Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Congress and the President Correct Horse Mistake

Washington D.C. does not fix it's mistakes very often, but yesterday they did. President Obama signed a bill that will allow horse slaughter again. This rectifies a mistake that allowed for the suffering of many horses over the past several years.

To those of you not associated with horses or livestock, it may seem shocking that not allowing the harvesting of animals would be cruel. Yes, many horses were underfed, neglected and abandoned because of the lack of horse slaughter facilities in the United States. Think of all the news stories over the past several years about neglect of horse owners and even horse sanctuaries.

I was never around horses until I married my wife. When we met she was training horses and she has had a love of horses all of her life. During our courtship and first years of marriage I saw her work with many, many horses. Most great animals, but also several who were not safe. I have had a 16 year crash course in equine management and that has made me an advocate for horse slaughter.

OK, before you get upset, I like horses, let me say that we currently own 4 horses and at least 1 of those horses will probably live his entire life out on our ranch. However, over the years the need for horse slaughter has become apparent to me. This can be summed up by something my wife told me early in our relationship. "Life is too short to ride a bad horse." Simply, some horses are dangerous.

In other cases, a horse may have a physical infirmity that would limit its use. In other cases, the owners of a horse may not be able to financially support the ownership of that animal. Horses are large animals, who require large spaces and large amounts of feed, i.e. they are expensive to own. In all those cases something needs to be done to insure the horse does not die from starvation or neglect.

The vocal minority who oppose horse slaughter see horses in a different light. They have blurred the line between animal and human to the point that they see no difference. While I like all 4 of the horses we own and I am attached to them, they are animals and should be viewed as such.

We treat our horses with kindness and respect, caring for their needs. However, if injury, age or illness happens to lessen their quality of life, we would look at all the options available to us. It would be a difficult choice, but the animal's quality of life must be taken into account.

If sending a horse to slaughter is not something you could do, I respect that position. It is your choice to do what you want with your animal. All that I ask is that we view animals as animals and not the same as humans. I applaud congress and the President for recognizing that an important option had been removed from the decision making process for horse owners and correcting it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Farm Kids and the Labor Law

"There are never enough farm and ranch kids." That is a quote I often hear when talking to human resource people. It seems that if an employer finds out a potential applicant grew up in agriculture that it automatically puts them ahead of the pack. Ever wonder why that is?

From what I hear it is because of their work ethic and sense of responsibility. So why is it that farm and ranch kids have something that so many others lack? Work ethic and responsibility are two things that are honed in our kids from the very beginning.

My kids are typical of most who grow up in agriculture. Rain or shine, hot weather or cold, weekday, weekend or holiday, they get up and do their chores. Weekends are spent working on the ranch tending to the cows or sheep or other chores. They realize from an early age that our family farm is just that, a family endeavor, everyone is expected to pitch in. Agriculture involves a lot of sacrifice and hard work, but in the end, it is a very satisfying way of life. I have asked my kids if they would change places with their city friends and they always answer with a resounding NO.

Now the Department of Labor wants to change all of that. They are seeking to change the Child Labor Laws in ways that would restrict or even eliminate the opportunity for our children to take part in our way of life. The Department seems to be out of touch when it comes to modern agriculture, its business structures and production methods.

I am not going to get into the proposed changes, other than to say that it is another case of bureaucrats and government invading the lives of good, decent, hard working families. Agriculture does have its risks but we love our children and watch over them to keep them as safe as possible. We would ask that the Department of Labor respect the tradition and culture of farming and ranching. If this strikes a cord with you, I would ask that you go to and make a comment.

I am not sure if they listen to the wishes of the people affected by proposed regulations, but we need to make our voices heard. I know, without a doubt, I am a better person for growing up on a farm and learning the benefits of working hard and responsibility. Simply stated, that is the life I want for my kids and I do not want some bureaucrat in D.C. telling me they know what is best for my family.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pride in a Job Well Done

Last Friday we sold our calves at the local auction. It is one of the most exciting and scary times of the year. A whole year of work boils down to just a few minutes. Dad, Ike and I watched with pride as our calves came in. The old rancher next to me leaned over and asked if they were our calves. I told him yes and he said "that's a nice looking bunch of calves". For those of you who don't do "rancher speak", that is about as good a compliment as you can get.

These were the calves that my family and I spent many cold mornings and evenings checking, tagging and caring for. We worked long hard days preparing the pastures in the spring, burning the old grass and fixing fence. Then came a hard week of running them through the chute and giving them their vaccinations.

Summer came and we went out many mornings and evenings when it was cool to check them. We filled the mineral feeders, baled hay and moved the cows and calves to new pastures. When the rains came we spent many miserable hot afternoons fixing flood gaps. Finally, came the fall gathering, hauling them from summer pasture and ultimately hauling them to the salebarn.

All of that led to the moment when the calves came into the sale ring. The auctioneer really worked the buyers, and they responded. All of this gave me a great sense of accomplishment. At that moment I think I was as proud as I have ever been to be a rancher and doing my part to provide my customers with healthy, wholesome beef.

That is why it so upsetting to me when groups such as HSUS and PETA attack our way of life. Have the very activists who spend their entire lives trying to tear apart what generations have built, ever experienced the sense of pride, accomplishment and hard work that I was at that moment. The short answer is I doubt it.

I think if they had spent the hours working in the biting cold or the extreme heat they might have a change of heart. If they had ever gotten dirt under their nails, grit in their teeth or mud on their boots, they would feel differently. If they had truly ever put the care and comfort of animals in their care ahead of their own well-being, they would have a change of heart. There is something about raising your own food and feeding others that brings meaning to life.

At that moment, I realized that the hard work of the past year, the hard work of my parents, grandparents and the three generations before them counted for something. The hours caring for my cattle and the time spent caring for the prairie was time well spent. At that moment I was truly proud to be a producer of the food we all eat.