5 Ways to Put Farm Safety into Practice

Every year, thousands of farmers and ranchers are injured and hundreds more die in farming accidents across the nation. That’s what Nebraska Farm Bureau is reminding you to take precautions to make your farm and ranch as safe as possible. Continue reading

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.

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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!

 

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How to Raise Show Pigs

pigs-cheyenne2This little stinker was a little over a week old at the time of this picture. This is the best time to do things like notch the pigs ears for identification, give the pig some iron and penicillin to help fight against all the infections that these little guys are very susceptible to, castrate the boars, or males, so they are less aggressive in adulthood, and clip their needle teeth which also help stop the spread of infection! Theses are some things that animal rights organizations would have us skip out on. But because my conventional farm goes through these essential procedures these little piglets are given the best possible chance to thrive and live happily! About 5 months ago I named this cutie Rudy.

Fast forward about 5 months and we have some awesome perspective on the life of a show pig! This is Rudy, the baby pig from five months ago that we just got done “processing.” That means that we notched his ears, vaccinated him, docked his tail, and castrated him. All of these things serve a purpose, and if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them!

If we fast forward Rudy’s life about 4 weeks later, we’re vaccinating him again just to keep him healthy and then moving him to a new facility on our farm called the nursery. This process is called weaning. At the point of weaning, young piglets are still drinking their mother’s milk, but their main source of food comes from a starter feed.

About three months later we bring Rudy into our show barn. Our show barn, like the majority across the state of Nebraska, is kept at a very nice and cool temperature no matter how hot it is outside. My sister and I clean all our show pigs’ pens at least once a week and feed them twice a day. At this point in time, Rudy is on a 16%-18% protein feed, which is insuring his efficiency. Our state fair hogs get walked between 3 to 4 times a week, so that when we take them to state fair they’re comfortable in the ring.

pigs-cheyenneAt state fair during showmanship, I was asked what was the biggest problem in the swine industry today. I thought about the Chinese pork industries growing bigger and bigger every year, I thought about the PED virus, but out of these problem I know where the real problem lies. Advocacy. Companies and organizations like Chipotle and HSUS are using their networks to ruin the reputation of all aspects of agriculture, notably the swine industry. If we don’t tell the consume what is going on on our farms, we will lose the consumer. The world that we’re living in today is desperate for information, even if it’s cheap. The cheap information that they’re buying into are the stories that HSUS and PETA are giving them. I know the relationship between the farmer and the consumer needs some help. I also know the relationship between the animals in their care and the producer is completely different than what it is perceived to be. The consumer should know what is going on in the barn or in the field, and as a youth ag advocate, it is my job tell them.

Since attending the Agricultural Issues Academy at State FFA Convention last year, I’ve started my own blog. Ag Issues Academy opened my eyes to the miscommunication that is happening not only global, but right in my town and state. The link to my blog is listed below if you’re interested in what my farm looks like and its relationship with our animals.

Read more from Cheyenne here: https://youthagricultureadvocates.wordpress.com/

Cheyenne Gerlach bio pic

What Makes a Fluffy Cow Fluffy?

Have you ever wondered what makes a Fluffy Cow Fluffy? Most fluffy cows are bred to have lots of hair but the hair isn’t so fluffy without the required work.

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This is what a fluffy cow looks like before it is all clean. This is my Crossbred (he has both Chianina and Maine influence) Market Steer named Lautner. He weighs 1,300 lbs. I plan to exhibit him at the end of October at the Kansas City Royal Livestock Show, in Kansas City, MO. Follow these steps to see how Lautner transforms into a clean fluffy cow.

Step One: is to blow the dirt out of Lautner’s coat. A blower is a tool like a blow dryer it blows air to through the long hose. First picture is what a blower looks like. This takes less than five minutes.

Step Two: Grab the garden hose and start rinsing Lautner by putting water on his coat. This takes 20-25 minutes, because you want to get his entire coat really wet.

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Step Three: Take the Gain Dish Soap turn it upside down and disperse it all over his coat. This is called “soaping”. This takes five minutes.

Step Four: Take the scrub brush (first picture) a plastic brush with a handle and bristles used to scrub the coat and get all the dirt out. This also helps deep condition Lauter’s coat. This takes 5-10 minutes; I am making sure I get all the soap “scrubbed in” all over Lautner’s coat.

Step Five: Rinse the calf with the garden hose, making sure all the soap bubbles come out. This takes 10-15 minutes (this step is repeated from step two)

Step Six: I use the scotch comb and brush Lautner’s hair. Lautner’s hair is still wet. This step takes 5 minutes.

Step Seven: Blow the calf out with the blower; the blower was used in the first step. This step is very important. This is how Lautner’s hair dries and becomes fluffy. This could take a while, generally takes 30-40 minutes until he is completely dry.

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Step Eight: I apply conditioner out of the spray bottle and brush it in with a human hairbrush.

After all these steps Lautner looks like this. He is very clean and his hair is soft.

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Haley Ehrke bio

A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping

steve corn head shotThere’s an old saying that to know where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve been. And as we closed out 2015, it’s worth taking a look back at last year to see the work that’s been done and see how it helps moving forward in 2016. That applies not only to our farms and ranches, but also to Farm Bureau.

Farm Bureau is about making life better for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families.

In 2015 that meant working to provide property tax reform for farmers, ranchers and all members. It meant finding ways to grow Nebraska’s livestock sector to create home grown markets for our commodities. It meant investing time and resources working to promote agricultural trade opportunities to add value to the grain and livestock produced on our farms and ranches. And it meant pushing back on a landslide of regulations directed at agriculture, particularly EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule that poses the single largest threat to private property rights we’ve ever seen from a federal agency.

It also involved getting the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture up and running with new leadership and new staff which are integral to the Foundations’ efforts to engage and equip students, teachers and consumers with information about how their food is produced and where it comes from.

And it also meant providing support for our county farm bureau’s, growing our list of member benefits, and engaging more with the youth who will be the next generation of Farm Bureau leaders.

It was a good year with numerous successes; all of which have everything to do with your engagement as a Farm Bureau member. Listing all the activities members do to make Farm Bureau great at the county, state and national level is a nearly impossible task. But the results of all those actions are reflected in our list of 2015 achievements.

As we look to 2016, I’d ask you to consider a New Year’s Resolution; a resolution to continue to engage and be a leader for agriculture in the coming year. As I’ve said on many occasions the strength of Farm Bureau lies in the strength and engagement of our grassroots membership. Working together thru Farm Bureau we do things we could never accomplish alone. My hope for 2016 is that we continue to push forward together as we always have, engaging when and where we can, to help make life better for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. That’s truly a New Year’s Resolution worth keeping!

Sincerely,

Steve Nelson, President, Nebraska Farm Bureau

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What’s a typical day like on your farm?

noe 5My family has been farming in Spring Bay, Illinois since 1875. Over the years, the farm has seen quite a few changes in which crops are grown and how they are raised. Currently, we raise corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, hogs, cantaloupes and watermelons. Since the farm is so diversified, each day is different throughout the year. The spring season consists of working ground, planting corn and soybeans, starting the melons in the greenhouse and then transplanting them into the field.

noe 4Summer is our busiest season. In the early months, we finish transplanting melons and begin to cultivate and hoe them to keep the weeds out. In July, we cut wheat, bale straw and hay and begin to pick cantaloupe. We will usually handpick about 300-400 cantaloupes on a daily basis. In the middle of the season, it’s not unusual for us to pick 800-1200 cantaloupes each night. We deliver truckloads to local grocery stores in addition to selling them at local farmer’s markets six days a week. The watermelons are usually ready in mid-August. We pick them about three times a week and continue to go to farmer’s markets and grocery stores. On a typical summer day, you can find my family up and working by 6:30 a.m. loading pickups, picking flowers and produce to go to the farmer’s market, and doing hog chores. One of us will go to the market and sell until noon. When we come home, we unload the leftover produce, eat lunch, and relax. Then we go out to pick more cantaloupes, reload pickups, eat supper, and make sure everything is ready to go for the next day.

noe 3September is an in-between month for our farm. The cantaloupe and watermelon season winds down and my dad and brothers start preparing the combine and equipment for harvest. We usually begin cutting beans and picking corn in the first week of October. Once harvest starts, my family spends a majority of the day in the fields or on the road moving equipment and hauling the grain to the elevator for storage. Mom takes breaks from driving the trucks to pack lunches and make supper for the crew. Harvest is an exciting and stressful time for the whole family. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done and the weather just never seems to cooperate. There have been numerous times when Dad combined through the night to get a field done before an early snow or to get an extra load up to the elevator before it closed for the evening. Despite the stress, breakdowns, and disappointments, it’s very easy to love the harvest season. It’s an exciting time you spend out in the field working with your family and bringing in the crops that you started way back in the spring.

noe 2By early November, we are usually finished with harvest and begin to prepare the equipment for the next season. Once the crops are harvested, everything starts to slow down. The winter months are mundane compared to the rest of the year. From December to March, we work to repair the things that broke during the spring, summer, or fall that we didn’t have time to fix in that season. This is also the time that we get to work on fun projects, hobbies, and finish taxes and other book work. When it gets cold and starts snowing, we use skid-steers to clear snow off our driveways and out of the hog pens. We also have to put straw in the outdoor hog pens to help them keep warm in the cold weather.

noe 1Although we’re busy throughout the year with our crops and melons, the hogs are an additional year-round occupation. Every morning and evening, we have to feed the hogs in the indoor and outdoor pens. We also have to move any pregnant sows into the farrowing house, wean piglets and give them shots, and move sows out of the farrowing house and back into the pens with the boars so they can be rebred. Once the pigs have reached market weight, we arrange shipments and send them off on the semi to become pork chops, bacon, sausages, and pork burgers.

Our farm is an exciting place to be and there’s always plenty of work to be done. Through our family farm upbringing, my brothers and I learned what it takes to run a successful business and have built a lot of character through the work that we did. One of the benefits of farming is that the job changes every few months and each day is different from the day before. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s a very rewarding career in the long run.

Rachel Noe bio pic

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NEFB President Steve Nelson Testifies at Legislative Hearing About School Funding and Tax Issues

On Thursday, Nov. 12th, the Legislature’s Education and Revenue Committee held a joint public hearing to hear testimony on school funding in the state of Nebraska.  The hearing is part of joint interim studies being conducted by the Committees (LRs 332 & 344) on funding of public schools.   The Committees hope to make recommendations for improving the funding of schools to be discussed during the 2016 Legislative session.  Nebraska Farm Bureau was invited to testify before the Committees and urged the senators to undertake fundamental reform of school funding to reduce property taxes and improve taxpayer equity.

Watch NEFB President Steve Nelson’s testimony here.