Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hope for 2010

Tonight we say goodbye to 2009. As years go, 2009 wasn't so bad on our farm, in fact it was really pretty good. We had plenty of rain, good crops, great grass in our pastures and the cattle grew very well. We stayed healthy and the kids had a good year. All in all, 2009 was a good year for us. Now as we head to 2010 we wonder what it will bring.

Most farmers and ranchers tend to be optimists. So as we go into a new year, we assume the best. I think all farmers and ranchers start January 1 sure that this will be the year that we have ample rains and produce lots of grain and many pounds of beef/pork/lamb etc... I think all of us also think this will be the year that the stars will line up and not only will we have a great crop but the price we receive for those crops will be great also.

That is what I love about my fellow farmers and ranchers. I think it takes optimism to take a small seed and place it into the ground not knowing what will happen in the ensuing months. Waiting long hours on a cow to calve or a ewe to lamb, all the while, knowing it will be months before that animal is ready to sell.

What will 2010 hold for my ranch? I know there will be ups and downs, successes and failures but I can tell you right now there is nothing I would rather be doing. Who knows what the year will bring, but right now I have great hopes and dreams for 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Response to a Suburban Mom

The following is a response to a suburban mother that I have as a friend on Facebook. She is very much into locally grown, organic food. I have absolutely not problem with this, but the idea that it is healthier is far over-done and in many cases false. We need modern agriculture to produce the food needed for our growing world population. We simply cannot produce the affordable food needed in large quantities in a local food system. She also is a proponent of grass-fed beef. Again, I have no problem with this but the benefits are over sensationalized. My response to her follows:

I commend you for supporting local farmers. I am selling some of my beef locally and it has really re-connected me with my customers. Locally grown meat and produce is fresher and in most cases better than those bought in the store. However, I still contend that locally grown may not be a good option for those in large metro areas, especially those on lower incomes.

As for grass-fed beef, it is a good product and a good option for some. Let me preface my comments by saying I am a rancher and I recently completed my masters degree in range management. The health benefits of grass-fed beef are real. However, the amount of omega-3 is misleading. There really isn't that much difference. The leanness is just a matter of how the animals are fed and my grain fed beef is probably just as lean.

The real issue is the acres. It takes many more acres to finish a grass-fed beef. It also takes longer to get them to market. Agriculture is a very competitive business, especially for land. I simply cannot find enough land to finish my beef on grass. I also feel I am contributing far more food to our world by raising crops on my tillable acres.

On our farm we have went to no-till crop production. This allows for rain infiltration similar to that described by the author in your article. It also saves soil and in the end we use fewer herbicides and less fuel. Most of the farmers in our area have also gone to no-till.

The e-coli issue more of an issue of proper handling and cooking of the meat. There is no more e-coli now than there was fifty years ago. If utensils are properly washed and meat cooked to proper temperatures, e-coli is not an issue.

Again, I am not criticizing you. I enjoy your posts and I commend you for buying local. I think it is a better experience for farmers and consumers alike. But also know you are only getting part of the story. We need modern agriculture to feed our world. Farmers and ranchers and all those involved in agriculture have the best interest of consumers in mind.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Christmas to Remember

This Christmas was one to remember. We got somewhere between 8 and 10 inches of snow with 40 t0 50 mile an hour winds. In short, we missed Christmas Eve services and our family dinner on Christmas Day. It was one of the worst storms I ever remember.

In spite of the weather we had one of the best Christmas Days ever. We opened presents and had a lunch together and watched Christmas movies. It was relaxed and low-key, one that I am sure we will never forget. But that is not what this blog is about.

Christmas morning dawned with gale force winds and lots of snow. Most were snuggled in their beds, unwrapping Christmas presents and generally enjoying a leisurely day. My family enjoyed the presents but our day was far from leisurely. In fact, we worked harder this Christmas than ever before.

Livestock know no holidays. The fact that it is Christmas means nothing to my cows, horses and sheep. They still need fed, watered and looked after. The wind, snow and cold temperatures just made it more difficult. So as most people lounged in their Christmas pjs, we put on our coveralls, winter coats and hats and braved the storm.

Why did we do this? Because we put our livestock first and no matter the day, or the conditions they need to be taken care of. This is what the men and women of our family farms and ranches do every day (holiday or not) to bring you the food on your holiday table. So the next time you sit down to a meal (holiday or not) remember the family farmers and ranchers who brought it to you taking care of their livestock in all types of weather, everyday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Wishes from the Farm

While many of you are asleep in your bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in your heads. I will be out among my cattle and sheep instead making sure they are watered and fed. I love Christmas for many reasons but one of them is because of chores on Christmas morning.

I know, work on a holiday doesn't sound appealing or at very least it sounds lucrative (double pay), but that is not how it is on the farm. I cannot explain it but there is something about taking care of animals on Christmas morning.

Maybe it is my imagination but there is something special on Christmas morning. I love breathing in the cold, crisp air as my boots crunch across the snow. The dogs seem to have an extra bounce as the bound around me while I carry grain to the calves and sheep. The cows waiting with frost on their hair, breathing steam while I cut the twine off the hay. There is just something indescribable and great about this morning.

But my favorite part is walking into the house after the chores are done. The warmth of the wood stove and the light of the house. The smell of breakfast and coffee and the sound of the kids still buzzing about their presents. Christmas on the farm is a very special day, I wish I could share it with each of you. During this time though, let's all take the time to remember Jesus and his birth, for He truly is the reason for the season. Merry Christmas friends.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Still, Small Voice

I love Christmas. First and foremost, I love Christmas because it celebrates the birth of Jesus, God come to earth. I cherish the Christmas Story and all the wonder it brings. My favorite memories of Christmas center around Church. The singing of Silent Night in candlelight still sends shivers up my back. I cannot explain it but there is something about the Christmas Eve Service that is like nothing else I have ever experienced.

I also love the Christmas Season because of the time spent with family. I love to give presents and to eat the food we save for Christmas time. The winter season, new fallen snow, Christmas lights, the smell of evergreen trees are all things about this season that I love. I love the music, the charity and the feel of the season.

So this year as Christmas approached I told myself I would immerse myself in this season like no other Christmas before. i would not get caught up in the hustle and bustle, the gift buying and the commercialization of the season. I yearned for the awe and complete joy of the season I found as a child and I desperately wanted to connect with that feeling this Christmas. You see, as I have become an adult it seems Christmas flies by faster and faster each year.

It seems like I spend more and more time buying gifts, running from one party to another and that life and work do not slow down during this season. Then suddenly on the 26th it is all gone and I am yearning for it for another year. I feel regret for not spending time revering the season, for not singing hymns and for not sharing all of this with my children.

Today, I realized that is all my fault. I am the one to blame for not making time to worship Jesus and his birth. I am the one who is not slowing my life down to make time for my kids and my wife. I suspect they are more hungry for this time with me than they are for presents. This season we all need to remember why this is the greatest time of the year, why Christmas is so special and to savor that love and warmth that we feel at no other time.

So take this time, these last five days to stop and smell the evergreen, the sugar cookies baking and the new snow. Take time to feel the warmth of the love of family, the fire in the hearth and the glow of the season. Most importantly take time to remember why we celebrate this season, the birth of Jesus at the Nativity, the great gift of God coming to earth to save us. Take time to hear that sill, small voice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Save Earth (from Paul McCartney)

The past few days I have watched the debacle at Copenhagen and all the talk of global warming. It seems like everyone, including Sir Paul McCartney, wants to save the planet. I fear this has the potential to be very devastating to my way of life, agriculture and ultimately to our country and to our freedom.

Let's forget that the "facts" that are being thrown around are just theories and there are plenty of other theories that are in opposition that are being ignored. Global warming (or climate change as it has been changed to) is a shaky theory at best. But let's ignore that for right now.

The changes being discussed are putting a bulls-eye right on agriculture and that could have catastrophic results. First, the prices of our inputs such as fuel and fertilizer are subject to huge increases. This puts already razor thing profit margins in great peril. Our profit margins are what the hard-working family farmers and ranchers are living on and it will put many out of business. This will also force cutbacks in the way we grow crops. We will no longer be able to be as efficient and produce as much food of the ever dwindling acres of farmland. Feeding our ever-growing population requires us to operate at full speed.

Another danger coming to us from Copenhagen, is the push to get meat out of our diets. Ideas like Meatless Monday and Less Meat= Less Heat are being touted at this meeting. The bottom line is meat is an important staple of our diet. It contributes valuable nutrients and protein while actually working to sustain our environment. The idea that "greenhouse gases" produced by livestock contribute to "global warming" are at best missleading and at worst absolute fiction. The raising of livestock on modern farms and ranches is absolutely critical to feeding our ever growing populations.

In fact, it has been suggested that developing nations need to look toward the agricultural system in the United States as a model. More efficient production would actually lessen the impact we have on the environment, while at the same time, increase the world's food supply

All of this will lead to an increase in food prices and a shortage of the food we all take for granted. So I encourage everyone reading this to become an advocate for agriculture, that is how you save the planet.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting to Know My Customer

This year we started marketing our own beef. We had thought about this for years but this year we finally made the plunge. Eight calves were saved back and processed at a local locker plant. In marketing the beef I discovered something I had been missing.

Part of our marketing is that we make deliveries and in doing so I got to know my customers better. I found that connecting with the people who are buying my beef is very rewarding and something all of us in agriculture should do.

This gave me the chance to talk to my customers about how we raise our cattle. I had the opportunity to tell them that we use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary and only in the prescribed amount. I assured them that we followed all withdrawal times and they believed me because they got to know me.

I discussed our low-stress livestock handling techniques with them. I told them about the vaccination and nutrition programs we have for our cattle. I want my customers (and everyone else) to know that we do all we can for our cattle to keep them healthy, stress-free and comfortable.

This made me realize that as a rancher it is my responsibility to get to know my customer. As I get to know my customer, they also get to know me. As we communicate it gives them a chance to understand why we do what we do. Communication gives me a chance counter-act misconceptions and provide my customer the true picture of where their beef comes from.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Role Model

Role models seem to be in short supply these days. Celebrities that we thought were wholesome, good people suddenly have skeletons in their closets and are not necessarily good examples for our kids. Sadly this even happens on the local level, everyday it seems coaches, civic leaders or others who have disappointed us time and time again. Who are our kids to look up to?

Let me tell you about my role model. He has spent his whole life serving others, I do not think he has ever put himself first. My role model works with his hands and his heart. He cares deeply about the world we live in and spends everyday working hard to leave it in better shape than he found it. His bed-rock is his faith in God and each day he is an example of how a Godly man lives.

He is part of the very land he lives on. He nurtures the animals and crops in his care and they in-turn produce the food and fiber that feeds all of us. My role model cares for the land, keeps the water clean and the air fresh, he is the best environmentalist I know and the most genuine.

You will never find anyone who works longer or harder. He does not do his job to become rich but out of a sense of duty, pride in his work and a love for the people he feeds. His mind is sharp, his hands calloused and his heart is warm, a greater role model you could not imagine.

I have had the honor and the privilege of knowing this man for 39 years and calling him Dad. He is an incredible role model and I have spent my entire life emulating him. I think he is special, but he is like many of his fellow farmers and ranchers, good, God-fearing, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth men and women. Seems to me, they would be much better role models than the celebrities that society often puts up on a pedestal.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why I Hunt

Tomorrow is one of the mornings I wait for all year. It is the start of deer season. I know many of the animal rights groups have started aggressive anti-hunting campaigns and that is why I want to tell you why I hunt.

I do not look forward to this morning all year because of a need to kill something, in fact the killing is not something I enjoy. I would guess that I am not alone among my fellow hunters. However, it is part of hunting and necessary.

So, if I don't hunt out of a need to kill, why do I hunt? I enjoy being out in nature and watching the animals, you never know what you will see on any given day. I enjoy trying to understand the patterns and habits of the deer and trying to be one step ahead of them. My time in the field gives me a chance to relax, a time to think and time to take a deep breath. This year it gives me a chance to connect with my son and to pass on my love for the outdoors.

OK, so you get all of that, why is it necessary to harvest deer? Deer need to have their numbers thinned out. Left unharvested, deer will overpopulate and this will lead to an increase in disease and can lead to destruction of food sources (crops) and starvation for deer. I guess I see a quick death as a better alternative to a slow death due to starvation or disease. Furthermore, the venison provides my family with a great source of meat.

Deer are put on earth to serve as food. Whether it be a predator like man or one like coyotes, deer have a definite place on the food chain. I wish I could share my day tomorrow with you, watching the sun come up, listening to the coyotes and the turkeys, smelling the fresh air and, hopefully, harvesting a big buck.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Thursday will be Thanksgiving and it is a day that we should all take to remember the blessings in our lives and all that we are thankful for. I find it difficult to put into words all that I am thankful for, but I also find it necessary to try.

I am so thankful to be a producer of the food and fiber that fuel this great nation. I am humbled in the presence of other farmers and ranchers. They are such great agriculturalists and I find it hard to measure up. Agriculture is the foundation of this great nation and because of our agricultural roots we are able to pursue industry. I find it no coincidence that we celebrate our thankfulness with a great feast.

I am also thankful to live in the heartland of our nation. In a place where family, morals and friends are the bedrock of our everyday lives. I am thankful to be a citizen of the greatest, most powerful nation on earth. I am thankful that even though I don't agree with everything going on in this great nation, I have the ability to discuss it and the ability to try to change what I don't agree with.

I am thankful for my family. I thank the Lord everyday for my wife and kids. I am truly blessed to have a them and often I don't know what I did to deserve that blessing. I am thankful to my parents for the beginning the gave me, the example my mother gave me and the guidance my father continues to give me.

Most of all, I am thankful to serve such a great God. I do not deserve his Grace and blessings, but he continues to love me and forgive my shortcomings. Without the Grace of God, none of this is possible and for that I am ultimately most thankful.

So as we go through this time to remember and give thanks, take the time to count your blessings. Every citizen of this great nation is blessed and should be thankful for that blessing. Take this day to share the things you are thankful with others.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What is a Factory Farm, and Who is Sustainable?

Last night I was watching Saturday Night and low and behold they had Al Gore on proclaiming the benefits of "going green". Don't get me wrong I am all for renewable energy and saving the environment, but I am also for surviving and farming tomorrow. But that is not what I writing about.

In one skit Al Gore proclaimed the evils of factory farming and announced he was in favor of sustainable agriculture. This hit two of my pet peeves. The first is factory farming. Just what exactly is factory farming? I have many friends in the swine and poultry business and their farms are the farthest thing from a factory.

Their barns are climate controlled through all types of weather and temperatures. They receive a balanced diet, formulated for them by their very own nutritionist. They are in a disease free living area, receive the best in veterinary care and are free from the natural competition from predators and even their own kind.

As far as sustainable agriculture, every farmer and rancher I know practices sustainable agriculture. If we do not sustain the land and animals we care for we will not be around, and last I knew staying around is the definition of sustainable. The bottom line is we all employ practices like good soil and water conservation and proper animal care. If a farmer or rancher is not sustainable they will not be in business and many of us are the fourth or fifth generation on the farm or ranch. That is my definition of sustainable.

I would suggest that Mr. Gore try to educate himself on terms such as factory farm and sustainable. Farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists and I would guess that many in the Green Revolution could learn a lot about conserving resources from us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Today is my wedding anniversary. How did we celebrate? Well actually we started out by doing chores this morning and ended by doing chores tonight. So goes the anniversary of most farm or ranch wives. My wife is a saint and I feel very blessed that she picked me.

Farm and ranch wives are partners in the operation in the truest sense of the word. Jennifer is out with me everyday, knee deep in the mud, choking in the dust and working long-hard hours. She has a degree in animal science and is integral in any decision we make. She is my partner in every way.

Being a farm or ranch wife also means sacrificing and many times doing without. I am sure there are many things Jennifer would like to have, but she understands the economics of agriculture and somehow makes due with what we have. She deserves much more than she has but understands the dedication it takes to survive in agriculture.

Each year I count this day as the anniversary of the best day of my life. This is the day I married my best friend, my biggest supporter and my partner. Like most men in agriculture, I am pretty sure I am not very good at expressing that to her and I could not do this on my own. Beside every man in agriculture is a woman who supports, guides and loves them and I am no different.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The First Snow

Today we received our first snow of the season. I don't know what it is but it seems like the first snow of the winter always catches us off guard and seems really cold. In any case we woke up to a cold, wet snow this morning and here on the ranch that puts several things into gear.

First, we know that our animals are using more energy keeping themselves warm. That means we need to increase their energy intake. This morning the calves received more grain, the cows got a good bale of brome grass hay (it is higher in energy and protein than our native prairie hay) and the sheep got an alfalfa bale (alfalfa is even higher in protein and energy than brome grass).

Next we made sure they had plenty of clean, fresh water. Even though it is cold, animals need to keep up their water consumption so they don't get dehydrated. Plenty of water keeps them warmer and also keeps them healthier.

Finally we spend much more time walking through our animals and watch them much more closely. We look for the early signs of illness and distress. When we do notice the signs of illness we treat them with the appropriate medicine. Our modern veterinary medicine is completely safe for both the animals and the people who eat their meat. The drugs are tested and re-tested, all label restrictions are followed and we only use them when they are absolutely needed to save the animal's life.

Keep in mind that all of this is done in cold, wet conditions. It would be much easier to stay inside next to the wood stove, warm dry and comfortable. However, we know that it is our calling in life to watch over these animals and provide for them, keeping them healthy and comfortable while they are with us. That is the story of the protein on your table tonight.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Step One for Your Steak

Yesterday we sold calves at the local livestock sale. It may seem like a mundane, everyday event but to a rancher it is a pretty monumental event. The calves in the sale-ring represents not only one year's worth of work but a lifetime's worth of work and planning.

My father has spent his entire life picking the genetics that have went into our cowherd. Jennifer and I have helped advance the genetics in the herd to include sires with better carcass traits (this is so the beef you buy is better every time you buy our meat). Each and every bull we buy is the culmination of a lot of thought and planning about what genetic traits our herd needs.

We then work with our veterinarian to plan a herd health program. Our veterinarian is a long-time friend who has worked with our operation for over 30 years. Many hours of hard work go into the herd health plan we implement. This is to insure the beef you eat is from the healthiest, most stress-free cattle possible.

We also spend many hours on the nutrition of our cows and calves. Computers programs and the latest in research from our local land-grant universities are used to insure that our cattle have their nutritional needs met. This also helps provide you with the best tasting, most nutritious beef possible.

Our ranch has also started to employ new technology to meet the requests of our customers. We tag each calf with a radio frequency identification tag (RFID). We do this so we can verify the age and that our calves were produced on our ranch (the source). I feel this is important because the consumer says they want to know where their beef comes from. I am proud of the beef I produce and I want them to know where it comes from.

This is just a brief account of one step in the process that brings you the beef on your table. There are two or three more producers who put as much time, technology and hard work into growing the beef you enjoy on your table and that you feed to your family.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanks Vets

Veteran's Day has special meaning to me. My Great Grandpa served in the army during World War 1, Grandpa served in the Navy in World War 2 and Dad served in the Air Force in Vietnam. All were greater men than I am and all made more sacrifices for our country, I am humbled by their service.

The United States is the greatest nation of all time this is entirely due to the great men and women who served us in the armed forces. While I believe the foundation of our nation is our farms and ranches, this foundation is built upon the sweat and ultimately the blood of those who sacrificed to provide us our rights and freedoms.

I am able to pursue farming and ranching because of the veterans who fought for this freedom and I am able to keep farming because of our brave soldiers who continue to protect these freedoms. When I think of the harm they face on my behalf I feel very humbled and unworthy.

Thank you does not seem at all adequate but it is all that I have. So I would like to thank all the veterans who served and sacrificed to protect our nation and our freedoms and I would like to thank all those currently serving for keeping us from harm. May God Bless you and keep you safe.

Monday, November 9, 2009

4-H and Animals

Today I received notice about an editorial piece that showed up in the Chicago Tribune titled "4-H: Cruel to Animals and Kids" by Jennifer O'Connor. This is a horribly slanted op-ed piece and it should be pointed out that Ms. O'Connor is an employee for PETA. It detailed Ms. O'Connor's daughter's experience in the 4-H dairy project. Ms. O'Connor expressed dismay and shock that the cow used for her daughter's project was eventually harvested for meat. She went as far as to say it made her daughter turn away from meat forever.

I shared this story with my children (who are both in 4-H) and they immediately had the same response. We raise cows for beef, they are not pets. My kids understand the order of life, some animals were put on this earth to serve as food. That does not mean they will not take the absolute best care of them that we can while they are in our control, but they understand the eventual reason we have cattle.

It is unfortunate that the writer's daughter had a bad experience but that in part is due to poor communications on her part as a parent. Before their projects ever started we discussed the cycle of production with the kids and throughout the project we reinforced this. In short, there were no surprises, they were prepared.

Make no mistake that Ms. O'Connor was not your average 4-H parent but an employee of the radical anti-animal agriculture group PETA. This group is known for their outrageous stunts to draw attention to themselves. If you are a 4-H supporter you need to go to the Chicago Tribune and write a response to this terrible editorial. We must stand up for 4-H and the educational opportunities it provides. Please, take the time to let your opinion be known, PETA sees a lack of response as an endorsement of their position.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shrinking Paycheck

Today we started with the prospect of finishing harvest. We just had a little over 60 acres of soybeans to harvest. Not a daunting task, but it would take a good, problem free day.

That is not how today went. The morning started with the transmission going out on our good truck (a 1983 model, so good is a relative term). This little break down probably will cost us several thousand dollars. Later in the morning the starter went out on our other truck.While this was not as tramatic as the transmission, it was another couple hundred bucks. So we were down to one truck and off to a start two hours later than we planned.

So we had not harvested an acre and we were already down several thousand dollars. Why is this a big issue. Well our paycheck is the harvest each fall and all of these breakdowns chip away at our paycheck. Unlike many other businesses, farmers and ranchers are price takers.

In many other businesses, if your cost of producing a product goes up, the price goes up. Agriculture is not that way. While our cost of producing soybeans went up this morning the price we received went down 30 cents a bushel. Why the price went down I am not sure, but it all equates in a smaller paycheck.

I am not telling you this to complain, I am the one who chose to farm and ranch. But I do think that there is a perception that we are getting rich in agriculture and that is simply not the fact. None of us would trade our chosen lifestyle for another profession, but we do not do this for the money. We do this out of a love for the land and a pride in feeding the world.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Modern, Everyday Miracle

This Sunday our pastor delivered a sermon about the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. That has always been one of my favorite parables and one that gives me a great deal of comfort. I guess knowing that Jesus will provide what we need makes me feel safe.

I often wonder what it would be like to witness a miracle like that. Then this Sunday, I realized that I have. OK, so it wasn't as dramatic as Jesus breaking the bread and it feeding over 5,000, but the fact that we can feed the world is an everyday miracle.

Think about it, our acres of farmland keep diminishing but we can provide the food and fiber that is needed to make the world go. Yes, I know there is hunger in this world, but it is not because we do not produce enough food.

So as the population grows and the number of farmers and ranchers decrease, it is nothing short of a miracle that enough food is produced. We have been given the tools as farmers and ranchers to produce this food. Tools such as genetically modified organisms such as crops that use less fertilizer and water to produce more grain, modern animal medicines that allow our animals to grow faster on less grain and modern livestock production systems that allow animals to grow in a climate controlled, disease-free environment. Yes, God has given us these tools to feed and clothe a hungry world.

So as you pass a field of round-up ready soybeans or hear a rancher talk about using modern anti-biotics realize that you are witnessing a miracle. Because I promise you that man could not figure out a way to feed 98% of humanity with the hand s of only 2 % of the population. That is nothing short of a miracle.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Family Farm Values

Last night my family sat down to dinner. We had pot roast (most meals are centered around the beef we raise) and all the fixings. This is not an unusual event in our house, we try to have breakfast together every morning and dinner as a family every night. During dinner we often talk about the day's events, school and, of course, the farm. I truly believe that that family dinner is what we are all missing far too often. It helps us reconnect as a family.

Family values are what we as a farm family are all about. I feel very fortunate to have grown up on a family farm and that is what I want for my children. I had my parents, my sister and my grandparents around me every day. I worked side-by-side with my parents, we ate meals together as a family and I learned to appreciate the blessing I had been given each day.

Now all I want for my kids is to live that same life. In this modern rush, rush world it is hard. We get up every morning and feed our animals. Some mornings, like today, it isn't too much fun, but they are learning to put the needs of their animals ahead of their own needs. We eat meals together so they know that their parents care about what they are doing and are involved in their lives. Our children are an active part of our farm and I think that is important. Many times after school and on the weekends they would rather be doing something more fun, but the farm has to come first.

What I am trying to convey is that farm kids learn some valuable lessons very early in life. Things I would like to share with more kids. Lessons like putting others ahead of yourself, the value of family and the benefits of hard work. Most importantly my kids know where their food comes from and, they too, are proud producers of the food we all eat.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Cowboy Way and Modern Animal Science

This week we only had two days to harvest. While that was really frustrating, it was not the biggest worry. The middle part of this week brought rain and a sudden drop in temperatures. Not only did that stop harvest but it also is bad news for my freshly weaned calves.

Rain and a cold temperatures often spell the start of sickness in calves. However, that was not the case at our ranch. Why did we escape without any illness? It was the result of planning, consultation with our veterinarian and hard work.

First, we provided our cattle with the resistance they needed through a good vaccination program planned with our veterinarian. The calves could fight anything mother nature and stress sent their way because they were vaccinated against common bovine diseases.

Second, we weaned the calves so they had nose to nose contact with their mothers. This lessens the stress weaning brings on. The calves were old enough that they no longer got their nourishment from their mother's milk. They are ready to be on their own and the close contact with the cow helps this transition.

Finally, we watch them closely and try to give them a good, clean environment. This morning I was late to work because I moved them to a dry area to lessen the stress. I didn't really have time to move them, but that is what we do. Our animals must come first.

Now this doesn't insure that our calves will not get sick but we have given them every advantage so they can fight any illness. In the meantime, we will hope for sunshine and dry weather, and we will keep constant watch on the calves. If they do get sick, we will treat them with the latest in modern veterinary medicine. That folks, is the cowboy way with a little modern animal science thrown in.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Watching the Radar and Waiting

This past week was a tough one at our farm. We have corn and soybeans still in the field and it rained all week. To add to the stress the wet, cold weather was less than ideal for weaning our calves. So as we watched the dreary, fall weather this last week our thoughts were really about the crops deteriorating and our calves health.

Each morning I would go out and feed the calves. I would stand among them and watch for the early signs of sickness. I also brought out fresh bedding so they would have a dry place to lay down. We were lucky and they all made it through the week healthy. We did not have to pull a single calf and treat them.

However, if we had needed to treat them we would have used a treatment protocol prescribed by our veterinarian, designed specifically for the specific illness. Our cattle benefit from all the advances of modern veterinary medicine. The health of our cattle is first and foremost on our priority list, we do everything in our power to keep them healthy.

Meanwhile, our crops continue to deteriorate in the field and the prices continue to fluctuate. Each day and each rain means more grain on the ground. All of this while commodity brokers speculate about the condition of the crop and cause the prices to yo-yo. In other words, our paycheck can change in two ways because of the weather.

This week dawns with a couple of days of favorable weather followed by a couple more days of rain. You might ask yourself, why would anyone put themselves through this. All I can tell you is that there is a deep satisfaction felt when you realize that the crops you grow feed the world. So tomorrow we will frantically try to get as many bushels of soybeans on the trucks as we can while we hope the sun drys the calf pens out. Such is the life of a farmer or rancher.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cap and Trade

Today I participated in an effort to educate my friends and neighbors about Cap and Trade and the Climate Change Bill with many other farmers and ranchers. This is a horrible piece of legislation and it will drive up the cost of living for every family in the United States. I don't know about your family but my family will have a hard time absorbing any more increases in our living expenses.

This proposed legislation will increase the cost of nearly everything namely; energy, heating, gas and food. Why food? Well, this bill will result in an increase in the price of fertilizer and it will increase the cost of our putting a crop in the field. But more than that it puts our food supply in grave jeopardy.

My farm is like most and we are operating on a profit margin that is razor thin. This proposed legislation will result in higher production costs and unless crop prices rise, less profit. That very same profit is the salary we farmers live on. Less profit, equals less money, less money means less money for my family to live on. Remember what I said about the razor's edge.

Farmers care about the environment and we are doing everything we can to preserve the environment we all live in. However, this proposed Climate Bill and specifically Cap and Trade will cripple agriculture and our society as a whole. That is why it is of the utmost importance that you contact your elected officials in Washington D.C. and tell them to vote no.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Factory Farming?????

Yesterday the topic of Larry King's show was the safety of our food. I have to admit that I did not see the show, but I did engage in chat on his website. Over and over mentions of "factory farms" were made and they were blamed for the ills of food safety.

The term "factory farm" is one of the favorite propaganda phrases used over and over by groups such as HSUS and PETA. Make no mistake this is a play on words meant to sway the tide of public opinion and is used to present a negative image of some of our most conscientious family farms.

Often the farms mentioned as factory farms are pork and poultry producers. I have visited many such operations and they are the farthest thing from a factory. Most of our farms are family operations. Each farm is operated by men and women who truly care for the livestock on that farm and do everything they can to insure the health and well-being of their animals. The animals are checked on a regular basis, their nutrition is carefully taken care of and they live in a climate controlled environment free of the stresses of nature. In short, the animals on a modern livestock farm have every need taken care of.

The other criticism I often hear is about the danger they pose to the environment. I can also tell you this is absolutely not true. I work with these producers on a regular basis and I am a neighbor to one. They are the most heavily regulated group in agriculture, but that is not why they take care of our natural resources. They take care of the land because that is what farmers and ranchers do. They have nutrient management plans designed by consultants paid for by the farmer. Every bit of animal waste is caught and accounted for and it is used as fertilizer often replacing petroleum based man-made fertilizers. They simply do not and cannot make mistakes when it comes to the land and water that we all share.

I hope this sheds some light on the family farms that are often maligned by those who would like to remove meat from your dinner plate. I hope you will become more educated about modern livestock farms. Come to think of it, don't take my word for it, give a local farmer a call and talk with them about their farm.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weather is the Drizzles

This morning we woke up to sprinkles and drizzles, it was gray and cold, terrible weather for harvest. That meant we were not going to get in the field today, harvest and work was shut down. Most people get really excited about a day off, in agriculture we get really nervous. Our paycheck is out in that field and we need to be able to get to it.

As a crop matures it becomes more susceptible to weather. Soybeans pods start to pop open and the beans fall out, corn and grain sorghum start to fall over. In any case it means more grain we cannot harvest, more grain on the ground and fewer dollars in our paycheck.

The next couple of days have rain in the forecast and it will take at least two good days of drying after the last rain before we can get in the field. Not only does the ground have to be dry but the grain has to be dry enough it can be stored in bins.

That is why agriculture can be so rewarding and so frustrating all at the same time. I cannot think of another occupation I would rather be in, feeding this great nation and being my own boss. At the same time we cannot control the conditions we working and many times nature has the upper hand. The same rain that made our crop this spring and summer now threaten to take it away. So watch the weather and cross your fingers and hope for dry weather for all of the farmers trying to bring the food to your plate.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weaning Time

This past week we weaned calves at our ranch, this is a rather big event in the life of a rancher. It also goes a long way to show just how much we care about our animals, so I thought I would share this past week with you.

Actually this story goes back to this spring. Before we moved the calvess to summer pasture we gave them a round of vaccinations. These vaccinations cover common diseases and they are much like the very vaccinations we give our children. Then this fall, a couple of weeks before we weaned the calves, we gave them boosters of the same vaccines. Why a couple of weeks before we weaned the calves? The calves get natural immunity from their mother’s milk and it takes a couple of weeks for the immunity from the vaccine to kick in.

The week we wean calves is also very important, it is very important that we have time to watch the calves very closely. Each morning and night we feed the calves and we take extra time to walk through them. We watch for small things like a calf with droopy ears, or is breathing hard or one that is off by itself. Those are early signs of sickness and when we notice them we treat the calves with the most effective antibiotic available to us. You see the sooner we catch it, the easier it is to treat and we use less medicine. In the rare case that the first round of treatments doesn’t work we go to something stronger, but that is very rare.

These days we hear about antibiotic free and natural, while I don’t have anything against producers who take that path it is not for our operation. You see I believe I can balance the health of my family and the health of my cow herd. I want to make sure I do everything I can to insure the health of my herd and when my cattle are sick I will do everything to make them better. That begins with making sure they get as much protection as I can give them before they get sick, then I need to catch the illness at the earliest possible moment and finally I need to give the calf the most effective medicine at the smallest dose possible.

So as we go through this very important week on our ranch, I hope for healthy calves. I will keep a vigilant watch and I will care for the calves that need my attention. If I have to treat a calf I have no problem with feeding the meat from that calf to my family because I know I have followed the prescribed withdrawal period and there will be no trace of that medicine in the meat. As much as I care for my cattle, my family and their health is priority number one

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dust on the Dashboard

Let me introduce myself. I am Glenn Brunkow, a fifth generation farmer and rancher in the Flint Hills of Kansas. My family raises beef, sheep, soybeans, corn, wheat and hay. More accurately, I am the proud producer of the food you eat.

My purpose of this blog is to give you insight into the world of agriculture, provide education and to entertain. We live at the end of a dusty, gravel road and many of my ideas come to me while I am driving. Hence the name, Dust on the Dashboard.

Feel free to pass this blog on to your friends and let me know what you think. I am very proud to be involved with agriculture and I want to share my passion for this way of life with you.