Category Archives: People

We love the crop farmers

Vegan’s will say they love crop farmers who grow their food. But I can’t even repeat here what they think of livestock producers. So to say the least they’re a little confused when a mixed farmer like myself shows up to the debate. Do they love me or hate me? Most often it’s hate mixed with encouragement to only grow crops. “Why don’t you just grow crops?” First off, not all of my land supports growing crops. This world isn’t full of perfect 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile blocks of flat land. Some of its hilly, rocky, forested, etc. This is where I run my livestock & let them graze it. The rest is rotated between hay & crops. A number of years in hay production for livestock followed by a number of years in crop production is good for the land. Crop rotation is a foundation in agriculture for healthy land and plants.

On top of that crops that don’t make it to human consumption standards can be fed to livestock. All the way from salvaging crops that didn’t make it to maturity (green). To feeding harvested grain of low quality (feed grain). Livestock can make use of this & on my farm it doesn’t even have to leave the farm sometimes (saving a bit of transportation).

I wrote this early on in the debate on #farm365,

photo

But still I will get asked, “Are you saying you need livestock to grow a crop?” No, just about everyone knows you can throw some seeds in the ground and they’ll grow. Anyone that grows a garden with no livestock knows this and this is probably where that question comes from. But agriculture on a larger scale (than a garden) needs efficiencies to remain profitable and these efficiencies come from livestock that will consume poor crops. Crop waste and low quality crops all need to produce revenue for the crop farmer to face another year.

I remember one specific conversation with a vegan who did not understand this simple concept. He stated he’d eat anything a crop producer grows. I showed him that picture and told him to enjoy his corn. His reply was “You feed that rotten $%@$ to your cows? That’s horrible” Horrible because he wouldn’t eat it, therefore it’s not fit for a cow? I don’t feed my cows salad from the grocery store just as I don’t mow my lawn and have it for lunch. Livestock can and need to process what we can not.

To illustrate this I made a couple of flow charts. From chatting with vegan’s, first is about the average understanding of agriculture as it pertains to them. Second is my best attempt to explain a basic farmers understanding.

Veganside

Farmside

Even that seems a little over simplified. But that’s the point. Agriculture is all intertwined and complicated. It’s not a simple case of just making a seed grow. Crops & livestock evolved together as agriculture. It’s not just a simple decision of tomorrow we all start growing crops. There will always be crop producers and livestock producers because they work together. Mixed farm seems to becoming a historic term and maybe that’s part of the problem. Some consumers now see crop farmers or livestock farmers, they don’t understand doing both. They see black and white. Ranches, Dairies, Hog Farms, Grain Farms, Vegetable Farms, Orchard’s, Sheep Farms are all so specific terms but they’re all farms. Historically one farm could have been all of those. So maybe we have to do a better job showing we’re all connected, we all stand together as agriculture, as farmers, almost as one single large historic mixed farm. Something #farm365 is accomplishing thanks in part to those attacking it.

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Earthlings

Earthings. We are all Earthlings sharing this planet of ours. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, in 2005 a man named Shaun Monson wrote, directed & produced a documentary called “Earthlings”. Basically it’s a film about the relationship between humans & animals documenting all the horrific ways we treat them.

I’d never heard about the documentary until #farm365 began on twitter this January. In talking with vegans who attacked & hi-jacked the sharing of daily farm pictures on twitter, a reoccurring documentary began to be mentioned, “Earthlings”. After a few debates with similar arguments, quotes and the term “Speciesism” being used, I decided to see what had “changed their whole worlds”. I sat down and watched “Earthlings”. Guess what? Didn’t change my life.

First off I’d like to say showing an hour & half of the most horrific videos you can find of human atrocities against animals is not a fair representation of “Earthlings”. At the end of the documentary they list where the video’s used in the film came from & surprise, surprise guess who was listed first, PETA. I even recognized some that have been proven to have been produced & made by PETA to falsely show animal cruelty. Honestly ask yourself, what farmer walks into his turkey barn with a machete & just starts swinging killing birds  leaving them there? If it doesn’t make sense, odds are it’s not true.

Second, “Earthlings” starts off denoting that we’re all “Earthlings”. That we should all show peace & love to our fellow earthlings that share our planet. But wait, not all earthlings show that compassion to others. There are herbivores & carnivores on this planet. A key piece of nature the film conveniently left out by showing 99% herbivores in its arguement that humans are horrible creatures. One lion was shown with something in its mouth so I can’t say 100% but was not shown killing it. Some beings kill other beings, some “earthlings” kill other earthlings. That’s nature’s way, life & death. Often in the wild it’s quite brutal and horrible when one animal kills another. They may even begin to eat the other animal before it’s dead. That’s nature but that’s not what “Earthlings” would have you know happens. Earthlings aims to show the viewer that humans perpetuate some of the worst atrocities against our fellow earthlings. Earth is full of many diverse animals just as humanity is filled with many diverse cultures. Another thing the film tries to ignore. We are all humans & therefore must all think alike. Different cultures practice different rituals, ie halal killings & Japanese diet for sea food. I really find it disturbing the documentary tries to paint us all with the same brush. I believe in respecting others cultures. Yes, we all must live together but in doing that we must learn to respect other’s cultures & beliefs. It is the disrespect for that which causes wars, genocides & other atrocities against our fellow-man.

So does “Earthlings” make a point? Yes. But you have to understand there’s more to the story. Many practices shown are fringe practices. Even the film admitted of one scene that it was not allowed. That they were breaking the rules set out. So what’s your point of showing it then? Humans aren’t perfect, there’s evil & wrong in this world. Doesn’t mean there isn’t good & good people doing good practices in the world. Just means we have to have a system in place to ensure proper practices are followed which at least in Canada we have. Is it flawless, no, but it’s ever evolving & improving. We must support it, not tear it down.

Finally I will leave you with some research I did on the film after I watched it. It was released in 2005. A couple of years ago the producers announced they would be releasing an updated version in 2015 with hi-def under cover video. But nothing beyond that promise & no release date. Maybe they realized using 30 years worth of stockpiled old PETA film can’t be reproduced in 2 years, that animal welfare has improved & is continuing to improve. That we can spot a fake PETA film & it’s not just a simple case of going out & filming a farm to get “footage” to use as propoganda. That it’s not as bad as they can make it look.

The “Cowboy” Truck

Been a while but after reading the following article, I couldn’t resist.

First Ford, then Chrysler and now it appears General Motors according to this article,

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/05/05/gm-general-motors-chevrolet-silverado-ford-king-ranch/2137195/

Western themed trucks I guess is what they’d be called. Saddle leather seats, western inlay and such to make people feel western I guess. But they’re considered luxury trucks. High end packages added to trucks for exorbitant amounts of money. Chevy even boosts it “will be the top model in the Silverado lineup”. In the article it says the Ford King Ranch can cost almost twice as much as a base Ford F-150. That’s outrageous! Who’d spend twice as much for a truck that had some pretty brands on it and saddle leather seats? Really? What happened to the days trucks were for work not status symbols? When they were actually used for what they were designed for. I see these kids today (oh god, I sound like my father), driving around in them all jacked up, big tires, loud muffler’s, etc. Rarely does any of them have so much as a scratch in the box. Just mud from unloading their motor bikes, 4 wheelers or other toys. Oh maybe one or two scratches from taking out their fifth wheel to haul their toys around. Anyway I’m getting off track. Right, “cowboy” trucks.

And how does the term “cowboy” truck equate to luxury truck? Mine sure ain’t. How about they make a true “cowboy” truck with pre-made fake stains on the seats from newborn calves being heaved onto them. Pre kicked in front fenders as if a cow has kicked it. Flat beds with bale handlers would come standard of course. Headache racks for lariat’s, sticks, prods, chains, etc. That’d be a true “cowboy” themed truck. But sadly only the real cowboys would go into town to drool over those new trucks sitting on the lots. No…., they have to make luxury trucks for the city folks out there who need to feel like they’re somehow one of us by driving the fanciest truck on the market. God bless em’

Sorry, Chevy, Ford & Dodge. But, I’ll be taking the base model thank you very much because to me, that’s the true “cowboy’s” truck!

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Calgary’s cowtown image ain’t so cow or town anymore

Calgary, aka Cowtown.  Sure maybe years ago that was the case but that title should be taken away now.  Google search of cowtown gives me Calgary’s Wikipedia page as second result.  I know other cities around lay claim to that title like Fort Worth, Texas and others.  But in Canada cowtown lies solely to Calgary.  Anyway where was I.  Right, cowtown.  The other day I was reading a good article about how the cattle industry shaped Calgary’s formation.  I like old history books and articles on stockyards and packing plants.  This one explained the old stockyards location forming the eastside of Calgary over the years it was in operation.  The slaughter houses all contributing to Calgary’s growth.  The formation of the Calgary Stampede.  Calgary was once cowtown.  But look at it now.  The stockyards were swallowed up by city growth and pretty much forced to relocate out of the city.  They’ve been replaced with warehouses and special shops.  The packing plants slowly closed one by one, till the last one closed up shop just last year.  Not much was written, just that it closed and honestly with it, Calgary’s last remaining link to cowtown.  What’s left?  The Stampede?  Thousands of city dwellers going out to get mini donuts and watch salesmen try to sell non-stick pans while their kids ride the midway rides?  Sure there’s still the rodeo and chuckwagon’s but it all seems so much like a show put on for Calgary now.  A reason for the city to dress up in jeans and rolled up side cowboy hats that sit in their closets 11 months out of the year.  To go watch rodeo and have no clue what’s going on.

At least places like Fort Worth keep its history.  The stockyards district in Fort Worth.  The honoring of its past by saving it.  That’s cowtown.  What does Calgary do, pave it over and then fakely dress the city up every July.  Or in the case of its packing plant, turn it into a farmers market/theater with hardly any mention of its history.  Let me quote its website,

This unique building from the 1920s is nestled in the heart of the city near trendy Inglewood. Many weekend visitors say “It’s an important part of their community and essential to Calgary,” which is evident when you see hundreds of families and friends visiting their favourite cheese shop, local baker, butcher or leather shop.

Unique building.  Try, the historic Canada packers slaughter-house.  But no, just a unique building in Calgary.  A true cowtown would honour that and memorialize it.  And surround that area, where the stockyards once stretched, nothing but industrial area.  Wiped clean of anything related to cattle.  No plaque, no designation, nothing.  I’m sure in the not to distant future the now closed XL packers, the last remaining will be torn down and replaced with warehouses or a strip mall of some sort.

Calgary, with it’s “white hatting” ceremonies and its simple cowboy hat logo on its welcome signs that say “Heart of the new west”.  Maybe they should stop and think about the old west for a bit.  The old west that they’re destroying through being the centre of oil and gas development.  The expansion of the city lifestyle out into ranching country, breaking up large ranches into small acreages.  Cowtown?  Hardly.

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What happened to winter

It’s March already, what happened to winter?  Sounds like this warmer weather is all over North America this winter.  Little snow and warm weather.  I can’t really remember any winter like this.  We got warm weather with no chinook winds or arch.  Just plain warm, calm and warm.  Very odd.  I understand all the meteorologists have their reasoning for it and apparently in other parts of the world, they got a colder winter and more snow than usual.  I’m not a big one on global warming.  Overall it seems to be getting warmer right now but in the longer world history, temperatures have gone up and down on their own.  Last winter was more normal but years before have been a little light on snow.  This year though is definitely different and I can’t help but be a little irked by it in that it was so different.

Some of the agriculture groups here are already predicting doom and gloom.  From increased insects and pests to the obvious lack of moisture for crops to take off in the spring.  Maybe it’s just the normal push to sell crop and hay insurance.  I don’t like to predict much of anything.  I believe almost all the predictions for this winter were for very cold temperatures and lots of snow which was obviously completely wrong.  We could still get a blast of winter this spring but I don’t think it’s going to change the overall outlook of this winter.  Besides, you’ve gotta take ranching day by day and right now it’s pretty nice for getting into calving season.

Can’t help but think of Corb Lund’s song “The Truth Comes Out”

Yes, Corb’s in the CD player quite a bit in my rigs.  But he’s right with this song.  Things are changing.  We can’t deny it.  You go up north you’ll see the permafrost melting.  Corb talks about the cougars.  We’re heard more and more stories of people seeing them in the river valley pastures.  I did that blog on the wolves.  We used to only see wolves out on the land next to the green zone.  Now they’ve moved into more settled areas and we see tracks through pastures and hay fields miles from the green zone.  And it goes on and on.  Maybe it’s the oil, gas and forestry pushing into their wilderness but maybe it also has something to do with the weather.  Makes you wonder where we’re heading?  Guess best bet is still just to take it day by day.  Oh look, little snow, good for calving.

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Ranching and wolves

I’ve been hearing that more municipalities are instituting some sort of bounty on wolves.  I’ve heard anywhere from $150 up to $300 a wolf.  First let me say that I think wolves are amazing animals.  They are truly awe-inspiring to be seen in the wild.  But they are a predatory animal and at times prey on livestock.  Anyway it’s no surprise, these counties have been flooded with letters about how horrible that is and to not kill these majestic creatures.  Most I’m sure from those not involved in ranching and facing the challenges of wolves with cattle.  Just bothered by the idea of killing wolves.

It’s impossible to deny the fact that wolves are becoming more prevalent and destructive to the ranching community.  Wolf kills have been steadily on the rise the past few years.  Now a lot of wolf advocates will say the number of wolf kills is low by statistical data.  But in reality you need a certain percentage of the carcass to prove it’s a wolf kill.  So in most cases there isn’t enough of the carcass left to prove and thus count it as a wolf kill in statistical data.  Most of the time all ranchers find is a kill site.  So we can’t definitely know the number wolves take a year but it’s high.  Wolf advocates will also tell ranchers they need to institute predator control by using donkey’s or llama’s.  But what they forget is most ranches use dogs to work the cattle.  Helping move them from pasture to pasture.  If you have a predator control animal it’s going to go after the dog.  Even just having a donkey on the property could cause issues with dogs. 

Honestly the list goes on and on as to how to quote, “live with wolves”.  But they still don’t agree with controlling the wolves population by hunting.  It’s done for deer, moose, elk and other wild game animals to keep their populations in check, why not wolves?  The only difference is there’s not much incentive to go after wolves.  For hunters anyway, obviously ranchers have an incentive but often not the time.  So by offering a bounty you provide an incentive to go after them to control their populations.  We already know they’re on the rise.  Left unchecked, what is there to control wolves?  They’re at the top of the food chain and have no natural enemies.  So if we keep feeding them beef what’s to stop their population growth without predatory actions on them?  When they start attacking my cattle, they’re attacking my livelihood.  Wouldn’t you defend your livelihood?

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City people and cattle liners, why?

It’s articles like this that I read tonight in the Western Producer that just make me shake my head and wonder why,

Producers must provide answers

Accountability paramount | Experts call on industry to lead charge for animal welfare research

Posted Feb. 23rd, 2012by Robert Arnason

PIPESTONE, Manitoba — Canadian cattle producers are urged to pay more attention to the issue of livestock transport because consumers are certainly doing so.

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association vice-president Martin Unrau recently said at a town hall meeting in Pipestone that federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz’s office receives more letters on livestock transport than any other issue.

“This is where the consumer sees the animals,” Unrau said at the meeting, which is part of a new communication effort to help the CCA connect with cattle producers.

“We have to be accountable to the public…. The perception has to be that we look after our cattle very well in transport.”

A Ritz spokesperson confirmed that the minister’s office received more than 200 letters on the topic last year.

Unrau’s comments were made weeks after dozens of animals died when a commercial cattle truck collided with a train north of Carberry, Man. That type of incident may be a random occurrence, but the related headlines and television news stories can potentially alter the public’s perception of livestock production and transport.

Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, who studies the transport stress of farm animals for Agriculture Canada in Lethbridge, said it’s hard to control the emotional reactions of Canadian motorists when they drive by a trailer filled with cattle, pigs or chickens.

Nevertheless, Canada’s cattle industry must be prepared to deal with the related questions and concerns, she added.

“If a customer has a question, they have a right to ask it. It’s going to look far better for the industry … if (it) can answer some of those questions honestly with some knowledge and science behind it,” she said.

One concern is the length of time that cattle are kept inside trailers.

Canadian regulations allow cattle to be transported for 52 hours without stopping for food or water, but animal welfare organizations such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) have argued that’s much too long and too stressful on the animals.

In its 2010 report on Canada’s farm animal transport system, WSPA referred to a Harris/Decima poll that said the public feels the same way.

The poll found that 96 percent of Canadians felt it is at least somewhat important to limit transport times to reduce animal suffering.

Unrau said reducing the maximum time inside a trailer would severely affect Manitoba cattle producers because the province is many hours from slaughter plants and major feedlot operations.

While he conceded that reducing the maximum time makes sense for animal welfare, he also said no one really knows the appropriate length of trip for a cold and vast country like Canada.

Animal welfare experts in Canada such as Schwartzkopf-Genswein are studying the issue, but there are many unanswered questions:
■ is it better to unload animals during a trip to provide food and water?
■ should food and water be provided on the trailer?

Schwartzkopf-Genswein said it may seem obvious that stopping for food and water or providing food and water onboard makes sense for animal welfare, but those questions lead to other questions.

“We’re not even sure if off loading for feed and water even helps the animals…. (Would) they even drink the water because it’s different to them?” she said.

“Is welfare better if they are provided with feed and water? Probably. But what do we do when it’s – 30 C and the water freezes?”

The livestock industry needs to find the answers or someone outside the industry may impose a set of regulations for livestock transport in Canada, Schwartzkopf-Genswein said.

200 letters? Seriously?  What is this world coming to?  Should food and water be provided on the trailer?  Honestly?  We’re taking this seriously?  Yes, I understand having a cap on the number of hours in a trailer.  Obviously you keep them in there long enough with nothing, they’ll die, so obviously.  But seriously.  It’s all a case of humanizing livestock.  These people driving in the city see a large livestock trailer packed with cattle and think that must be horrible because they imagine themselves in that situation.  Then ironically most of them pile onto a city bus or train at probably a higher density rate then the cattle liner.  Give me a break.  Why can’t people just look at it and go, you know what I don’t understand why they do that, I’m going to ask someone that’s involved in it to find out the reasons they do it that way.  Then I can make a reasonable and knowledgable decision on it.  NO!  They look at the trailer and go, That’s horrible, I’m going to write a letter to the Agriculture minister about how horrible and disturbing this is to me in my daily commute to witness this.  Maybe we should go back to cattle drives and get them writing letters that we’re tying up traffic.

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The beginner farmer and rancher

It’s so hard to start farming today. Land costs, machinery costs, just costs. I’m so grateful for where I am but I can’t help but worry about the future. How is the next generation going to get into this? How can they? And when I see the so called programs put out to help them, it just makes me shake my head. AFSC has what they call their Beginner farmer loan. I’ve seen this at tradeshows I’ve gone to when I visit their booth. I’m not going to go completely into it but it basically gives a reduced interest rate for the first 5 years of the loan. Great. But let’s think what that really does. After those first years are over, the program’s done. So what does that encourage you to do? Start big and grow fast to make the most of the program. I started my ranch small and built it up over time. And by time I don’t mean 5 years. Hell, in the first 5 years I mostly just learned what not to do. But maybe that doesn’t work anymore. But I can’t understand putting a timeline like that and selling it to people starting out. It’s just things like that get to me. They promote it as helping young farmers. That’s not helping them. Why doesn’t the government come out with something useful. Something simple that really supports people that want to get into farming. They have these Growing Forward programs for various approved projects. You can get part of the cost covered if you qualify. Why not do that for those wanting to get into farming in the first place? For those that are qualified, cover part of the cost of starting out. Some of the max amounts for projects are up to $30,000. That could go a long way for someone starting out. I look at some of the kids that I hire on occasion to help me out. They’re so good with cattle and so energetic. But when I ask them about their future, it’s always the same, there’s no way they can financially start out on their own with the cost of everything. So they get their full time job in the oilfield and just get their ranching fill on their days off helping me. They say the average age of the Canadian farmer is 52 and rising. Guess I’m still bringing the average down for now. But with no one able to get in, what’s going to happen? I hate seeing all these well qualified potential ranchers having to go work in the oilfield because there’s no support for them to do what they’d be best at.

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Ranch land developement

Sing it Corb! We’re all seeing this more and more. That large new manufactured house built out on what was once pasture land.


The large compressor station put on what was once a grazing flat. The multitude of roads criss crossing pastures to all the well heads.

And then there’s “Fracking”. But I’ll let you learn about that, since it scares me too much to explain it. I’m glad in my own little corner of the world, I don’t have to deal with any of this all that much. Oil and gas is everywhere but at least I’m a little more left alone then others. What exists around here, I can live with. I don’t like it, but I can live with it. I could see it getting to the point Corb sings about though and that worries me. Not only for my generation but mainly for the next. It’s closer to Calgary that the acreages and big homes are a problem. It’s sad though to go for a drive out in these areas and see those big manufactured homes out where they don’t belong. And this streches all along the rockies from Alberta down to New Mexico. We’re all in the same battle. Ranching is viewed as an iconic part of North America but many who admire it, don’t respect it. As Ian Tyson puts it in this article I found,

“The current policy of liquidating oil and gas resources as quickly as possible is not in Alberta’s best interests,” Canadian country legend Ian Tyson tells reporters. “It is destroying agricultural communities, wildlife diversity, recreational tourism, and the signature landscapes all along the Cowboy Trail.”

It’s a very good article. Written a few years ago but still relevent,

Eastern Slopes battle looms.

“There’s no landscape like this left. You can’t just keep chopping it off into pieces.”

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