Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Future is Our Future

If you all don't follow my FaceBook page here is a quick recap.  I am competing in the College Aggies Online contest for the next (now) 8 weeks. The point of the contest is to learn more about other aspects of agriculture and to talk about it, publicly.  College Aggies even gives us mentors each week to mentor and at the end of the week rank our activities (social media and assignments.)  The top one gets scholarship money.
       I am so very passionate about everything this contest values and strives for.  This week, week 8 is all about turkeys which I know nothing about but through the contest I have learned a lot.  Our assignment, are not always related to the topic of the week, is writing a blog post.

Grumpy Grandfather, still won't smile!

For my long- time followers this will be repetitive but to my new ones listen up!
    I live on my families farm in East Tennessee where we raise registered Simmental for show and sale; we have also incorporated other breeds such as ChiAngus and Maintainers.  I love cows, cows are my passion.  As a child, I never understood why we did the things we did, why we dehorn, vaccinate, artificial inseminate the cows and many other practices we have.  I always would ask “why” but farming with my grandfather (a grumpy old man) I got the usual answer “because that is how it is done.”  That lead me to 1: learn on my own and 2: understand the frustrations of the consumer.  I feel my place in the farming community is to tell my story, it sounds very basic but consumers, much like me for a long time, don't know why we do the things we do.   I finally am learning about why we do the things we do and I want to tell everyone.  Farming with my grandfather and being surrounded by grumpy old men has shown me they aren't going to do it.

   Agricultrue in my opinion is the backbone of the US because in order to survive we need food, food is farming/ranching.  But a uninformed public can be bad for the agriculture community which leads me to my career goals: Agriculture Lawyer.  When the ag community, my grumpy grandfather, is not transparent and forthcoming with our way of life things go downhill which turns into lawsuits.  I love the AG community and one way I can finally give back is by defending our way of life and ultimately "telling my story.”  Until law school I am telling my story using my blog, twitter, and Facebook.  If you, like me, want to know why, follow along on my journey and for the duration of this competition learn something new about different aspects of agriculture with me. I am excited, I hope you are too.    If there is something you want to know more about comment below. 
Grumpy Granfather--Mean Gene--Pop--Your average farmer

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Organic Donuts

                 A man eats an organic doughnut, does organic mean healthy?

 Organic by definition just means certified by the USDA that it meets their standards.  Their standards are: no fertilizers with added synthesized ingredients, conventional pesticides, GMOs,
    So this begs the question does it really differ in nutritional content, no.  The reason farmers and ranchers offer different methods of production because we too are different.  We are consumers of our own products and we each want something different.  We don't do it because one is better than the other, we do it because we are human.  Conventional, certified organic, or natural it is all safe wholesome, and nutritious.

I have attached a link to the USDA guidelines to certified organic because it has a big misconception around it--I will talk about the others in following posts.

National Organic Program

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Dehorning--Please Do It

This topic is controversial among some.
Athens Stockyard is the local stockyard in our town.  We usually have around 1100 head and with that comes a delicate balance of keeping the sale going, keeping the cattle cool and calm, and not getting hurt.  When a mean animal comes through we take certain measures like climbing gates, closing cross gates, or putting more stock with the one that is mean to try and calm them down.

I work where I can see what goes in the chute so I know what is coming.  The boys in the back looked at this cow, a dairy cow, and looked at me and told me to watch her.  My first thought was she isn't mean, she is a dairy cow.  Dairy cows are normally calm and nothing gets them going!  This dairy cow had horns and was huge, probably weighing in around 2000lbs.  I still thought she couldn't be that bad...until she went in the ring, the lady who calls out pens told us to get up and get out of her way. Oh crap!!  She might actually be a bad cat.  Then she calls out a pen I   She came my way, I threw open the gate and ran away!!  I was ran over at that exact gate a month ago and I am still very skittish.  We took all the precautions and she still managed to turn around and come at one of the boys but luckily for him he had a cross gate he could close before she got him.  The combination of her horns and her size, the only way to get away from her was from a closed gate.  We got her penned but every time I would walk by the gate she would charge me.  She wouldn't have been as scary if she didn't have horns. Get gauged scares me more than getting ran over and stomped on!  If this cow would have been de-horned, we as stockyard workers could have worked her more effectively but instead she tried to kill us all.  Even more so, she may not have been at the sale due to her lovely attitude.
This is the best photo I could get of her because when if I walked by she would charge the gate

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Types of BEEF Identification

The way I do things down in Tennessee is way different that my friend in WY or CA or even FL.         When talking with other producers about the way they ID I realized how little I actually knew about the different methods.  I have found FIVE different types of ID for cattle. Branding (hot/freeze), brisket tags, ear tags, EID, and ear notches.

  •      Branding: Branding is used more commonly on larger farms and ranches where the cattle are out on their own on wide open ranges.  There are two types of brands: freeze and hot.  Freeze branding is basically an iron formed into a specific combination of letters, symbols, and numbers to ID cattle easily.  A hot brand is a brand that is gotten hot over a fire but it is the same type of iron used in freeze branding.  This type of ID is regulated by the government by having a person at sale barns to inspect brands to decrease the rustling of cattle.
    freeze brand (courtesy of GOOGLE)

    Hot Iron brand (courtesy of GOOGLE)
  •     Brisket tags:  I just heard about these from a friend who ranches in Wyoming.  I do not know about them other than what she said. My take away is they aren't as common but the ranchers that do use them, use them because they want a form of tag ID but ear tags get lost and ear notches aren't a viable option when running a large herd.
    Brisket tag (courtesy of GOOGLE)
  •        Ear Tags:  a simple tag that is personalized with the animals specific information where it be a number or letter with maybe their mom/dad information.  These are more common in small herds because you have to get close to the animal to read them.
    Look at the heifers right ear
  •    EID:  Electronic Identification: These are most common in feedlots or the show cattle industry because they have to be scanned which also entails getting very close to the animal.  An EID tag is a small white/yellow tag commonly issued by the USDA (united states department of agriculture) placed in the ear.  It says on the tag "unlawful to remove."  This tag is also very regulated by the government.
    A farmer using the EID reader to read the tag (courtesy of GOOGLE)
  •     Ear Notches: Ear notches are used more commonly to determine age for example if you keep replacement heifers and want to be able to distinguish the 2016 group from the 2015 group you ear notch them different.  It is limited because the ear is only so big and there are only so many combinations of ear notches.
    Eat notches (courtesy of GOOGLE)

There are so many ways to ID calves and each farmer/rancher uses a different method because of where the cattle reside and how many cattle they have.  We use ear tags on our farm in South East Tennessee because our cows are close to home.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The moment I hated showing cattle


    My first show after Mean Gene died was very hard.  I entered the ring and exited only to not have my biggest supporter waiting with the halter.  But, one thing that got me through was the people that surrounded me.  I felt hands all along my way to the ring.  I felt Pop there but I still didn't see him.  That was the part that sucked.  I have mourned long enough but now I don't want to show.  I could care less if I ever saw another show or walked in the ring....that is till I met VS DIVA!  She has a stacked pedigree.  She is out of the heifer we won Grand Champion % Simmental Heifer at the Dixie Nationals.  Her sire is a bull I feel in love with when Pop and I would check the cows.  No, I never met this bull, we didn't raise him, but we have a lot of his daughter grazing our pastures and I loved them.  (Black Joker is an old purebred Simmental bull)  I begged and pleaded to get semen on him for as long as I can remember.  I finally got my wish with this cross and then Diva was born.  She has been a looker since she hit the ground.  I didn't think I could get to mess with her because I am away at school all week and then playing catch-up with the farm work on the weekend.  I didn't think this heifer would change so many things with me.  She did.
   I walked into her pen two/three weeks ago with a show stick and brush.  She loved it and I loved doing it.  The next weekend I did the same. This weekend I put a halter on her!! I got her out of the stall with a lot of patience, got her blown off and began the trek to the wash rack.  She did fine.  I was very skeptical on getting close to her because she could have kicked you before you knew her foot left the ground.  Once I got her scrubbed and dried.  I got her all shiny and became brushing her.  I was smiling ear to ear doing this simple task that way back when I loved.  This was the exact moment I found my passion again.  This little heifer gave me so much as I stood in the barn brushing her.  I want to show again, I want to spend my days in the barn again.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Future is ME & YOU

We are the future
Passion is what you work hard for.  Its what you put everything into, your blood, sweat, and tears.  I get worked up over farm matters easily.  My dad and grandparents have always included me in the discussions of the farm matters including: money and management.  I used to take it for granted but then it dawned on me that one day it was all going to be mine. I was going to have to run it on my own with knowledge that I gained by being asked for my opinion at such a young age. So I started listening and taking into account how I would run things.  When asked what bulls to cut, or recipient cows to purchase I started putting more thought into it.  I think they started to notice because they are starting to put my thought into decisions, the final decision.
        We, my dad and boyfriend (and me) are getting ready to set on a new adventure that they have always wanted to do, I am just there for manual labor and my connections in the BEEF industry.  My dad is going to let us make some very influential decisions because he has always taught us to learn by doing.  Our choices may cost or make us thousands.  This adventure is going to see how much we have learned by just giving our input to actually making the final decisions.  I think this step in going from a voice to the say-so is such a crucial step to take while the wise ones are still around. For instance, there are many times we have to sit and ponder on how my Pop (grandfather) did things because he didn't include us in on everything.  It is all going to be mine one day and I want to learn how to make it even more successful by learning through my dad and boyfriends mistakes!!!
   My point is this: just because it isn't yours...the reality is that one day it will be.  Volunteer Simmental will be mine and I can't wait to make my Dad and Pop proud of

where I plan to take it (and to where I am taking it now.)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Bad Kind of Family

I have been getting a lot of flack from my non-farming friends about missing out on things, not making it to places on time, always smelling, being on the phone etc etc.  I have gotten used to it but lately I have noticed how my family is the bad kind.  We are all the things my non-farming friends and family label us as.  The bad kind of family:

  •  Rarely shows up on time

  I also have a bad habit of during finals helping a lot on the farm so I am usually late to at least one final because I can't leave in the middle of working.  We as a family are late because cows are unpredictable, oh so very unpredictable.  Graduation? they just wanna be fed. church? they just want fresh clean water. final? they hay needs to be baled. 
  • Work clothes double as church clothes --or church clothes double as work clothes

There is nothing a little stain remover and Momma's special concoction can't get rid of.  On the other hand cows don't care if you are on your way out the driveway to a special function dressed all nice!

  • Are closer to God on a tractor than in the pew

I am guilty of sitting in church thinking of all the things I could be doing if I wasn't in church.
  • Work on Sundays 

Just like this Easter we barely made it to church because we lost a cow.  There aren't enough hours in the day to get a days work done so many time we use our Sundays.  But, I don't think God cares because "God made a Farmer" and His animals need to be tended to everyday of the week 24/7

  • Schedule reflects the amount of chores for the day

Many farming families go till 1 am during harvest or hay season or get up multiple times a night during calving season.  We have missed a lot of family functions because 5 pm is a prime time on our family farm.  We schedule (if we can even go) our vacations around the farm and most times someone can't go. 
  • Believe in hard work (child labor!!)

I learned to get up at 5 am at an early age because the cows don't know I stayed up too late they just know they are hungry.  I was a really strong kid because picking (or whatever it took to get them moved) up feed sacks was an everyday thing.  

I would not change my bad family for anything.  We get bad looks when we haven't been to church in month,

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

From Death Comes Life

   I was in the middle of my normal feeding schedule when I noticed something was not as it was supposed to be.  I had actually walked right past it to begin with but something felt off so I turned around and saw a calf sprawled out on its side.  I dropped the full feed bucket, which hindsight was not a good idea, and went over to the preemie calf.  It was breathing and had a strong heartbeat which was a good thing but it was weak.  It was now a 3 day old calf and our black lab was bigger than him.           
    I am the last person to ever give up on a living animal, I ran back and forth from the barn to where it was laying to get a hay bale, a bucket, halters, and its mom, Jana.  I was very much alone but my dad was on speaker phone sitting in the feed bucket!  I was leary the cows would eat my phone and then I would definitely be up a creek but it was all I had in a pinch.  I got the calf onto the hay bale but because it was so small dad said it may be putting pressure on its lungs so I sat on the hay bale and held it.  I sat there all alone praying and hoping Jana would understand to get her udder close to us so he could nurse and regain strength.  I eventually called my mom and grandmother to come help.  Like I said, I am the last one to give up on an animal so when my mom got there and saw it her words devastated me but didn't discourage me.  I sat there holding this tiny calf trying to tell my mom and grandmother what I needed but also seeking advice from the mothers of Volunteer Simmentals. 

 My mom kept telling me there was nothing I could do and my grandmother kept quiet knowing I couldn't handle two people saying it.  We tried and tried and prayed and prayed for an everyday miracle for this preemie calf.  I made my mom feel its heartbeat trying to convince her it was very much alive but when she went down to feel for it...the heartbeat was gone.  I was holding a dead calf.  I didn't put it down until I was positive there was no life left in it.  I eventually put it down.  And like any farmer started thinking of the other animals.  I still had to feed the group I was originally headed to, I had to run the cows out of the hay field, fix fence, and now bury a calf.  

But on a farm, life always comes from death.  I had an idea!!!  We lost a cow Easter morning but she left a calf behind.  A calf come to be known as Henry to us who was being mothered by my grandmother.  I carried the dead calf away so his mom could worry about our new situation.  Operation get Henry onto his new momma!! You read that right.  From death comes life.  We may have lost a cow and a calf but God has a plan and he planned for these two to be a pair, mom and baby.  He did not however give me the talent to dig graves so the calf is buried in a big hole which took my an hour to dig.

Fast-forward a little bit late:  Henry is nursing Jana and all is well!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My Muddy Jeans

   I saw Nordstrom's new jeans advertisment this morning when I woke up for my animal science class.  Later, as I walked into my class, I couldn't help but notice that many of my peers were wearing muddy jeans.  They got up early to feed animals and take care of the farm before rushing to school. These jeans and these people are a familar sight to me and only after I saw that someone would pay over $400 for a fake pair of muddy jeans, did I start to think about all the worn out, stained with mud jeans in my own closet.  I realized that the clothes we wear tell stories about our lives.  The muddy jeans that farmers and ranchers wear are a testament to the hardworking nature of the life. If you have that much money burning a hole in your pocket I have the direct link, attached to the trendiest jeans on the market, at the bottom of this post.

A few stories behind my muddy jeans:

These muddy jeans took a dip in our pond when a calf fell in and I was the one willing to go for a swim! I see these jeans in my closet and remember the calf who I saved, who I worked day and night get healthy again.  These jeans have seen their fair share of life and death.  They are stained with manure, blood, mud, and still smell like that farm pond on the back forty of my family farm.  
These pants say so much!! This was my graduation.  As you can see my dad showed up with mere minutes to spare to give me my diploma.  His jeans speak about a father who works endless hours to provide for his family.  He gives his all every waking hour of the day to give his girls what they need and want!  At first, I was mad at him for showing up wearing those clothes, but I wouldn't trade my dad for anything.  He is the hardest working father and farmer a girl could ask for.  You may see this and see me being embarrassed but my family in working clothes even at special events is nothing new!
This is another degree of muddy jeans. These jeans got dirty from helping an enthusiastic showman get her heifer ready for the regional cattle show.  These jeans represent a family making memories in the show ring.  
You can't purchase any of these jeans for $425.  They are priceless. If you want your own personal, priceless, irreplaceable jeans come to my family farm and make your own with memories that will last a lifetime.  But if you are just interested in the hottest trend click here!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Suprise

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter.

  Our Easter started out like any other Easter, we were rushed to get everyone ready but dad was still at the barn.  He drove up in the Kubota to get breakfast with the news that would put our whole day out of whack.  He told us there was a cow down in the pond.  My first thought was how deep was she, like backhoe arm stretched way out, with us swimming to put ropes around her or just on the side with a foot stuck.  There are many hazards with having ponds and this wont be the first animal I have pulled out of one, but this cow has a special place in my heart.  Little Bit, never lost her class and was one of Pop's oldest cows.  She was an '02 model.  She was also one of the best cows, and we had a bright future planned for her after she calved.  Then she calved and all went down hill from there; she stopped eating, she got mastitis and had something else wrong in her gut.  Once we got her standing and walked out of the pond we all diapered to help get the rest of the chores done which included feeding hay. Well, about five minutes later we heard a big thud...she fell over, straight on her side.  I ran to her side and tried to hold the tears back.  This cow had been around my entire life and seeing her like this broke me into pieces.  I even had a hasgtag named after her #thisismyLEGGACY.  Once I made it over to her, I consoled her and made sure she was comfortable.  My mom was standing close by and having seen people die said (the cow) was having the death gurgles.  She had given up, but we had failed her too.  She withered around like she wanted to get up so I mustered up all my strengeth and with the help of David and Mom got her sitting up.  We thought all was well so everyone walked off.  I was left holding her up with my leg...and not long after I was left holding a dead cow.  Her baby was standing behind me.  Once we got her took off to be buried I went into her calf to pet it, I am not one to say cows have feelings but I do and it made me feel better seeing the cute fluff she left behind.  Leggacy may be dead but she lives on in the many wet heads I got from taking backdrop photos standing under her mouth and the ribbons that hang in our office.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Transitional Planning

I feel like I talk about this a lot but here's another blog post about my grandfathers passing.  This is a different kind of post however.  I am at the American National CattleWomen convention held in conjunction with the National Cattlemens Beef Association in Nashville.  This post is about transitional planning.  I had the privilege of hearing from Kelli and Donell Brown for R.A Brown Ranch out of Texas.  They say "Keep the ranch in the family and the family in the ranch."  They have been and are successful in keeping true to that saying.  Their history of transition planning dates back all the way to the 1800s or so, anyways, they have been so successful Donell has become a speaker and brought Kelli along this time to Nashville.
     They gave us so many tips that I can relate to because after losing the Man that built our farm we often look back and wish we had done these things.  They said one more thing that stuck with me because my grandfather wouldn't  let us run things before he died.  They told us we didn't have to change but we would have to compete with those that did.  We did not do any transitional planning so my grandmother, the #BossBabe of our farm is running things.  This takes me to another point how men don't look to a woman as a boss. I have one thing to tell you MY GRANDMOTHER RUNS VOLUNTEER SIMMENTAL.  Although, we did not do transition planning we are behind with our program because we are still trying to get our ducks in a row.  We are competing with the farms and ranches who planned for change.  I know now to follow the sound advice of the Brown's transition planning.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Would Do It ANYday

Word to my readers: this post is a little late!

  It was Christmas Eve Eve and my boyfriend had just left my house.  He called about 10 minutes later telling me "he almost hit a cow."  By this time it was around 10 pm, so it was already dark.  He told me he was at Gene's place so the cow was more than likely black.  I told my parents what happened and texted a man who rents land from him....he was out of town. That left me to go offer my help to this 80-something year old man.  If his age gives you any insight in why I said offer it should be this, he thought women should be in the kitchen.  A long time ago I knocked on his door to see if I could help him around his farm and he looked back into his house and said something along the lines of "I don't see anything you could do."  I eventually got him talked into letting me weedeat his fence rows.  Back to my story....I called him and got no answer so I pulled on my boots over my pjs and left the house.  I drove extremely slow with my flashers on, but have you ever tried looking for a black cow in the dark and I also forgot my big mag light.  I knocked on his door and like many other times he brushed me off.  God had another thing coming for this man because my neighbor, a man, happened to come in and ask him the same thing I just did but he didn't brush him off.  He invited him in while he put his boots on.  When they finally emerged from the house, he got in his brand new car and told us to follow.  We drove up and down the road, walked the 100 acre field and then he took his car up into it.  By around midnight, we had canvased the place as best as we could so we called it a night.  I stopped in after Christmas dinner and he said they were in the lot at daylight!
     During the search, Jerry, the neighbor who rented from Mr. Carson was texting me and he said something that made me write this and gave me a whole new meaning to everything I do.  "You just earned a crown in Heaven for helping him."  I would do it any day for any farmer, Christmas Eve or the night before a final that counts 60% of my final grade.  I love these old men, I love the American Farmer.