The TRUTH about Ethics and Livestock

As June comes to a close, the afternoons fill with ominous storm clouds and the chance of hail and heavy rain lingers over the precious wheat fields.  Every time the darkness rolls over the blue skies of the eastern plains, a faint panic falls over the farmers in concern for their ever-so-close to harvest crop.  Don’t get me wrong, rain is ALWAYS more than welcomed in a high-desert climate, but the prospect of hail ruining a years worth of work in the field is always frightening.  Just as we try so desperately to save the wheat and reap a bountiful harvest from year to year, we also fight passionately to keep our way of life going from generation to generation.  With negative media attention on the rise and common misconceptions being spread about commercial livestock, I believe that these rumors need to be addressed from a first-hand perspective.  It is important that we know where our food comes from, but in a truthful way.  Without some sort of positive and truthful perspective from someone who actually works in production agriculture and works with livestock on a day to day basis, how do you know what you hear in the media is actually true?  The answer is, you don’t.  The only way you can truly know what goes on with commercial livestock and the treatment of them, is talking to someone who works with them.

In recent years, the negative media attention that agriculture has attracted has seemed to escalate rapidly.  I believe part of the problem is that many people that live in urban areas are so far removed from the farm that their views of farming and ranching practices are skewed.  The problem with media and agriculture is that the only media attention that agriculture gets is negative.  The fantastic, horrific stories of animal abuse and GMO’s are at the forefront of media attention in regards to our food supply.  I’m here to tell you the TRUTH about agriculture.  Yes, you cannot deny a video and you cannot deny that they have happened, but I can tell you that those instances of abuse are a blip in the agricultural universe (not to mention, most of these “conveyor belt chickens” and “pigs in cages” type videos you see, are not even  in the United States).  There is a saying in our industry, “if you take care of that cow, she’ll take care of you.”  Trust me, 99% of families in production agriculture take care of their livestock not just because it is ethical, but because we have to in order to make any sort of profit.  When livestock are not given proper nutrition, proper environmental conditions, or are not handled in the correct way, they will not be as healthy as they possibly can be.  Besides the fact that treating livestock in an ethical and safe way is the only way to be successful in production agriculture, we love and care for our animals above anything else in our lives; we put their needs before our own.  For example, during calving season two years ago, we had a string of very cold days and nights.  We ended up bringing upwards of 5 calves a day into our home in order to warm them up and ensure their well being.  I don’t know about you, but fighting off a mean mama cow and bringing basically “wild” animals (most production cattle,though not self-sufficient animals, are not domesticated pets) into your home to make absolute sure they are ok, is far from abuse and neglect.  What I’m getting at is, though these animals are used and bred as a food source, there is still a great need to care for them in the correct and ethical way; and rancher’s believe this above anyone else.

There is a deeply imbedded sense of responsibility farmers and ranchers feel to care for their land and livestock.  Without both of those things, we are unable to make a living and do what we do.  I do believe that it is ethical to use commercial livestock as a source of food, but it is our responsibility as producers to provide for them a healthy life while they are here.  Next time you see a video of abused livestock or read something that seems wrong in regards to treatment of livestock, ask someone in the industry.  It is hard to judge how livestock should be handled if you have never worked with livestock.  Handling a 1,500-2,000 pound animal is not as easy as it looks.  I can tell you one thing, criminalizing farmers and ranchers who do the right thing and provide a safe and reliable food source for the American consumer, is not the answer to awareness.  Just like any other industry, there are bad apples in the barrel, but just because there are one or two bad apples, do you trash the entire barrel?  No.  Next time you see a farmer or rancher, thank them for putting food on your table every day, instead of passing judgement based on false accusations.

As the summer storms roll in every afternoon and the lightening cracks across the skies, we hope and pray that our crop makes it to harvest.  Just as we hope to cut a bumper crop, we hope that through perseverance and talking about agriculture, we can preserve agricultures good name and show the consumer that we care deeply about our land and livestock.  I implore anyone who reads this, please educate yourself on where your food comes from, but do so from the CORRECT and TRUTHFUL sources without a political agenda.  Preserving agriculture for our generation is not just about preserving the land and breeding livestock, its about connecting to the consumer and educating the consumer about where our food comes from.



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