Tag Archives: beef

Wordless Wednesday: Favorite Heifer 

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Wordless Wednesday: Lunch 

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Why I Use Antibiotics

Antibiotics are amazing. They can do so much, so quickly! I want to tell you a story about one calf and one shot of antibiotics.

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We found this little calf in the morning. Her mom gave birth to her in water during the night and left her. She was very ill. Very cold, very close to death. In fact, when we first saw her, we thought she was already dead. We loaded her in the back of the polaris and took her to the hospital pen. We dried her off, treated her with antibiotics, electrolytes, fluids, iodine on her naval, and some vitamins. We followed the label on the antibiotics and the advice of our veterinarian to the letter.  A few hours later,  she was able to stand up by herself. She was ready to go back to her mom in about a day.

Before and after, in just a matter of hours.

Before and after, in just a matter of hours.

My point here is, despite what Subway would have you think, antibiotics are not always bad when used in animal agriculture. They actually save a lot of lives and a lot of suffering. By the time this calf hits the market, no residue will be left. So please think about that next time food marketers talk about antibiotic free.

Antibiotics are a hot button issue within agriculture right now. Farmers and ranchers are working very hard to fight antibiotic resistance, because we realize how this can and will impact us. Personally, our ranch uses superior genetics, nutrition and vaccines to prevent illness. But as I showed here, sometimes we still have problems and we need to be able to do the humane thing and treat our animals. It’s the right this to do.

I urge you to talk to other farmers,  ranchers and veterinarians to learn how and why they use antibiotics on their ranches. Coming from agriculture and seeing how we have changed our protocols, I feel like our general public might not know what we have changed and why, in regards to this topic. Fear and half-truths have been used often to promote “antibiotic free” meat marketing agenda.

I even got the opportunity to learn more about antibiotics at the Alltech convention I attended last May. Meat scientist Dr. Yancey wrote a nice recap about it, you can read here.

Is antibiotic resistance a problem? Absolutely. Do we know for certain what is causing it? Kinda. Is agriculture doing something about it? Yes.  It is a complex issue. But,  friends and readers, feel safe about the meat your are eating. Trust that your friendly neighborhood ranchers are aware of this problem and we are working hard to continue to keep our food supply safe and affordable. 

If you have more questions or would like a list of more experts, veterinarians, farmers or ranchers to talk to please leave me a comment below and I will do my best to accommodate you. Thank you.

 

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Wordless Wednesday: A Cow Named Floppy Ear 

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Wordless Wednesday: On the Moove

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Wordless Wednesday: See the Coyote? 

  

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Death on the Range

This is the time of the year where we load up our cattle onto cattle trucks and ship them to our summer ranch. We do this for many reasons, you can go here, to get more information about why.

The trucks loading our cattle.

The trucks loading our cattle.

Needless to say, shipping the cattle and moving all of our tools to the other ranch is a stressful time, even though we do it twice a year. Due to the major drought we are facing in California, this year feels especially scary. It feels like we are being forced by mother nature to do everything sooner. It has not helped with the stress levels that we were experiencing.

However Saturday we finished shipping most of the cows. That means the hardest part was over. Everything had gone well. No animals or people got hurt. No one got yelled at too badly. We got cattle trucks when we wanted them. Only two were cows missing, a good shipping season by anyone’s standards.

Sunday was a day to enjoy some calmness and relax. I had a pretty nice little day planned in order to celebrate being done. I had brunch with my girlfriend. Worked in my garden. Did some writing and I was hoping to catch 60 Minutes, and call it a day.

The hardest place to get to on the ranch. There is a creek with one, very treacherous crossing.

The hardest place to get to on the ranch. There is a creek with one, very treacherous crossing.

I almost had my calm day, I made it to the writing part. Then as it so often does in production agriculture, my personal plans had to change. Since we were missing two cows, I took off on my trusty Polaris to look for them. I successfully found one! But I unfortunately came across a cow that had an accident. She couldn’t get her legs under her, she couldn’t walk – somehow she broke her back (maybe she tripped on a rock, maybe she got in a cow fight, we’ll never know). She happened to do it at the worst possible place on the ranch, there was no way we could reach her to help or to slaughter, it was hard enough reaching her on my ATV. I had no other option but to euthanize her and walk away.

I'm sorry cow.

I’m sorry cow.

It was a hard thing to do. Even if we have a worst case scenario like this, we can usually salvage something so the cow’s death is not a waste. As long as an animal is healthy and we observe any withdrawal times for vaccinations, an animal that had an accident can be slaughtered for our personal consumption. Old cows make great hamburger, hot dogs, snack sticks and jerky and I am always glad to have that stuff in my freezer.

If the animal had recently been given a vaccination, we can donate the carcass to our local animal sanctuary to be used as feed so at least there is some use. To just leave a cow in a field for scavengers is a difficult, difficult thing, just a total waste. In a few months, after the bones are clean, and the coyotes, scavenger birds have had their fill, I’ll go back and pick up the bones so there will be no mess.

This is the bad part about my life. Death happens here and not always in a meaningful way. As a cattlewoman the best thing I can do is be compassionate, ease pain and suffering as quickly and as best as I can and take solace in that. But it never, ever get easier.

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Wordless Wednesday: Home on the Range

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The Future of the Farm: The Aftermath

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to take “The Megan Show” to my alma mater, CSU, Chico and participate in a discussion. The discussion was about “The Future of the Farm”. I was lucky to have David Robinson Simon the Author of Meatonomics as a discussion partner. I felt that Mr. Simon and I contrasted nicely and it made for an interesting conversation.

It always makes for a fun and lively conversation when two polar opposites sit down to discuss an issue both are passionate about. Being a cattle rancher, obviously I feel very strongly about what I do. Mr. Simon is a vegan and based on my own experiences and others I know, one must feel very strongly to maintain that lifestyle (it was really hard for me and I failed).

Mr. Simon spoke first. He had a powerpoint that basically outlined his book. Some of the slides had pictures that painted animal agriculture in a poor light. They say pictures are worth a thousand words, but unfortunately they often only tell part of a story. Because agriculture has typically kept our barn doors shut, we have left ourselves open to misunderstandings like this.

While I did disagree with Mr. Simon about several issues, Ag Gag, factory farming, and ag terrorism being a few. I was surprised about how many issues we held similar views on. For example eating “local” might not always be the most efficient and grass-finished beef is not always the most sustainable method in beef production.

It's always a win when I get to share this!

It’s always a win when I get to share this!

I felt like this discussion was time well spent. Being able to sit down and have a conversation with people that don’t always agree with me helps me become a better communicator and helps agriculture open our barn doors. Getting to interact with an audience enhances the experience for everyone; personal connections are made, passions shared. If agriculture wants to engage with our public we simply must take every opportunity, that is why I was disappointed in the College of Agriculture.

It's rare that I remember to take pictures before I speak. I kinda did it this time! Thanks to my friends that came!

It’s rare that I remember to take pictures before I speak. I kinda did it this time! Thanks to my friends that came!

There were only two agriculture students (thanks guys!) in attendance and no staff or faculty. Our industry leaders need to make sure our students and future ag leaders are being exposed to and urged to have conversations with our public. Our leaders are the ones that need to set that example. A huge part of why I am able to speak and engage the public is because I saw my professors do that.

Although I was excited to have the opportunity to participate in this discussion and give back to the University that helped shape who I am (and I’d do it again in a hot second), it worried me that there was a low ag turn-out and Dr. Jones had no success finding someone from the College of Ag to participate. If agriculture is serious about transparency and engaging our public our local leaders must do a better job of setting that example or they run the risk of “The Megan Show” doing for them – scary thought, huh?

 

At least The Megan Show has pretty boots! Thanks Jenny over at http://prairiecalifornian.com/ for coming!

At least The Megan Show has pretty boots! Thanks Jenny over at http://prairiecalifornian.com/ for coming!

 

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Culling Cows

Drought. Dry, sparse grass and lots of blue supplement tubs.

Drought. Dry, sparse grass and lots of blue supplement tubs.

The drought we are currently suffering through is showing no signs of improving. Despite our positive attitudes and all the thoughts and prayers for water that we can muster, things continue to get worse. All agriculture related conversations inevitably circle around to water. When will it rain? Will it be a wet year? El Nino? Do you know anyone with extra feed? How are we going to survive? Needless to say, our whole family, actually the whole community, is suffering from a great deal of anxiety.

This is a common picture these days.

This is a common picture these days.

Let me tell you, the worst thing you can say to someone in agriculture right now is anything along the lines of “it’s not going to rain” or “it’s going to be another dry year”. It’s almost like a slap in the face. Staying focused on the now, making it day to day, convincing ourselves it’s going to be okay, are the only things keeping most of us motivated. This is very real to us.

Our hay field.

Our hay field.

Every rancher I know is making every effort to conserve water, to become more efficient and, well, survive. Some ranchers are buying and making all the hay they can. They need feed for their cattle and know that is the only way to get it right now. Other ranchers are culling their herds. We are doing both.

Our beautiful cull cows.

Our beautiful cull cows.

In addition to selling our calf crop, where we earn the majority of our income, about two months early, we made the decision to cull or sell, more cattle than we normally would. Selling your mother cows is almost like selling your future and past. These are cows whose genetics were planned years before they were ever born. We watched their births, we watched them grow up, we cared for them their whole lives, we watched them, in turn, give birth. Now we must sell them.

The auction ring.

The auction ring.

Granted, culling cows is a necessity for a healthy herd. Removing genetics that are not efficient makes your herd more sustainable. And, ranching is a business. If a cow is not making you money, she is costing you money. Most of us operate within such tight margins, we simply can’t afford to have the deadweight, even in a good year.

Some of our girls.

Some of our girls.

It’s different when you are forced to cull cows before they are ready. The drought has forced such action. Cows that had calves that weren’t “perfect”, older cows, cows that simply looked at us the wrong way at the wrong time, all were sold. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to some of these good cows.

We sent a full truck to the sale.

We sent a full truck to the sale.

This is our reality. If we want to continue to ranch despite this drought, tough choices need to be made. Having healthy cattle and ground is our only option and that means doing whatever we must to sustain those things. Running less cattle on our dry ground will cause less stress to everything, therefore when it does rain again (and it will!!), we will be able to bounce back faster and better.

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