What’s the Beef with Hormones?

By now most everyone has heard about hormones used in the beef industry. Producers have been using these hormones since the 50’s to grow cattle faster and larger for market. This went on fine for years until the  European Union (EU) had decided to not allow beef treated with hormones to be imported into their countries. This started to have consumers in the US questioning why they would do this, asking themselves “are hormones dangerous? ” This lead to blogs, articles and other forms of media attacking the beef industry asking for “safer” meat or abandoning the products all together.

These opinions sprouted new products and labels that would include hormone free beef, organic and grass fed. These labels although seemingly harmless furthered the scare of hormones and had people questioning the very food they eat. It has since been a big issue to have hormones in your meat even though you can find as much if not more hormones in such foods as vegetables. As shown by the figure bellow. As you can see from the graph estrogen one of the hormones used in raising cattle does not even show up  in the end product of beef  in much lower levels than in things like soybean oil.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-04-at-10.27.38It is studies like these in the early 2000’s that lead the European Parliament to amend the bill and allow hormone treated beef into their country but, at this point the damage had been done and many large groups of people feel that hormones should be regulated if not banned from beef production all together.

The loss of the use in hormones in the cattle industry would be a very big loss to the industry. These hormones are a cost effective way of growing bigger cattle faster. This provides you the consumer with a safe, good quality product, that is regularly inspected and tested by the FDA. These hormones allow for more beef to come out of less cattle costing less and allowing for cheaper beef at the super market.

The interesting thing about this subject in all is the fact that there is no signs that hormones are harmful especially seeing as these hormones can be found in your own body along with in any foods you eat. The only evidence to detour one from theses products in blogs such as this one along with media cartoons and pictures giving the beef industry a bad image. This image has been painted by nothing but fear and accusations that have little to know footing.

In the end I leave it up to you who you may believe. The meat that you eat being grown by a practice  that allows for safe and economically stable product or to be scared  by people who are scared themselves into not trusting what should be trusted.


My name is Eli Weller. I am a junior Agriculture Science Major at Western Illinois University. I grew yup in a small town called Palmyra, Illinois where my family raise beef cattle and growing crops.


Agriculture Education, Is That Even A Thing?

Agriculture education was a very important aspect of my life through my high school years. I grew up in a rural community so it was common to have agricultural classes in high school. Once you migrate outside of the rural areas, this becomes an uncommon trend among schools. I believe that with the increasing issues in the agriculture industry, it is very important that high schools implement agriculture education into their programs so that we can educate the public.

When I started writing this blog, the first person that came to my mind for valuable input on this topic was my high school agriculture instructor Steve Buyck. When I asked him what he thought the key points were about agriculture education in high school, the first thing that he mentioned was creating agriculture literacy. He said, “Fewer and fewer students are coming from a production agriculture background, so agriculture needs to continue to educate those students of the importance and what agriculture does for them.” I thought this was a very fitting comment given the fact that I am taking an agriculture issues class currently and this is something that we have discussed quite often. With agriculture being such a vast industry, I believe that it is important to have this education in high schools. Agriculture education is not just for the rural communities. If it is offered in a public high schools around the nation, or even the world, we can have a much larger voice for our industry.

The second key point that Mr. Buyck said was careers. He said,”Agriculture continues to evolve and needs people. Agriculture creates many careers and agriculture needs people to fill those careers. Students need to explore the vast number of careers available to them in agriculture. Many of the students do not realize all the careers

National FFA Emblem. Courtesy of the National FFA

available to them related to agriculture. Agriculture needs people with a basic understanding of agriculture to continue to meet the challenges of the non-agriculture minds.” Agriculture is not just corn and soybeans or cattle and swine. Deep in the heart of some urban cities sit some of the largest agriculture based companies in the world. Agriculture education can make the connection with these companies to set up future careers for students. They offer many types of internships in all areas of agriculture. This gives students a feel of what part of the industry they have an interest in. With agriculture education in high school, there is more of a target for the agriculture industry to find future employees.

The agriculture industry is the base of our world’s economy. If anyone is even remotely interested in this industry, agriculture education can give them that knowledge and know how to succeed. It is a vast world out there and agriculture education can help bridge that gap from student to employers. Through scholarships and internships, the agriculture industry wants its people to succeed. I firmly believe that putting agriculture education into all high school programs will not only be a benefit to students, but to the community and industry as a whole.

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My name is Tyler Lentz, I am a senior at Western Illinois University studying Agriculture Business with minors in both Agronomy and Animal Science. I grew up on a small family farm raising a herd of 25 head of beef cattle. I am actively involved as an alumni member of my FFA Chapter. I truly do believe in the future of agriculture and all that it can do. I plan to be involved in agriculture with every aspect of my life upon graduation of college. I want to see our industry succeed and hope that one day I can leave my mark on an industry that has given so much to me.


Government Conservation Programs: Is There Assistance for You?

Ever heard of the Dust Bowl and the Dirty Thirties? It was a significant time in our history that has shaped agriculture into how we operate today. In the 1930’s the agriculture Image result for quotes about conservationindustry in the US was brought forth with a tough challenge: how do we save our soils from being blown away? Too much tillage from the invention of the plow had caused a depletion of soil structure and left no living cover, leaving it vulnerable to be blown away. Something had to be done. The solution started back in 1933 when a man named Hugh Hammond Bennett planned a great speech on a day that would startle the capital. This would be the day when dust from states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas would blow on the steps of the capital during his speech to politicians on how something had to be done about the vast amounts of erosion problems. Bennett’s point was made and the lawmakers formed the Soil Erosion Service, now known as Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). This agency is formatted under the farm bill and branched from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Average Day at NRCS Office

Broadly speaking, the Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and private landowners. Farmers that want to receive

Terrace being constructed to decrease erosion. Photo Credit: Caleb Waters, Lake Geode Watershed Coordinator

government benefits, need to follow a conservation plan that is determined by their local NRCS office. The employees of the office will carry out random compliance checks to determine if operators are following their plans. Also, concerned landowners are constantly calling the office for conservation assistance. NRCS employees normally will meet with these landowners and discuss options to solve their conservation concerns. There may not always be financial assistance for them, but NRCS employees will always steer them in the right direction.

Technicians will spend time estimating, surveying, designing, and staking out conservation structures that will address environmental concerns. Common stuctures in our location consist of waterways, terraces, ponds, and basins. The technician will spend time designing these structures to withstand historic rainfalls. They will assist contractors to make sure projects are being built properly.

Available Government Programs and Services

  1. EQUIP- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program financially helps landowners improve their soil sustainability and water quality, as well as helping them implement grazing, wetlands, and wildlife practices. This program has been successfully responsible for providing conservation practices to thousands of landowners over the years.
  2. CSP- The Conservation Stewardship Program gives inncentives for producers to improve their existing practices and adopt more beneficial conservation practices.
  3. CRP- The Conservation Reserve Program is a program that is assisted with NRCS employees. It allows landowners to receive rental payments for a certain amount of years under a contract, in exchange for environmentally vulnerable agriculture land. The land will be planted with a permanent cover for conservation improvement.

These are three common programs of the many different conservation programs available for landowners. They have solved many problems like the dust bowl and have been

Above Photo: Constructed waterway designed to reduce sediment erosion. Photo Credit: Caleb Waters, Lake Geode Watershed Coordinator

improving water quality. Programs like these give producers options and great incentives to improve the quality of their land. They prevent some regulation on agriculture producers by giving them a neutral medium. The commodity demand is going to keep increasing with the increasing population. The land we have now is the land we will have in 100 years from now. Producers have to be good land stewards and take care of our natural resources. Interested landowners should contact their local NRCS office to explore some available conservation options.

Bio: Professional Headshot

Hello, my name is John Wischmeier and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I started my college career at Southeastern Community College and I am graduating in May of this year with my Bachelor’s degree here at WIU. I am studying agriculture business and going to minor in agronomy. I was raised on a crop and livestock farm located near a small town of Sperry, Iowa. I have worked with NRCS for two summers and learned many benefits of conservation. My time is winding down here at WIU, but it has been great time and I have made many enjoyable experiences.

Thank you for reading my blog!

Agriculture: Born and Raised

“Daddy raised a farm girl and mamma raised a girly girl, there is no other way to describe my lifestyle.” These are some of the words from my 2016 Rock Island County Fair Queen Pageant speech where I received 2nd Runner Up. Everyone has a background that has shaped them into who they are today. By the age of 5 I learned how to ride a horse on my own, steer a tractor, and help my sister show her pigs at the county fair. Being born and raised into a family so passionate about agriculture is what made me who I am today.

Dahl Family Harvest

4-H has made a huge impact on my life. When I was younger I struggled with a speech impediment. My sister, Kayla, who is 5 years older than me was involved with 4-H and was/is a great public speaker unlike myself. Watching my sister give her project talks at the meetings, showing her pigs, and even becoming our county Pork Ambassador made me think “I could never do any of that.” Oh boy was I wrong. My mom made me do Little Miss County Pageants along with 4-H. Before I knew it my speech impediment was gone. Getting up in front of a group and talking was not my cup of tea until I realized I could talk about anything. My 4-H and pageant speeches began to revolve around cooking in the kitchen with my mom and working with my dad out in the hog barns. I even became President of my 4-H club, Henry County Pork Ambassador, and Illinois State Pork Ambassador.

Having a such a strong agriculture background, it was a huge surprise to some people when I entered in college as a dietetics major. I always had a passion for nutrition on the human and animal side but for some reason I felt the need to go with something different. In the back of my mind I knew I still wanted to be a part of agriculture, but as a hobby not as a career.

Freshmen year at Western Illinois University was definitely not what I expected it to be. As I walked into my first class of dietetics I suddenly felt like an outsider. The professor asked everyone to say their name, hometown, and a little bit about our background. When it came to my turn everyone turned in their seats and stared at me when I said I live on a farm and raise corn, soybeans, and hogs. Weeks went by and I started to feel a little bit more comfortable but I felt like something wasn’t right. Luckily I had the weekends to go home and work with my show pigs. I finished my freshman year at WIU as a dietetics major. When I went home that summer I worked at a feed mill where I helped make rations for cattle and hog feed. A couple weeks into my summer job and working hard with my show pigs I came to the reality that it was time for a change.

Change never felt better. I sat my family down told them, “When I go back to school this fall I am changing my major to Agriculture.” Overwhelming joy of a big bear hug from my parents made me realize this was what I was meant to do. That summer, not only did I make a huge change in my life, I used my knowledge from my past dietetics class, and being born and raised on the farm, to make a dream come true. A champion. From working at the feed mill, I had endless opportunity to customize my own ration of show pig feed. I may have not won the champion barrow or gilt but to me seeing my work pay off it was much more.

When I joined Western Illinois University School of Agriculture I felt right at home and gained a family.


My name is Morgan Dahl, I am a senior at Western Illinois University with a major in Agriculture Science focused on Animal Science and a minor in Agriculture Economics. I am an active member in many clubs and organizations such as Sigma Alpha, Hoof n Horn, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Ag Mech, and Ag Vocators. I am also a student employee at the University Sheep and Hog Farm. I am from Orion, IL where my family farm is located. I have always had a passion for livestock and continue to pursue a career as a feed salesman/woman.

4 Nelson Farms, A Family Tradition

Farming is oftentimes a family affair.. That is no different in my family. I have been raised on a family farm all of my life, and I believe agriculture has shaped me into the man I am. That being said, I thought I would take a moment from the outside looking in, to tour the history of family farms.

Family farms have been known to be decreasing for centuries. To offset this decrease, family farms have instead become larger in size. In order for family farms to stay profitable they have had to increase in size to decrease their per acre expenses. It is rare to find family farms that house a wide variety of livestock. Instead it specializes on what it is best at and focuses on maximizing that enterprise.

4 Nelson Farms all started when my great-great grandparents bought a house with additional farm land and later on handed it down to my great grandparents when they got married. In 1955, when my grandpa got out of the Army, he went back to continue working on the farm with his father and they farmed around 400 acres at the time. On the livestock side of things, they milked eight cows, fed out a few head of cattle, raised hogs in the field, and had chickens.

From that moment, the farm moved to where it currently stands when my great grandparents sold their farm in Abingdon and bought 215 acres of land. My great grandparents along with my grandparents farmed, and with this they were able to make half of the farm payments. My grandfather’s father had passed away when he was 57. Charles, my grandpa, then got half of the farm handed down to him. When my great-grandfather passed away, my grandpa had a harvestore put up in order to store some of the corn that was being harvested. When his mother had passed away, my grandparents got the other half of the farm and bought the land where my grandfathers parents had lived. My Uncle Keith stayed and helped farm after high school graduation. My grandparents had started purchasing and farming more ground in the 1970’s and when my Uncle Ken graduated from college he joined along the family farm. Following suit, my dad then joined the farm after attending Blackhawk College and participating in a wheat harvest one summer in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. They had a partnership and paid out the profits at the end of the year. The corporation, 4 Nelson Farms Inc., was formed in 1990 so everyone would have a piece of the farm. We continued buying land and my Uncle Ken, along with my father bought ground to continue to expand. My grandpa had added along some of the first hog confinement barns in Knox County in 1969. We also had one of the first cattle confinement buildings in the area built around 1972.

Farm Original
4 Nelson Farms. Photo found in family album.

Currently, the farm continues to expand and evolve. We now farm around 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans. We have also transitioned from farrowing our own hogs to being a wean to finish production partner with the Maschhoffs. Our hog confinement barns house around 18,000 head, and we care for them until they reach market weight. Our facilities have changed a lot as well. We have added two new hog confinement barns for our partnership with the Maschhoffs, and have also added another toolshed to store equipment. Just as other changes had been made on the production side, we have also put up a grain system and more grain bins. This has become a huge convenience, as we are now able to store our harvested crops on the farm instead of having to pay for it to be stored at a local grain elevator.

Current farm
4 Nelson Farms Inc. currently. Photo from Google Earth.

A lot can change when it comes to agriculture. Farms have to continue to evolve, and adapt to new advances in technology, but one thing I know will always remain at the farm I was raised on, is the tradition. We may not be the largest farm, but we are proud of the work we do and we continue to put blood, sweat, and tears into making it the most successful farm possible. One motto my father goes by when it comes to working on the farm is, “There is nothing as useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” We focus on doing things that will only better the farm, and always have the farms interests and success in mind. The passion that my family has for agriculture is unlike anything I have seen, and I only hope to be able to continue my families legacy and follow my father’s footsteps of being great stewards of the land, and hard working farmer’s.

Family farms are the backbones of agriculture. According to the USDA 97% of farms are family owned, and though some may be small, the people in charge have a passion for agriculture that you can’t find anywhere else. They will put their lives on hold in order to tend to their land and livestock. A career in agriculture may not be the most high paying or glamorous job, but I believe it is the most rewarding. I hope to be able to carry on the tradition that has been created by my family, and would love nothing more than to be the next generation to carry the torch of the farms legacy along with my cousins. My grandpa unfortunately passed away a few years back, but my grandma believes that he would want his kids and grandkids to continue the farm’s legacy. “I’m sure his wish for the farm now would be for his sons to be able to have a place for their sons to farm if they wanted to. My dream is for 4 Nelson Farms to continue into the next generation, and generations to come.”



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My name is Brent Nelson and I am from Altona, Illinois. I am a senior Agriculture Education major at Western Illinois University. I grew up on a hog confinement and row crop family farm. This is where my passion for agriculture has come from. I transferred to Western Illinois University from Black Hawk College East a year ago. I plan on student teaching next Spring semester, and can’t wait to start my career as a high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.

Life on Farm: Beef Chores

Farming is not a job it is a lifestyle. Farming is not just something that you do from 8a.m.-5p.m., it is a task that is constantly requiring your attention. One of the major things that requires most of the attention on a livestock farm is the “choring” portion of the day.

What do chores consist of?

At the farm we like to call it the daily grind, this meaning that the same routine happens everyday at the same time. We have 200 head cow calf operation with around 1800 acres that are row cropped.

  1. First thing to start the morning we always meet to talk about what we need to accomplish in the short days time. This is normally when the coffee is made and everyone has the opportunity to consume their fair share. If you are like me
    I have not acquired that specific taste for coffee so I have to resort to hot chocolate. Im sure my day will come when my taste buds are ready for that specific taste.
  2. After everyone has had something to drink and the goals are laid out, is when the work begins. Usually how it plays out is the person with the most experience or years put in gets the tractor jobs. This includes getting the mixer wagon loaded with the correct amount of feed and then delivered to the correct pen. Next on the seniority list gets the job of feeding that mature cow herd their hay for the day. Depending on the day this is usually where I fall in line. The last job that is weather dependent. It is mainly in the winter time but it consist of going around to all the animals watering holes and breaking the ice or defrosting and frozen water pipes. This list is sometimes more easier said than actually done. Although most mornings go on without a hitch there are always those days where it takes all morning to accomplish one simple task.

    “There is always something do somewhere that can be done to improve the place.” -Mark Hulsebus/Owner Operator Bar 20 Ranch

  3. Next on the chore or today’s list is to run to all the pastures and check the fences and the creek crossings. As Mark always says, “what good is it to have fence when the cattle can just walk out and wonder wherever they want?” So, I get the job of driving to each pasture and making sure the fences are in good repair. While here I look over the cattle and check to see if the cattle are in good condition and if any need treated for pinkeye. Although this is not an everyday job it is a very important job during the summer months. This is only an important job when the cattle are in the pasture. We don’t try to keep all the wildlife in year around, we just like to keep our livestock in.

Calving Chores

On our ranch we our set up to calve in the spring of the year. This is always a fun and exciting time of the year. We finally get to see all the hard work and time we have put into the cow herd. With this fun and exciting time comes a few more chores and responsibility. Before calving season begins, about March 13, we like to prepare a check list.

  1. Clean barn and put out fresh bedding

    Cattle out grazing on pasture before calving season Photo credit: Skyler Wright
  2. Sanitize pulling chains and puller
  3. Check milk replacer inventory and order if needed
  4. Put up hot wire fence for cows with new calves
  5. Order new ear tags for new calves
  6. Separate virgin(first calf) heifers from cows
  7. Take inventory on vaccines and order before calving date
  8. Check all medicine and antibiotic inventory, order as needed
  9. Set up pens for cattle to stay in if trouble occurs

When the season finally begins the chore load increases some. All the normal routine still exists but now you have to add the checking in the early morning hours and evening times. One technique that we have found works on our farm is only feeding the cattle that are in their last trimester in the night hours. This has helped us to only have calves in the day light hours. To date with this technique we have only had 5 calves born after 12 am out of 200 head.

The farm is a very rewarding aspect of my life. I enjoy every of bit of it, even when the work is labor intensive. Watching the cattle grow from calves, to their first calf, to their 7th calf is a very exciting experience. Knowing that I have an affect on how they are raised and making large breeding decisions is nerve racking but at the same time gives me satisfaction.


Hi my name is Skyler Wright. I am a senior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business and will be graduating in May. I have grown up with cattle all my life. I reside in Donnellson, Iowa where the herd continues to grow. I have a strong passion for agriculture and am excited for what the future of ag has in store for me and my career. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Beef Bungalow

Many know that livestock nowadays are commonly raised in buildings that can be strictly monitored, and that it’s one of the most efficient and beneficial ways to raise them for both producer and animal. Although raising cattle in a building is a little more uncommon than say hogs or chickens, it still poses many great benefits.

I work on a cattle ranch here in west central Illinois, and we have a monoslope cattle barn.IMG_2830-2 Four Aces LLC, Vermont IL

The barn contains two different pen designs for the cattle. It contains pens with slats that are quit similar to a hog barn. These slatted pens have rubber mats on them to prevent cattle from slipping, although the concept is the same where the manure falls below to a twelve foot pit, and can be pumped to be utilized for crop ground fertilizer. The other pens in the barn are called dry-packs or dry-stacks. Dry-stacks consist of a lime base along with bedding a top, in our case we use cornstalk round bales. Twice a week we will go into the dry-stack pens and bed with two new bales atop the stack and scrap the looser manure from directly in front of the feed bunks for each pen. The dry-stack becomes a mixture of manure and bedding, now saying that one would think it would be sloppy, but the bedding absorbs the moisture like a sponge and the stack is actually very firm where people and of course the cattle can walk on it with out sinking at all.

The main concept of a confinement cattle barn is very similar to any animal feeding confinement, and that is to limit and attempt to control the many ever-changing variables that comes with raising livestock to maximize their potential. The weather is one very good example of this varibles.

The design of the building’s monoslope roof is to act like a airplane wing or a giant funnel. So while it is hot in the summer the shape of the roof allows airflow to come in the large open side and funnel towards the narrow end and creates a constant breeze keeping the cattle cool. The way the barn is orientated the large open side faces south allowing the sun to help warm the barn during the winter. And obviously having shelter over the cattle helps tremendously during precipitation and for shade.

Feeding fat cattle can be very tricky some times, trying to maximize the cattle’s intake without over doing it and wasting feed. As I mentioned many factor can influences the animals ability to eat. Weather being a major player, but also having an adequate supply of clean water. Just another way where the cattle barn has an advantage. Ours in particular has its own water reservoir, and then supplies two automatic drinkers per pen at our barn. The drinkers are also cleaned twice a week to ensure that the cattle are getting the purest water availble. These cattle have access to fresh feed and clean water 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

There are many benefits to raising livestock indoors as there is with plants. It helps the process be more efficient and economical. It is beneficial for both the producer and the animal.


My name is Jacob Farrell, I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Agriculture Science. I also attended John Wood Community College. I grew up in FullSizeRenderJacksonville, IL working on a cow/calf and grain operation where my interest in agriculture took off. I now work on a cattle ranch in Vermont, IL where we partake in all areas of cattle production along with a small grain operation.