Monday, December 17, 2012

Take a Stand - Ride for the Brand!

At the end of my blog, you'll find this line "Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!"

You might think it sounds catchy and country, and probably remember hearing the phrase "ridin for the brand" in some commercial or marketing campaign. But have you ever heard the real meaning and connotation behind those four words?
A brand signifies who you are and what you stand for.
Courtesy www.vdacs.virginia.gov

Beef Magazine
recently tweeted an editorial written by Troy Marshall on the importance of brand management. Marshall does a wonderful job giving credence to the historic significance of this saying and ties it to every aspect of a cattleman's life. "It's a creed that embodies a lot of values we hold dear. There are fewer compliments that are more meaningful than being able to say someone rode for the brand," Marshall writes.

He continues saying this phrase makes most people think of standing up for something they believe in, are proud of and honored to represent. "It's about living up to your own values and code; it's about exercising your potential," Marshall writes, "When you put your brand on something, it's a declaration to the world of not only pride in what you produce, but an announcement that you take ownership and responsibility for it."

Of course, Marshall's editorial is written to the direction of managing a ranch brand that advertises the cattle produced and the people in charge. But brands are more than a symbol burned onto the hip of a steer, or hung above the driveway entrance or affixed to the side of a stock trailer. A brand can be anything that represents who you are and what you believe in. It's something you stand behind, represent and are proud of. Ridin for the brand encompasses living for a purpose. It's enacting what you believe is honorable, right, just and true. It's living every day unashamed and ready to give your all for the cause.

Are you ridin for the brand or do you just go with whatever feels right at the time? Do you take a stand for what you believe in or mix with the crowds to see what ends up happening? Do you live your life with purpose or are you easily swayed to believe what other people say?
Live with purpose and ride for the brand!
Courtesy www.4.bp.blogspot.com

Be bold, take a stand, live with purpose and above all - Ride for the Brand.


Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Love -The Waiting Game

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." - Ephesians 5:31 (NIV)

The search for the one God has designed specifically for us can sometimes be challenging, frustrating, heartbreaking and very arduous. Especially when everyone else seems to be getting in relationships, engaged or married and you're still the single third wheel looking for that special someone. Sometimes we wonder what it is about us that people don't find attractive or why we can't seem to find the person that meets all our criteria and makes us feel whole. We may even come to a point where we wonder if we will ever find someone to fall in love with......


Courtesy of www.twodelighted.com

Her profile caught my attention and her story was intriguing. She was a Texas cowgirl who loved the Lord and loved the country. After a month or so of talking, I expressed interest in her and we began conversing over the idea of a relationship. She was impressed with me and I with her, but 12 hours distance was a hindrance and she was reluctant to advance further without actually meeting me. Four months after my initial online request found me on a plane headed South to meet this wonderful young lady whom I had come to admire very much. 

We could talk for hours, text each other all day and share almost anything with one another. She loved riding horses, shooting guns, cooking, and playing with kids. She had a heart for family, ministry and serving the Lord. She was everything I wanted in a girl. 

Upon returning from my trip down South we continued talking about the possibility of a relationship. Our number one desire was to follow God's will and listen to His calling. The problem was neither of us were totally sure what He was trying to tell us.

After lots of prayer, talking to each other and listening to God, I began to feel Him leading us to pursue a friendship only. The more I questioned if this was really what God wanted, the more He gave me a peace about it. My heart was screaming that it wanted to be with her and I continued to remind myself of all the qualities I loved about her. I was very aggravated because I had been making myself wait and be "picky" about who I pursued and I believed I had found a serious potential mate in this young lady.

Then in my quick devotion time Friday morning, I read Psalms 37:4 "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." BAM!!! It was like a punch to the gut and yet a reassuring hug. I knew God had a plan and only wanted me to fully trust Him, fully love Him and fully be happy in Him. So I finally broke down and gave in. I messaged her and shared what I felt God was telling me. I expressed my feelings and how hard it was for me to let go of this opportunity, but admitted that I believed God had a perfect plan in place and would reveal the right person at the right time to both of us. Her response touched my heart in a way that only God can do. She was amazed and impressed at my spiritual discernment and ability to relinquish my desires. She commented on how much she had learned through our friendship and we agreed there was a reason for us to become friends and experience this journey.

But what really got me was when she began talking about how this situation just went to show that God wants us to believe He has someone picked out that will be perfect for us and He isn't teasing us by not letting us have what we want - He's showing us what we want and saying "I can do even better!!!"
Everything we experience in relationships is for a reason and if we are mature and discerning we can learn from all things - good and bad. The joys and trials we go through in trying to find the one God has made for us prepares us to be ready when He really does show us the one. But we must be willing to give up what we think we want, turn loose of what we would like to control and say "God, I trust you, I believe in you and I know whatever you have planned will be the best possible!"

Waiting for the one God has designed can be incredibly difficult,
but we will be rewarded in the end!
Courtesy of www.3.bp.blogspot.com

For me, relationships are a waiting game. I've learned to not dive into them with just any girl that I think might be a possibility. I've decided to take time and develop good friendships with them and follow God's calling in regards to love. Does my heart sometimes want to jump ahead and bask in the emotions love entertains? Absolutely!! But I've made up my mind that what God wants is the best thing possible. Though it can hurt, I only want what He gives me.

Do you ever wonder if the day will come when you find someone that you not only can live with, but can't live without? Do you feel sometimes like you're waiting forever without results or reassurance? Don't worry, don't be anxious, don't be afraid. The Lord has a perfect plan, a perfect mate and a perfect love that can not be beaten. Listen to His will, follow His calling and delight yourself in Him - and he WILL grant you what your heart desires!!!


 Are you patient enough to wait?
Courtesy of www.courtneymardon.files.wordpress.com





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Family, Friends and the Outdoors

Bill Jordan's motto is one that rings true with every hardcore hunter. The combination of camaraderie and creation is a luring characteristic of this wonderful sport. Granted it's always exhilarating to hear a thundering gobble, be within bow range of a giant buck or have a flock of teal buzz past your blind at 70mph, but that's all just icing on the cake to what truly makes hunting such an enjoyable sport.

I've had the wonderful opportunity the last three weekends to spend time in the deer woods with family and friends. And it's given me a renewed appreciation for this passion. Halloween weekend I met up with a friend that I met just this past fall and taped him on a Sat eve/Sun morning hunt in North Mo. We were on public land and never saw a single deer, but I had such a blast spending time in the woods with him and his buddy and witnessing amazing weather and beauty.

The first weekend in November, I traveled back to my folk's place and went out with my brother for another Sat eve/Sun morning run. Saturday night we were fortunate enough to see a flock of turkeys going to roost, but no deer showed up. That was still probably one of the funnest hunts I've been on with my brother though. We laughed and joked around and had a great time together sitting in a tree. Sunday morning we witnessed a beautiful fog/frost, heard and watched about 20 turkeys come off the roost and were fortunate enough to harvest a nice mature doe, capturing it all on camera - and we made it to church on time!!!
My brother Cooper was fortunate enough to
harvest this mature doe and get the shot on camera.
I'm so glad I was able to experience it with him!
This last weekend I made the trek to NE Kansas (not really a trek, only 3 1/2 hrs) to sit in a tree with my cousin bowhunting. Unfortunately deer sightings were at a minimum and I only saw one myself, but was unable to get him on camera. We faced unseasonably warm temperatures and incredible gusts Saturday and literally almost froze our toes off Sunday afternoon. We sat from just about 1:30 til almost 6 and experienced cutting winds and what felt like freezing temperatures. At more than 20 feet up a tree I broke three records: my longest sit in a deer stand, my longest time holding in liquids (I finally used the bottle when I started doing the potty dance!) and the coldest I have ever been!!! To say the least it was an unpleasant afternoon, but I got to spend some awesome quality time with my cousin and witness some beautiful Kansas country.

As we sat perched in that tree overlooking a beautiful pond and surrounded by massive trees and draws, I told my cousin there was nothing quite like sitting in a deer stand. He replied saying that was one of the things he loved most about hunting, was that it was one of the few sports that revered God by glorifying nature and creation. The sunrises, sunsets, towering oaks and passing clouds make for a beautiful panorama that only God could create. Being able to experience that is truly a blessing from above.

The big Kansas bucks didn't show themselves,
but my cousin Brady and I braced extremes of unpleasant weather and enjoyed a great weekend in the stand together!!!
Hunting for me is a passion. I love nothing more than chasing gobbling turkeys and watching flocks of ducks and geese funnel into a decoy spread. The crisp stillness of an April morning and the warmth of a November sunrise fill me with excitement and desire. And of course nothing makes my heart race more than hearing the words "Take 'Em!!!"

But what really drives me to love this sport is simple: Family. Friends. And God's Great Outdoors.

Seeing God's handiwork displayed in creation is utterly breathtaking sometimes.
Although I tend to get bored sitting in a deerstand,
being able to witness this beauty is incredible!



Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Choice of 2012

Courtesy www.dane101.com

One week from today the future of America will once again be changed. One week from today our nation will respond and give authority to someone to govern over us. On November 6th, the democratic society of the United States of America will once again dictate who we want to lead our country, command our armed forces and set policies for our economy.

I don't think it would be a far fetched statement to say every American citizen is concerned and anxious to see who will take up residency of the oval office. There are followers to both sides and both parties have respectable ideas and policies in place. Both candidates understand what is important to this nation, what issues need to be addressed and both have what they believe to be concrete fundamentals that will turn the tables for the next four years and following. And yet, as confident and committed and assuring as both candidates appear, they both humans that hold flaws and exemplify weakness.

Which candidate do you think will truly benefit America?
Courtesy www.specials-images.forbes.com
When I look at the candidates, I see some very vast differences that strike me as interesting. Both individuals are focused on the same task and issues, but both have quite different approaches. I believe Obama is extremely out of touch with middle-class America, Midwestern policy and the true condition of this nation. While Romney obviously can't be classified as a middle-class individual, in my opinion he at least understands what it will take to place the country back in balance, bring relief to the middle-class economically and strive towards positive "change".
It's definitely a little unnerving not knowing what will take place and how it will change the course of this nation's future, but it's reassuring to know no matter what we do or think, there is someone else in charge of this whole game!

What are your thoughts on the election? Do you see major differences in the candidates? Are you ready to move to Mexico if one of them doesn't win?!! :)


I Love Mexico!!!!!!!!
Courtesy www.mexico-travel.com


Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Livin' and Learnin'!!!

Hillsides covered with cattle is a common sight in the
Flinthills of East Central and Southeast Kansas
One of my favorite things about my job is the opportunity to travel a four state area, meet new people and learn about different sectors of agriculture. This week I spent three days in Kansas taking pictures of newly acquired company locations, a soil sampling crew and a large cattle backgrounding operation. As I traversed through Emporia, KS and headed southeast to Pittsburg, I rolled through the beautiful flinthills and was in awe of the continuous miles of rolling grass and cattle dotting the landscape. One stretch of road led me across an ENORMOUS plateau that provided a view of literally thousands of acres of grass, hay bales, lakes and the prettiest sunset imaginable. All I could think as I drove across the endless pastures and prairies was that our Creator delights in pleasuring us with beauty.
Miles upon miles of grassy hills, lakes and occasional creek draws
provide for breathtaking views!!!!
As the sun sets in Southeast Kansas, I am so thankful for the creation God
has provided for us to delight in and the land He gives us to care for and manage
Riding a 4 wheeler over hundreds of acres to collect soil samples
is quite entertaining and enjoyable, despite the monotony of the job
To wrap up the trip, I visited a large cattle backgrounding operation near Hepler, KS and was joined by a co-worker to conduct a photo & video shoot and interview for the magazine. In what has been one of the worst drought years in decades, this backgrounder was able to INCREASE his stocking rate to over two head per acre due to his forage nutrient plan and working with the present fescue grass to maximize production. It was incredible to see the pastures covering his 2,000 acres which provided grazing for 3,000 head of cattle each year. At the end of the video interview, this producer commented that what he loved most about his operation was running calves on grass and grain supplement just one week after weaning and experiencing little stress and sickness because they were content and doing what they were made to do - converting grass into gain.
Following our visit, we were taken for a roadside tour to view neighboring backgrounding operations, including a 7,000 acre ranch that grazed over 15,000 head of cattle this last year and had the goal of running 30,000 head a year in the future. I must say seeing a 1,900 acre section of land in one fenced piece as part of this ranch was truly a sight to behold.

Receiving pens of a small backgrounding operation in Southeast Kansas.
And by small I'm talking a couple thousand head of cattle grazed and sold each year!
 I consider a great joy and honor to meet and witness the people and operations that contribute to our food supply and learn even more about the greatest industry in the nation!!!


Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Desires of Your Heart

           It's amazing what God can do to change someone's attitude and outlook or make them realize the many blessings they have. I will admit I have been struggling lately with where I am in life and what I spend my time doing. My living situation, weekly schedule, personal and spiritual life have all been causing me to wrestle with desires vs. reality and have resulted in me acting happy and content but really being stressed, anxious and uncomfortable.
Wide open spaces with room to roam!
Courtesy www.gillespieshowcattle.com

          Except for my four years in college, I've always lived in the country, and more times than not with livestock around. My most recent dwelling before moving to Columbia sits in the middle of pastures and crop fields, with cattle all around and the nearest town 10 minutes away. Horses are in the backyard, the dog and cat run free, coyotes can be heard on a regular basis in the evening and the gravel dust fills the air anytime a pickup rolls by. It's true heaven on earth, no matter how boring it may seem at times. However, right now I'm living with friends in town until I find a place more suitable and affordable. Granted, I'm not right in the city, but on the outskirts - and thankfully, I live with people I know. There is a big yard and room for my dog, I'm close to work, and there's no way I could find a place with cheaper rent!! But my country boy soul is getting restless and needing to be on the gravel again - walking my dog down the road and riding my horse on the back 40.
Early morning fall sunrises are the
ultimate display of God's beautiful creation!
Courtesy www.desktopro.com
        
          While waiting for my country ranch to show itself, I have had to make due with activities inside the city limits - which isn't much. In fact, most of my evenings are spent playing with my dog, cooking dinner and catching up on the computer. I miss the days when all my daylight hours were spent outside with the livestock.

          I have found myself becoming lax in my spiritual walk, and have fought being unhappy about what I don't have. But I say this all to show how fast God can turn our attitude around.

          Last night, I finally sat down and read my Bible before going to bed - something I honestly haven't done in months. Although I never was able to really fall asleep and get a good night's rest, I managed to wake up at a good time this morning and play with my dog briefly before going to work. As I stepped outside, I had to pull on a hoodie to face the unusually chilly air. I knew right then it was going to be a good day. Cold weather always makes me smile and feel energetic. The crisp fall air and wet grass welcomed this new day and as I felt the warmth of the sun on my way to work, I had to thank God for His gift of peace and joy that He provides. He even knew it would make me smile and excited to hear the first goose of the year honking (the only sound that gets me fired up more is a turkey gobble!!)

          In many ways, today has been the greatest day I've experienced in weeks. The weather has given me energy and happiness that has been missing, my work day has gone quite well even though I spent most of the morning tired, and I feel truly thankful for the many blessings God has given me. I realize how unhappy I've been and know that God will grant the desires of my heart in His perfect timing, but first I must be satisfied in Him.
If you're going through a tough time and are unhappy right now. Do these three things to make your day better:
1) Tell yourself it will be a good day and be thankful for what the Lord HAS given you!
2) Notice the small things, like the color of the green grass, the squirrel chewing on an acorn, or the beautiful blue sky and ponder on the creation around you
3) Devote your day to thanking the Lord and being mindful of His love, mercy and grace.

Do these three things and I guarantee your day will have a brighter outlook!!

Phillipians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God."

Trust in the Lord, thank Him for what he HAS done, and He will bless you with happiness, both worldly and heavenly! :)


THE KEY TO A JOY AND PEACE FILLED LIFE!!!
Courtesy www.apuritanatheart.com

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!




Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Feelin' Good 'Bout Food!

It seems the debate and discussion over proper and good food production takes a new level or approach every month, or even every week. This is a wonderful discussion to have since consumers should all be aware of where and how their food is produced and producers should be held accountable for their production and management practices. But there seems to be an idea swelling within society that veers towards one acceptable and respectable method only - small and local.

Courtesty of www.imdb.com
While I haven't seen the full movie yet, I will be watching Farmegeddon in the near future in an attempt to better understand this way of thinking and how some people perceive ethical food production. However, I have seen the trailer for the movie and one quote in particular caught my attention. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, who became popular in the movie Food, Inc., is discussing his style of operation with free range chickens, organic hogs, and grass-finished beef. Salatin makes this remark, "Look at this, it's beautiful! Good food production should be aesthetically......sensually romantic." I believe Salatin hits the nail on the head when it comes to the ideology of people who advocate and pursue the small, organic, local trend.

I will reemphasize that I support all types of agriculture production as long as those participating do so with the right intentions and no one industry sells itself as being superior. However, as my last blog addressed, the idea of small and local farms has begun taking hold as being healthier, morally superior, and more environmentally conscious than modern production practices. Instead of being pleased that the current US food system has become highly efficient in management, production practices, and genetic improvement while keeping costs at minimum and environmental impact positive, many consumers feel this system has removed the emotion and personal connection associated with healthy food production. They feel large farms and ranchers compromise the health and safety of not only the animals but the consumers and only strive to make profits.

There is nothing more beautiful than a pasture full of fat, slick haired cattle!!!
Courtesy www.minmixmineral.com
People want to feel good about what they eat, not only from a health conscious standpoint, but also from a moral and ethical perspective. This is when Salatin's remark becomes the truth to these people. 100 years ago, almost everyone was connected to a family farm in some regard. Everyone produced enough beef, pork, chicken, eggs, produce, milk, etc, etc to provide for their family and maybe even sell some. 50 years later, commerce had captured great popularity and farmers began to build their operations to gain more business and help feed the world's growing population. And now, in the beginning of the 21st century, people are led to believe that the standards and practices of 100 years ago are what should be the norm.

I am in the process of reading The Locavore's Dilemma by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu. The book analyzes the "local food" movement trend vs modern food production and argues in favor of "The 10,000 mile diet". In the book's introduction, Desrochers and Shimizu make this statement, "If widely adopted, either voluntarily or through political mandates, locavorism can only result in higher costs and increased poverty, greater food insecurity, less food safety, and much more significant environmental damage than is presently the case.....Consumers who bought into locavorism because they sincerely cared about making our food supply ever more secure, safe, affordable, and sustainable while supporting their local community should reexamine whether the supposed means actually leads to the desired ends."

Now there is something to be said about raising your own garden, and providing your own eggs and meat, or supporting someone who does. It's always a great sense of accomplishment when you're able to raise and grow your own food. Therefore, if you are able to do this, I applaude your determination, desire, and devotion to caring for your family and working the land.

But like it or not, the modern and "good food production" as Salatin puts it, does not and will never again lie in the backyards of rural America. It won't be seen as hundreds of Rhode Island Red hens scurry over a wide open pasture, subject to predation, or as Chester White sows and their piglets lay in the lean to, risking aggressive swine behavior to one another and crushed babies, nor as 20 dairy cows being hand milked in an ol' stanchion barn providing raw milk. No, the good food production will consist of farmers dragging 24 row planters across a wide open field in North Missouri, harvesting wheat with five combines across the Oklahoma prairie, examining all 1,500 dairy cows as they walk through the milking parlor, calculating the input cost on 250 steers going to the feedlot in West Kansas, and spending everyday devoting their life to feeding this growing nation and world. No matter how big the operation, how many people are required to run the business, or how far the product has to travel before it reaches consumers, seeing a farmer work the land, care for their livestock, and feed the world is the most beautiful, aesthetic and sensually romantic picture ever!!!
These combines cover thousands of acres of wheat in Kansas and Oklahoma
during the summer harvest in June and July.
Courtesy www.okwheatcommission.wordpress.com

What do you think about Salatin's statement? Do you believe modern food production can be viewed this way as well? Do you think this is a good depiction of how people feel about the way their food is produced?



Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Large or Small, We Need Them All!!!

I want to start this post by saying that my intention with this blog is to educate, empower, motivate and provide personal insight into faith, country life, agriculture and the beef industry. I personally believe writing a blog without a defined purpose and goal doesn't make much sense. With that said, what I'm about to write is more of a personal stance and perspective if you will. I guess you could even consider it an opinion post. However, at the same time I truly hope that you will learn something, gain a perspective and understanding and maybe even an appreciation for what I have to say.

It seems that as of late, there is more and more scrutiny, opinions, ideas, criticisms, and debates over agriculture as a whole and the way our food is raised and produced. In recent years consumers have been encouraged and motivated to examine the origins and makeup of their food.  As a result, more and more people have become innately in tune to learning and voicing opinions of how they think their food should be raised, produced and provided to them. I'll stop right here and say I am very glad consumers are making a connection with what they eat and that they desire to know the facts about it's origin, and I believe it is healthy for society to desire the best food possible.

Even though they are in a confined area, these cattle receive
excellent care and treatment and are ensured to provide healthy
food to consumers.
Courtesy www.allamericancoop.com
Now, with that said, let me continue on a different path. What has seemed to come along with this movement is many misconceptions, a lot of misunderstanding, and even more ignorance in some areas. Just like every other societal push of thinking and new idea, there is a driving force behind the cause, belief, or motive. Unfortunately, and in some cases detrimentally, in agriculture's case the driving force has been those who feel the current food system is unsafe, unhealthy, and inhumane. The force has been people who believe that anything large when it comes to producing food is bad, that commercial and agriculture don't go together, and progress - well how dare that ever happen!! Instead, these people have promoted and encouraged consumers to pursue organic, all-natural, local, cage-free, crate-free, grass-finished, "sustainable" products ONLY. They have stated that modern production agriculture in essence is too big to care for the animal OR the consumer, only strives to make money, and provides unhealthy food.

It's time for me to get honest. I am so sick and tired of hearing people make accusations against modern and, yes it's ok to call it this, commercial agriculture saying it doesn't care for animal welfare, only cares about the dollar, and is "corporate". I am enraged, disgusted, and fed up with the belief that even though a farm is run entirely by family members, because they operate a 2,500 head feedlot, farm over 4,000 acres of crops and hay, and gross several hundred thousands dollars a year, could never care for all their livestock, raise all their crops the right way and be allowed to make a decent living by running their farm like a business!!!!!!!

Farming, not matter how big, is a tradition and business that
supports entire families who care about what they do!
Courtesy www.thegatewaypundit.com
We live in an age where technology, progress, and environmental stewardship is highly promoted and encouraged. Yet the very industry that combines all these components together the best is accused of using technology too much, having too much progress and not being environmentally caring.
It just so happens that the technology available to farmers today allows them to produce 60% more beef with 30% fewer cattle and using 30% less land, 14% less water, and 9% less energy than 30 years ago. Furthermore, in the same amount of time Nebraska corn producers have been able to raise an average of 50 bushels more per acre while using 37% less energy. Additionally, last year pork producers raised more pigs PER LITTER than PER SOW in 1978, and have done so while decreasing carbon footprint by 35%, water usage by 41% and land demand by 78% for every 1,000 pounds of pork produced. Now tell me that technology doesn't allow for healthy progress and strong environmental stewardship??!! And the best part of this all is not once has the industry been forced to put into jeopardy the welfare and well being of animals or put profits ahead of it!

Modern hog facilities are designed to provide the optimum
comfort level for animals, while keeping the environment
sanitary and reducing waste pollution.
Courtesy www.agweb.org
Now let me go back and address one thing. To avoid creating misconception and misunderstanding myself, I do not oppose any of the above mentioned practices. I believe they all have benefits and their place in the niche marketing realm. Where I draw the line of tolerance is when people claim these methods are SUPERIOR to modern production agriculture and blame the current practices for being cruel, inhumane, unethical and greedy.

I know I can never address all the issues within this discussion and I realize people may not fully agree with me on everything I say or all my opinions. So if you take nothing else away from this blog, please ponder this. All facts and statistics aside, the world's population is continually and rapidly growing. Countries all across the global are demanding better food and more proteins. The land available to produce beef, pork, corn, bean, and wheat is quickly diminishing and the need to be more efficient with production is ever increasing. While many things in the industry have changed, from production methods, to farm size, to marketing channels, and especially the way we perceive production agriculture, one thing has remained the same and will continue to last through the ages. Families and producers have and always will put the care and well being of their animals as first and foremost priority. No matter what the size, operation method, or marketing channel, the people of agriculture are loyal to their customer, their animal, and their industry. Ask any producer and they will tell you the cattle get dinner before the family, there are no days off, and the greatest satisfaction is seeing a healthy and happy animal providing food for the world.

So next time you hear a accusatory claim against modern agriculture or a statement of a superior practice, if you aren't sure of the information and facts, ask someone who you know is. If you know the truth, share it. And please remember that no matter what method or practice we choose, we're all in the glorious industry of agriculture and we're all a big family!!!

To wrap up, I want to share this video produced by the US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. I believe it puts into perspective what this industry is really all about!






Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Cloud of Dust"

Courtesy of www.trbimg.com
Some say it's almost worse than the drought of '88. Ranchers are forced to liquidate what was already the nation's smallest cow herd and corn prices have nearly doubled as a result of the past three months of weather. Hay is already becoming a scarcity and those soybeans that did end up doing okay barely have anything in the pods. It's a scary sight driving down the highways and backroads of the Midwest. While the entire nation is suffering from this seemingly endless drought- Missouri and Illinois, two of the largest cattle and corn producing states in the country, are enduring the worst. And no matter if you make your living driving a tractor, feeding cows, or operating the cash register at the local convenience store, the drought of 2012 affects us all.

Many pastures are nearly bare from the lack of rain
www.agrinews-pub.com
As I said before, last year the nation's beef herd had reached the lowest number of animals since 1953. While many factors were involved, the drought experienced last year was a major player. The top two cow/calf producing states, Texas and Oklahoma, were hit with brute force and over 600,000 head of cattle were shipped north across the Texas border to states such as Minnesota, Montana, and Nebraska, with the majority going directly to the slaughter house. This combined with higher input costs and the strongest cattle prices ever seen caused many producers to find NOT selling cattle extremely difficult, if not impossible to avoid.

This year is a whole different ballgame. Those already impacted from last year's drought didn't stand a chance of holding on once June and July arrived with no rain and scorching temperatures. They were forced to liquidate herds and in some cases, entire ranches. Those intent of keeping ownership of their herd were then faced with purchasing hay, if they could find it, or forking over hundreds of dollars for feed.

Ears of corn like this are very hard to find in fields this year.
Courtesy of www.ingredientnews.com
Which leads us to the second part of the dilemma. Last year's drought left farmers being lucky to harvest 50 bushels of corn per acre (56 lbs=1 bushel). Normally, the AVERAGE would be well over 100 bushels per acre. The shortage of last year's crop put a slight rise in prices this year from the beginning. Speculation ensued at the end of June when yields began to be questioned. As soon as it was apparent the corn crop was being affected, the price per bushel quickly began escalating, as economists stated the nation would use 95% of the previous year's crop this year alone. Farmers began praying the insurance to help carry them to next year and cattle producers found themselves between a rock and a hard spot, forced to either buy feed or sell cattle. But by this time cattle prices had already fallen nearly .50/lb below what had been the best market price EVER!!!

So this is where the consumer fits in. At this time, the nation's cow herd is down over 7 million head of where it should be. As I'm sure many consumers have noticed, beef is not getting cheaper in the grocery store. At the same time, the export market is not slowing up either. It's the simple economics of supply and demand, and the demand is driving the dollar. Likewise the corn crop, expected to make another measly 30-50 bushels/acre yield, will put very tight restraints on domestic and foreign supply.

But don't plan on solving the issue by switching meats. Poultry and pork are being seriously affected too, as the main diets for these animals consist of corn and soybeans. In essence, experts say consumers should expect to see a 10% increase in all proteins this year, and possibly more next year.

The drought of 2012 is taking its toll on everyone. And although consumers are being forced to spend more money on proteins and quality food, its the farmers and ranchers that will be hurt the most. In many cases their livelihood depends on making top corn yields or shipping a load of heavy weaned or yearling calves to the feedlot or slaughter house. This year, those yields will only be a dream and the shipments of cattle, well there likely won't be much profit coming off the truck.


Consumers should expect to pay a premium for beef for a while
Courtesy of www.bigpartiessmallplaces.files.wordpress.com
 
While I hope that Brad Paisley song doesn't play true, unless rain comes soon and stays for a while, it's likely things may get interesting for the ag world and the supermarket meat cooler.


Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!



Tuesday, July 31, 2012

County Fair-The Ultimate Summer Vacation

Long days, short nights, dinner from a cooler and the last farewell to our steer - county fair week usually brings complete exhaustion, an empty wallet, and a huge pile of dirty laundry that needs to be tackled. After all the awards are given, the animals auctioned off, and the stall displays torn down, everyone is beyond ready for a hot shower, home-cooked meal and a long night's rest in their own bed. But still, just a month or two later and we're ready to do it again!!

This past week, as I arrived in Columbia, Mo for my new job, I was able to attend the Boone County Fair and be a part of the show ring action. I grew up heavily active in 4-H showing cattle, horses, sheep, hogs and even my dog one year. I participated in welding, shooting sports, public speaking, woodworking, livestock judging, and held almost every office I could. Needless to say, for the majority of my childhood, 4-H was my summer life.

As I had the opportunity to return to my roots after being out of the show scene for a couple years due to college and work, I enjoyed seeing the next draft of youngsters walking into the ring and showing off their goats, steers and hogs. It brought back floods of memories and made me think about what this program and the tradition of county fair meant to me.

I couldn't help but smile as I watched a young girl manhandle a goat that probably weighed more than she did and continuously look ringside for the cues from her coach, a young man not much younger than myself. Her determination, competitive attitude and eager spirit was entertaining as well as enjoyable. It made me laugh as I took pictures of two little girls chasing a hog around the ring in the PeeWee division of the swine show. Although they were doing little more than tapping the hog with their bats and clearly without any real control of the animal, it was still humorous to see their excited smiles and witness their desire to be in the ring at that young age.

Then I was brought back to more recent years as I listened to young people prepare to market their animals at the sale for the last time. The auctioneer announced that this was the exhibitor's last year in 4-H to encourage higher bidding. As one young lady announced she was donating the proceeds to form a scholarship fund, she explained how she had grown up raising and showing hogs her whole life and struggled emotionally to bring this journey to an end. I thought about my numerous years raising and showing cattle and what not only the competition meant to me, but the countless hours spent raising, selecting and preparing my stock for the show.

County fairs go beyond the showmanship award, champion hog or highest rate-of-gain steer. It's more than having the top selling lamb at the auction or sending the most pictures to the state fair. Spending a week at the county fair is about connecting with friends, caring for animals and committing to action everything learned over the last year. 4-H'ers know how to work hard, stay up late, get up even earlier, have fun and learn.

Over the 11 years I competed in 4-H, I can't even begin to count the many memories I made. Whether it was staying up late setting up a stall display, getting to the barn before sunrise to get 8 head of cattle ready for show, or giving my steer a hug goodbye after the sale, I had fun, made friends, and learned important life lessons. I learned about being committed to my animals and providing the best care for them. I learned my dinner and bed were always last on the priority list. And I practiced good sportsmanship whether I won or lost.

4-H is part of life for many young people, myself included. It is a training ground for future endeavors. It provides opportunities otherwise completely lost and it strengthens young leaders and promotes strong character. Without my 4-H involvement and agriculture background, I don't know where I would be today.

Not only am I proud of how it shaped my life, but I'm excited about giving back and helping the next "show team". As I told one of my "adopted moms" at the fair this year, "I'm wondering which will come sooner, me getting to show again or finding a little person to help!"



If you were involved in 4-H, how did it shape your life? What memories do you have of county fair? What do you plan to do to pass on what you learned to the next draft of youngsters?


Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Meet Your Meat

Courtesy www.findingdulcinea.com
With summer in full swing, and the grilling season likely at full throttle, I thought it might be a fun and fitting topic to discuss how meat is cut and graded to providing an understanding for proper steak selection.

To start with, I will briefly explain where some of the most popular cuts come from and how this relates to their tenderness, taste and consumer appeal.

Courtesy www.triplesfarms.com
A beef carcass is divided into five sections upon harvest and the front three sections are then split in half. The sections are the chuck, rib, short loin, sirloin, and round. The chuck and round are where a majority of large cuts are taken from. These sections produce a lot of roasts, ground beef and lesser quality steaks (such as Round and Cubed steak).

The rib, short loin, and sirloin sections produce most of the famous steaks cuts and bbq favorites, such as ribs and burgers. The most common cuts to come out of these sections are the Ribeye, T-Bone, Porterhouse, Tenderloin (or Filet Mignon), and Sirloin.

The Ribeye steak comes from anywhere within the rib section and is the center of a Rib steak without any bone or excess fat on the edges. This cut is also referred to as a Delmonico in some parts of the country. Ribeye steaks are an industry favorite for their tenderness and lack of extra bone and fat. When cattle are harvested, a significant trait that is recorded is the size of their ribeye area, which is measured in square inches. Sizes vary between breeds, but most ribeyes are between 11 & 18 sq.in.

The T-Bone, Porterhouse and Tenderloin (Filet Mignon) all comes from the short loin section. T-Bone steaks are taken from the middle area of this section and Porterhouse cuts are produced on the posterior end. The only significant difference in these cuts is the size, with the Porterhouse being a larger steak. A Tenderloin is just like the Ribeye in that it is the center cut of a T-Bone or Porterhouse without any bone or surrounding fat. Although Tenderloins or very palatable, tender and enjoyable to eat, they are usually a much smaller and thicker cut making them a suitable choice for high end restaurants, hotels and occasions where guests prefer a smaller portion of high quality and tender meat.

www.triplesfarms.com
The sirloin section produces one cut-the Sirloin. This steak can be eaten as a Pin Bone Sirloin, a Flat Bone Sirloin, a Wedge Bone Sirloin, or a Boneless Sirloin (which is most common). These cuts are interesting because they start with the Pin Bone being taken nearest the loin and the Wedge Bone harvested prior to the round, however the closer to the loin the larger the steak but the closer to the round, the more meat is in each cut. Again, the Sirloin that most people are familiar with is a center cut of any of these three steaks, with no bone and minimal surrounding fat.

Now that we've discussed where the most common cuts of steak are harvested, let's look at how meat is graded and how that affects quality, taste and tenderness.

Courtesy www.thecattlesite.com
Beef is graded according to "Quality" and "Yield". Quality grades are divided into seven groups: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter/Canner and are based upon marbling (speckles of fat layered in the meat) and maturity (age of the cow). Prime is the top end grade and meat with this title are young animals with abundant marbling which provides desired flavor, tenderness and juiciness. Most cuts with this grade are found in high-scale restaurants and hotels. Cattle grading Prime are purchased at a premium price because of their high quality. Choice graded meat is the most common among the majority of consumers because of it's availability. Most restaurants and higher end grocery stores where consumers purchase meat offer Choice graded beef. This beef is moderate to light in marbling and can be harvested from animals under 42 months of age. Select graded beef is found in most fast-food chains and contains minimal marbling. Meat following into the remaining grades consists of hamburgers and filler meat, such as that used in hot dogs and pre-packaged meat items.

Yield grades are determined by the percent of boneless closely trimmed retail cuts from the above mentioned sections of the carcass. This grading isn't as important to consumers as quality but attributes to the amount of meat within the cuts. Yield grades are numbered 1-5 with 1 providing the most meat from a carcass (over 52%) and 5 yielding less than 45%.

So next time you decide to grill, you can determine if you would like a Prime Ribeye, a Choice Sirloin, a Select Tenderloin (yeah right!) or if you just want to settle for a good ol' hamburger!!! Understand the cuts, evaluate the quality and fire up the grill to enjoy a juicy and mouth watering piece of beef!!!!

If you have any questions about meat grading or carcass quality, leave a comment or visit these following websites:
www.beef.org
www.beefretail.org
www.mobeef.org



Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!!







Saturday, July 7, 2012

Proud and Privileged


         What an honor and privilege to produce a video showcasing the next generations of cattle producers. For anyone who's unsure about the future of the beef industry or those consumers who are skeptical about the people who raise their food, let these young men and women give you a peace of mind that the industry will progress and your beef will be raised right! Please watch and PLEASE SHARE!!!!! Let's get this message to the masses and help people put a face to their food!!!!


Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stand Up and Speak Out!!

She wore jeans and boots to school everyday and was made fun of. She worked hard at home on the farm and was criticized for it. She stood up for her beliefs, passions, and dreams-and was completely disregarded. She came home one day to find her car, home, and concrete cow yard ornament vandalized. And she still wants to do the right thing.


I was angered, saddened and shocked to hear this story and sympathized with this fellow young cattle producer who was treated harshly and ridiculed for her love and lifestyle. But it was a resounding reminder that not only are there people among us who don't understand what farm families do to provide for this nation, but they can even be abusive and violent because they disagree with what we do.


This past weekend I had the distinct honor and privilege of leading a group of young cattlemen and women at the MJCA Show-Me Beef Leadership Conference. The focus of the conference was being an Agvocate and defending and promoting agriculture to friends and consumers. Participants were given tips on how to use social media, face-to-face opportunities and the internet to share the story of agriculture as well as how to interact and connect with consumers. It was stressed over and over the importance of being proactive and taking the initiative to reach out and educate the public about what we do and how we care for our livestock. It was rewarding and exciting to hear and 8th grader say he wanted to continue to learn more about how to reach out to his friends. And the young lady who was ridiculed through high school-she still wants to reach out to her classmates and help them see the truth!


www.king-ranch.com
Feeding Santa Gertrudis steers
The issue of uneducated consumers and the topic of being an advocate for agriculture has been pretty heavy the last couple years, however as producers, we have still become very lax in our approach to being the ones to tell the story instead of constantly defending what we do. The battle in which we find ourselves with not only animal rights activists and organizations, but simply uneducated consumers, is one that will not end soon-if ever. And it is getting more intense as time goes on.


The quote "If not me, who. If not now, when?" struck a chord with me this weekend. We can't continue relying on others to tell our story and just do our job without connecting with consumers. Agriculturalists have to take action NOW and be the ones to tell the story-our story.

So please join me in becoming active in educating. Whether it's creating a video for youtube showing you caring for your animals everyday, keeping a blog that shows the emotion and dedication to give to ensure safe and healthy food is produced, writing letters to the editor and politicians or just talking to a customer in the grocery story about how meat, milk and eggs are produced, we can all take part, and we NEED to take part in telling the story and revealing the truth!!!

Now, I will turn this around...

Consumers-we are at fault for not keeping open lines of communication about farming and how we raise livestock and crops. We want to tell you how and why we do it, we want you to understand, and we want you to feel safe about what you eat. So, in order to help us educate and give you a peace of mind, please comment by telling us what you want to know and how we can help you made quality decisions about your food. What questions do you have about beef production? What do you want to know about how corn and tomatoes are raised? What would you like explained about raising pork and poultry?

If you ask, we'll answer!!!!!




Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Luxurious Life

The other night I decided to work with one of my horses and do some fundamental practice with neck reining, developing gaits, giving to leg pressure, and other riding attributes. She was already broke and very gentle-knew how to take cues and respond to handling, but just needed some time to get her polished. As I finished up my workout with her, I proceeded to take her out to the small pasture behind our house and just ride around for fun. After making a couple laps around the 15 acres or so, I stopped her on the rise in the pasture and sat there for a while. The sun was easing it's way closer to the horizon on my left, glowing more and more each minute and casting it reflective shade on the nearby trees and grass. A herd of cattle were peacefully grazing to my right, enjoying the cooler weather of the evening. And ahead of me was our pond, with still waters, spotted by shadows of trees along its edge. As I sat there, the slight breeze circled my head and birds whistled back in the trees and brush. I was at that moment so thankful for the wonderful creation around me and the opportunity to be amidst the beauty while sitting atop my horse. I simply relished the moment and thanked God for the blessings of not only the sights and sounds around me, but the opportunity to experience these wonderful things by living in the country.
I count it not only a blessing, but a privilege to call the county line gravel road my home. It is truly rewarding and enjoyable to work off the land and reap the benefits of the country life. Throughout the seasons, in rainy weather and in drought, through snow, mud, ice and floods, there is something remarkable about being surrounded by nature and livestock. Whether it's driving through the cows on a summer evening, riding your horse down a gravel road, plowing up a field for springtime planting or sitting in the combine cab looking across a field of 7 foot tall corn, the sights, sounds, and smells of the backroads and fields can never be replicated or replaced.
It is an honor to provide beef for the people of this nation and the world and it's reassuring to know your neighbor will always be someone you can turn to for a helping hand.
In visiting with a friend yesterday, we discussed how it would be for a city dweller to spend a week in the country. Would they enjoy the experience or despise it? Would it be challenging for them to be 15 miles from the closest gas station and 30 minutes from a McDonalds or Walmart? Would they learn the different lifestyle or would it be too much out of their comfort zone to even adapt? Granted, there are folks who simply cannot leave the city and have to be surrounded by people, cars, noise and business. But how would their view change if they took a drive down a backwoods gravel road and spent of the evening on the back porch watching the dogs play, enjoying the beautiful sunset and listening to coyotes howl at dusk?
Too many times I think we take for granted where God places us and what blessings we receive by living in the country. There really is something to be said for, pardon the redneck context, being able to walk in the backyard in your pajamas!
I hope I never have to submit myself to living within city limits, but that God allows me to plant my roots in the back 40, thirty minutes from Walmart and Sonic, surrounded by good, faithful neighbors and a scenic backyard view of the cows.

So what do you enjoy most about the country? What blessings do you derive out of the lifestyle of the gravel road residence? And what kind of experience do you think our friends in the city would have if they spent a week as your pickup truck passenger and right man farm hand?







Until next time, you'll find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We're a Big Family!

This last weekend I was able to help out with the Missouri Cattleman's Association All-Breeds Jr. Show in Sedalia, Mo. Attending this show is always a treat for me, because not only am I able to help out a great Jr. organization and support the next generation of beef producers, but it allows me opportunity to be around fellow cattle producers. These events are like family reunions for me because I've grown up and spent most of my summers competing and sharing memories with many of these families. We all share something that creates a strong bond and a closeness among us.
It's more than just producing cattle that brings us together. It's not just the common ties to agriculture that connect our hearts. It's the friendship that we have based on how we were raised. It's the knowledge that we can depend on one another to not only be supportive as friends, but as producers. We can trust each other to market our product, carry our vision and strive for the same goals. We have the same passions, motivations and dreams for our families and our industry.
I know many industries are like this: beef, dairy, pork, equine, crop, etc. But how many times do these industries share the same relations and friendship between one another? How often do we work together to promote agriculture in general and how many times do we really on each other to watch our back? Yes, the agriculture industries have united in recent years to face challenges from animal rights activists, government regulations and other obstacles. But I believe too many times we are more concerned about our own safety and goals to really ensure lasting sustainability for the whole agriculture community.
Take the organic vs. modern production practices. Without a doubt, there are benefits to both methods as well as drawbacks. But I'm saddened that the two groups can't combine their efforts to promote and boost agriculture in general, rather than trying to accuse and downplay each other on various issues. I will admit that I favor the modern production practices for various reasons. That doesn't mean I don't understand, respect and see a need for quality niche marketing. At the same time, I realize that there are wholesome benefits and rewards to raising livestock and crops on smaller scales using historic methods that are not see in modern production. But the problem is both groups find the need and boldness to accuse the other for their methods, beliefs and practices when issues arise and people ask questions. People feel good when they raise enough produce, beef and pork to feed their family and they know the food was raised safely and properly. At the same time, large feedlots and confinement operations are essential to providing enough food to feed this entire country and world. And both methods are done with very strict guidelines and protocols. The agriculture industry needs both groups.
If we expect to survive as an industry, we have to lay our minor differences aside and focus on the important goal-promoting agriculture. It doesn't matter if you prefer organic, grass finished or grain finished, cage free eggs or gestation crates. What's crucial is that we encourage consumers to trust the supply chain, not matter what method and help them understand that US agriculture is responsible for producing high quality and affordable food and fiber.
Everything is always enjoyable when it involves a family. I think that's why I love being in agriculture so much-no matter what industry it is, your feel like you're a part of something important. We're all in this together, so let's get together and have a big family reunion!!



Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Golden Grain

I watched it change color and grow day by day, transitioning from a pale green-tan mixture to a creamy yellow to a golden bronze. The heads waved in the wind like a sea and gave blackbirds a place to rest. As the time for harvest approached and dust filled the air, combines crawled across the fields of wheat-the golden grain.
Wheat is averaging 60-70 b/acre for this
West Central Mo farmer
Upon visiting with a neighboring farmer, I was reminded of the importance and the delicate nature of this small grain. Their one farm alone harvested 200 acres this year. Although this is quite a small area in comparison to 1,000 acre wheat farms in the West, my neighbor was stating they were averaging 60-70 bushels/acre. Added up, this comprises approximately 784,000 pounds of wheat harvested!! He continued to share that the weather had affected their harvest in both good and bad ways. Due to the early and mild warm weather they experienced, the wheat had seen amazing growth. But the dry conditions experienced in the recent weeks made the wheat mature almost too fast-as the grain in their last field was quite hard. More moisture would have increased yields slightly, but nevertheless the season had gone amazingly well. They had to evaluate the dryness or moisture of the crop, combined with market prices they could attain, and analyze which fields were most ready each day to determine how to collect the best harvest and make the most profit.
Wheat will be used to make flour for food
When I think about how important is was to these farmers to monitor and manage the condition of their crop and their resources, carefully planning when to plant, and when to harvest, I am reminded of how God strategically and methodically does the same with His children. Those that are not saved are shown witnesses to plant seeds and nurture growth at just the right time. Like some fields, some people are too dry for planting at times. But once seed for the right person is planted at the right time, the seed begins to grow. Then, after days, or months, or maybe even years, the seed is finally mature, the person is ready and the harvest for God is made-salvation occurs. In perfect timing, the greatest reward is made.
As you go throughout your week, keep your eyes and ears open for the chance to plant a seed in a prepared field and watch it grow. In the same way, remember the thousands of farmers across the nation who are watching their own seed, waiting for the perfect time to harvest. And next time you eat a slice of bread, put crackers in your soup or bake a cake, thank those same people who made that possible!


Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!