BUSY MOMS DON’T HAVE TIME TO RESEARCH WHAT TO PUT ON THE TABLE

Busy moms don’t have time to research what they put on the table.  That’s where farmers can help.

Watch this video of Texas cattle farmer Kyla meeting Kelly, a busy mom of two, and answering all her questions about how that steak gets from the farm to the table.

My personal favorite quote from the video?

“The night that I delivered Clara, Cole left to go bale hay.”

SHOULD CATTLE REALLY BE EATING CORN?

See this article as originally posted here

feedlot cattleI’ve heard people say that it’s “unnatural for cows to eat corn.” As someone who studies what cattle eat for a living, I’m perplexed. Let’s talk.

HERE’S WHY CORN IS OK FOR CATTLE TO EAT:

  1. Cattle can easily digest and convert corn to milk and meat
  2. It’s an excellent energy source
  3. Corn is tasty, even for cattle

Want to know more? Read on.

Corn isn’t the only thing cattle are eating. As an animal nutritionist, I want every bite of feed that an animal takes to be nutritionally perfect. We analyze animal feed (which is generally a blend of grass and grains, including corn) to see what nutrients their diet has or might be deficient in. Oftentimes we design a mineral mixture to meet the requirements of that particular feed mix to ensure the animals have everything they need to grow and stay healthy. Even cattle eating grass need their diet fortified with a vitamin and mineral supplement!

Next, consider the fact that cattle are ruminants – their digestive system is very different from ours. I like to call cattle “the original recyclers” because they have an incredibly adaptable digestive system that can convert many different feed sources into meat and milk. Cattle can eat everything from the corn kernels to the corn stalks. The adaptability of the bovine digestive system helps farmers be more sustainable by using every part of the plant.

Corn is an excellent energy source for cattle, too. From a plant perspective, corn is a grass – it just happens to be a much more nutritious grass than the stuff that’s growing in your yard. The starch and protein that the corn kernel provides help cattle grow and thrive.

Have I mentioned that cattle enjoy eating corn? In my experience, they would choose corn over grass seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Farmers are not “forcing” their cattle to eat corn. More than likely, it is more trouble keeping the cattle from getting into the corn when they’re not supposed to, kind of like you might have trouble keeping your kids out of the cookie jar!

I hope this puts your mind at ease. Farmers and animal nutritionists truly do have the animals’ best interest in mind. If you have questions about why we do what we do, just ask us.

Dr. Josh McCann
Assistant Professor, University of Illinois

Dr. McCann studies the influence of nutrition on metabolism and growth of feedlot cattle by characterizing ruminal fermentation, the gut microbiome, and muscle development – i.e. he’s a nutritionist for cattle. His work contributes to the efficiency and sustainability of cattle farms providing high quality beef to consumers. 

TOP TEN FARM CHORES I LOVE TO HATE

TOP TEN FARM CHORES I LOVE TO HATE

Let’s face it – no one enjoys chores. Whether it’s taking out the trash, cleaning dirty dishes, or finding matches to the ever-growing pile of socks, we all have at least one chore we dread doing. Think about living on a farm, where chores are an everyday occurrence… could you handle it? From someone who grew up in a suburban neighborhood to now living on a farm, I’ll be the first to say that farm life was quite an adjustment. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Without further ado, here’s the top ten list of farm chores I love to hate:

Filling up Water Troughs: While this may seem easy and painless, dragging the hose from one pasture to another, attaching it to the hydrant, and waiting for each 100-gallon trough to fill can be a struggle. But, seeing the animals stare at me, then snort and run away (because as we all know, hoses are VERY scary) always leads to a good chuckle.

Cleaning Stalls: A daily chore that is easier on some days compared to others, it isn’t the chore to “stop and smell the roses”. At my house, my sister and I clean stalls together. So while some may dread it, that’s the time my sister and I share our days with each other. That sister bonding time means the world to me, even if we are surrounded by “brown roses”.

Unloading Feed/Bedding: This chore isn’t bad, but when the weather is not in our favor, such as this recent spring, it can be dreadful. Good news is, this isn’t a daily chore – once we unload the truck, we are stocked for over a week!

Washing Animals: Animals, like humans, can be moody. So some animals may be a challenge, but I love the smell of the shampoo and the refreshing feeling of water spraying back at me on a hot summer day!

Cleaning Show Equipment: Before and after shows, such as the county fair, it is important to clean all the equipment we take. This is much more fun when there are siblings around to chat with, it makes time fly by!

Holding Animals for the Vet: This can be tough, especially when we can’t just tell an animal to “hold still”. I’ve learned to love this chore because I always learn something new!

Filling Hay Feeders: This one doesn’t take long, but let’s be honest: bales of hay aren’t easy to carry. Once we make our way over to the feeder and hoist the bale up into the feeder, the job is done. The best part about this is when the hungry animals come walking over, they are always happy to see the person bringing them more food!

Clipping Animals: Most of us have that specific haircut we prefer. Animals have certain haircuts too, especially in preparation for a show. This is the perfect opportunity to play hairdresser and treat the animals to a fresh haircut!

Fixing Fences: Depending on the size of the farm, this can go really quick or really slow. However, it’s always a bad day when you see a cow walking down the road. So, fixing fences is a chore to prevent those bad days!

Stacking Hay: My number one chore I love to hate. In the summer heat, unloading hundreds of hay bales weighing about 50 lbs. each, this is not appealing to the average Joe. But, this is a GREAT way to get a workout! Go ahead and skip the gym after stacking hay, you deserve it!

Farm life may be filled with chores, but from personal experience, I can say I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is always something to be done, keeping me occupied and entertained 24/7!

Susie Thompson
Illinois State University

PIG FARMERS CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT

Did you know that all farmers must learn about and abide by a host of federal and state environmental regulations?  Pig farmers are no different.  They use research to understand and address the impact that large amounts of manure and using land to raise pigs can have on:

• Groundwater and surface water
• Air quality
• Animal manure management
• Land and soil quality
• Land use

Farmers are using all this research and the regulations they must abide by to fuel creative solutions to environmental concerns and to keep growing more pigs to feed more people.

Carbon footprint

American pig farmers are working hard to understand their carbon footprint and watching for opportunities to raise our food smarter.  According to the EPA, only 2.8 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in 2007 came from animal agriculture. Of that percentage, pig farming contributes just a little more than one-third of 1 percent (0.35 percent) of total U.S. GHG emissions.

Air footprint

Right now, a tool is in development to help pig farmers better understand air emissions from their farms and how they can make improvements.

Water footprint

Most of the water used on pig farms is either to irrigate the crops the pigs will eat (90%).  The rest of the water is used to give the pigs something to drink.  The best way farmers are looking to get more control over that water use is to use science and technology to evaluate animal drinking systems.  If we can water our pigs better, we can waste less.

Improvements to our farming methods are the name of the game and we are always trying to do better and trying to find small (and big!) ways to change the way we raise pigs to make less of an impact on our earth.

Thanks to https://www.pork.org/ for this important information on pig farming!

HOW TO BECOME A FARMER: LIVESTOCK COULD BE KEY

Periodically, I review the list of terms that bring people to our blog.  Among the front-runners, every single month, are searches of people wanting to become farmers.

“How to become farmer”
“How to start farming”
“Can I buy a farm”

I’m guessing what they eventually find is that it’s super hard to “get started” in farming.  You don’t just quit your job one day and decide that you want to be a farmer because the startup income you’d need is prohibitively large.

To start farming, a young person typically needs to begin working for a farmer and learning the ropes.  After all, there’s so much about taking for the land and animals that is intuitive and based on years and years of experience.  A first-time farmer needs a few years of experience under his or her belt AND the wisdom to listen to his farmer employer and learn from her experience as well.

But after you’ve put your time in, building a livestock barn could be the key to becoming a farmer if that’s what your heart desires.

In the pig farming industry, there are several larger companies that are often looking for “pig spaces,” or barns to house their pigs and farmers to care for those pigs.  If you are interested in starting a farm and you can get the bank to loan you the money to build a barn, you just might be able to secure a contract with a larger company to fill that barn and guarantee you enough income to get started.

That’s exactly what Chad and Julia Krogman did when they opened their first wean-to-finish pig barn earlier this month.  (Wean-to-finish means that they will take piglets into their barn as soon as they are weaned, and the pigs will grow and live there until they are harvested for meat.)

Chad and Julia grew up and rural communities and have worked on farms and in the ag industry their entire lives.  They have saved their pennies and eventually moved some pigs into an existing empty barn in their community.  Further saving meant that they were able to build their own barn.

“We enjoy raising and caring for livestock and the environment. As first-generation farmers, we see raising hogs as an opportunity to work in an agricultural realm that is very capital intensive.  We feel blessed to have the opportunity to pursue our goals in agriculture and desire to be good stewards of what we’ve been given,” said Chad.

So, if you are really interested in becoming a farmer, first find some seasonal work for a farmer and learn a few things.  Then, consider livestock.  It’s hard work that never quits, but worth it for a life you love.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

YOUNG PERSON IN AG: MAZI WALKER

Mazi can make friends anywhere she goes. On a bus going to Washington D.C. or at a conference for an organization, she loves meeting new people. Don’t talk about sheep too close to her or she will talk your ear off about how much she loves sheep and its industry. Her passion for meeting new people, sheep, and leadership is what makes her a great young person in ag.

  1. What is your ag background?

I am the fourth-generation agriculturists where in the past we farmed corn and soybeans, but know we are only focused on the sheep industry. We currently run about 20 breeding ewes with alternating breeding rams every two years. The lambs will be born between January 1st and March 31st. The lambs that don’t meet show quality will be sold to local consumers and sale barns. The sheep industry has opened many doors for me and is something I am happy to be a part of and teach others about it.

  1. What college do you attend and what is your major?

I am a freshman at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL in the Agriculture Transfer program. After Lake Land, I will transfer to a four-year university and double major in agriculture business and animal science.

  1. What is your involvement at Lake Land?

I am a Freshman Delegate in the Student Government Association that represents the student body. I am also a part of our Agriculture Transfer Club and the Inaugural Colligate Farm Bureau here on campus.

  1. What were some of your high school experiences/involvement in ag?

I was a part of many organizations including serving on the 2016-2017 state FFA officer team as the Section 13 President. I also served as the District III student director. In 4-H I have been the president of my club for the past 4 years. My senior year I was able to start my own agricultural business, Black Sheep Photography. I traveled to different livestock shows and farms to take photos of livestock that was then used as promotional tools.

  1. What is your dream job?

I really hope to one day open up my own feed mill to supply livestock producers with feed as well as help them with supplements for their animals.

  1. Do you have any mentors?

My main mentor would have to be my mom. She has never relied on anybody, even in terms of a job. She has opened two successful businesses.

  1. Do you remember anything that has really changed in agriculture?

I have seen more and more involvement with the youth in the agriculture industry. Youth are becoming involved earlier in 4-H and learning about where their food comes from. However, there is still a large gap between those children and other children who do not know where their food comes from.

  1. How do you see the agriculture industry changing in the next 5-10 years?

I see technology becoming bigger and better. I also see GMO’s becoming bigger and better. Hopefully with that comes, even more, education about where our food comes from so consumers can be well educated.

  1. Do you have any advice for younger people in agriculture/FFA or thinking about agriculture as a career?

Don’t sell yourself short, even if you don’t come from an agriculture background. Agriculture is getting bigger, never smaller. If you think you can play a part in this industry or have a new idea then go for it.

  1. Have you ever been looked down on because you’re a young woman in the agriculture industry?

Women in the livestock industry/ show industry are supposed to know their place which is usually just along the fence or alongside the show ring and aren’t supposed to do anything. When they do step up they are looked at as bossy or rude when really, they just want the same opportunities as everyone else. I would say that I have experienced this and have learned how to deal with it.

Lacie Butler
Lake Land College

#TBT: FIVE WAYS HAVING LIVESTOCK BRIGHTENS A BAD DAY

[Originally published: November 3, 2014]

Some days when you wake up in the morning and go out to do the chores you never fully know what you are going to find… and if it’s too quiet you start to get suspicious. Raising livestock always keeps you on your toes, but in the end, the animals are always a bright spot on even the worst day.

1. Farmers and Livestock have a mutual love for each other

Hog farmerMany farmers are close to each animal they raise. Every animal is cared for to the farmer’s best ability, and with care there is love. Whenever I have to hop over the fence to get a trough for the hogs, I never get out without getting a rub on my legs from each hog, and then I normally end up scratching their backs and watch them do a little dance because they like it.

2girl hugging cow. A Built-in Friend on the Farm

Whether you own a dog, horse, duck, cat, or cow you can always count on having a friend on the farm. If you’re lucky you’ll have a friend from each animal on the farm! My brother has 3 calves and whenever he goes out to feed them he will get in the pen and play tag with them for a little bit, and they will all run around in the pen together and get a good laugh out of it (as well as a little winded).

3. They Come Running to Greet You – or just to Eat

cows eating at feederWhen you notice the hay bale getting low for the cows out in the pasture every farmer knows to hop on the tractor and get another one for them before they finish it or else they will be chasing cows all over the county! When my dad and I take a bale out to the cows, and they hear the tractor coming up the hill you see all of the cows migrate over to the feeder and start calling for the little calves to come over because supper is ready. The cows appreciate all the time and work my family did to get them these hay bales so that they are well fed.

4. Always a Life Lesson

litter of pigs with momSometimes when you’re out on the farm taking attendance of your livestock you notice that one may not be present, and if so, a search party (the whole family) gets called to help find the missing animal. This normally happens on my farm when a cow or sow is about ready to have a baby(s). If dad counts someone missing, everyone is sent to the pasture to find the animal, and if you’re the lucky one you will get the sweet reward of finding a the new life of a baby calf or a litter of baby pigs curled up next to their mama; healthy and happy as they could be and it can turn any day into great day.

5. Livestock are loyal to their farmers

farmer and dogOne thing you must know about livestock is that they are loyal. Back at home, we have four dogs and each one shows their loyalty in different ways. When I am home, my dog is always by my side. He always helps me with the chores and goes out with me in the pasture to walk the fence and check the animals.

Raising livestock isn’t easy, but the pros outweigh the cons. Every day farmers care for their livestock in the best way possible, and in return, each day is a little bit brighter having shared it with the animals.

ellen childressEllen Childress
Illinois State University student

10 WORDS ABOUT AGRICULTURE THAT MAY HAVE CONFUSED YOU

When hearing agriculture words sometimes we sit back and think “what is that exactly? How is that used?” Some terms are very confusing and without using them yourself they wouldn’t make sense. Here are some common agriculture terms I am used to hearing from my family and being surrounded by others in agriculture.

  1. Tagging. When a new calf is born most farmers choose to tag the ear on them. The purpose of this is to keep an identification on the calf in relation to the mother and the year they were born. You might hear your friends say “going to spend my night tagging tonight”.
  2.  Harvest. During the fall months of the year, farms spend countless hours out harvesting crops. This is the process of collecting plants that were planted in the spring. One of the prettiest times of the year is during harvest seeing all the bright plants of summer change to yellow and brown are so fitting with fall.
  3. Irrigation. Luck enough in the Midwest we usually do not have to use irrigation systems but in southern Illinois, it is a very common thing. With clay soil and not very much water this season it is important to have a controlled water source for our crops. This is why as farmers we are always praying for rain!
  4. Bushel. If you have ever come across your local farm report on the radio you have heard this term many of times. Such as price per bushel this week has gone up or has went down. This is used as a measurement for dry crops, usually 1 peck (which is what we use for apples so imagine 1 bushel equals 42 pounds of apples).
  5. Combine. One of the most important pieces of equipment in agriculture. Used to harvest and thresh crops which is very important. Growing up as a farm kid spending hours in the combine with your dad is something we look forward to.
  6. Steer. No not in that direction! We’re talking cattle not directions this time. A male calf that has been castrated, which is important if you want to eat the meat. This keeps the taste very fresh and not very tough!
  7. Cover Crop. Blankets are optional when planting these crops! When it is off season for our main crops to grow (such as corn and soybeans) we grow cover crops! This helps with keeping the soil exactly how we would like it till we can plant our main crops again.
  8. Acre. I always tell people that an acre is very close to the size of a football field. This is the measurement we use in farming to describe an amount of land that we are using. Around 44,000 square foot is the total distance, imagine having to walk that!
  9. Compost. Most of us could actually start composting in our yards very easily too! We use waste matter (leaves, egg shells and old food) which is very easy to find. This is a very nutritious fertilizer for plants and something fruit and vegetable farms use often.
  10. Specialty Crop. Some of my favorite snacks are specialty crops! This is all the fruits, vegetables, and nursery crops we grow. With more difficulties growing locations and seasons this why they get the name that they have, but they do make the best treats.

Alison Heard
Southern Illinois University

#TBT: MAKE SCIENCE MORE FUN WITH AG!

[Originally published: October 6, 2015]

Bringing agriculture into the classroom is a great idea to cultivate an assortment of topics and subjects into a theme around the school year. Agriculture and science coincide with each other, but agriculture is often overlooked in science. One unit about agriculture can crack abstract topics in chemistry, microbiology, biology, and environmental science. Here is a list of great ideas to utilize in your next science lesson:

Growing Seeds in a Jar Seed-Germination-Activity1

This experiment is easy, cost-effective, and fun; a younger crowd would enjoy this compared to high school students. All you need are glass jars, seeds, and wet paper towels. Have the students wet the paper towels, put the towels in the glass jar, place the seeds inside the jar, and wait a few days to see germination! You can use this experiment for a biology lesson that talks about photosynthesis or the plant life cycle! Also, this experiment is a great segue into talking about how plants provide us resources we need to survive such as food and clothes.


Incubation and Embryonic Growth

baby chickThis experiment is a bit more common than #1; I remember doing this project in 5th grade; it’s one of the things I can remember from long ago. With this, it’s simple: nurturing eggs into chicks allows students to visualize life and to learn the importance for our lives. Chickens play a huge role in agriculture because of what they do on a farm. My favorite memory of it was hearing the chicks chirp when they eventually made their way out of the shells.

Friendly Farm Visit

kids visiting farmThis past summer I interned with my county farm bureau with Agriculture in the Classroom; each day we took the kids to a local farm to learn about various topics from plant growth to DNA. The hands on experience offered the kids something they couldn’t learn from a textbook. They got to visualize how their clothes were made (shearing a sheep) to watching their food grow six feet in a few months (corn stalks) to learning how breeds of cows differ (natural selection).

Chemical and Physical Changes

soybean crayonsThis topic can be tricky in Chemistry. As we know, a chemical change is a change of a substance with a different composition than what it started off as. On the other hand, a physical change is the change in appearance with the composition staying the same. To easily demonstrate a chemical change to students, show a bowl of soybean seeds and then show a box of crayons. Why? Because soybeans are morphed into crayons (along with other substances). In the beginning, the seed is just a seed but it’s composition and appearance change when it’s used for crayons. For a physical change, show a bowl of corn seeds, a corn stalk, and an ear of corn. Why? Well, the corn seed is morphed into a plant that grows seeds (kernels) from itself. The seed that was planted had the same composition as the kernels on the ear of corn.

Composting for Kids

A great idea to teach environmental science with agriculture is to start composting! Sounds weird, right? It’s a great hands-on experience that teaches kids a great way to be sustainable. It also shows students how we can reuse our resources and not waste products. Compost is comprised of decayed organic matter such as manure, food scraps, grass clippings, and leaves. Manure comes from farm animals, and food scraps come from humans and animals. Composting also teaches about the life cycle. Compost can help the growth of plants which helps to feed us and animals who produce the manure and food scraps that turns into compost, repeat.  No matter what grade you teach, composting is a great way to teach kids about environmental science!

If kids aren’t understanding a science concept, it’s always a great idea to step outside the box! Agriculture is a great way to spice up the science curriculum while teaching students about topics that still matter to education and to our lives.

michelle nickrent

Michelle Nickrent
University of Illinois student

 

 

TOUR A PIG FARM FROM YOUR COUCH

 

Ever wanted to visit a farm but (a) don’t know any farmers to ask or (b) don’t have any farms near you? Well, Illinois Farm Families (IFF) and the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) are giving you the opportunity to tour a pig farm without leaving the comfort of your home!

Illinois Farm Families is a collaborative effort between several Illinois ag associations to reach consumers and provide information to non-farmers that have questions and want to learn.

On September 28th, IFF live broadcasted the tour from their Facebook account. The almost 40-minute session gave insight to not only the life of livestock farmer but gave viewers the chance to have their questions answered by livestock and agriculture experts, ranging from concerns about nutrition to light-hearted inquiries about the smell of the farm.

You can watch the video about or check it out on IFF’s Facebook page.

Learn more about Illinois Farm Families.