Monday, August 23, 2010

Antibiotics Prevent Livestock Losses

Cutting back on antibiotics use poses hurdles for hog farmers

State Center, Ia. - The Obama administration would like to see more hog farmers raising hogs the way the Hilleman brothers do - using fewer antibiotics.

But raising hogs with fewer antibiotics has its challenges, the brothers say. One big one: Some of the black Berkshire hogs grunting and rooting around the Hillemans' barns are likely to get sick and die before they're ready for market. That's because it's sometimes impractical to treat them, the brothers say.

Randy, Mark and Tom Hilleman raise the hogs for a local cooperative, Eden Farms, that markets Berkshire pork to high-end restaurants.

Farmers who raise Eden Farms pork earn a premium price for the pigs, because the Berkshires are valued by chefs at high-end restaurants because of the hogs' fatter, darker meat.

But farmers who supply Eden Farms cannot use antibiotics for growth promotion, a common practice on conventional farms, and they cannot use the drugs at all if the hogs are within 100 days - more than three months - of going to slaughter.

If a sick pig doesn't get better on its own, it's likely to get a shot of an antibiotic, unless the animal is under the 100-day drug ban. If the hogs are given antibiotics then, they can only be sold as conventional hogs, and that means keeping a treated animal in a separate pen or marking it in some way to make sure it wasn't mixed with the hogs that will be marketed under the Eden Farms label. But the Hillemans say it's impractical for them to treat the pigs and handle them separately. For every 100 hogs they raise, the brothers figure that two or three die of pneumonia or some other illness. The Hillemans send about 100 to 150 hogs to market each week.    Read More
When we hear people outside of ag demanding antibiotics be limited or banned for use in livestock, they rarely seem aware of the consequences of those demands. The bottom line is more livestock will suffer through disease or die as a result. Regardless of production method, all livestock will be more prone to disease, suffer more because of it, and put more pressure on our food production system. There will always be ways we can improve our use of these tools, but making demands of livestock producers without changes in other antibiotic uses will only contribute to the unnecessary suffering of livestock.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Heading East!

We are on the road today headed for the East Coast.  Tomorrow we will get to share our story with a groups of hog producers.  It should be a great time and we are looking forward to getting more people to advocate for agriculture! 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Famine in Niger

Niger hunger 'worse than 2005'

Aug 14, 2010
Niger is now facing the worst hunger crisis in its history, the UN's World Food Programme says, with almost half the population - or 7.3 million people - in desperate need of food.

A WFP spokesman said villagers in Niger described the situation as worse than 2005, when thousands died of hunger.

After a prolonged drought, heavy rains have now hit parts of the country, killing at least six people.

The WFP says 17% of children, or one in five, are acutely malnourished.    Read More

I think it’s worth noting that Niger has very few modern ag techniques being used. You don’t seem to find hunger situations like these in countries that have adopted modern production practices. For those that claim we should get rid of the last one hundred year’s worth of food production technology and grow stuff the way they did back in the good old days, I would suggest moving to Niger and see how well it works.

San Fran Wants Pet Sale Ban

Debate Rages Over Proposed SF Pet Sale Ban

Posted: 9:49 pm PDT August 12, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco officials considered a history-making ban on the sale of pets Thursday night that sparked a heated debate at a meeting of the Animal Control and Welfare Commission.

It was standing room only at San Francisco’s City Hall as dozens of people crowded into the meeting to express their opinions. The proposed ban has pitted animal rights activists against pet store owners.

Advocates of the ban argued the first in the nation ban on pet sales within the city would prevent unwanted pets from being euthanized

The proposed ordinance would ban retailers from not only selling dogs and cats, but also hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and other small animals including birds.    Read More

The same city that has officially endorsed meatless Monday’s is now trying to ban the sale of pets. It’s another step on the animal rights agenda. The people that are trying to get this passed are the same ones that refer to pets as “non-human animals.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spreading the Misinformation of Food Inc.

Dave Stockdale
Sustainability Honcho
Cattle call
I was enjoying a meat-centric meal at a local restaurant a few days ago with some friends when someone brought up the film Food, Inc. So we ended up discussing the dark side of meat production while...

I was enjoying a meat-centric meal at a local restaurant a few days ago with some friends when someone brought up the film Food, Inc. So we ended up discussing the dark side of meat production while enjoying our nicely prepared pastured beef short ribs. If you also saw this film, then what follows will not be new. And yet, it never hurts to remind ourselves of some of the issues and concerns.

As the aforementioned movie revealed for many previously unaware folks, the idyllic vision we have of cows grazing on open fields under blue skies is not a very realistic picture of cattle production today. While many cattle in the United States do begin their lives on relatively small, family-owned ranches with ample amounts of pasture or rangeland, the vast majority of cattle end their lives in large, overcrowded feedlots. In many feedlots, their diet switches to grains and other products such as flesh, bones, hooves, and feathers of other animals, chicken or cattle manure, stale pastry, ground cardboard, and even plastic hay.

Cattle are a ruminant (or cud-chewing) species, as are goats, sheep, and bison. Their specialized digestive system has evolved over millennia to digest the biodiversity of grasses found on pastureland. When ruminant animals such as cattle are fed a grain-based diet, it can cause them a range of health problems, so they are often administered antibiotics to fend off the diseases they might contract under these conditions. The cattle are also often given growth hormones to make them grow bigger faster.

Not all grain-fed cattle are subject to the worst feedlot conditions. Some feedlots are less crowded and are managed without the use of antibiotics or hormones. Some facilities feed their cattle only grain and other foodstuffs (a typical diet might include barley, corn, wheat, soy meal, sugar beet pulp, cane molasses and hay) without all the fillers and questionable by-products. Feedlots producing certified organic dairy products or beef must follow guidelines that include feeding the animals certified organic grain, avoiding antibiotics and hormones, and providing some access to pasture.

In addition to the effects on animal health, the feedlot system also has some serious environmental impacts. Overcrowding of animals produces excessive amounts of manure that cannot be recycled on site. Runoff from this manure creates an excess of nitrogen in watersheds. Methane gas produced by cattle contributes to global warming. The large-scale industrial production of grain to feed the animals includes high usage of pesticides and herbicides and the widespread use of genetically engineered seed.

The feedlot system also has social consequences. As commodity prices for beef and dairy products are driven down, small family-owned ranches are often driven out of business. Those that do manage to stay afloat generally work on contract with a few large corporations, greatly limiting their autonomy, financial security, and opportunities for growth. Feedlots themselves can be toxic environments for the workers who operate them and smelly eyesores for the communities that house them. Slaughterhouses can be dangerous for workers when speed and production are considered more important than safety.

Keeping cattle on open rangeland or pasture from birth until death is an alternative to the feedlot system. Because cattle eat the diet that is biologically appropriate for them and their digestive systems, the health problems outlined above are eliminated. The negative environmental and social consequences are lessened too. Research is also showing that there are also significant health advantages to eating dairy products or beef from pasture-raised animals.

I don't eat animal protein every day, but when I do, I buy ingredients or seek out menu items that feature pastured animals whenever possible. It's my way of supporting a production system that I believe is better for me, the animals, and the planet. That fact that these products also taste better and have a more interesting texture to me is an added bonus!

This blogger from San Francisco learned everything about modern livestock production from watching the movie Food Inc. and is eager to share it.  Line by line you can go through this article and see how this mockery of a film has misinformed consumers.  For example, according to this guy every feedlot is overcrowded.  On more than one occassion he refers to overcrowded feedlots.  He also mentions that most family farmers and ranchers that raise beef are doing it for a large corporation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The next time you don't feel like sharing your story consider the idea that this guy is eager to share your story for you and it's apparent that he's not concerned about the truth. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

El Paso Creates Endowment Supporting Grazing

New endowment aims to protect public-lands grazing

By Drovers news source
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

After many long conversations between representatives of the Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Ruby Pipeline, an agreement has been reached, in principle, which seeks to ensure that the nearly 100-year relationship between the livestock industry and El Paso Corp. continues far into the future. While details of the agreement are still being finalized, it establishes a significant endowment with the mission to “protect, enhance and preserve the public lands grazing industry.” The concept was formally adopted earlier today after a unanimous vote by the board of directors of the Public Lands Council, whose board members represent 13 western states, NCBA, the American Sheep Industry Association, and the Association of National Grasslands.

“While we are concerned about the potential impacts of Ruby’s recent settlement agreement with the Western Watersheds Project and the Oregon Natural Desert Association, we are satisfied that this endowment provides us a tool with which to mitigate many of our concerns,” said Skye Krebs, president of the Public Lands Council. “As the organization which has represented public lands ranchers in the West for over four decades, we are confident that our industry will benefit from this endowment for many years to come.”

The $15 million endowment, $7.5 million to be contributed later this year and $750,000 to be added into the endowment annually for the following 10 years, will be governed by one representative from the PLC and one representative from El Paso Corp. While the principal amount will not be used, the endowment’s earnings will go toward meeting PLC’s mission to serve the public lands livestock industry. Specific projects may include scientific research, education, range monitoring, fire restoration, media, and community outreach for the benefit of the public lands grazing industry. It is important to note that funds from the endowment will not be used for litigation.    Read More

It’s fantastic to see El Paso Corporation realize the importance of agriculture and public lands grazing. You will remember that they donated over $20 million to a couple of radical environmental groups that were going to use the money to force ranchers off their land. When the news broke about this, many of us in ag contacted El Paso to voice our disappointment in their decision. Like many other corporations that we’ve seen mistakenly give money to radical anti-ag groups, they’ve seemingly realized their error. So I say thank you to El Paso for taking the time to study this issue more closely and supporting hard working ranching families who rely on public lands to help feed this nation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Moving Time

Some people have heard and some probably haven't yet but our family is making a move.  After Stacy and I graduated from South Dakota State (Go Jacks!) we moved out to the western part of the state and we have been living there ever since.  But 12 years and 3 kids later, it's time to start a new chapter in our lives.  We will be moving to north central South Dakota where I grew up by the end of summer. 

While moving is certainly a big challenge and a lot of work, we are excited about it.  I'm going to be back working on my family's diversified farming and ranching operation and Stacy will be able to continue on in her job as well from here. 

Since we are making other changes in our lives, I've also been thinking about new ideas for this blog as well as with our other social media outlets.  I've been fortunate to hear that many people have really enjoyed following us online so I don't want to move to far away from what people have come to expect from us but a little change is usually good.  So stay tuned, I'm looking forward to sharing more and different information on my blog.  And if anyone enjoys doing some heavy lifting, I've got just the project for you! 

Michael Pollan's $8 Eggs

Michael Pollan Thinks $8 For a Dozen Eggs Is a Bargain

• 8/5/10 at 11:40 AM

Sustainable food guru Michael Pollan continues his quest to convince us today that spending twice as much for stuff at the farmers' market should really be the new norm. He tells the Journal, "My little rule, 'Pay more, eat less,' is followed by a lot of people in the Bay Area," even though for most everyone we know it's still pretty much "pay more, eat more." He also argues, "Eight dollars for a dozen eggs sounds outrageous, but when you think that you can make a delicious meal from two eggs, that's $1.50." OK, sure, and we'll admit those Frog Hollow peaches are damn delicious, even at $3.90 apiece, but we still choke up as we hand over the cash.  Link

      Only Michael Pollan would think that paying $8 for a dozen eggs is a good thing for families in this country. While paying $1.50 for a meal of two eggs sounds reasonable for one person, think about what a family would have to pay just for eggs. Our family has five people in it. That would add up to $7.50 for a family meal of just two eggs per person. Anyone with growing children knows that a meal of just two eggs isn’t going to keep them full for long. Nor is it a complete meal. The problem is that if you base food costs off $8/dozen eggs, a complete meal could easily cost $10 per person. That would make our family’s daily meals cost around $150 per day. I suppose that sounds reasonable to Pollan as well and with the salary he makes going around the country scaring people about their food he can probably afford that. But most working families in this country cannot. Safe, affordable, nutritious food is something this country has done better than any other in the history of the world. Advocating for $8 eggs show exactly how out of touch with reality Michael Pollan is.  ~Troy

McDonalds Rejects HSUS

McDonald's shareholders vote down 'cage free' proposal

Aug 4, 2010

Shareholders for McDonald's voted against a proposal this spring to buy at least 5 percent of the restaurant chain's eggs from cage-free facilities.

The Humane Society of the United States, which owns 101 shares in the company and sponsored the resolution, similarly proposed at the 2009 annual shareholders meeting that McDonald's start transitioning to purchasing eggs produced in cage-free facilities.

In the recent proposal, the HSUS argued that cages provide for inadequate animal welfare and that McDonald's Corp.'s U.S. operations had fallen behind competitors and the company's own European operations in transitioning toward purchases of eggs from cage-free hens.

McDonald's board of directors recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal. The board argued that there is no agreement in the scientific community on how to balance advantages and disadvantages of hen housing systems and noted that the company is part of a coalition involved in an ongoing study of hen housing.     Link

This has to be really infuriating for the HSUS. They are used to marching in to the meet with heads of restaurants and having their demands met, regardless of whether or not it actually makes sense. McDonalds has decided to actually investigate this issue and use science to determine the best methods. Of course this becomes a problem for the HSUS because they rely on emotion rather than science to force their agenda’s on people.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Animal Rights Activists Protest 4-H Auction

Activists Protest Animal Auction

4H Club says it's not animal cruelty, it's farming

Updated 9:00 AM CDT, Tue, Aug 3, 2010

Protesters targeted an animal auction at the Lake County fair this weekend.

Several protestors showed up to this at the Wagner Farm in Glenview during a pig auction to draw attention to what they say is animal cruelty, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Since it was established in 2002 the 4H Clovers club – which on its Website boasts membership of “57 children from the ages of 8 to 18" – has generated some controversy. In part because the livestock sold are raised on Glenview Park District Land. But also because most animals sold at the auction are headed to the slaughterhouse.

One of the animals on the auction block was a pig named Buddy raised in part by 11-year-old Mata Stilp and her brother Hans, reported the Chicago Tribune.     Read More

Animal rights activists have been targeting 4-H more as of late. Any type of program that teaches young people about the how’s and why’s of raising livestock is certainly a threat to their misinformation campaign. Supporting programs like 4-H is more important than ever before. For many children, 4-H is their only exposure to agriculture. Taking advantage of these teaching opportunities is something we have to continue doing.

College Aggies Online

College students - Agriculture needs your voice!

Drovers news source
Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Animal Agriculture Alliance is excited to announce the re-launch of College Aggies Online, a program developed in partnership with the American National CattleWomen, Inc. to help today's college students become confident advocates for the agriculture industry.

"Last year, 350 students representing 50 universities shared their stories on the College Aggies Online network," said Alliance Executive Vice President Kay Johnson Smith. "Students who participate in the program do more than just build their resume - they help ensure the future of American agriculture."

Students with a passion for agriculture are encouraged to sign up at After creating a personal profile on the network, members will gain access to a private forum where they can discuss current and emerging issues facing farmers and ranchers with other young agriculturists from across the country.   Read More

It was a lot of fun watching agriculture advocates in college tell their story and do it well. We are fortunate to work with college ag groups from time to time and it never ceases to amaze me how passionate they are about agriculture. Their efforts have made a big difference on our nation’s campuses. This year’s College Aggies Online effort will no doubt be just enthusiastic.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Another Radical Lines Up At The El Paso Trough

El Paso's 678-Mile Pipeline Would Create `Path of Destruction,' Suit Says

By Joel Rosenblatt - Jul 30, 2010 5:30 PM MDT Fri Jul 30 23:30:36 UTC 2010

Federal approval of El Paso Corp.’s biggest expansion project, a 678 mile-long natural-gas pipeline spanning four western U.S. states, should be reviewed by an appeals court, the Center for Biological Diversity said today.

A lawsuit filed today in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco seeks a review of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the Ruby Pipeline, which will cut across Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California, the center said in a statement today.

“The Ruby Pipeline will cause severe damage to rivers and streams, sensitive habitats for a host of fish and wildlife species and some of the most pristine lands in western North America,” Noah Greenwald, program director at the center, said in the statement. “Instead of creating an entirely new path of destruction, an existing pipeline route should have been utilized.”     Read More

Imagine that, other radical environmental groups find out that El Paso has paid off the opposition and they line up to get their share. This is a great example of what happens when legitimate science is abandoned and replaced with something like the “El Paso Payoff”. There are too many money-hungry anti-everything groups that will line up to take your money if your strategy is paying them to go away. El Paso’s pockets won’t be deep enough to satisfy them all. In the end, they will end up in litigation anyhow, but this time they will have $20 million less in the bank.