Derek and I were honored to welcome Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Republican representing the state’s 3rd Congressional district, this past weekend. The Congressman is on the appropriations committee and is therefore responsible for funding the farm bill crafted by the agriculture committee.
Yoder grew up on a farm in Reno County, Kan., but spent two days reconnecting with farmers and ranchers across the state in an effort to learn more about agriculture and how he can best serve the state.
Thinking he would want to talk policy, Derek and I had our facts and figures ready. But the Congressman wanted to know how we operated our farm and livestock and how some of Washington’s decisions and policies (ex. the health insurance mandate) will affect our farm and all of rural America.
It was great to meet and speak with the Congressman and I know that we have yet another advocate in Washington.
The truth about antibiotic use in farm animals continues to be buried in mislead and false articles and headlines found across the World Wide Web.
Wednesday night I stumbled across a Tweet from MSN.com claiming Americans are eating more “antibiotic laced food” – the result of the use of antibiotics in livestock. But that is simply not true. The linked article can be found here http://healthyliving.msn.com/nutrition/antibiotic-free-food-labels-to-look-for?ocid=vt_twmsnhlt
We and other livestock owners do use antibiotics to treat our animals suffering from illness or infection. Our logic is the same as any animal owner, healthy animals are happy animals and we strive to raise happy, healthy livestock.
The backlash against antibiotic use in livestock and other farm animals is not new but new organizations are joining the fight. Some, however, have a confusing mission.
The Animal Welfare Approved label does nothing to prevent the use of antibiotics in animals and in facts encourages the use of medicine to treat sick animals.
The following was taken from the Animal Welfare Approved website under the beef cattle standards:
In order to help eliminate or reduce vulnerability to disease and the need for antibiotics at therapeutic levels, Animal Welfare Approvedencourages the appropriate use of vaccines on an individual or group basis for prevention of disease.
Any sick or injured animals on the farm must be treated immediately to minimize pain and distress. This must include veterinary treatment if required.
If alternative treatments are not suitable or not effective or if a veterinarian has recommended antibiotic treatment, this must be administered.
The practices recommended by the Animal Welfare Approved organization are exactly those used everyday on our farm. We don’t do it for the certification or the notoriety but because it is what is best for our animals and our farm.
The fact that those antibiotics end up in your food is also simply FALSE! All animals that receive antibiotics are removed from our herd until the antibiotics have left their system. An animal is never processed for food until the antibiotics have left their system. We keep diligent records to ensure the animals are removed from the food chain for the appropriate length of time.
The USDA Process Verified Program also does not mean that every animal in the program has not received antibiotics at some point in their life.
It seems a new organization with a new label and a new program pops up each day. There is no oversight and regulation of these programs and nothing to verify their statements are true.
Livestock owners work daily to care for their animals and when that means treating a sick animal, they do what they can to ensure that animal returns to full health and productivity.
The Sawyer Farm has considerably fewer mouths to feed this Memorial Day weekend as a majority of our cattle have been moved to pasture ground in the state’s gorgeous Flint Hills region.
The cattle will spend about five months grazing green grass before returning to our farm in the fall. During their time at pasture, mother cows will continue to nurse their calves and become pregnant with a new calf, steers – or male cows– will add weight to their frames and young calves will grow with the goal of being weaned from their mothers in the fall.
One of the most important aspects of the summer grazing period is the preparation process. We take considerable care to ready our cattle for the heat, diseases and pests that roam the grasslands. We provide ear tags and insect spray that keeps flies at bay. We also immunize for diseases commonly found in grassy areas. The calves are given their first round of routine shots and all animals are branded so they can be easily identified.
Preparing and moving the cattle makes for a long and tiring week but nothing is more rewarding than seeing mother cows and calves enjoying themselves on pastures of green grass and rolling hills. We visit our cows regularly to make sure all is well, the water source is still viable and all of the animals are thriving.
We will miss the animals this summer but they will be back again in the fall to start the calving process and grow our herd once again.
Read more about cattle care and production on the Kansas Beef Council’s Beef Chat Blog at http://www.kansasbeefchat.com/
We as farmers and ranchers are under constant attack by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The organization – which many people wrongfully believe is associated with their local animal shelters – spends millions of dollars annually to end animal agriculture and consequently our way of life.
The organization spreads false and misleading information about farming and ranching practices and works to mislead consumers about animal proteins and food products.
But agriculture is not the only industry HSUS has a bulls-eye on. The hunting, fishing and outdoor world also battles HSUS, which opposes hunting and the killing of animals for any reason.
Attempting to spread the message about HSUS’s mislead efforts is a daily, constant efforts and many times it feels as if we in the agriculture world are beating a dead horse. So it was great to read a column in our local paper written by a local outdoorsman who recently learned the truth about the organization and used his column to educate readers.
I enjoyed his column and wanted to share his message and truth about HSUS. Many people wrongfully believe HSUS is associated with their local animal shelter and that is simply not true. If you want to support local animal shelters, send your money directly to the shelter, not to HSUS!
Read Steve Gilliand’s column at http://www.hutchnews.com/Outdoors/OUT–Steve-G-column-HSUS
This time last year, we were two weeks from wheat harvest. A dry winter and spring had allowed Central Kansas farmers to get corn in the ground, land worked for planting soybeans and has pushed the wheat into early harvest.
But this year has proven exactly the opposite. The corn is still in the bag and the wheat is great and on-track for a late June harvest. The thought of planting soybeans hasn’t even crossed most farmers’ mind.
The difference is due to rain. Sweet, wet, glorious rain. The moisture we have yearned for the past two years and desperately need to fill our ponds, green our pastures and grow our crops. But the rain – which started as snow in late February – has continued through March and April and effectively delayed corn planting.
As my husband about planting corn and he grumbles but stops shorts of complaining because the rain is essential.
Last week, Friday, April 12, to be exact, our lives changed forever! Derek and I welcomed our son, Evan John Sawyer, to the world. He arrived almost three weeks ahead of schedule – taking us all by surprise – but immediately making an impact on our hearts.
My first week of motherhood has been more than I could ever imagine. During my pregnancy people told me how wonderful and life-changing welcoming a child to the world would be. I never imaged just how much I could love a 6 lb, 9 oz baby boy that does nothing more than eat, poop and cry. I now exist to make his life better and it’s a duty I absolutely love.
I have discovered not only the joys of parenthood but also the perks. There are several and a few I would have never expected. Here are my top 5 . . .
First, a renewed faith in the power of our God and the creation of life. The idea of a new life being created in nine months and coming to our world with 10 fingers, 10 toes and a face that will melt your heart is something you cannot fully appreciate until you experience it first-hand. If you are not a believer before having child, welcoming a new life into the world will make you see the power of our God and creation.
Secondly, an appreciation for the basics of life. Newborns need nothing more than food, sleep and a connection to someone. Those are the same basics that we need as adults, we just chose to complicate life with extras, distractions and non-necessities. I’m not saying those extras are bad. They make life exciting, unique and enjoyable, but they are not essential to life. Evan requires the essentials and I am here to provide those for him.
Third, you instantly become the most popular person in the room, restaurant, grocery store etc. Everyone wants to see your baby, ask you questions and hopefully compliment you in your adorable new bundle of joy. Everyone loves a baby – especially a newborn.
Fourth, the night time feeding hours have allowed me to stay up with all of the late-breaking news occurring this past week. I was up with the Boston Marathon bombers re-emberged on the MIT campus, I had the television going when the first announcements of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion made news and I will likely be watching when the next late-breaking news hit the airwaves.
Last, but not least, a new family and a new purpose in life. Before Evan’s arrival, my husband and I focused on work, friends and the organizations we belong to. Today Evan takes top priority and all else falls far behind that. My day revolves around his wants and needs and when – or if – there is time I will devote it to my work and organizations. If that doesn’t happen, life goes on. What was previously important is now barely a blip on my radar. It’s a change I never predicted and would have bet you would not have affected me but my life is forever different and I could not be happier.
Having a child truly changes your life. Evan is the best thing that has ever happened to my husband and I and I am excited to see the young man he becomes.
It seems Ryan Gosling has a soft-spot for cattle. Unfortunately he’s opting to donate his celebrity status to a group that does not have the best interest of livestock in mind.
The AP reported Wednesday that Gosling has decided to take on the plight of horned dairy cattle, issuing a letter to the National Milk Producers Association urging them to take a stance against dehorning dairy cows.
That request seems simple enough – most dairy and beef cattle have been bred to not grow horns – but the idea of preventing livestock owners from removing horns from animals interfere with the ability of ranchers to properly care for their herd.
Modern technology and understanding of genetics has allowed dairy and beef cattle breeders to engineer breeds that are born without horns. Most livestock owners have bred horns from their herds but genetic traits remain in many breeds that result in animals growing horns.
Many times these horns grow at an angle that proves dangerous for the animal and their owners. These horns can be used as weapons when cattle come in contact with one another or with their owners and other farm animals. Even if an animal does not intend to cause harm, their horns can impact others in the herd.
The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that dehorned cattle “present a lower risk of interference from dominant animals at feeding time; pose a reduced risk of injury to udders, flanks and eyes of other cattle; present a lower injury risk for handlers, horses and dogs; and exhibit fewer aggressive behaviors associated with individual dominance.” The AVMA supports dehorning in livestock.
Horns also prevent animals from fitting into livestock trailers, working pens and other pieces of equipment ranchers rely on to work and care for their animals.
Many cattle owners opt to remove the horns while others turn the horns – using weights – so they grow down and not out. Removing horns does cause some discomfort for the cattle but the process is quick and the animals recover quickly. Livestock owners have the ability to apply local anesthesia to help further decrease the discomfort.
No livestock owner performs a procedure on his or her animals that does not in some way benefit the long-term health and well-being of the animal. When necessary, we remove the horns of cattle on our farm. Everything we, as animal owners, do is in the best interest of our animals and done with purpose and care.
We care for our animals because they are our business, our live hood and our way of life.
Now that I work in Wichita, I don’t have the time or ability to enjoy morning runs on our dusty dirt roads. So I take advantage of the opportunities I do have to get out and about and enjoy the sights of our farm.
During my Saturday morning walk with the dogs, I got to see a few of our bulls, a portion of our first-calf heifers and their calves, which grow larger and stronger each day.
This morning, as usual, the heifers and their calves were waiting patiently for breakfast as I embarked on my walk. By the time I returned they were enjoy a ration of corn silage, dry distillers grain and other feed stuffs from our farm. The calves are just becoming old enough to digest the solid food but rely on their mother’s milk for most of their daily nutritional needs.
While we humans like to enjoy a late breakfast – or brunch – on the weekends, our cows believe in a regular eating time – 7 days a week. So we must get up and around to make sure they are feed and happy, regardless of what day it is.
Most of our animals will be leaving our farm for pasture ground in April. They will spend their summer grazing on green grass and lounging in the Kansas sun. And just like every year, they will return to the farm in the fall to prepare for calving season next winter.
As snow fell again last weekend, the Sawyer Land & Cattle family looked longingly to the end of March and the start of April, with hopes of spring temperatures, dry ground and plenty to get done in the next four weeks.
April is, by far, the busiest month of the year on our farm. In addition to planting corn for harvest this fall, my husband, his father and our two full-time employees will spend hours upon hours at our cattle facilities, preparing calves, mothers and the bulls for six months on green pasture.
Just like families who prepare to head to a new climate or different part of the world, our animals are prepared for the changing landscape and climate before they leave the farm. They are given ear tags to fend off flies, and vaccinated for common diseases. The bull calves are castrated to become steers and all animals are checked for overall health and well-being.
Our calves, which range from three months to three days old, will be transported to grass pastures in the Kansas Flint Hills alongside their mothers in starting April 15. The mother-baby pairs will graze through the spring and summer months. The calves will return to our farm weighing close to 500 pounds and the mothers will, hopefully, return pregnant with their next calf.
My husband and his father are responsible for a large portion of the trucking duties, spending days on the road moving cattle from our farm to pastures we have leased for the spring and summer months.
While the cattle may be out of sight for the summer, they are never out of mind, as we travel frequently to check on them and ensure they are getting the minerals and nutrients needed to thrive.
In the midst of all the cattle duties, we also must be present in the field, preparing the soil for fall crops and planting corn on hundreds of acres. And this year, April will be extra, extra hectic as we prepare for the arrival of our first child. The official due date is May 1 but we have a nursery to arrange, a crib to assemble and doctor appointments to attend before “Bull” arrives.
April is guaranteed to be a hectic but enjoyable month with several busy days and a lengthy to-do list but it’s part of life on our family farm.
It seems the Chicago Tribune is more in-touch with the American farmer than I would have guessed. A recent editorial published by the Windy City paper skewers the farm lobby for not accurately representing the interests of the American farmer, almost as if it has hard-working farmers and ranchers on its board, providing the insight it claims to represent. But upon my evaluation of their criticism, I wonder if any member of the editorial staff has ever been to a farm or bothered to speak to a farmer before putting their thoughts to paper because their claims and criticism of the American farmer and American agriculture are both incorrect and harmful.
Read the entire Chicago Tribune editorial here: http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-74636314/
While the editorial does make some true statements – that Congress failed to pass a farm bill in 2012 and that agriculture isn’t what it used to be – it misses the boat on most of its points.
The authors get it wrong right out the gate when they separate the farmer from the farm lobby. For farmers like my husband and I, the producer and the lobbyist are one in the same. Sure, we are not in Washington pounding the pavement with lawmakers everyday but we are working behind the scenes, making contact with politicians, sending letters and expressing our opinions – all important parts of the lobbying effort. And we are not alone, many farmers work to make their voices and needs heard at the state and federal level. That’s how organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation operate, from the ground up. If we, as producers, don’t’ approve a policy, our lobbyist don’t advocate for it on The Hill.
But the staff goes even farther outside reality when it makes the assumption that we as farmers want protection from outside markets and oppose free-trade agreements. Exactly the opposite, we believe in the power of a free market economy and want to see our products exported, like any business owner, understanding that demand is good for price and price is good for the bottom line.
The editorial moves on to attack direct payments claiming they are making Washington poor and farmers rich. I don’t know the amount of the direct payment other farmers receive but we certainly are not getting rich off Washington. The payments account for less than 10 percent of our overall income and all of that money goes back into our rural economy in the form of feed bills, gasoline purchases and farm needs. Take away direct payments and you take away dollars rural Main Street relies on.
Crop insurance, on the other hand, is a necessity that ensures a stable and affordable food supply. With one five-minute hailstorm, millions of acres of wheat fields in Kansas can be leveled and destroyed. That impacts supply and therefore price. We, as farmers, pay good money for our crop insurance and many years put in far more money than we pull from the program. Companies behind crop insurance act and profit no differently than companies behind home, car and flood insurance. In stable years profits go up, in turbulent years profits suffer. Crop insurance is a far cry from a hand-out. Crop insurance is one of the few risk management tools we have and without those insurance payments, many farmers would not have the capital to continue into the next season. We purchase insurance policies not to guarantee a profit but to ensure protection from catastrophic occurrences and continue our business.
When editorial boards like the Chicago Tribune urge their readers to deny the farm lobby and support the American farmer they are only working to hurt the hardworking 1 percent of America that produces the food that feeds not only this country but millions across the world. Farmers want and need a new farm bill one that does not give us handouts but risk management tools to allow us to manage the impacts of Mother Nature, make our cropping decisions in a timely manor and raise the food and fuel this county depends on. The farm lobby has and continues to act in our behalf and we, as farmers, continue to work to make our voices heard.