Thursday, October 1, 2015

To treat or not to Treat . . .

To Treat or not to Treat . . .

When caring for cattle at our feedyard, 4+ Feeders, we listen carefully to what the consumers of beef want from the product we raise.  There have been major discussions and concerns around the topic of antibiotic use in cattle.  The issue of antibiotic use is controversial and complex.

Although ideally it would be grand if cattle never became sick and the issue of using antibiotics did not exist.  However life is not ideal and cattle do get sick.

The protocols for treating sick cattle at 4+ Feeders include:

1.       The prediction of sick cattle.  If we can predict which cattle were to get sick before they feel bad and production were to be lost that would again be ideal.  Unfortunately like with humans it is difficult to know when cattle are getting sick.  In a feedyard setting it is unique because we are a mingling spot for cattle.  It is much like a school.  We welcome cattle from all over the country to our Nebraska Feedyard because it is a prime location to feed cattle to feed you. Our feedyard is near one of the world’s largest aquifer, the Ogallala Aquifer.  This provides the number one nutrient cattle need, clean fresh water all day long.  Nebraska also has an abundance of corn, cattle like corn and corn helps produce the marbling you enjoy in your steaks. Because we have created a mingling spot for cattle we have also created a mingling spot for bacteria.  Bacteria that causes illness.  As a mom you automatically think we could kill this bacteria if we clean.  However we know cattle enjoy laying on dirt rather than concrete, therefore we are unable to clean their home.  However we can clean their waterers and we do.

2.       Finding the sick ones.  Everyday Jake or our team ride every pen and look at every animal.  We make an effort to look at every eye, every hoof and every tail.  Like a mom or teacher at school looks in the eyes of a child, you can just tell if they are sick.  We look for signs like, not eating, head hanging low, sick eyes, isolation, and snotty noses.  These cattle are then pulled from the pen and taken to the on sight vet hospital to have their temperature taken and be treated if necessary. These cattle are also tagged with a sick tag with the date they are treated and what they were treated with.  This allows the cowboy or Jake to know tomorrow that they have been treated and they need to be watched.  With cattle antibiotics we have to wait a few days depending on the drug to see if it will work before treating again.  The record system through the computer and tag helps to track the animal and it's treatments. Feedyards use different methods of record keeping but all have a system to track treatments.  4+ Feeders then takes the animal back to their home pen where they are familiar with the other animals and the pen.  This differs from yard to yard.  Some yards have a hospital pen.  We have found hospital pens do not help the animals recover and they do not prevent the spreading of the illness.  Just like in your family when you come home from the doctor (you don’t take your sick child to a hotel in isolation), because you already know your other children were exposed.

3.      Preventing the spread of bacteria and illness.  I believe through conversation this is the leading cause of debate with antibiotic use in beef cattle.  On occasion we have a scenario where we have pulled a large percentage of sick cattle from a pen and a few have died even after being treated multiple times. We have two different veterinarians that travel through the feedyard weekly (or more) to evaluate cattle, answer our scientific questions, and provide sound advice in situations where we have seen a significant amount of illness in a certain population of cattle.  We have a weekly consultation with our veterinarians, which many times are conversations about how great the cattle look, the pen conditions, or improvement strategies. However on occasion we do have serious discussions about outbreaks of illness in pens that have not been controlled by individual treatments.  When the death loss rises and we see more sick cattle in a pen then well ones the mass treatment of a pen becomes a viable option.  Before this is done, a timeline of events is given to the veterinarian.  The veterinarian sits with the team to discuss what they have seen and what they have treated with. By this point we usually have necropsy (an autopsy done on an animal) reports and data to diagnose what the problem is.   Usually then the pen is pulled and sent through the processing barn to be evaluated individually and treated with a drug more suitable for the scenario.  In this case we sometimes make the decision to treat animals that have no symptoms because the veterinarian has diagnosed the illness and has data to support they will likely get the illness eventually. At this point we will leave this decision up to our veterinarian.

.     WITHDRAWAL TIMES - It is worth understanding the withdrawal time laws as consumer. Regardless of how and why the animal was treated the specific drug has a withdrawal date decided upon by the FDA.  This withdrawal time is the researched time that specifies the amount of time that it would take for the drug residues to leave the meat.  This means that animals are not sold until our records and tags indicate that the withdrawal time has been followed. This withdrawal time assures 4+ Feeders that our product is safe to ship.  More importantly, consumers can be sure that the beef they purchase and feed their family is antibiotic free.

       The Challenge: I have explained the process of how to look for a calf at 4+ that may need treated.  That leaves the challenge here of to treat or not to treat. You decide.

Calf A (not the photo bomber)

Calf B:  reddish, brown calf in front.

Calf C
Calf D

       Useful Tools for Agriculture Education

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Giving and Receiving

Last summer on a trip back to Ohio I spent some of my time going through some of my Grandma's material and other sewing things.  I brought back to Nebraska with me quilt pieces she had cut out, that I thought I would sew together into a quilt I assumed she had planned to make. After the loss of everything in a house fire last fall, I miss the things I had of Grandma's a lot.  From the trip last summer I also brought back several large boxes of double knits that Grandma use to make almost everything out of. My cousins, sisters and I use to wear double knit shorts and tanks all summer made by Grandma Poorman.  

I gave these boxes of double knits to my wonderful friend Barb who is a Family and Consumer Science teacher.  She informed me last summer that double knit was back in style.  She spent the winter with her students making skirts and quilts.  I had forgot that I had given her the fabric until the other day when I went to visit her and she gave me a thank you note from her students.  The notes in the card offered many thanks for giving them material to help them learn to create skirts and quilts. I know that would have made Grandma happy.  I thought double knit would never come in style and wondered many times why Grandma kept all these boxes of double knits. Barb also gave me this quilt that her and her class made for me.  What a beautiful gift of memories and hope.

Monday, February 23, 2015

FFA - Record Keeping

FFA week has started and tweets, Facebook messages, blogs and articles are being shared on what FFA has meant to individuals across this country.

Tonight I am highlighting an important topic that usually gets the least amount of attention - RECORD KEEPING.  The Agriculture Education program provides the only meaningful opportunity to teach record keeping to high school students.

Please feel free to post comments about how you learned record keeping by typing random numbers into spreadsheets on a computer in a business class.  Although I will agree that basic knowledge can be learned through typing numbers out of a book into a system. However from personal teaching experience there is far more to be learned from entering their personal breeding ewes into an inventory only to find out that some of those ewes should have been entered into the beginning inventory and since they were not, none of the offspring showed up correctly. This student quickly learned a valuable lesson, if you have no offspring, you have no income.

I will agree, you can teach Net Worth successfully on a worksheet with John Q Farmers case study.  However it will not come close to an experience I had this winter in the Ag. room as a senior entered four years of pay stubs, tax withholdings, and skills, only to realize he had "lost" several thousand dollars in the last four years. He did recover a few hundred after HE reviewed his data and realized some of those dollars were actually tax withholdings. This  student was compiling records for a state degree where they needed to show a cash amount productively invested.  This student was shocked he had earned so much money, yet had very little to show for it.  I only smile. Although I can tell by the look on this 17 year old FFA members face he is disappointed, I know he has learned a valuable life lesson.  This life lesson could have never been learned from a book.  The other reason I smile is because according to our National Debt Clock, as a country we do not understand productively investing our money. I know I have moved one student and soon to be adult over the minority of investing your money productively.

The final story I share is a conversation with a senior who knew his mind.  I appreciate a student who stands their ground (occasionally).  This student shared that most of the money he had made through his successful work experience he had spent on a pair of jet skis.  Again I smile as I tell this student that the FFA does not recognize this as productively invested.  He says I realize that, but I really like riding them in the summer. I was happy he had saved enough money in the bank, which is considered productively invested to earn him the State FFA Degree.

I have shared countless personal stories on the importance of record keeping. I hope you enjoy these stories of what FFA-Record Keeping has helped Jake and I accomplish:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Well that Sucks and Healing

I know there are so many people praying for us and who have prayed for us.  I can't imagine how much more terrible I could feel if you weren't - but I guess it can always be worse.

I thought this process was going to be a lot faster and well easier.  I remember standing in the driveway with Jake watching our house burn and thinking well this Sucks.  I guess we have a lot more work to do.  Which I was right we have a ton of work ahead of us.  However, I didn't realize the annoyances, mourning and pain that I was also going to have to go through. Apparently the people crying and praying with us that day did know this, and that is why I am guessing they were crying.  I didn't realize this because I was in denial. Well friends denial is over and just in time for the Holidays I bring you anger and sadness. Topping off the list of things making me angry and sad are in no particular order - please ignore me.  (I still love Jesus and the spirit of the season.)

1. Christmas Decorations - I will stand by your tree and cry at all of your kids handmade ornaments.
2. Hallmark Christmas Movies - I watch them for a reason to cry.
3. Going to the fridge for salad dressing I was sure I had bought, but apparently not recent enough to be in this fridge.  The stage that a friend warned me about - going to look for things you no longer own is ANNOYING. (you were right George)

In preparation for HEALING and the Holidays I received two blessings from two of the best parts of my life.  Within hours after the fire, our phones rang off the hook with inspiring words and support from across the country.  It was during two of these conversations when I realized I had lost both my FFA Jacket and my OSU Livestock Evaluation Judging Belt Buckle.

One evening as I was driving to our friends house where we were staying. I was also driving out of cellular service, while talking with my college livestock judging coach on the other end of the phone. I turned around and headed back into town (so I didn't lose service).  I pulled over at the Coop and began to cry as I just realized I had also lost my buckle.  I reminded myself I don't actually need the buckle to hold my pants up or anything - but it was reminder of one of the best times of my life.  I had hoped to share this with my own kids, but had yet to, even though Jacie was an official livestock judger herself.  He quickly said "oh we can replace that".  I said, "what, how?"

Today Jake brought two packages home from the Feedyard.  I am asking myself the same question. How could both of these came on the same day, from two different people that neither knew what the other was doing? Blessings and Grace

Thank you friends and family.  It will be a journey and I apologize for my sarcasm, crying and snide remarks.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

God has Grace for that.

Tomorrow is the day I start coaching parliamentary procedure.  I think Election Day is an appropriate day to start the journey of parliamentary procedure.

Election Day has me a little nervous for a variety of reasons.

About two years ago Jake and I determined we would return to Nebraska to operate our feedyard.  I really enjoyed our previous two years in Ohio, close to family and friends.  However, I knew our future was at 4+ Feeders.  I hesitantly told Jake if the girls could go to the Sumner-Eddyville-Miller schools and we could build a home, I would go back.  You must know there was not one home for sale in this school district.  It was just weeks later, when Jake came home and told me someone had called to offer us a piece of pasture.  This piece of pasture happens to be half way between the S-E-M school and the feedyard. It is strategically placed in the southern most point of this school district.  How does this happen? It may be similar to this story.

I immediately called an acquaintance I had from the community.  I was interested in knowing if this community I thought was so wonderful, if it was the Utopia I dreamed of.  This was three towns that had consolidated many years before and currently have a graduating class of 10 students.  The building that I had driven by, but was never in, looked . . . well it looked rough.  But, there was just something about that community I liked. This acquaintance assured me that the school wasn't perfect (I appreciate the honesty), but then listed the things the school had to offer from a mother's perspective.

The story began there.  I said yes, the land was bought and the house plans began.  Just over a year ago we moved into our new home and the girls started school and I fell in love with the community and the school.  Last spring the Agriculture Education teacher left, leaving an opening for both an Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor. Yet another big decision.  Jake and I talked and talked about me taking this position, the short pro list and the long con list.  This is usually how the list looks, just before I jump in with both feet, in over my head following my heart. I don't have time for this - but God has grace for that, I told myself.  I did the payroll for the feedyard over lunch today (Grace).

Then tragedy struck and our new home for less than a year burnt to the ground.  No worries, the girls and I at school and Jake at the feedyard with our two dogs (Grace).  Although our family and pets were not injured, we lost every single thing we owned.  Except of course for the clothes we were wearing and the stuff I am constantly yelling at the girls for hauling to the car and packing away as if they were going to lose everything they owned. Some how all the naked baby dolls and stuffed animals in the backseat don't bother me anymore. The utopia I had imagined was burning rather quickly into a nightmare rather than a dream.

There Jake and I stood on Cracker Box Road watching our dreams and hard work burn to the ground. Except the one load of ash they hauled away. There was nothing left, except a little seed of doubt Moving all of those things three times half way across America now seemed pointless. Just then all those people from that community I had such a good feeling about started showing up.  They showed up to pray with us, cry with us and help us.  Almost like strangers, we had only knew less than a year, offering to keep us in their homes and drive us an hour for an outfit to teach in the next day. That acquaintance I told you about before, put us up in her home for a week.  While the rest of the community found us a rental house in a town where those don't exist. They cleaned, painted, furnished and decorated a home for us in a week. Yes in a week, so sorry HGTV missed it.  Why would you do that for complete strangers? Oh, because God has Grace for that.

We are supposed to start building  our third home in 11 years and I am completely underwhelmed with the project.  I don't really want to make time for another house building project.  I pray God has Grace for that too.  I am a little concerned though this evening with the thought that S-E-M bond issue won't pass tomorrow and all of the school improvements that the school needs won't be met.  The problem with a small rural community is that schools are totally funded by a few farmers.  These farmers have to feel burdened by educating an entire community. I know I a feel a small burden for the job of educating them and I don't pay the entire bill.

The history is bleak as the stories float through the local restaurant of the school north being closed and split between several other schools.  The two other communities that now feed into S-E-M are a sad piece of American history.  To tell you the truth I toured one of them only because my FFA member planned an FFA meeting there and we took a hayride through town.  The other I visited at 2:30AM Sunday morning while dropping off students after our trip home from National Convention. I worry Sumner my utopia may look like that someday.

I am praying tonight that this small community of utopia and the voters, especially farmers believe that God will have Grace for passing a bond issue, that will keep this community in tact, keep kids safe while getting an education and help teacher's reach higher expectations. Selfishly I want to start building a home back in a school district with a sustainable school.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Asking the right questions . . .

Lately the topic of conversation when I run into people is "how is school going?".  Which is not a good question for me, because one of my many character flaws include constant negative conversations with myself. My brain runs constantly and mostly with a tape of what hasn't gotten done, projects that need planned, students that have not been helped, IEP's that have not been read and papers that have not been graded. This dialog is backed up with thoughts of the failure students, communities and the world might have if I don't accomplish everything that runs in my head.

Unfortunately, because of the way my brain works my answers are usually NEGATIVE, to the people who ask this. I always walk away feeling terrible about my answer. My other character flaw, is my constant negative conversations with other people.  I just don't feel like the to do list gets done, if you talk constantly about everything that is going right and all the many accomplishments that have already happened.

I feel my NEGATIVE conversations are so overwhelming I am surprised anyone has ever eaten lunch with me in the teachers lounge.

We are a week and half into school after my three year hiatus.  I challenge you unless you really want to hear the projects and things I need to pull off to ask me "what is going right in your classroom/shop?".

I will now share with you the long list of things going right in the S-E-M east wing.

- I have fantastic students that are on the edge of their seats to learn. The insightful questions they ask and their want to know more is outstanding.

- We are only eight days into school and have a great start in learning about business structures, scientific method, land management, range management, and welding history and safety.

- I am teaching distance learning for the first time in my life.  I am giving several students that wouldn't have the opportunity to learn about Agriculture Education otherwise. I feel good about that.

- The distance learners are working hard to learn over a big screen television a very hands on curriculum.  I think they may be surprised about how hands on it is. That make me smile.

- I have an extremely supportive group of parents that are helping make some special projects happen, that I wouldn't have the time to do without their expertise and extra assistance.

- My 78 year old buddy Dietrich Meyer is back to assist me in making this group of students industry acceptable welders.  He came to meet the students and they already respect and appreciate his caring personality and expertise. They really like that his grip is so strong that when he turns the torch off, they can't turn it back on. That makes them smile.

- A dad has offered to get us metal to practice welding with at a reduced rate and cut to size, delivered both ways. I know fellow welding instructors be jealous.

- The first annual labor auction has been planned and will take place on Tuesday night. With everything going on I forgot to tell them I would be their auctioneer. I wonder what their reaction will be? Should I tell them before Tuesday night?

The biggest challenge I had as school started is a group of students that have done well and really enjoy range judging.  As a graduate of The Ohio State University I have not studied range judging because we have pastures not range.  The only plants I know are the ones that happened to also grow in Ohio and were in a Weeds class I took in the Spring of 2000.  I started the Range unit anyway. The students have been extremely patient.  In fact, they have also been above and beyond helpful.  They have personally collected almost 70 plants.  If they can't identify the plant, they text a picture to a man on the weed board in the county to identify it.

Every morning since school has started someone has showed up with a range plant, I think that kind of learning is admirable.  I couldn't be more proud. Not everyone gets flowers everyday at work!

Beautiful - I know metal and range plants! What else could a girl ask for?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ohio Pedicures, Dairy Farms, Strip Malls all lead to Nebraska

We traveled back to Ohio last week to see our friends and family before school starts and the fall runs of cattle start coming in. My Mother In Law gave me a birthday gift and offered to babysit so that I could go and get a pedicure at the place she frequents.

I've only had a handful of pedicures in my life.  Mostly because I find it awkward to make small talk with someone as they scrub dead skin off my feet and dig toe jam out of my nails.  Obviously I am the only one who feels this way, because the line was out the door with women waiting to have this said experience.  I had already called a half a dozen people to see if someone would join me.  I thought maybe if I could talk to someone else it would be more fun. I was apparently the only one on vacation, as everyone was working. All my friends are hard workers.

After seeing two women who were there together for the experience almost brake out in a fight over some local political issue - I almost left.  The only thing stopping me was that Jake had dropped me off.

It wasn't long and a nice Asian man called my name and my feet were soaking.  I then find myself looking out a window where less than 12 years ago there was a Dairy Farm. I could picture the Dairy and Mr. Ety as if it was yesterday. Jake introduced me to him just before his farm sale.  Jake waited that day to purchase an old scale cover from a Fairbanks and Morse scale that will soon be a conversation starter and decorative piece for our basement here in Nebraska.

The nice man was then back with his tool basket to scrub the nastiness off my feet.  I am confident the only reason people sign up for this is because no one wants to clean their own feet.  Last time I had a pedicure this lead to a discussion with the lady next to me about why my feet didn't have as much dead skin to scrape off.  I told her it may be because I wear tube socks and boots year around.

Then the small talk started.  The man was business smart, he wanted to know if I lived in the area.  I am assuming to see if I would be a repeat customer. Smart man. I told him "no, just visiting".

"Where are you from", he says. "Nebraska", I answered.
"NEBRASKA, why are you here?" he almost yells. I then explained that we use to live here.

He began to tell a story about a friend that once moved from Ohio to California and then he didn't like it so he drove back.  He was asking me about the smell in Nebraska.  "What is that smell?", he asked.  "I told him that is the smell of cattle." I sarcastically answer with, "don't you love it!"  He laughed. He asked me "what is the state south of Nebraska, it smells too".  I answered "you mean Kansas". He said, "yes, is that cattle too?".

He then asked "why did you move to Nebraska?".  Which will be Chapter 12 in Jake and I's biography entitled Why The Hell Would You Move To Nebraska?. That will be the title because that is what I really feel like people have been asking us all these years.  I followed this with because there are more cattle than people there and because people don't like "that smell", and it is easier to move away from the people to raise beef.  He smiled.  He said, "but that is really far." I laughed and said "well we didn't move in a Conestoga Wagon and we didn't have to fight off any Indians to get there". With a very straight face he asked, "there are Indians out there".  Then I felt bad for my sarcasm for a second and told him I was joking.

I then changed the subject asking about if he ate beef and what his favorite cuts were.  He was educated about the meat counter, for a consumer.  His favorite cut is the Ribeye. He asked several questions about purchasing freezer beef and if it was cheaper and how big of a freezer he would need.  The small talk had ended and he was now teaching me about Asian cooking.  He asked me about Tripe.  I said, I only know what Tripe is, but I don't know how to cook Tripe.  He explained how he likes to cook it in stir fry.  He explained how his family even cooked the lips.  "Asians don't waste anything", he proudly announced.  I smiled, thinking how proud you would be, to be able to say that about your country's people.