The Untold Story: American Agriculture and the Bomb Cyclone of 2019

The wind howled. It howled, and howled, and howled. The windows iced over from the rain, snow, and cruel winds making it difficult to see the drifts forming near the tree line. The cows stood, piled together for warmth, backs turned to the blowing storm. We huddled inside; longing to make it out to “the girls” to check on them. Some relief was to be had with every calf “on the ground” in the barns; protected from the conditions outside. But what about the cows yet to calve? How can we get to them with zero visibility? The only thing we could do was wait the storm out; they’re always the most painstaking hours, waiting.

American Agriculture as a whole is always under an immense amount of scrutiny. With the recent extreme weather events, our country’s farmers and ranchers have sacrificed countless hours and resources to continue to fuel the nation. Regardless of the misleading animal rights activists or fear-mongering regarding genetically modified crops, we continue to work and supply food for the American people and the world. I don’t think that the general population has any idea how much work it takes to supply food and fuel to EVERYONE. Everyone has to eat, therefore, Agriculture is important to the well being of every individual in this country. Not only have these fly-over states been dealing with horrific weather conditions and the aftermath of them, but we also deal with a difficult climate to navigate in the media, politics, and the public eye. Why are the flyover states and the hard-working producers within those states not worthy of national news coverage? The people who provide a safe, reliable, and affordable source of food and fiber to the American People suffering horrible tragedy and loss in this extreme weather event should be more important than anything else the networks can cover.

The Bomb Cyclone blizzard of 2019 was BRUTAL. Like all storms, the tail is still whipping around and leaving destruction in it’s path. Nebraska is under water, Colorado had the worst blizzard in decades, livestock is lost and dead, and where is the national news coverage? We had a hurricane in middle America, and nothing. Several blips here and there on the news about farmers and ranchers digging out horses and cattle, but that’s it. If you haven’t seen the harrowing photos; long-faced ranchers standing over a dead cow and calf, or the farms rushed away by the surging waters of the Missouri and Platte Rivers, it’s absolutely soul-crushing. These people deserve to be heard, they deserve to be helped, they deserve for the country to see what they go through and sacrifice to put food on the Nation’s tables.

Regardless of the criminalization of Agriculture, we continue to work and try and pick up the pieces after the Bomb Cyclone to continue to provide food and fiber to the American people. Whole farms and ranch’s have been buried in water and mud, countless cattle have suffocated in the blustering snow, producers are reaching down in the deepest parts of themselves to push through this horrific event and continue to carry on. Producers care more about protecting and caring for our livestock and animals more than we do ourselves. Our farmers and ranchers deserve so much more respect, loyalty, and praise for what they sacrifice; for what they go through not just on this day, but everyday, to put food on our tables. The Midwest needs recognition for the natural disaster we have just endured.

For most, the Bomb Cyclone was just an inconvenience; a snow day or a day off from work, and snow piling up on the driveway and streets. But for Ag and producers, it was days of preparation before- hand to protect livestock, it was days of getting out in the aftermath of the storm looking for animals and assessing damages, it was mourning the loss of your cows that had provided so much for your family, it was choking back tears as you look over your families farm of 3 generations being swallowed by surging waters, it was so much more than “just a blizzard.” For the strong and courageous people and producers of central and eastern Nebraska, it’s still going on. I implore you today, to pray for our producers, for our farmers and ranchers, and for our livestock. I ask you to please educate yourself about Agriculture and ask questions if you don’t know. I ask you to please support all of the people who provide nutrition and fuel to your family. I ask you to pray for Colorado and Nebraska. Today, and everyday, God Bless America and God Bless the American Farmer and Rancher.

Setting the Record Straight: What goes into your Meat?

The air is cold and the wind whips around the barns. We pull the calf sled with a newly born baby calf into the barn and coax their anxious mother in after it. The beam from the flashlight shows a shimmering baby calf in the dull light of the calving barn. The mama cow fiercely tends to her newborn calf and warns us to leave her be. We quietly shut the barn door and return to the house. It’s 2 AM, but that doesn’t matter, “our girls” need looked after and tended to no matter the hour.

In recent years, there has been a continued concern from the public that begs the question: where does our food come from and how does it get here? There have been documentaries and television programs that have attempted to mislead the general public into believing that the way their food is produced is unsafe and careless. It’s time to set the record straight on the propaganda-filled, manipulated, baseless documentaries that try to demonize the meat industry, and the farmers and ranchers that put food on our tables. So, from a first-hand and factually-based point-of-view, here are 3 things that go into your meat before you get it:

1. Long, hard, and tireless hours of stewardship. Tending and caring for not only our livestock, but for crops and pasture alike, is at the forefront of any good stewards core values. Folks in production agriculture MUST take care of what they grow, whether it be animals or crops, in order to make a living. Irresponsible stewardship never leads to a viable operation. Most farmers and ranchers care more for their operation than they do for themselves and would do anything to make it succeed. Viability is not the only reason for stewardship, it is the right thing to do. We pride ourselves in caring for land and livestock with an unmatched ethic. This dedication takes sleepless nights, 14+ hour days, and constant evaluation of “what we can do better.”

2. Careful selection of diet and healthcare for our livestock. Feeding commercial cattle (or any commercial livestock) is not as simple as kicking them out to pasture. The pasture itself has to be carefully tended to to insure that it is of good quality, has protein content, and is rested enough to support grazing. whatever the pasture is unable to provide, has to be provided through a mineral and salt program. This mineral and salt program DOES NOT include antibiotics and hormones. Antibiotics are only administered if the animal is sick, animals are not given antibiotics to “enhance” the meat. Even after all of this, they cannot be supported by pasture year round in some parts of the country. Here in Colorado, we feed bales anywhere from 1-3 months out of the year, depending on the weather. Sick animals are always tended to and segregated from the heard to insure over-all animal wellness. Vaccinations are used at a young age to protect animals from disease, just like humans do. Vaccinations are never dangerous to the quality of meat and are used to ensure that the public receives a healthy source of protein. Vaccinations are not scary or harmful, they are necessary.

3. Careful handling and animal-wellness practices. Commercial livestock producers are NOT abusive to their animals. Much of the propaganda regarding the meat industry is baseless and is manipulated in a way to make the general public believe that animals are mistreated within the meat industry. To set the record straight, it is unethical and financially devastating to mistreat livestock. Just as there is in any industry, there are people who are irresponsible and make poor choices, agriculture is not immune to that, but I can say that the vast majority of producers would never abuse or mistreat their animals because they do so much for us and our families. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. I believe it is ethical to consume meat as a source of protein and utilize animal byproducts, with the contingency that we give them the best life possible while they are in our care. That is exactly what we do. In the financial aspect, mistreated livestock cannot be of good quality, therefore are not going to be cost-effective. No one can make a living by mistreating animals. On a more basic level, the easier and more calm you handle livestock, the better they work. It is good for them and good for us.

The list of all of the hard work that goes into raising commercial livestock cannot possibly be condensed into one post. The countless hours, sleepless nights, and constant worry can never be explained or understood unless you live it. Besides stewardship, animal health and wellness are always at the forefront of a producers priorities. We want to provide a safe,reliable, and affordable source of protein to the American consumer and the world. We feed our family the same meat that we provide to the consumer. Though the nights are cold and long, and the work never seems to end, we are proud to fuel the people of our great country. Feeding the world and stewarding God’s creation is the greatest life we could imagine. God bless our livestock, the consumer, and the American rancher.

The Rancher and Calving Season

The air is crisp and the wind is bitter; we stumble around in the dark with our flashlights and bulky cover-alls and look for calving cows.  It doesn’t matter that it’s two in the morning and freezing cold, all we want to do is protect “our girls” and ensure that they give birth with ease.  We as ranchers sacrifice our own health, sleep, time, and energy to provide the most comfortable environment for our livestock as possible.  Calving season is one of those times of the year that exemplifies that sacrifice perfectly.  A day in the life of a rancher with a herd of calving cows is a busy one, but always rewarding.  What do our days look like you ask? Our days are almost always filled with assisting a struggling “mama” in the birthing process, tagging and vaccinating newborn calves, and checking our calving herd on an hourly basis.


Assisting cows in the calving process is one of the most disheartening yet rewarding experiences during calving season.  It’s disheartening because you want them to do it on their own and sometimes when they need help, it also means that they have a problem.  These “problems” can range from a large calf, to a calf that is breach, all the way to a cow that is carrying twins.  In the same breath, pulling a calf is rewarding because you have helped with bringing a life into this world, most times, alive and healthy!  It also makes you feel good to know you helped in the process of calving a healthy calf.  Most of the time, our cows don’t need help calving, they are able to do it on their own without assistance.  This has been done by selective breeding and selecting genetics and bull power that produce smaller calves for moderate framed cattle.  Though not often, birthing assistance is a necessary act to get as many healthy baby calves on the ground as possible. No matter what time of day or night, we are always available and waiting to help our cows where help is needed. 

After the birthing process for each cow is completed, they have much more work to do. The cows stand up after calving and “get to work” on that baby calf to get them going. They begin by cleaning the calf off and licking them completely dry and then help them in getting up on some pretty “wobbly” legs. There is nothing quite as cute as a newborn calf taking his first steps. Once they are up and can retain balance, they try to feed for the first time. The cow stands perfectly still so that the calf can keep his balance and get a belly-full of milk. Once we see that the calf is up, healthy, and has eaten his first meal, we process the calf and get him in our record books.  To do this, we always “test the waters” with the cow. Sometimes, she can be EXTREMELY protective over that calf, and rightfully so. That being said, trying not to get run over by a mad mama cow is not the best way to spend the afternoon. Most of the time, our cattle are mild-mannered and gentle and we are able to tag and treat the calf.  Each calf is tagged with an identifying ear tag that allows us to see his mama’s number, his or her number, along with their year of birth. By doing this, we are always able to identify the calves mother and age at any given time. They are also given a vaccination. This vaccine prevents them from falling ill in the first months of their life. Black Angus calves tend to be hearty, but it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to their health. After we are done processing the calf, they are recorded in a calving book so that each calf we tag and treat is accounted for and we know exactly what numbers they received, who their mother is, and if they were treated. Keeping diligent records is the best way to ensure you are always up to speed with your herd. 


After we have processed each pair, they are then hauled to a pasture with other pairs where the calves are free to stretch their legs, run to their hearts content, and grow like weeds.  These pairs are checked daily to ensure there are no problems and each cow is getting what she needs nutritionally to raise a healthy calf. With good mamas and healthy babies, we can spend the rest of our time checking and assisting cows that have yet to calve. 

Our schedules during calving season are absolutely crazy.  It doesn’t matter the time or the weather, our cows health and calving ease is our number one priority.  Every hour,on the hour, we are checking our expecting mothers and helping where help is needed.  In between checking calving cows and pairs we are feeding, doing chores, caring for our horses and dogs, and grabbing a quick bite to eat or a much needed nap when we can. 

Though the hours are demanding and calving season can be exhausting, there is so much beauty in new life and the prospect of another healthy calf-crop.  The first deep breath and wide-eyed stare of a freshly born baby calf is what ranchers dreams are made of.  This time of the year determines the success of the rest of our year for the cattle, so we take it extremely seriously. Though tensions can get high and we are all running on little-to-no sleep, we can laugh together at a newborn calf bucking around after his first meal or smile at a first-time mother tending to her very first calf.  Even in the crazy days and cold wind, we Thank God for the opportunity to tend to His creation and be caretakers of His land and livestock. Now that the weather is warmer, spring has arrived, and calving is drawing to an end, I look back and smile at our calving season. A day in the life of a calving rancher is long and tough, but always worth it.

 

 

Six Things Farmers and Ranchers Want You to Know

I’m not usually one to stand on my soap box and preach from my side of the fence.  The world is a diverse and unique place with diverse and unique people that inhabit it.  Due to our differences, we have differing opinions.  Being that we live in the greatest country on  earth, we not only have the right to have a differing opinion than our friends, family, and peers, but we also have the right to voice that opinion and share it with the world.  Lately, there have been some things said about Ag that have greatly angered me.  Though these are just opinions, I am saddened and disappointed by them.  What has saddened me is the attack on the Agricultural industry.  Whether it be about the most recent attack on GMO crops or the constant and unwarranted criticism that the meat industry faces, our industry is under intense scrutiny.  If you are one that has a “problem” with the agricultural industry, here are some things that I want you to know:

  1.  If you eat, you are involved in Agriculture.   Eating is an essential part of all of our lives, whether or not you eat meat, is irrelevant.  A farmer grew the food that you are eating and a lot of these farmers also raise livestock, this is called diversification.  Regardless, an attack on any sector of our industry is an attack on the industry as a whole.  What I’m getting at is, biting the hand that feeds you (pun intended),  does nothing for change and awareness.
  2. “Bad Apples” exist in every industry, not just in Ag.  Just like any other industry, there are people who make poor choices and create a bad image for the industry as a whole.  Yes, there are bad people out there who mistreat their livestock.  Yes, there are bad people out there who do nothing to improve the lives or living conditions of the animals that they are responsible for, but these people make up a minuscule portion of our industry.  In Ag, there is an old saying, “if you take care of that cow, she’ll take care of you.”  This saying isn’t just relevant to cattle but to commercial livestock as a whole.  If you care for your livestock in the most ethical and responsible way possible, they have better lives and therefore provide a better life for the producer.  You cannot succeed if you mistreat your animals, period.
  3. What you haven’t experienced, you cannot possibly know about.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a bash on people who are removed from Agriculture.  This is not an attack on the intelligence of people who have never been involved in Ag, this is simply an observation from someone who once was removed from Ag and knew absolutely nothing about it.  Though Agriculture is apart of my daily life now, it wasn’t always.  I am three generations removed from the farm and ranch on my side of the family.  I thought that I “knew” about Ag and farming and ranching, but truly, I was completely ignorant.  Until you experience first hand the handling of commercial livestock or the production of commercial crops, you have absolutely no idea how difficult it is.  What may look good in a text book or in writing, doesn’t always necessarily work in real life.  Until you have been in “the trenches” and experienced farming and ranching in daily life, frankly, you have no right to think you know how we should run our operations.  If you have a question or wonder why we perform a certain practice, ask.  Don’t assume it’s incorrect until you find out first-hand why it is done.
  4. Producers are animal lovers, if we weren’t, we wouldn’t raise animals for a living.  Just because we are producers of protein, does not mean that we don’t care for our animals.  I believe that it is completely ethical and natural for people to consume and use animal protein as a source of nutrition, but it is the producer’s job to provide the most comfortable and healthy life for those animals while they are with us.  We producer’s want our livestock to be healthy and to thrive while they are under our care!  When we provide a comfortable life for our animals, we feel that we have honored our livestock, the Good Lord, and our responsibility.  The better we take care of our animals, the better they take care of us.
  5. GMO crops are the only reason we are able to provide enough food for EVERYONE.  I hate to break it to ya, but if it were not for GMO crops, it would be impossible to produce enough food for the world.  With the developments in GMO crops, we have been able to produce more crops with less water, land, and pesticides. GMO’s are not some sort of additive or ingredient that producers put in the crops, they are a genetic modification of a specific strain of crop that allows producers to plant and produce a crop that can be most productive and efficient for their region, climate, etc.  GMO’s are absolutely essential and far more sustainable that organic farming.  If you would like to learn more about GMO’s, please refer to  “GMO’s: How we Feed the World”, an earlier blog post of mine.  Side note: we eat what we produce as well, no one wants to eat crops saturated in chemicals, all spraying is essential to the health of the crop, but is not harmful to people.  We aren’t over here dumping buckets of pesticides on food *insert eye roll*.
  6. The Family Farmers and Ranchers in this country are a dying breed.  Here’s a scary statistic for you: less than 2% of the country’s population is involved in production agriculture.  We are truly a dying breed.  When farmers and ranchers no longer exist, there are no longer producers in the United States, which means food sources as we know it, seize to exist.  We have made it so difficult for farmers and ranchers to do what they need to do, that less and less people are staying home at the farm.  We could always import our food, right? Of course we could, but if you currently have issues with the way food is produced in this country, you will most definitely have an issue with the way food is produced in other countries.  Our animal wellness standards are far beyond what most countries require and safety and health regulations for food is much more strict in the United States that most anywhere else that I know of.  In my opinion, as a nation, we produce the safest and most well-regulated food supply in the world.  If we don’t start taking care of our farmers and ranchers, we won’t be around to provide that anymore.

Regardless of wherever you come from or whatever you believe, you are involved in Agriculture.  It is important that we as producers take the initiative to better educate the general public on what we do as well as where our food comes from.  Of course, there are people in our industry who make poor choices and it gives the industry as a whole a black eye.  These people need to be brought to justice, but criminalizing the industry is not the answer to awareness.  Awareness does not come from fear mongering and lies, awareness comes from communication and education.  The better able we are to connect and communicate with the general public, the more capable we will be of working together as producer and consumer.  Next time you see a Farmer or Rancher, thank them for putting food on your table everyday.  If you have a question, ask it.  We love what we do and love to talk about it!  Producer’s want a safe, reliable, and affordable source of nutrition for our families, too.  Instead of criminalizing and scrutinizing the industry, educate yourself and learn about Agriculture from a producers point of view.

Counting Our Blessings

Tonight, the air is soft and cool, the crickets chirp quietly outside in the creek, and the stars shine brightly over the eastern Colorado prairie.  As I gaze out across the land, I’m overwhelmed.  I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness for this beautiful place that myself and my family get to call home.  I’m overwhelmed with the awesomeness of God’s creation.  I’m overwhelmed with the smell of prairie sage gliding on the night air.  I’m overwhelmed that I am blessed enough to live in the greatest Country in the world, the United States of America.  With all of the negativity in the world as of late, I think its important that as an industry and as a country, we count our blessings and look at all of the good things surrounding us, the Agricultural industry being one of them.

Agriculture is an amazing industry that EVERYONE is involved in. I mean, if you eat, you’re involved in agriculture.  It’s a necessity, as a living, breathing being, we have to eat.  In order to eat, someone has to produce food; that’s where famers and ranchers come in.  What a lot of people don’t know about our industry is the sacrifice; the sacrifice that men and women in this industry make everyday to provide a safe, affordable, and reliable source of food and fiber to the American consumer.  Long, grueling hours are worked, tears are shed, and stresses pile up do to a declining market.  Despite all of this, we get to wake up everyday and steward God’s creation, there is not a  price you can put on that.  All of the everyday stresses aside, we get to share the happiness in all of it with other incredible people in our industry, and that is priceless.  Whether you know someone who is involved in agriculture or not, take a moment to reflect on your blessings and the ability to put food on your families’ table everyday.  In the same breath, remember that someone had to produce that food in order for you to provide it.

The Agricultural industry  is the most important industry in our world, in my opinion.  Without it, we wouldn’t have fuel to keep all of the incredibly important minds of the world functioning to do their own important jobs.  Food is fuel and without it, we can’t “run”.  The thing about it is, that Ag isn’t JUST about food production, it’s about animals, land, and people all working together for a greater purpose.  How amazing is that! I couldn’t be more blessed to be apart of this incredible industry.  Though the public perception of Agriculture can be skewed at times, I implore you to take a step back and be grateful and thankful that there are people out there who don’t want you to go hungry and feel responsible for feeding you and the people of this great Nation.  So, my point is, thank a farmer today.  Thank a rancher today.  Tell them “thank you” for providing you with the nourishment that your body needs.  Remember that without them, you wouldn’t have it.  So tonight count your blessing, the American farmer being one of them.

 

 

 

GMO’s: How we Feed the World

In the blazing summer sun, the rumbling combine furiously cuts across the wheat fields.  The crop this year is rich, one of the best we’ve cut in a long time.  The wheat we are cutting is called Hard Red Winter Wheat, which is considered a GMO crop.  Though “GMO” has been portrayed as a scary word within the last few years, I am here to assure you that the fear mongering on behalf of the Anti-GMO advocates is completely unwarranted.  GMO crops are plants that have been altered genetically to better suit conditions in the plants environment and life-span.  GMO’s are not dangerous or alarming ,they are beneficial to producers and consumers alike.  Just like we work vigorously to cut a bumper crop and harvest it in the best and most efficient way possible, we too try to provide the most nutritious yet effective source of food to the American consumer.

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Our Hard Red Winter Wheat, about a month before harvest.

Within the last decade, public awareness and concern for where their food comes from has dramatically risen.  One of the bigger issues the consumer has brought forth is the production and consumption of genetically modified organisms or GMO’s.  I believe one of the things that has caused public fear in regards to genetic modification is how it can affect our bodies and health.  Truth be told, no one has ever died from consuming genetically modified foods (shocker!).  Genetic modification is not unhealthy for people or animals alike.  The studies that have shown GMO’s having negative side-effects such as tumors in lab rats, have since been disproven (source).  There has been a significant amount of testing done on GMO’s and how they impact not only our food source, but our health as well, that have consistently proved there is nothing harmful about them.  Trust me, farmers and ranchers eat all of the food that they grow, too! We don’t want to put anything into our bodies that would be harmful to it as much as you don’t.  That being said, when you do the research, and look at the scientific evidence backing GMO foods, you’ll realize that not only are they nothing to worry about in regards to our health, but they are also the most efficient, eco-friendly, and reliable means of mass-producing crops to nourish the demands of our growing population.

Not only do conventional methods of crop production provide an equally delicious and nutritious source of food for the American consumer, conventional farming is far more sustainable and environmentally friendly than organic farming practices.  Agriculture already accounts for a large amount of deforestation in the world.  We use 1/3 of the Earth’s land for agricultural purposes (source).  With organic farms producing far less than a conventional farm and organic farming requiring more land to produce on,  trying to sustain a food source for a growing nation and world on organic farming is counterproductive.  It would lead to an increase in deforestation and cause a greater environmental impact than conventional farming (source).  As for the use of pesticides,  with genetically modified crops, farmers are able to use LESS pesticides!  The use of Roundup has been greatly critiqued by anti-GMO advocates.  In actuality, Roundup is far less toxic than the earlier used pesticide, atrazine (source).  Not only are we able to use less pesticides and safer pesticides thanks to GMO crops, we also increase our crop yields by doing so!  Along with the use of pesticides, there has also been concern about the use of fertilizers and how they leach into the ground water.  Conventional farming practices water and fertilize simultaneously through irrigation systems (source).  By doing this, the plants are given appropriate amounts of fertilizer according the the demands per growing season.  Unlike this conventional farming practice, organic farms use composted fertilizer which is not released according to the demand of the plant.  Being that the fertilizer is not released according to plant demand, there is a significant leaching of nitrate into the soil and groundwater (source).  I don’t know about you, but last time I checked, contamination of groundwater is not sustainable or environmentally-friendly.  At the end of the day, conventional farming is more equip to cater to the environment, creates larger yields, is more sustainable, is far more efficient, and uses less water than organic farming!

As not only a producer, but as a wife as well, I understand the importance of providing a safe, reliable, and nutritious source of food to the public and to my family.  Farmers are the most passionate about providing the highest quality produce to the consumer as possible.  Conventional farming practices are perfectly safe, healthy, and are far more economic than organic farming practices.  The truth is, we can’t feed the demand of a growing nation and world on organic farms.  The only way we can produce enough food in the most efficient way possible is through GMO crops.  GMO’s are a means of increasing yields and efficiency, they are not an added ingredient to be feared.  All genetic modification does is allow farmers to do their jobs better and provide enough nutrition for everyone in the cheapest way possible.  As we harvest our wheat in the heat of the July sun, we smile knowing our high-yields will better contribute to the ever-growing demand for food.  Without GMO’s, we would never be able to produce a high-quality crop in a dry climate.  Do the research, know the facts, and learn about the benefits of genetic modification and why it is so paramount to our farming practices. GMO’s are not frightening, they are how we feed the world.

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.

 

 

Summertime and Conservation

As summer has begun, the weather is hot, the grass is green, and a cool breeze is more than welcomed.  The work piles on in the heat of June, as does our growing need to conserve the way of life that we love.  The distant chirp of the Meadow Lark and the soft humming of toads in the creek, remind us of why we love what we do so much, and the land that allows it.  Everyday presents a new challenge for us and how to continue to preserve not only the land that allows us our living, but also our way of life.

With “town” slowly but steadily closing in on the eastern I-70 corridor, the open range, along with the animals that inhabit it, slowly migrate further to the east.  Unfortunately, no more land is being made, there is only so much of it to be had.  With that being said, lands that were previously used for production agriculture are now being developed.  With the growing population of Denver, there are only two ways in which development can move, upward and outward.  The front range is rapidly being developed and I would venture to say, is mostly full with an increasing demand for amenities and housing.  Due to these conditions, the city is moving east.  Where there once were open rangelands and wheat fields as far as the eye could see, there are now housing developments and shopping centers.  Though these developments allow for more people to live in this beautiful state that we call home, it threatens the way of life that we hold dear.

Production Agriculture has declined significantly in the last 50 years.  With the development of land, the all-consuming financial burdens that farmers face, and the constant distancing of the consumer from the producer, Agriculture faces constant adversity that makes it difficult to keep family farms operating generation after generation.  Less than 2% of the population consists of family farmers and ranchers.  We are a dying Breed!  Not only are these numbers disheartening because American Farmers produce the country’s (and some of the World’s)  source of food and fiber, but we are also preserving one of the oldest professions of Man.  I truly don’t belive there is a more humbling way of life.  To be responsible for feeding a nation is a daunting task, only to be made more burdening when media criminalizes the industry and development closes in around pasture and farmland.

This past week, our family attended the annual Colorado Cattlemen’s Association convention in Colorado Springs.  Our family was honored with the Leopold Conservation Award (way to go Keven and Sandi!)  and we were able to make connections with important people and conservationists in our industry.  The CCA and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust are wonderful advocates on behalf of Ranchers and conservation alike.  It’s nice to know that well-known organizations like these back the industry in a tremendous way and lighten burdens for farming and ranching families.  Through the CCALT, families can place conservation easement’s on their land so that they can forever remain in production agriculture and never be developed.  Through conservation easement’s, families can keep their ranches in the family, while also conserving the land and protecting it from future development.  These organizations, along with production Ag families and other supporters of Agriculture,  keep our industry and the lands that allow us our way of life going.  Here is the link to the CCA and the CCALT website’s: http://coloradocattle.org/ and https://ccalt.org/ .

When I look out over our summer pasture and see the silhouette of cows and calves quietly grazing beneath the blue, Colorado skies, my heart is filled with so much joy and admiration for all of the men and women who are able to share in our way of life and fulfill the needs of a growing nation.  In order to continue what we do, we must bridge the gap between consumer and producer and show that our love for the land, livestock, and the native species that encompass the ranch, bestow upon us the duty of conserving not only the environment, but Agriculture as well.  Farmers and Ranchers have always been the original conservationists and stewards and we will continue to advocate on behalf of production agriculture and the rangeland as long as we live.  Though we face great challenges in Agriculture, we are forever blessed and grateful to protect and conserve.

WEATHERING THE STORM

As calving season draws to an end, the weather starts to warm back up.  The trees begin to blossom, the flowers start to bloom, the grass begins to green back up, and the baby calves grow like weeds.  This time of the year is magical; a hard winter’s worth of work is displayed in the bucking and playing around of a healthy, ever-growing calf.

For those of you who are new to cattle, calving season is the time of the year when momma cows give birth to baby calves.  In cattle ranching,  breeding season covers all of the cows in your herd, this way, everything gives birth within the same three month period.  Sometimes, operations utilize artificial insemination to streamline genetics and to insure breeding efficiency.  This also ensures similar calving dates from cow to cow.  It is our most important time of the year in ranching.  It is our job, as stewards of the land and livestock, to ensure that each calf is born healthy and in the most humane way possible.  Our duties range all the way from feeding to helping a momma cow give birth.  The most satisfying and rewarding feeling in the world is knowing you took part in providing a safe environment and meeting the needs of each and every newborn baby calf on the ranch.  There is nothing more important to us than ensuring the safety of each and every pair (momma and baby) on our place.

This month, we were faced with the prospect of a late-spring storm.  Though the calves are growing and very healthy, storms can pose a risk to their health.  With blowing snow, cold temperatures, and high winds, we can see disease and sickness flair up as a result of the storm.  To prepare, we draw pairs into a well-protected area within one of our pastures that provides significant protection from the elements.  We do this by ringing the dinner bell (very similar to how i get my Husband’s attention)!  We continually feed heavy amounts to the cows in the area which we want them to weather the storm.  This helps the cows to maintain good body condition while also giving her calf the nutrition it needs to survive the cold conditions.  We know how to efficiently and effectively prepare for a large winter storm , but these storms don’t compare to the storms we face in negative media and bad publicity.

Agriculture, within the last twenty years, has come under fire for inhumane treatment of animals, antibiotic and hormone use, GMOs, and many other points of misinformation.  This has caused an influx of viral videos displaying acts of cruelty towards animals and extremely negative coverage from the media.  Unfortunately, shocking news stories with horrifying videos draw far more media attention than all of the sacrifices producers make for the well-being of their livestock.  What is so disheartening about this is that 99.9% of our industry is not this way.  Almost all farmers and ranchers take wonderful care of their livestock and do everything they can to ensure the well-being of the animal.  We have to take good care of our livestock, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the only way to maintain our way of life.  There is an old saying in our industry, “if you take care of that cow, she’ll take care of you.”  We live by these words.  How can you expect to be a successful steward if you don’t fulfill the most important duty of all: caring for your land and livestock.  Farmers and ranchers love what they do, or they wouldn’t be doing it.  It is such a fulfilling and honorable way of life; that is why it saddens me greatly to see people criminalize the industry.

Through creating this blog and writing weekly posts about our industry, I hope that I can raise awareness for Agriculture and bridge the gap between consumer and producer.  I want to show all of the readers that farmers and ranchers are wonderful, hard-working people with a deeply instilled responsibility and hunger to care for land and livestock.  The men, women, families, and  wonderful people who define this industry, deserve to be recognized for their can-do attitude and dedication to feeding this wonderful nation and the world.  It is important to know where your food comes from; and I intend to help you discover that.  Now that we have weathered the late-spring storm, we now are responsible for weathering the storm of bringing awareness to the consumer.  It is our responsibility and duty to do so.