Thursday, May 27, 2010


I have to admit- I am a virtual farmer. There is just something mind numbing about clicking your mouse repeatedly "harvesting crops, plowing, and seeding". Though, I was struck by a thought the other day. If you don't harvest your crops on time, they wither. However, if you don't collect milk, none of your cows dry up, there is no going to the vet and getting treatment for mastitis. A wandering stallion is a good thing!? The chickens don't lay eggs in places you can't find them and then hatch out to cause you to have more chickens. You don't butcher the laying hens once they quit laying. Every egg is a hen. Wow! How much further from reality do we get? Is this game actually furthering our disconnect from food?

Think about farming or ranching where nothing dies. You wouldn't get paid for a calf crop. No pullets to butcher. You only collect wool from sheep and milk from the goats. AND, the hogs hunt for truffles? There would be no meat. Is this a vegetarian utopia at its worst? Especially considering literally, millions of people virtual farm.

But on the flip side of facebook, there is a mafia wars game where you can steal, murder, and extort. You can kill people but not animals. Makes you think.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Undercover Video of a Dairy Farm in Ohio

I am disturbed by the undercover video that was debuted by Mercy for Animals. It was a disgusting, heart wrenching display of stupidity at its worst. This is not how animals are supposed to be treated. This is not how 99% of dairies treat their animals but this is the video that is going to watched and used to decide on regulations on all forms of the food producing industry.

The abuse is bad enough but the undercover video technician allowed this abuse to go for days without stepping in and doing anything! How could someone who works for a group called Mercy for animals not stop this senseless torture? I think this person should be charged along with the workers and owner of the dairy. They stood by as a silent observer. Does this condone the actions to some point? They sat their and filmed for their own gain and watched the cattle suffer at the hands of these monsters.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Livestock Board- Take Two

I realized after I had posted under the title of Livestock Board, I never got to the point of talking about them. I believe that Livestock Boards such as those trying to be put together in Ohio and Tennesee are needed. They seem to take away the emotions associated with animal rights and welfare and replace it with decision making based on science.

Should be simple to convince legislators of right? WRONG! One doesn't think it is needed. Another believes it would be difficult to form a non-biased board. The politics and the list goes on.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Had Ag in the Classroom yesterday. OVer 75 first graders visited a ranch to learn about agriculture. There were all types of animals and people. It was a very rewarding experience.

It also opened my eyes as to how far away from food source even rural kids are getting. I held a picture of a chicken drumstick and asked where it came from? It was scary when one kid answered Safeway.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Livestock Boards

Animal Welfare has come to the forefront of many ballot measures and news articles lately. Proposition 2 in California was a law passed to regulate cage laying hens, farrowing crates and veal crates. It had the loose restrictions of the animal being able to turn freely and extend limbs without touching the sides of enclosure, among other things. I guess there was very dramatic commercials that went along with the campaigning for this proposition. We don't have TV so I didn't view any of them. Sounds great, right? What voter wouldn't want their food animals to have free movement?

The problem is the commercial were put together by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). A known lobbying group against animal agriculture in any form. They give very little of their multi-million dollar budget to help animals (sources quote from less than 0.05% to 5%). They are not helping your local humane societies and are a close partner to PETA.

The science shows raising animals in the current confinement structure is actually more beneficial for the animal and efficient for food production. Chickens raised in "free range" situations tend to be cannabilistic, have increased disease, and are less healthy than those raised in cage operations. Farrowing crates are used to decrease the incidence of females eating their young or laying on them and smothering the young pigs.

Lastly, why can't people vote at the grocery store? If they want cage free eggs then buy them! Don't push businesses out of a state by over regulation. All that happens is: Businesses move to surrounding states that are less regulated and California then imports eggs or whatever that are raised in the same manner as before the law was passed.

Prop 2 didn't help animal welfare! It helped the economy in Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, and Arizona. It is going to reduce the tax base in California- a state that is currently facing a 20 BILLION dollar deficiet. Doesn't make much sense to me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Great Weekend

I had a long, rewarding, and stressful weekend. We went to the in-laws and worked cattle. We practiced low-stress livestock handling, beef quality assurance, and animal welfare, all in a sustainable manner. The same way they have been doing it for 50 years before we had buzz words. Why haven't they been changing they're ways? Because it works! And in order for the small environmentally friendly place to be passed down to the next generation like it has for two generations we must continue. Over 95% of all farms and ranches are family owned, just like ours. Not factory farms with uncaring faces taking care of livestock. They are taking care of their livliehood and legacy. Not something to take lightly.

So, I guess it would be families feeding families. I don't want my daughter to eat her beef from Brazil. I would prefer it comes from the USA.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


When does feral stop and wild begin?

In the west there are tens of thousands of horses out on the range and even more in long-term holding facilities in the Midwest. These animals are called wild horses or mustangs but are they really?

Feral is an animal that was once domesticated but has returned to its natural surroundings. According to most archealogists, horses were extinct on North America sometime in the last 6,000 to 25,000 years. Horses were reintroduced to the area with Columbus. Stretching common sense a bit, I would think a horse would have to be somewhat domesticated to be placed on a boat, fed and watered for several months as the boat sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, and then taken off a boat to a new country. With this theory, I would say most mustangs or wild horses are actually feral.

So, they have feral cat round-ups, feral dogs can be shot on site, but feral horses are protected by federal law and Disney. Don't get me wrong, there is something romantic about seeing horses running free on the sagebrush sea but they have become overpopulated. Overpopulation leads to reduction in the amount of feed available for everything including wildlife. Because of laws that are in effect, feral horses cannot be permanently altered for population control. You can not spay or neuter these animals until adopted. Instead, millions of taxpayer dollars are spent towards creating PZP vaccine that is only partially effective for 3 years.

Something to think about the next time you watch Spirit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Welfare Ranching

Welfare Ranching- A term coined by Western Watersheds Project and other anti-grazing on public lands "environmental" groups. I put environmental in quotes because if these groups realized the positive effects of proper grazing on public land they would be for it or wouldn't claim to be environmentalists.

Look at the statistics- 85% of the land in the western United States is unsuitable for crop production. By grazing livestock, the land area used for food production is more than doubled. Cattle convert forage that humans cannot consume into a nutrient dense food.

A California based study states cattle grazing plays an important role in maintaining the wetland habitat necessary for some endangered species.

Grazing reduces the amout of fine fuels on public and private lands helping to decrease the possibility of catastrophic wildfires. Why else would the USFS and BLM not allow cattle on permits the growing season before setting a prescribed burn.

Lastly, even though public land grazing fees are below that for private ground; there are many trade offs between the government and the permittee. On most private leases, the leasee doesn't have to maintain the fences. They don't have to build water sources. There isn't the extra bueracracy involved etc.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sage Grouse- The spotted owl of grazing

Sage Grouse were given a warranted but precluded status by Ken Salazar. What a great victory for producer that use public lands. I saw up close and personal what Western Watersheds Project would try and do if they reached threatened and endangered status. Here is the story.

A small allotment on National Forest was closed down to lambing because it was a historic lekking site. No, I should rephrase that... A small allotment on National Forest was closed down to sheep use AT ALL because Western Watersheds sued the government. Costing tax payer money, reducing the economy of a rural community, and causing range cons to neglect their permittees due to fear of lawsuits from WWP.

This was all based on assumptions, tangential data, and fear not science!!! The science states- There is no direct link between declining sage grouse numbers and livestock use. Sage Grouse perfer meadows grazed in early spring to those that were ungrazed. Salting and watering areas, those lands that are traditionally classified as sacrfice areas, are preferred places for lekking by sage grouse males. The list goes on... In fact, the leading sage grouse expert says there needs to be grazing to improve sage grouse habitat. Not just late summer grazing either. Grazing should be based on a 15 month deferred rotation system. Hmmmm...

So, I guess the areas were "welfare" grazing are taking place are actually helping a threatened and endangered species. I wonder what Jon Marvel has to say about that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

A day late and several dollars short... but Happy Mother's Day. I hope you had a great time yesterday. I did. We vaccinated and identified some calves for the neighbors. It was a good time but it also reminded me of something. Here we were helping the neighbors immunize their calves against diseases. The same as a parent would get their child immunized. Hmmm...

Also, if the child becomes sick we treat them with antibiotics. Do doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics to children with viral infections just to make a mother happy? Perhaps. Could this be contributing to antibiotic resistant strains? Probably. More than subtherapuetic use of antibiotics in beef cattle? I don't know. I do know that the beef industry took a huge hit from mass media jumping on the bandwagon. I saw one article that listed antibiotic residues found in meat, one of which was flunixin meglumine.

There is several issues with the article but I just want to take the instance of flunixin meglumine being listed. First, if withdrawal times are followed for any antibiotic there should be no residues in the meat. Second and Last, flunixin meglumine is NOT an antibiotic! Wow, now that was some good reporting. Flunixin meglumine is an nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID. Same category as aspirin, acetometophin (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen. Reporters need to be held responsible for making true statements.

Educate don't Alienate.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I end up talking about Agriculture in some of the most interesting places. I was at meetings in Phoenix once. After the meetings, some colleagues and I stopped at a watering hole. We were enjoying ourselves and socializing when one of the locals stopped at our table. He asked where we were from, what we were doing in town, and then asked about all these hormones in beef! Ummm... We could have blown him off but you get a bunch of scientists together and they love to talk about their work.

So, this is about how the "lecture" went. Do you know what hormone is implanted into beef? Nope Do you know the difference between Testosterone and Progesterone? I can see the difference, I just don't know the difference This was followed by a drawing of the chemical structures of cholesterol, testosterone, and progesterone on a bar napkin. Do you know how much of the hormone is in a half a pound of beef that you eat in a hamburger? Nope ~2 ng. Did you know a salad contains about 1200 ng of hormones? Nope Do you know how much is in a soybean... And it goes on from there.

By the end of the "lecture" the gentleman's thoughts were totally changed. His ending comments were "I get it! I get it! Eat beef not salad!" Not exactly the point but he finally understood that hormones are in a lot of different foodstuffs. Come to find out this man was a trader for the stock exchange. When we saw him the next day he told us he took his napkins and told 6 other people at lunch about the benefits of beef and that hormones weren't bad.

Don't let little opportunities pass you by to spread the message.

Hard Work

This one is for Holly. She raised some interesting points in her comment. Ranching and Farming is hard work. It is tough to raise food. If it was easy and paid well more people would be doing it. So, kids flock to the cities where it is a set work day, you are paid by the hour, and recieve benefits and retirement.

When ranching or farming the animals and the crops do not have a clock. You can't tell a cow that is calving you will come back tomorrow because it is five. You can't let a sick lamb die because there is no overtime. A farmer can't take a vacation during harvest time. AND the markets dictate how much you are paid.

Personally, I know how hard it is to ranch and farm. So do many that are working 9-5 in urban America but they don't tell their story. That was the point of Wednesday's post. Even if you aren't doing it now, you still have a legacy to protect. A sustainable (whatever that word means), nutritous, wholesome food source which your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents help(ed) produce.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Children- our future

Are farmers and ranchers missing the boat? The national 4-H meeting had a Humane Society of the United States speaker present to talk about animal rights. Where was the Farmer or Rancher to speak about animal welfare and animal care? Where was the speaker for water quality measures being produced on the range?

Only 2% of the population is still on the farm. That two percent might want to start talking in schools, youth groups, and other entities to try and convince the next generation- we are doing right!

I had a chance to talk to a bunch of 1st graders from all over the county about beef. It was an amazing experience. One of the questions I asked the group was Cattle only eat plants, what do we call them? One young lady blurted out "Stinking vegetarians!" I didn't want to get into a philosophical discussion with a first grader because I figured I might lose but she hit the nail on the head. They are vegetarians and she knew what it was. She didn't know what ominovores or carnivores were. The rest of the class didn't know that beef came from cattle. These are basic issues that need to be discussed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meat Myths

Eating red meat, especially beef, has gotten a bad rap over the last two decades for being high in fat. There are 29 cuts of beef that are deemed lean, less than 10 grams of fat per 3.5 ounce serving (American Heart Association). All of these cuts have less total fat than a skinless chicken thigh which has 6.1 grams of fat per 3.5 ounce serving (Foster Farms). The low fat cuts include those steaks with “loin” in the name- sirloin, tenderloin. There also several roasts such as eye of round, chuck, and arm roasts which are also considered a lean protein source.

E. Coli anxiety has caused many people to rethink purchasing beef products. Remember, the scare earlier this decade because of spinach? Many steps have been taken to ensure very little to no e.coli is in beef products during harvesting. Carcasses are steam cleaned and care is taken during removal of the hide to reduce possible contamination. Ground beef is of the biggest concerns of all beef products due to the available surface area for bacteria to grow. The answer is simple- cook your ground beef until no pink is left in the meat or about 160 degrees Fahrenheit and do not order burgers anything but well done.

Implants in cattle are horrible- if unscientific sensational speculations are to be believed. Actually a half a pound of beef from an implanted animal has *1.9 nanograms of estrogen equivalent or about *30,000 times less estrogen than what is produced by the average man. Half a pound of potatoes has *245 nanograms of estrogen equivalent. Oh no, there rears the ugly head of white starches again but that is another story.