If you haven’t been following along this summer for our ongoing photo contest on the IL Corn Facebook page, you have been missing out on some great agricultural pictures! This week’s theme was “Gardens” and Janet LaMere walked away with the most votes for her photo of her Rhode Island Reds in her garden.  Congratulations Janet!


Stay tuned all summer long for more contests and great pictures!


We just had Holly Spangler guest post for us last week, and after reading her latest post we had put the spotlight on her again.

Show season is heating up, all across the Midwest and, honestly, across the better part of the rural U.S. countryside. The best cattle, lambs and pigs have been vigilantly selected. The careful feeding has commenced. The daily rinsing and grooming may have even already begun. Preview shows are about to be held, or have already been held.

But really, all that isn’t even the point. This is the point:

This is Campbell Martin, getting a last-minute bit of advice and a pep talk from his Uncle Nathan. Campbell was about to show a pig at his county fair a couple years ago, one of his first shows. Then, at this time last year, his uncle died of testicular cancer.

I think what strikes me so deeply about this photo is the number of times I’ve seen it play out in real life. How many of us have been on either the giving or the receiving end of that exact same talk? Campbell’s mom, Holly, shared this photo at the time of Nathan’s death, and it has clung to a corner of my mind ever since. Look at how that young man adored his uncle. “Some of the best times we had with him were in the barn,” Holly says.

This is what it’s all about. Families together, learning from each other and having a good time. If you think the point of showing livestock is to make money – and a lot of people do – let me just say, I think you are wrong. We all like to win, and I am absolutely among them. The livestock exhibition business is an industry unto itself.

But this right here? Time spent together, in a shared activity that engages multiple generations? This is a gift. We don’t recognize that enough in agriculture; that this thing we do with showing livestock gives us opportunities to spend time together that families outside our industry would kill for.

Holly Spangler
My Generation – The Blog


June is National Dairy Month-the perfect time to raise a glass of milk to honor America’s dairy farmers. Observed since 1937, first as National Milk Month, then as June Dairy Month, the designation focuses attention on the importance of dairy and the dairy industry to our nation.

To celebrate this special month, St. Louis District Dairy Council offers these important nutrition facts about milk, cheese, yogurt and the family farmers who supply them:

Dairy Farm Industry

  • 98% of dairy farms in the United States are family owned.
    The Midwest is home to over 11,000 dairy farms.
  • 879 of these are in Illinois.
  • In terms of dairy product production, Illinois ranks first in the nation in low-fat ice cream, second in creamed cottage cheese, fifth in sour cream, twelfth in cheese and twentieth in the nation in milk.
  • According to Jim Fraley, manager of the Illinois Milk Producers’ Association, “Since the end of World War II, U.S. dairy farm families produce 4.5 times more milk per cow, with one-third of the cows. They are the model of efficiency and carbon footprint friendly.”

Dairy’s Nutrition Value

    • Dairy foods are nutritional bargains. Milk, cheese and yogurt are naturally nutrient-rich providing important nutrients, such as protein, vitamin D, potassium and calcium to the diet. Few foods deliver dairy’s powerhouse of nutrients in such an affordable, appealing and readily available way.
    • Dairy foods provide about half the calcium and more than half of the vitamin D in the U.S. diet, yet only one tenth of the calories.
    • Milk is the number one food source of three of the four nutrients the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) identified as lacking in the American diet – calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
    • Flavored milk contributes only 3% of the total added sugars in children’s diets, and provides 9 essential nutrients, making it a nutritious choice.

Dairy Farmers Dedication to Children’s Health

  • Through National Dairy Council, dairy farmers have provided child nutrition research, education and communication to their communities and schools for over 95 years. Now, this commitment supports Fuel Up to Play 60, a school wellness program launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. Based on youth’s input and in line with the 2010 DGA, this program encourages consumption of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and achieving at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The appeal of the program is evidenced by the enrollment of over 70,000 schools – that’s two-thirds of all schools in the U.S., with the potential to reach over 36 million children. Visit to learn more.
  • America’s 56,000 dairy farm families work hard every day to provide fresh, great-tasting, nutrient-rich milk and dairy products for the health of children. The 2010 DGA note it is especially important to establish the habit of drinking milk in young children, as those who consume milk at an early age are more likely to do so as adults. This has lifelong benefits because current evidence indicates that intake of dairy foods is linked to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents.

This June Dairy Month, make the commitment to enjoy three servings of dairy daily. For more information on the nutritional value of dairy and the dairy industry’s commitment to child health visit Dairy Council’s website,

Jennifer DeHoog, R.D., L.D.N.
Nutrition Educator
St. Louis District Dairy Council


Illinois Corn past Summer Intern, Sara Brockman, was hired as a County Farm Bureau Manager Trainee in the IFB Member Services and Public Relations Division effective Monday, May 23, 2011.

Sara graduated from the University of Illinois in May of 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Leadership Education, and a minor in Animal Sciences.

Sara’s work experience includes working at the Grundy County Farm Bureau, Imported Swine Research Lab, and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

 She grew up in Verona, IL, in Grundy County.

We wish you luck in your career Sara and enjoyed getting to know you!


The pork industry is the largest livestock user of corn in Illinois. For the 2009-10 marketing year, 72 million bushels of Illinois corn will be transformed into delicious and nutritious pork chops, pork burgers, ham, bacon, pork loins, etc. In celebration of everything “pork” (and we’re glad to say that corn is part of that!) we encourage Illinois youth to check out this leadership opportunity offered by the Illinois Pork Producers Association.

The Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) is seeking youth with an interest in the pork industry to attend the 2011 Illinois Pork Leadership Institute (IPLI) June 21-23. IPLI focuses on leadership, citizenship, and communication skills through hands-on experiences. Youth participate in a bus tour of various aspects of the agriculture industry and learn about pork promotion, research, consumer information and issues that affect the pork industry.

This year’s trip will be focused in the Chicago area. Trip itinerary includes: Chicago Board of Trade, Museum of Science and Industry, and many more interesting stops.

“IPPA supports numerous checkoff-funded youth related activities as a way to develop future pork industry leaders,” said Mike Borgic, IPPA Director of Membership & Outreach. “This program expands their knowledge of the pork industry and helps open their eyes to the many career possibilities in the pork industry and agriculture.”

IPLI attendees must be finishing their junior year in high school (or older) by the date of IPLI and no older than 23 years of age by March 31, 2011. IPLI attendees do not have to be pork producers or from pork producing families, but must exhibit a sincere interest in the pork industry and agriculture.

“The IPLI was a fantastic, educational experience that helped me meet fellow ambassadors, enjoy new learning experiences, explore various aspects of agriculture, enhance my knowledge of the pork industry, and become a better leader throughout all aspects of my life,” said Nathan Dobbels, previous IPLI participant from Galva, Ill. and Iowa State University student.  “I had the chance to attend this trip four times.  Each year, I realized I was truly fortunate to have this wonderful, life-changing opportunity.”

The deadline for applications has been extended until May 18th. A $100 registration fee per attendee is due at time of application. Attendees are encouraged to seek sponsorship from county pork producer groups for their registration fee and other expenses. IPPA covers the cost for any lodging, meals, and other expenditures which are a part of IPLI.

“IPLI gives youth the tools and skills to become spokespersons for the pork industry in their local areas, at their school, and in their careers,” said Borgic. “IPLI is an investment in the future of the pork industry.”

IPLI applications can be downloaded at or by contacting the IPPA office at (217) 529-3100.


Have you ever wondered why your dog walks in a circle before it lies down? Or why some cats can play too rough and bite your hands? Or why when you take a pig out of a group, they all seem to fight again once you put them back together? As an animal science major at Illinois State University, I have had the opportunity to take a Behavior of Domestic Animals class this semester. I think this information that any pet owner or livestock farmer should have in order to better understand and communicate with their animals!

To address the previous questions, dogs circle before they lie down because their wild ancestors would lie down in the grass. The circling beforehand would pack the grass so that they would have a flat spot to lie on. This behavior continues in dogs today even though they often already have a flat surface to lie on.

Has your dog ever tried to lick your face? Many people see this as a sign of affection, which still has not been ruled out. When they are young, however, puppies lick their mother’s face in order to stimulate her to regurgitate food for them. It is possible that they are just looking for you to give them a taste of your last meal!

If you have a cat that plays particularly rough, it may be because they were raised as a single kitten (without their litter mates).

These single kittens never learn to play fight with their littermates and consequently never learn to inhibit their bites. The same concept applies to dairy bulls, which are notoriously more aggressive than other bulls. Most dairy bulls are raised in solitude, so they never learn the consequences of their charges. When raised with other bulls, a charge usually results in some sort of retaliation, so those bulls think twice before charging someone. Bulls raised alone, however, have no inhibitions about being aggressive towards others.

Pigs (like most other species) establish a “pecking order” within their groups. When a pig is removed from a group and placed back with that group a few days later, sometimes the pigs will fight in order to reestablish that pig’s rank. It is the job of the subordinate pigs to remember who is above them; the dominant pigs simply know they are dominant; they do not seem to recognize the ranking of the rest of the pigs. If it is a dominant pig that has been removed, there is less of a chance of fighting when it is replaced because the other pigs will remember that dominant pig. If it is a subordinate pig, however, the pigs above it will not remember that pig and establish dominance over it once again.

Another interesting study that I found discovered a correlation between the placement of the circle of hair on a cow’s face and aggression. If the circle of hair was located right in the center of the face, between the eyes, the cow was fairly docile. If the circle of hair was off-centered on the head, that cow was more aggressive. 

Studies are also being conducted on humans to see if the placement of the circle of hair on the back of our heads has any correlation with behavioral issues.

These behaviors, along with countless others, are often overlooked or misunderstood by people. Pay attention to your animals, and if you are ever wondering why they are doing something, do a little research!  There have been thousands of studies on animal behavior, so look into it, and get to know your animals a little bit better!

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University student


There’s quite a bit of news out today attacking the anti-livestock/anti-meat groups.  Check out this article from an Australian paper, the Herald Sun.

To quote the author, “I would have thought treating women like pieces of meat makes any message they have against animal cruelty both hollow and meaningless.”

We agree.

Then, check out the latest video on the Humane Society of the United States.

If you need still more information to convince you that HSUS and PeTA are radical elitists, follow

This message brought to you by a steak-loving farmer’s daughter who spent a majority of her life raising cattle …

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


It seems that there are special days for all kinds of things to honor and celebrate. March 1st is National Pig Day. While this has not yet become a recognized Hallmark greeting card holiday, the pig is an amazing animal and does warrant celebrating. We do have a whole month reserved for celebrating pigs & pork during October Pork Month, but an extra day of attention on the pig won’t hurt.

The pig truly is an amazing animal; it’s where bacon comes from so how much more amazing can it be! There are many pork products and by-products that we use in our daily lives that come from pigs. So we wanted to share some information on pigs and how they are raised.

We need to state up front that pigs are not pets. They are raised for food and the many by-products that we get from the pig.

People that raise pigs for their job are called pork producers. Pork producers work 7 days a week, 365 days a year, on the farm providing the best care possible for their pigs.

Most pigs are raised in clean, indoor climate controlled hog barns, so that we can better care for the pigs and they are healthier. Have you ever heard anyone say they sweat like a pig? That’s not true. Pigs can’t sweat – that’s why pork producers use misters in hog barns – like sprinklers in the summer – so they stay cool. In the winter, pigs are kept warm because the buildings have piggies, baby pigs, swineheaters, just like your house.

Baby pigs are raised in special barns with their mothers, called sows. To keep the baby pigs from getting hurt or stepped on they are kept in birthing pens called farrowing stalls. When the piglets reach 10-15 pounds, they are weaned – taken off their mother’s milk and given solid food.   

Pigs eat a balanced diet of corn, soybean meal, and vitamins. Pigs eat a lot.  It takes 5 billion pounds of corn and soybeans to feed all the pigs in Illinois each year. If you filled a big truck to the top, it would take 100,000 trucks to move all that grain! Put them end to end, they would stretch from Illinois all the way to Disneyworld!

Baby pigs weigh about 2 pounds when they are born. In only 6 months they grow to 270 pounds and are ready for market. The pigs are then transported to a processing plant, where they are harvested and then processed into the delicious pork that we eat such as – pork chops, bacon, ham, sausage, ribs, pork burgers, and more.

Pork is the most consumed meat in the world and American pork producers take pride in producing a food they feed their own family, as well as many families worldwide. From farm to fork, U.S. pork producers provide good food at a great value for families nationwide.

Pork is good for you and an important part of your diet. It provides your body with protein that builds muscle and helps your bodies grow. On average, the six most common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent. Including lean pork in the diet can help you lose weight while maintaining more lean tissue (including muscle).

There are also more than 500 pork by-products that come from pigs including life saving items such as replacement heart valves, skin grafts for burn victims and insulin. Other pig by-products are used in making industrial products such as gelatin, plywood adhesive, glue, cosmetics and plastics.

For more than 1,700 delicious pork recipes, tips on cooking pork and many other pork resources visit and for more information on the Illinois pork industry visit  

Tim Maiers, Communications
Illinois Pork Producers Association


February is Responsible Pet Owner’s Month!  While a lot of folks probably don’t think that livestock farmers think of their cows, chickens, and pigs as pets … well, a lot of them do.  Here’s how we participate in Responsible Pet Owner’s Month – agriculture style. 

Thanks to Rosie for helping us understand reponsible livestock care from a farmer’s perspective!


We have all seen and read numerous articles from humane societies and other organizations about American farmers and our “mistreatment” of animals. Whenever I see one of these articles, I often wonder what the answer would be if I asked the authors of those articles exactly how many farms they have visited lately to see first hand how farmers handle their animals. If I had to guess, it is a very small number, if any.

When people read articles like these, they forget to take one very important thing into consideration: credibility of the author. Even if the authors hold a position of authority for a company or site other sources for their information, I find that the topic of livestock production and treatment of the animals can only be truly understood from a first hand experience. Sure, you could research the topic and find information about it, but how do you really know what is happening on our farms unless you have experienced it first-hand?

As someone with 20 years of experience on a livestock production farm, I would like to take this opportunity to THANK our farmers for their hard work and responsible animal care- this should be a nice change of pace!

Like any typical farm kid, I spent ten years participating in the County 4-H fairs showing cattle and pigs. In those ten years, I got to see not only how my family handles our animals, but how numerous other families handle their livestock as well. I can honestly say that farm families have a great respect for the animals that they raise, in fact, the only minor mistreatment of animals I can remember were caused by pedestrians at the fairs who were unfamiliar with how to properly handle animals. 

Many practices that farmers commonly use are misconstrued by the general public and seen as mistreatment when, in fact, it is helpful to the animal. One example of this is our use of a “show stick” when showing cattle. From a spectator’s point of view, it looks like the people showing the animals are just poking the cattle with a sharp stick. The show sticks are used to communicate to the animal how we would like their feet placed on the ground. As is the case with most large animals, cattle have much deeper nerve endings than humans, so what we would see as a painful poke, they feel as a nudge and they move their feet accordingly. Another main use of these show sticks is to rub the under bellies of the cattle in the show ring to keep them calm and comfort them because they are in a new setting. This is just one of many examples of misinterpreted actions that farmers use when handling animals.

Growing up in a farm community, I also got to see how other farm operations handled their livestock at home on the farm. Once again, I have always seen animals treated with respect and often cared for like members of the family. On our farm, each of our cows is still named and that is how we keep track of them in our record books!

Responsible animal care is an important issue, and thus should not be overlooked. For any skeptics about my claims of good animal care on farms, look into the regulations that producers have to follow that were put into place by government organizations. Just like anyone else, farmers have rules to follow that ensure the well-being of every animal, and from my first hand experience of 20 years on a farm, farmers are glad to follow those rules and would not raise their animals without the care and respect that they deserve.

Once again, thank you farmers for your hard work and responsible animal care! Even though the countless articles that paint a bad picture of our farms continue to come, farmers continue to believe in what they do and the manner in which they do it, and I am proud to call myself one of them.

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University student 
Animal Industry Management