Morning Milking Musings: Magic 8 (GMO)Ball

Hello All!

I hope your Christmas was wonderful and that you all enjoyed delicious treats! Did any of those delicious treats contain GMOs?

I see so many labels that say “GMO free” on them, even things that are not food items.  There are a lot of articles out there that are meant to scare you, the consumer, away from GMOs. There are a lot of articles out there that also explain why GMOs, in fact, will not harm your health.  Given this is a morning musing, and is meant to be quick and to the point, I will not go into those details.

I will say, however, that some of the labels that read “GMO free” are about as useful as those that read “contains milk” on a gallon of 2%. Why? Because there are only 8 GMOs.

  1. Corn
  2. Cotton
  3. Canola
  4. Alfalfa
  5. Sugar Beets
  6. Papaya
  7. Squash
  8. Soybeans

Have a Happy New Year!

❤ Meg

A House Is Not A Home…

Hey all!

I don’t know about you, but where I live, its in the teens with a wind chill in the negatives. So, needless to say, I’m very thankful to be in my cozy house today with a hot cup of coffee (or 3).  In the winter, I love curling under a blanket with my fleece leggings on while either watching Criminal Minds (my guilty pleasure) or reading a magazine or good book.  We have a space heater that keeps the living room toasty, and sometimes I like to light candles around the house for a little smell good glow! What makes your house cozy in the cold snap of winter?

So – on to a dairy calf’s house.  I’ve seen a few posts on social media lately with a picture of a dairy calf in a hutch, a small shelter surrounded by a wire enclosure that the calf usually stays in until weaning. Most dairy farms house their calves in these hutches, and for good reason! And first and foremost, pictures of calves in hutches are not veal calves to be sold for meat.  They are the future generation of that farm’s dairy herd!

One of the ladies on a dairy girl Facebook group I am apart of explains it excellently: The calves in their hutches are like babies in a nursery.  That’s exactly the stage in their life they are at.  And so each calf has their own “bassinet” (their hutch) just like each human baby would in a nursery.

Each hutch allows the farmer or calf caretaker to give specific individual care to each calf as they stop by each one.  You can check how much they have eaten and how much water they have had to drink, how they are looking, and if they are feeling good. Just like if you were to feed a bunch of toddlers out of one bowl, you couldn’t see how much each one ate, right? And when all of the kids that play together in a daycare get sick, its hard to figure who was the first, right? Hence, why its easier  for dairy farmers to watch each calf’s health and well-being if they are each in their own individual hutch.

Also, as you well know, kids in daycare spread germs because they are touching each other and the same inanimate objects all day long, thus once one gets sick, they all do.  After calves drink their milk, they like to suck on everything around them in addition to each other  – spreading germs the same way young children do.  Living in individualized hutches keeps calves from doing that so they have less of a risk of getting sick.

Continuing with the disease prevention goal, obviously cleanliness is important too.  It takes less time and is easier to clean one room than it does the whole house, correct? Same with hutches.  The hutches are also usually made of heavy duty plastic with a perimeter of wire fencing, both of which are easy to move around, making cleaning all the more easier.

These hutches also have vents on the sides and top for nice ventilation – no one likes a stuffy house!

And because each calf has a their own little space, they can choose to go outside and soak up some sunshine or play in some rain, or stay inside their hutch and lay down all day.

Now, I’m not pretending hutches are the perfect calf house.  It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t explain all sides to the story and I want this blog to be open about agriculture.  The industry is looking at other ways to house calves because each farm is different and some things can be better done in a different housing situation.

Hutches are harder to keep warmer in the winter – farmers usually pile the straw inside heavy or maybe even have heat lamps and also put calf coats on the calves (yes, they have winter coats too!).  Also, if a calf is not feeling like coming out of her hutch, someone has to go get her when it’s meal time, and those hutches aren’t easy to get into (unless you are bite sized like me), and that’s also after you have already climbed over the wire fence. Now, multiply that by say 10 calves that need to be looked at closer than from outside the hutch.  Is anyone else seeing a little P90x action going on?

Furthermore, each hutch will have to have it’s own set of buckets for food and water, and its more labor intensive to feed row after row of calves their bottles of milk.  Some of the bigger dairy farms can have 50 – 100 + calves to feed at a time – you can easily see the struggle.  Plus, in winter, you can imagine how fun (I say this with the heaviest sarcasm) it would be to trudge around outside feeding calves and probably also getting a little path shoveling in between hutches as well (P90x part 2 coming at ya!).  That cup of coffee and those fleecy pants would be well earned!

The farm I work for doesn’t have hutches – they have individual stalls much like at a horse stable for their calves.  But I still have to do the trudging back to the calf barn along the Great Ice Path!

Whew, that was a lot longer than I thought. I’m glad  I didn’t make it a Morning Milking Musing – its half a novel, not just a quick musing!

 

Happy snowy blowy trails, all!

❤ Meg

 

Morning Milking Musings: Somewhere On A Beach…..

As we are buried under like half a foot of snow and more to come until tomorrow afternoon in addition to the start of temperatures under 30 degrees, I’m dreaming of those hot summer days where I was sweating through my shirt wishing for cooler ones.  During the dog days of summer I’m always reminding myself the sweat and scorching sun is what I’ll be wishing for on days like today. I’m always right.

So what’s the perfect day outside you dream of? Laying out on a beautiful beach drinking a margarita? That’s the group I’m part of! Are you part of the group that thrives on a chilly winter’s day out on the slopes followed by an evening with your hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate curled up by the fire?

What do you think a cow’s perfect day outside consists of? On a farm, most milk cows hang out all day inside a barn in order to be able to lay down peacefully and comfortably, in addition to their feed not more than a walk a few feet away.  However, sometimes different groups of non-milking cows or younger cows (a post on the different groups will be written later – be on the lookout!) hang out at least partially outside.  So is their perfect day a balmy 70 degrees Farenheit? No, remember cows have a body full of hair, so that would be like wearing a heavier coat all the time.  That would be a bit too toasty. So is it a cool 25 degrees Farenheit?   Also no, just like us, cows get cold and can use a lot of energy to stay warm, energy that therefore is not there to be used to make milk.  Just like when you feel drained of energy after spending time outside.

So what is the perfect temperature for our bovine friends? 50 – 60 degrees Farenheit.

 

There’s your bovine fact of the day! Stay warm and stay safe!

❤ Meg

Morning Milking Musings: Mixing Family and Business

This is a new “series” I am going to try out called Morning Milking Musings.  It will be short thoughts about a particular subject on agriculture. When I’m milking, I have a few hours to think and ponder things. Enjoy! Let’s start!

 

There’s a quote that says ” The Family Farm: More than a business – the Family Farm is a lifestyle – it is an ideal worth preserving.”

 

It seems most of the general population seems to think there is no longer the “family” aspect to modern farming.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Most, if not all, farms are still owned and run by families.  Even the large ones.  The larger the farm just means that they typically have to have more non-family employees.  But farms are still run by families, and often times, the farm is run by a large percentage of the families.  Often times parents own the farm and eventually one or more of the children will eventually own the farm and carry on the legacy. But many times siblings, aunts, uncles, and spouses are a vital part of the farm as well.  It takes a whole family unit to run a great farm!

 

The important thing to remember is that whether these farms have dairy cattle, beef cattle, hogs, crops, or any other type of agriculture, this is how the family makes a living – this is their income. So, of  course there is a business aspect to caring for the animals on the farm – just like any other business, the family needs to bring in more money then they spend.  But, that brings up another point – this is all the more reason for the animals to receive the utmost care.  Do you work as productively and efficiently when you aren’t feeling well? No, so why would animals be different? Thus, I wish more people would realize that it is in the farmers best interest to take the best care of their animals, and that is exactly what they do.  Any abuse you see is NOT normal.

 

That’s my morning musings for the day!

Meg

Jumping On The Thankful Bandwagon

Hey all!

I apologize it’s been so long since I’ve posted.  It seems I have so much to say, but don’t know where to start or how to say it. No worries, luckily (or unfortunately) winter is right around the corner and that means a lot of time indoors to contemplate and write.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and especially in light of all the division in our wonderful country due to recent political events, I thought I would share something I heard on a podcast a few weeks ago.

I so wish I could give proper credit to whoever said this quote, but I know I was listening to Herdmark Media’s Story of Agriculture podcast and the guest on that particular episode said something that has stuck with me.  The basic gist of what he said was that though agriculturalists have a lot of ground to make up as far as telling the story of what really happens on farms to gain consumer trust, the one thing that both groups can be thankful for is that we as Americans can be so grateful that we have the choice as to what food we put in our bodies.  And I don’t mean whether you want to drive through McDonalds and grab a Quarter Pounder or order a large pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut, I mean that if someone doesn’t want to eat dairy, they have alternative options.  We all as individual people and families can choose whether we eat dairy free, gluten free, paleo, organic, vegetarian, vegan, or anything in between.

Stop and think about that for a second.  What other country can say that? I’m not going to assume I know, but I don’t think many, if any, other countries have the full range of diet choices like we do due to our industrial, technological, and scientific advancement in food processing.  It’s really amazing.

Heck, we are so advanced in alternative diet options that there are entire stores dedicated to a certain kind of diet or food type!

So while you are pondering your list of what you are thankful for this year, think about the food you are blessed to nourish your body with, and that your relative sitting across from you at the Thanksgiving table has the wonderful opportunity to not eat the same as you if he/she so chooses.  America is truly a great country and one to behold in all it’s glory.

 

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Meg

I Make Sure Cows Eat Better Than We Do!

Hey All!

I hope you all are enjoying this warm weather.  I know it’s been a scorcher the past week here in Ohio, but at the same time I’m so glad for some warm weather.  It does make it a challenge to keep all of the horses and cows cool, and even people too.  I don’t have AC in my truck and the central air is broken and will take some major $$$$ to fix in the house.  So blegh.  But you can’t help but smile seeing all of the sunshine, fields being planted, and flowers blooming!

I’m so excited to announce that I am now an independent consultant with Agri-Nutrition Consulting – I am now starting my journey as a dairy nutritionist!

So yes, dairy farmers have nutritionists for their cows.  And it’s exactly what it sounds like – someone comes to the farm and makes sure the cows are looking healthy and eating well, and they build the recipe the cows’ diets.  Can you imagine what it would be like if you had someone making sure you ate exactly what you needed to each meal to be in the healthiest shape!? To some of you it may sound bad, but it sure would take the worry and struggle out of eating healthy and you wouldn’t have to regret eating that extra cookie!

It’s really not simple to be a dairy nutritionist.  I’ve spent countless hours reading through material and on phone calls with specialists in the company to be taught the ropes.  I’ve also already been to Wisconsin twice in a matter of 6 weeks.  And I am no where to being close to being done training.  It will most likely be ongoing for the foreseeable future.

Cows have a 4 compartment stomach, so each ingredients needs to provide them with the nutrients needed to first, maintain basic body functions and grow a calf, and second, to make milk! It’s very tricky because each nutrient usually functions the best within a certain range, and some nutrients inversely affect others.  It’s all a careful balance, like a teeter totter!

 

Next time I would like to go over body condition scoring, basically if a cow is too skinny or too fat – obviously something I will be looking at a lot as a nutritionist!

Soak up some sun!

❤ Meg

Harnessing the power of social media

The world is at our fingertips.  Especially my generation, the Millennials, have grown up with the advancing technology, even taking computer classes as eary as grade school.  This is why I think it is so important and one of the easiest things agriculturalists can do to agvocate and make a difference in consumers’opinion of how we raise our animals and grow our crops.

And when you think about it, how has PETA/HSUS and other anti-ag organizations managed to convince consumers of the “horrors “of agriculture? Mostly through social media.  The only TV  commercial I’ve seen is one for HSUS and that’s focusing mostly on dogs and cats.  Anti-ag organizations have already harnessed the power of social media – why shouldn’t we?

I’ve witnessed a huge rise in agriculture getting their fair share of social media and it excites me.  I want to see this trend keep growing because that is how we are going to reach consumers.

I currently volunteer as a Twitter moderator for the AgChat Foundation.  Every Tuesday evening at 7 pm Central/8 pm Eastern everyone who wants to join the chat on a specific topic of the week can follow #AgChat.

In college, I was an administrator for one of my organization’s Facebook page, so my track record with social media has gotten quite extensive.  So, I wanted to give my top 5 tips on agvocating and social media presence.  Here goes!

  1. Don’t apologize – share away! Any good post about agriculture is a good one to share.  Don’t hesitate or feel paranoid for being the crazy one that shares all the ag posts.  All the best people are the crazy ones. 😉 While I wouldn’t recommend sharing an ag post every single hour of the day (we all know how it annoying it is to see someone go way overboard), a few a day? Hell yes (pardon my language).
  2. Follow, follow, follow! On every social media account you have, follow as many ag companies, organizations, and farms you can! Not only are they a great source for posts to share, but you never know if you may find your next job or volunteer opportunity! In addition to that, on Facebook, there are so many groups to join that give great tips and insight, as well as the freedom to share your own thoughts and questions to a group with a common interest and endless knowledge from across the world! I absolutely love the Women in Agriculture group, as well as Dairy Girl Network.  There are so many more groups, and one for every flavor! All it takes is a little keyboard time in the search box.
  3. Agvocate to your strengths.  Do you love taking pictures at the county fair or of the cute things your calves do or a beautiful corn field during harvest time? Instagram is your place! Do you like keeping things short, sweet, and to the point? Tap into twitter! Are you an expert at organizing boards and finding good solid articles or pictures? Become a Pinterest pro! Whatever social media platform you love the best, use that to your advantage! You’ll be way more inspired to agvocate when you don’t feel pressured that you have to tweet, pin, and post on everything every day.  If we all played to our strengths on social media, think of the mass amount of agriculture that would blow every platform up every day!
  4. Be aware of your social media personality. Outside of your agriculture posts, pins, and pictures, be mindful of what else you post.  There are undoubtedly going to be people you don’t know very well or don’t know at all that follow or friend you and if you are agvocating, you don’t want to undermine yourself.  Our social media pages are our own personal pages and I’m not trying to tell everyone what they can and cannot post, however, if you post something about antibiotic use in livestock and then the next thing on your profile is a picture of that one night you had a few too many and you made friends with a trashcan, think of what someone would think.  Think of the overall message your profiles on your social media accounts send to followers and friends.
  5. Stay positive. No matter whether you want to rant about something, or are commenting on someone’s post about how cruel farmers are to their animals, stay positive and diplomatic.  No one is going to respect you or listen to what you know if you are mixing in expletives and name calling.  I know, I know, it’s hard when someone attacks an industry you love, but you have to take the higher road.  Every farmer and agriculturalist struggles with it (if you join an ag group you’ll see many a post about this same topic!) but it is necessary to get a positive view of agriculture.

I hope these little tips helped, I wanted to try and think of things that were more unorthodox and less of the common sense things.  I hope I got you to think a bit.  And with that, my friends, I leave you until next time.  Agvocate on!

 

❤ Meg

Your Best College Try

Hello All!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season full of love and laughter.  I also hope you all are weathering this cold, wintery burst of weather that has stormed down on us (at least in my area).  I know life gets harder when its cold and snowy outside!

A few days ago, the high school girl that milks at the same dairy I do shared with me that she got accepted into The Ohio State University, of which I am a proud and unwavering alum.  Needless to say I was so, so excited for her especially upon hearing that her intended major was Animal Sciences, the same as mine was.

It  got me thinking about the moment I was in her shoes, almost 6 years ago now.  The feelings I felt, and the first experiences I had on campus.  The whirlwind of memories and regrets, tough times and laughter, late nights studying and late nights out with friends and peers.  It led to thoughts of what I might do different or change, but also what I did that turned into something great.  So, I wanted to share with you my top 10 list of things every agriculture majoring first year  going into college should know.

  1. You’ll hear this so many times that you could chant it in your sleep, but it rings so true: get involved in student organizations.  Not only is it important to build your resume, but it goes a little deeper than that.  I’ve learned firsthand that you never know what future opportunities you will come across, and thus you never know what the qualifications will be.  The variety you’ve got on your resume means you could check off the qualifications that much easier.  The only thing I would caution is not getting yourself in over your head.  Spreading yourself too thin may translate to not being able to put in your full effort and attention to a role you may be elected to.
  2. Allow yourself time to have some fun. I’m by no means condoning putting yourself or others at risk, or engaging in illegal activity.  Don’t spend your whole college career holed up in your room cracking the books.  Firstly, it can quite literally drive you insane.  Secondly, establishing friendships and relationships with peers is important not only on a personal level, but you never know when you will be able to network with these same people in a professional way! And lastly, the best memories aren’t made in front of your General Chemistry textbook. 🙂
  3. Sort of in conjunction with the previous point, keep an open mind.  I mean this both in your career and your personal life.  Going to a big school in a big city means you will come across people from all backgrounds and all walks of life.  The amount of life lessons you can learn from those different from you is unfathomable.  These also build some of the best friendships, or even intimate relationships! You meet the best people and the worst people, and it teaches you how to handle others in similar situations along the way in your life.  As far as your career, the number of students who end up changing their major entirely, or  changing their career path within the same major is astounding.  It’s okay to change.  College is where you get the most exposure to what you think you’re most impassioned about and figure out whether you need to take a different route or not.  While you most definitely need to be determined and tough about what you want, be open to exploring other avenues as well. You never know what you will stumble into.  I had a friend who changed her major 4 different times.  I myself started out with the goal of being a large animal veterinarian, and currently am in the process of becoming an independent consultant for an animal nutrition company.  Not a huge change, but keeping an open mind allowed me to see what I was truly passionate about.
  4. Take opportunities.  This not only includes getting involved in student organizations, but also any other opportunities your college may offer.  Study abroads, university ambassadorship for companies, university teams, university theatrical or musical organizations, the list can go on and on.  Once again, you never know the people you will meet or the skills you will develop.
  5. Study however suits you, but do not procrastinate on the important deadlines.  I’m talking about things like scholarship/financial aid applications and job or internship applications.  Those things are stressful enough as they usually require a lot of time and information, sometimes documents of proof, but in addition to studying for exams or writing papers, you do not want that pressure.  Try your best to organize your time and give yourself enough time before deadlines to complete everything.
  6. Establish friendly, professional relationships with your professors and other university staff, especially within your major’s department. These staff members and professors can not only serve as resources for educational avenue and career advice, but they can also provide great letters of recommendation or even be references on job/internship applications.
  7. Take advantage of the free university services. I’m especially talking about services such as the student success centers and core class tutoring labs. The success centers provide a variety of services, including resume and interviewing tips.
  8. Earn and obtain as many certifications and training as you can. Certificates are proof of training or skills you possess, and these are priceless jewels to add sparkle to your resume.  Some animal science production classes offer training and even certification in livestock breeding or quality assurance and handling.  Furthermore, you’ll learn of off campus training or certification programs through university extensions and other agricultural organizations.
  9. Attend as many guest speaker events as you can. This is a great way to learn about the company the speaker works for and the position the person holds within that company as well as how they got there.  This could give you more insight into what you would like to do or not do, as well as the opportunity to talk with  that person.
  10. Pick some fun classes! There are usually elective credit hours to be filled, so why not take History of Rock and Roll? You need something to look forward to during the week and have some time  for a mental break!

I hope these tips are useful to someone out there, if I had known them before my journey through college, I think I would have made better use of my time. But, as they always say, hindsight is 20/20.

 

Stay warm and toasty!

❤ Meg

 

Real Life Farming – What A Dump!

Hey All!

I hope your holiday season is merry and bright! I encourage you to get out in your communities and go to Christmas parades, craft shows, and light displays.  There’s alot of beauty to take in during this time of year!

Among the things at the top of Walmart list for the dairy farm I work at is something you might not expect: red duct tape.

What’s the red duct tape for? The cows that have been treated with antibiotics or other medications, and, for food supply safety, this is the indicator that the cow’s milk cannot be milked into the bulk tank until the withdrawal time is up.  Dairy farms may have different ways to indicate cows that are being treated, the red duct tape is just how the farm I work at personally does this.

Why is this so important? Because it ensures food safety.  Let me tell you a little story from a few weeks ago.

A group of  cows got out of their pen during the day at the dairy.  A cow that had the red band had accidentally gotten into the herd of milk cows.  She got brought into the milking parlor with a group and we attached the milkers as per usual.  A few minutes into the milking of that group and there is a loud shout from my boss.  None of the 3 of us had paid attention and attached the milker to the cow with the red band – thus, her milk was being put into the bulk tank.

There was a flurry of motion as the milkers were shut off and the spigot was opened on the tank to let some milk out, and much frantic discussion as to what was going to be done.  Why? Because if the milk in the tank was tested to be above a certain of level of antibiotics/medication, the WHOLE tank would have to be dumped.  This folks, means that is literally money down the drain for this family.  This is why your milk is safe – because if the milk does not meet regulations, it gets discarded and the families that rely on that milk check for their living lose their money.  Dairy families have blood, sweat, heart, and tears into their farms.  If the farm does not make a profit, the family loses their means of living.  It was heartbreaking to watch.

The family I work for had to take a sample of milk from the tank and take it to their cooperative representative that very night to have the milk tested.  Luckily, the milk passed and all was well.

 

I hope for everyone’s well being this holiday season and take a second to remember the dairy families that put their money and livelihoods on the line for your morning glass of milk is safe and healthy.

 

With love,

Meg

 

Dear Consumer

Hey All!

I hope you had a fun and safe Halloween with your families! And now that fall is approaching, I hope you all are enjoying your favorite fall time activities – feel free to share in the comments what yours is!

My dad is an avid Farm and Dairy reader.  The Farm and Dairy is a family-owned company that puts out newspaper publications both in print and online to rural communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  The Farm and Dairy is published every week.  Last week, Dad told me that I absolutely had to read one of the articles.  I found out rather quickly why he said that.

The article was written by Kate Lambert, a Missouri farmer that also works in the agrifinancial field.  She has a blog for her farm, Uptown Farms – http://www.uptownsheep.com.  Her article was entitled “Dear Consumer: They tell me not to get angry.  But sometimes I do. ” It was reprinted in the Farm and Dairy (with permission) from her blog.  The full article can be read here. Dear Consumer: They tell me not to get angry. But sometimes I do

The content of the article, I think, 1000% nailed why agriculturalists and farmers get so passionate and sometimes quite verbal when we see animal rights activists and certain restaurant  chains putting out their propaganda and animal welfare policies based on improper, incorrect information.  It’s been a hot topic of conversation, among especially the animal agriculture sector, that farmers need to get their stories out and properly educate consumers.

I just want to highlight and comment on some of the things she said in her article.

  • The marketing research tells me that I should focus on the positive when I address you….they tell me to only speak about things that directly impact you…the tell me not to talk about the science, because the emotional registers more.  They tell me not to talk too long or write too much, don’t have time.”

  • I get angry that marketing hides that all types of farming – from organic to conventional – use chemicals.  They do it SAFELY and minimally, but they use them.

  • I get angry that you do not understand that farmers only provide raw product and that once it leaves our farm, we are not responsible for what the food processors do to it.

  • I get angry that you try to compare the decisions you make about your garden, to the management decisions my family has to make for our farm.

  • If your garden has a bad crop, you go to the store.  If we have a bad crop, we stand to lose our farm, our house, our source of income.

  • I get angry when you talk to a guy at the farmers market, who grows 40 organic tomato plants in his backyard where his eight free range chickens live, and decide his opinion on agriculture policy is more trustworthy than mine.

  • I get angry that you think my cattle herd needs the same treatment as your toy poodle

  • I get angry that you want the latest and greatest gadgets in every aspect of your life, and then expect me to put on overalls and grab a pitchfork, and farm the way someone told you that your great-grandfather did in the 1940s.

And then she goes on to say that she knows that modern agriculture has failed to tell our story, that there is an overwhelming amount of information to digest and process fact from fiction, that nothing sells in the media more than fear, and, lastly, she calls on agriculture once more to continue the movement to share our stories in a positive way.

I wish I could have been the one to write that so eloquently.  I actually cut this article out of the Farm and Dairy, and, I’m not sure what I am going to do with it yet, but I wanted to save it.  It not only nails what brews inside our hearts as agriculturalists, but it also serves as a gentle  call to action to shape up as farmers and producers and fix how the world views agriculture.  I wish everyone could read this article, both farmers and consumers, and it might cause a few to stop and think.  It might cause some consumers to ask more questions, connect with more farmers.  It might cause some farmers to finally boot up that laptop computer and type up what their day is like. Just one small change at a time.

Throughout history, we have seen what the power of word can do to the masses, let’s not make agriculture an exception.  Speak up, get out, tell all.

See ya next time,

❤ Meg