Meet The McKean Family -- A True Beef Farming Family

 

Greg and Peggy McKean of Mercer, PA, own and operate McKean Brothers, a purebred Angus cow/calf and seed stock operation.  Their children, Cody, Marshall and Rachel are fifth generation Angus breeders.  The McKean family prides themselves on the genetics of their herd to consistently produce sound breeding bulls.  Through the use of a simple breeding plan, Greg and his wife are in tune with what the industry is looking for to grow their beef herd.  The McKeans are in their tenth year of hosting an annual spring bull sale, where success is measured by the amount of repeat customers each year.  The family also works hard to sell some freezer beef throughout the year.

When Greg’s parents bought the original 150 acres in 1972, the land was considered the second oldest settlement in the county, dating back to land granted from the revolutionary war.  From that time, both Greg and his father have worked to make expansions to the operation over the years.  Currently, McKean Brothers own approximately 1,100 acres and have run close to 250 head on the property.  Greg’s father began the operation with only 10-15 cows.

From the time Greg’s parents bought the farm it was as if the farm chose him.  While Mr. McKean owned a grocery store, young Greg was often home working on the farm.  After graduating from Penn State University in 1979, he returned home to take on responsibilities as farm manager.  Greg explains he “likes the challenge of not knowing how the calves will fare as breeding stock and which sire groups are the best for that year.”  Breeding decisions made today will not be evident for roughly two years.  While this may be seen as a challenge, Greg and Peggy face that uncertainty with ease, knowing this is why they find their job so rewarding. 

The cattle at McKean Brothers spend their long and sunny summer days on lush pastures at the farm.  Peggy ensures all cattle on grass are checked daily, so the herd will continue to maintain productivity.  When fall rolls around, bulls and heifers are placed in separate confinement barns where cows and heifers will calve beginning the early part of January.  Calves will then be vaccinated at birth to get them off to a healthy and productive start.  The McKeans are also big on providing a consistent diet, and minerals are fed year-round.  Once calves are a few months old they are put back onto pasture.

Along with caring for the well-being of the cattle, the McKeans make every effort to be good stewards of the land. Stream bank fencing plays a large role in their operation as cattle are left to graze pastures throughout the summer.  This management practice allows the farm to keep water quality a top priority.  Confinement barns also feature manure storage at times of high use during the winter months.

The McKeans see a bright future for the industry but also recognize challenges that may lie ahead.  As the cost of production continues to rise, they are faced with growing pressures from other food sources that challenge the industry.  Greg also comments on how legislation affects his ability to operate as “other people who don’t know what farming is are making decisions for what we do every day.”  Greg and Peggy challenge the future generation to “keep thinking outside the box, instead of the same old, same old.”  The McKeans try to make use of technology to keep farming efficient and work for the opportunities ahead.

Through these challenges Greg hopes consumers understand his efforts to produce ethically and sustainability raised beef noting, “we raise cattle the way we feel good about because we consume them too – we stand behind it!”  They are proud of the beef they raise and have seen this success in their long time freezer beef customers.

Greg and Peggy’s work does not stop at the farm gate.  They are both active members of the Hillcrest Presbyterian Church.  Greg serves as Vice President for his local school board and is a past chair of the Pennsylvania Beef Council’s Board of Directors.  Peggy’s involvement lies with the 4-H youth as she serves on the Mercer County 4-H Extension Board.  Greg has also served as past Pennsylvania Angus Association President, past President of Stoneboro Fair and has been involved with the high school volleyball and basketball boosters.  The Mckeans are as involved in their community as they are in their cattle operation.