How “Meatless Mondays” Affect the Illinois Beef Association

Meatless Monday is a worldwide movement whose intention is to persuade all people to refrain from eating any form of meat every Monday. According to their website’s homepage, the goal of this organization is to “improve the health of the public and the health of the planet.” This group’s ideas have reached some hospitals, restaurants, and many other public places, but the biggest impact has been made on the lunches that schools are providing for their students.


Some California elementary and grade schools have implemented Meatless Mondays in their weekly lunch menu. This simply means that if you are a student that eats school lunch, whether that be by choice or not, you are being forced to refrain from eating meat at lunch time every Monday. Personally, I do not think that is something that should be forced upon a person. If a person chooses to not consume animal protein and become a vegetarian, that should be his or her own personal choice and that choice should only have an affect on that person’s own diet.


The Illinois Beef Association is an organization that aims to advocate for a profitable and sustainable beef industry in Illinois. The association puts on many events throughout the year that support the production of beef cattle, such as the Beef Expo and other events of that nature. The Hancock Beef Association, which is a smaller part of that larger association, puts on the Cattlemen’s Ball every year. The Cattlemen’s Ball is a fundraiser to help promote the role that cattle play in agriculture. I briefly spoke with the President of this organization, Cody Holst, about the Meatless Mondays movement and he said, “California’s adoption of Meatless Mondays makes me worry about the future of the production of beef cattle and the Illinois Beef Association because both would be nothing without the consumer.”


I also talked to a family friend, who is a doctor, about the issue and she told me that this could potentially have a detrimental effect on people’s health. Obviously, individuals can obtain protein without eating meat, but I learned that it is not the same type of protein. She said, “People who never eat meat do not get a sufficient amount of B12 in their diets because it is a type of protein that can only be found in animal protein. It is a fact that those who do not eat meat simply are not as healthy as those who do because of the issue with B12.” I found that to be interesting, especially since the goal of Meatless Mondays is to make people more healthy.


Animals were put on this Earth as a source of food for humans and as long as they are being raised in a humane and healthy living environment, I do not think we should feel guilty about the production of beef for human consumption,  or any meat for that matter.


Hi, my name is Madeline Ward and I am a junior at Western Illinois University. Currently, I’m on the right track to graduate in May of 2019 with a degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in business.  I’m from Rushville, Illinois which is a small town about 30 miles south of Macomb. I grew up on my family’s corn and soybean farm. We also raise about 170 head of black angus cattle. After graduation, I hope to be able to continue living near my family’s operation and obtain a job in the field of agriculture.Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 8.06.31 AM


Livestock Production: Earning the Trust of the American Consumer



Photo From: Wyatt’s Facebook… Taken by: Mallory Espencheid

Being an advocate for agriculture is much more than just living on a farm or going to school to major in Ag. related studies.  It requires you to be knowledgeable and plugged in with what is happening day to day within the agriculture industry.  In an era where our industry is constantly under watch and scrutiny from outsiders within the American economy, now has never been a more important time to educate not only ourselves but also others while informing them that what we do is for the greater good.  It’s easy to ignore them or argue back when under criticism and false accusations but that’s not the answer to our problems.  Whenever I was trying to decide on a topic for my first blog I was extremely nervous.  Every thought that ran through my mind told me to just pick an easy topic to ramble on about and be done with it.  However, I didn’t want this to be just another blog about showing livestock or growing up on a farm.  I wanted to be able to really relate to what I was writing about and at the same time give my readers some insight into what happens within the agriculture industry and why it is crucial to our economies success.The livestock industry as a whole has played a very important part in shaping me into the man that I am today.  Since the day I first started walking, I was always in the barn around our pigs at home or at a pig show watching my friends and family battle it out in the show ring.  My whole life has been centered around livestock and I never realized until I got older that some of my friends had absolutely no clue why we invested so much time and money in it.  To them all pigs were pink, cows were black and white, tractors were green, and all barns were red.  That’s whenever I started to realize that society has given people not involved within the agriculture industry this general utopian image of our daily lives as if it was a segment from Charlotte’s Web or something.  Not to diss Charlotte’s Web, because obviously that is one of the greatest movies of all time, but I was astonished and slightly angry with the fact that none of us had ever done more to educate people and our younger generations on the day to day life of a row crop farmer, or the ins and outs of a livestock production facility, whether it was the good or the bad. For us it has never been a problem because it’s all we have ever known, but for others looking from the outside it may seem confusing or odd and often times even cruel with how we house and treat our animals.  It was never hard explaining why we walked them around our yard or why we constantly worked on skin and hair conditioning.  The hard part was trying to explain why confinement was a good thing, or why we treated them with antibiotics whenever they were sick or why we castrated them as babies.  These things can often be a hard pill for someone to swallow and it is why our industry is constantly under fire because we have struggled to educate on all aspects of raising livestock.

Photo From: Wyatt’s Facebook

Now the show sector has always been the more people friendly and approachable side of the industry and rightfully so.  People go to the fair and are able to pet the animals and watch them show so there’s a lot of interaction and all is good.  However, over the years we have started to run into some problems with drug testing and it’s not uncommon to see one or even several different animals get kicked out because they failed the drug test. This may not seem like a big deal to those within the show sector, but outsiders see this and all it does is make them lose faith in livestock production and question the safety of the product they are consuming.  In turn, U.S. beef consumption has dropped fifteen percent while pork consumption has fell about four percent over the past decade.  With the growing health concerns about red meat intake and the convenient availability of chicken products, the beef and pork industries are starting to face some serious problems as prices are falling and markets are becoming over crowded.

We have backed ourselves into a corner due to a lack of advocating and have failed to teach the everyday consumer that anything we administer has withdrawal dates, and any animal that fails a test or has any drug residue left within the carcass will not enter the consumer food chain.  Information like this may seem logical to those within the industry but how can you expect the average consumer to not be worried about what they are feeding their families whenever they are unaware of all the precautions we take to ensure their safety.  This is why it’s so important for farmers and even larger production companies to continue to educate the general population.  We need to earn back the consumers trust and the best way to do that is by showing them that we do care about their well-being.  Reach out within your community, host farm visits for the youth so they can see what we do or simply just talk to people about the importance of agriculture and how it will always play a vital role in society.  These topics of discussion are not hard to bring up, and whether you notice it or not, you deal with scenarios like this everyday.  We need to continue to find ways to relate to those people because it’s one thing to just throw facts in society’s face and expect them to believe you, but the real message is sent by showing them that we too are feeding and providing for our families with the same product that they are consuming.  Once you earn their trust and they start to see that you have put their safety right next to the safety of your own family, that’s when progress is made.  Farmers and livestock producers have invested their whole life in providing for the world.  From the early mornings to the late nights, through all the blood, sweat, and tears they have continued to put their nose to the ground and work to make a difference, so now it’s our turn to step up and inform consumers that what we do is for them and agriculture is here to stay.

Photo From: Wyatt’s Facebook

Hello readers! My name is Wyatt Garriott and I am a senior at Western Illinois University.  I will be graduating in December with a major in Agricultural Business and a minor in Animal Science.  I grew up in Sullivan, IL. and before coming to WIU I went to Lakeland Community College where I also studied Ag. Business and was a member of the livestock judging team.  I grew up on a family farm where we raised and showed livestock competitively.  Agriculture has always been a very important aspect of my life and it has instilled qualities in me that I hope one day to be able to pass on to my children and the younger generations.  It’s my passion in life, it’s what I love to do, and hopefully this blog represents that! Thanks!

Entrepreneurship in Agriculture – A Youth’s Perspective

Entrepreneurship is hard. It comes with an abundance of failures and mistakes, but learning from those mistakes is what makes a good entrepreneur. This is a story of how my siblings and I started our own feeder cattle business, and how we developed our program as we gained more experience. As this story progresses, I will point out key things that I believe makes for a good entrepreneur.

Growing up, I always called myself a hobby farmer. My family owned a five acre spread that was filled with horses that we raised and rode. In my sophomore year of high school, my family exited the horse business, leaving an empty lot at home. My two siblings and I decided to venture into the cattle business.

We started off with beef bottle calves. We would have four to five bottle calves at one time. Every morning, one of us would go outside and bottle feed them. We would grow the calves to about five hundred pounds and resell them.sibs While it was cheap to get into bottle babies at the time, there was more work and expenses to raise bottle babies. Milk replacer for one is not cheap, and bottle babies can get sick much easier than a standard feeder calves that stay on their mother’s milk. Bottle baby prices for beef calves skyrocketed from 350 to 600 dollars at my local sale barn. There was no way to make any money at those prices. This leads to key number 1: Always know your breakeven point. You have to be smart with your money and where you spend it. My siblings and I did not borrow any money to start our business. We started our business with the money we saved up. With prices of bottle babies being high, we had to think of a new way to make money.

Key number 2: Be observant. My sister noticed that 300-pound calves were bringing about the same price as bottle calves. Buying a 300 to 350-pound calf meant that no bottle feeding was required and generally their immune system is better. We started buying 300-pound angus cross male cattle. We would pick up a couple at one sale, then a couple more at another until we had a group of about 20 calves.

At the beginning of buying these calves, we bought feed from our local farm store. Feed is the costliest part of a feeder cattle business, meaning that gaining an edge in that expense category can make a huge difference. One day, we bought hay from our neighbor, who has his own shorthorn cow calf operation. IMG_0086He noticed that we were raising cattle instead of horses. As our conversation progressed, we talked about feed. He asked me where I get my feed from, and I told him that I get it at the farm store. He then went on to say that he mixes his own feed to feed out his cattle, and offered to sell us feed that he grinds. Key number 3: Reach out to experienced people in the industry that you are in. From that point on, I would go to my neighbor with empty mineral tubs in the back of my truck and get feed for our cattle. The feed was a balanced ration for backgrounding cattle, and it was cheaper than going to the farm store.

Key number 4: Keep growing. “If you do what you have always done, then you will get what you always got.” That was a saying my ag teacher in high school had posted in the front of the classroom. I think it is important to be looking for ways to grow your business. After my siblings and I sold a couple of groups of calves, we decided to invest in a head chute. We always did our vet work at the sale barns. Each sale barn had a different vet that would charge a different fee to cut, vaccinate, and deworm a calf. After we bought the head chute, we did our own vet work. We even tagged our cattle. This allowed us to keep records on individual calves. We could tell if a calf was constantly getting sick, rather than my sister shouting: “Which one did you say was sick?”

Me: “The black one!”

Sister: “That narrows it down to about 20 of them.”

As more groups of calves were sold from the Merritt Feeder Cattle Business, people began to recognize what my siblings and I produced. Key number 5: Have a good product. When you bring good cattle to the sale barns, buyers notice. Cattle eatingWhen the auctioneer makes the statement of saying “These guys always bring a good group to sell,” you get a sense of pride. My siblings and I always tried to buy good quality cattle to grow and resell.

Only one thing remains the same in the cattle market, and that is that everything changes. The cattle market went through a huge upswing, then it suddenly came back down. The margins in buying and reselling cattle got pretty slim. Once again, our feeder cattle business had to make a change. Back to the second key of being observant, we realized that growing feeding cattle to 700 pounds could be more profitable. While there was higher risk of having more money tied up in feed, we also knew that doing what we had always done would not be profitable. One day at the sale barn, we had one of the highest selling calves in our weight group. Having well sought after cattle helped bring more money into our business.

I am proud to say that my siblings and I grew our business from 5 bottle babies to about 50 feeder cattle at one time. We invested in new sheds, feed bunks, and fencing to improve our business. While we are not a large scale cattle producer, we can still raise as good of feeder cattle as any. Starting your own business, especially in agriculture, is challenging. If it was easy, everyone would do it. You might fail, but learning from your mistakes will lead to success. If you are determined, you can make it. Take my key points for what they are worth. I wish anyone starting their own business the best of luck.

prof pictureMy name is Luke Merritt, and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. My major is agriculture business with a minor in agronomy. I currently work at the University’s Research Farm as a Data Collection Specialist. I hope to have a career as a loan officer within the agriculture industry.



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.


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. 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. 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.


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.

Image result for illinois hog farm

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.


A view of agriculture from a Minnesota Rancher

Background information

I did an interview with a young man by the name of Jared Seinola, Jared is a farmer on the eastern side of Minnesota. He lives in a small town called St. Charles, as a young kid Jared always had a passion for agriculture. In 1995 his family moved to a farm  and called it the 5 Star Ranch. The name generated from the 5 children that lived there, Jared being one of them. At first they began renting out both the pasture land and the crop land from the previous owners. In 2014 they began running all the pasture and hay land for production, and acquired some cattle over the years.

Picture taken by Jared Seinola, at the Five Star Ranch


Growing up

Jared was four years old when he moved to the farm, even though at this age he couldn’t really do much to help out he was always around the farm. Throughout his schooling Jared was involved with the FFA and showed cattle all over the U.S.. After high school he went on to North Dakota State University (NDSU), where he received a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and minored in Agriculture Business. At 22, he started operating the family farm by himself. After graduation from NDSU, Jared now being 23, began as a beef cattle nutritionist for a larger scaled company, Benson Farm Service LLC. Here he works with 30 other full time employees but he is the only beef nutritionist on the staff. Benson Farm service sells feed to Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota farmers, along with dairy and agronomy services. When I asked Jared why he got into agriculture he told me:

“I’ve always enjoyed raising cattle. I enjoy growing food for others. The different seasons and times of the year bring new challenges and opportunities. Whether it’s calving season or breeding season or fall harvest. It all takes a specific plan to be successful.”

On the nutrition side of things he said “I’ve always seen nutrition as a vital role in the health of animals. I’m in a position to help farmers maintain healthy productive animals to make them the most profitable and sustainable they can be.”

The Future

Currently, the Five Star Ranch has 30 calves from 30 cows, all of which are maintained and taken care of by Jared. He likes the way the operation is going right now and is excited for the future growth of the farm. The Five Star Ranch sells breeding stock year round, and is currently in the growth stage the operation.  I asked him what he plans on doing for the future and he told me that he wants to own up to 100 plus cow/ calf pairs at some point in his life but right now he is fine with where its at, especially with him starting a family of his own he can’t really expand the operation just yet.Displaying IMG_0256.PNG

Picture from Jared Seinola of a new born calf and its mother.

Working in Agriculture

I asked Jared whats the best thing about working in agriculture and he told me helping people and the challenges it brings. Jared also shared that ever since he was a little kid he loved growing food and helping out with the animals. He says that farming is a humble and noble occupation that requires a lot of work. He loves that about the job, he said that you carry around a sense of pride when working in agriculture. Where he is from he works with a small portion of the national population, and says that a lot of people think that their food comes from the grocery store, but it’s from everybody that works in the agricultural side of things and he loves knowing that.

In the end, I got that sense of pride as Jared was talking, just by listening to him in this interview. Jared is a very hard working, driven young man. He does what needs to be done not only for his family but for everyone that he works with. He loves helping others with his work and truly cares about what the future holds for agriculture.


I am Christian Melby I am a Senior at Western Illinois University from Platteville, WI. I am going to graduate with a Bachelors degree in Agriculture Science with an emphasis in horticulture. I have a passion for agriculture and horticulture, and hope to pursue a dream in landscaping after college.


5 Values Learned Growing Up On The Farm


Being raised on the farm was the greatest gift my parents could have gave me. My unique upbringing taught me an unlimited number of valuable life lessons that I wouldn’t have learned growing up somewhere other than the farm. I truly believe that growing up in agriculture has made me a better person.

1. Responsibility- Before I was even big enough to help out with chores, I would tag along with my dad. I knew when things needed to be done and that usually meant taking care of the animals before taking care of myself. Cattle don’t care what day it is or what is going on, they still have to be fed and cared for. We do not get any “days off”.

2. Work Ethic- I never got those days that I got to sleep in until noon like most of my friends did. I had to be up every morning to do chores and I didn’t get to go hang out with my friends until all of my work was done. You learn to work hard and long hours at an early age. It is not always easy, but hard work always pays off.

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3. Respect- The farm life teaches you respect for so many things. Respect for your family, the animals, the land, Mother Nature, and for others.

4. Patience- Have you ever tried sorting cows before? If so, then you know what I mean by saying you learn patience. Some tasks need more time and attention than others, you cannot rush through things to get them done faster, something will always go wrong. Living on a farm is not just a 9-5 job. Checking cows at 2 a.m. may not be fun, but neither is losing calves. I have learned patience from being up all night waiting on a cow to calve and then getting the calf to nurse. Patience is key.

5. Passion- I grew up helping my dad take care of the cattle and I could see the passion in him. I acquired the same passion, learning how to truly care for them.  Living on a farm is more than just a job, and my passion for it has grown deeper throughout the years. “Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.” – Donovan Bailey


I am Sara Pieper. I was born and raised on a grain and cattle farm outside of the small town of Stewardson, Illinois, where I found a love for the Agriculture industry. I am a junior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Ag Business and Animal Science.

Inside the Wildfires

As an aspiring cattlemen, the news of wildfires rolling through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas was very devastating. A total of 1.5 million acres, an area the same size as the state of Delaware, were burned. The amount of livestock whose lives were lost is even more staggering: 13,700 head of cattle and 8,400 head of hogs died as a result of the wildfires. It is estimated that $21 million worth of livestock, pasture, fence, feed and supplies were lost.

This disaster turned the lives of many ranchers upside down. Gardiner Angus Ranch, one of the most prominent Angus operations in the country, lost around 500 head of cattle to the wildfires in Clark county Kansas. With their production sale in April, the wildfires were even more detrimental. The sale went on, and the ranch was able to average $5,754 on 702 lots and gross $4,654,600. Luckily, Gardiner was able to save the lives of his donor cows, preserving generations of genetics. However, Greg Gardiner, co-owner of the operation, states that it will take three years to replenish their cow herd.

The GAR crew leading up to the sale

Many other ranchers were forced to euthanize cattle that were in excruciating pain from injuries caused by the fires. When asked about what he had to do after the fires, Mark Kaltenbach, 69 year old rancher, stated “We did what had to be done, They’re gentle. They know us. We know them. You just thought, Wow, I am sorry.” Mark was just one of the many families that watched their entire livelihood go up in flames. They had to bury hundreds of cattle, and watch even more burnt cattle stumble around, hardly able to see or breathe, just before they put them out of their suffering.


This disaster also sparked a great deal of political debate. Most ranchers, along with the rest of the agricultural community are traditionally very conservative, however, they felt rather abandoned by President Trump in this time of need. He neglected to mention anything about the devastating fires on his ‘famous’ Twitter account, let alone go out and visit with the ranchers and see the damages for himself.

Aaron Sawyers, an agriculture extension agent for Kansas State University, was very disgruntled by our government’s delayed response to the fires.  “This is our Hurricane Katrina” Sawyers stated. He is now fully convinced that Washington is completely detached from production agriculture. Sawyer is quoted saying “None of them are worth a damn, Republicans or Democrats”

On the other hand, the ranching community is a very close knit family, and when one’s family is in trouble- they respond. The relief efforts put forth by cattle producers have been highly impressive. There have been countless Cattleman Associations, Universities, and other groups raising funds to help support fellow ranchers in such a devastating time. Breeders World hosted an online sale April 3rd that was able to raise $58,365 for panhandle fire relief, this is just one out of the many benefit auctions held to help ranchers in need.  Outside of shear money, many families from here in the corn belt have been headed west with round bales to feed cattle that survived the fires.  As of April 1st the affected areas have been completely stocked with hay and feed, but are still seeking out fencing supplies. You can contact your local cattlemen’s association for information on how to help!

One of the countless loads of hay being delivered in Kansas


My name is BFullSizeRreck Debnam and I am currently a senior majoring in Agriculture Business at Western Illinois University. I am from Damascus, Maryland where I grew up on a grain and cattle operation. I am currently employed at Lowderman Cattle Company in western Illinois and hope to manage a purebred cattle herd here in the Midwest when I finish my education.