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.

Afraid of answers – the truth behind bio-terrorists

It’s headlines like these that make me shudder and breaks my heart:

“Golden Rice” trial vandalized

I don’t understand it…and I don’t think I ever will.

I’ve been working on a post that delves a little deeper into my thoughts, but let me just say that this is the highest act of cowardice I have seen in quite some time.

Why would someone destroy research that was in the process of going through a safety check? My only conclusion is that they are afraid of the answers…or more importantly, afraid that the answer isn’t what they want to hear.

Here’s what else I’ve concluded about the terrorists cowards…I’m guessing they’ve never experienced hunger…true hunger. Not “I-don’t-feel-like-going-to-the-kitchen” hunger, but the “I-haven’t-ate-in-days-and-don’t-know-where-I-will-get-food” hunger. Once you’ve reached that point, you generally don’t go around destroying food sources. Period.

And for those that will throw around the idea that it’s OK to destroy research, because genetically modified food isn’t the way it was meant to be…well, that’s kind of where the post I’ve been working on is heading. But until I get it worded right, and until I feel a little better about putting my thoughts out there, all I have to say is this: I’m pretty certain that in the Good Book there isn’t a chapter in Genesis about how Adam and Eve gave Abel powdered formula from a can when nothing else would keep him alive, but somehow we’ve moved from the apple in Eden to where we are today. Because of that, I have a little boy that is defying the odds and showing science a thing or two about statistics.

And that, my friends, is neither about strictly God or strictly science, it’s an interwoven tale of how the two can exist…and why I believe completely in both.

No, we cannot blindly follow science and not tread lightly when it comes to advances and technology. But destroying research before the answers can be recorded? Yes, it truly makes my heart break.

Imagine, if you will, the public outrage if someone were to destroy a cancer research lab? Hunger and malnourishment are just as real and just as deadly as cancer…and the answers are there, we just need to be willing to look for them.

And we can’t be afraid of what we will find.

I fully expect that there will be people the vehemently disagree with me and my points of view…that’s your right, and I respect that, but I also expect all comments to be polite, clean and non-derogatory. If you are unable to follow those guidelines, please refrain from commenting. I reserve the right to edit/delete as needed. Thank you!

Embracing the science behind cropping technology

As I mentioned previously, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to St. Louis last week to meet a few people that I admire greatly. Today, I’m going to tell you about Mark Lynas, a former anti-GMO activist, and the information that he shared at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. (Check out the whole presentation here!)

I was lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Mark Lynas give a presentation in St. Louis last week. The opportunity was an amazing one indeed!

I was lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Mark Lynas give a presentation in St. Louis last week. The opportunity was an amazing one indeed!

Mr. Lynas started out with a humble statement that it was hard for him to believe that an apology could make someone skyrocket to fame. Yet, he sincerely was sorry for the destruction and set-backs he may have caused by standing in the way of authentic scientific research by destroying biotech-research sites.

He wasn’t proud of what he had done…but what troubled him the most was the fact that he was so willing to buy into what the other activist groups were selling. It was concerning to realize that he would ignore the science behind biotechnology.

Science. The facts are there, but how long will it take until we believe them?

Science. The facts are there, but how long will it take until we believe them?

Lynas grew up determined to see a more equal world. Poverty is a terrible thing to witness, an even more terrible thing to stare in the face. Trust me, once you’ve lived with hunger…true hunger…you’ll never forget that feeling. Ever. And I do have to agree with him that we have seen great progress in our time in the reduction of poverty across the globe. Yet, I do believe we can all agree that we have a lot more work to do.

As Lynas said during his presentation, “I knew how everyone else should live their lives.”

Isn’t that the truth? Isn’t it so much easier to determine what everyone else should be doing? And how difficult is it to admit that our preconceived notions may be incorrect? That what we’ve determined to be our “truth,” may be anything but?

Lynas now works mainly behind the scenes, to help in the battle for food security. He knows that scientists need to start standing up and speaking for themselves. We cannot continue to dismiss science or destroy tests before the research is completed.

Does that mean that we should jump into biotechnology and genetically modified crops without hesitation or questions? Definitely not. Caution is always prudent, and surely mistakes will be made along the way, but we cannot keep looking back, we need to move forward to provide for our growing population.

Using technology can help ease hunger around the world.

Using technology can help ease hunger around the world.

“Being anti-science is being anti-humanitarianism.”

 

So where does this leave us? Do people have the right to know what’s in their food?

Of course. Questions will always be present, and people who make purchases have the right to determine what they want to buy. But as Lynas remarked, “On the other hand, we can’t stamp a skull and crossbones on every label.” And those at the market shelves should be well-aware that places such as Whole Foods are making a great living by thriving on the fear surrounding GMO foods. In fact, it’s one of the most successful marketing ploys today.

Overall, the few hours that I was able to meet Mark Lynas and take in his presentation will go down as one of the most memorable mornings of my life (right after the birth’s of my four boys!).

How do I sum up my whole experience? Well, I believe that I can quote Lynas directly on this one:

“You don’t stop learning when you leave school.”

Amen.

I know that not all of my readers agree with me on the biotechnology issue, and that’s quite all right by me. But please, if you choose to leave a comment, keep it positive and offer solutions, not just blame the establishment for your lot in life and threaten my farm or family. In the near future, I will tackle the religious side to the biotechnology argument. And it may or may not surprise you! Thanks for reading, and come back soon!

Is our farm “green”?

Recently I’ve had an influx of new followers on Twitter. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, and my smart phone, I was able to be notified right away.

At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed that one had added me to a list. The list was titled “green bloggers.”

Come again?

My first response was, “Boy, are they going to be disappointed.” But then, with encouragement from some social media friends, I realized it was an amazing opportunity. How could I pass it up?

You see, “green” is another one of those terms that has been hijacked. It is defined so differently by so many, and yet, those that it means the most to (farmers), use it the least.

In fact, I was first offended to be called “green.” To me, it meant that I was more concerned about how my food got to my plate, instead of just being grateful that I could put anything there to begin with.

To me, it meant that I thought more about how creation began, and less about how it would continue to exist.

To me, it meant that I was willing to believe that God could use science to create cures for diseases and ailments, but He couldn’t possibly use science to prevent starvation and hunger for so many of His people.

But none of that is true.

Being green is an awareness, not an action. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. Being green is making decisions knowing that you’re doing what’s best for the next generation, based on what you know and your experiences. Being green is as personal as religion. Yet, being green is NOT a religion.

A lot of times farmers shout from the rooftops, that they are the original environmentalists. And although that is true, it doesn’t do us much good to keep reminding people…instead, let’s show them.

Actions speak louder than words. So let our actions speak for us.

Is our equipment larger than decades ago? Yes, but that means fewer trips down the field, less fuel and greater time savings. Do our fields have company signs on them? Sure, but it’s more for our information than anything else. That way, farmers know which brand, which variety worked best for the conditions that year. Kind of like labeling your garden rows.

ultrasound technology in calving

Technology can be very useful in farming, including ultrasounding for calving!

The biggest question? Is technology worth it? My simple answer is yes. Unequivocally. Technology allows us the opportunity to use state-of-the-art tools and equipment to use less fuel, less chemicals and be more aware of our impact on future generations.

But the best part of it all? The ability to choose. You can choose what does/does not work for your farm, your family, your table, your health. And that’s the most important advancement of all.

I no longer will fear the label of being “green.” Instead, I will embrace it. And perhaps, before long, my grass will be, too.

How does our farm decide what to plant?

I’m tackling a few farming basics on my blog these next few weeks, for a variety of reasons: 1) spring still hasn’t showed up, delaying my ability to be outside and getting some of these very same things done, 2) search terms leading people to my blog are letting me know that there are a lot of these types of questions out there, and 3) I just so happen to have recorded some radio spots that answered these questions.

I decided to tackle our planting decisions as the first in this series. Why? Because with the late spring, our decisions may be changing rapidly. But in order for you to understand the process, I’ll start at the beginning and walk you through it all.

The next year’s season begins as we’re taking the crop off. (Actually, the plans are in the works for years before, but harvest kicks off the next planting cycle.) Boss Man has a general idea of what he would like to plant, where he plans on planting it, and what the soil conditions will need to be like in order to be successful.

combine, harvest

EJ, watching his Dad and Grandfather harvest a crop a few years ago. We have since upgraded from the Massey combines to green machines!

Shortly after the crop is off the field, our crop consultant performs soil tests to see where our soil stands, as far as nutrient needs and potential for the next spring. That’s how we find out what amenities we may need to apply, for example nitrogen, phosphorous, etc. It’s pretty scientific, but we can rely on the expertise of those around us. Kind of like taking kids to the doctor to see what’s wrong, but instead of our kids, it’s our soil we test.

Many times seed companies have discounts or incentives that make it worthwhile to purchase your seed early. That way they know what types of seed may be in demand the next year, etc., and they can better prepare for the coming spring as well.

Now, let me be clear with one thing. Although different companies may offer incentives, the decision lies solely with our farm.

I know that some believe that seed companies bully farmers or push them into making different decisions, but I have yet to encounter anything of the sort. In fact, most of the seed representatives in our area are local farmers themselves.

farm freebies

Freebies, such as the hat on Boss Man’s head, may seem like great perks…but they don’t play a role in the decisions we make.

On our farm, we diversify. We buy a variety of seed from a variety of places, and make decisions for the next year based on how the crop performed and the availability at the time that we order.

But that’s also all done in pencil…meaning it may change.

Take, for example, this spring. Here it is, the end of April. And we still have snow on the ground. The weather isn’t much above freezing. It doesn’t appear as if field work will happen any time soon. Before too long, some of the crop decisions that were made last fall, may end up being changed.

late spring in ND

A recent storm dumped an extra 20 inches of snow on us. It’ll be a few days before we can even think about planting anything!

Why is that?

Different crops are planted at different times, ensuring that they have a long enough growing season to fully mature before harvest. It’s similar to planning a garden. You know you can plant peas throughout the season. They grow fast and mature quickly. Yet, tomatoes are more finicky about their care and need more time to produce fruit.

corn plant

We do what we can to make sure our crops have the best change to produce a great crop!

The same is true for crops. Corn and wheat are planted earlier in the year. They need more time to mature. Soybeans can be planted later in the season. They grow more quickly and can perform very well with a later plant date. The same is true for all of the crops that farms grow. Each one is different, and the current conditions may change a farmer’s whole plan for the year.

So the next time you hear that one company or another controls a farmer’s decision on what they plant, you can let people know that you know that’s not true. The ultimate decision lies with the farm.

Well, actually, it’s a much higher power than that, but the farmer is the one whose name is on the dotted line.

What does Earth Day mean on the farm?

Today is April 22, 2013…Earth Day. A lot of people talk about how important today is, but I believe that it’s important to consider the earth and its resources every day.

So how does our farm celebrate Earth Day? Well, to tell you the truth, we don’t. No, today is not a special day. We continue to use our resources as wisely as we can, making decisions based on what our land needs, what we have available and what is best for the future…just as we do every day.

But what does that entail? Let me show you.

seeding wheat, residue

We try to limit the number of passes we make on a field with equipment. Notice the residue on the field? That’s the crop left over from last year. It breaks down and gives nutrients back to the soil. With our late spring, we won’t be in the field any time soon.

crop consultant, analysis, soil samples

We spend a lot of time going over information that’s been collected through soil samples, analysis and watching forecasts. We work closely with our crop consultant to make decisions that are best for our farm and its future.

new calf, straw

All safe and warm inside, no matter what’s going on outside, thanks in part to the wheat straw used for bedding! It’s a farm version of recycling!

Our heating system on our farm is also a great way that we save resources and limit our impact on the environment. The water from our well heats our house, our shop and also waters our cattle! Read more about it here.

Right now spring has yet to show up here in North Dakota, so we’re working on getting our equipment ready for planting. By making sure our equipment is ready, we’re able to use less fuel, make fewer stops, leave our tractors running less often and are able to use our time the most efficiently. But sometimes you have to call in some outside help:

light saber, farming

EJ thought that the planter needed a little extra guidance last year.

force, light saber

Yes, the force was with us.

I guess it’s never too early for the next generation to start adding in their ideas for modifications! 🙂

These are just a few of the steps we take to make sure that we’re doing our part to conserve resources. We know that we need to take care of our land, so that the future of our farm is secure. Happy Earth Day, everyone!

 

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…