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Stewards of land and livestock: Improving and preserving resources for future generations

Stewards of land and livestock: Improving and preserving resources for future generations

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Anita, Nebraska Rancher

Anita and Kerry Keys own and run "Keys Ranch" in Cherry County, Nebraska.

Being ranchers in the Sandhills of Nebraska, my husband, Kerry, and I are all about being good stewards of our land and our livestock. We do what we can to improve our land and water to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our cattle. We do this to provide affordable, nutritious, safe beef for you, while preserving our resources for future generations. Our fourth-generation cow-calf ranch, “Keys Ranch,” is located near Elsmere, in the southeast corner of Cherry County.

The Sandhills provide a unique ecosystem with sandy soil that is best used for growing native grasses. Row crops don’t grow well here. We’re on top of the Ogallala Aquifer that provides us and our cattle with delicious, clean water. Cattle have a four-part stomach that can digest and get nutrients from grass and other food byproducts that humans can’t digest. We continue to use fewer resources to produce more beef, all the while improving the environment by preventing the sandy soils from erosion, increasing wildlife habitat, adding biodiversity and preventing wildfires. Grazing works in the Sandhills!

Being stewards of our cattle means keeping them healthy. At the Keys Ranch, we work with a local veterinarian to implement the best nutrition program for our cows and calves. This might include testing the hay bales for nutrient content, providing additional supplements, doctoring them when they’re sick and monitoring their overall condition. Healthy, content cattle reproduce better, have increased weight gain and are more resistant to disease.


When you have questions about how your food is grown and raised, reach out to CommonGround Nebraska on the web or on social media. We want to be a resource for you to make your food decisions based on facts, not on fear.

As ranchers, the well-being of our livestock is our top priority. Our livelihood and future depend on those animals. We keep them comfortable by providing shade from the heat or windbreaks to block the cold Nebraska wind. When caring for them, we strive for low-stress handling through the design of our corrals, calm voices and consistent care.

Everyone working with nature and animals faces challenges. In the past few years, we’ve had drought, flooding and extreme cold. We do what we can to anticipate problems. We’re constantly checking the weather to see if we need to move the cattle for protection from a storm or feed them before it rains.

Since our ranch is a multi-generational operation, we strive to leave it more productive and in better condition for the generations that will follow. We are committed to being caretakers for the future of agriculture. By being good stewards of the land and the livestock, we’re doing our part to provide safe, healthy beef for our family, your family, our country and even the world!

Anita's recipe CommonGround Nebraska

Roast Beef Salad Spread 

Anita’s Recipe

Here’s one of our family’s favorite recipes, “Roast Beef Salad Spread.” With Memorial Day coming up, this may make a tasty addition to your picnic or cookout.

Roast Beef Salad Spread


  • 2 cups ground roast beef (Note: a 3 lb roast makes about 4 cups of ground roast beef)
  • ½ cup dressing (I use Miracle Whip)
  • 1 tablespoon pickle relish
  • bread, crackers, pitas or veggies for serving


  • Grind up leftover, fully cooked and cooled roast beef. I use a blender, but you can use a food processor, meat grinder or dice it with a knife.
  • In a bowl, combine dressing and pickle relish with the ground up roast beef. You can add more dressing, a tablespoon at a time, if you want the spread less dense.
  • Serve as a sandwich filling, a dip with crackers, in a pita or as a stuffing in celery or tomatoes.
Anita recipe image 2 CommonGrounds Nebraska

This Roast Beef Salad Spread is perfect paired with crackers, veggies or as a sandwich. 

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