Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Food Check-Out Week

This week is Food Check Out Week. This is the week that we celebrate the safe, abundant food supply that we are blessed with. Often we take the food we eat for granted. When was the last time you went to a grocery store and couldn't find food? Why is this? It is because of the incredible efforts of our farmers and ranchers in this great nation.

Did you know that each farmer feeds 155 people? Did you also know that number will need to increase drastically in the next 25 to 50 years? All-the-while the numbers of farmers and ranchers and the numbers of farms and ranches are steadily declining. So why is it that agriculture is continuing to answer the bell and produce enough food?

Farmers and ranchers have drastically increased their use of technology. Dramatic breakthroughs have allowed us to be far more productive than we were just 20 years ago. We can now produce far more food and fiber on fewer acres using less fuel, fertilizer and chemicals. Best of all, we are doing it in a way that is good for the soil, water and air we all use. Our livestock are grown in more environmentally safe systems, using less anti-biotics and feed. In short, American farms and ranches are technological marvels.

The best part is even during this incredible development the men and women who live on these farms and ranches have not changed. The greatest majority of our farms and ranches are family operations operated by the same family that has worked the land for many, many generations. They are the corner-stones of their communities, caring about the land, the community and the people around them.

So as you go about your business this week and especially as you shop at one of our incredibly well-stocked grocery stores. Pause, and think about the men and women who through their hard work and dedication filled the store shelves with abundance. Remember just how lucky we are to live in the country with the safest most abundant food supply in the world. Then thank a farmer.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Real Animal Caretakers

This morning was one of those mornings. It was cold,it was a Monday and I didn't feel good. After just a short period I had ice in my mustache and my feet were cold. On mornings like this it takes twice as long to do chores. Trucks and tractors don't want to start, gates are frozen shut and ice must be chopped to provide the animals a place to drink.

Its mornings like this when I wonder where those so called "animal activists" are. My guess is that they are still in bed, deep under the covers with no thoughts to the animals they supposedly care for. Groups like HSUS and PETA raise millions of dollars claiming to have the best interest of animals in mind. Meanwhile, most of the staff of these organizations draw huge salaries while never really caring for any animals.

Let me tell you about the real animal caretakers. I had a cold and while I would have liked to be under the covers resting that was not an option. No matter how I felt, I had animals that needed my care. My livestock needed the feed and fresh water even more on bitter cold days like this. New lambs and calves need my attention no matter how I feel and I promise you I am not getting rich.

My point is that the aforementioned organizations say that they care for animals but they are not the ones caring for animals. They are not feeding, watering and caring for animals in any weather with no thought of their own comfort. The true animal caretakers are the men and women of our farms and ranches who prove their dedication to their livestock on a daily basis.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day on the Ranch

Valentine's Day as a rancher's wife is most often not what it is supposed to be. This morning instead of breakfast in bed, chores had to be done early so we could get the kids to Sunday School on time. The animals have to be watered, fed and checked each morning, no exceptions, no holidays.

After church we hurried and had a quick lunch at McDonalds. I needed to help my Dad tag some calves and feed hay. Jennifer and the kids went home to check the sheep. Sure enough a ewe had lambed and she spent the whole afternoon making sure the lambs kept warm in the bitter cold. Not exactly the pampered afternoon she so much deserved.

Tonight we had to take the kids to a 4-H meeting and rush home to check the ewes. So no romantic dinner here. As always the ranch had to come first. This is not only Valentine's Day but a snapshot of most days during lambing and calving season. The sacrifices farm and ranch wives make are staggering.

My wife is my partner and that means she often goes without just so the ranch can survive. She works long hours, forgoes vacations and doesn't complain. Sometimes I wonder why, but really I am sure it is because she has the same dedication to agriculture and the same pride in producing the food that fuels our world.

So as Valentine's Day winds down roses and chocolates do not do justice for the love and pride I have for my wife. Like all rancher's wives she deserves so much more, but like all rancher's wives she makes these sacrifices for the life and the family she loves. That is why I am eternally grateful for my wife on this Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Wealthy Farmers"

This past week I have heard two different times the term "wealthy farmers"mentioned. The first was our very own President. He wanted to cut payments to "wealthy farmers". The second was Bill Maher talking about the corn lobby and "wealthy farmers". I grew up the son of a farmer and my family and I farm now, and we are far from wealthy.

So Mr. President and Mr. Maher (both of whom are much, much more wealthy than any farmer I know) let me tell you about the life of privilege I grew up in and am raising my kids in. My parents scrimped and saved for everything they have and it took a lifetime of hard work. They built their farm during the crisis of the 80s when many of our neighbors went broke. Not because of farm payments, but because they knew how to not spend more than they made (Mr. President that is a lesson you should learn).

My sister and I may not have had designer clothes, new vehicles or the latest toy but we did learn the value of hard work and the love of family. We learned to appreciate the blessings we had been given and not worry about things we did not have. We learned to appreciate the meaning of a gift and not the value. Christmas and birthdays were often simple, practical gifts, not exactly the extravagance of the wealth you think exists.

Now my children have learned the value of hard earned money and the satisfaction of a job well done. They understand having a job you love and not working to get rich. Mr. Maher, yes we do produce corn, but that is often a break-even proposition at best. We take pride in feeding a world with an ever growing population and producing ethanol to power America. We don't do this for money but out of a sense of duty to our fellow man and a love for the land.

So I guess on second inspection, maybe we are "wealthy farmers" although I suspect not in the same way many of the Washington and L.A. elite think. We are wealthy in terms of integrity, love of family and a love for our country. While our bank account may not indicate any great wealth. Farmers are among the wealthiest people I know, just not because of those government subsidies.

Friday, February 5, 2010

E-mail to the Zac Brown Band

Zac, John, Jimmy, Coy, Chris and Clay:

I am one of your biggest fans, your cd "The Foundation" is nearly worn-out from constantly being played. Your music is refreshing and relaxes me, even on hardest of days. I am a rancher in the Flint Hills of Kansas and I am sending you my support to resist PETA's request that you go meatless.

I recently read a blog on CMT that reportedly contained the letter they sent you, and I can tell you without a doubt the letter is dead wrong. I would like to invite you to come spend some time with me and some of my fellow farmers and ranchers. You will find a group of men and women completely devoted to their animals, family, and land.

Farmers and ranchers spend their whole lives making sure their animals are treated ethically and the land they live on is well cared for. Often they put the needs and care of the animals ahead of themselves. Many of the farms and ranches have been in those families for several generations. They are truly the type of people you sing about in "Chicken Fried".

Agriculture is increasingly under attack by groups like PETA who tell a distorted story about what we do. Please come out to my ranch and see what we do and ask questions.I don't know if any of you have ties to farming and ranching, I suspect any band that has songs like "Chicken Fried and Sic-um On a Chicken" does. So I may be preaching to the choir but I am asking for your support.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Truth About Anti-biotics and Livestock

I believe very much in the use of anti-biotics in livestock and I also believe very much that the use of antibiotics is safe. I have no problem feeding my family an animal that had been given anti-biotics. Let me tell you why I feel that strongly.

The anti-biotics used in livestock production have been tested and deemed safe by the USDA and the FDA. They go through rigorous testing and do not contribute to anti-biotic resistance in any way, shape or form. Mandatory doses, treatment regimens and withdrawal periods are in place to make their use even safer. But that is not all.

I regularly consult with my veterinarian on the use of those anti-biotics. I understand the symptoms I am treating and use the right medicine in the right dose and observe the withdrawal period. I understand that anti-biotics are absolutely necessary to insure the health of my animals, and I also understand the necessity to protect the health of those eating the food I produce. I also believe the use of those anti-biotics are necessary to ethically produce livestock and here is an example.

Last week I noticed one of my week old lambs was not acting right. On closer inspection, the lamb had I discovered that the lamb had developed pneumonia. Pneumonia, untreated, will kill a lamb in a matter of just a couple of hours. I treated the lamb with an anti-biotic prescribed by my veterinarian and in a couple of hours he was back on the road to good health. We made note of the treatment and the withdrawal time will easily be attained. I would have no problem with my family, my children, consuming meat from this lamb.

I also have no doubt that without this powerful anti-biotic the lamb would have died. I feel it is my duty to my livestock to provide them with the best care possible. I also ask that you, the consumer, trust the professionals charged with the development and use of such medicines. The protection and safety of the consumer is our first priority with the animals health and well-being a close second. That is the truth about the anti-biotics I use on my farm and ranch and ultimately the meat I feed my family.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Calving Season

Calving season started today with two brand new baby calves. Calving season is one of my favorite times of the year. Sure it is stressful worrying about the weather, calves and cows but it is something I wish all of you could experience.

Each morning and evening we go out and drive among the cows looking for new calves. There is nothing prettier than coming up on a momma cow licking her newborn calf. I don't know how to explain it but it is kind of like finding Easter eggs and opening Christmas presents all at one time.

We count each cow in the herd and when we come up one or two short, a search of the pasture is started. Usually the missing cow is found somewhere in the pasture out of the wind. Often the calf is wobbly and hopefully eating its first meal. It is amazing just how fast a newborn calf gets up a starts moving, often within minutes.

We then gently catch the calf and give it two eartags that identify its mother. We also give them two shots to protect them against illness in their first 48 hours of life until they get natural immunity from their mother's milk.

We then let them go and often the mother and baby wonder off. Many times the cow is mowing softly to her calf while it wobbles along behind her. This does not even begin to describe the experience, it is one that I wish each of you could experience. Just part of the cycle of life on ranches all across the United States and part of the process that brings beef to your table.