Straight From the Horse’s Mouth: Q and A with a Rancher

Is there anything you’ve ever wanted to ask a cattle producer but didn’t know how to word it or felt uncomfortable asking? The View From Under a Cowboy Hat, selected five questions from people unrelated to production agriculture to ask them what they wanted to know about anything Ag related; no question was off-limits. For our Q and A series Part 1, here are our five questions:

Photo Credit: Emily Nicole Photography

Question #1 from Jason R.: Do people name the cattle or are they just assigned a number?

Jason- some producers choose to name all of their cattle, some of their cattle, or just one or two, but many large-scale producers, provide each bovine with their own individualized number for identification. To you, it may seem like just a number written on an ear tag, but to us, that number provides us with a wealth of knowledge pertaining to that animal! Their number, when referenced back to the records, provides us with everything from when they were born, what day and time, their lineage, did their mother require assistance during calving, when they were vaccinated, and many other things pertaining to their health and well-being. Their number is a vital part to identification and providing them with their individual needs. So, it may seem like just a number, but it is so much more than that! It is their identity and helps us to better do our job in caring for them.

Question #2 from Alexis L.: What do you think the worst/least humane practices are in the inudstry?

Alexis- As producers and stewards of land and livestock, I don’t believe there are any practices that producers participate in that are inhumane. Everything we do for our animals whether it is tagging, branding, vaccinating, weaning, disbudding, artificial insemination, semen testing, calving assistance, you name it- is done for the overall health and well-being of that animal. If I had to nail down one practice that isn’t particularly pleasant, in my own opinion, I would have to say disbudding or dehorning. However, this practice is only performed when necessary. Some reasons for dehorning may be that the animal is causing harm to themselves or other animals with their horns or their horns may be growing back into their own head or eye. Producers only adhere to animal husbandry practices that directly benefit the animal, or we wouldn’t practice them in the first place. Remember, no one wants to make more work for themselves than they have to or cause unnecessary discomfort to the animals that we work tirelessly to care for! All practices, big and small, benefit our livestock and their overall wellness.

Question #3 from Gaby P.: How do you decrease the amount of chemicals the cows are exposed to (in their feed) and are some of those chemicals important?

Gaby- Cattle are not generally exposed to “chemicals” in their diet. If by chemicals you mean antibiotics, no meat on the market has antibiotics. Anything you purchase has been through a mandatory grace period between antibiotic admission to slaughter, that allows for the body to properly metabolize said antibiotic so it doesn’t make it into your meat. All meat is antibiotic free! Most cattle in a cow/calf operation are fed a combination of salt, mineral, protein supplements, and forage (whether that is pasture-raised or baled). No chemicals here! The only “chemical” I can think of that cattle are exposed to has nothing to do with their feed but with their hide. Producers use something we refer to as “pour-on” to control lice, different kinds of worms, mites, and hornflies. This pour-on is applied along the spine over the hide. It is extremely comparable to the flea and tick medicine we administer to our dogs and cats. Applying an antiparasitic is just another example of a necessary animal husbandry practice for the overall well-being of the animal. We only vaccinate, back-pour, or administer antibiotics- as needed, for the health and wellness of the herd and the individual animals themselves.

Question #4 from Savy L.: Are there documentaries I can watch to learn more about raising meat from a ranchers perspective?

Savy- What a wonderful question! I so wish, as I know many other producers do as well, that there was more material available to the general population that gives an honest and first-hand perspective about the meat industry. I find it disheartening that the only available documentaries on mainstream media sources are anti-ag and anti-meat industry productions. I find those documentaries especially dangerous because they not only take things out of context, but they provide a gross misrepresentation of the industry as a whole. Remember, a few bad apples in the bunch do not represent meat producers or the industry as a whole. After all, mistreating animals in our industry isn’t only frowned-upon within the industry itself, but its also bad for business. That being said, this is why we do what we do, this is why we created “The View From Under a Cowboy Hat”. We created the blog to get information out there for the consumer and for the general public so that you have a source for unbiased, factually-based, first-hand, information straight from the “horse’s mouth”. Here, we are all about transparency and open communication with whomever choses to seek information out. Most producers want to be heard and want an outlet to effectively communicate with the people we feed. We care just as much about what makes it onto your dinner plate as you; we feed our families the same thing that we provide for yours! If you want to know about what goes into your meat, ask a producer! I’m sure they’d be happy to provide you with any information you’re curious about.

A side note: There is a documentary called, “COWBOYS a documentary portrait” by 1922 films. It’s available on Amazon, Itunes, and google play. Though it doesn’t speak much to the production side of the industry specifically, it paints a picture of the heritage and lifestyle that our industry provides. We enjoyed it thoroughly and it can give you some perspective regarding the western heritage and rich history of cattle production in America!

Question #5 from Karalee S.: Do the cattle get injured in transport frequently since they are in such tight spaces?

Karalee- No! Cattle do not get injured often in transport. Regarding on-farm transportation with a pickup and trailer, injury is easily avoidable as there are less cattle and usually the trip is short, making the possibility for injury minimal. when it comes to the large cattle pots that you see on the highway, traditionally, the cattle are being transported from buyer to seller, especially in our case as a cow/calf operation. That being said, cattle cannot be “crammed” on a cattle trailer for several reasons. First, there are rules, regulations, and suggested methods of transport set up by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture to prevent injury to the animals and to make transport as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Semi trucks are required to adhere to a strict weight limit during transport on their rig, this would be a means of preventing an over-filling of the trailers. Secondly, when transporting the livestock from buyer to seller, the seller and buyer alike, wants to make sure that all animals arrive safely for several reasons. The seller and buyer both want the animals to arrive unharmed and stress-free to protect the investment on both ends of the transaction and because we work so dang hard to keep these animals in the best condition possible in the first place! No one wants to see their animals injured and it is not something that would be beneficial in a business capacity. All animals are “handled with care” during transport. There are also programs that producers and buyers can participate in that certify animal welfare, including the way in which they are transported. These certifications include a strict set of rules that require: transportation records with start and end loading times, written truck driver acknowledgment that the cattle they are hauling are certified, non-slip loadouts for the cattle to load onto the trailer, and program approved loading and sorting methods to ensure stress-free loading for the cattle. There are many practices in place to ensure and guarantee the wellbeing of the livestock during transport! Fear not next time you see cattle being transported down the road; you can now know that they are riding comfortably to their next destination.

Thank you so much to the friends who participated in this Q and A series with us! This kind of open communication between producer and consumer is what draws us closer to a complete and truthful understanding about where our food comes from! A lot of times, when we get answers straight from the source, we realize that there is far less to be concerned about regarding animal agriculture than what we are told! if you don’t understand why we perform a specific animal husbandry practice, ask! Many producers are ready and willing to answer these questions because we have nothing to hide; everything we do is in the best interest of our animals and the overall well-being of our livestock. The more open dialogue we have with each other, the more understanding can be had! Please feel free to comment or leave a direct message with “The View From Under a Cowboy Hat” facebook page. Today, we are one step closer to bridging the gap between producer and consumer because of the public participation in this Q and A series!

God Bless America and God Bless the American Rancher and Farmer!

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