3 Common Misconceptions About Antibiotic Use in Livestock

The media has conjured up all sorts of misconceptions about antibiotic and vaccination use in livestock and poultry, so I thought I would clear up a few common myths consumers hear regarding antibiotics. When I get a bad cold, sore throat, or upset stomach I always turn to my mom to try and make me feel better. Although she does her best to nurse me back to health, sometimes more needs to be done than a warm 7-Up or cough drop. After mom’s remedies, I make an appointment with my doctor, so he can prescribe me an antibiotic to make me feel better. A similar process is done with livestock and poultry. When my pigs are running a fever, have a raspy cough, or rash, I do what I can to make them comfortable and call their doctor, a veterinarian. The vet will make a trip out to my farm to diagnose my pigs and prescribe an antibiotic.

MYTH: 1. There are antibiotics in the meat sold to consumers.


False. Antibiotics given to livestock and poultry have withdrawal periods. A withdrawal period is the number of days that must pass after giving the animal the antibiotic to ensure there is no residue left in the animal before shipping them to market. To further guarantee there are no antibiotics in the carcass, the USDA takes samples from the kidney or liver (areas that would contain the most residues). If any residue is found, the meat is discarded and does not enter the food production chain. The carcass is then tracked back to the producer, so he or she can correct the problem.

MYTH: 2. Antibiotic use in livestock and poultry contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Photo Credit: FDA

False. Antibiotics used in livestock and poultry are different compared to those used in humans. Approximately 70% of antibiotics used in livestock and poultry are tetracycline and ionophores; whereas, in humans approximately 70% of antibiotics used are penicillins, cesphalosporins, and sulfas. Ionophores are not used in human antibiotics and tetracycline accounts for only 4% of human used antibiotics. Most antibiotic resistance in humans comes from the overuse of human antibiotics.

MYTH: 3. Organic livestock and poultry producers never use antibiotics.

Photo Credit: USDA

False. Organic livestock producers are able to give vaccinations as preventative measures against illness. Pain medication and dewormers are also allowed in dairy and breeding stock. However, if the preventative measures fall through and an animal becomes ill, the producer is obligated to treat the animal. After the animal has been treated with antibiotics, that animal can no longer be labeled as organic.


My name is Samantha Chalus and  I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Ag Business and anticipate graduating in May of 2016. I grew up on a small farm in Ottawa, IL where we raised show pigs, sheep, and chickens. I was an active member in 4-H for 11 years and FFA for 4 years. Throughout college I have worked full time and participated in Hoof’N’Horn and Collegiate Farm Bureau. Upon graduation, I plan to pursue a career in agriculture.

Continue reading “3 Common Misconceptions About Antibiotic Use in Livestock”


USDA and NRCS Programs and Services.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Natural Resources and Conservation Services (NRCS) offer a variety of programs and services to farmers, new farmers people living in rural areas.  These programs provide many services such as farm loans, housing assistance, Environmental Quality Incentive Programs, and the Conservation Reserve Program for beginning farmers and ranchers.

Farm Loans

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) makes operating loans to family sized farmers and ranchers who obtain credit from a bank or other lenders.  These loans can be used to construct buildings or purchase land, livestock, equipment, and other supplies.  These programs also make funding available to individuals to finance improvements necessary to make their homes decent, safe, and sanitary.  The Farm Service Agency, provides loans to beginning farmers and ranchers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial credit sources. Each year, the agency targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan funds to beginning farmers and ranchers.

Environmental Quality Incentive Programs

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program through the NRCS.  This program provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related natural resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland.  Owners of land in agricultural or forest production or people who are engaged in livestock, agricultural or forest production on eligible land and that have a natural resource concern on that land can apply to participate in EQIP.  Payments are made on completed practices or activities identified in an EQIP contract that meet NRCS standards.

Pictures above is a cattle crossing put in a creek designed to limit stream bank erosion by cattle, put in through the EQIP program.

Conservation Reserve Program

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a land conservation program administered by the FSA. In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.  In addition to contributing to improvement of the environment in multiple ways, those enrolled in CRP receive an annual rental payment for their enrolled acres.  The FSA also provides cost-sharing and other incentives to help offset the costs associated with putting these practices in place.

My name is Kreed Lewey, I am a senior at Western Illinois University.  My major is Agriculture Science with a focus in agronomy.  I grew up on a small family farm in Southern Illinois where I developed a love for agriculture.  if you are interested in learning more about these programs you can contact your local USDA office or visit the USDA website.




Tillage Systems You Might Want To Implement On Your Farm

In a world that is driven by innovation, and constantly on the verge of the newest, most sufficient system to implement on our farms. It is important that as farmers, we are open minded, and willing to try new systems on our farms. That not only benefit our operation, but also benefit the land that we strive to keep as fertile as possible. I will be comparing the different types of tillage systems that you might want to look into implementing on your ground. I will be discussing: conventional, no till, strip till, and ridge till.

Conventional Tillage

Conventional tillage is full width tillage in which all of the soil surface is disturbed. This type of tillage is usually implemented prior to planting. This is mostly thought of as the most common type of tillage in our area. This generally involves intensive plowing or multiple tillage trips. This produces a very fine seedbed, and most of crop residue is completely removed.As pictured below, this is an example of a farmer implementing conventional tillage on their ground.

conventional tillage system



Strip till is often thought of as a conservation system that uses a minimum tillage system. The basics of this practice is that it combines the soil drying and warming benefits of conventional tillage, and also the soil protecting benefits that a no-till system would have. With this system only a portion of the soil is being disturbed. This is actually starting to grow in popularity because of rather than plowing the entire field, strips are tilled, leaving some residue, while allowing a space to be cleared for the seed bed. Here is a picture of what this system would look like.

strip till



 Ridge-till is where the soil is left undisturbed from harvest to planting except for 1/3 of the row width. Planting is done on the ridge and usually involves the removal of the top of the ridge. The planting is completed with sweeps that level out the ridges. The crop residue is left in between the ridges. As you can see in this picture. This is also a good way to incorporate a conservation system that helps leave the soil in between rows with crop residue on it.

ridge till


No till

This is basically a system that leaves the soil undisturbed from harvest to planting. The goal of this is to literally have absolutely no tillage throughout the year except for planting. This is a conservation method that is starting to grow in popularity in many places throughout the United States. Many farmers have found benefits in this such as better soil quality, and less costs. Here is a picture of a field with no till. As you can see the crop residue is making the soil almost impossible to see. Leaving less erosion.

no till

All of these systems have pros and cons. As farmers it is important to understand which system best suits your operation. Don’t be scared to try something new just because you have never implemented it before.


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I am Phillip Dewald, a senior here at Western Illinois University. I am studying Agriculture Business, and plan to graduate this Spring. I am involved in Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, as well as Agriculture Business Club. Western Illinois University, and in particular, the School of Agriculture has been a great ride and I am thankful for the many professors and mentors that have helped me along the way.









Hog Farmers Push on With Use of Crates

Many people today look at farrowing crates in hog production as cruel and inhumane handling of swine during their most productive stages of life. Nine states have banned the use of farrowing crates, and many more states are pushing to ban the use of these crates in the coming years. The interesting thing about these nine states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island) is they are not leading states in terms of pork production. We are seeing too often that states, and people, who have never stepped foot on a farm, are those that are trying to tell farmers what they need to be doing. Further, those that are telling farmers how to do their jobs are those that seem to be of highest concern for a starving world that we are living in.

Don’t Let the Media Mislead You 

   The media and celebrities alike are spreading the false belief that a sow spends her whole life in a farrowing crate, a metal containment for pigs giving birth, that allows her to lie down and safely feed her piglets. What many people don’t understand is that these gestation crate wikipedia.jpghogs have been bred to live in these crates. As studies have shown, as long as you feed them, give them plenty of water, keep them comfortable and treat the sow with respect, they will produce. The image to the left is what will appear when you search wikipedia for “Gestation Crate.” This is exactly what the media wants you to believe gestation and farrowing crates are. Dirty, tightly squeezed crates that sows are forced to spend their whole life in.

So, why would anybody ever use a gestation crate? Gestation crates provide a safe haven for piglets so their mom can’t accidentally lie down on them and suffocate them. Sows can naturally be aggressive and vicious animals, so they are used to keep the sow from being overly stressed and fighting other hogs. If a sow were to get into a fight with another sow, they can become injured and tend to have a miscarriage. Let us also keep in mind that gestation crates are not used for the entire life cycle of these sows, they are only used during the gestation period. An injured sow translates into no babies.happy farrowing crateTo the right, you will see the proper use of a gestation crate. The crate is roomy, clean, and keeps the piglets safe.





The Bottom Line

It’s incredibly frustrating to farmers who are trying to raise a family on the profits of their hog farm and have people who have never visited a farm in their life try to tell them how to do their job. We will always have people who believe that animal welfare is their number one priority, but what are they going to do when they are starving and pork prices are so high because they have outlawed the use of farrowing crates? I went to the Farm-Aid concert in Chicago this past year, and they had stands up trying to have people sign petitions to outlaw the use of these crates. They were spreading false “facts” about the crates, and no matter how many time I told them they were wrong and I wasn’t going to sign their petition, they kept pushing these falsified facts on myself and other people at the concert. Consumers need to be more educated about these crates, why they are put to use, and why we need to keep using them. Putting a hog that has never seen anything other than these crates is not cruel. What is cruel is putting a hog that has only known these crates to put them outside in a world they have never seen before and have them fend for themselves.

My name is Ethan Tock, and I am a junior at Western Illinois University. I grew up in Mahomet, Illinois with zero prior farm experience before moving to Williamsfield, Illinois in June of 2015. I am working towards my Ag Business degree while working for the family farm doing sales for our new line, Illini Brand Soybeans.

Family Farming in the 21st Century

The Family Farm of the 21st century isn’t the picture in many Americans minds. The “Americagothn Gothic” many people think the average farmers look like is just not the case.  Many farmers are often thought of as old school and stuck in our ways.  In fact, agriculture today is much more technologically advanced than many other industries out there.  Often, new technology in agriculture moves faster than you can blink.

As I write, I have just gotten in from planting on my farm.  My family has been utilizing the ground we are on for well over a century.  I am the sixth generation to farm at Wood Farms, located near Bowen, and West Point, Illinois.  My grandfather, father and I all are on the farm daily doing day to day activities.  As I have said before the modern farm is more than pitch forks, and  Johnnie Poppers of yesteryear.  In order to farm year after year, modern family farms must adap, and stay with new innovations to survive.  As my dad would say “you either keep up, or catch up!”  I firmly agree with his statement.

GPS Systems

First, GPS (Global Positioning Systems) have become the norm among agriculture.  These systems reduce driver error, such as overlap in planting seed.  This to you may not sound important, but when there is overlap there is wasted, time, fuel, product, and most of all MONEY!  These systems do more than drive in straight rows.  They also can turn equipment off, such as planters at optimal time in order to save seed.   These also can be placed on equipment such as chemical combinesprayers, and fertilizer buggies that in turn save product overlap.  This reduces excess fertilizer runoff and saves money.  Many farms have adopted these technologies such as ours.  The 24-row planter I was just operating can be a handful at times, but with GPS and row shutoffs, it reduces error and fatigue on my part, which means more profit in the end.  Even during harvest, our combine is able to track rows and steer itself; which keeps the operator from running over rows.  We are able to keep track of what happens in the field with computer programs such as APEX by John Deere.  This program allows us to see yields, and planting maps of fields that we farmed during the year.  This helps us to better understand our farms, and find places of improvement in order to optimize production.

Row Spacing

Even simple things such as row spacing have drastically changed on the modern farm.  Row widths in corn and beans such as twin rows, 15, 20 and 30 inch row spacing’s are all used.  Just 25-30 years ago the norm in row spacing’s were 36 inchshutoof rows.  We then went down to 30 inch rows after that.  But now, farms like ours are on 20 inch rows.  The reason for this is our growing seasons every year are different, and many times the window of opportunity gets smaller and smaller to get a crop in.  So the name of the game is to get optimum growing degree days, and sunlight capture.  This means narrower row widths in order to capture more light.


Many people who tend to be far removed from the modern farm don’t get to see the technology and work involved in day to day activities.  Most see farms as factory farms where we don’t care for the land or animals.  This is totally wrong; we strive to use practices that help out our soils, and keep it healthy for generations to come.  Simple things like keeping cattle herds healthy, and well taken care of by giving yearly checkups on animals, and doing whats necessary to make that animals life healthy and enjoyable.  Keeping track of animals with computer programs such as Excel, or even a phone app can aide in this goal.  Long gone are the days of  guess working with livestock; technology is readily available to keep herds well maintained.


Many people don’t get the pleasure of working in production agriculture like I do.  Nearly 2% of the United States population is actual farms, that’s not much.  I am an even rarer breed as I am 23 years old and actively farming.  The majority of the farmers in the U.S. are well over 50.  Farming ground that has been in my family for a very long time is a quality of our farm that I am proud of. Being able to work next to my father and grandfather everyday, also makes me very proud.   I have a brother who is an officer in the Air Force, and some day when he decides to come back and Continue reading “Family Farming in the 21st Century”

The Zika Virus. Is Monsanto to Blame?

What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is a virus transmitted by mosquito’s. The virus started in Uganda in the mid 1900’s and was a problem in Rhesus monkeys. A few year later, the first Zika virus in humans was found in Africa. Since then outbreaks have occurred in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. Zika virus is transmitted to humans after being bitten by an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus. Blood transmission and sexual transmission are also other ways the virus can be transmitted by humans to other humans.

Symptoms and Prevention.

The time period from when being bitten and when symptoms start is not clear but the symptoms are. Theses symptoms include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. The symptoms tend to be mild and typically do not last longer than a week. Since the symptoms do not last very long the Zika virus is not a huge threat to most humans but it can be to infants and animals. The Zika virus can cause brain damage to infants and it can also be worse for animals because it is hard for us to communicate with infants and animals since they can not talk. Having a lack of communication can cause the virus to be more serious and harder to treat with infants and animals. Also the Zika virus has been linked to birth defects in new born babies. As far as prevention goes I suggest that you be prepared when traveling and understand the habitat of mosquito’s, especially when traveling to places known to have had outbreaks. During time of outbreaks it is advised that pesticides for mosquito’s  be sprayed to help kill and control the population. Also any repellents used to protect yourself should have DEET or icaridin acid. So check labels when buying repellents.

The Zika Virus and Monsanto.

mansonto picture Photo credit: Monsanto.com

Rumors started that state that Monsanto and pesticides caused the recent outbreak of the Zika virus and microcephaly. Monsanto claims that their products have no connection to the Zika virus or microcephaly. Monsanto defends its claim by also telling us that they do not manufacture or sell Pyriproxyfen. The product is a larvicide, and Monsanto does not manufacture or sell larvicides, and Monsanto does not own Sumitomo Chemical Company but they do partner with them and they do supply Monsanto with herbicide products, which is why blame for the virus outbreak was falsely directed at Monsanto.

Sumitomo is a chemical company that makes fertilizers for crops and other types of chemicals , they are the ones that create these chemicals, not Monsanto. Sumitomo makes a larvicide called Pyriproxyfen. This larvicide was put into drinking water to control the development in of mosquito larvae in and around the water. While the  Zika virus and the birth defect microcephaly have been connected, the Pyriproxyfen larvicide is what some people think caused the birth defects of newborns in Brazil and not the Zika virus  Proof from Monsanto clearly shows that they are not responsible for the recent outbreak and if you research like I did you will see that Monsanto is not responsible for the outbreak. Monsanto also supports any efforts to fight against the Zika virus as well.


My name is Bryce Vaughn a 2012 graduate from Canton High School and a 2014 graduate from Spoon River College. I live in the small village of Saint David, Illinois. I am a wrestling coach for the Canton Union School District #66 and I deliver pizza as a paid hobby and a way to keep me on my feet through school. I will graduate from Western Illinois in May of 2016 with a Bachelor in Agriculture Business.

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Technology Soaring in Agriculture

As technology advances in this day and age, farmers are adapting with it. In the past 10 to 20 years agriculture has changed dramatically pertaining to technology that is available. One of the advances in agriculture, that has been a controversial topic, is the use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). As drones become more popular, farmers and agriculture companies are starting to utilize the benefits that come with use of UAVs. Drones are used often in crops that have tall growth. Corn is a crop that can grow over 7 feet tall. This height makes it hard to scout a field and be able to find problems in a middle of a 100 plus acre field. This is where drones come into play. By July, in most regions corn is already at least six feet tall, drones are used to take aerial footage of the corn. Some of the problems farmers can detect in a corn field by using drones are: disease, stunted corn, nitrogen deficiency, lodging (fallen down corn),  and flooding (standing water). Before the use of drones it was near impossible to find some of these problems in the middle of big fields, it made farmers infer as to the health of the field on the basis of the health of the end rows. With UAVs, if a farmer sees a problem on the aerial footage in a certain area, he can walk to that spot and determine a solution to the problem. Some of the popular drones in agriculture are the Phantom, Ag Eagle, AgDrone, eBee Ag, Lancaster, and the Crop Copter.

phantom 2

The drone in the figure is the Phantom 2, it has a HD camera and is a very popular crop production UAV. These UAVs can do a couple different types of footage. Some of the drones can do Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) footage. This camera uses infrared sensors and takes pictures to make a field map of vegetation rates. The field map will show different colors based on how much of the infrared lights reflect. The health of the crop is based off of how much light is being reflected back. A damaged leaf with little amounts of green will hardly reflect any light back, it will show up as red on the map. Healthy leaves that are green will reflect a lot of light and will show up green on the map. Yellow color on the map is moderate health and moderate light reflected back. This can tell farmers if there is a disease problem in the field, and help them to know when to spray fungicides. When Vegetation is low that means disease is high and needs a fungicide application.The below figure is the NDVI field map that can be produced from the AG Eagle.    crop-health-image-2http://geovantage.com/applications/precision-agriculture/crop-health/

Personal Experience

I personally use drones while scouting corn fields, and have seen numerous benefits first hand. Drones make crop scouting a lot easier and also more precise when it comes to finding problems. I use two different drones, the Phantom 2 and the AG Eagle. The Ag Eagle with the NDVI camera, allows for the user to see the presence of diseases. If a disease is present, I can decide the type of fungicide to use and to what extent. The Phantom 2 is also very useful. In June, I start using the Phantom 2 and continue to use till August. This type of drone helps me find problem areas in the field. For example, this past year was very wet and there were many storms with high winds. This resulted in large amounts of lodging, when I found fields with some down corn on the end rows, I would fly the drone over the field and watch the video to see if there was lodging throughout the field. Also, with the high amounts of rain, there were many areas that were underwater and had a nitrogen deficiency. The Phantom 2 shows me the exact location in the field where the problem exist. I truly believe that UVAs are a great tool for farmers and drone technology will continue to improve the agriculture industry.

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My name is Jordan Detweiler I am from Williamsburg, Iowa. I grew up on a grain and hog farm. I am a senior at Western Illinois University and earning my Bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness and minoring in Agronomy and Pre-MBA. After my undergrad I plan on getting my MBA Masters at Western Illinois.