Friday, May 21, 2010

Making The Best Better

I was excited that the International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare was held in Manhattan this week. It's not everyday you have an international conference on beef cattle issues in your backyard (figuratively).

It was great to see cattle producers working to make cattle welfare practices even better. The highlight for me was listening to Dr. Temple Grandin share her experiences and research, as well as the changes she has witnessed in recent years as part of her latest book and HBO movie tour.

Dr. Grandin has used her life experience with autism to revolutionize the way we once viewed cattle behavior and cattle handling systems. I had the opportunity to take a short course with her while in graduate school and loved that her straight-forward teaching style and passion for her subject.

In her recent travels to major cities across the country she has noted a changing tide in public concern and information about how our food is produced. She warned us that cattle producers were "not winning the communications battle."

One of my favorite parts of her opening speech was a remark about the handling of cattle within packing facilities. Grandin cited her work over many years in auditing animal harvesting facilities. What she reiterated though to the group was that "whether it's organic, natural, humane, or Mc Donald's it's all held to the same standard," in an animal welfare audit.
No matter what type of beef you choose, it's important to know that it was handled to minimize stress and prevent abuse. Those who are cruel to animals may rarely appear on the evening news, but it is my belief that these people are few and far between. This conference was a testament to the majority of cattle producers who are working to produce a safe, wholesome, and humane product. Cattle producers work tirelessly to ensure the welfare of animals, but are always looking for ways "to make the best better."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mama Cow

Our month began with a rather strange occurrence...

Please note: green grass, an uncomfortable looking cow, and a north facing hoof.

We generally finish calving out all of our cows in January and February. I'm not sure if you remember January, but it looked something like this.

Checking heifers in January generally involves every article of warm clothing one owns and a flashlight. As well as my own personal fantasies about adding a windshield to the Trekker to make our late night checks more tolerable. Yep, I'm a big whiner when it comes to winter. I'll do better. I just don't have Mr. O's steely resolve yet. So after acquiring a new heifer last spring that was a bit out of sync with the rest of our herd I was happy to be wearing these during my most recent heifer checks.

Forgive me for not appreciating the "miracle of birth" in the dead of winter. But unless a cow is having trouble or needs to come into the barn for a closer look, I'm not too interested in sticking around. I'll come back and check in two hours. If I don't bribe Mr. O to take my shift. A dozen Oatmeal Crisp Cookies = two night heifer checks.

This day in May however was different. Warm even. So I thought I'd stick around a bit and see what I was missing. I'll spare you those pictures. It's a family show. But as we gathered her in a smaller pen and hid in the shade of the barn, I could only wonder why the heck we don't do this every May.

I'm generally against delivery room photos...

This cow proves to be a great mom. She gets right up and begins to clean her calf. She also assumes a bit of an attitude. Something that reminds me of a story about my sister-in-law watching my two-year old nephew in the "Under Six-Year Old" ball pit at the museum.

Without any practical experience at motherhood, I'm not without a great deal of respect for the moms at our ranch. They are comforters, nourishers, and protectors. And clearly we couldn't run the place without them.

When I hear people far away from the farm talk about how we treat our cattle, I can't help but think of the cows we care for everyday and the work they do for us. We treat them ethically around the clock not because it's best for our bottom line, but because it's the right thing to do. After all ranchers are also comforters, nourishers, and protectors.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

At Last

I never knew there were so many shades of brown, until I moved to Kansas. After several months of this....

Words can't express how happy spring at the ranch makes me. So I'll spare you the rambling.... and hope you'll enjoy these instead!