Importance of Family in Agriculture

darby-family

We are often told to choose our words carefully. Sometimes we don’t pay any attention to the words that aren’t inappropriate or hurtful but in reality they are just as important. When attending Nebraska Agriculture Youth Institute a speaker gave us a chart of words to use when talking about agriculture to the consumers who are unaware of who we are as an industry. There was one group of words that really stuck out at me, the usage of operation compared to family farm or ranch. I’ve always considered our ranch as our family’s, but professionally speaking I have always referred to it as an operation. When thinking about Keystone Cattle Company and O-C Livestock I realized that it isn’t an operation but really my family’s home.

Grandparents:

The reasoning behind my agriculture influence. Both sides of my grandparents have given me the opportunity to grow up in the most amazing industry and I have learned so much about their lives through doing the same activities that they have enjoyed in their lifetimes. My Grandpa and Grandma O’Connor have blessed me to grow up in God’s Country. It seems as if I can’t go anywhere without hearing crazy stories about Grandpa. Some of my favorite time with family is spent talking about the older generations. One of my most memorable brandings was this year when my grandpa crawled onto my brothers rope horse and heeled two legs on his first loop. I have been beyond blessed to be apart of the Keystone Cattle Company. However my blessings don’t stop there. My love for 4-H might just come from the Merritt’s. I love to hear the story of my grandparents meeting on the steps of the White House as they represented Nebraska as the 4-H Four Square Winners. Still to this day my family will go through my grandfather’s old papers on his registered Maines and his long line of show quarter horses. I love hearing people talk about how successful my Grandpa was in this tough industry, and even to this day my family and I wish we had his good eye to help us pick out our stock for the year. I love learning more about my family and am blessed to learn about the lives of my loved ones.

Mom:

Perhaps the biggest influence of agriculture in my lifetime. If anyone knows my Mom you know that pigs won’t be far behind. Growing up, raised by Nebraska 4-H’s Queen and King,she fell in love with the organization and has passed that down to my brothers and I. Her father, having a variety of operations, presented her with a chance to work on their feedlot growing up, show some awesome show horses, and be involved with showing livestock competitively. Her love for agriculture met her profession when  she traded out special education for a job at the local grain elevator. Though she was just  wanting to help out during the harvest season, her love for ag lead her to being the commodity trader for a feedlot and now a manager for a feed store. I have seen my mother put much time and money into spoiling my brothers and I with some awesome livestock, hotels for shows, and of course a fair amount of carnival food. I wouldn’t be as successful in FFA, 4-H or any other activities if it wasn’t for her support. Her ability to network with everyone in the industry shows me how important relationships are. I love sitting in the show barn doing nothing with her and aspire to be such as great of female agriculturalist as she is.

Dad:

The passing of my father last year has allowed me to learn so much about him in such a short time. Hearing stories about his success in high school and college rodeo inspires me to chase after my dreams. My father served as a regional director for both high school and college rodeo, which gives me a sense of where my strong leadership skills come from. Also the amount of support and friends he had, shows me that the all the relationships  built in the agriculture family are those of gold. 

Merritt:

My oldest brother is completely responsible for my future in agriculture. The year he left me to do my own chores had me worried, but being forced to be in the barn by myself made me realize his love spending time with his livestock. After chasing his dreams of judging livestock in college it has made me work hard to be more like him. From Casper College to South Dakota State, he has grown as an agriculturalist and man as he prepares to be in the workforce in agriculture. I can’t wait to see where this industry takes him.

Rhett:

Lastly my brother Rhett. Yep, you guessed it, Rhett is “that brother.” The one that is so close to home, but  we don’t ever see him because he is busy experiencing new things, but mostly you can’t get him out of the roping arena. Rhett has demonstrated the importance of finding your perfect place while at school where he has excelled in his rodeoing and academics. Rhett’s good work ethic, love for talking, and positive attitude will make him do great things while running the Keystone Cattle Company in the future. 

After thinking long  and hard about how the words “family ranches” are more appealing than operations it made me think about how my operation would differ if it weren’t for my family. Agriculture is one of the fastest advancing industries yet it sits strong on a foundation of tradition and family. The closeness of family operations prove to be than producing goods but instead making a living worth loving. The future of agriculture will continue to grow but the tradition of the family farms and ranches will stand strong for ever.

darby-oconnor-info-bar

Why drones?

img_9094

Why drones? What is causing such an increase in drones? In a time where technology is everything, it would only make sense for drones to be the new fad. The biggest question is what can they do for agriculture?

Drones and agriculture go together like peanut butter and jelly. It makes sense to use them to make the farmer and ranchers lives easier. How? There are several applications that can help make life on the farm a little easier.

First some background on drones. Drones are also known as UAV, which stands for an unmanned aerial vehicle. This means that they are flown by someone through a receiver on the ground. Did you know that the first flight of an unmanned aerial combat vehicle was in the early 1910s for the military? They started to focus more on UAV’s at that time to help with target training.

There are several types of drones as well. With all different types of drones out there, how are you supposed to know which one would work for your operation? That is a great question! Every operation is different and your needs with a drone with vary. Depending on the drone you pick you have to decide what you are going to use it for down the road. Will you be using it to check your cattle? What about flying across your fields to see your crop index? Those are questions you need to ask when you are shopping around.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0003.JPGI have seen application of a larger drone by Slant Range with a NDVI sensor. NDVI stands for Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. A NDVI sensor can measure the solar radiation that the plants put back out after absorbing it to carry out the process of photosynthesis. The sensor is finding the near-infrared light that the plants are putting off from its leaves. By using a NDVI sensor you can measure the plant productivity, how much rainfall may have occurred, weedy areas that may be in the field, and other applications. Infrared in the NDVI also can measure the amount of heat being put off. Using this application of NDVI, you can fly over your cattle herd and see if any of them may have a higher temperature than normal. You can also use the regular camera to fly over your herd to see if there are any changes occurring in the herd.

While attending Southeast Community College in Beatrice, NE, I have had the opportunity to learn some about drones. I have been able to apply the information I gathered from the drone, to the fields on campus and create prescriptions and suggestions. The drone I have been able to fly the most is the DJI Phantom 4. The students on campus have been able to fly over most of the land on campus and see what it looks like from above. We tested out the DJI app that you download to fly the drone and used some of the features.

With some of those applications and different drones in mind, you can narrow down what may work for your operation.

sam-steward-info-bar

Carrying on the Family Tradition at the Denver Stockyards

In the midst of mud from the freshly melted six inches of snow, miles of pens, and the hum of generators, I stand above the ground and take in my surroundings. The catwalk in the Denver stock yards is one of my favorite places in the world.  On it, I am able to look over a place that has historic value, as well as significance to my family.

img_4581

One of my favorite memories was this past January, seeing my photo on the Wall of Champions in the Yards as National Hereford Queen, since my parents and grandparents are on the wall, too. I am the fourth generation of both sides of my family to exhibit cattle at the National Western Stock Show, and the fifth generation on both sides to raise Hereford cattle.

img_0002

Photo Credit: Michelle Wolfrey

While these two traditions have uniquely influenced my life, the broader traditions of agriculture run deep in many families, such as my own.  There are technical traditions, such as branding cattle with the brand (and sometimes the same branding irons!) that have been in a family for years.  There are also traditions of agricultural life that are more so associated with values and soft skills.  For example, when I think of integrity, I think of a cowboy, because the image that most people have of a cowboy is a kind person who always helps and does the right thing.  Other traditions of agricultural life include grit, courage, and passion. These are a handful of the reasons that I am proud of the traditions that I keep as part of an agricultural family.

katie-nolles-info-bar

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

glazed-lemon-poppy-seed-muffins

Ingredients
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, room temp.
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Glaze
1 teaspoon melted butter
1 cup+ powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions
1.    Preheat oven to 350º.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.
2.    Whisk flour, baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.
3.    In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice.
4.    Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, lemon zest in a large bowl to blend.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until mixture is light and fluffy.
5.    Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with sour cream mixture (2 additions).  Mix just until blended.
6.    Stir in poppy seeds.
7.    Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
8.    Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.  Cool in pans 5 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on rack.
9.    Mix together melted butter, lemon juice, and enough powdered sugar to make a glaze.  Drizzle over tops of warm muffins.

Yield:  48 mini muffins, 18 regular muffins, 12 large muffins.

Copycat Outback Steakhouse Walkabout Soup

copycat-outback-steakhouse-walkabout-soup2

Ingredients
White Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk
Soup Base
2 cups thinly sliced yellow sweet onions
3 tablespoons butter
14-15 oz. can chicken broth
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 oz. processed cheese (the kind that melts easily)
Shredded cheese for garnish

Directions
1.    Prepare white sauce in a saucepan or microwave.  Set aside.
2.    In a 2-quart saucepan, place 3 tablespoons and the sliced onions.  Cook on low to medium heat, stirring frequently until soft and clear but not brown.
3.    Add chicken broth, bouillon cubes, salt, and pepper.  Stir until completely heated through.
4.    Add white sauce and processed cheese. Simmer on medium low heat until cheese is melted and all ingredients are blended, stirring constantly.
5.    Turn the temperature to warm and let cook for an additional 30-45 minutes.
6.    Serve with a garnish of shredded cheddar cheese.

Yield:  3-4 servings

Agriculture in the Classroom

Growing up in the middle of Omaha and growing up with agriculture I got the unique opportunity to see first-hand the disconnect between consumers and producers. I grew up on my family’s 38-acre farm with sheep, goats, horses, and pigs. My farm life experience taught me more than just about what the world agriculture means. It taught me responsibility, respect, leadership, how to be caring, work ethic, and determination; Each day I am thankful for the way I was raised.
With many Nebraskan’s removed from farms and ranches, a responsibility is given to us to share the story of agriculture. I have taken this responsibility personally. As an Agricultural and Environmental Science Communications major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln I am learning and growing as a communicator. I have found new tools and perspectives to help me reach a variety of audiences and then help them realize how important agriculture’s story is to me and why it should be important to them. One of those tools is the Agriculture in the Classroom Program.

 

catherine-aitcThe Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation’s signature program is Agriculture in the Classroom. This program creates standard based materials for Nebraska Youth and Educators. Nebraska provides resources such as books, posters, activities and lesson plans about beef, pork, corn and soybeans. Each of these resources explains what happens from production to the everyday use of agricultural products of consumers.  A part of Ag in the Classroom in Nebraska is the Ag Pen Pal program. This program helps urban classrooms in Nebraska relate with the agricultural community in Nebraska.
catherine-ag-in-the-classroom-logoThe Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Program is a part of a larger program called National Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC). National AITC is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and helps provide a network of opportunities. AITC is striving to help community members appreciate and understand the food and fiber system that supports us all. Their goal is to see agriculture is valued by all.

 
catherine-ag-in-the-classroomNational Agriculture in the Classroom is where I began my search for curriculum and resources that I use to teach urban youth in Omaha. Having teaching aids at your fingertips makes it impossible to say that you cannot share your agriculture experiences with whomever might have a question or misconception. If in any situation I need a resource to help communicate the ins and outs of agriculture production I can be sure to have unlimited help with the National and Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Programs at my side.

 

catherine-ag-in-the-classroom-websiteWith many Nebraskan’s removed from the farm, a responsibility we now have is to share the story of agriculture. It is so important to me to see our society becoming agriculturally literate because the agricultural community has made me who I am. I owe my work ethic, friends, family, and future career to the agriculture industry.
I hope to someday have a career that allows me to help integrate agriculture into school curriculum, that reaches out in the marketplace to the general public about the real story of the products they are purchasing and that makes the importance of agriculture known on a local, state and national level.

 

catherine-jones-info-bar

An Inside Look at How Antibiotics are Used in Livestock

Drought - Cattle on low hay 2

Everywhere I turn, I seem to be faced with advertisements encouraging me to eat antibiotic-free meat. While one beauty of being an American is that we have the freedom to choose how we raise our livestock and what products we buy.  In no way am I shaming antibiotic-free producers.  However, I understand that fear of antibiotic resistance and concern for animal well-being.

As a sixth generation beef producer from the Nebraska Sandhills, I have firsthand experience with raising livestock.  When cattle get sick with a bacterial infection, my family chooses to treat them with an antibiotic.  We don’t do this because a sick calf would mean a loss in profit.  I can speak for most if not all livestock producers when I say that our livestock are our way of life.  We put our heart and soul into caring for these animals, and it pains us to see them suffer.

To acknowledge the fear of antibiotic-treated meat animals, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.  As producers, we develop herd health programs with our veterinarians, and receive training on proper dosage and withdrawal procedures. Relative to the topic of antibiotic resistance, many of the compounds used to treat animals are ionophores, which are actually antimicrobials that serve no purpose in human medicine, and do not impact antibiotic resistance whatsoever. While there are the few drugs that are utilized by both species, they are used to different degrees, as in the case of tetracycline, which accounts for only four percent of human antibiotic prescription, but comprise forty-one percent in animals. Producers feed the meat that we raise to our own families, so we would absolutely never taint the food supply.

Cow faces
As the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) goes into effect in January 2017, the use of antibiotics for growth promotion will no longer be allowed.  Antibiotic use will be more closely monitored by requiring a VFD or prescription for the use of medically important (those also used in humans) antibiotics.  The VFD, which is the result of an FDA Guidance for Industry, is part of the livestock industry’s effort to reduce antibiotic resistance.
If there are further questions about the VFD, livestock use of antibiotics, or livestock production in animals, the best solution is to contact a veterinarian or livestock producer.  While we may seem far away, we are more than happy to answer whatever questions about our way of life that you have!

 

katie-nolles-info-bar