Posts Tagged With: cattle

Farmer Perspectives: Food for Thought

By Katie Stockstill-Sawyer, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Katie Sawyer farms with her husband and two boys near McPherson, KS

Katie married into the farming world in 2010. She is no longer brand new to the farm but still finds herself asking questions about agriculture as she and her husband raise two sons on a farm and ranch in central Kansas. Katie is also the district director for her Kansas congressman.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did what most modern moms-to-be do — I went online. As it turns out, many expecting moms are fearful about their food.

I didn’t feel the same way, but I may have an unfair advantage. I was able to simply step away from my computer and ask my husband, Derek. He’s a fourth-generation farmer and has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture to boot. Derek is my first and primary resource. I’ve seen him make decisions based on scientific research to ensure our practices are both safe and effective. He can answer questions as both a businessman, farmer and father.

I never hesitate to ask him what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Today, I’m going to share some of my questions and our farm’s answers with you.

 

  1. Why do we use GMOs?

This was a practice put into place by my husband’s father and grandfather. We continue to plant GMO corn and soybean seeds. Today’s GMO seeds help make our plants more drought tolerant, resistant to extreme weather and less susceptible to devastating pests.

This technology helps our business — yes, farms are businesses too — produce more crops with less water, herbicides and pesticides. It helps us carefully manage the resources we use to produce a consistent crop from year-to-year, and positively contribute to a stable global food supply.

That’s doesn’t mean we take the safety of GMOs for granted. We’ve read the research and firmly believe they are safe for humans. In fact, GMO crops surround our family’s home and our children regularly play in the fields.

 

  1. Why do we use antibiotics in our cattle?

Raising cattle is an emotional part of our farm. We watch a mother cow’s movements, appetite and interaction with other animals in the herd. We can see when she isn’t feeling well. It’s our responsibility to alleviate that cow’s suffering and treat her illness. It’s an animal welfare decision for us. While our cattle are under our watchful eye, they are going to be cared for.

We don’t give antibiotics without reason and track their use diligently. We work closely with our veterinarians to oversee the health of our herd and administer antibiotics, and other treatments, when necessary. Animals treated with antibiotics are never sent off our farm when they are still being treated. We don’t sell sick cattle.

 

  1. Is farming a lifestyle or career?

It’s both, and a whole lot more. Farming and ranching can be fun and inspiring. It’s our job, but it’s also a heritage. In fact, we hope that one (or both) of our sons will want to continue our work. That’s the main reason I believe farmers, like us, are inherently responsible stewards of our resources. Every decision is made with the idea that our farm will see a fifth or sixth generation one day.

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Farmer Perspectives: Peaceful, Easy Grazing

By Laura Handke, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Laura and her husband, Chris, have a cow/calf herd that straddles the Missouri-Kansas border.

Laura is a regional coordinator for Ag Education on the Move where she helps elementary students in Missouri learn about how their food is grown. She has a master’s degree in ag science and previously worked in food safety. Laura and her husband, Chris, have a cow/calf herd that straddles the Missouri-Kansas border.

Driving by a herd of mama cows and their calves looks serene to most passersby. It’s a sight I love more than just about anything. As a rancher, I also see the hard work that’s put into the grasses waving in the wind. Yes, even grass takes work!

My family’s cattle herd grazes on pasture with rolling hills. We need strong grasses to prevent erosion of our valuable topsoil. We actually plant grasses to ensure our fields have the right mix of plants to help the soil and feed our cattle at different times of the year.

For example, we plant legume grasses to add nitrogen to the soil and create a healthy mix for both the cattle and the environment. Our goal is to create soils that will feed the plants, that will feed the cows, that will feed the calves, that will feed your family!

We regularly test our pasture grasses to ensure there’s enough convertible protein, phosphorus content and other nutrients — just like you would examine the label of a multivitamin. As ranchers, we want to make sure we’re providing enough growing food for the cows and calves. It’s our job to actively manage what Mother Nature started.

 

Stocked up

The pastures we raise cattle on are fed by a spring. Only in severe droughts has the spring run dry. In these cases, we drive truckloads of water to each pasture daily to ensure the cattle have enough to drink. It’s a huge increase in overhead costs in fuel, time and management, but our animals’ health is our top priority.

We also keep an eye on the number of cattle grazing the pasture. This is called “stocking density.” When grasses are plentiful, the pasture can support more animals. If we’re short on rain, we may have to move cattle to a different pasture and give the grass time to grow.

We are caring for the grass and land just as much as we care for the cows. One of our “checks” to ensure the system is working correctly is by examining the cow’s overall body condition. There is a grading scale for a cow’s body condition that ranges from one to nine. Ideally, a well-nourished cow will be between five and six.

Years of working with cattle give us a keen eye for making assessments. We can look at the cows while walking through the field and see which animals are in the right range. Careful pasture management helps ensure that we rarely need to supplement our cows’ rations.

 

Added guidance

We’re closely watching our pastures, water availability, nutrition and animals. Yet, that doesn’t mean our cattle don’t get sick. With the help of our veterinarian, we administer medications only when we need to.

Our veterinarian knows our herd well. In fact, the same DVM helped my husband’s father and grandfather when they were raising cattle on this same land. This year, our trusted veterinarian helped us through a change in how some medications are prescribed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently implemented the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), which is like a prescription for medications that are administered through the feed.

In herds like ours — with cows grazing across miles and miles — it can be difficult to catch every animal that might be sick and give her a shot. Illness tends to spread through a group. For example, we can almost count on diarrhea during weaning time from an infection called coccidiosis. To treat it, we simply call up our veterinarian and ask for VFD to include an ionophore, a common treatment. It helps us treat the illness without the added stress of corralling sick calves.

A VFD hasn’t changed the way we work with our veterinarian or care for our herd. We are committed to caring for our cattle. We start with sound nutrition, observe the health and condition of our animals and call in our long-time veterinarian when we need help.

 

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Guests experience modern agriculture during farm tour

CGFarmTour-9719-2

Volunteer Kim Baldwin talks about growing wheat on her family’s farm near McPherson, KS.

Have you ever been to a working farm? Has it been many years since you saw a farm firsthand? You’re definitely not alone. Even in a highly agricultural and rural state like Kansas, most consumers have never seen modern agriculture firsthand. That changed for about a dozen guests who attended a special tour of Kansas farms on Saturday, July 19.

Volunteers Kim Baldwin and Katie Sawyer opened up their McPherson County farms and ranches to bloggers, media, dietitians and consumers during the first-ever CommonGround Kansas Farm Tour. Guests arrived via tour bus to see how the women and their families raise corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum and cattle.

During the tour, the Baldwins showed guests their farm machinery and explained how each is used, including the innovative technology that allows them to more precisely plant, fertilize and harvest crops. Guests also learned about the family’s cow herd and were able to see the animals grazing on pasture near the farm. During a visit to the farm’s test plot, Kim and her husband, Adam, shared about biotechnology while showing different corn hybrids growing in the field.

CGFarmTour-9785-2

Volunteer Katie Sawyer explains how her family uses subsurface drip irrigation to more efficiently utilize water in one of their corn fields.

The bus traveled on to the Sawyer’s farm, where guests walked through a soybean field irrigated with a center pivot. Katie and her husband, Derek, also learned about subsurface drip irrigation and saw the technology working in one of the Sawyer’s corn fields. Katie talked about how the family cares for their cow herd and when and why antibiotics are used to care for sick animals.

Guests also visited the Mid-Kansas Cooperative Groveland facility, where they learned about grain markets. The tour concluded with a barbecue lunch at Knackie’s in Inman.

Thanks to everyone who attended! If you or someone you know is interested in visiting Kansas farms, please email us and we’ll notify you as future opportunities arise.

 

Guests toured the Mid Kansas Cooperative Groveland facilities near Inman to learn about grain storage and markets.

Guests toured the Mid Kansas Cooperative Groveland facilities near Inman to learn about grain storage and markets.

 

 

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Volunteers answer food questions at KC women’s expo

Just for Her Expo

Volunteers LaVell Winsor and Laura Handke chat with attendees at the Just for Her women’s expo.

One booth stood out amid a sea of exhibitors offering beauty, fashion, home goods and health products at the Just for Her expo in Overland Park, Kan., May 30-June 1. With welcoming smiles and a variety of conversation-starting materials, the farm women of CommonGround Kansas offered a unique opportunity for attendees to ask questions about farming and food.

The annual Just for Her expo is a regional event attracting a diverse population of women. Volunteers LaVell, Laura, Kim, Katie, Lana and Sarah were on hand throughout the weekend to chat with attendees. They answered a variety of questions and conversed with consumers on hot topics such as organic foods, GMO crops, antibiotic use in meat production and family farms.

Do you have questions about how your food is raised? CommonGround volunteers farm in 16 states across the nation, raising fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock. They love sharing how they take care every day to produce safe food for consumers around the globe.

 

 

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Go Blog Social starts great conversations about food and farming

Go Blog Social

Katie Dosen of To Live for Style chats with Kansas volunteers Laura Handke and LaVell Winsor and CommonGround Missouri coordinator Luella Fischer.

What a weekend! The ladies of CommonGround Kansas and Missouri spent a beautiful, sunny Saturday filled with great conversation with truly lovely people in downtown Kansas City during Go Blog Social. We were so happy that we could help answer attendees’ questions about how we raise crops and livestock on our farms. We were especially excited about the genuine interest that so many of you expressed. The fact that you feel a personal investment in learning how your food is grown is really encouraging! We love to share our stories and convey what it means to be a farmer!

We wanted to give a little blog love to just a few of the fine folks who took time to chat with us! We know missed some! If you stopped by to chat with us and we didn’t get a chance to swap contact info, please shoot us an email at commongroundkansas@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to add your link here.

A special thank you to CommonGround Missouri, who partnered with our CommonGround Kansas ladies for this special event!

 

 

 

 

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We’re ready to get social!

We're excited to be a sponsor for Go Blog Social in Kansas City!

We’re excited to be a sponsor for Go Blog Social in Kansas City!

Go Blog Social may already be underway in KC today, but we’re getting really excited to meet bloggers and social media mavens at this special event in downtown Kansas City tomorrow, Apr. 5. We’re even more excited that we get to share our sponsorship with our next-door neighbors, CommonGround Missouri, to help answer questions about food and farming.

As farmers and moms, we understand how important it is to have confidence in where your food comes from. That’s why we’re excited to have conversations with some wonderful folks tomorrow about their most pressing questions about their food.

We love sharing the story of our farms and ranches. Most importantly, we are honored to be a part of the fact-finding mission that every consumer should embark upon to learn about how their food is raised. It’s like our teachers told us growing up, doing your homework (and doing your own homework) is important. We couldn’t agree more!

When we find out the real stories behind our food, we can make more informed decisions about what we feed our families.

Attending Go Blog Social? Stop by our booth and say hello! More importantly, bring your questions. Our farm moms will gladly answer them!

 

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Why Food Day “Facts” Aren’t So Factual

Oct. 24 is Food Day, which celebrates healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food. It sounds like a pretty great cause to get behind, right?

As farmers and moms, we support the movement to get Americans to eat healthier and move more. But what really concerns us is pushing out loads of misinformation behind what seems to be fairly noble cause.

Do we agree we should spend less time in the drive-through and more time as a family at the dinner table? Absolutely!

Do we agree that we should strive to eat more balanced diets with fruits and vegetables instead of cartons of greasy fried foods, gooey pastas and sugary desserts? You bet!

But here’s where we simply need to set the record straight:

Food Day urges folks to cut back on “fatty, factory-farmed meats.”

What exactly is a factory farm, anyway? Take a good look around at the 2.2 million U.S. farms. We are hard-working families, not factories. We devote our lives to giving our animals the best care possible, often putting their needs above our own. In any weather and at any time of day, we’re there to ensure our farm animals have the food, water, shelter, space and medical care they need.

We also want our critics to know that cattle spend the majority of their lives in pastures eating grass. When mature, cattle are sold or moved to feedlots where they typically spend 4-6 months. Feedlots allow ranchers to raise beef more efficiently with fewer natural resources like land, feed and water. Feedlot cattle live in fenced areas that give them plenty of food, fresh water and room to move around. Veterinarians, nutritionists and cattlemen work together to look after each animal every day.

And labeling all meats as fatty? Well, that’s just not accurate. In fact, there are 29 cuts of lean beef and six cuts of lean pork that meet the USDA’s guidelines for lean, heart-healthy meats with less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. The trend of avoiding meat because it’s generally “unhealthy” is simply unfounded. Why can’t we all just adopt the attitude of “everything in moderation,” park a little farther from the store and talk a walk more often?

Food Day advocates say “a meat-heavy diet takes a terrible toll on the environment.”

Farmers are the original environmentalists. For generations, we have cared for the land so we can pass it on to our children and grandchildren. We care about what goes into the soil and the air, and we work tirelessly to do more with less inputs and land every day.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, livestock production accounts for 3.12% of total emissions, far from the claim that cows are worse than cars. In addition, modern farming continues to implement sustainable practices that significantly reduce the amount of fuel and chemicals required for food production. There’s an old saying that “You can’t make any more land.” That’s why we work hard to protect what we have.

Food Day activists “are united by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it.”

Hey, wait! That sounds a lot like our vision as farmers and ranchers. Like any successful professionals, we want to do our jobs better. We are constantly finding new ways to grow safe, affordable food on less land and with fewer resources. If we didn’t care for our animals and our land, we couldn’t stay in business. And if we can’t stay in the business of growing food and fiber for a booming world population, it won’t be long before we’ll have some very serious issues on a global scale.

We are farmers. We are moms. We commit our lives to producing safe, healthy food — the same food we feed our families. To infer that hard-working American farmers and ranchers aren’t producing food with care? Well, we invite you to look again. That’s what we do, day in and day out.

Have a question about your food? Ask us! We’re always happy to share openly about how we grow crops and raise livestock on our Kansas farms. We’ll never tell you what to eat, we’ll just answer your questions so you can make the most informed choices for your family.

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Kids’ Reading List: Levi’s Lost Calf

Saddle up and hit the trail!

Levi's Lost Calf on Amazon

Young readers will find little Levi as curious and eager to prove his independence as they are while searching the ranch with him to find Little Red, Levi’s Lost Calf.

A fifth generation ranch, author Amanda Radke, tells the story of Levi who, after the morning head count, realizes one calf, Little Red, is missing from the herd.  Readers are introduced to a variety of barnyard animals as Levi searches the ranch for the calf.  Radke uses her past and present, first-hand ranching experience to accurately tell this engaging story.  Young readers will not only enjoy the tale, but also the beautiful illustrations by Michelle Weber.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list:

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Wichita Guests Discuss Farming and Food

Lori Deyoe

Volunteer Lori Deyoe shares about how her Ulysses, KS, ranch carefully uses antibiotics to treat sick cattle and return them to a healthy, productive state.

Whether curious or concerned, consumers have plenty of questions about the health and safety of modern farming practices. Guests at the CommonGround Kansas “Conversations About Farming and Food” lunch were able to get some of those questions answered on Aug. 6 at Old Town Wichita’s Caffe Moderne.

Volunteers Kim Baldwin of McPherson and Lori Deyoe of Ulysses helped answer questions and engage in discussion with members of the Wichita City Commission, Kansas Board of Education, Wichita YMCA, the Wichita Eagle and area high school teachers. From topics such as genetically modified crops, antibiotics and family farms, Kim and Lori shared real-life examples from their Kansas farms and ranches demonstrating the extent of care and consideration that goes into producing a healthy, safe and affordable food supply to feed our growing world population.

Kim Baldwin

Volunteer Kim Baldwin shares why GMO seeds help her family grow more productive crops with fewer chemicals and less water near McPherson, KS.

The conversation aimed to equip guests with first-hand and research-based information to make informed decisions about food. After the group discussion, several guests took time to have one-on-one discussions with the volunteers.

Thanks to all who attended!

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Kids’ Reading List: Little Joe

Fairs are some of my favorite events during the summertime.  Blue ribbons, funnel cakes, rodeos and show animals looking their very best.  It takes hard work, perseverance and a love for animals from the whole family to get the cattle, pigs, goats and more ready for the show.

Little Joe by Sandra Neil WallaceThe eighth book in our Kids’ Reading List series, Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Mark Elliott, describes how Eli raises his bull calf, Little Joe, for the next year’s county fair.  The heartwarming tale details the joys and discomforts of taking care of another living thing.  Read along as Eli, and Little Joe, learn life lessons about growing up and taking on responsibilities. 

Readers in fourth grade and up will be immersed in the natural world of the farm.  This book appeals to readers who can have similar experiences to Eli and many more who share a love for animals.  The theme of family love is apparent through the story, making it identifiable for most readers.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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