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Wordless Wednesday: Reward

"$160 REWARD for information leading to the arrest and conviction of cattle theft in Butte County.  Butte County Cattlemen's Association"

“$160 REWARD for information leading to the arrest and conviction of cattle theft in Butte County.
Butte County Cattlemen’s Association”

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It’s Time

The only power the powerless have is being a pain-in-the-ass. In the end, you may still lose, but you’ll make the S.O.B.s say, “It would have been easier, cheaper, and smarter to give her what she wanted in the first place.” –  Claude Seymour

It is easy to tell someone to “get over something”. But until you have lived and felt what they have, that is an insult. I am still struggling with an event that happened to me several years ago, because I am still experiencing repercussions.
Emotions are very strong, and as much as we wish logic could take over, sometimes it can’t. Sometimes you simply need closure. You need the people that hurt you, to take responsibility for their actions, or you need to be able to say your peace. Granted those limp dicked people probably will never take responsibility for their behavior, and that is their flaw. That doesn’t mean I can’t talk, share and demand closure for as long as I need to. Until I feel better.
My mental health is important to me. Thankfully, I have social media, I have a blog, I have a column, I have wonderful, creative outlets where I am able to share the Megan experience wide and far. I am SO lucky to have that.
Thank you friends, for putting up with the Megan experience, thank you for your support. I’m thinking it’s time for me to re-enter the local agriculture community. I think it’s time for some of these people to deal with the new and improved, stronger Megan.
I do not like being ignored.

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Ag Gag or Agriculture Protection? What Do YOU Think?

Every day it is inferred that animal agriculture abuses their animals. According to many websites and “people on the internet” producers like me are cold, callous and only in it to make a buck. That is a tough pill for me to swallow because in my life the exact opposite is true.

My life revolves around my animals. My Parents raised me to respect, love and care for animals because they are our life and it’s the right thing to do. Their needs ALWAYS were met before ours. The better we treat our animals the better they do, they are healthy when they are happy. Our cowdogs live in our homes and eat better than most people. Our cattle see the doctor more than we do. Needless to say when people criticize me about my animals, it hurts. They are my reason for being.

99.99% of the people I interact with daily care deeply for their animals. Our animals are the reason we eat, sleep and breathe. Our lives revolve around them and their welfare. When people accuse me of animal abuse because of something they read in a book or saw on the internet, when they in fact, have never seen my animals in real life, I lose my stuffing. It is my Achilles heel, I go from ‘let’s talk about it, Megan’ to ‘yeah, you pretty much suck at life, Megan’ and generally completely shut down. In other words I jump in the mud with the pigs, and as the saying goes, the pigs enjoy it and we all get dirty.

This brings me to the topic of ag gag laws. Many states are writing and passing these laws. I was lucky enough to speak to Annette Sweeney, who authored the “ag gag” or Ag Protection Bill in Iowa. I’m going to make a confession before I continue to tell you about my conversation with Ms. Sweeney. Before I spoke with her, I had not read the actual legislation, and did not know what I was talking about. After my conversation with Ms. Sweeney I read more about it, and I have to say, I agree with her Ag Protection Bill.

Ms. Sweeney explained to me “the legislation is to stop people from lying on their job applications and if abuse is recorded it needs to be turned in immediately not to wait for 4 to 6 months and then release it to the media and not to the proper authorities to stop the abuse. When we see abuse we want it stopped right away”. I agree with her. I’ve heard horror stories from other producers who hired undercover animal rights activists that have actually created abuse just to have something to film. I realize those cases are rare, but it happens. Just as animal abuse does happen. The fact is it is easy to manipulate film and pictures, anyone with a smartphone knows that. Sometimes I fear that my full-transparency will lead to a manipulated picture of my ranch that depicts abuse, but I take that risk.

I think the pejorative term “ag gag” coined by Mark Bittman makes the agriculture industry look like we have something to hide. When in fact all Ms. Sweeney is trying to do is to make it illegal for people to lie on job applications and turn in abuse within 48 hours. These are things that a reasonable person should adhere to anyway.

Often when these animal abuse videos are released its weeks or months after the initial abuse, and after much promotion by whatever group took the video. That isn’t ok. All abuse needs to be reported immediately. If it’s a legitimate video, you don’t need to build more of a case. I often question the motive of animal rights activists when they take so long to report abuse. I’m a true believer in full transparency. I think if we made available everything, from pasture to slaughterhouse our consumers would have nothing to fear (knowledge negates fear) and animal activists would have little to attack us for (don’t get me wrong, they will always find or create something, some activist believe raising animals for food is inherently bad).

I’ve worked off the ranch full-time for the past three years. I work in an office building close to a diner and a homeless shelter. I’ve seen more animal abuse in the past three years from the window of my office than in 30 years of working in production animal agriculture. In fact I’ve been subpoenaed as a witness more times than I would like to admit; everything from little old ladies leaving their poodles in hot locked cars, to meth-heads setting their pit-pulls on other meth-heads, to teenagers jumping on the heads of their ‘pet’ for “training” purposes. I would love to see the public’s same level of interest regarding the abuse of companion animals compared to farm animals.

I do not hesitate to report this abuse. It’s the least I can do for the voiceless animal. 99% of the time nothing happens. The cops or animal control won’t come. The cycle of abuse continues. I do my due diligence though, I take pictures and videos and often share on my social media. I live in a small town and once people realize that a community member has seen their abuse, SOMETIMES that helps. My other option is to ignore it, and that is not who I am. Often I value animals more than people (probably because I am a slightly anti-social only child whose best friends growing up were my animals).

What I have found is my transparency and willingness to share and report abuse often comes back to haunt me – especially from within the ag industry. For example when I shared my blog post about my custom exempt beef slaughter my state beef council posted this :

How does my beef council know this? Because most of my friends want to know and want to see, or they at least want to know they can see, IF they want.

How does my beef council know this? Because most of my friends want to know and want to see, or they at least want to know they can see, IF they want. I know as a consumer I want to know and I want to see where the food I eat comes from.

"I was forwarded your blog post from another agriculture organization and a beef producer" (to be fair I'm not sure if this is true or not, the Beef Council never would be transparent with me about how this whole thing started (I would have LOVED some industry tranparency there!)) - again my own industry was attempting to censor me.

“I was forwarded your blog post from another agriculture organization and a beef producer” (to be fair I’m not sure if this is true or not, the Beef Council never would be transparent with me about how this whole thing started (I would have LOVED some industry transparency there!)) – again my own industry was attempting to censor me. By the way CBC I work day in and day out to fund your position, maybe you should listen to your producers?

This comment was from the California Cattlemen Assoc. I feel like she is basically saying we need to sugar coat it for our consumers. I think sugar coating it for our consumers is kinda like lying to them. Maybe I'm wrong.

This comment was from the California Cattlemen Assoc. I feel like she is basically saying we need to sugar coat it for our consumers. I think sugar-coating it for our consumers is kinda like lying to them. Maybe I’m wrong.

But wait. Let’s ask a consumer.

This is from Katherine Atkinson and I think she does a wonderful job of speaking for consumers that want to know.

This is from Katherine Atkinson and I think she does a wonderful job of speaking for consumers that want to know.

** All these comments are from this blog http://thebeefjar.com/2011/07/13/wordless-wednesday-a-beef-harvest-2/

I think more and more consumers are starting to feel like Ms. Atkinson. In the past five years, I’ve seen a food movement grow. People want to get back on the farms and ranches and understand the how’s and what’s of their food. Farmers and ranchers are starting to open their barn doors and tell our stories, and I cannot be happier about that. As farmers and ranchers it is our JOB to tell consumers what we are doing. And as an industry, we’ve done a crappy job. BUT we are getting better, just check out all the farmers and ranchers on social media now, we want to talk and share!

I believe part of our problem is us, our industry. Instead of choosing to admit we aren’t perfect, we get defensive or attack each other. I know I get super defensive, I even admit in the beginning of this blog. Animal abuse happens. How we chose to deal and share that abuse will ultimately decide our fate. I am pleased to see websites like See It? Stop it! shared by my friend and fellow producer Wanda Schott Patsche. Websites and organizations like this, will help us police our own.

I had something happen to me last week, that drove this point home for me. Again through the window of my office I saw a neglected dog in the back of a pick-up barking his head off, it was very sad and not fun to listen to. I posted to my social media and found out the owner of this dog has some history with neglect. My therapist confirmed that abuse and neglect are the same thing. I was deeply frustrated with the lack of care our local police and animal control agencies have over animal abuse in town and asked for advice on how to deal with this in the future:

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Imagine my surprise and shock when a friend, that knew me in real life and also earned an ag degree and works in agriculture, posted this on my comment:

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Leanne illustrates my point perfectly. Instead of dealing with the bad apples or the real issue at hand, our industry will turn on each other.  It reminded me of when the Butte County Cattlemen ostracized my family for turning in a neighbor that was abusing his cattle, instead of dealing with the issue and the bad apple, they got mad that we “turned on our own“. In my world “our own” do not abuse or neglect animals. I do not want to be apart of a group or be friends with people who won’t do the right thing.

This is why we need legislation to protect us (this is a very rare time when I will argue in favor of more laws or regulations). Until the agricultural industry openly addresses transparency to our consumers and policing our own, we will continue to be our own worst enemy by bickering internally over these issues. A divided and angry industry leaves us further vulnerable to attacks from those who do not understand or want to understand what we do. Fellow Aggies, join me in support of agricultural protection, transparency and policing our own – let’s do the right thing.

For other thoughts on this topic please check out Dairy Carrie http://dairycarrie.com/2013/04/16/aggag/

and The Irish Vs. http://irishvs.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/the-irish-vs-ag-gag-laws/

Thank you.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, Beef, family, food, Media, Pigs, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

Accounting for our own Blog | Blog | Feedstuffs FoodLink

This is one of my most favoritist things I’ve ever written. Just because it was so agonizing for my family to make the decision to seek help outside our industry and the repercussions that we dealt with because of that decision. However, this particular column has fostered many conversations in my industry, and I think that is an excellent thing. As I am discovering sometimes you have to stir the pot to affect change, and I’m ok with being that person sometimes.

Click here to read the rest of the blog

Click here to read the rest of the blog

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Cardinal Rules

Growing up on a ranch there are cardinal rules you learn never to break. I think most ranch kids learn these rules through osmosis in the womb, they are that important. On our Ranch the big three are:

1) Always close the gate behind you.
2) Never leave string or wire where the animals can get into it.
3) Don’t wear your cowpoo covered work boots into Mom’s house (EVAR).

Obviously we have these rules for a reason. If you leave a gate open you run the risk of letting cattle out, or getting them mixed up, or if a storm or gust of wind comes up, your gate can be blown right off its hinges. Better to close the gate than create a lot of extra work for yourself.

String and wire is a broad category – basically this means clean up after yourself, no duh, right? Well you would be surprised-

This past fall we had a several intense winter storms hit us rather dramatically. Ranches flooded, cattlepeople were scrambling to move to the valley away from the snow in the mountains. A desperate fellow Butte County Cattlemen, moved some of his cattle into one of our “holding pastures”. This pasture is small, with no solid source of water so it’s a holding pen, for when we ship out, or get ready to “work” the cattle. It’s not meant to winter cattle, or even have cattle in it for more than a few days. But desperate times.

This cattlemen (out of respect of my industry, I won’t name names, unless this happens again) figured out there was not enough food for his cattle in our holding pen. You see, his cattle kept breaking out of the pen, looking for an extra mouthful of grass. Every evening when I would get home from work his cattle were out in our driveway (Disclaimer: I was less than pleased seeing this everyday, it sucked! But I digress…)

This is what string buried in moldy, wet, leftover corn  bales look like.

This is what string buried in moldy, wet, leftover corn bales look like.

Anyway he finally started bringing supplemental feed, big round bales of cut corn stalks. His cattle were a lot happier, but he broke the cardinal rule – pick up your strings. I spent two of my precious days off picking up strings and I am not happy about it. However I am getting a blog about out of it, so there is the silver lining.

Mahina brought friends out to see the pigs. We ended up putting them to work pulling strings. They were awesome help!!!

Mahina brought friends out to see the pigs. We ended up putting these city kids to work pulling strings. They were awesome help!!! Thanks for saving our cattle’s lives! Please come back!

Why is it bad to leave strings and wire where your cattle or animals can eat it, you ask? Great question! Let’s say you have a happy little cow eating grass this spring, she doesn’t realize she ate some of that string, pretty soon, she starts looking bad, losing weight, then she DIES! Cows can’t digest plastic or metal. At least with metal pieces you can put a magnet down the cow’s throat and sometimes save them (I’ll blog about that if we ever have to do it again).

Sam was very fashionable , look at those shoes and socks! I was impressed.

Sam was very fashionable , look at those shoes and socks! I was impressed.

It was a huge disappointment picking up string. The cattlemen who had their cattle here should know better and leaving trash on someone elses ranch is incredibly bad form, especially when they are doing you a major favor.

Day one of string pulling.....

Day one of string pulling. I was tempted to save it and wrap it around their truck next time I see them. But I didn’t. …..

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Am I Really the Crazy One?

Edit from October 2013: “if you’re a strong, powerful, smart woman, you tend to end up at some point in a roomful of men trying to prove that your ideas are good.” Elizabeth Moss

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I went to my local county cattlemen’s board meeting tonight. My blog was on the agenda because for the past few months I had been asked to use my social media savvy and create a Facebook page for the group. I’ve posted mainly fun facts and articles about the industry, but I figured since my blog post about California Beef Council dropping the social media ball directly impacted Butte County Cattlemen (since they all pay into the check-off), I’d post a link to my blog on the Butte County Cattlemen’s facebook page.

Ready to talk the Board about my blog, change within the industry and facebook.

Some of the members didn’t like that I did that. I understand that fighting and drama can look bad when done within the industry. But when you read my post about the California Beef Council, I feel like I am not really fighting or attacking. I offered my help, I want to get involved! I did point out that the beef industry has a problem when the group we fund to talk for us, won’t talk to us. So it confused me that these men took issue with my stance. I guess I thought more of them would be upset too.
I found myself being the only woman and the youngest one there trying to explain social media, blogs, my blog, the story behind my blog, and how social media works to a group of men that, I think it is safe to say, don’t fully appreciate this technology, it was like talking to a roomful of my Dads. It got confusing. People interrupted me and told my story for me (although that part was kinda nice – I got to hear more about the drama I caused higher up, but I didn’t know because NO ONE WOULD TALK TO ME ABOUT IT). I got annoyed that I could have been sitting on my couch, with my cat and wine (Wino Wednesday!), instead of being talked at about a thing I know and am pretty good at sometimes.
I went ahead and printed off a couple of my blogs, the ag code that explains the California Beef Council’s job, and Todd Fitchette’s blog about my blog, hoping to give the board members some background into what I have been doing. I don’t think that helped, but I did try and do my due diligence to explain why I thought I was there.

My packet of information about the California Beef Council.

The meeting went on about if Butte County Cattlemen should even have a Facebook page. A side note, I asked how many of these men even had a form of social media and I think 4 out of the group of 10 or so did, one mentioned that he knew how to turn on a computer! I guess I do understand now, why these guys aren’t as upset at the lack of social media in our industry when they don’t understand what it is or how powerful it can be.
I think by now, most of my serious readers realize I love ag, I love anything to do with it, and I spend an enormous amount of my time talking and sharing about it. I was honest and told them it really wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they removed me from their Facebook administrator because I do have my hands in so many different ag related activities. They said that they wanted me but they wanted policies and procedures, more regulation – no drama, no opinions, you know kinda the stuff that makes me such an amusing person. I told them that for a donation to my scholarship they could tell me what to post, and I wouldn’t piss anyone off.
So about that time I burst into tears. Because when I am put on the defensive and not listened to, that is what I do. It was a highly effective tool to communicate with my Dad and since these men all reminded me of my Dad, I went there. I do hate that about myself, it makes me look very unprofessional, but it is also a huge part of who I am. However, want to know how to make a room full of cattlemen really uncomfortable?
So that was my meeting. I think they decided to have a young cattlemen take over the page. I must question though, how many pages about the beef industry do we need that only talk about puff? How effective has that been?
I went home after I started to cry. I’m on my couch with Jack cat, doing what I do best these days, writing about the odd predicaments I get myself into. I don’t feel like my point was gotten across. I feel like I am missing yet another opportunity to help my industry. I feel like I don’t know how to communicate with others in my industry, am I the only one that feel like this? Am I really the crazy one?

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Wordless Wednesday: Wide Open Spaces

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