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.