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

IMG_0766
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

IMG_0834
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.

headshot
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.

Advertisements

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.

The Benefits of Showing Pigs

I haven’t always grown up raising pigs and showing pigs. I know what it’s like to not have any livestock. I have been raising and showing pigs for the past eight years now. I can tell you that if I could go back and start raising pigs sooner than when I started I would and I can bet that everyone else that raises and shows livestock would tell you the same thing. If I hadn’t got involved in raising livestock I probably wouldn’t be very involved in agriculture as I am now because raising and showing pigs is really what helped me get set on the path that I’m on now. There are many benefits in this industry the ones that really stick out to me, are the work ethic, passion and responsibilities lImage result for show pigsearned all which can be applied to the real world.

Work ethic is the most value trait to have in todays’ society and showing pigs helps to develop a great work ethic. When showing competitively it takes time to work with pigs. There’s countless hours spent working with pigs from washing and getting them out and walking them around to get them use to being lead around with a show stick. You won’t always get to go out and do stuff with your friends because your busy taking care of your pigs getting them ready for shows. This helps prepare young adults for what the real world is like.

You must have passion for what you to do. If you don’t have passion for what you do it becomes irrelevant and talent is taken away from somewhere else. There has to be a drive because a kid won’t want to walk pigs every day or want to go travel to different shows throughout the year. A family can go out and buy a show pig or they can actually raise the pig from birth on their farm they spend countless hours working with it to reach goals that they have with that pig. Sometimes all the hard work is paid off by winning ribbons, banners, or trophies. But that’s not always going to happen there’s maybe a few years you don’t win anything but then you have a year where you win a ribbon, banner, or trophy and then that makes it all worth it. The years you don’t win don’t let that discourage you just take what you learned that year and apply it to the next year. Never given up on your passion.

The responsibilities that showing pigs teaches you is one of my favorite qualities. Any livestock needs to get fed twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. There’s walking and washing the pig every day. Without doing this the pig won’t walk right in the ring and will be dirty and you won’t compete in the show ring. This keeps you close to home because you have to be around to take care of your animal, so this means no weekend getaways or going out of town for the day. Another responsibility is planning ahead by booking hotel rooms, packing all the feed you need, and planning your route before going to a show. There are many other responsibilities that can be learned by the youth.

I find that there are many benefits in showing pigs. Raising any livestock can teach you many important values. When I have kids, I plan to get them involved in showing pigs, to show them the benefits that come from showing pigs. This hobby can turn into a lifestyle.

My Name Collin Swanson and I’m a senior at Western Illinois University for Ag Business. I grew up around my Uncles grain and cattle farm in West Central Illinois.  I have a passion for raising and showing pigs. I plan to go into seed sales after graduating.

The Benefits of Showing Pigs

I haven’t always grown up raising pigs and showing pigs. I know what it’s like to not have any livestock. I have been raising and showing pigs for the past eight years now. I can tell you that if I could go back and start raising pigs sooner than when I started I would and I can bet that everyone else that raises and shows livestock would tell you the same thing. If I hadn’t got involved in raising livestock I probably wouldn’t be very involved in agriculture as I am now because raising and showing pigs is really what helped me get set on the path that I’m on now. There are many benefits in this industry the ones that really stick out to me, are the work ethic, passion and responsibilities lImage result for show pigsearned all which can be applied to the real world.

Work ethic is the most value trait to have in todays’ society and showing pigs helps to develop a great work ethic. When showing competitively it takes time to work with pigs. There’s countless hours spent working with pigs from washing and getting them out and walking them around to get them use to being lead around with a show stick. You won’t always get to go out and do stuff with your friends because your busy taking care of your pigs getting them ready for shows. This helps prepare young adults for what the real world is like.

“There are no secrets to success, it is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”- Colin Powell

You must have passion for what you to do. If you don’t have passion for what you do it becomes irrelevant and talent is taken away from somewhere else. There has to be a drive because a kid won’t want to walk pigs every day or want to go travel to different shows throughout the year. A family can go out and buy a show pig or they can actually raise the pig from birth on their farm they spend countless hours working with it to reach goals that they have with that pig. Sometimes all the hard work is paid off by winning ribbons, banners, or trophies. But that’s not always going to happen there’s maybe a few years you don’t win anything but then you have a year where you win a ribbon, banner, or trophy and then that makes it all worth it. The years you don’t win don’t let that discourage you just take what you learned that year and apply it to the next year. Never given up on your passion.

The responsibilities that showing pigs teaches you is one of my favorite qualities. Any livestock needs to get fed twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. There’s walking and washing the pig every day. Without doing this the pig won’t walk right in the ring and will be dirty and you won’t compete in the show ring. This keeps you close to home because you have to be around to take care of your animal, so this means no weekend getaways or going out of town for the day. Another responsibility is planning ahead by booking hotel rooms, packing all the feed you need, and planning your route before going to a show. There are many other responsibilities that can be learned by the youth.

I find that there are many benefits in showing pigs. Raising any livestock can teach you many important values. When I have kids, I plan to get them involved in showing pigs, to show them the benefits that come from showing pigs. This hobby can turn into a lifestyle.

IMG_1415

My Name Collin Swanson and I’m a senior at Western Illinois University for Ag Business. I grew up around my Uncles grain and cattle farm in West Central Illinois.  I have a passion for raising and showing pigs. I plan to go into seed sales after graduating.

Chickens, Man’s Best Friend?

I’m going to be honest here, chickens will never be man’s best friend. That spot is unquestionably reserved for dogs. However, chickens do provide a level of functionality that dogs may never reach. Not only are chickens super cheap and easy to own, but they offer numerous benefits to the owner.

Before we get into the benefits, let’s discuss how affordable chickens can be. Many retail farm stores sell chicks in the spring. In fact, the Farm King store in which I work sells around 2,000 chicks each spring. The chicks run from about $2-$4 depending on breed and quantity bought. Chicks eat chick starter grower, which runs $10-15. Bedding will cost you around $5, and heat lamp and bulb will cost you around $12. So, provided you have a spot at home for them, you could join the chicken world with 10 chicks for around $55. Dogs can cost well into the hundreds of dollars from a shelter, let alone from a breeder.

Now you might be saying, “why would I spend my money on a chicken?”, well, there are many reasons. Firstly, chickens are very easy to take care of. They are a very low maintenance animal. All that you have to do is let chickens out and, provided they have enough space, they will find their own food. Now, what if you have neighbors? A good fence and clipping chicken’s wings can keep them in. While chickens are foraging for food, they will provide two services free-of-charge. Chickens will clean up ground that you need cleared and will help control local insect populations. Chicken owners can utilize a “chicken tractor” to ensure that chickens clear out problem weed areas. A “chicken tractor” is essentially a movable cage. You put the chickens in the cage over a problem weed area and the chickens will clean it for you! Chickens obviously wont be able to clear big woody structures like trees and branches, but they are able to effectively clean out many weeds.

Chickens also eat a wide range of insects including; Japanese beetles, ticks, flies, and ants. By owning chickens, you are helping lower insect population in your yard. I think it is fair to mention that chickens won’t eat all types of bugs, and they wont completely clear your yard of insects. However, they will eat many types of bugs and they do it for free.

Have you ever wanted to make an omelet or cake, only to realize that you are out of eggs? Chickens can help solve this problem. They will lay 3-6 eggs per week, depending on the breed. This means that when your 10 hens are laying, you will get over 30 eggs per week. These can be used at home, shared with relatives, or even sold. Your friends and family will go nuts for the farm-fresh eggs.

Finally you might be saying, dogs and cats are friendly, chickens are not. This is a huge misconception. Chickens are like any other animal, if you give them attention, they will become docile, friendly, and even cuddly. In fact this past spring, I brought one of my chickens, Hilda, into a 5th grade class room. She was very well-behaved and showed the students how nice chickens can be.

IMG_1635

If you are interested in beginning a chicken adventure, consult your local retail farm store. They will have all you need to get started. Before you do, make sure that you consult local codes. Some cities allow residents to own up to a certain amount of chickens. If you do decide to raise chickens, you will get the benefits of eggs, weed clearing, and less insects. But you will also realize that chickens are just so darn cute!

IMG_1169

Hello! My name is Colton Downs and I call Canton, Illinois home. I am a senior agriculture education major at Western Illinois University. I grew up on a small livestock operation, with a few goats, sheep, and chickens. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

 

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.

Image result for vfd tags livestock
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.

 

Related image
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?

 

dawson

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!