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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wheat Harvest Report

Here in southwest Kansas, wheat harvest is buzzing. Not only is this a huge time of year for agriculturists, but I see an increase in local economy as business is also good at the grocery, gas station and local restaurants. 

As of June 18th, the Kansas Wheat Commission reported that harvest had begun in nearly all of the southern counties in Kansas. Harvest will begin to creep into the northern counties as the days go by and the crop becomes ready.
This is a combine with a wheat header on it. The wheat header is the attachment that protrudes from the front of the machine that allows a combine to harvest different crops for farmers. This combine is cutting wheat while also dumping grain through an auger into a grain cart that is being pulled by a tractor. Photo courtesy of Kansas Ag Network

Due to statewide rainfall, harvest came to a halt on June 24th for a short break, but on my way to work this morning I saw some headers down ready to cut!

In 2013, Kansas farmers planted 9,500,000 acres of wheat. An acre is equal to 43,560 square feet, or in a little different terms it is equal to about 1.3 times an American football field! The state of Kansas is the largest wheat producer in the US, that's why we are often called America's Breadbasket! About half of the wheat that is grown in the US is used domestically.

We have a few more posts about wheat harvest that you might enjoy: Story of Wheat, Amber Waves of Grain, Wheat Harvest in Kansas.

Stay up to date on harvest through Twitter by following #wheatharvest14

Do you have any questions about wheat harvest? We would be happy to answer them!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Inside Scoop: Where Does Your Bacon Come From?

Have you ever wondered what the inside of a large modern hog farm looks like? 
Often times we only hear about the negativity of swine housing and production, but what if we were able to give it a look for ourselves? 
Moms are often shopping for food to feed their families, and are constantly seeking the best options. 
So what if we were able to get the opinion of a mom who visited a large hog farm?  Take a look at this article from Cortney Fries about her recent tour of an Illinois farm, “Leaving the Gould farm, I felt they were doing their best to raise healthy animals to feed our country and make a living.”
Kiah Gourley

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why GMO's don't faze me.

My dad is a farmer. He grows lots of GMO's. Fields and fields full of GMO's.

I am a veterinarian. I studied lots of science. Years and years of science.

I'm not fazed by this GMO hype that you will read about in the news and social media. I can hardly believe that it is even considered news. You see, genentically modified foods have been studied for decades. In fact, isolating specific genes in plants in order for them to be combined in a lab started back in 1953! In 1982, the FDA approved the first GMO. Another fun fact? GMO's  are one of the most extensively studied scientific subjects in all of history!

Critics of GMO's will often claim that research is scarce. That we don't know enough about the effect on the environment or human safety. The truth? Scientists around the world have reviewed, studied, collaborated and have come to the conclusion that GMO crops are as safe as conventional or organic foods. A group of Italian scientists have recently come out with a review of over 1700 studies on the human and environmental safety of GMO's.

You don't have to take my word for it. After all, I am a scientist and a farmer's daughter. Maybe that's why the anti-GMO posts really grind my gears. My dad doesn't want to feed the world. In reality, he just enjoys working outside and is diligently protecting the soil that my brother will raise his family on. Luckily for you and me, scientists have developed GMO's so that he can feed the world. Not all of us want to raise food, but we all need to eat. I can't wait to read the blog posts in 2050 when there are 9 billion mouths to feed!

Stating my opinion on the GMO topic does not mean that you should be convinced. I hope this simply stirs up some conversation among colleagues, drives you to research the topic from both sides, or sparks you to chat with your kids about what they've heard or learned.   

Other Pro-GMO articles you might enjoy:

Forbe's Editorial by Jon Entine
Rebecca Rupp's I'm Pro-GMO and Here's Why

Answering Tough Questions

You are a new graduate in a mixed large animal practice in rural America. In becoming integrated into the community, you take the opportunity to engage with young professionals from diverse backgrounds. Many of these young professionals question your involvement with modern agriculture and "factory farms," where the care of animals and food safety is secondary to production and profit (their view). How do you respond to these inquiries?

Cattle in a feedyard - notice they have plenty of room to
move around, lie down and are very calm.
In these modern times, very little is as it was, especially the way we raise our food.   The world population has grown to a point beyond what our forbearers would have thought possible. In the struggle to feed people, agriculture has had to adapt along with the rest of the world.  Meeting the protein needs of a growing world is where animal agriculture must rise to the challenge. 
Animal agriculture has gotten much larger, and much smaller, all at once.  Farms and ranches have gotten bigger, but the number of people in farming and ranching has declined drastically.  Those still in the fight must meet higher standards and produce more, much of the time with less land and other resources. 
One production method modern animal agriculturalists utilize to meet the needs of a protein hungry world is the raising of animals in confined areas.  Pigs, poultry, dairy cows, and finishing beef animals can successfully be raised in smaller geographical area, helping to assuage the ever shrinking amount of land available.  Every building that goes up and every square foot of concrete or asphalt that is laid down is one less square foot available to feed people with.  Properly done, these animals are comfortable and have their needs met daily in our care. 
Confinement animal agriculture is often mislabeled as “factory farm” or other demeaning terms.  They are thought of as institutions where animal welfare is secondary to profit.  This is not true.  Profit is important, but only in that it allows the business to keep functioning. Profit must follow animal welfare.  If animals aren’t well cared for, they won’t perform.  No performance, no profit. 
Doing what’s best for animals is doing what’s best for an animal agriculture business.  It’s also doing what’s best for a food animal veterinarian.  Most importantly, it’s doing what’s best for ever hungry population of the world.
Thanks for reading,
John Dwyer


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