30 Days of Lessons I Learned on the Farm

I’m thrilled to take part in my first ever 30-day blog challenge! Starting November 1, I will be posting a blog every single day for the entire month. My series for this blog challenge is: Lessons I Learned on the Farm.

A sampling: Learning How to Work with others, Learning How to Deal with Crappy Days (literally), Learning How to Manage My Time, Learning How to Cope with Death, etc. The list goes on! If you have any suggestions, or want to share lessons that you have learned, please get in touch with me.

Looking forward to being a part of this challenge. Stay tuned for my first post on November 1! Introducing

What is a GMO? Are GMOs safe?

What is a GMO? How do GMOs affect your health? Are GMOs safe?

The subject of GMO labeling, farmer use of GM seeds and safety of GMOs is not going away. After Jimmy Kimmel’s recent video, it became painfully clear to me that we could all use a little education on GMOs.

If you haven’t seen the Jimmy Kimmel video, please click the link above and give it a watch. Basically, the video features Jimmy Kimmel’s crew asking people at a farmer’s market if they try to avoid GMOs, why they try to avoid GMOs and then asks them to explain what a GMO is.

Many people took the time to talk to Jimmy Kimmel’s team and most of them were firm believers in avoiding GMOs. These folks also could not explain what a GMO was or why it was important to avoid it.

I’m am in no way advocating GMOs or advocating against GMOs. I’m here to inform you what GMOs are, so that you can individually be educated enough to take a stance on this hot topic.

What is a GMO?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. This means that the organism goes through a process in a lab where a beneficial trait is adapted to a new plant so that it can better survive in its environment. Some examples of beneficial traits are: ability to use water efficiently, resistance to bugs and insects, etc.

There are currently 8 commercially GMO crops. These plants include: corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, papaya and squash.

Why do farmers use GM seeds?

When we hear constant bad things about GMOs and the danger of GMOs, why would farmers ever use them?

First and foremost, it’s important to remember to not believe everything we hear. Farmers are not out to get anybody! Farmers are working hard to produce food for the growing population that is expected to reach around 9 billion people by 2050.

Some reasons that farmers choose to use GM seeds are:

-Farmers are looking for ways to grow food while using water and land more efficiently.

-Less pesticides and herbicides are needed

-GM seeds allow farmers to grow crops that feed large populations in an economical and sustainable manner883752_606884546042264_1917479408_o

Are GMOs safe?

There are no credible scientific studies that show us that GMOs pose any unique threat to human health or the environment. In reality, there are thousands of studies that show us that GMOs are safe!

According to Jon Entine, author and editor of seven books on genetics, chemicals, risk assessment and sustainability, “every major international science body in the world has reviewed multiple independent studies—in some cases numbering in the hundreds—in coming to the consensus conclusion that GMO crops are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods.” Read more of Jon’s article here.

Simply put, that means GMOs and GMO crops are just as safe to eat as conventional or organic foods. You may still have reasoning against choosing to eat GMO crops, but please know that these foods ARE safe.

Biotechnology is bad news. What’s next after GMOs?

According to Dictionary.com, biotechnology is defined as: taking advantage of biological processes for industrial and other purposes, especially the genetic use of microorganisms for the production of antibiotics, hormones, etc.

Many associate biotechnology with GMOs and Monsanto. While this is true, biotechnology also does many other important things for our world! Did you know that Ebola vaccinations are biotech products?

This blog is not meant to sway you one way or another. This blog is meant to give you tools to make educated decisions and to help educate the general public.

Take away message: GMOs are safe to consume. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.

 

Sources:

Entine, Jon. “2000+ Reasons Why GMOs Are Safe To Eat And Environmentally Sustainable.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

“Food Sustainability.” Monsanto Company. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

 “GMO Facts.” GMO Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

The Truth

It’s true. Animal abuse happens.

As a dairy farmer and advocate for agriculture, I work very hard to be transparent. I post pictures, blogs and stories about daily occurrences happening on my family’s operation.  Being transparent means telling you the truth, even when it’s hard to choke out.

Just as some children are abused, some cows are also abused.

Seeing videos of rough handling of cows makes me physically sick to my stomach. A new video that will soon be released, features several incidents where force and rough handling is used on dairy cows.

If you see this video, please remember a few things. This video takes place on one dairy farm. It is not normal for cows to be handled in such a rough manner. Please do not let one video shape your perception of the entire dairy industry.

The other 99% of dairy farmers love their cows. My family falls in that 99%.

We work hard on a daily basis to provide a clean, dry and comfortable living environment for our cows. We provide our cows with high-quality forages and grains to keep their bellies full and keep them growing. Our cows and heifers get regular pedicures by their hoof trimmer so their feet, legs and hooves stay healthy and allow them to move with ease.

We occasionally have down cows. When a cow is down, it’s necessary to get her up in order for her to live. If you have questions about down cows, read Carrie’s blog here. In those situations, farming isn’t all rainbows and smiles. We do what is necessary to get our cows up and moving because we care about them.

The truth is that there are dairy farmers who make poor choices. We usually don’t see the stories about all the good, happy cows that make up the large majority of our industry. 

The truth is that we care about our cows. We choose to be farmers and choose to be involved in the dairy industry. We choose to provide for our cows and wake up every morning to do so.

The bottom line is that there are cases of animal abuse, but the large majority of farmers truly and deeply care about their cows.

Be sure to visit my Facebook page this week to view more pictures of how we care for our animals on our family operation.

As always, please don’t hesitate to ask questions!

How One Cow Contributes to a Sustainable Food System

What exactly is a sustainable food system? And why should we care?

A sustainable food system is a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic and social health of a particular place, according to the Agriculture Sustainability Institute at UCDavis.

Did you know that dairy cows play an important role in a sustainable food system? Having a four-chambered stomach means cows can digest the nutrients in many types and parts of plants that people can’t eat. For example, citrus pulp and cottonseed can be converted to milk by dairy cows, rather than being sent to landfills. In fact, 75% of a cow’s diet is not consumable by humans.

Manure is also becoming a source of additional value. Anaerobic digester systems convert manure and commercial food waste into electricity, fuel for cars and trucks, fertilizer and fiber. That comes out to $200 per cow, per year in combined revenues and savings costs!

Knowing this, it’s important to recognize that avoiding specific foods such as dairy and meat does not take into account the goal of sustaining lifelong health, since it can mean not getting enough essential nutrients.

Consumption of delicious dairy foods provide our bodies with affordable health benefits!  Dairy intake is associated with strong bones and teeth, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.

Since dairy production in the U.S. is responsible for only about 2 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, adopting a vegan diet wouldn’t make a meaningful environmental impact. There is a significant opportunity for environmental, economic and social gain by focusing on improving food production methods as well as reducing food-related waste. This is more responsible and sustainable than eliminating certain foods from our diets.

 

Resources:

http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/sfs/def

http://dairygood.org/

http://www.usdairy.com/~/media/usd/public/sustainabledairyportrait.pdf.ashx

BGH/rbST Myths Debunked

Bovine somatotropin is also called rbST, bST, BGH, bGH, recombinant bovine somatotropin or bovine growth hormone. This hormone is a naturally occurring protein hormone found in all dairy cattle that is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain.

The purpose of somatotropin is the coordination of nutrient-use in the body to make sure all nutrients are used where they are most needed.

When cows are healthy and producing milk, somatotropin is directed to the udder for milk production. In young, growing calves somatotropin makes nutrients available to help support growth and development. 

Sometimes dairy farmers give animals extra somatotropin so that they can produce more milk. When we do this, we are just giving the cows more of a protein that they already have in their bodies.

When cows have a calf and start producing milk again, they gradually produce more and more milk every day until she reaches her peak milk production, usually around 60 days after she calves. Peak milk production means the cow has reached her highest amount of milk that she can produce after calving.

rbST is typically given to cows between day 57 and 70 of a cow’s lactation. Giving extra rbST helps cows to extend a higher level of milk production and helps cows eat and produce more efficiently.

So why exactly do dairy farmers use rbST? Why do we want to make cows produce more milk than they typically would on their own?

The main reason rbST is used is to get more milk from cows to help our farms be more profitable as a dairy operations. Just like any other family run business, we have to make a profit to keep afloat. Just as some family businesses may increase the prices of the products that they sell in order to make more money- dairy farmers do the same thing by giving cows extra hormones.

Around the world, rbST helps dairy producers to feed the demands of the growing population.  According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, by the year 2050 producers are going to need to make 70% more food than what they do today because of the growing middle class and population. Supplementations like rbST will help us to produce more milk to meet these demands.

Now that we know the facts, let’s look at some common misconceptions about rbST.

Myth: rbST/BGH causes mastitis.

According to PETA, “Animals are often dosed with bovine growth hormone (BGH), which contributes to a painful inflammation of the udder known as mastitis.”

Fact: Mastitis is an inflammation of a cow’s udder and is a very costly dairy cattle disease. According Dairy Science and Milk Quality Management staff at Virginia Tech University, “mastitis is nearly always caused by microorganisms, usually bacteria, that invade the udder, multiply in the milk-producing tissues, and produce toxins that are the immediate cause of injury.” In plain terms, this means that cows get mastitis usually due to bacteria that has entered the udder. This could be caused by poor milking hygiene, poor environmental sanitation, etc. Furthermore, since the approval of rbST in 1993, there have been studies involving hundreds of commercial herds that looked at mastitis, cultures for mastitis organisms, somatic cell counts, culling rates and vet costs. These studies found no evidence that the use of rbST was a significant concern for mastitis.

In summary, giving cows a dose of rbST will not cause bacteria to invade the udder. To make this as clear as possible, rbST will not cause mastitis in cows.

Myth: Humans should not consume milk from cows that have been injected with rbST.

Fact: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as other leading health organizations, have concluded that there is no significant difference between the milk from cows treated with rbST and milk from cows that are not treated with rbST. All milk naturally contains very small amounts of hormones, and studies show that the hormone levels of milk from cows that are treated with rbST are within the normal range.

Myth: Non-dairy “dairy” products are being sold because milk isn’t safe to consume.

Fact: Milk companies have responded to consumer requests for choices in the dairy aisle. In general, this decision is a result of market demand and is not related to any health or safety issues. All milk is wholesome, safe and nutritious. All milk contains hormones because all cows produce hormones naturally.

Myth: rbST is harmful to the welfare of animals.

According to PETA, “After their calves are taken away from them, mother cows are hooked up, several times a day, to milking machines. These cows are genetically manipulated, artificially inseminated, and often drugged to force them to produce about four and a half times as much milk as they naturally would to feed their calves.”

Fact: Yes, we do take calves away from their mothers. Yes, we do hook our cows up to milking machines at least twice a day. Yes, we do artificially inseminate our cows. And yes, sometimes we give our cows drugs.  PETA is 100% correct that we do these things. But PETA also thinks when we partake in these actions, that we are not thinking about the welfare of our cows. In reality, we do these things FOR the welfare of our cows.

Calves are taken from their mothers shortly after birth for their protection. Cows are milked twice a day at most dairy farms to keep our cows comfortable, as it is not comfortable for us to leave our cows with udders full of milk. We artificially inseminate for safety of both farmers, children and cattle on dairy operations. And yes, drugs are sometimes given to dairy cows to allow them to produce more milk. But dairy cows have always produced more milk than necessary to feed their calves. Even years ago, farmers spent time milking cows by hand, after they fed their calves.

The bottom line is: don’t believe everything you hear. We live in a fast-paced world filled with whirling social media, blaring news announcements and whizzing information. Often, it’s hard to decipher what’s factual and what’s not. But that’s why I’m here as an agvocate, to educate, inform and debunk the untruthful myths.

 

Sources
“Bovine Growth Hormone: Milk Does Nobody Good…” Bovine Growth Hormone: Milk Does Nobody Good… N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
“DairyCo.” Mastitis in Dairy Cows. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
” DFT Main Content HeaderFrom Our Farms To You.” Dairy Farmers. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
“Mastitis in Cattle.” : Mastitis in Large Animals: Merck Veterinary Manual. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
“Myth-Busting: The Facts Versus the Myths Regarding RbST.” Know the Facts about RbST: RbST Safety, RbST in Milk, RbST-supplemented Cows. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
“RBGH.” GRACE Communications Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
“Skip Menu.” Understanding the Basics of Mastitis. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
“Skip Menu.” Understanding the Basics of Mastitis. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
“What Is RbST and How Does RbST Work?” What Is RbST and How Does RbST Work? N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.