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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act

Veterinarians play a crucial role in the health and management of farm animals.
Photo credit/source
 
As a 3rd year veterinary student, animal care is of top importance to me.  I believe it’s a great day when veterinarians, ranchers, and the government can join together and pass a law that not only benefits veterinarians and ranchers, but ultimately benefits the animals we strive to care for.
 
On August 1st, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act was signed into law allowing veterinarians to carry controlled drugs outside of their clinics and across state lines.  This becomes extremely important in providing pain management, anesthesia, or humane euthanasia to patients that are unable to be brought into a clinic. 
 
The president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Clark Fobian, DVM, says, “To be a veterinarian, you must be willing to go to your patients when they cannot come to you, and this means being able to bring all of the vital medications you need in your medical bag.”
Check out more information about the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act at the AVMA website: https://www.avma.org/Advocacy/National/Congress/Pages/VMMA-Campaign.aspx.
 
Best,
Alex Grieves

Friday, September 12, 2014

Definitions

Have you ever had a random realization that you have used a certain term or phrase in too many conversations to count, but have never actually researched the true definition?

I just had that moment.

It is a word we hear many times, especially as it relates to discussions we care most about.

Advocate.

I have used the word before, and could offer a solid attempt at describing what it means. Could I recite the actual dictionary definition, though? Nope! I decided to look it up, and I was actually rather disappointed. Now, allow me to explain. Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not disagreeing with the dictionary, and absolutely agree that it is important to “support or recommend a particular cause” (which, in case you were wondering, is the definition). But, we hear many times how important it is to be advocates for agriculture and, in that use of the word, I think we are missing an important link: education.

One of my favorite books is The Man Who Fed the World by Leon Hesser. The book is a biography of Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution. This man changed the world of food production and saved hundreds of millions of lives from starvation in the process. Did he do so by discovering a high-yielding variety of wheat, and then simply “recommending the cause?” Of course not! He educated scientists and producers around the world to utilize what he discovered.

The education that occurred throughout the years of the Green Revolution was two-way. Borlaug was constantly educating himself in his area of expertise – plant pathology and genetics – in order to continue making such incredible scientific advancements. He also knew that both modern technology and natural resources differed greatly in different areas of the world, and was constantly educating himself of the different needs. Knowing that he wanted his efforts to continue to expand, he worked to educate other scientists on his findings, and those scientists were willing learn more and accept these advancements. Producers were willing to become educated on this new method of production, and began to implement it into their own practices. Individuals around the world had questions, and it is through the questions that were asked and answered that Borlaug and those he worked with were able to revolutionize production agriculture and feed the world.

I was not raised in a family that earned its primary income in production agriculture. But, I was raised in rural America, around those who produce to feed the world and were willing to answer my questions. It has been through those questions and conversations that I have gained a true appreciation for the hard work, responsibility and stewardship of those who dedicate their livelihoods to agriculture.

Take that dictionary definition and place the word “education” within it, and allow true education to lay the foundation. Have questions? Ask them!
 
Best,
Jordan Pieschl

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Checking Cows and Summer Rain

Hello, everyone!  My name is Cassie Schmidtberger, and I am a veterinary student at Kansas State University.  I’m from the small town of Victoria in western Kansas where my family runs a cow/calf operation consisting mainly of Red Angus cross cattle.  Now, if you’ve heard anything about western Kansas, you have heard it compared to the desert.  We’ve been in a significant drought for a long time.  However, this summer we were blessed with rain!  A lot of rain!  It was great!  It was also muddy.  As the principal “cow checker” over the summer, I had the job of going around to our multiple pastures and making sure the cows, calves, and bulls were all well and healthy, not to mention in the pasture where they were supposed to be.  With all the rain, there were several roads that got slimy, and some that were just plain impassable.
Lots of rain leads to flooded roads
Lots of rain leads to flooded roads
That meant I got to check cows on a four-wheeler (ATV) for probably half the summer.  This led to a great farmer’s tan, but also some pretty great opportunities to interact with our cattle.  You’ll notice in the picture to the right that I’m on the four-wheeler, and those cows are headed straight for me.   

checking cows in the pasture
 
Curious cows checking out the four-wheeler
Curious cattle!
They literally ran up to sniff and lick on the four-wheeler.  I’m sure it tasted like mud, but oh well.  It was a great moment for me.  To see our animals happy, with green grass, fresh water, and playing with me really drove home just how much I love what I do and the career I’m going to enter. I want every producer’s animals to be just as happy, healthy and full of life as our cows are.  Now that I’m back in Manhattan and no longer checking cows, I like to think on that day to remind me that my hard work in veterinary school is worth it, and that not all the happy cows are in California J.
Best,
Cassie

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Do Cows Eat?

A few weeks ago I was at home, cutting what may seem like run-of-the-mill hay to the untrained eye:

Mowing a field of forage for cattle

But, upon closer inspection you may (or more likely may not, due to my photography skills) see what is growing in that field:

Mowing a field of forage (crabgrass) for cattle
 
Still can’t tell? Here’s a close-up brought to you by Google images since I forgot to take one:
 
crabgrass
The dreaded crabgrass
You might recognize this as a weed that has plagued your neighbor’s lawn and is slowly encroaching on your own, the dreaded Crabgrass, and this field has it growing about 3 feet tall.  So if this weed is growing like crazy in the field, why am I swathing and baling it instead of spraying it with herbicide or working it under?  The answer is cows.  Cows can take this weed and turn it into delicious beef. 
This got me thinking about what else cows eat that’s unusual, then I looked at my shirt.  It’s made of cotton.  After cotton is harvested, the seeds are separated from the fibers.  Ranchers can buy those seeds or the seed hulls and mix them into a ration for cattle.  
In my lunchbox I had a sandwich and a cookie.  Large scale bakeries have products that have imperfections such as broken cookies.  Folks with cattle that live near large bakeries can buy these products and feed them to their cattle.  In the end the bakeries don’t have to throw away products that people don’t want to eat, and ranchers get a low-cost feed ingredient. 
The pickup I was driving that day had gasoline in it that was 10% ethanol.  Ethanol is made from distilling corn, and after the distillation process is complete, powdery corn leftovers are… well leftover.  In the cattle industry these are known as distiller’s grain.  Distiller’s grain makes for a great ration ingredient to add protein, phosphorus, and sulfur to a bovine diet. 
The moral of this story is cattle are great at recycling.  They take byproducts of everyday items and, with the help of their ruminant digestive system, turn them into food for people.  So what do cows eat?  Just about anything.  Thanks for reading, and as always if you see or hear of something that concerns you about where your food comes from, ask a farmer. 
Eat Beef,
Bruce Figger



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Joys of Raising Sheep

We often discuss cattle farming on this blog, but I would like to share a bit about my experiences raising sheep for meat and wool production. Lamb isn’t always something that crosses our mind when brainstorming what to cook for dinner. But raising meat production lambs is something that has been a part of my life since I can remember. It may be safe to say that I have some of the most spoiled sheep in the country. Each evening the flock is let out of the pasture into our yard (yes, our yard) to feast on the luscious grass and clover. There is no better feeling in the world than to see them running and jumping with joy and filling their bellies for the night. It’s a scene we call “pastoral splendor”.


Sheep grazing in the front yard
Pastoral splendor
When it is time to turn in for the night, I get my helper, Cap, to guide the sheep back to the pasture. Cap is an Australian Shepherd and my right-hand man on the farm. Our evening finishes off with some “cookies” and head scratches for the sheep. This is truly my favorite time of the night. I know my sheep are full, happy, and comfortable which means I have done my job as a shepherd. Happy and healthy sheep mean lambs that grow into quality production animals.


Dog and shepherd move sheep to pasture
Guiding sheep back to the pasture with Cap
 While I love my sheep, I understand the practicality of raising lambs for meat production. The money we make from selling lambs is used to buy feed and medicines for our resident flock and the lambs we sell enter the food system to help feed people in America. Another aspect of raising sheep includes annual shearing. We save the wool from the Romney sheep we own for use in our personal knitting projects.


Wool from the flock will be for knitting projects
We'll use this wool for our own personal knitting projects
Thanks for joining me in some of the responsibilities of a shepherd. I hope you enjoyed the trip!
 
Caiti

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hormones in Beef: The Rest of the Story

Alright, so I want to talk a little bit about hormones in beef cattle.  I mean we all know a lot about them, mass media tells about them almost daily, about how they are bad for us and how they increase the risk of cancer.  But what has always puzzled me is why we only hear about hormones in the beef industry, and about how hormone consumption in beef is going to kill us.  Well I want to tell you a little bit of the rest of the story.  Yes, it is true conventionally raised beef does contain hormones.  It contains 1.9 nanograms per 3 ounce serving.  This is compared to all natural certified organic beef which contains 1.5 nanograms per 3 ounce serving.  That is a difference of .4 nanograms per 3 ounce serving.  That is decimal point with eight zeros and a four behind it (.000000004).  There is not much of a difference.  Now compare that to a food like soybeans.  Soybeans contain phytoestrogens which have been proven to be hormonally active in humans, per three ounce serving of soybean oil there are 168,000 nanograms of phytoestrogens.  Per three ounce serving of cabbage there are 2016 nanograms of estradiol.  Both of these foods contain no meat and are used frequently in vegetarian and vegan diets.


According to USDA numbers an average per capita 60 pounds of beef is consumed per person per year in the United States.  That works out to be 320-three ounce servings per year per person.  Which in turn comes to approximately 1077.17 nanograms of estradiol per year from beef consumption.

Now I want to compare that number to something that is practiced by thousands of women every day in the United States: birth control.  What I have here is a progesterone based birth control product.  It contains .035 mg of estradiol per pill and is based on a 28 day cycle so there are 21 active pills in a dispenser of this product.  If you consider a woman who uses this product for one year, that is 252 pills or 8,820 nanograms of estradiol per year.  Remember the amount estradiol per year from beef was 1077 nanograms per year. Approximately eight times more estrogen from progesterone based birth control than from beef. Now let’s consider a woman who takes an estrogen based birth control pill. They contain 35,000 nanograms of estradiol per pill which for the same 252 pill year works out to be 8,820,000 nanograms of estradiol per year.  That is approximately equal to 875,868 lbs of beef.  Or on a hot carcass weight basis, that is like eating 1100 steers per year per person.  That works out to be just a little over three steers per person per day.  So in summary for every one pill of estrogen based birth control consumed it is like eating 3 whole cows by yourself, daily. 
If you want to trim hormones out of your diets, beef should probably not be the first place you look. 
Thanks for reading and please let us know if you have questions and leave your comments below!
~ Nick Henning

Monday, August 4, 2014

Have You Let Your Voice Be Heard?

I recently went to a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis with four friends, who are all involved in agriculture. While looking at the menu, we saw the wording, “farm-raised beef” and “locally raised” and chuckled. When the waiter came up to get our order, one person in our party asked him, “Isn’t all beef farm raised?” He replied that the restaurant is supplied with beef from a farm located northwest of Indianapolis. He did a really good job answering the question.  
 
There are a lot of different ways to label food products - start a conversation!
Photo courtesy: Esquire.com
 While my friend’s inquiry was sincere and non-aggressive, the waiter could have been embarrassed or thought we were trying to get a laugh at his expense. What I noticed was no one in our group tried to tell the waiter about livestock, crops or agriculture, not even me. All five of us just sat there and remained silent, listening to the waiter, when we could have sparked a conversation about agriculture.
 
What have you done to defend or promote agriculture to someone who might not be familiar with it?
Do you communicate with others about their perceptions and opinions or only communicate your own or keep to yourself? Even though we have different roles in the industry, all of us wear the hat of an agricultural communicator. We have countless opportunity to share our knowledge and technical skills with others outside of the profession – our friends, family, co-workers, etc. – about the industry.
With all that said, next time you have the chance to share with the industry we are all passionate about – do it!
 
Best,
Logan Britton

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