Tag Archives: California
How often do you get a paycheck from your job? Once a month? Every two weeks? Once a year?
For many of us in agriculture it is normal to receive one or two paydays a year. That is it. We must budget those few paydays to last, and with all the unknown variables that are apt to happen in agriculture, that can be a huge challenge. For us, payday is when we sell this year’s crop of animals or harvest. For farmers and ranchers that specialize in one product, like beef cattle, we work all year for this one day.
We sold this year’s calf crop today. As I was sitting at the auction, I realized that not many people outside of beef production, get the chance to experience what I experienced today. I want to show you what a cattle sale looks like.
But first I want to talk about what it took for us to get to this point. This calf crop is the result of almost two years of work. From planning the pregnancies of our Mama cows, to the birth and growth of the calves themselves.
The calves we sold today were almost a year old. My family has spent every day since before their conception with this herd. We selected the bulls we felt would best improve our herd, we watched as the Mama cow’s bellies grew, we helped them give birth, we spent countless hours watching and protecting them. If you want to know more about the process, please look through the Beef archives to the right of this post.
When we watch the sale of these calves a whole range of emotions course through us. Part of you wants to grieve for the loss of these animals that you have spent so much time with, becoming attached happens regardless. Part of you feels pleasure, watching these beautiful animals walk around ring. Then you feel thankfulness because you have successfully brought them to market. Often feeling incredibly proud is yet another emotion, the knowledge that I am helping to feed my country is amazing.
Needless to the blend of emotions causes a lot of stress, anxiety, but eventually relief and in a good year, joy.
Ok, now on to the auction part. If the past we’ve sold our cattle multiple different ways. From video sales in years past to a more traditional way of literally taking them to market.
This is how we sold our cattle today, it is the traditional way of trucking your cattle to market:
This is how we’ve sold our cattle in the past, a video sale:
Each method has it’s pro’s and con’s, but we’ve been very happy with both. Hopefully, this summer I can attend a larger video sale and go more in depth about it for this blog.
Our family is grateful for today to be over. Our emotions have been all over the map and we will talk about nothing else amongst ourselves for the next few days. However, we are thankful that we can continue to do what we love and look forward to many more generations of ranching.
EDIT: January 15, 2014
We’ve had no rain since my original post. We are basically out of hay and grass. We’ve purchased more supplement’s. Today was the first day my Dad mentioned selling some cattle. I want to cry. California Cattlepeople need help. Hay is sky high, if you can find it, the grass is gone and the weather forecast is not good. This is really scary and sad.
2013 was a rough year for many cattlepeople, and we here the Brown Ranch are no different. While our ranch did not have it as bad as the ranchers in South Dakota, we struggled with a pasteurella outbreak in the spring, pink eye over the summer and finally our year is ending with extreme drought, which means, no grass to feed our cattle.
My family has taught me that in order to be good at what what we do, we need to have a contingency plan for everything that could go wrong. Life in agriculture is never boring, it’s never easy and Lord knows, it is anything but simple. Since my family has had generations and generations to learn this lesson, our ranch will survive.
Even though we had no idea that this year would be so severe in terms of rain and feed, we planned for it, because we must. As I explained before, our cattle spend half the year on Table Mountain Ranch and the other half on The Mound Ranch. If you want to know more details about why we do that please read this. When we shipped our cattle to The Mound Ranch this past spring, we made sure to leave lots of grass or “feed” for the cattle to come back to. Again, this “feed” is not guaranteed to even be here when we ship our cattle back in the fall because often, we have fires here in the summer.
In addition to leaving feed on the winter ranch to come back to, another thing we do, as a contingency (what if we have a fire??), is make hay. In a good feed year, we can sell any extra hay for income. In a bad feed year, like this year, we use the hay to supplement our cattle. Since the grass has not grown, our girls must eat the dry grass from last year. But that dry grass can only last so long, and it doesn’t have the same nutrients as fresh, green grass.
By supplementing our cattle’s diet with hay, they will continue to be happy and healthy. Our number one goal on this ranch is the health and comfort of our animals. We do not want them to feel any type of stress, by making sure they don’t realize we are having a poor feed year, we prevent a whole list of health problems; from aborted calves to illnesses and death.
Yet another tool we use to ensure the health and happiness of our cattle are supplements. Our cattle always have access to mineral salt, it is necessary for their survival. However, during lean years when there is not new grass growth, they also get a protein supplement. When cattle eat dried out grass, with no new green grass, they must have a protein supplement to maintain their health (in our opinion). I know this is a horrible thing for me to admit to, but, I love these supplements because I up-cycle the blue tubs, they are the perfect size to plant dwarf trees in!!!
There are many, many, many, different supplements on the market for cattle. In the past we’ve used Crystalyx, and other local companies. Right now we are using a generic 24% protein supplement, since we are feeding hay as well.
I know those of us in agriculture are famous for never being happy with the weather. It’s always too wet, too dry, too cloudy, too sunny. But this is serious, cattlepeople in the west are facing some very tough times right now. Hay is expensive, if you can find it, extra rangeland is impossible to find, and the weather refuses to compromise. I am afraid for many of my neighbors and friends. Hope for rain my friends.
I take my lifestyle for granted. All the time. I can’t help it. It is my normal. But now and again, something reminds me, I am not normal. Most people don’t make their own soap, cure their own olives or make jams and jellies. Thankfully this is normal to me and I have a super cool family that has passed these arts down to me. YAY!
First some fun facts about California olives:
- Olives were brought into California in the 1700’s by Franciscan missionaries from Mexico.
- The trees can live from, on average 300 to 600 years (the oldest is over 5,000 years old!)
- Generally, the hotter the region where the olives were picked, the bolder the flavor of olive oil.
- 95% of the olives grown in California are canned as black-ripe or green-ripe olives.
- California is responsible for producing 99% of all olive oil in the United States.
- California is the only state where olives are grown commercially.
- One ton of California olives produces 30-42 gallons of extra virgin olive oil.
However as I talk about this stuff on my social media I am often reminded that these arts are not as normal as they once were and I should be sharing and talking about them more than I do.
I realize this because I have stories like this: we had some friends over a few years ago. They were foodies. Now these foodies made it clear to me (a simple ranch kid) that they knew way more than this simple ranch kid about where food comes from. They knew from the internet and a class they took once. So of course I told them we had olive trees on the ranch and asked if they wanted to try fresh olives, right off the tree. Being experts in all things food, they were adamant that they must have some fresh olives.
Normally I would have explained to these people that fresh olives are gross and bitter and gross and nasty and we do not eat them until we cure them (did I mention they are gross and nasty?). But since these people were experts, who was I to tell them differently? It was pretty funny when they tasted the un-cured olives. They didn’t think so though.
You will need:
Mature green olives
Use olives that are mature but still green. You can purchase lye at most hardware stores. However due to all the meth-heads cooking drugs it’s getting harder and harder to find lye. Rinse you olives and pick all debris out. Place them in a glass or porcelain jars or crocks. You will then need to determine how much lye you will use.
You will need to cover your olives with this lye solution. Add a solution that has been mixed at a ratio of 1 gallon of water (at 65 to 70 degrees) to 4 tablespoons lye. Soak your olives in this for 12 hours. (If you are working with a small amount of olives 1 quart of water to 1 tablespoon of lye works).
The lye solution will have turned brownish after you have soaked your olives for 12 hours. This is good!
Now do the same thing again, with the same ratio of lye solution for another 12 hours. Drain and rinse with fresh water. Cut into the biggest olive, if the lye solution has reached the pit your cure is done! You will want to rinse and drain the olives 3 to 4 times after the lye has reached the pit.
If two lye baths weren’t enough, go ahead and do one more lye solution bath for 12 more hours. Rinse your olives again and soak in cold water.
Soak the olives in fresh, cold water changing the water three (or more) times a day for the next 3 days to 5 days. At the end of the 3 to 5 days, taste an olive to make sure there is no lye flavor!
Finally, soak the olives for at least one day and up to 3 days in a brine solution mixed at a ratio of 6 tablespoons salt to 1 gallon of water, changing the brine solution about every 12 hours. Congratulations, you’ve cured olives.
We like to add a chopped jalapeno or garlic cloves to our olives at this point. Store the olives, jalapeno and/or garlic in the brine solution in the frig. Use within two months.
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 :
But wait. Let’s ask a consumer.
** 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:
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:
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/
OK, I feel like a cheater butt to re-blog this on my blog, but it’s a big deal to be on Ryan’s blog and I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was really exciting for me. I hold Ryan in very high esteem. I think he is doing more the the beef industry than certain industry groups. He’s earning his masters right now, so he allowed his blog to be high-jacked by the Ag Chat Banditas (see the incredible support system agriculture has, this is one of the many reasons I love ag so much!). Any way please go check out Ryan’s blog, it is so well done and so informative! Thank you.