My beef: It’s worth a buck

Lately the beef checkoff has become a topic of heated debate. And I have to admit, I find the arguments surrounding it telling of our current society.

It seems to me that there is a loud group of a few people proclaiming that they want results, they want it free, they want someone else to do it…but not on their dime.

Sounds all too familiar.

Let me first of all explain a little bit about the checkoff. When we take our cattle to market, for every head of cattle we sell, the checkoff collects $1. Yes – $1 per cow, calf, bull, etc. that we sell. That dollar goes to the North Dakota Beef Commission, which half goes to a national organization, and half stays in state, where the commission determines where that dollar is best spent, including research, advertising, consumer surveys – just to name a few things that come to mind. (Imagine Sam Elliot reading that last bit…it’s more meaningful that way.)

It's time we get out of the mud and focus on the bigger picture.

It’s time we get out of the mud and focus on the bigger picture.

Recently, in the state of North Dakota, it was debated in the legislature whether or not that $1 per head should be raised – to a staggering $2 per head. The extra $1 per head is also refundable, if the rancher decides that he/she doesn’t want to participate.

The beef checkoff has been behind the scenes for some pretty remarkable advertising campaigns that has definitely hit home with those in the grocery store. (I seriously sometimes pretend that Sam Elliot is reading to me when I’m reading in bed.) As well as assisting in funding research that has added new cuts of meat for those looking for a great way to put beef on the table, while saving a few dollars in the marketplace.

It's easier to do our job in the barn, knowing that there's someone else behind a desk working for our herd.

It’s easier to do our job in the barn, knowing that there’s someone else behind a desk working for our herd.

An increase of $1 for advertising, research and education throughout a 30-year time frame? I wish more areas of my life grew at that rate.

Instead of muddying the waters and creating a bigger black-eye for a product trying to create positive energy and excitement around what we can offer the average grocery-buyer, why don’t those that don’t believe in the power of the $1 ask for their refund and stand back and let the rest of us get to work. If the ranchers of North Dakota truly don’t believe in the work that’s accomplished through the checkoff, then they will all request their extra $1 back per head and the fund will have no extra money. Simple enough.

But remember, those funds go to activities and opportunities that the average person doesn’t have at their disposal. Scientific research, research at the market, advertising campaigns – activities at the state and local level that are beyond a single rancher’s pocketbook. Which is why pooling money across the board is the easiest way to accomplish big things.

The world is made up of talkers and doers. Unfortunately, those working on accomplishing true gains are usually too busy to worry about defending their work.

As someone actively involved in promoting agriculture and championing a way of life that I love, I understand the amount of time and funds it can take to create, hone and share a successful message. If we want to be successful, we need to work together – not tear each other apart.

And that’s worth a buck in my book.

Disclaimer: My spouse currently serves on the North Dakota Beef Commission. But the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. Trust me, we don’t always agree. And I’m more than willing to tell him what I think…just ask him. 🙂 

Animal care – it’s what we do…an update

Last spring I wrote about a little calf on our farm that we found had a broken jaw. In some cases, it may have been considered a lost cause, but our vets are pretty special, and most farmers that I know would do anything to alleviate pain and suffering in an animal.

This is what “Darrel” looked like when he was in the process of being fixed (read the original story here):

broken jaw fixed on calf

The calf is still sedated, but the jaw is now aligned and secured to heal. Notice the feeding tube, so that proper nutrition can be maintained.

And I’m happy to say that this is “Darrel” now:

And this is the calf a few months later!

And this is the calf a few months later!

Injured calf on the mend

Even with a broken jaw, this calf was able to continue to get the nutrition it needed.

So why share such a story? Well, it seems so many times we hear the evils of farms and ranches that raise animals for food…and most of the times those stories are exaggerated, fabricated or taken out of complete context. But it doesn’t change the fact that our farm and farms just like ours do the best that we can, for each and every animal that we raise.

Including a small calf with a broken jaw.

Sometimes it doesn’t turn out like the fairytale we wish, sometimes the cause is lost before you even begin the fight, but as we weigh the benefits and the risks, the pros and the cons, we all have one thing in common: we want to eliminate needless suffering.

Sometimes that takes a round or two of antibiotics, sometimes it takes a call to the veterinarian and a surgery…and sometimes it means letting go and making sure that the animal is put to rest as quickly as possible.

But I will admit, I like the happy endings a lot better.

Calving season has started

Yesterday was a day to mark down on our calendars – literally. We had two heifers calve, which means that calving season has officially begun. Unfortunately, one calf was born dead, which is always a hard situation to take.

So what went wrong? Well, somehow, during the birthing process, the calf ended up having a foot back. You see, a calf should be born like this:

But instead, it looked something like this:

And Boss Man did what he could to bring the foot forward, so the calf could be born safely, but sometimes it doesn’t work out…and this was one of those cases. We do our best not to intervene unless we have to, but you never know what Mother Nature has in store for you.

This morning I was fortunate to go out right at sunrise. And with the new day:

At first light, I noticed something on the straw.

At first light, I noticed something on the straw.

The sun was just kissing the sky as I went out.

Comes new beginnings:

This heifer is a good mama.

The only problem with the calf being born on the straw, is that it’s only 19 degrees outside. Not ideal for a wet, warm calf fresh to the world. So I called Boss Man down and let him know what was going on. New mothers aren’t always predictable, can be feisty and mean, and really don’t appreciate their calves being messed with…so I let my hubby deal with the logistics of getting the calf someplace warmer. (It’s kind of like him doing laundry, I’m not happy, he’s not happy, so it’s just best if I do it myself.)

Boss Man uses the calf sled to bring the calf to the barn. Mama is close behind, making sure her calf is safe and doesn’t get too far from her!

The last 12 hours have had its highs and lows, but I know that we are where we’re supposed to be…and days like today make it all worthwhile.

No man needs sympathy because he has to work . . . Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

– Theodore Roosevelt

Calf in a cast

What happens when a 1200-pound-plus cow steps on its newborn calf? Well, lets just say that the calf isn’t usually a winner. But in this case, the vet was called in and so far, things are looking good.

He may be wearing a cast, but it's not slowing him down!

That’s right, we have a calf in a cast. He’ll keep the cast on until the first week of April or so…and while he has his cast on, he’ll be treated to a special pen in the yard, and will spend his nights next to his mother in the barn.

Broken legs don’t happen often on the farm, but when they do, it’s important to have them heal as best as they can, so the calf can walk normally and be able to stand and regain use of the limb. And so far, this little guy seems to be doing great.

Walking around, checking out his surroundings.

So what does it cost to have a cast put on a calf? Our vet bill was right at $200. Plus a little extra time for a few weeks.

And it was a great teaching moment for the boys.

And those moments are priceless.

 

Walking a mile…

During the course of the last few weeks, (and when I look back, it’s truly months) there has been a lot of air-, print- and cyber-time given to criticize our food choices. Everywhere I look, I find articles that declare that we should not eat this, definitely not that, and the latest articles declare that red meat will bring your premature demise.

Wow, that’s some tough stuff.

I wonder how this study was funded, and how they came up with participants. Did it go something like this: “Hey, would you like to eat some meat and I’ll record when you die?”

OK, I’m going overboard a bit, but can we order up a dose of common sense, please?

In a country where we boast the most freedoms in the world, we certainly do like to spend a lot of time telling everyone what they should and should not be doing. Here’s the only thing I know for certain: Don’t eat anything…and you will die prematurely. That’s a guarantee. And there are those in this world who die from that every day. And they wouldn’t bat an eye at the red meat that supposedly kills you early, or the nutritionally-sound-but-poorly-named “pink slime,” or fresh vegetables, or bagged lettuce, or whatever else we’re supposed to be afraid of on our plate.

Consumers have a right to know about their food, and a right to question the methods, geography and cost of what they put on their plates. What I don’t appreciate is mainstream media’s drive to push misleading and incorrect information to the masses. They certainly do enjoy inciting mass-hysteria, but I have yet to see them stick around for the clean-up.

In a world where we are all about conserving resources and making the most out of what we have, I’m surprised that a method of being able to save a few more pounds of healthy beef is chastised instead of celebrated. (And it really, truly is beef, not some mystery liquid.)

Here is the bottom line: if you don’t want it, don’t buy it. Simple as that. We’re living in a country where we have food choices that each person can make. But we also have to make sure that there are choices available, not just for the affluent and “foodies,” but for John Q and those that have limited budgets. And when we have sources that are nutritionally sound and more economical, why wouldn’t we use them?

It seems to me that those that are speaking the loudest, are the ones that are able to make the most choices. They don’t have to worry about feeding a family of five on less than $10 per day, they don’t know what it’s like to not have money left for food. They’ve never had to collect commodities at a local office, wondering what they were going to make with gifts they’ve been given.

And that’s a mile I pray that I never have to walk again.

The beauty of calving

This weekend was absolutely wonderful. The weather could not have been more perfect…well, maybe a little less windy yesterday, but it was still very nice. And with nice weather came a little boom in our calving.

When the weather is nice, though, it’s a little easier. The mud isn’t fun to mess with, but thanks to the wind, it’s been drying pretty nicely.

Here’s some of my shots from the weekend. And I’ll have more on Wednesday! Enjoy!

Hmmm...My calving instincts aren't always right on, but I'm thinking something here is telling me that she needs to head to the barn.

Just another beautiful bovine.

Our lilacs are trying to tell us that it's spring.

The cousins, in a race of epic proportions!

Mom, can't I just nap here?

Thankful Thursday – Shelter

Our blizzard turned out to be not so much a snow event, as it was a wind event…but it still made me so very grateful. And after the storms in Illinois and elsewhere, I thought it would be appropriate today to give my thanks for shelter.

I'm thankful for shelter for our calves...and a Boss Man that cares for them!

 

The calves love playing in the fresh straw.

 

Snug as a bug in a rug.

 

I'm thankful for the equipment and technology that allows us to care for our animals, like this bale processor.

 

The bale processor (above) grinds up the corn stubble (left over corn stalks) that our farm baled at the end of harvest last year. It provides great bedding for our cows, as well as a treat or two, as they find leftover corn cobs and other goodies in the bedding.

It's kind of like an Easter egg hunt, in your bed.

 

And I’m grateful for our home, and for all of those that make it possible for us to provide shelter for our animals, our children and ourselves.

And as I give thanks for the shelter that we have, I offer prayers and condolences to those that lost their homes and their lives during this week’s storms.