Work, School, Agriculture: Goal Driven.

So many students work during the year while taking a full schedule of classes and trying to achieve their goals. Why would I be any different? My name is Kassidy Quinn and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University. I am studying Agriculture Science with a minor in Animal Science. I’m still not 100% sure what direction I want to go once I graduate, but my options are apply and attend the University of Illinois to study Meat Science or to get a job as a Veterinary Technician at a vets office in Illinois or in Tennessee.

Meat science and a veterinary technician are two very opposite things, but two very needed positions at the same time. Currently, I am employed at Monmouth Small Animal Hospital. I have been working there since the beginning of 2014. I started out just being a kennel assistant and worked my way up to working as a vet tech assistant, receptionist, kennel assistant and janitor. I work as early as 4:30 some mornings and will work to as late at 11:30 some nights. Yep, you read that right! Some nights I don’t leave until 11:30 pm and still have to go home and work on homework. I work a full 40 hour week while going to school taking 20 credit hours.  It can get very stressful some days, but I have found a balance and work my way through it. My goal within my employment is to acquire a important knowledge to help ensure the health of companion animals, while also attending school to learn about livestock species and broaden that knowledge.

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Senior photo taken by Shyvel’s. Monmouth, Illinois.

I also mentioned Meat Science as a goal or career option. Many people don’t realize that meat science exists or that people go to grad school for meat science. I started out my college career at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign. While there, we had to take a meat science class for my animal science requirement. The meat science class started out with our professor giving us three different types of hot dogs to eat and we had to decide which hot dog tasted better and why. It was quite intriguing. After we did our taste test, we walked through the locker on campus and discussed the different cuts and grades of meat and I just found it so interesting. That is where my love for meat science came from.

Now, you may be wondering how this all ties into my studies at Western. Well, my life completely changed when I started at Western. I had always known I wanted to have a career in agriculture in some way. I grew up going to both grandparents’ houses and completing chores with my cousins. My grandparents had pigs and field crops. I always preferred to be out on the farm where life was stress-free. Ever since I was little and out on the farm, I always had a love for broadening my knowledge on field crops and the family’s hog operation.

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Family Photo taken my family member. November 2016.

I remember getting up early some mornings to help my grandpa and uncle out at the farrowing house. Besides hogs, there was always a dog wherever I went. Between livestock and companion animals, I knew I had to incorporate that into my career. Like mentioned before, my only issue with college is that I don’t know which direction I should go for a career.  I am taking other classes such as agronomy and forestry and enjoying them, which I never thought I would. I am only a junior, my goal paths can still change and they most likely will, but my end result goals will not.  My advice to those who aren’t sure what exactly they want to do within the agriculture industry, take different agriculture science classes. There is bound to be a subject you learn about or discover that just lights a spark and who knows, maybe that is what you’ll decide you want to do as a career! Western gives you that opportunity to branch in all directions and learn so many new things.

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Image taken in farrowing house at the family farm.

Having goals is the most important thing you can do when you start college. You want to explore and find a path to follow to help you achieve that goal. Paths will fluctuate, but the goals behind them won’t. The strive for success will always be behind those goals. My grandpa always told me,  “Agriculture is ten thousand goals in itself. Find one you’re interested in and never let it out of sight.”

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Thankful For Being From A Farm Family

Every day I am thankful I was born into a farming family. Being raised on a family farm with both crops and livestock has taught me not only many life lessons but has also shaped me into who I am today. I am sure many of you have read similar articles about why kids are thankful for being a farm kid but it is the truth. Being involved with the agriculture industry at a young age teaches true responsibility, discipline, hard work, how to care or tend to another living being, and to adapt to any situation. Whether the job is vaccinating cattle or hogs, putting out hay, spreading manure, or even weaning calves rain or shine you work until the job is done. Growing up on our farm, I have made many memories and never experienced any dull moments.

 

In the fall, you can ride in the tractor hauling grain. When winter comes, we are busy thawing out waters and bedding down the barns. After spring finally arrives, we

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Picture taken by Susan Creasey

are back in the field to plant the crops and begin to halter break calves for summer shows. Summer leads to endless time in the barn working and preparing our show heifers or time on the road heading  to cattle shows. My mother says, “The long road trips to Jr. Nationals are her favorite memories.”  Season after season, day in and day out, there is never a dull moment on the farm.

 

 

I have many fond memories that I have made while growing up on the farm and if you are a farm kid you can probably relate. You are always up before the sun and not back in the house after sun sets. The endless hours spent in the barn with your

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Picture taken by Payton Creasey

family turns into bonding time and teaches the true meaning of family.  My father said, “Time spent in the show barn with my daughters working on heifers is my favorite time spent.” In the winter when you get your work done and it’s time for fun, bring out the 4-wheeler to pull the sled on the snow. You have your “good” clothes and your chore clothes and boots. Growing up on a farm you learn to drive tractors, 4-wheelers, and trucks at a young age. You will have the tough call of do you chore before you go out to dinner or do it when you return. You learn where your food truly comes from. You learn to be tough. There is no crying. Get up, rub some dirt on it and keep moving to get the job done. Growing up as a farm kid I have learned family comes first, work until you get the job gets done, when working with livestock you are on their time, and lastly always thank a farmer. Even after all this I wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else.

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Professional head shot by: Sarah Twidwell

 

Hi everyone, I am Payton Creasey. I will be graduating in May with a degree in Agricultural Business and a minor in Animal Science. I was born and raised in Macomb while following in the parents food steps by attending Western Illinois University. I come from a family that has crops and livestock. My past summers I have interned with Syngenta, a corn and soybean company, and also with Dearwester Feed and Grain Services. My passion is agriculture and I plan to one day pursue a career in this field.

Rotational Grazing

 

More than a quarter of agricultural ground in the midwest is some kind of pasture. About 80% of these pastures are not properly taken care of. Because of that they have issues with uneven fertility, erosion, and weeds. One of the most common reasons for poor pasture health is being continuously grazed throughout the season. Continuous grazing results in very low pasture yields and makes it impossible for it to fully recover. Pasture ground needs to be managed in a way that improves efficiency and productivity. Rotational grazing will dramatically improve pasture quality.Summer_grazing_landscape_LG

What exactly is rotational grazing? Rotational grazing is when pasture is split into sections. This way livestock can graze a section at a time, so the other sections can regrow and recover. Then when that section is grazed down, livestock is moved to the next section, which is fully grown up. For this cycle to work well, rotations must be timed with the forage growth. A common problem with this is that some livestock producers rotate based on a schedule instead of the growth stage of the pasture. When done correctly, rotational grazing can improve an operation’s efficiency in a number of ways. When my grandpa had cattle he would always rotate them, and so does the farm I work for now.

Some of the positive impacts of rotational grazing include increased production and yields, time saving, environmental benefits, animal health and welfare, and obviously increased pasture productivity. The midwest has a lot of farmers using rotational grazing right now. A Wisconsin survey found that in the 1990s there were almost no farmers using this. Now over half of beef and dairy operations are using this management system. However rotational grazing is not just for cattle, it can be used with sheep, horses, goats, and chickens. This management practice benefits the farmer, animals, and the land. It also allows the farmer to profit from the land. Grazing systems have become much more common as people begin to see the improvements it brings.

 

Kevin McCutchan. Aledo, Illinois. Senior at Western Illinois University.

Applying to Veterinary School 101

So you want to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine?

Before you answer that question, understand that you have to be completely comfortable with blood, feces, and all other bodily fluids. You also need to be prepared to go to school for at least 8 years and yes, you need to be strong enough to deal with death. Still think you want to give it a shot? Fantastic! I am here to assure you that it is possible and inform you of what steps you need to take to make it through your undergrad and hopefully onto veterinary school.

I am an aspiring veterinarian, but unfortunately I have not made it there just yet. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at Western Illinois University and will be graduating this upcoming December. I have successfully made it through the application process for veterinary school for the fall of 2018, but I will not find out about my admission until next February-March. Thus, I am still on edge on whether I am a strong enough candidate to get in. However, I have learned what schools are looking for during my time of meeting those requirements. Now I want to pass what I know onto others.

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Courtesy of Alexis Kole on Pinterest

First and foremost, you need a high GPA. You do not have to be a 4.0 student (though it never hurts to shoot high). Most schools admit students with an average of a 3.6 GPA. School will become a priority in order to get those high grades. Pre-Veterinary programs involve intense science courses such as microbiology, anatomy/physiology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry to name a few. Many people do not seem to understand that pre-vet students go through the same academic courses as pre-med students do. It is not going to be easy and for a good reason. Students who cannot handle the academic rigor of any pre-professional program will not make it through graduate school. That means if you really want it, you have to work for it.

At WIU, pre-veterinary students can choose to either go through the Biology department or the Agriculture department. I chose the Ag department and I am so thrilled with my decision. The Agriculture department at WIU gave me the hands on experience with animals that I always craved. I plan on working with both small and large animals when practicing veterinary medicine, but even for those who are planning on working strictly with small animals should still go through the Ag department. Before you jump into learning medicine, you must first learn the basics of the animal. For example, how they function, their behavior, and their needs. The Ag department provides this for you. You will get to learn all of these aspects and more. The Ag department also provides core courses that help your social and professional skills such as building a resume and how to act during a formal interview (which is required for veterinary school). If you cannot already tell, I am an advocate for WIU Ag because I truly believe it is going to get me to the next chapter of my life.

Veterinary schools also want undergrads that go beyond just a high GPA. Being an honors student and/or performing undergraduate research are two examples of raising academic status. Students should also get involved in other ways on campus. Schools want to see a well-rounded candidate. Get involved with clubs and organizations and additionally try and gain leadership positions. You should also get involved in your community.

Outside of school in general, experience with animals is a must. There are many ways you can gain animal experience. A job at a clinic is always great, but you can also gain experience through volunteer work at either shelters or farms. Internships are also a great experience builder. Additionally, the university provides experiences as well. The WIU farm offers student employment and there are many study abroad programs that would be beneficial. One thing you must do however, is build a relationship with at least 2 veterinarians. Schools require 3 letters of recommendations and 2 must be from different veterinarians. So keep that in mind while you gain your animal experience. I also advise to have one recommendation from a professor so your academic work can be represented as well.

Once it gets closer to application time, one other requirement is the GRE standardized exam. It is definitely something that should be prepared for. University libraries (at least WIU) offer free prep books for the GRE as well as other standardized exams. Take advantage of them! They are free! As a college student, you will become very fond of the word “free” and unfortunately applying for veterinary schools can be expensive.

So, we have now covered that you need to have a high academic status, be involved on campus and in your community, have lots of animal experience, have relationships with veterinarians, get a good score on the GRE, and still be sane. It sounds a little overwhelming, right? Of course, but it is possible! I cannot express the importance of a quality support system. These are the people (academic or at home) that will continue to push you when you feel overwhelmed and overworked. Do not think that you have to do this alone, open up to those that want to help you. That goes for any future goal you may have, not just vet school. I know I would not be where I am today without my support system, that’s a fact.

Like I already said, school will become a large part of your life. Remember to spend some time on your physical and mental health. Have fun during this time in your life (but not too much fun, schools expect you to keep your public record and social media clean).

Lastly, when it comes time to finally apply for veterinary schools through the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service), make sure you have done your research and know the requirements for the schools you want to apply to. Start early and stay calm during the process. When everything is done and submitted, celebrate and be proud of how far you’ve come! My dad consistently says one thing to me during my years in school. He says “always remember to make yourself proud.” This has stuck with me during all the times I was drowning in school work or stressing over applications. It is something that I think everyone should remind themselves when striving for their goals.

Me and Bubba

 

Hi, Everyone! My name is Kagney Nudd and I am from Dallas City, IL. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at WIU. As you already know from reading this blog, I plan on going on to veterinary school to get my DVM. I hope this blog was of value to you! If you have any other questions regarding requirements for veterinary school, feel free to shoot me an email at  KR-Nudd@wiu.edu. I am happy to help!

Antibiotic Free Meat

Whether you’re from a small town, or a big city, I’m sure you’re aware of the questions surrounding the use of antibiotics in livestock production.  The increasing gap between the average consumer and the farm is no doubt a driving factor in the heated debate.  Most consumers don’t genuinely understand where their food comes from, or how it is raised. To me, it is completely understandable to be questioning the practices in use today in livestock production.  After all, more than 80% of the protein in the U.S. Diet comes from meat.

Back to the beginning

Paul Ehrlich and Alexander Fleming are largely embraced as the fathers of antibiotics. Arsphenamine, introduced in 1910 under the name Salvarsan, was the first antibiotic, and the first organic cure for Syphilis.  In 1942 Bynzylpenicillin entered the market as Penicillin G, primarily used in an effort to treat wounded soldiers. By the end of the war, a team of veterinarians were able to reconstitute the antibiotic with saline solution for intramammary infusions in an effort to treat Bovine Mastitis.  Since then, antibiotics have been used in livestock to treat, prevent, and cure disease.  Penicillin is still on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines.

Antibiotics Today

In order to ensure food quality, as well as proper animal husbandry practices, antibiotics are heavily regulated throughout the world.  A major concern with their use is contaminated meat entering the food chain.  The use of “withdrawal periods” on medicine labels help combat this.  Withdrawal periods are derived from extensive research on livestock and their ability to process, utilize, and essentially remove an antibiotic within their system.  These help producers understand when it is the right time to market their livestock.  After the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or “Mad Cow Disease”) outbreak in 2003, the USDA decided it needed a way to hold growers accountable.  Today, each animal harvested can be traced back to the farm it was raised on, where extensive vet records are kept.

More recent than premise ID numbers are VFDs. Issued January 1st, 2017, Veterinary Feed Directives limit the use of antibiotics in feed or water.

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Credit: Mississippi State University

When VFDs were initially introduced, many questions arose from within the livestock industry as a whole.  However after just a few months, they realized that it was something they had been doing all along, just with more paperwork.  In the push to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, VFDs look to eliminate the extended use of antibiotics.  This means that their use to promote growth is no longer an option.  Although this regulation may be fairly new, producers haven’t used antibiotics at growth levels for several years. While VFDs certainly offer a few more hoops to jump through in livestock production, they also help foster a close relationship between farms and veterinarians.

 

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Credit: University of California

Still, every once in a while, an animal that has been treated with medication is sent to market before the predetermined withdrawal time is up.  Fortunately, there’s protocols in place to safeguard the general public against contaminated meat.  Meat packers test carcasses for antibiotics in ppb (parts per billion) to look for the most minute traces.  If they find antibiotics in any meat, the plant must shut down to be sterilized.  This process can take many hours or even a full work day, which costs the plant a large sum of money.  Generally speaking, the producer that caused the plant to shut down is no longer welcome to market their stock with that particular processer.  Due to the strict regulations in place by the FDA and the USDA, ALL meat in the U.S. food chain is ANTIBIOTIC FREE.

 

With the proper use of antibiotics, producers are able to keep herd health up, and in turn maximize efficiency.  Although many consumers disagree with the use of antibiotics in livestock production, there’s no harm in eating meat from an animal that was treated for an illness, as long as the proper steps for treating and harvesting that animal have been taken.  Through extensive research, with the help of premise ID numbers, VFDs, and close regulations, American consumers should rest easy knowing they’re being offered a quality, harmless product.

Bio

Hello, my name is Brenen Diesen. Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling I am a senior at Western Illinois University, where I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Ag Business, with a minor in Animal Science.  Before coming to Macomb, I attended Lake Land College in Mattoon, Il.  Ever since I could remember I have had a passion for livestock, especially pigs.  I grew up on a small grain and livestock farm in Southern Illinois where we specialized in raising show pigs.  Through my involvement in 4-H and FFA, I have been able to travel the country and meet new people every day.  I hope to be able to make it back home some day to run cows and raise show pigs, but I also look forward to the new opportunities presented every day in agriculture!

The Ins and Outs of Veterinary Feed Directives

VFD

Photo Credits: Zoetis US

First of all, what is a VFD?

VFD stands for Veterinary Feed Directive. According to the FDA, “a VFD drug is intended for use in animal feeds, and such use of the VFD drug is permitted only under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.” Basically, the FDA is regulating what, when, and how producers can feed their animals.

What are the requirements?

Any type of “drug” used in animal feed must have a written prescription from a licensed veterinarian. Those veterinarians must follow strict rules that are outlined by the state on the basis of “VCPR.” VCPR is the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. In other words, the veterinarian is responsible for providing a VFD to their client. The client, or producer, then is required to follow that VFD when feeding their livestock, which is the patient. All of this has been created by the FDA.

The requirements for VFD’s can be very specific, including feed ratios and expiration dates. Producers must now have a prescription (VFD) in order to administer antibiotics in feed or water and those antibiotics are only allowed to be used for the specified animals.

What does this mean for producers?

Producers already have a tough time raising livestock to meet the criteria of consumers everywhere. Everyone wants clean, safe, and healthy livestock production. The US has the safest food supply in the world, which could be attributed to the precautionary and preventative measures taken by the producers.

When livestock are being produced in a large-scale setting, it’s difficult to pick out the one or two animals that are sick. This is why preventative medicine is crucial to providing healthy animal protein to the consuming public.

Producers also run into an ethical question. They may be forced to choose between feeding preventative medicine or letting their livestock get sick. Veterinarians have to follow strict rules when issuing VFDs, so if a producer has a currently healthy herd they may not be allowed to feed any preventative medicines. Over time, animals will get sick and the producer has to treat them afterwards. Humans get vaccines to prevent certain disease, why aren’t livestock treated the same?

 

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Hi everyone! My name is Tyler Dawson, I originate from Rushville, Indiana. I am currently a Senior Agricultural Business student at WIU, with a minor in Animal Science. I was a previous member of the Livestock Judging Team and current member of the Hoof N’ Horn Club. I am very passionate about livestock and animal health; I hope that I can one day incorporate that into my career. Thanks for checking out my blog!

Agriculture Production Differences from Maryland to the Mississippi

Image result for corn fieldPhoto credit: Inhabitat

At the discretion of the land

If a person were to get into a vehicle and start driving with a starting point at Ocean City, Maryland and start driving west, there would be many different observations made when traveling. One of the more obvious observations is the lay of the land. On the very east coast, the land is relatively flat. Then, when heading west the mountains start to become more apparent. Once one is over the mountains and into the central portion of Ohio, it seems to get flat again. From there it only seems to get flatter!

Another observation that can be made from Maryland to the Mississippi River is the agricultural demographic. There is produce, cereal grains, livestock, and seafood produced on the far east. Cereal grains, hay, and livestock become more of the top commodities produced when headed to the Midwest. I grew up in a town called Woodbine, Maryland. As a kid, I travel many times into the Midwest, mainly due to livestock shows. While driving the countless miles to and from the Midwest, many observations were made about the agriculture diversity that was involved between Maryland and Illinois.

Maryland

To start with Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay contributes to over 50% of the blue crab harvest in the United States. In Maryland alone, the seafood industry brings in over $600 million in annual income for the states economy. Commercial landings of seafood have averaged almost 57 million pounds in the past 15 years. Maryland Blue Crabs and oysters are among the crowd favorite when consuming seafood within the state.

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photo credit: The Crab Depot

Now Maryland isn’t known for just the seafood. Other agricultural industries in Maryland include the equine, poultry, beef, dairy, produce, hog, and cereal grain industries. Last year, there was an average of 164 bushels of corn harvested per acre, 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, 64 bushels of winter wheat per acre, and 69 bushels of barely harvested per acre. There was over 20 thousand pounds of milk produced per dairy cow annually last year also. Maryland.gov will tell us that there are more horses per square mile in Maryland than any other state in the nation! The Preakness Stakes is a highlight event in the horse industry that the state of Maryland hosts. Maryland.gov will also tell  us that “in 2015, Maryland ranked ninth among states in the number of broilers, or chickens raised”, what do all of these statistics mean one may ask? The numbers show how diversified the state of Maryland really is. There is not one industry that is of major focus, but there are many industries that really make Maryland agriculture and make Maryland so proud of what they produce.

Illinois

Now unfortunately for some, fresh seafood is non existent in the state of Illinois as it is in Maryland. Grain and livestock production is of a much larger scale though. On average there can be one cow/calf pair ran on about two and a half graze-able acres in Illinois. There are some parts of the state that 300 bushel an acre corn harvest is normal. At one point in time, Henry County, Illinois was known as the hog capital of the world because there were more hogs per square mile then there was at anywhere else. Now with the rise of new technology and different production practices, that is no longer the case, but there is still an extreme amount of livestock and grain production in Illinois when compared to Maryland. A very simple observation can be made by the soil color differences between the two states. On well maintained and highly productive Illinois ground, there is a very dark, rich, black dirt that covers the land. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmland covers nearly 75% of the states total land area. Illinois Department of Agriculture also states that exports from Illinois account for 6 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports. So even though Illinois may not host one of the largest race horse events in the country or have the delicious seafood readily at hand, the state is extremely important when pertaining to American agriculture.

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photo credit: Illinois Pork Producers

From Maryland to the Mississippi River, there are all different kinds of agricultural practices in place. From getting on a boat every morning in the Chesapeake Bay to go harvest that days catch of seafood, to getting in a combine to harvest 300 bushels of corn an acre on the rich black dirt of Illinois, and everyone between,  there’s a purpose behind everyone’s efforts. The purpose stands behind the red, white, and blue. The purpose is, American Agriculture!

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My name is Brandon Gruber and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I’m originally from Woodbine, Maryland, where I grew up raising hogs and was very active in 4-H and other national junior livestock associations. I am currently employed at Minnaert Show Cattle of Atkinson, Illinois, and now call Annawan, Illinois, home where I plan on building a competitive showpig sow herd and stay diversified within multiple species at the completion of my time here at WIU.

Sources:  http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/agri.html

https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=ILLINOIS