  He’s a great mentor and is already talking to people to help market my cattle.  That’s a huge benefit and I am so grateful for his expertise and network of contacts.  Working together, I think we’re really onto something and I’m excited for my family.”
To find out more about The Liberator concept check out:  or call Del direct at (402) 499-0329. 
To find out more about Morningside Cattle Ranch check out: 
Ficke Cattle Company is proud to promote the benefits of all breeds.  Find out more about the breeds discussed in our article at:



  1. A concise, unique monthly expression found only in The Liberator regarding agriculture, history, politics, philosophy, family and other relative or non-relative but always highly interesting musings by Emily Ficke – sixth generation daughter of the Ficke Family Tradition.

Synonyms:  sarcasm, intellectual, poise, cultured, literate
Antonyms:  boringness, idiot, unkemptness, illiterate

A UTV, Dad and Me

MOAB, Utah - You may think UTV riding in the mountains is fun.  That is, when you have a guide. What about when your Dad is your guide?  What about when your Dad is Del and he is your guide?  

Our recent family vacation UTV ride was filled with closed eyes and blisters on our hands from holding on too hard in the steep (and I mean steep because even dad I think thought he had signed up for a death wish), rocky cliffs among the mountains of Moab, Utah.

However, as treacherous as it was and the fact that we lacked a trained guide (besides Dad of course), the ride was all worth it when we were able to see dinosaur tracks and an incredible view of the Colorado River

Yes, it was a blast. But, if you and your family go riding in the mountains – maybe get an experienced guide? (Love you dad!)

 On a random, different subject I wanted to share a quote from “The Burbs.”  A movie that I believe is one of the greatest ever.

“I've never seen that. I've never seen anybody drive their garbage down to the street and then bang the hell out of it with a stick. I, I've never seen that.”  (If you’ve seen the movie, you know the scene I am talking about.  If not, rent The Burbs).

This view from a Moab UTV can be yours too!  Check out to find out how to take your family on a life-altering adventure.  And just think, Del won't be driving you so you may just survive to read our next newsletter!  In the meantime, in the words of Roy Rogers, "Happy trails!"
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