Category Archives: Agriculture

How are antibiotics used in cattle? What room is there for improvement?



“Who would want to eat beef, especially when you consider all the antibiotics and growth hormones used in raising the cattle.”

Actual comment that represents many online article comments.

General consumer sentiment on beef today? Yes or No?

Antibiotic Use in Livestock and Resistance
Image via: The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

If so, what can we do to change this? And I’m not looking for the easy “Buy Local” or “Know Your Farmer” statements because 1) that’s an easy answer, 2) local food doesn’t always determine quality of farming/ranching practices, and 3) I firmly believe the use of antibiotics, hormones and other tools is mispercieved by the non-ag public.

This isn’t me denying that improvements in antibiotic or hormone use can be made, but honestly I’m kinda sick and tired of seeing all the negativity directed toward the livestock industries for this subject. To take a closer look at it, I spent much of my Christmas week at home working with my dad and we had a few conversations about antibiotic use in our family’s cattle auction. My dad does use antibiotics frequently in our yearling cattle that travel through the auction barn. It is a high-stress environment where many cattle arrive not weaned, are sometimes hauled in poor or cold/hot weather conditions, and are co-mingled with many other cattle while at the barn. When an animal comes in that has not been exposed to other animals, there’s not a whole lot we can do to keep those germs from spreading when other cattle come in contact with that animal or the pen it was in. It’s kind of like bringing a group of kids together for a kindergarten class.

My dad does spend a fair amount of time encouraging and trying to educate farmers in our market area on the importance of Best Management Practices to improve cattle immune system health – which include a sound vaccination program, proper nutrition and mineral supplement programs and low stress weaning strategies. But we cannot make those farmers implement those management practices, even when we do explain the economic advantages to better animal care. It’s their business and their management decisions.

Our business is not just a cattle auction. My dad turns cattle out on the several hundred acres of pastures we have leased in the area. He or people who he has hired, check on the cattle every single day, feeding them hay or feed as needed, and making sure they are healthy. The cattle will remain on pasture until they are at a weight large enough to send out West to the feedlots where they will be fed to a finish weight for slaughter.

As I mentioned earlier, many of the cattle my dad receives have endured stressful conditions, whether it be from weaning, transport in poor weather conditions, or co-mingling with new cattle. When this is the case, he may utilize an antibiotic treatment in a metaphylactic method – meaning animals in a group designated as high-risk for getting sick or experiencing an illness outbreak will receive a proper dose of an antibiotic as prescribed by the veterinarian who my dad talks to on a regular basis. This is not unlike the program I followed when working at the feedlots in Texas.

Giving these animals, who have been identified as high-risk for getting sick, a proactive treatment, eliminates the need for most antibiotic treatments in the weeks following. That significantly reduces the number of cattle that get sick later, which reduces the overall amount of antibiotics my dad must use on his cattle. The cattle recover more quickly from the previous stresses and get off to a healthier and better start in the next phase of their life. This reduces the amount of time my dad must spend handling the cattle and allows him to do more taking care of the other cattle, land, and help others do the same.

What would happen if the use of metaphylactic antibiotic treatment was removed from my dad’s farming operation? He might have to adjust his management style to reduce more stress on the animals, but he only has limited control on what happens to the cattle prior to receiving them from other farmers. He would likely have more cattle become chronically sick and die by not being able to proactively manage illness in the cattle he receives. We also need more cattle owners to understand the importance of and implement BMPs to reduce the stress on animals or to ensure they have a strong immune system.

Are there ways other than metaphylactic antibiotics to manage illness my dad’s cattle? Yes. But he uses far less antibiotics than what is perceived in the sentiment described at the top of this post. We all need to make adjustments in our management tools to continue being progressive, but we need to be sure and look at the larger picture and find out the reality of what actually happens before we start pointing fingers. Antibiotic usage can be reduced in livestock operations, but we do not need to let the pendulum swing too far to the other side due to strong emotions and fear marketing from journalists.

(And yes, this is a very simplistic view of the topic. But it is just one perspective in a much larger conversation)

To learn more about the use of antibiotics in livestock and the effect on meat safety, check out these links:

 

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I Love Farmers, They Feed My Soul – Agricultural Advocates of the Year Announced


Good things have been coming my way lately, and I’m very excited for a future that looks busy and bright. This week, I’m recognized for agriculture advocacy by the I Love Farmers, The Feed My Soul organization out of California. The ILF group is a great organization that connects with younger generations in a modern and appealing style, engaging folks across the country in conversations based on mutual interests between rural and urban folks.

I’m very thankful for the recognition of an award like this (and the award announced in December), but, truth be told, I couldn’t do it unless there were others out there also engaging in the conversations. I’m thankful to be in a position where I can share and amplify the messages of farmers and ranchers who are out there in the fields and pastures on a daily basis, also engaging in the conversations. I’m thankful for the opportunity to facilitate and encourage those conversationalists along the way. And thankful for families like the Settrinis, whose father the award is in honor of, who work so hard to support the agriculture community at large. Thank you ILF for the recognition. I hope I can keep up with the expectations.

Congratulations to Malorie, Taylor, Sam, and Jade, who were also recognized by ILF this year. They are all great advocates doing their part to contribute to the conversation as well!

I Love Farmers, They Feed My Soul - Agricultural Advocates of the Year Announced

Nipomo, Calif. Jan. 24, 2014‐ I Love Farmers…They Feed My Soul (ILF), a non-profit agricultural advocacy group, has selected Ryan Goodman of Montana and Malorie Bankhead of California as the 2013 Agricultural Advocates of the Year.

Those receiving Honorable Mentions include Taylor Short of Missouri, Sam Wildman of Ohio and L. Jade Halliburton of Arkansas.

In an effort to recognize and reward young people who volunteer their time advocating for American family farmers and rancher ILF established the Agriculture Advocate of the Year Award in honor of the late Gus Settrini, a cattle rancher from Salinas, Calif. who enjoyed helping young people in agriculture. Winners were selected based on their advocacy efforts online in social media channels and at various public events in 2013. Goodman and Bankhead will receive custom silver buckles and a cash award.

Megan Silcott, ILF President said, “We are excited to identify and reward a strong group of young advocates for our inaugural Agricultural Advocate of the Year program. Each winner is an outstanding model for others to follow in advocating for agriculture.”

Goodman, 25, maintains an active blog called Agriculture Proud, has more than 13,000 followers on his Twitter and Facebook profiles and is a guest writer for the CNN Eatocracy food page. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and has a graduate degree from University of Tennessee. He is the manager of communications for the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

Bankhead, 22, maintains a blog called Malthebeefgal and is active on Facebook and Twitter. She has travelled the country as a member of the National Beef Ambassador Team and with the Hunger U educational campaign. She is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo. She is the associate director of communications for the California Cattlemen’s Association.

Short, 22, is a student at Missouri State University. Wildman, 23, is a student at The Ohio State University. Halliburton, 20, is a student Southern Arkansas University. These students are active in social media and have conducted a variety of public agricultural advocacy events on their campus, community and states. Honorable mention winners receive an engraved glass trophy and a cash award.

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Food For Thought: Ideals and Principles


ideals and principles george benson food for thoughtSome food for thought. My raising as a ranch kid and all the hard work my parents “made” me do came to mind when I ran across this quote.

“Great ideals and principles do not live from generation to generation just because they are right, nor even because they have been carefully legislated. Ideas and principles continue from generation to generation only when they are built into the hearts of children as they grow up.” — George S. Benson

Side note: I’ve been familiar with George Benson‘s name since I was a kid. He was very influential in many Christian colleges affiliated with the churches of Christ, including Harding University in my hometown.

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Casting Call: Hollywood-Perfect Ranching Family


California Hollywood Ranching Family Casting Call
Image via gocalifornia

No lie, this cropped up in my inbox a few weeks back. I hope you see the same humor in it that I do. A Hollywood casting call is looking for that perfect ranching family. They will all need to have rugged good looks, witty humor, chase grizzlies by day, write poetry and play the harmonica by night. Let me know if you find them.

[Entertainment Group] is now casting for authentic and colorful cowboys and their families that live the throwback cowboy and ranching lifestyle.  They should spend more time on their horse then they do in their truck!

The following are examples of the types of families that we’re looking for and the lifestyle elements they should embody:

  • All members of the family need to live a classic cowboy lifestyle and have rugged good looks.  Family should have outgoing parents with at least 3 kids, ages ranging from 17 – 35, that are all great looking cowboys and cowgirls.  Active grandparents are a plus.
  • Family needs to be working stunning ranches with diverse terrain and challenges – chasing grizzlies and wolves away from cattle, the struggles of raising crops and making a profit, battling weather elements to keep livestock safe and alive.
  • Family and staff of the ranch must be involved in the country lifestyle: hunting, fishing, trapping, building cabins and structures, herding cattle, sheering sheep, farming, rodeos every weekend, etc.
  • Members of the family and staff should have fun hobbies and skills like singing, play the guitar or harmonica, write and recite poetry, cook the best BBQ in the county, make their own clothes, raise bees or have wild animals as pets, raise bulls, or be an aspiring bull rider or rodeo participant.
  • All members of the family need to have big, strong personalities with great and unique looks.

We’re looking for dynamic, engaging and uninhibited families that live the lifestyle.

If you know this family, someone’s looking to bring around the camera crew! Maybe the casting call isn’t horrible, but the context of the request sure made me laugh. I’m not suggesting there aren’t some great and talented ranching families out there, but many of the films we see from Rodeo Drive California are romanticized and scripted for audiences. This makes me wonder, what would ranch life really look like if someone followed my family around with a camera on a normal day…