Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cow Comfort in Frigid February

I hope you like the blog title. That was as close to an alliteration as I could get today! A month or so ago, one of our Facebook friends suggested we write a blog post about how we keep the cows comfortable in the winter months. It's definitely a challenge, but it's one we take seriously! This week, as temperatures plunged into the single digits, we were still at the farm at the crack of dawn, making sure our animals were cared for.

Here are a few things we do in the winter months to keep our cows comfortable:
  • Adjust the barn curtain. The barns have curtains that can be opened or closed, depending on the temperature outside. When it cools down, the curtain is lowered to keep the cows warm and comfortable. When it warms up, the curtain can be opened.
  • Get the calves off to a good start by putting a blanket on them. The blankets help them stay healthy and warm. This isn't necessary in the summer months, when the outside temperature is high.
  • Closely monitor their feed consumption. This is something we do year-round to ensure that our animals are healthy and eating well, but in the winter, animals require extra energy to maintain their body weight. Some times this means we adjust their ration or feed them extra to keep them healthy and strong.
This list could continue, but here's the bottom line: caring for our cows is a year-round task. It just requires different considerations at different times of the year. Just because it's zero degrees out doesn't mean farmers get to stay inside. Their obligation to care for animals is one they take seriously, no matter what the temperature is!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So God Made a Farmer

I came across these words this morning, and I couldn't help but share. They definitely ring true!

And on the 8th day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker!". So, God made a farmer!

God said, "I need somebody to get up before dawn and milk cows and work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So, God made a farmer!

"I need somebody with strong arms. Strong enough to rustle a calf, yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry and have to wait for lunch until his wife is done feeding and visiting with the ladies and telling them to be sure to come back real soon...and mean it." So, God made a farmer!"

God said "I need somebody that can shape an ax handle, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And...who, at planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty hour week by Tuesday noon. Then, pain'n from 'tractor back', put in another seventy two hours." So, God made a farmer!

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop on mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So, God made a farmer!

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees, heave bails and yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink combed pullets...and who will stop his mower for an hour to mend the broken leg of a meadow lark." So, God made a farmer!

It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight...and not cut corners. Somebody to seed and weed, feed and breed...and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody to replenish the self feeder and then finish a hard days work with a five mile drive to church. Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who'd laugh and then sigh...and then respond with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life "doing what dad does". So, God made a farmer!

(Author Unknown. Article reproduced from Paul Harvey radio show, but unable to trace the source.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Questions? Ask an expert.

Do you ever think of questions you just can't answer? You know, things like "Why is it called a pair of pliers, when there's only one?" or "If a synchronized swimmer drowns, do his teammates drown, too?" or "Why is it a bunny and not a chicken that carries Easter eggs?" Believe me, as a high school teacher, I get asked fifty of these questions a day from inquisitive students. Being around teenagers also raises many questions in my own mind, but that's a post for another day.

The question that's running through my mind today is this: "You wouldn't ask an Amish man for advice on your car, so why ask a vegan about animal products?" Ironic, huh? Yet many Americans consider celebrities "experts" in terms of diet and lifestyle choices. Here's a list of current vegan celebrities, according to the website Vegan Nutrista.
  • Ellen DeGeneres (She touts veganism on her talk show constantly.)
  • Joanquin Pheonix (actor)
  • Natalie Portman (actress)
  • Pamela Anderson (I'm sure you could insert a distasteful joke here about the importance of milk in her diet.)
  • Toby Maguire (actor)
  • Vanessa Williams (actress)
  • Chelsea Clinton (not sure what her title is)
  • Dennis Kucinich (U.S. Congressman)
  • Alanis Morissette (musician)
  • Brandy (musician)
  • Phil Collins (musician)
  • Shania Twain (musician)

Now, I greatly abbreviated this list to include people who I'd actually heard of. And, since I don't typically care about celebrities, I hadn't heard of a lot.
(Side note, when I Googled "vegan celebrities," it came back with a slew of responses. A similar search for "celebrities who eat meat," yielded few viable results.)
But, from this list alone, think of the influence and the platform they must have to share their thoughts and opinions. They could easily persuade others to become vegans as well. News flash: just because they sit on a talk show and share their opinions about food, doesn't make them experts! They can tell Americans all day how wrong it is to raise animals for food and nourishment and how much healthier they are without meat and milk in their diets, but they're not the best source of information.
You wouldn't ask an Amish man for advice on your car, so why ask a vegan about animals products?

Now that we've established that celebrities aren't the best source of information, where can you find information about vegan diets? The USDA MyPyramid outlines daily nutritional requirements and touts the importance of protein in a healthy diet., a website of compiled medical discussions, lists some disadvantages of a vegetarian diet in an online article. A nutrition specialist at the University of Georgia shares her thoughts on the topic also. When it comes to information vegan diets, research institutions, doctors, and the USDA are great sources.

Many vegans choose their lifestyle on the premise that animals are raised unethically. If you have questions on how animals are raised, then ask someone who knows: a farmer! Most celebrities have never set foot on a modern farm. How can they profess that they know how animals are raised? Instead, here are some great sources of information on modern livestock production:
  • The American Farm Bureau has a wonderful website called "Conversations on Care," where consumers can Q and A with real farmers.
  • Learn the truth about modern pork production and watch videos at the Ohio Pork Council's website.
  • Want to know where steak comes from? Learn from a real beef producer.
  • Connect with farmers all over the country who are part of the Ag Chat Foundation and hear how they care for their animals.
  • Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the dairy story. Check out Dairy Farming Today to watch videos and hear from dairy farmers that are producing a safe and nutritious product.
Feel free to chime in with your own sources of information, also. Bottom line:
you wouldn't ask an Amish man for advice on your car, so why ask a vegan about animals products? Ask farmers instead. They would know; after all, they care for animals every day.