Friday, February 28, 2014

The Life of a Dairy Cow

I know in a few of my previous blogs, I have mentioned the different stages of a cows life, and I promised I would write a blog over the life time of a cow. The way my momma raised me, you never break a promise. I was also raised to love cows, say 'yes sir', and go to church on Sunday. Don't forget that eating meat and praying should be supplemented at least once every day.

Anyway, time for some "Farm Fact Friday"! There are four main stages of a cows life: calf, first calf heifer, dry cow, and milk cow.

Let's start with birth. On our dairy, like most, we raise all of our own milk cows. The calves that are born every day grow up to become the cows that produce milk, so farmers make it a priority to get them off to a healthy start. They get to live in spacious hutches that protect them from wind, rain, and cold. The hutches provide a way to give individual nutrition to each calf, and allows for personal health care for each baby!

The babies will receive fresh milk from the cows, it's just in bottles that are portioned out to give the calf a healthy amount of nutrition. I've said before: a healthy baby is the best baby.

After the calves are strong enough and have built up a strong immune system, they will go into an open pasture to be co-mingled with other heifers and later become bred when they are old enough. In this phase, they are called "first-calf heifers". This heifer is one that has just been turned out in the pasture, she will just spend the next few months just growing, she is about 4 months old.

Note: a heifer is a female that has not had a calf, a cow is a female that has had one or more calves. Heifers will have their first baby at about 2 years of age, and will have one baby every year after that.

The first calf heifers are given extra attention, and additional nutrition since this will be their first time to have a baby. Here is a first calf heifer that is coming up on her second birthday. She should calves in about 2-3 weeks.

After they have their calf, the calf will go into phase one (as mentioned above) and the momma cow will then go into the milk pen.  For the next nine months she will be in an open pasture with about 600 other cows of various ages - that's on our farm, other farms may be different.

Professional nutritionists help dairy farmers develop a balanced and nutritious diet for their cows. Fun fact: cows have four components to their stomach and eat about 100 pounds a day.

Once the cow has been in the milk cow pen for 9 months, she should be about 6 months pregnant, at which time she will be moved out of the milk cow pen and into the "dry cow" pen. This means she gets a 90 day vacation! All she does is eat and sleep. It's a pretty dandy life.

Being a "dry cow" means that they do not give any milk and their udder's will "dry" up until right before calving. A dairy cow's main purpose is to give milk, and the cows like it, they like their routine - they get pretty fussy if we get out of the dairy routine! So, at first, they don't like the dry cow pen. But, then they figure it out and enjoy eating as much as they can. Then, they have their baby,  and the whole process repeats itself.

So, there is your Dairy Cow 101. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sweet Sunday: Luke 17:6

"The Lord replied 'If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mulberry tree "Be uprooted and planted in the sea." and it will obey you.'"
-Luke 17:6

Faith. Faith is a strong emotion, but it's more than an emotion: it's a commitment, a love affair, a wanting, bonding towards the Lord. 

This verse is so great - it tells us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a tree! Yet, we all know faith can move so much more - when you think Christ is moving 'mountains' in your life, it turns out He's been moving you all along.

Faith means a FULL belief. If you believe you have boundaries, or that there are boundaries in life, it's not faith. I know - it's awesome.

So muster up your mustard seed and see the miracles Christ can do!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

God Bless This Family Farm

I thought it would be a good idea to put my weeks’ worth of learning into a blog post.  But, then, I decided it was actually not much different than the “education” I have received my whole life: from my family and our values, from my experience on the farm, and from my education.

First, thank you to everyone who has read my most recent blog post.  I appreciate the overwhelming support.  As you may know, I tried to host a tour on our farm for three young men representing PETA2, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out.  Like most people, full time students have difficult schedules.

Now, for the things I learned this week:

1.      Standing on science is important to me, always has been, and always will be.
Opinions are opinions.  Science is science.  I will choose science.  After all, I’m a college student studying Animal “Science.”  

2.      Humbleness
My parents have always taught me to be humble.  I think this includes having and showing respect for others.  I can respect another way of thinking, and I ask for respect for my values in return.  

3.      People are yearning for knowledge
The simple truth is most people don’t know a farmer.  That’s where I can help.  I’m a farmer.  I know about farming.  While we come from very different perspectives and fundamentally disagree about animals being raised for food; if this experience has taught me anything it is that I'm meant to help connect consumers to agriculture.  I'm proud of what I do and will talk to anyone about farming.

I'd like to close with the Texas Tech motto: "Strive for Honor in the Pursuit of Excellence." I am proud to represent an industry that exemplifies honor, integrity and passion. America's dairy farmers are committed to providing safe, high-quality milk and dairy products. Our commitment extends far beyond our respect for cows and the environment; our passion is fueled by the ambition to feed America. God bless our family farm, and God bless each and every American farmer and rancher.

Friday, February 14, 2014

To the Man Who Knows Me Better Than I Know Me

This is what it's all about. Yesterday, I heard a little ruckus around the Animal Science building that PETA had set up a tent outside the Student Union Building on campus (Texas Tech). So, one of my teammates, Kevin, and I decided we would venture over to main campus and give it a look.

Little did we know we would spend about an hour inside the tent conversing with this man and his colleagues:

 This is Austin. He's a PETA2 representative, meaning he is a part of the 'college division' of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He stood outside holding a sign stating "Make it through and get FREE STUFF!" luring students into a tent labeled "What they never told you..."

I'll explain exactly the details of our experience, include a few quotes, and then give my grand synopsis. Buckle down and hold on, here we go:

So, upon arriving Kevin and I pretended to be ordinary students (disregard Kevin's boots, belt buckle, and livestock judging hat), Austin invited us inside for a tour of the tent. He took us through a winding sequence of 8 foot tall posters of dead animals, slaughter houses, and animals in their "natural habitats".

Here is Austin showing us how pigs and cattle are raised. Then, we turned the corner and found a farrowing crate.

Note: for anyone that doesn't know, a farrowing crate is a crate that mother pigs (sows) are kept in when they have their babies. Sows can weigh up to 500 pounds, when born the piglets weigh about 2 pounds. The sows are kept in the crate, so that when they lay down, the piglets have a place to escape to so they don't get squished!

Here is a typical farrowing crate. The piglets can run around and be safe! Sure, the sow is confined to a small area for a couple weeks, but, I think all mothers sacrifice a whole lot for their kids! At least the sows get to sleep all night long.

Back to my story. Austin demonstrated how a farrowing crate worked, then preceded to tell us a statistic that was shockingly false. This is when Kevin stepped in and asked Austin "where did you get your statistic?", Austin avoided our question and simply told us to "visit a farm, you'll see this practice everywhere." Our "undercover" status broke loose when Kevin and I reacted quickly, stating that we both lived on farms, and that his information was false. We explained to Austin about family farms, and why farrowing crates were used to keep pigs safe. At this time, Austin backed away, and the "head" guy, Dave, stepped in to give us a chat. Here's Dave:

Dave talked with us for a few minutes about farming practices. He tried to inform us that beating animals was a common practice, we told Dave that we were farmers and this was not true. About this time, a new wave of students came in. Dave and Austin both excused themselves from our delightful conversation to inform innocent students of PETA's false scares and untruthful statistics.

Folks, I'm a relatively level-headed person. But I have a passion for agriculture and watching this man falsely accuse MY industry took anger management to a whole new level.

I stood up on my tippy toes, mustered my strength, quieted my anger, and yelled:
"I'm a farmer. If you have any questions about farms, ask me, not them."

Two things then happened: 
        1. Dave and Austin got real mad.
        2. Two girls on opposite ends of the tents turned around and yelled "me too! This is ridiculous."

Victory. Most of the students then left the tent, and the two girls: Danielle, a hog producer, and Dianne, another dairy girl, joined Kevin and I for our talk.

The four of us ag students then talked for about 45 minutes with Dave about agriculture. It's all too long to mention, but here are a few quotes that deserve to be heard:

Dave: "The American Heart Association states eating meat is bad for you, and can cause cancer."

Danielle: "So, you're saying that all you want is for meat production to end and the world to be vegans."
Dave: "Yes, in a perfect world, there would be no production animals or meat consumption, only vegans."
Thanks for admitting what we already knew: PETA is solely on a mission to end animal agriculture. I guess PETA has to have some mission, now that their "save the puppies and kitties" ploy has fallen through. Murdering nearly 30,000 dogs and cats at the PETA headquarters doesn't go over very well.

Dave: (while talking about his farm experience - which is visiting ONE farm) "I know about farming, I know what you guys do, I do this for a living, I talk to college students."
Emily: "Correction, we do this for a living, we go to farms."

Emily: "Look, we know we are never going to change your mind. We will respect your decision to be vegan, as long as you respect us: the four farmers you met that treat their animals right." 
Dave: "I will never respect you. I know you beat your animals."
Oh yeah Dave, I forgot, thanks for your help on the dairy last week.

Then, Dave revealed his true colors:
Dianne: "Look, my family and I live 30 minutes from here, come out with me to my farm, and see that we do not mistreat our animals."
Dave: "I would, except I am going to Austin in a couple days, I don't have time."
Emily: "Oh you'll be going right through my hometown, you're more than welcome to stop in and see our dairy, and how we do not mistreat our animals."
Dave: "I don't want to see your farms, I don't have time."

The truth is: Dave probably did have time. Students don't stay on campus 24 hours of the day, I'm certain he had more than enough time to tour Dianne's family dairy, or our family dairy. Dave turned down two offers to tour a farm (thus, doubling his on-farm experience), because he doesn't want to see the truth - that farmers ARE good to their animals. For Dave, it's much more fun to take an isolated incidence and falsely publicize cases of neglect as common practice.

So Dave, the offer still stands: you are welcome to tour our dairy anytime. You're wrong now, and you'll be wrong then, we don't mistreat our animals. Just like the majority of farmers and ranchers in America. Dave, I know you'll keep telling lies the rest of your life, so I guess that means it's up to me to balance it out. I'll keep exposing the truth behind the "glass walls of production agriculture", come on out, and I'll give you the tour.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The "Udder" Side of the Story

A few weeks ago, I suggested agriculturalists to "friend" PETA on Facebook, just to keep up with their antics. If someone is against me, I wanna know the mud they're slingin'. Most of the posts (ok, all of them) get my feathers ruffled. But then there are posts that flat fire me up. My first example, see exhibit A: PETAs bashing of the dairy industry.

So, unless you didn't know, my family and I live on a dairy. According to PETA, our dairy is a "big dairy" or "factory farm". Any farm with over 1,000 animals is classified as a "factory farm" and thrown into a category of misinterpretation and negative associations. I think it's hard for people to understand that "big dairies" can also be family farms. In case you didnt know 97% of farms are family farms.

Originally I was going to show you the pictures PETA posted, but then I realized that would be silly. The pictures they managed to snap are misleading, and only represent a small percentage of farmers who made a mistake. PETA loves to snap pictures and publicize "all the farmers are like this".  But, that would be like me saying "I saw a man once arrested for beating and starving his dog. You have a a dog, so you must beat and starve your dog too." Obviously, that would be a false statement. Not every person that owns a dog is cruel to their pet. Same with farmers. Yes, there are people in our industry who do it wrong. Yes, if found, they get in trouble. You and I are on the same page. I dislike anyone who mistreats their animals: wether it is dogs, cows, or chickens.

It is in the farmers best interest to treat cattle right. Keeping cows healthy, happy, and comfortable will increase milk production. It's a win-win situation.

Not to mention: it's the right thing to do.

Here's a picture of one of our baby calves! A healthy, happy baby is the best baby.

And, finally for my last point: PETA says "When you buy dairy products, you're supporting this cruel cycle."

Actually, that's an incorrect statement. When you buy dairy products: you're supporting my family. You're supporting my Dad's early morning feed runs. You're supporting late nights, staying up with the one cow that still has to calve. You're supporting all day, every day, love and care towards cows.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sweet Sunday: Romans 1:25

"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is to be forever praised. Amen." -Romans 1:25

If it weren't for traditions, I wouldn't have titled this blog "Sweet Sunday" because today's verse isn't so sweet. Being a serving, following Christian isn't always roses and butterflies, it's tough to be a called Christian, I struggle with it every day!! This morning at Aldersgate Church (if you live in Lubbock and don't have a church home, please, try coming with me on Sunday's - it rocks) our pastor gave his sermon on "worshiping". You can listen to it here on Tuesday, it will be posted online.

But, I took lots of notes this morning because I knew a great blog was coming out of this sermon. So, I've summarized for you. Now, before you move on and read this blog, I'll admit, it's deep. Or at least it was for me. Please don't be offended, I'm sharing my personal story if you make it to the end of the blog.

So, our pastor discussed this morning how all-too-often we find ourselves worshiping "outside things" besides the Lord. Now, of course we don't fall down and worship golden calf statues as exampled in Exodus 32. But, the way I see it, anything that takes away from our serving the Lord diligently is to an extent something we "worship" or put value in.
Disclaimer: of course we need to spend time with our family, our work, etc. That's not what I'm talking about, it's the things that cross your mind in the morning when you could be praying, or the "extra" things that take up way too much of your time and stress. You know what I'm talking about.

This blog is intense. How about a cute picture of my pig, Tilly.

Alright. Now, our pastor shared this acronym for us and I couldn't agree more. It is written by Mark Driscoll, a pastor from Seattle. He believes there are 5 types of IDOLS in this world that can suck our attention away from purity.

I - items. Be it your car, television, the way you look, etc.
D - duties. Climbing the ladder to success, work, achievement.
O - others. The people you surround yourself with: friends, children, co-workers.
L - longings. Your hopes/dreams/wants.
S - sufferings. Sometimes people associate themselves with the sufferings they face in life.

So, since we are all humans, and we all sin, there's a likelihood that one of these IDOLS consumes excess attention in your life. For me, it's an easy pick, my IDOLS would be D - duties.

I am a doer. If you know me, you know I can't sit still, and I always have to be doing something. In every aspect of my life I'm a Type A personality, go-getter, over-achiever, in all the clubs, won't settle for below average, type of person. I'll credit dear ole' Dad for this one, he's far worse than I am.

Pops on his birthday. If you know my Dad, I'm sure this is a shock - no cell phone, no farm equipment, no stresser in sight! Love him to death - he's the hardest working man I know.

Here's my struggle though: I'm a planner. I mean, I have a calendar with me everywhere I go, I have a schedule, a route, an outfit picked out for every day of the week, email is my best friend and excel spreadsheets keep me sane. I even have planned blogging times! Sooooooo the fact that it is February 9th, and I still have no idea where I am going to grad school, or what I am doing with my life after I graduate, may or may not be eating me alive. (Hint: it is.)

Who has thought this before? "God, I NEED an answer NOW!" I pray and pray and pray every day. When I think he doesn't hear me, I pray again. When I don't have an answer, I pray again. Doesn't he know my personality? Doesn't he know I NEED to know?

The answer is: yes. God knows. He knows it's killing me. He also knows I'm not fully trusting Him, and I need to take a chill pill and just put it in his hands. Can you tell I'm not there yet? Sure, my life would be better if I just gave it up to Him. But what do we do as humans? Fight. Be stubborn. Tell ourselves "if He doesn't tell me where to go to grad school soon, I'll miss the scholarship deadline". You bet. D for Duties. Sometimes my "duties" to be a good student, have a plan, have my life in order, come second. Second to God. Thanks a lot, Lord. I guess He's breaking down my IDOLS for me, one unanswered grad school prayer at a time.

I'm not sure where this fits in, but I love this quote our pastor made this morning:
"Work as if you are worshiping,
do not worship your work."

Step 1: realize you have an IDOLS.
Step 2: give it to God. He knows what to do.
Step 3: post it on your blog for all the world to see.
Step 4: let world know Texas Tech upset Oklahoma State last night in basketball.

And with that, have a blessed week!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Very Eligible Bachelor

So, in case you haven't seen the 2014 Chevy Super Bowl Commercial, promoting agriculture, check it out, it's grand:

I think it's safe to say that is my favorite commercial of all time.

But, back to the main point of this blog: I have a very eligible bachelor myself.

His name is Mr. EJ Lubbock 8Y, sired by the 2009 NJBS Grand Champion Bull Mr. EJ Laredo. Not only is he thick, great balanced and sound, he ranks in the top 10% for BW and top 4% for CE.

He sells Wednesday, February 12th in the San Antonio All Breeds Bull Sale. Don't miss this opportunity to purchase your next great herd sire!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sweet Sunday: Galatians 5:1

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not submit again to slavery."
-Galatians 5:1

Let's break this verse down:
1. "It is for freedom...." There are only two people in this world who have died for you: Jesus and an American soldier. The American soldier died so that you have the right to go to church, Jesus died so that our sin-laden lives have a right to be there.

2. "...that Christ has set us free." Free. Christ wants us to be free from the chains that bond us. If you don't have time to pray or read scriptures, then you are busier than God ever intended you to be!

3. "Stand firm, then" Notice how it doesn't say "I will stand firm for you". The message is directed at each and every one of us. We must take strides to overcome the strongholds in our lives. No, we don't have to do it by ourselves, God is there. But He is telling us that the power has to be within ourselves.

4. "...and do not submit again to slavery." No, not literally 'slavery'. Slavery in this text is anything that holds you captive from loving the Lord. Think about it. What is it that keeps you from Him? Bad company? "Busy" schedule?

Also, be safe out there tonight! Good luck to the Broncos and Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Not that I'm rooting for either team....but....go Broncos!