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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bruce Vincent Lecture Now Online!

Bruce Vincent speaking at K-State as part of the Upson Lecture Series
If you weren't able to attend the Upson Lecture Series event featuring Bruce Vincent, which is highly unfortunate, but were still wanting to hear his message, I have great news for you!

The lecture is now available online on the Food For Thought YouTube channel - you can click over there and watch or you can view it below.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this event happen - specifically the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine classes of 1962 and 1966 for fully endowing the Upson Lecture Series. Sincere gratitude is also extended to Frontier Farm Credit and American Ag Credit for their generous role in bringing Bruce to K-State!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankful for a Life Around Cattle

Hey FFT Blog readers!  My name is Lindy Bilberry and I’m a new face on the Food for Thought scene.  I am currently a sophomore studying Agribusiness at Kansas State University and grew up around cattle—both in a beef feedlot and on our family’s cow-calf operation.  Growing up, I lived for the mornings that my dad would let me tag along on Saturday mornings to check cattle at the feedlot with him.  A lot of us are probably unfamiliar with what exactly happens in a feedlot, so I am going to share about my experiences in our operation.  Hopefully it helps us all to understand a little bit about how the cattle in the pens eventually become the hamburgers and steaks that we like to see on our plate!

Growing up, spending time around cattle was my way of life.  That’s me in the leopard print jacket with the calf.
One summer in high school, I had the chance to work as a ‘pen rider’ at Circle Feeders in Garden City, Kansas.  Basically, this meant that my job was to get on my horse every morning at 6:00 and ride through pens of cattle, checking to make sure that none were sick.  If we did find an animal that was sick, we would take it out of the pen and to the hospital (yes, we call the barn where sick cattle are treated hospitals) where the employees who are trained in animal health treat the animals for their ailments.  Circle Feeders had a capacity of holding about 13,000 head of cattle.  At that time, I was riding about one-third of the pens and on an average day I would pull maybe four or five cattle out for treatment.

Last summer my dad and I did some work at a feedyard outside of Garden City, Kansas.  This is a picture of what a large-scale beef feedlot looks like.
There is a lot of talk right now about antibiotic use in livestock and the fear that we are ‘drugging up’ animals in order to make them bigger.  I have had the chance to spend time in a lot of feedlots and around a lot of beef producers in my day, and I have never once found this to be the case.  People who are raising cattle, whether it’s in a feedlot, a cow-calf operation, or whatever, ultimately care about the health of their animals.  When I was working at the feedlot, I would pull animals out to send to the ‘hospital’ because I was worried about their well-being.  They weren’t treated with medicine to bulk up or get muscles, but rather to treat an illness.  They’re going to an animal doctor, just like we go to the doctor to get medicine if we have a sore throat or the flu or a fever.  Cattle are treated so that they can get back to feeling normal so that they can continue to eat and grow!

Questions, thoughts, comments, or concerns?  I would love to hear them!  As we approach Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think about how thankful I am to have grown up around cattle, feedlots, and producers who truly care about the well-being of their animals!
Until next time,

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Get Those Hands Dirty! Bruce Vincent to Speak at K-State for Upson Lecture Series

Do you like Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs? Well, get ready because you're going to love the next installment of the Upson Lecture Series!

This coming Monday, November 10 in the K-State Student Union in Forum Hall, Bruce Vincent a third-generation logger from Libby, Montana will be speaking about getting involved in careers that get your hands dirty and the thought process and attitude behind producing goods that stimulate the economy and create a healthy environment.

Think about it, without farmers and the tough, dirty jobs they do we would not eat. Without coal miners or linesman/women we wouldn't have electricity. There is a whole world out there that is driven by hardworking men and women who are committed to using their hands, in addition to their heads, to keep the gears grinding.

Please make plans to join Food For Thought on Monday, November 10 at 7 pm in the K-State Student Union Forum Hall as Bruce Vincent presents "Wish Vision There is Hope -- How NOT to be the Career of Last Choice." It will be an eye-opening lecture and hopefully one that sparks you to institute change.

This installment of the Upson Lecture Series is partially funded with generous support from Frontier Farm Credit and American Ag Credit. Additionally, the Upson Lecture Series has now been fully endowed by the K-State Veterinary Medicine Classes of 1962 and 1966. We are excited about the amazingly generous support of these groups and look forward to bringing many more inspiring and intelligent speakers to KSU for future ULS events!

See you there!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3 Ways Anyone Can Agvocate

Start with keeping up on current issues in agriculture. From GMO labeling to conventionally raised vs. grass-fed beef, you want to be informed about the industry and what it is you’re trying to communicate. You can share as frequently or infrequently  as you’re comfortable with. Try starting with baby steps.

1. Share, like, reblog:

            Perhaps the easiest way to get information out is to pass on what researchers, professionals and agriculturists have published. If you like something you read, feel free to share it with your friends and followers! You can ignite more interest by adding your own opinion or perspective in a few short sentences.

2. Post your favorite recipe or dish

            For me, the main reason I follow Kansas Beef Council or Kansas Pork Association on Facebook and Twitter is the recipes and pictures of yummy food they post daily. It’s a quick, easy way to share fun, new ways to prepare your favorite foods (hello, Maple & Bacon Donut Fries)!

3. Original content

            There are many ways you can share your own agriculture story with others. If you’re willing to take a step outside of your comfort zone, there are opportunities everywhere, from social media to real life conversations (gasp!). Next time you sit next to a stranger on an airplane or bus, strike up a conversation—who knows, maybe you’ll be able to teach them something! However, if you’re not as comfortable with that method, there is always the wild and wonderful worldwide web. Try telling a short story along with posting a picture on Facebook or Instagram. Tweet about a newsworthy event related to agriculture that you’re interested in. Whatever you do, represent the agriculture industry as best you can.

One of my favorite things to do is feed cattle with my grandpa. Rain, sleet, snow or shine, it’s always great to spend the day on the ranch when I go home. These cattle know the sound of the feed truck and wait their turn for lunch while we feed the pen across the road.

If you’re looking for some new reading material or pages to follow, some great examples of agvocating can be found here:

Thanks, y’all!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Always wished you knew more about how all those bales sitting in the fields as you drive by are made? Did FFT member Bruce Figger’spost back in August really spark your interest in the baling process? If so, today’s your lucky day. J Many things can be baled and used as feedstuffs for cattle. I’m just going to go through a quick overview of the general process for those that aren’t very familiar with it.
A swather is used to lay down whatever crop you want to bale. When using a sickle swather like the one shown below, the sickles on the front of the swather header cut the hay at its base and an auger moves everything to the middle of the header where the conditioner is located. The conditioner crimps the stalk of the plant to allow air access for faster drying. This leaves windrows of hay in the field, and the bigger the swather header, the more hay there is in a windrow. The length of time that the windrow lays out to dry before being baled depends on the crop, size of the windrow, and the weather and climate conditions. If the hay is too wet when being baled, mold can grow within it, decreasing the quality. If baled too dry, quality is decreased due to loss of nutrient-rich leaves.

New Holland sickle swather

Swather cutting sorghum Sedan grass
Windrows after swathing in beautiful western Kansas!
Once the hay is dry enough, we are ready to rake and bale! Usually one person operates the rakes with the baler operator not far behind. The rakes speed up the baling process by combining two windrows into one. When baling sorghum sedan grass, as shown above, rakes may be needed to help dry out the windrow by rolling it over a couple days prior to baling.
Rakes in action

The windrow is gathered by a pickup attachment in the front of the baler and the hay is delivered into the baler where a series of belts begin rolling it into a tightly wrapped bale. There is a tensioner roller inside the baler that keeps the belts wrapped securely around the hay to ensure that the bale is packed tight from the beginning of the process to the end.

There is a sensor within the baler that will tell the operator when the bale is at the desired height. At this point, the baler will wrap the bale with either twine or net wrap. After the bale is wrapped, the operator can drop the bale out of the baler onto the field. Net wrap is used more commonly than twine because it is more efficient. This process is continued until all the windrows have been picked up and turned into bales!
This photo isn't mine but wanted you to be able to see a freshly made round bale being dropped out of a baler.
Source: ttp://
Such a pretty sight!
Hope this was as interesting to you guys as it is to me. J

Keep calm and bale on,


Monday, October 13, 2014

Baseball and Cattle By-Products

Even though I am not a Royals fan, they sure have been fun to watch this season. They have been especially fun to watch this post season. Their excitement and drive to not ever give up on a game is something that all of us need to keep in mind.

As I was watching the game the other night, I began looking at the baseballs and fielding gloves. I was wondering how much of these things that are needed in order to produce these items used to make high quality entertainment.

The University of Nebraska Agriculture Research and Development Center put together a nice bulletin that describes some of these processes that can be found here. One hide from a cow will produce 144 baseballs. One hide will also have enough leather to produce 12 baseball gloves.
For example, a typical baseball game will go through 100-120 baseballs in 1 game. By products from 1 cow hide should cover this. But each team has 25 players on their post-season roster which each of the players having at least 1 glove, resulting in the need of a little over 4 cow hides needed to produce these products.

While only 5 hides may not seem like a lot, take into account that is all that is needed for that 1 game. That is not taking anything into account for all the other games played throughout the year, players in the minor leagues, or any other products used from cattle by-products. The meat from cattle is used for food source, but also car seats, medical products, soap, shampoo, and lubricants are just a few examples of products that all contain cattle by products in them. The number of cattle needed to produce this high level entertainment grows exponentially.

For all of the Royals fans out there, I hope they continue to excel through the rest of the playoffs. They sure have been fun to watch!

Until next time,

Miles Theurer

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Agriculture's Employment Problems

The topic of immigration has been a hot button over the past decade. The media has jumped on this conversation, or heated debate may be a better term to describe it, but they have ignored the dysfunction in the legal non-immigrant visa programs that the agriculture sector so heavily relies on. I have been exposed to the problem in the status-quo because my family is actively experiencing these problems.

2014 Harvest Crew: 5 H-2A visas & 9 J-1 visa  
My family has a farm and a custom harvesting operation (Frederick Harvesting) where we hire approximately 22 seasonal employees for 8 months of the year to help with the preparation of the harvest season and then be either a combine operator or truck driver for both the summer and fall seasons. Of the 22 seasonal employees about half of the crew is American and the other half is foreign. Our foreign employees are from countries you wouldn't normally think that the agricultural sector relies on; England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia mainly. We hire these men their first year on a J-1 visa.  The J-1 visa is described as, "The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs" according to After the workers come through this visa, if they loved their work and want to come back and work for us for the next season they must come back through the H-2A visa program. This is where the dysfunction happens.

The H-2A visa program is described by the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services as, "The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs." (

2010 crew: 3 H-2A visas, 8 J-1 visas
The root of the problem is that Americans don't want to hold these jobs and there is a line of young skilled foreigners that want these jobs. The H-2 visa program is a cycle of dysfunction and frustration for the employer and the foreign employee. The employee works and is trained on the job for 8 months, has to go to their home country for 4 months with uncertainty if they will even be accepted to the visa program for the next year. This makes for an uncertain and unstable labor force for the employer. When talking to my dad who deals with these problems hands on he said, "The program needs to be a more reliable system so that the employee and I don't have to play a waiting game." He went on to point out that these workers are legal and paying taxes in this country to work here. Something clearly must change.

The Ag sector is voicing that they want change. A logical fix that is being discussed in D.C. is to grant an H-2A visa for a 3-year period with the worker going home during the off season. Another one of the major changes that is being lobbied for is for the H-2A visa program is to include sheepherders and dairy workers. The dairy industry is running into the same problem; not enough American workers that want to do the job.

Karly Frederick
Ag-business Major


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