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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Always wished you knew more about how all those bales sitting in the fields as you drive by are made? Did FFT member Bruce Figger’spost back in August really spark your interest in the baling process? If so, today’s your lucky day. J Many things can be baled and used as feedstuffs for cattle. I’m just going to go through a quick overview of the general process for those that aren’t very familiar with it.
A swather is used to lay down whatever crop you want to bale. When using a sickle swather like the one shown below, the sickles on the front of the swather header cut the hay at its base and an auger moves everything to the middle of the header where the conditioner is located. The conditioner crimps the stalk of the plant to allow air access for faster drying. This leaves windrows of hay in the field, and the bigger the swather header, the more hay there is in a windrow. The length of time that the windrow lays out to dry before being baled depends on the crop, size of the windrow, and the weather and climate conditions. If the hay is too wet when being baled, mold can grow within it, decreasing the quality. If baled too dry, quality is decreased due to loss of nutrient-rich leaves.

New Holland sickle swather

Swather cutting sorghum Sedan grass
Windrows after swathing in beautiful western Kansas!
Once the hay is dry enough, we are ready to rake and bale! Usually one person operates the rakes with the baler operator not far behind. The rakes speed up the baling process by combining two windrows into one. When baling sorghum sedan grass, as shown above, rakes may be needed to help dry out the windrow by rolling it over a couple days prior to baling.
Rakes in action

The windrow is gathered by a pickup attachment in the front of the baler and the hay is delivered into the baler where a series of belts begin rolling it into a tightly wrapped bale. There is a tensioner roller inside the baler that keeps the belts wrapped securely around the hay to ensure that the bale is packed tight from the beginning of the process to the end.

There is a sensor within the baler that will tell the operator when the bale is at the desired height. At this point, the baler will wrap the bale with either twine or net wrap. After the bale is wrapped, the operator can drop the bale out of the baler onto the field. Net wrap is used more commonly than twine because it is more efficient. This process is continued until all the windrows have been picked up and turned into bales!
This photo isn't mine but wanted you to be able to see a freshly made round bale being dropped out of a baler.
Source: ttp://
Such a pretty sight!
Hope this was as interesting to you guys as it is to me. J

Keep calm and bale on,


Monday, October 13, 2014

Baseball and Cattle By-Products

Even though I am not a Royals fan, they sure have been fun to watch this season. They have been especially fun to watch this post season. Their excitement and drive to not ever give up on a game is something that all of us need to keep in mind.

As I was watching the game the other night, I began looking at the baseballs and fielding gloves. I was wondering how much of these things that are needed in order to produce these items used to make high quality entertainment.

The University of Nebraska Agriculture Research and Development Center put together a nice bulletin that describes some of these processes that can be found here. One hide from a cow will produce 144 baseballs. One hide will also have enough leather to produce 12 baseball gloves.
For example, a typical baseball game will go through 100-120 baseballs in 1 game. By products from 1 cow hide should cover this. But each team has 25 players on their post-season roster which each of the players having at least 1 glove, resulting in the need of a little over 4 cow hides needed to produce these products.

While only 5 hides may not seem like a lot, take into account that is all that is needed for that 1 game. That is not taking anything into account for all the other games played throughout the year, players in the minor leagues, or any other products used from cattle by-products. The meat from cattle is used for food source, but also car seats, medical products, soap, shampoo, and lubricants are just a few examples of products that all contain cattle by products in them. The number of cattle needed to produce this high level entertainment grows exponentially.

For all of the Royals fans out there, I hope they continue to excel through the rest of the playoffs. They sure have been fun to watch!

Until next time,

Miles Theurer

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Agriculture's Employment Problems

The topic of immigration has been a hot button over the past decade. The media has jumped on this conversation, or heated debate may be a better term to describe it, but they have ignored the dysfunction in the legal non-immigrant visa programs that the agriculture sector so heavily relies on. I have been exposed to the problem in the status-quo because my family is actively experiencing these problems.

2014 Harvest Crew: 5 H-2A visas & 9 J-1 visa  
My family has a farm and a custom harvesting operation (Frederick Harvesting) where we hire approximately 22 seasonal employees for 8 months of the year to help with the preparation of the harvest season and then be either a combine operator or truck driver for both the summer and fall seasons. Of the 22 seasonal employees about half of the crew is American and the other half is foreign. Our foreign employees are from countries you wouldn't normally think that the agricultural sector relies on; England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia mainly. We hire these men their first year on a J-1 visa.  The J-1 visa is described as, "The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs" according to After the workers come through this visa, if they loved their work and want to come back and work for us for the next season they must come back through the H-2A visa program. This is where the dysfunction happens.

The H-2A visa program is described by the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services as, "The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs." (

2010 crew: 3 H-2A visas, 8 J-1 visas
The root of the problem is that Americans don't want to hold these jobs and there is a line of young skilled foreigners that want these jobs. The H-2 visa program is a cycle of dysfunction and frustration for the employer and the foreign employee. The employee works and is trained on the job for 8 months, has to go to their home country for 4 months with uncertainty if they will even be accepted to the visa program for the next year. This makes for an uncertain and unstable labor force for the employer. When talking to my dad who deals with these problems hands on he said, "The program needs to be a more reliable system so that the employee and I don't have to play a waiting game." He went on to point out that these workers are legal and paying taxes in this country to work here. Something clearly must change.

The Ag sector is voicing that they want change. A logical fix that is being discussed in D.C. is to grant an H-2A visa for a 3-year period with the worker going home during the off season. Another one of the major changes that is being lobbied for is for the H-2A visa program is to include sheepherders and dairy workers. The dairy industry is running into the same problem; not enough American workers that want to do the job.

Karly Frederick
Ag-business Major

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act

Veterinarians play a crucial role in the health and management of farm animals.
Photo credit/source
As a 3rd year veterinary student, animal care is of top importance to me.  I believe it’s a great day when veterinarians, ranchers, and the government can join together and pass a law that not only benefits veterinarians and ranchers, but ultimately benefits the animals we strive to care for.
On August 1st, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act was signed into law allowing veterinarians to carry controlled drugs outside of their clinics and across state lines.  This becomes extremely important in providing pain management, anesthesia, or humane euthanasia to patients that are unable to be brought into a clinic. 
The president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Clark Fobian, DVM, says, “To be a veterinarian, you must be willing to go to your patients when they cannot come to you, and this means being able to bring all of the vital medications you need in your medical bag.”
Check out more information about the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act at the AVMA website:
Alex Grieves

Friday, September 12, 2014


Have you ever had a random realization that you have used a certain term or phrase in too many conversations to count, but have never actually researched the true definition?

I just had that moment.

It is a word we hear many times, especially as it relates to discussions we care most about.


I have used the word before, and could offer a solid attempt at describing what it means. Could I recite the actual dictionary definition, though? Nope! I decided to look it up, and I was actually rather disappointed. Now, allow me to explain. Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not disagreeing with the dictionary, and absolutely agree that it is important to “support or recommend a particular cause” (which, in case you were wondering, is the definition). But, we hear many times how important it is to be advocates for agriculture and, in that use of the word, I think we are missing an important link: education.

One of my favorite books is The Man Who Fed the World by Leon Hesser. The book is a biography of Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution. This man changed the world of food production and saved hundreds of millions of lives from starvation in the process. Did he do so by discovering a high-yielding variety of wheat, and then simply “recommending the cause?” Of course not! He educated scientists and producers around the world to utilize what he discovered.

The education that occurred throughout the years of the Green Revolution was two-way. Borlaug was constantly educating himself in his area of expertise – plant pathology and genetics – in order to continue making such incredible scientific advancements. He also knew that both modern technology and natural resources differed greatly in different areas of the world, and was constantly educating himself of the different needs. Knowing that he wanted his efforts to continue to expand, he worked to educate other scientists on his findings, and those scientists were willing learn more and accept these advancements. Producers were willing to become educated on this new method of production, and began to implement it into their own practices. Individuals around the world had questions, and it is through the questions that were asked and answered that Borlaug and those he worked with were able to revolutionize production agriculture and feed the world.

I was not raised in a family that earned its primary income in production agriculture. But, I was raised in rural America, around those who produce to feed the world and were willing to answer my questions. It has been through those questions and conversations that I have gained a true appreciation for the hard work, responsibility and stewardship of those who dedicate their livelihoods to agriculture.

Take that dictionary definition and place the word “education” within it, and allow true education to lay the foundation. Have questions? Ask them!
Jordan Pieschl

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Checking Cows and Summer Rain

Hello, everyone!  My name is Cassie Schmidtberger, and I am a veterinary student at Kansas State University.  I’m from the small town of Victoria in western Kansas where my family runs a cow/calf operation consisting mainly of Red Angus cross cattle.  Now, if you’ve heard anything about western Kansas, you have heard it compared to the desert.  We’ve been in a significant drought for a long time.  However, this summer we were blessed with rain!  A lot of rain!  It was great!  It was also muddy.  As the principal “cow checker” over the summer, I had the job of going around to our multiple pastures and making sure the cows, calves, and bulls were all well and healthy, not to mention in the pasture where they were supposed to be.  With all the rain, there were several roads that got slimy, and some that were just plain impassable.
Lots of rain leads to flooded roads
Lots of rain leads to flooded roads
That meant I got to check cows on a four-wheeler (ATV) for probably half the summer.  This led to a great farmer’s tan, but also some pretty great opportunities to interact with our cattle.  You’ll notice in the picture to the right that I’m on the four-wheeler, and those cows are headed straight for me.   

checking cows in the pasture
Curious cows checking out the four-wheeler
Curious cattle!
They literally ran up to sniff and lick on the four-wheeler.  I’m sure it tasted like mud, but oh well.  It was a great moment for me.  To see our animals happy, with green grass, fresh water, and playing with me really drove home just how much I love what I do and the career I’m going to enter. I want every producer’s animals to be just as happy, healthy and full of life as our cows are.  Now that I’m back in Manhattan and no longer checking cows, I like to think on that day to remind me that my hard work in veterinary school is worth it, and that not all the happy cows are in California J.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Do Cows Eat?

A few weeks ago I was at home, cutting what may seem like run-of-the-mill hay to the untrained eye:

Mowing a field of forage for cattle

But, upon closer inspection you may (or more likely may not, due to my photography skills) see what is growing in that field:

Mowing a field of forage (crabgrass) for cattle
Still can’t tell? Here’s a close-up brought to you by Google images since I forgot to take one:
The dreaded crabgrass
You might recognize this as a weed that has plagued your neighbor’s lawn and is slowly encroaching on your own, the dreaded Crabgrass, and this field has it growing about 3 feet tall.  So if this weed is growing like crazy in the field, why am I swathing and baling it instead of spraying it with herbicide or working it under?  The answer is cows.  Cows can take this weed and turn it into delicious beef. 
This got me thinking about what else cows eat that’s unusual, then I looked at my shirt.  It’s made of cotton.  After cotton is harvested, the seeds are separated from the fibers.  Ranchers can buy those seeds or the seed hulls and mix them into a ration for cattle.  
In my lunchbox I had a sandwich and a cookie.  Large scale bakeries have products that have imperfections such as broken cookies.  Folks with cattle that live near large bakeries can buy these products and feed them to their cattle.  In the end the bakeries don’t have to throw away products that people don’t want to eat, and ranchers get a low-cost feed ingredient. 
The pickup I was driving that day had gasoline in it that was 10% ethanol.  Ethanol is made from distilling corn, and after the distillation process is complete, powdery corn leftovers are… well leftover.  In the cattle industry these are known as distiller’s grain.  Distiller’s grain makes for a great ration ingredient to add protein, phosphorus, and sulfur to a bovine diet. 
The moral of this story is cattle are great at recycling.  They take byproducts of everyday items and, with the help of their ruminant digestive system, turn them into food for people.  So what do cows eat?  Just about anything.  Thanks for reading, and as always if you see or hear of something that concerns you about where your food comes from, ask a farmer. 
Eat Beef,
Bruce Figger


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