Agvocate

It’s National Agriculture Day!

It’s National Agriculture Day! I’m celebrating because dairy farming has been a way of life for me and my family for generations. My husband and I are glad to be raising our boys on a farm. But agriculture doesn’t only impact farm families, it’s far reaching touching everyone’s life.

Today is a great opportunity to reflect on how agriculture makes a positive impact in our lives; 
Food quality & choice – there is a larger variety of quality food in the store today than ever before
Fiber – plants, like cotton, and animals, like sheep, goats, and alpacas, produce wonderful fibers
By-products – many household items, medicine and other goods contain plant and animal products
Open space – large flat fields, small rolling fields, barns and tractors create beautiful landscapes 
Economic impact – farmers purchase lots of products and services which support local businesses
Strong community – farms are the backbone of viable rural communities 

This is one of my favorite photos of my sons, Garrett and Jack, and my husband, Lad

As dairy farmers, we are interested in making improvements that benefit the animals we care for and the land we grow crops on. Part of working smart is utilizing technology and other tools available to do a better job producing food using fewer resources.


My 2013 National Ag Day blog post shared theEvolution of Dairy Farming featuring improvements dairy farmers have made over the years. It includes thoughts from my father, Tony Souza, and my father-in-law, Duane Hastings, both dairy farmers who have experienced many changes in dairy farming over the years.

Dairy farming is a unique and challenging business. In order to sustain farming and the food choices people enjoy today, it’s necessary to embrace farmers of all types and sizes. Successful farms producing quality food can be large, small, organic, or conventional. Healthy animals can be fed a variety of feed stuffs and be housed inside or outside. It’s ok if we adopt different practices. The goal for all farmers is caring for land and animals to produce quality products people want to consume. After all, we live on our farms and eat the food produced here!

National Ag Day is the perfect time to celebrate the food quality and choices we enjoy in this country. Thanks to farmers who work hard every day and to consumers who support what we do!

It’s National Agriculture Day!

It’s National Agriculture Day! I’m celebrating because dairy farming has been a way of life for me and my family for generations. My husband and I are glad to be raising our boys on a farm. But agriculture doesn’t only impact farm families, it’s far reaching touching everyone’s life.

Today is a great opportunity to reflect on how agriculture makes a positive impact in our lives; 
Food quality & choice – there is a larger variety of quality food in the store today than ever before
Fiber – plants, like cotton, and animals, like sheep, goats, and alpacas, produce wonderful fibers
By-products – many household items, medicine and other goods contain plant and animal products
Open space – large flat fields, small rolling fields, barns and tractors create beautiful landscapes 
Economic impact – farmers purchase lots of products and services which support local businesses
Strong community – farms are the backbone of viable rural communities 

This is one of my favorite photos of my sons, Garrett and Jack, and my husband, Lad

As dairy farmers, we are interested in making improvements that benefit the animals we care for and the land we grow crops on. Part of working smart is utilizing technology and other tools available to do a better job producing food using fewer resources.


My 2013 National Ag Day blog post shared theEvolution of Dairy Farming featuring improvements dairy farmers have made over the years. It includes thoughts from my father, Tony Souza, and my father-in-law, Duane Hastings, both dairy farmers who have experienced many changes in dairy farming over the years.

Dairy farming is a unique and challenging business. In order to sustain farming and the food choices people enjoy today, it’s necessary to embrace farmers of all types and sizes. Successful farms producing quality food can be large, small, organic, or conventional. Healthy animals can be fed a variety of feed stuffs and be housed inside or outside. It’s ok if we adopt different practices. The goal for all farmers is caring for land and animals to produce quality products people want to consume. After all, we live on our farms and eat the food produced here!

National Ag Day is the perfect time to celebrate the food quality and choices we enjoy in this country. Thanks to farmers who work hard every day and to consumers who support what we do!

Why Heritage/Heirloom?

It’s not an unusual question when talking to fellow ag folks. It’s something often misunderstood by potential customers. It’s not even in the knowledge of those railing against “factory farms” and condemning all production. Why heritage breeds? The modern large white breasted turkey can produce meat much more efficiently, more consistently, than a Bourbon Red […]

Does The Message or The Messenger Matter More?

The last couple of days immersed in the world of agriculture meetings, fellow “agnerds” and people from all corners of agriculture converged on San Antonio Texas for a large trade show called Commodity Classic. I “don’t belong” here. I don’t have thousands of acres, don’t raise enough corn to “matter”, don’t raise soybeans, and really […]

Spring In Motion

While many are just thinking February, some might be looking to March we’re thinking about…summer. Thanksgiving. Grilling. Preserving. Customer produce doesn’t just happen…and I started the first batch of (Beaver Dam)peppers yesterday. With a couple months growing time that’ll mean summer peppers fresh from the garden. Popcorn will go in soon, and we’re working on […]

Be Nice

Have you ever frequented a business where drama seemed to rule? The clip from Roadhouse (released in 1989) is classic advice from a classic actor. The main character, portrayed by Patrick Swayze, is hired to straighten up a bar. He observed a typical night and here he institutes changes in three simple rules. There is […]

What’s A Liebster Award?

There are many awards given in the social media world. There’s many with more subscribers and many with less. But getting a mention by a fellow blogger is nice. Thanks to Taylor at TheAggieHipster! And it’s a fun way to pass along some other cool blogs y’all might like too. These are ‘smaller’ blogs but […]

Winter Chores

Today was cold.  Despite the fidget temperatures and working outside for most of the day I have managed to stay comfortably warm by wearing layers of clothes and of course taking a couple breaks to warm back up. Weighing on my mind all day was the fact that the temperatures are supposed to get even [...]

Critter Care in Cold Weather

As we prepare for cold weather headed our way, northern friends may chuckle. Some have had wind chills of -70* and ice. But for the south, it’s not as common – 20s and 30s are normal winter, but a high of 27* and low of 9, as is predicted early next week, is bone chilling […]

Is Farm Animal Cruelty Common?

I just read a story in Rolling Stone Magazine titled “Animal Cruelty Is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat”. If I was reading this as someone who has never been on a farm, I would be mortified. What a horrible picture this story paints of animal agriculture!

What the Rolling Stone story describes is NOT an accurate description of a dairy farm. I’m a third generation dairy producer who grew up on a dairy farm. I know lots of dairy farmers and have been to a number of farms. I’d like to share my experience. The Rolling Stone article discusses several types of livestock operations, but I’ll only cover dairy because that’s what I know.
Rolling Stone (RS) article info & the Reality on our Farm
RS: Livestock are “raised for our consumption in dark, filthy, pestilent barns. Milk cows are raised, like pigs, on a concrete slab in a stall barely bigger than their body.”
Reality: Our cows live in large, comfortable freestall barns with individual beds. Fans keep them cool in the summer and curtains/doors can be rolled down to enclose the barn keeping the animals warm in the winter. They have free-choice fresh water to drink and nutritious food to eat. They can move about to eat, drink, rest and socialize whenever they like. They are healthy, comfortable and content in this calm environment which was created especially to meet their needs.  

Inside the freestall barn; cows can eat, rest, walk around or socialize
Relaxing in her individual sand bed
Cows socializing by the water trough in the freestall barn

RS: “A cocktail of drugs, combined with breeding decisions, has grossly distended the size of a cow’s udder so they trip over it if allowed to graze, which of course they’re not.”

Reality: Cow’s udders come in all sizes, some are small and some are large. They tend to sag as cows age. We don’t breed our cows to have giant udders. We do want cows with good milk production, but the size of udder doesn’t necessarily correlate to the quantity of milk she produces. I’ve never seen a cow “trip over her udder”. Our milk cows spend the majority of the time in the barn and are quite happy there. When weather permits, some animals are housed outside. We make these decisions based on what is best for the animals.

Cows walking to the milking parlor – their udders come in a variety of sizes
During warm months, some of our animals are outside.

RS: “Cow’s hooves are rotted black from standing in their own shit, their teats are scarred, swollen and leaking pus – infected by mastitis – and they’re sick to the verge of total collapse from giving nearly 22,000 pounds of milk a year.”

Reality: Our barns are cleaned remove manure several times each day because we don’t want cows standing in manure. They also get their hooves trimmed regularly (like a pedicure). It’s import to keep cows udders and teats healthy. That’s why the milking machine is lined with soft rubber and stays on the cow a limited amount of time (usually 5 minutes/milking). Occasionally a cow can get mastitis, if she does we put her in the hospital pen where she receives treatment and special care until she’s well. Our cows are healthy because we make sure they are cared for properly; they eat well, drink plenty of fresh water, live in comfortable, dry conditions and receive medical treatment when necessary.

The barns are kept clean – manure is removed from the barn several times each day
The milking process is comfortable for the cows; the machine is on her about 5 minutes
RS: Animal rights activists are, “infiltrating farms and documenting the abuse done to livestock herds by the country’s agri-giants.”
Reality: Farming is a family business. Many farms are multi-generational. Ninety-eight percent of U.S. dairy farms are owned and operated by families. Larger farms depend on employees. In addition to our family labor, we have nine full-time staff at our farm. We are still a family farm. 

Lad feeds a newborn calf colostrum as our son, Garret watches
Taylor works at our farm, he’s great with the cows and we’re lucky he’s on our team

RS: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture is so short-staffed that it typically only sends inspectors out to slaughterhouses, where they check a small sample of pigs, cows and sheep before they’re put to death.

Reality: Dairy farms are inspected regularly. A state licensed milk inspector comes to our farm, unannounced, several times each year. There are many rules and regulations we follow to ensure the milk produced on our farm is safe and healthy. Any dairy farm producing Grade A milk, regardless of size, must follow the same rules to maintain a milk producer license.   
 
After being milked, cows can hang out on this deck then walk back to their barn when they’re ready
RS: Cattle and hog farmers “dump antibiotics into the grain they fed the stock.”
Reality: Our cows are not fed antibiotics. All milk is tested for antibiotics before it is allowed to be unloaded at a milk processing plant. If the load tests positive for antibiotics, it is discarded. If we fed antibiotics, we would not be able to sell our milk. For example, if one cow is being treated with antibiotics at our farm and her milk accidentally gets into our 4,000 gallon milk tank, that entire tank load of milk will test positive for antibiotics and be dumped. As a result, we would not be paid for that tank load of milk and would face disciplinary action from the state department of agriculture. There is no economic advantage to overusing antibiotics.

Cows love to eat! These girls are enjoying a well balanced diet.

The real animal advocates are farmers and ranchers who care for animals daily. They are the people who dedicate their lives to animal welfare. 

These heifers love the people who care for them!
The undercover videos I’ve seen show one or two individual employees doing the wrong thing. It’s never ok to abuse an animal. People who make the wrong choice should face justice and suffer the consequences of their actions. These are rare cases that get lots of attention. Though uncommon, abuse happens. It can happen to humans and animals in homes, assisted living facilities, daycares and sometimes on farms. It’s not normal or acceptable behavior.
If you have questions about farming, I urge you to talk to a farmer or visit a farm. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find!
Meet dairy farmers from around the country at Dairy Farming Today’s “Farmer Spotlight”.
Read what other dairy and livestock farmers have to say:
Sometimes we are mean to our cows by Dairy Carrie, Dairy Farmer
Animal Curelty is NOT the Price we Pay for Cheap Meat, by Wanda Patsche, Hog Farmer
Take a look inside a beef processing facility at Glass Walls Beef Plant featuring Dr. Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and widely considered to be the world’s leading expert on humane animal handling at meat packing plants.
The Rolling Stone article is very one-sided, full of false information and written with an agenda in mind. You don’t have to be vegan to be compassionate. It doesn’t appear that they bother talking to any farmers before writing their story. That’s disappointing. The majority of farmers do a great job caring for animals and operating their farms. If you have question about food and farming, I urge you to ask a farmer.