FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: MEET PHIL

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Phil Borgic is the owner of Borgic Farms Inc., located in Illinois. The 6,200-sow farm staff focuses on properly caring for their pigs and their employees. Phil sat down with the #RealPigFarming team to tell us a little bit more about himself and his family’s farm.

Read the interview here.

TAKING CARE OF PIGS ON FARMS

[Originally posted here]

8-4-16caring-for-our-pigsFarmers are eager to explain how pigs are raised and cared for. Few people have firsthand knowledge of what modern pig farming looks like. Now more than ever, we have access to many tools and resources to better care for our animals and meet consumer demand. These advancements have helped make the U.S. pork supply safer and more nutritious than at any time in our nation’s history. No matter the farm, the basic tenet of animal agriculture is the same: Good animal care is imperative to produce healthy food for consumers. For pig farmers, ensuring the well-being of animals is about more than taking care of business. It is part of America’s agricultural heritage. We are intent on preserving — and building upon — that legacy.

You can discover more about how pigs are treated and the regulations surrounding pig farming here.

ANIMAL WELFARE

In the past few years, many issues have popped up about animal welfare.  These issues range from quality of life, the antibiotics used to treat livestock, and environmental concerns from factory farm animal waste.

The first thing I want to say is stop believing everything you read from large animal activist groups.  They don’t always have the facts right.  It’s just like in school when your teachers told you to not use Wikipedia as a “credible source” for writing a paper.  I’m not saying that they are always incorrect, but the very fact that they are spreading false information is a major concern in supporting any claim they make.

I have seen many videos distorting the truth about factory farms.  There was one video that used a drone to fly over a factory farm where the farm was shown disposing of animal excrement by spraying it carelessly into the air.  When I first watched this, being the gullible, I was shocked by their lack of concern.  However, after having read many stories where actual farmers expose the false information being fed into media—I was highly skeptical of this video.

7-19-161468927292587_imageDid you know that large farms are required by law to create Nutrient Management Plans? Basically, these plans describe how much manure is produced, how it will be stored, and where it will end up.  In the case of this video, the factory farm disposed of their waste by having vents in the floor where animal excretions drop through and are flooded into a body of water.  After a certain amount of time, this waste breaks down in the water and is transported to other farms where it can be sprayed over crops as fertilizer. Manure has been used for centuries to fertilize soil and provides a lot of essential nutrients to crops.  While there are alternative fertilizer choices to manure that are beneficial and more cost efficient, still many farms are utilizing manure as a form of soil fertilizer.

Now let’s talk about antibiotics.  When an animal gets sick, farmers carefully evaluate when they should use medicine to treat their animals. All antibiotics must go through rigorous government inspection before being approved for use in livestock. The medicine has to be approved in three areas; safety of the animal, environment, and the consumers.  After approval, antibiotics are annually re-evaluated and only stay on the market if they are still safe.  Specifically in the case of dairy cows, farmers separate cattle with illnesses from the cattle that are producing milk for purchase.  Then, as the cattle that are treated with antibiotics, they remain separate until the medication passes from their system before returning to be milked for production.  The separation period is also the same for livestock bred for meat.  Farmers diligently make sure to take care with using antibiotic treatment and ensure that their products are not at all contaminated by the former medication when they hit market.

Here’s another thought.  Why would a person become a full-time farmer if they didn’t love animals in the first place? Think about your job. After you finish school, it’s what consumes a majority of your life so it makes sense to work in what you love.  More than that, agriculture is a business that costs.  Taking care of even a dog, say for example, is expensive.  How much more than does it cost to take care of hundreds of cattle or pigs?  I’d like to end this by encouraging you to really dig deep when evaluating your standpoint regarding animal treatment.  Farmers are not out to get you, because they also eat the food you eat.

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Deidra Sonnemaker
Communications Intern
IL Corn

AG CAREER PROFILES: WHAT DOES AN AGRIBUSINESS CONTROLLER DO?

Mary Mackinson Faber is the 5th generation involved in her family’s farm near Pontiac, Illinois. She grew up on her family’s grain and dairy operations located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago. Currently, she is employed with Graymont Cooperative as the Controller, and she manages her family farm’s social media presence online. She graduated from Illinois State with a B.S. in Agribusiness and an MBA. She is married to Jesse Faber, Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor at Pontiac Township High School. They have two kids, Ava and Eli.

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DAKOTA: What made you decide to work in an agribusiness?

MARY: Graduating from high school, I did not know what I wanted to “be when I grew up.”  I took one area that I was and still am incredible passionate about, agriculture and another idea that I really enjoyed, business and decided to major in Agriculture Business at Illinois State University.

DAKOTA:  What is your day to day role in your job?

agribusiness_controllerMARY: I am the Controller for Graymont Cooperative Association a local agriculture cooperative that is a grain storage facility, agronomy input supplier, feed mill and internet provider. My job responsibilities include human resources, customer credit and collections, and accounts payable. I oversee the sale and purchase of common and preferred stock and patronage pay-out and redemption. I take great pride in the reconciliation and presentation of department and company-wide monthly and fiscal year-end financial statements. In addition to making sure that all of the numbers balance, I enjoy serving and engaging with the local farmers. I am extremely proud to work for a company that has been owned by hard-working farm families for more than one hundred years.

DAKOTA: Explain your role on your family’s dairy farm.

MARY: I am the 5th generation to grow up on Mackinson Dairy Farm.  Mackinson Dairy is a dairy and grain farm located north of Pontiac, Illinois or about 100 miles south of Chicago on Interstate 55.  Mackinson Dairy Farm is home to around 165 milking cows and over 150 head of heifer and calves in addition to roughly 2,000 acres of cropland where we grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.  Growing up, while I loved the cows and agriculture, I knew I was not cut out to be on the farm every day.  As I entered college, I started to realize the disconnect between consumer and farmer and soon discovered my passion for advocacy.  I have been trying to bridge the disconnect ever since but truly became active advocating on social media after I became a Mom.  Today, I am responsible for managing the farm’s social media presence.

7-7-16mary1DAKOTA: To someone outside of the agriculture industry, why should they join in on the careers involved in agriculture?

MARY: As more agriculturists start to tell their amazing stories, people will see agriculture is more than just plows, cows, and sows. The image of what an agriculture career looks like needs to be updated. The image should include the farmer, but also a nutritionist, food scientist, machinist, mechanical engineer and social media expert. Agriculture needs to embrace the diverse opportunities available and build enthusiasm for these types of careers. My husband and I are fortunate to have amazing jobs in the agriculture sector, and it is a wonderful industry for raising a family.

You can find Mary on her blog at MackinsonDairy.com, and their Facebook at facebook.com/MackinsonDairyFarm

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Dakota Cowger
Communications Intern
IL Corn

RAISING FAMILIES, FOOD AND AWARENESS

[Reposted from Illinois Farm Families Blog. Find the original here.]

A voice from a local Illinois farm speaks up about farm animal care issues that matter to consumers.

Sara Prescott met her husband Michael when they were both 13 years old and showing livestock in 4-H. (Showing livestock is when farm kids raise and groom an animal to be judged against other like animals.) From the start, they had a lot in common; Sara grew up with show livestock while Michael was raised on a third-generation Angus cattle farm. Today, they operate Prescott Angus & Simmental in Lincoln, Illinois. That’s where they maintain a herd of 100 mother cows and where they are raising their three children, Madison, Emma and Carter. Here she answers three animal welfare questions research has shown consumers have concerns about. 

One thing I know for sure is that every mom feels the way I do about what she provides for her children. We all want to be sure we’re giving them the best this world has to offer and that we’re passing on the best of everything we’ve learned. For us, that includes keeping our kids involved in the day-to-day running of our farm, from the time a calf is born to the day it’s shipped off to be raised before going to market.

3-29-16oneWe truly believe the more we teach our kids and the more questions they ask, the better understanding they’re going to have in years to come. It’s the same with everyone; we all deserve answers to our questions. And, with only about two percent of Americans actively involved in farming, it’s natural that people will have a lot of questions about what farmers and ranchers do to put food on everyone’s table. I’m happy to offer the best answers I can based on what I’ve learned from my life in agriculture.

You raise animals for food. Do you care about their living conditions?

3-29-16twoPeople who live off the farm may wonder whether farmers and ranchers care about the welfare of the animals they raise. The short answer is yes. The longer answer? First you have to understand how our farm works. We run what’s called a cow-calf farm. We have a herd of about 100 mother cows, and hopefully they each have one calf a year. We raise those calves until they are ready to be weaned from their mother’s milk and eat a more grain-based diet for added nutrition, just like human babies are transitioned from milk to baby food.

The thing is, it turns out doing what makes cows happy and comfortable also makes good business sense. That’s because, just like humans, beef cattle thrive and grow best when they’re not experiencing stress or anxiety or discomfort. So ensuring our animals have healthy, comfortable conditions is satisfying in two ways. As people who grew up around livestock, we care about the welfare and comfort of the animals we’re responsible for. And that in turn helps us to be successful, and to continue raising healthy, happy calves. If our animals don’t thrive, then neither can we.

How do you know when you’re giving your animals the proper care?

3-29-16threeMichael and I have been around farm animals all our lives, so a lot of what we need to know is second nature to us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep learning. A lot of people don’t realize how many farmers today have college degrees, with expertise in areas from animal science to crop and environmental technology. When we hear about new research into animal behavioral science, we’re serious about finding out how we can apply it to our own herd. More and more, we’re finding out about how important it is to allow cows and calves the opportunity to perform natural and instinctive behaviors essential to their health and well-being. So we make provisions to ensure social interaction, comfort, and physical and psychological well-being.

There are many factors that contribute to animal well-being, including food, water, bone and muscle strength, immunity to illness, as well as overall behavior and health. Farmers participate in a continuing education and certification program specially focused on animal husbandry techniques called Beef Quality Assurance. This program has empowered farmers to continuously improve the safety and wholesomeness of beef and provide the best animal care. It is a comprehensive set of sound production practices, which includes the following:

  • Provide adequate food, water and care to protect cattle health and well-being.
  • Provide disease prevention practices to protect herd health.
  • Provide facilities that allow safe and humane movement and/or restraint of livestock.
  • Provide personnel with training to properly handle and care for cattle.

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That part about providing the proper training goes right to the heart of the question. Just like anyone who reads the papers or watches the news, we’ve heard about cases of animal abuse within the livestock industry. And, I think it’s important to note that these seem to occur in operations where the people working with the animals may be untrained, or under-trained, in the best ways to care for farm animals. Personally, because we run a family business, I believe that when you have a connection with the success of a farm, like we do with ours, you’re just not going to see that kind of animal abuse. As I mentioned earlier, caring about animal welfare is the morally right thing to do and just makes good business sense.

What does humane treatment mean to you?  

3-29-16fiveI understand why consumers want to know that farmers and ranchers practice good animal care. To me, that means that when people go to the grocery store or to a restaurant, they can feel like the treatment of the animals was ethical and humane. From my perspective, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The way most cow-calf operations work, the animals spend a lot of their time outside, grazing on pastureland. We supplement that with a really nutrient-packed supplemental feed. We watch them all closely and work with our veterinarian to control infectious diseases and metabolic disorders along with regular herd health checkups and overall guidance on animal care. Really, that’s a combination of science and common sense. Humane treatment to me means understanding the animals as best we can and providing an environment that lets them thrive.

You know, farming is one of the toughest jobs in the world. I think it’s also one of the most rewarding. Everybody’s life is full of ups and downs, and raising cattle is no different. We take great pride in what we do every day, and ideally we can pass this all down to our kids.3-29-16six

By being raised on a farm and with livestock, we hope our children can take away as many skills and values as we’ve built throughout the years. We want them to have a good work ethic and be responsible for the choices they make.

Agriculture has always been a huge part of our lives, and I feel we’re extremely blessed to be raising our children with the same values and traditions we enjoyed in our own childhood.

Lincoln, IL

HOW FARMING CAN KEEP YOU OUT OF TROUBLE

Tractors. Corn. An old man in overalls with a piece of straw hanging out of his mouth. Our world is filled with stereotypes about farmers. While some may be true, there are others that are not quite as accurate. For instance, a lot of older farmers hire younger people to do the labor-intensive work around the farm. These farmhands help with bailing hay, getting ready for planting and harvesting season, and milking cows. The list can go on and on. Although these jobs have pretty good pay and give you experience, you are worked to the bone. So, the decision between going to bed and going out with your friends is a pretty easy one. The last thing you want to do is come into work the next day hungover and have to smell pig manure. This leads to a lesser known fact about farming: it keeps you out of trouble.

How can farming keep you out of trouble?

  1. Constantly in the field or working with livestock.

As a farmer or a farmhand, you rarely have a day off. Fields always need to be scouted for diseases and pests. Livestock needs to be fed, milked, checked and maintained two – three times a day. Basically, you’re “dog tired by the five o’clock hour.

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2. Hard to have friends when you smell like manure….

At some point every single one of us has driven past a beef, swine, or poultry farm. As we pass, we get that ever so wonderful whiff of manure. Once you’ve worked around the smell for a while, it becomes unnoticeable to you. But to everyone else around you……that’s another story. Imagine that there exists a day that you actually have the energy to go to a bonfire with your buddies. Everyone is sitting around and they start making jokes that you will burst into flames from the methane coming from your clothes. Essentially, you become the butt of the joke.

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3. You’re too polite……your country ways

How can you be too polite?! So a good country boy takes the girl out on nice dates: to a movie, a dinner, or a county fair. Which means you pay because what guy doesn’t pay? If you are really trying to impress that one girl, money is an option! You’ll do anything you can to get her attention, but treating her to a nice dinner and concert every weekend can take a toll on your wallet. When it soon becomes empty, you have no money which means you can’t take that nice gal on dates…which can keep ya out of trouble.

In the end you simply don’t have time, but when you do, you want to spend it wisely. This means choosing friends that don’t have to see you every night to consider you a friend and finding a girl who can enjoy a nice night under the stars, instead of going to a concert every weekend. Farming life can be a challenge and you don’t get a lot of free time. That is why those who do choose the farm life have a sincere passion for it and don’t mind hanging out all day with Bessie the cow or watching the sunset in the tractor. “Do what you love, love what you do!”

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Cailyn Carstens
Illinois State University

 

CHRISTMAS ON A DAIRY FARM

Christmas is that one-day of year where most people are entitled to getting the day off. But that is a little different for a dairy farmer. No matter what day it is, the cows still have to be milked.  The cows don’t know if it’s Christmas or not. All they know is that they still want to be milked three times a day. Here is an example of a schedule that a dairy farmer might have to go through on Christmas day:

dairy farm calf6:00 am- Wake up and start to prepare yourself for your day. Get everything ready to start milking your herd.

7:00-9:00 am- You start milking your cows. You will have the challenge of dealing with sick cows and any other problems that may pop up during milking.

9:00-10:00 am- Of course a mess is always going to occur when working with cows. If you have been around cows, you know that they like to poop a lot. So this time would be clean up time. Milking parlors have high standards and must be spotless.

images10:00am – It is time to feed your hungry cows. They aren’t like dogs where you have to go out and put some food in a bowl. You have to mix the feed to a precise ratio.  Cows are actually very picky eaters; so all the feed must be very uniform.  It takes a lot of time especially if you have a high number of cattle.

12:00 pm- It is finally noon, and this is the time when you get to sit down eat your lunch and cram in a two hour nap.

2:00-4:00 pm- It’s that time again! Time to milk your cows for the second time today. Each milking is never the same. You will still have some challenges that you will have to overcome.

4:00- 5:00 pm-And still the cows know how to make a mess. Cleaning is very big part of the work that goes into a dairy farm.  There is always something that needs to be cleaned.

dairy farm feed5:00 pm- Before you are able to enjoy the rest of your Christmas, you need to feed your cows one more time. You never want your cows to run out of feed. If the cows are not fed, they will not produce milk.

6:00 pm- You are now able to sit down with your family and enjoy your Christmas. You get to have that typical Christmas evening just like every one else. But that doesn’t get to last for long. You are only able to stay up for a few hours since you have to get up soon to do your third milking.

11:00-1:00 am- Most people are asleep in their beds, but you are up doing your third milking.

1:00-2:00 am- Time to clean up for the final time of the day. It seems like cleaning is a never-ending chore on a dairy farm.

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As you can see, no matter what day it is the cows still need to be milked. But dairy farmers love what they do. They would have to love it to be able to do it all the time. But you must think that if we didn’t have those people who love milking their cows, we wouldn’t have the dairy products that we all so love.  So there has to be somebody out there to do it.  So make sure you remember those dairy farmers this Christmas, and be thankful that they love to work with their cows no matter the day.

samanthaSamantha Wagner
Illinois State University

HOW TO TALK WITH YOUR RELATIVES AT CHRISTMAS

With the holiday season is upon us, many things take place: cookie decorating, overeating, and spending time with family and friends.  If you’re anything like me, your loved ones come from a variety of backgrounds, and those from non-Ag backgrounds often have many questions for me about current food trends.  In order to make this conversation easier, I drafted a few talking points to help to ease the conversation this holiday.

why do farmers use GMOs

Sources to check out: the environment and its resourcesprevalent in underdeveloped countries

you don't use antibiotics

Also read this: withdrawal period

grass-fed free range

Some of these questions seem like common sense and can be pretty frustrating when people don’t see things from our perspective—a topic I touched on in a recent post on my own blog.

It’s easy to poke fun at others’ agricultural illiteracy, especially when we are so familiar with this topic.  However, it does nothing to communicate our story in agriculture.

It is crucial in our communication that we “educate and not humiliate.”  This bit of advice comes from Jolene Brown, is a certified speaking professional whose focus is on agriculture and family.

At the end of the day, we’re all consumers with questions.  As producers, we have access to the answers to these questions and it’s our responsibility to share those answers.

This holiday season, can you promise to “educate and not humiliate?”

Molly NovotneyMolly Novotney
Joliet Junior College

#TBT DISTILLERS GRAINS WITH SOLUBLES: WHAT ARE THEY?!

This post was originally posted on January 15, 2015.

Farmers, livestock feed, texas mission, ddgsDried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) have become a valuable part of agriculture.  A by-product of ethanol production, this product makes an excellent livestock feed and is transported by rail to various parts of the U.S. so that the livestock centers of the world can take advantage of it.  DDGS are also exported to other countries to feed livestock there.

coop, livestock feed, ethanol plant by productDDGS can be either dry or wet.  In the Midwest, it is very common for ethanol plants to dry their DDGS in a dryer.  This dry product stays fresh for a much longer time and is able to be transported across the country or world.  It is also cheaper to transport because ethanol plants are not shipping so much water weight.  The DDGS in the photo above are dried.

ethanol plant, by product, livestock feed, wet distillers grains

The Distillers Grains in this photo are wet.  Often, ethanol plants that are co-located with livestock farms don’t undergo the additional cost to dry their DDGS because they can be used nearly instantly by area livestock.  Also, with livestock close by, these WDGS don’t need to be transported great distances, thus the water weight does not matter.  The WDGS pictured here are produced in Texas and feed almost immediately to cattle.

One-third of the corn used in ethanol production returns to the market as livestock feed.  In fact, DDGS have replaced soybean meal as the second largest livestock feed component, second behind corn.

Want to learn more about DDGS?  Check out these links:

DDGS OVERTAKE #2 SPOT IN LIVESTOCK RATION FEEDSTOCK FROM SOYBEANS

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT DDGS FROM DIFFERENT IL ETHANOL PLANTS

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director