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!

An Open Letter to Governor Polis and the State of Colorado from a Colorado cattlewoman

Governor Polis and ALL those who support the radical anti-animal agriculture movement-

We see you, we got your message loud and clear. This is no longer about animal husbandry, the environment, or any of the things you claim to represent. This is about the extinction of our way of life. This is a personal and public attack on the very industry that feeds you and your families. This is about the eradication of animal agriculture. The proposition of “MeatOut Day” is a direct and blatant proclamation against the second-most profitable industry in your state, shame on you. Shame on you for spreading falsities about the very industry that provides over 4.1 billion dollars in agricultural commodities every year (USDA/NASS 2020 State Agriculture Overview for Colorado). This industry; the ranch wife raising three little kids and countless bottle calves to make ends meet, the farmer praying to God that He sends rain to make his crops grow in this crippling drought, the cowboy helping a first-calf heifer deliver a breach calf, these incredible and selfless people, hear you. Clearly, there is a very real disconnect between producer and consumer; about everything that goes into your dinner plate. If you didn’t know where you got it so wrong, you will now:

Your proclamation states loosely that you proposed the “MeatOut Day” to bring awareness to animal cruelty, the negative environmental impact of animal agriculture, and the negative impact of meat consumption on our health. All of theses claims are falsified and have time and time again been debunked by SCIENCE. With a little bit of fact-based, unbiased, unpropagated information, you would have easily found none of these claims to be true. Animal cruelty within animal agriculture is rare for several reasons. To abuse livestock in any way is not only morally wrong and widely frowned-upon within our industry, but it is also bad for business. Poorly cared for livestock don’t produce well and don’t “bring the money” as we say. That aside, our industry is one of prideful people. We take pride in everything we do from how we care for our animals, to their perfectly rationed and nutritionally-balanced diet, our safe and reliable animal handling systems, and ethical animal husbandry practices. To responsibly care for our animals is of the utmost importance to us. This is made obvious in the late night calving checks, bringing our cold bovine babies in our home’s to shake off the long-gone look in their eye, chopping ice and feeding in sub-zero temperatures; I don’t see your pals from PETA out here helping when things really get “ranchy”. The negative environmental impact of animal agriculture is one that is also widely disputed and has been disproven in several studies. If you’d like to educated yourself further, please refer to my previous blogpost, “The Baseless Attack on American Animal Agriculture and why it’s Wrong.” Animal agriculture is not only able to sequester carbon emissions through responsible rotational grazing practices, but we also do everything we can to ensure the health of our grass and water, as it is the basis of a successful operation. We are first in the business of growing grass, second in the the business of raising cattle. Without the health of the land and our most precious resource of water, we can’t pass down our legacies for generations to come. Producers are the original environmentalists, you know! When it comes to the health of our bodies, meat, specifically beef, has been proven to be one of the most nutritionally-dense and perfect sources of protein and iron in the world. Beef is an essential part of a healthy diet and provides countless nutritional benefits for our bodies. Beef has essential amino acids, minerals, antioxidants, and protein. All of these together are building blocks for heart health, our metabolism, prevention of anemia, muscle building, immune support, and countless other health benefits (11 health benefits of eating beef – Beef Central). To suggest that meat consumption, more specifically beef consumption is unhealthy, is a fallacy. Ruminants as well as pseudoruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, camelids, and cervids) are able to turn food sources that humans are unable to consume into the most valuable food source in the world. To undermine the value of our industry is just plain ignorant.

American animal agriculture not only provides the safest, most reliable, and affordable source of food in the world, it also provides countless non-food related resources to the American consumer and the world. Without animal agriculture, we as a nation would be completely unable to provide basic commodities, nutrition, and pharmaceuticals to our people. For you to blatantly shame the very industry that makes life possible for you and your family, is a slap in the face to every producer in this state, and our great nation. I urge you and implore you to withdrawal this proclamation, to change it to “MeatIn Day.” I urge you to celebrate and appreciate the most vital industry in this state; the one that fuels the bodies and minds of every single living being in your state. Without the less than 2 percent feeding 100 percent of the population, no one would be fed. Without us, you couldn’t do what you do. Regardless of what you do on March 20th, we’ll still show up. We’ll still check water, feed cows, wake up at all hours of the night to do calving checks, sacrifice family and personal time to care for our livestock, and forge on in this thankless profession to provide nutrition for the very people that try and destroy our legacy. I’ll tell you one thing, we are tougher than you give us credit for. We will continue to do what we do with gusto, passion, and integrity because it’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. It’s not just “our job”, our animals and ranches are our life. Enjoy your tofu, as for me and my family, we will be enjoying Colorado Proud steak.

God Bless America and God Bless the American Rancher.

The Baseless Attack on American Animal Agriculture and why it’s Wrong

This morning is particularly beautiful. The wind blew wildly yesterday and this morning’s particular calmness was more than welcomed. The cattle graze quietly in the muffled sunlight of the dawn. My little one and I make our way to the tractor with our coffee and chocolate milk in hand to feed the hungry bellies’ of the animals that take such good care of our family. While we ride quietly together in the tractor, I can’t help but reflect upon our way of life and the privileges and the heartache associated with it. The unprecedented family time, quality time with God and his creation, but also public scrutiny, and the never-ending criticism from the very people that we feed; are all par for the course with what we do. The news talks about the “Green New Deal” and “reducing food production’s carbon footprint”, but have any of the powers that be reflected on Agriculture’s true impact on this Country and the World? American Agriculture is the backbone of this country and fuels the mind and belly of every single American in this great nation. Where has MSM and the general population got it wrong? Why has it gone so astray? I’ll tell you.

Everywhere you turn you hear about the negative impact of Agriculture, particularly animal agriculture, on the environment. With environmental consciousness being a current “hot topic”, it seems that animal agriculture is synonymous with a negative carbon footprint. This is not accurate, nor a fair representation of the industry. After all, as I say, producers are the original environmentalists! Producers have the unique opportunity to kill two proverbial birds with one stone. We have the ability to produce the safest, most reliable source of protein in the world while also recycling our carbon emissions at the same time. Responsible, pasture-oriented, modern rotational-grazing practices have been proven to sequester the carbon emissions of cattle grazing. Between the soil absorption, plant absorption and proper animal husbandry, our industry can be beneficial to the reduction of our carbon footprint. For more information on this topic, here are some links: Environmental Footprint of Beef Production – Beef Cattle Research Council (beefresearch.ca), Methane and grazing: A broader view | Successful Farming (agriculture.com), Beef Production and Carbon Sequestration | Oklahoma State University (okstate.edu). Animal Agriculture encourages the restoration of our grasslands and helps in reducing the amount of native grasslands and important ecosystems from turning into industrial and residential land-grabs. This responsible management will allow them to enjoy and produce more food and fiber for America and the World.

Another hot-button issue associated with the meat industry is animal welfare and the ethics associated with it. Is it ethical to consume animal protein for nourishment? Yes it is. The consumption of animal protein, along with its byproducts, are some of the most nutritionally dense foods in the entire world, accompanied by the byproducts which provide us with countless resources (uses for beef cattle besides meat – Bing images). I believe that with ethical animal treatment practices and providing them with the best life possible in our care, we have honored that animal and their life. We thank them everyday for the incredible nutrition they provide to our family. What I find particularly interesting is the assumption that ranchers are animal-hating, heartless people who don’t care about the well-being of their livestock. This assumption could not be further from the truth. Animal stewardship is at the forefront of every good producers program. It has to be for a healthy and financially reliable herd. It isn’t only the right thing to do, but it’s just plain good business. Our livestock aren’t just animals to us, they’re our family. They are cared for before we are, fed before we are, sheltered before we are, they’re well-being comes before our own. Everything we do for our animals whether it be vaccinations, tagging, branding, calving, weaning, and everything in between; is all in the name of caring for them in the best way. Like in any industry, there are bad apples in the bunch, but the vast majority of producers know that without successful and ethical animal husbandry, you can’t and won’t have a successful business.

No matter what corner of the country you come from, American Agriculture directly impacts YOUR family. Without the less than 2% of the population feeding 100% of the population and beyond we would be in dire straits. We need to come together as a nation and make food production easier, not more difficult. Through legislation and public knowledge, I believe that we can give ranchers and farmers more power to produce the highest quality nutrition in the world. With many Americans, especially those with a public platform, not knowing profound hunger, it is easy to be over-critical of the people putting food on your table. Frankly, they are doing this without ever walking a mile in the American Agriculturalist’s shoes. They have no idea what it takes to keep America’s belly full. With the constant stream of “green washing” and extremist groups, our industry’s voice is being drowned out in the the noise. The best defense is a good offense. The best way that we can combat misinformation is with the truth. Bridging the gap between producer and consumer and educating with fact-based, unbias information is the best way to aid in reeducating the general public about where their food comes from. Listen, learn, and go straight to the source for your agricultural information. Don’t forget, without your local rancher or the farmer that keeps the grocery store shelves stocked, your family suffers, too. I can promise you, in this thankless profession, we are just as passionate about providing safe and affordable nutrition for your family as we are for our own. With a little bit of information, it seems that the attack on agriculture isn’t warranted or appropriate, is it?

God bless America and God bless the American Rancher and Farmer.

An Open Letter to Sam Schacher and Daily Blast Live from a Colorado cattlewoman

Sam Schacher and Daily Blast Live:

To say I’m disappointed in you, your network, and the main stream media in general would just be redundant and fall on obviously deaf ears.  Unless constructive criticism comes from a leftist and bias point of view, you’re clearly uninterested in correction or education.  That being said, I’m under no assumption that you care or want to hear what I have to tell you, but I’m going to tell you anyway.  Today, one of your discussion topics read, “New BK Whopper Reduces Cow Farts”.  First of all, doesn’t that just sound ridiculous? Secondly, shame on Burger King for criticizing the very industry that keeps their restaurants in business (this is a different topic for a different day).  You criticized the Ad saying that though the premise of the ad was inherently good (that Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and Burger King’s role in reducing said contributions *sigh*), but that they should have touched on all of the other “problems” with beef production.  So, you said you believed it was a “gimmick”, which is a statement I can whole-heartedly stand behind.  that wasn’t my problem with what you said.  I too agree that Burger King and other major chain fast food companies and their so called “green washing” is bogus, no doubt.  But I disagree for different reasons, if you’re concerned about the environment, the last industry you should be attacking is the one that feeds you. I would suggest that before you spread bias information regarding Agriculture,  more specifically the Beef industry, you should probably make sure that you are stating factual information.  I would like to break down what you said, point by point, so that there isn’t any confusion on where you’re wrong; let me educate you:

  1. Animal Agriculture is a really big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

I find this particular criticism to be especially comical. according to the EPA, Agriculture in its entirety (plant production too, my friends), contributes 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.  Transportation accounts for 28%, electricity 27%, industry 22%, and commercial and residential 22%.  Agriculture contributes less to greenhouse gas emissions than any other industry in the U.S., but that’s not what you’re concerned about, is it?  Obviously not, or you would be talking about how we could reduce carbon emissions in these other sectors that are clearly greater contributors.  Not only is it a small contributor, but why are you not talking about the amount of greenhouse gases that are being absorbed and recycled because of responsible land management in production Ag? Producers are the original environmentalist, you know.  Cattle producers, specifically, are pasture-oriented; without it, you cannot raise livestock.  To be good stewards is of the utmost importance in our industry.  The health of the land, air, and water is the determining factor for a healthy herd.  Your agenda isn’t environmentally driven at all. You’re agenda is to attack the meat industry and to stop livestock production in its entirety.

2. They aren’t talking about deforestation for the cattle industry, water consumption, and grain consumption.

As stated in one of my previous posts, “GMO’s: How we Feed the World”, I’m not unaware that the agricultural industry takes up 1/3 of the world’s land area.  That being said, United States agriculture is the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly means of production in the world.  Through irrigation, responsible fertilizer and herbicide use, and GMO crops, we are able to produce more food on fewer acres, while also growing plants and raising pasture that absorb and recycle carbon emissions.  Doesn’t that sound “green” to you?  On a side note: Organic farming is a far more dangerous contributor to deforestation than conventional farming because it takes more land to produce less food (your organic tofu doesn’t grow in the back of Walmart).  While we’re on that, soy is the second leading cause of deforestation in the world (again, tofu).  Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black, doesn’t it?  I digress, Cattle production is more sustainable than it ever has been, today. The United States cattle industry has made amazing strides in reducing its carbon footprint in the last 50 years. BEEF magazine states that, “A study by Washington State University in 2007 found that today’s farmers and ranchers raise 13% more beef from 13% fewer cattle. When compared with beef production in 1977, each pound of beef produced today: Produces 18% fewer carbon emissions, Takes 30% less land, and Requires 14% less water” (source).  What an amazing and progressive feat! The beef industry has made great efforts to reduce our environmental footprint while also improving upon the land for positive conservation impacts.  Without these progressions, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do for generations to come.  We also can’t do what we do without water.  Through responsible rangeland management, we are able to improve upon current water systems by adding floats, solar panels, and maintaining tanks; which then leads to water conservation.  By implementing these practices, we are also able to water native species and possibly endangered species that may inhabit the rangeland.  Cattle production, many times, improves upon existing water infrastructure because we need it, all living things need water to survive.  That’s why water systems for cattle production also positively contribute to the native land and animals. All in all, Agriculture is an industry of conservationism and stewardship.  I believe that our industry as a whole is more environmentally conscientious than most other industries; we have to be in order to be sustainable.  To conclude, the politically and emotionally charged “cow farts” argument, has been clearly disproven time and time again and is just plain ridiculous.

 

Not only do I believe that your slanderous remarks come from a place of anti-meat activism in disguise of environmental activism, but I also believe you come from a place of misunderstanding.  I implore you contact me or any local farmer/rancher and see our operation’s for yourselves.  Educate yourself from a place of first-hand knowledge, not bias and propagated information from the anti-ag agenda.  As a self-proclaimed vegan, I assume that you are incapable of being objective when it comes to meat production and meat consumption.  When your way of eating comes from an emotional perspective (I can’t help but think this is true considering you are a supporter of PETA), I don’t believe you are able to rationalize facts.  Regardless of what your original intentions were with this discussion about the new ad regarding more “environmentally friendly” beef, what you ended up doing was pushing an anti-beef agenda.  I ask you, do you really know? Do you really know about our agricultural industry and meat production based on actual facts? You clearly don’t.  That’s why I want you to hear me, loud and clear.  The United States agricultural industry is not the enemy, beef production is not the enemy; they are how we feed our country and world.  I ask you to please factually educate yourself and if you don’t know, ask. I believe that lack of communication between the general public and our producers contributes to widespread, propagated information regarding the meat industry.  Do your part to contribute to the truth.  God Bless America and God Bless the American Farmer and Rancher.

Sincerely,

A Colorado cattlewoman

 

 

The Unsung Hero: The American Farmer and Rancher

I’d like to open by applauding the selfless medical professionals, first responders, and countless other industries that are keeping our nation alive and well during this crisis. May we all be forever grateful and indebted to each and every one of you for your services to your fellow Americans!

This morning is particularly frosty. The cedar’s branches are droopy and heavy with a wet, spring snow. The sun is hidden underneath a thick blanket of cloud cover; the horse pasture is ominous and dark from the day before’s blizzard. The hubby rushes out the door, our niece in tow, to feed hungry cows and let the horses out of the barn. As I sip my hot coffee, toddler tugging at my sleeve for more cinnamon toast, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Despite the current circumstances, the American Farmer and Rancher, truck driver and grocery store clerk, grain elevator operator and sale barn manager, and countless others, have made breakfast for my family possible this morning. They’ve provided us the ever-necessary lifeline of nourishment; despite it all.

 

What an incredible time to be reflective of how blessed we are in this country. Blessed by an abundant and affordable source of food, fiber, and protein. Some non-perishables are thin do to panic buying, but we have no reason to fear our food source not being available. Have you ever reflected on that? How amazing it is that as Americans, we never fear that our food source would not be there? How incredible is it that as a society we have the ability to be particular about what we buy? So many people and countries don’t have that ability. I think that as American’s, being the most prosperous nation in the world, we can take for granted the simple yet all-important ability to feed our families and to have full grocery store shelves. Of course, there are families who are unable to feed themselves due to financial hardship and I don’t yet have a viable solution/idea to make sure every single family is well-fed. That being said, as a whole, our country doesn’t have a food shortage problem and I don’t think that the average American realizes what a big deal that is. Today, and everyday, we can thank American Agriculture for providing our family with the single most important thing to keep us alive, food.

Despite social distancing and the majority of the work-force being forced into self-quarantine, Agriculture, along with many other essential personnel, are hustling and bustling. The need for nourishment never ceases, never stops and no matter the current crisis, must keep going. I hope that this a time in which politicians and the general public see how difficult we make it for Farmers and Ranchers to do their jobs and how imperative it is that we are able to continue providing food, fiber, and protein for the nation for generations to come. I hope that in the future, we can set policy and pass laws to make getting food on America’s table just a little bit easier. Without fuel for our bodies, nurses wouldn’t be able to give much needed care to sick patients, doctors and scientist wouldn’t be able to tirelessly search for a cure, truck drivers wouldn’t have the strength to drive through the night, and families wouldn’t be able to gather around the table and take their minds off our current situation, even if for just a minute.

Agriculture is the lifeline of this nation. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to live. Maybe now is the turning point in our nation for many things, but also for more appreciation of where our food comes from and the people who make feeding your family possible. Without the American Farmer and Rancher, not only would we be dealing with a global pandemic, but also the lack of ability to eat, to fuel, to cloth our families. Maybe now is the time to better educate ourselves as a society on where our food comes from and how to decrease propagated and damaging information regarding the industry. Through all of this, I think that as a nation we have realized how truly important agriculture is. It isn’t just a way of life; riding horses and gathering cattle, a firm handshake and your word as your bond, unmatched work ethic and integrity, it’s the single most vital industry on the planet tasked with the most essential job in the world. Today, I ask you to say a little prayer for the hard-working men and women who made nourishment possible for you and your family today.

Say a prayer for our medical professionals, grocers, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, skilled tradespeople and all the people in between putting their health on the line to keep this country going in this time of crisis. God Bless America, and God Bless the American Farmer and Rancher.

 

 

Educated Agriculture: Why you Shouldn’t get your “Facts” From Hollywood

The morning frost grips to the pine needles; snow sparkles on top of the bales in the much needed warmth of the early spring sun.  Our ranch dog, Doc, runs to the food bowl in eager anticipation of  his breakfast, the barn cats are never far behind.  He’s not the only one that needs fed first-thing this chilly morning.  The cows and calves are (im)patiently waiting by the gate for their morning feed and for ice to be chopped.  With our cup of hot coffee, the baby’s snow suit and mittens on, the tractor and pickups warmed up to start chores, we say a little prayer that our day and mother nature brings good fortune and we care for our land and livestock to the best of our abilities.

Everyday, we worry.  That seems to consume so much of the Rancher and Farmer’s time; worry.  Will the calves bring the price we need? Will this next blizzard kill cattle? Will that pickup need replaced this year? Will this next election affect our ability to continue to do what we do? The thing about agriculture is that our fate hinges on mother nature, politics, and the markets; all three being highly unpredictable and worrisome.  What are the less than 2% to do if the next election brings a President who doesn’t understand the repercussions of their policies on the heartland of America? It scares me, and I know it scares many others, too.  I think the scariest thing about our current political climate is the ignorance and arrogance of the people who set policies for us.  Has a senator from New York ever woke up in the early hours of the morning to calve heifers in a blizzard? Has a Hollywood socialite ever even visited a dairy before making inaccurate and damaging assumptions about how cream gets to your coffee? Has an elected official from California ever doctored all day in a feedlot just to make ends meet and make sure the consumer gets a safe, healthy, and reliable source of protein in the local grocery store? I don’t think so.  What disturbs me so much is that anyone can get on the internet and find falsified information about agriculture and take it as gospel.  The general public is so disconnected from the Farm, that they don’t even know what to believe anymore or where to get the information.  The fact is, if you have never been to a ranch, dairy, farm, or spoken to someone with first-hand knowledge in the industry, it is dangerous and wrong to make assumptions about it.  I can honestly tell you, that someone that has never lived anywhere but Los Angeles or in the heart of Manhattan doesn’t have a clue what it takes for less than 2% of the population to feed 100% of the population EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  What I’m getting at is, if you don’t know, if you haven’t lived it, if you haven’t rushed a c-section cow to the vet in the middle of the night, or farmed into the early hours of the morning to get the seed planted before the rain,  you don’t know.  If you don’t know, ask.  Ask someone who lives, eats, and breathes it because those are the people who know where your food comes from.  They can give you the most accurate and truthful story of how that prime Black Angus t-bone got to your plate or how the cereal made it to the shelves of the grocery store, how the shirt made it to your closet, or how that fabulous glass of merlot made it to your fancy dinner.  So much of your everyday life is made possible by the American Rancher and Farmer; we need to elect officials that make our life easier and possible, too.

As an industry, it is so incredibly important for us to make ourselves available to the general public when it comes to education.  As I look out over the frosty stubble with satisfied cows munching away at their forage; I know this way of life is worth protecting.   I know so many people in our industry who are willing to educate; to talk to whoever will listen about how food gets from our Ranch, to your table. Please, I beg of our country, we need to be aware of how our current political and social climate can negatively impact the people and families who produce America’s food.  Without the American Farmer and Rancher you wouldn’t have food, clothing, libations, fossil-fuel alternatives, and many textiles.  Agriculture is the single most important industry to every single American citizen, period; and we as a country need to do everything in our power to protect it.  America’s heartland and its ability to produce a safe, reliable, and affordable source of food and fiber hinges on the next election.  Please, go out and vote to support the people who make it possible for you and your family to eat everyday.  I promise you, your next meal won’t grow in the back of Walmart.  Be educated, be an advocate, and beware of propaganda.  God bless the American Patriot and the American  Farmer and Rancher.

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.