By ANGIE HAFLICH
For Carlie Rooney, who grew up around cattle and understands both the science and handling of the animals, being involved with Beef Empire Days is right up her alley.
Not only does Rooney serve on the Beef Empire Days board, but she also judges the BED's cattle working contest, belongs to the Southwest Cattlewomen's Association, works in the industry and, along with her husband, owns her own cattle.
In her first year on the Beef Empire Days board of directors, Rooney brought some ideas to the table that she hoped would get more people involved in Beef Empire Days.
"My thought was, in the cattle industry, things are changing so much and not only because of the drought, but a lot of the cattle in the feedyards aren't being fed by customers as much. I would see my cattle in a feedyard, and I would follow them and be really involved, but with the market, and several factors play into it. But now, most of the cattle are owned by the feedyards," Rooney said. "So we're trying to change Beef Empire Days to kind of fit with what the cattle industry's doing. And I think even with that BPI thing, we need to educate people more about beef, safe handling and more about what we actually do. We want people to know what feedyards do and how we really are taking care of animals, so we're just opening our doors a little bit more and being more transparent because people are being farther removed from the farm."
Rooney brought some ideas to the table that went along with the board's goal of refocusing the event on education and promotion of beef. On Friday and Saturday, Rooney was chairwoman for two of the newly-added Beef Empire Day events, the Backyard Barbecue and Girls at the Grill.
"I loved it. I like to do stuff like this, and I'm glad we got to do some of these events. The board was very accepting of my ideas and very helpful. I'm excited, and I think these events did well for their first year, and they're only going to grow. Next year should be a lot easier. I figure I got quite the initiation this year," she said, laughing.
Rooney has judged the Beef Empire Days Cattle Working Contest the past couple of years and said that all goes back to educating, as well.
"It's not necessarily who does it the fastest, but who does correct animal handling," Rooney said.
As a senior market development specialist at Gold Standard Labs, Rooney works with feedyards regularly to help educate them about Bovine Viral Diarrhea Persistently Infected (BVDPI) disease, a genetic disease that must be caught when calves are young, so as to prevent the disease from spreading.
"Because of where I'm located, I work with a lot of feedyards. We would implement testing in different feedyards, and I would help them get the strategy that works. We obviously want to catch those sick animals because there's not a cure for them. It's kind of like sticking a kid with the flu in a classroom, you know. You have to get them out of there. There's cattle that's high risk for that (disease), and you can't tell they have the disease by looking at them because they're normally healthy, so I help the feedyards devise a plan that is kind of economical. We could test entire yards, but that would cost a lot, so we kind of pick out the places it would work best in each individual yard. So I do a lot of that, kind of the strategy part of it," she said.
The company also educates feedyards about cattle working.
"We do the BVPI testing, and we get all of the cattle working crews from the feedyard, and we kind of teach them the best way to handle cattle. We do beef quality assurance training with them also, just so if you know, if someone's new to processing, they know the best animal handling skills," Rooney said.
Rooney ran track at Hutchinson Community College and then Kansas State University, where she majored in animal science and received her master's degree in reproductive physiology.
Cattle are in Rooney's blood. She grew up in Syracuse, where her parents, Terryl and Ruth Spiker, farm.
"My dad and my uncles and my grandpa have always had cattle and farms," she said. "We had cattle, so we would work cattle with horses. I always did that," Rooney said.
She's married to Bret Rooney, who farms corn, wheat, milo and soybeans near Satanta, where they live.
My husband and I have cattle now, and they do it with a pickup and a four-wheeler, and I'm not used to that," she said laughing.