From one generation to the next: National Ag Day

Today is National Ag Day, and this year’s theme is “Generations Nourishing Generations.” It couldn’t be worded more perfectly, and if our farm were to have a motto, that would be about as close as we could get.

The whole reason for everything we do is for the next generation, and the one after that, and the one…well, you get what I mean. It’s the reason I became involved in agriculture advocacy, it’s the reason I started this blog, and it’s the reason I continue to communicate with those willing to talk to me. And I will keep going, as long as I can.

This farm started in the hopes of providing a brighter future for those being raised here – and we continue to have the same hopes and aspirations.

Whether it be through the gifts we are given...

Whether it be through the gifts we are given…

...the moments we share...

…the moments we share…

...the fences we cross...

…the fences we cross…

...or the challenges we face.

…or the challenges we face.

One thing I know for certain, I will enjoy every minute of watching the next generation grow and appreciate the land that we have come to love. And that is the best gift of all.

How are you celebrating National Ag Day?

From our next generation to yours...

From our next generation to yours…

 

 

 

 

Calving: Backwards Calf

Last weekend I was helping out Boss Man by checking cows. It’s become one area of the farm that I’ve been able to get more involved in, and I love it!

During these cold winter months, we check the cows that are due to calve at least every two hours. We do this to try to guarantee that calves are born inside the barn, where it’s warm and protected, not outside in the cold. Another reason to check on the cows frequently is to be able to step in when there’s a problem…and on this particular day, there was one.

One of the things that I look for when checking cows is the presentation of the calf being born. As I talked about a few days ago, sometimes calves can present in ways that jeopardize their chances of being born safely, much like when a woman is pregnant and the baby is breech, transverse, etc.

When a calf is presenting in the best way possible, they come out feet first, headlong…kind of like they’re diving out of the birth canal. You look for the feet to be toes down, or the hoof to be pointing down towards the ground.

If you look under the tail, you can see that this calf is being born with its toes pointed down. By catching the cow at this stage, she was able to walk to the barn and safely have the calf indoors.

If you look under the tail, you can see that this calf is being born with its toes pointed down. By catching the cow at this stage, she was able to walk to the barn and safely have the calf indoors.

Unfortunately, when I noticed that this particular cow was calving, the toes were pointing up, indicating that the calf was coming backwards. In this case, the calf needs to be born quickly, so that it’s chance of survival is greatest.

This is a diagram of what a calf being born backwards looks like. A quick delivery is the best way to guarantee that the calf has its greatest chance of survival.

This is a diagram of what a calf being born backwards looks like. A quick delivery is the best way to guarantee that the calf has its greatest chance of survival.

I let Boss Man know what I had found, and he was able to assist the cow in having the calf quickly by attaching pulling chains to the back feet, and pulling the calf out at the same time that the cow is pushing. Together they quickly delivered a healthy calf.

It’s great to know that your hard work and dedication can pay off, especially when sleep is short and the list of things to do gets long.

Have any other questions about calving? Be sure to ask, and I’ll explain what I can (and look up what I can’t!).

What size of brush are you painting with?

I was watching George paint the other day. It was entertaining, to say the least. He would take his paint brush, and dip it into all the colors, then get mad when the picture didn’t turn out like he had imagined.

And he expected me to fix it.

This little artist gets frustrated when his "masterpieces" don't turn out as he had planned. Sometimes instead of being a beautiful piece of work, it's just a mess.

This little artist gets frustrated when his “masterpieces” don’t turn out as he had planned. Sometimes instead of being a beautiful piece of work, it’s just a mess.

He couldn’t understand that the problem had nothing to do with the paper, or the colors, or me, but with the brush he was using and how he was using it. And it reminded me of a conversation that occurred online just a few days ago.

Someone had asked for anyone that calves this time of year to explain why they were doing it, or what benefit they perceived that they received from calving during winter months. I simply replied that with our operation and our location, calving now was what made sense for us. It’s easier for us to deal with snow and ice, rather than mud and muck.

It's not always fun making sure the cattle stay protected in the winter, but the snow and ice are easier to deal with than...

It’s not always fun making sure the cattle stay protected in the winter, but the snow and ice are easier to deal with than…

...the mud and muck of spring.

…the mud and muck of spring.

The responses that were received from people who also raise cattle was surprising, to say the least. One claimed that “winter calvers” are not profitable. Another claimed that some people were too willing to work too hard to make less money.

At first I was somewhat offended. And then I found a little humor in the situation. But it wasn’t until watching my son getting frustrated with his paintbrush, that I realized the lesson that could be learned from it all.

The humor? Well, if winter calving operations aren’t profitable…then there’s a check or two that I’d like to cancel. Mainly to the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, Boss Man will be relieved to hear that our days of paying taxes are over, now that we’re a non-profit livestock operation. Whew! What a relief that is! (Yes, my dear reader, that is sarcasm. At its finest.)

The lesson? When you’re working to make a better picture, using a broad brush will get you nowhere. Neither will dipping your brush in all the colors, expecting for everything to work out.

The same is true in agriculture…or any industry, actually. What makes our way of life great is the reds, the blues, the greens and yellows. All the different colors, all the different sizes, shapes and methods of operating. Together, agriculture makes a wonderful picture. But if you try to shoehorn us all into what you perceive to be the “only way” to farm or ranch? Well, you end up with a big old ugly mess.

We all have the same end result in mind. A great, abundant, affordable food supply for anyone looking for it. And the beauty is, in the great country we live in, the choices are there for you to make. You can decide the types of food you want, the way you want it raised and the price you want to pay for it…there’s always a decision, even if it’s take it or leave it.

Making sure that our calves are healthy and happy...that's our main objective, same as most anyone raising livestock.

Making sure that our calves are healthy and happy…that’s our main objective, same as most anyone raising livestock.

And we have choices, too. We decide our methods and what works for our operation – whether it’s calving now or in the fall, using no-till or conventional methods, growing organic crops or using biotechnology. It’s one of the main principles our country is built on.

I was upset by the insinuation that our operation was sub-par because of the decisions we made, but after the lesson my son taught me, I’ve taken something valuable away from what could have been a disappointing situation.

And that was my choice, too.

WW – Calving 2013

I have a lot of stuff running through my head, but not enough time to write it all down. Here’s some cuteness to get you through the day:

A peak at a new calf through the gate in the barn.

A peak at a new calf through the gate in the barn.

Fresh on the farm!

Fresh on the farm!

This is the fourth bull calf from #27, the famous cow the tweets!

This is the fourth bull calf from #27, the famous cow the tweets!

Just catching some rays!

Just catching some rays!

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

Most kids get in trouble when they drink milk straight from the carton!

Most kids get in trouble when they drink milk straight from the carton!

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

Flat Aggie visits our farm

We had a visitor at our farm this week. He didn’t eat much, didn’t take up much room, but wanted to learn about what we do. His name is Flat Aggie, and he’s a project that was started by a teacher in California.

Many people are aware of Flat Stanley, the popular children’s book that follows the adventures of a paper man. This project is very similar, except the teacher sends Flat Aggie to farms across the country, hoping to learn through Flat Aggie’s travels all about what happens on the farm.

So what did Flat Aggie learn about on our farm? He helped with tagging our heifers with their cow tags. (To learn more about what the cow tags mean, such as their color, read more here.) For our heifers, that’s kind of like being adopted. When we switch out their calf tag with a cow tag, we’re including them in our herd.

A simple hair cut around the ears helps us see the cow tag better. Notice how the number on the left is much easier to see than the number on the right? Thanks, Flat Aggie, for the help!

A simple hair cut around the ears helps us see the cow tag better. Notice how the number on the left is much easier to see than the number on the right? Thanks, Flat Aggie, for the help!

While we were tagging the heifers, Flat Aggie also helped us trim the hair growing in the cattle’s ears. This makes it easier to see the tag numbers when we are working with the cattle. It’s important that we’re able to know which cow we’re dealing with from a distance, so that we can keep track of health, calving progress, etc.

This heifer (meaning she's going to have her first calf soon) is trading her yellow calf tag in for a blue cow tag!

This heifer (meaning she’s going to have her first calf soon) is trading her yellow calf tag in for a blue cow tag!

The last thing Flat Aggie helped us with was giving pre-calving vaccinations. For our cattle, this is very important for the health of the unborn calf. Think of it as a pregnant woman getting a flu shot. The risk of being ill while pregnant, or immediately after the baby is born is greater than the minimal risk of the vaccination. In cattle, even more so.

Before she goes back to eating her breakfast, this heifer gets a shot that will help protect her unborn calf from illness.

Before she goes back to eating her breakfast, this heifer gets a shot that will help protect her unborn calf from illness.

The best part of having Flat Aggie visit our farm? Being able to see things from another perspective. Having to figure out how to explain what we do so that a student could understand was a real eye-opening experience. And it’s great to connect to others across the country that are interested in what we do, but really have no way of finding out, other than through activities like this.

Did it take a little time? Of course. Was it worth it? Without a doubt.

Flat Aggie will be moving on to his next farm, learning his next lesson, sharing his next story. But you don’t need to have a piece of paper to encourage you to share your story. You can do it all on your own.

Trust me, people are wanting to hear what you have to say…you just have to take the step to share it.

When the wife responds…

I have a ton of stuff to get you all caught up on, but I have to share my little story first.

Last night, as I was reading through our emails (they sometimes pile up a mile high, you know?), I caught a message from Boss Man’s friend, who just so happens to be an equipment dealer. He was getting Mark some information regarding the upgrade that they talked about for our payloader (it’s a machine that Mark uses to clean the manure out of the cattle lots, move junk, sometimes snow, etc.).

Well, an upgrade was all news to me. We have a ton of house projects that we need to work on, but I didn’t know that he was thinking about changing some of the equipment. And, truthfully, it’s not real surprising, since I’m usually the last to know! 🙂

I apparently was feeling pretty cheeky last night, because I decided to pay my dear hubby back by replying to the email. And this is what I wrote:

After consulting with my beautiful wife, I've decided that to
spend more money on farm equipment is futile. I shall spend
the rest of my days trying to please her exquisite tastes,
flying to the corners of the world, taking trips abroad, and
showing her the seven wonders of the world...of which, she is
the eighth. Sorry, but I will no longer have time for trivial
things, such as cattle, hunting or just wasting time away
visiting with others.

I followed with:

Yeah, well, I guess I’ll pass this message on to Mark. 😉

 

Lesson of the day: Perhaps we should discuss major purchases…you never know who will respond to the email!

What makes a constitutional amendment?

As I’ve made perfectly clear in the past, I am in favor of Measure 3, the North Dakota Constitutional amendment that would protect farming and ranching and modern practices employed by farmers and ranchers.

I want to address one of the concerns that is being brought up by the only vocal agricultural group in opposition to this measure…the North Dakota Farmer’s Union.

First of all, as a member of Farmer’s Union (I’m a member of Farm Bureau as well), let me tell you that I’m extremely disappointed and concerned regarding the stance they have on this measure. It’s becoming more of a school-ground bullying match than fact-sharing, and it’s not what being in agriculture is all about.

Enough about that, let’s get to the issue. Opponents of the measure keep declaring that the constitutional amendment is too vague. Practices aren’t specified and there are no restrictions for negligence.

Why did I highlight constitutional amendment? Because that’s what this is…a change to our state constitution, that would protect the heritage that makes North Dakota the great state that it is, that provides food, fiber and fuel for the world.

The amendment needs to be broad enough to stand the test of time, allowing society to advance and our state constitution to stay current, even when we can’t imagine what the next century may bring.

Let’s take a look at another constitutional amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

 

Wait a minute…how could that amendment have been passed? It doesn’t state that you can’t use weapons negligently. It doesn’t state that you are limited to muskets and cannons only. So, surely, it must have been voted down and didn’t stand the test of time, right?

How about another one:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

Geez, that one didn’t pass either, did it? I mean, it doesn’t specifically state that I can’t call someone a few choice words in a newspaper ad that runs across the country. Oh, wait…but I can’t, can I? Not without the other person having legal recourse.

No, constitutional amendments are NOT about specifying exactly what it is you can or cannot do, it’s about upholding the wishes of the people of the state, for generations to come. It allows flexibility for growth and changes that are made by society, yet it protects the basic rights that we should be entitled to…and that includes our agricultural heritage.

With these rights come expectations, regulations and limitations, it does not, nor will it ever, trample on the rights and freedoms of others. It allows for the legal protection of our way of life and direction for those that are making the laws that will govern our future societies.

Please, do not tell me that Measure 3 is too vague in its wording, and needs to have specifics put in place.

Although, all I can do is ask, because there’s already an amendment that allows you that right.

Yes on North Dakota Measure 3

Did you know that America’s farmers and ranchers produce 16 percent of the total world food production on just 10 percent of the world’s land?

Agriculture and related industries provide jobs for more than 21 million Americans. That’s 15 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

In 1940, each U.S. farmer annually fed approximately 19 people in the U.S. and abroad. In 1960, each farmer feed about 46 people. In 1980, 115. In 2000, 139. Today, each U.S. farmer feeds approximately 154 people here and abroad. And they are doing it with fewer inputs, and on fewer acres.

Farming and agriculture is the backbone of our country, but more importantly, it’s the number one industry in North Dakota. Long after the oil boom has come and gone, farming will still be growing our economy and providing for our state and our country.

 

Waiting his turn…his dad is in the tractor, his grandpa is in the combine. Is his future in jeopardy?

 

Measure 3 is a constitutional amendment that will ensure that out-of-state interests and activist groups will not be able to pass ballot initiatives that would jeopardize our heritage of agriculture. This measure would protect the way of life that has made North Dakota a great state and a great place to raise a family.

But there are misconceptions about what this measure is about, and we’d like to clear those up. This measure is NOT about farming systems, it doesn’t pit organic versus conventional or large versus small. This measure would ensure that if you wanted to use GPS and auto steer in your tractor, that would be allowed. You would be allowed to raise livestock of your choosing without worrying that some out-of-state feel-good group is going to tell you that your buildings or fences are abusive to the animal. You would also be allowed to make your own individual seed and chemincal choices on your farm, including heirlooms, biotechnology, organic or conventional. A law could not be passed determining what is right for all farms in North Dakota, those decisions would be left to each farm to make.

The measure is NOT about removing local control. It would not limit local zoning ordinances, nor would it remove the power from local and state governments for regulations.

Measure 3 IS about allowing farmer’s markets and other niche consumer activities to continue to grow and prosper, it’s about giving people choices and protecting our past, present and future. The constitutional amendment is intentionally broad enough to stand the test of time, yet focused enough to protect what North Dakota holds dear.

For those that would question whether regulations would still be allowed, we give you an example of another constitutional right. We have the right to bear arms, but with that right also comes limitations, responsibilities and regulations. The same is true for agriculture.

We just want the right to farm, without risk of having someone else from out of state taking that right away.

Protecting ALL animals – Vote NO on Measure 5

North Dakota is an agricultural state. No matter what happens in the west with the oil boom, agriculture will still be here for generations to come…if we protect our heritage.

There is a measure that will show up on the November ballot that can put all of that at risk, and it’s up to us, the citizens of our great state, to stand up and let others know that we fully support and wish to protect our legacy.

What am I talking about? Measure 5 is a poorly worded, narrow-focused measure that has been crafted by an out-of-state animal-rights group that has a history of coming in with big guns, lots of money and slick ads, changing state laws and then pushing anti-farming, anti-hunting and pro-vegan agendas. All while making you feel warm and fuzzy that you’re helping little kitties and doggies.

Do you know how much of the Humane Society of the United States’ budget goes to truly help hands-on pet shelters? Less than 1 percent of the multi-millions that are in their budget. The rest is spent on pensions, lobbying and suing others to make them follow their guidelines.

We cannot let a group such as this in the door.

Let’s take a closer look at the measure, not just the people behind it.

To start with, the measure only addresses horses, cats and dogs. Why would that be? Well, it seems pretty plain to me that they’re aiming at easy targets for an emotional argument. It’s a great marketing ploy. If you were to set my dog on fire, you better believe that I want you to see jail time. In fact, jail is probably the safest place for you, because if I have an opportunity to inflict harm on you, well, I may face a little jail time myself.

Hurt one of these little guys maliciously, and you better hope you’re in jail, where I can’t get a hold of you. Yet, she’s not included in the measure.

But the same is true for my cows. And they wouldn’t be protected under the measure.

Another problem I have with the measure is the scope of “crimes” that it addresses. Here it is directly from the measure: “Any individual who maliciously and intentionally burns, poisons, crushes, suffocates, impales, drowns, blinds, skins, beats to death, drags to death, exsanguinates, disembowels, or dismembers any living dog, cat, or horse is guilty of a class C felony.”

I agree that all of those things are cruel, malicious and worthy of jail time (or worse), yet those things rarely happen in our state. In fact, when you search for crimes like these in reports, you have a hard time finding any at all.

Yet, the most common types of cruelty are not addressed. Things such as starvation and animal hoarding, which cause much more distress and harm to the animals, aren’t even mentioned. Why? Perhaps because a law such as this would seem to be a no-brainer, but once we let HSUS in the door, we’re open to litigation, interpretation by the courts and forced to defend those things that should be seen as protected rights.

I’m not asking people to just vote “No” and call it a day. There is a group of people that have worked hard to come up with an alternative that could be passed legislatively, making it easier to adjust as concerns come up and easier to amend when times change.

Let’s send the message that we don’t need out-of-state interests coming in to our state and telling us what to do and how to treat our animals. The scare tactics they use to push these measures is almost laughable, if it weren’t happening right here.

Defeating this measure is not going to be easy. When their advertising revolves around cute cats and puppies and ignores the issues surrounding the measure, it’s pretty plain to see what we’re up against.

We love our cats…and our dogs…and our cows. But Measure 5 is not the right answer, for any of them! Vote NO!

I love my dogs, I love our cats…but I also love our cows. Voting “No” is not a vote against our pets, it’s a vote for common sense and a vote for the future of agriculture.

Do you have questions? Would like more information on the history of HSUS and their involvement in other states? Stay tuned. I’ll answer anything you care to ask (or find the answers if I don‘t know), and I’ll be showing you the track record this group has in other states.

But I’ll warn you, it’s not pretty.