Closer to Home
beef packers’ way of thinking. For over
20 years, Uden has also been a cowcalf
producer. You could say that Uden
lives a ‘gate-to-plate’ life. That’s probably
a big reason why Uden continues
to receive invitations to speak at meetings
– that and the fact that audiences
relate to his way a talking plainly.
During future visits with producer
groups, Uden may be able to talk
more about the need for producers to
keep tuning and tweaking their management.
And it’s likely he’ll emphasize
the growing need to help aspiring
producers gain a toe-hold in the cattle
business. Uden might talk about how
his own mentors modeled savvy management
and how a handful of established
producers gave him an opportunity,
at a time he really needed it.
Wherever cattle folk gather, you’re
apt to hear conversation about how
it’s harder than ever for young or
new producers to get started in production
agriculture. But it was pretty
tough in the 1980s, when Craig Uden
Craig’s speaking engagements for 2019
are closer to home. When he was President
of the NCBA in 2017 he crisscrossed the
country a time or two.
came of age. The U.S.
and many generations
old farms and
ranches went under.
Many other family operations struggled
such that it was diffi cult or impossible
to accommodate returning sons
Uden recalls how many of his
University of Nebraska classmates
started college with the goal of joining
their parents’ operations. By the time
of graduation, that was no longer a
viable option for most. Out of that college
crowd, Uden is one of a scarce few
that is involved in agricultural production
today. It happened despite the
fact that he too was unable to join his
own parents’ southeastern Nebraska
farming and cattle feeding operation.
Making a difference for Uden was participating
in the University’s then-new
feedlot internship program and connecting
with people that would set his
life on an unexpected course.
“I served as an intern with Dawson
County cattle feeder Dale Kugler, and
got acquainted with cattle feeding
community in the Lexington-Cozad
area,” Uden explains. “Then, about a
year afterward, Dale called to ask if
I’d be interested in running a 1,500-
head commercial feedyard that he
and fi ve other area feeders were starting.
They gave me a chance to make
good, mentoring me along the way,
and I never left.”
That was the beginning of Uden’s
career at Darr Feedlot. It was cemented
later when some of the founding owners
sold their interests and Uden acted
on the opportunity to buy into the
business. Over the years, he helped
guide the company’s expansion to a
current capacity of 45,000 head, with
a few thousand calves on cornstalks
or in nearby growing yards. Several
years ago, though, Uden relinquished
responsibility for Darr’s day-to-day
operations,to manager John Schroeder,
and has since concentrated on cattle
procurement and customer relations.
Uden’s father had set an example
for industry involvement, helping
organize a local cattlemen’s organization.
Some of Uden’s later mentors
also modeled engagement at local,
state and national levels, and encouraged
Uden’s participation. He became
active in the Nebraska Cattlemen
(Association) and, eventually, the
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Interested in its beef promotion
and education mission, Uden would
serve on the Nebraska Beef Council,
which directs investment of that
state’s share of beef checkoff monies.
That led to a leadership role with the
72 I WORKING RANCH I MARCH 2019