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Monday, July 9, 2012

Tears from a Cowboy

I told you in an earlier post that I am working at a beef cattle feedyard this summer. I am really enjoying learning all of the phases of production that go into getting beef on the table for all of us!

The yard I am at has the capacity to hold 50,000 head of cattle. It's a pretty big motel for the moo cows. Continental breakfast, complimentary lunch, the whole nine yards.

A couple weeks ago, I was sent with the head doctor. He is a cowboy who is in charge of doctoring any sick cattle. His cowboy peers ride through every pen on the yard each morning. If an animal appears to be struggling or has an impending illness, they walk him out of the pen and to the hospital barn. That is where the head doctor comes in to treat the animals as he has been trained by a veterinarian to provide high quality care to the cattle in the feedyard.

We had a black short yearling (slightly younger than a year old calf) in the chute ready for his treatment. I remember beads of sweat running down my face as it was about 109 degrees out that day. Cowboy took Blacky's temperature and looked up his individual record on the computer in the barn. Blacky was bloated which means his rumen (stomach) was producing gas that was building up because eructation wasn't occurring properly. While we had him in the chute Cowboy noticed his breathing was extremely compromised. He wanted me to grab a tube from his truck so that we could put it down Blacky's throat into his rumen and let the gas out so that he could breath better. When I ran back into the barn, Cowboy was on one knee by the chute.

Blacky had laid down in the chute and died. His enlarged rumen had suffocated him. Cowboy had his straw hat in his hands. A tear rolled down his cheek through the dust covering the man's face after a hard day of work in the wind and heat. I swallowed a hard knot in my throat. We were just a minute too late.

As we walked away from the barn we were both silent and it was downright somber. The wind still howled and the sun beat down on our necks. I couldn't help but think about the meaning of animal care. Cowboy is among many in the cattle business who take their jobs (providing high quality animal care every day) to heart. We may have lost Blacky, but Cowboy had saved numerous others that day because of his training and dedication.

It's just hard to lose one when you care so much.



Friday, July 6, 2012

The last week in June around my hometown was hot. I think it was pretty hot across the country, but I'm pretty sure it was this hot in Satanta....
So I didn't try frying an egg on the sidewalk, mainly because sidewalks are extremely dirty and food safety is kind of important to me, but I'm certain I would have ended up with a sunny side up egg if I would have tried it! In fact, this week it's only about 100 degrees out and it feels like a nice break from the heat!

Farmers and ranchers have specific challenges when the thermometer tips over 105 degrees outside. As dry as we have been this year in Southwest Kansas, some of the damage done by the week of sultry sun will not be overcome despite our best efforts. Some of these pictures just make me ill because I know how much passion my family has for growing crops and having a plentiful harvest. This year we may not get a plentiful harvest again...

 This corn is a good example. The growth stage the corn is at right now is very delicate. Many of our fields are starting to tassle. When the plant is approaching this stage, pollination and ear growth are greatly compromised if the plant is in any kind of stress. Currently our corn is stressed for water and then an additional stress for the extreme heat. You can see the burned tips on most of the leaves in this picture and that just shows you the damage that won't be overcome the rest of the summer.
 This is a close up picture of some of the worst leaves. This is in a field of our irrigated corn. The heat damage is very evident in this picture. You can also see how curled the leaves are. On a normal year, the leaves should remain broad and bright green.
This is a shot that I took of some dryland corn in our area. The dryland corn is really struggling as you can tell. Dryland means that it is not supplemented with water from sprinklers. Dryland farmers rely on the rain that we receive to help the crops grow. We haven't received very much rain, if any in places, this summer. Before that, we experienced a very dry and mild winter. The damage this corn has endured through the heat wave will cause this field to be abandoned most likely. The one positive to this situation is that the ground is covered and the roots from the corn plants will keep it from blowing. Farmers in our area have battled blowing ground all year. When the topsoil gets to blowing, it jumpstarts the process of erosion. My dad wants to preserve the precious topsoil on his ground so that his son can farm it throughout his lifetime. This type of care and conservation of the land has been instilled in farmers for generations. It's the only chance they have at preserving their businesses and passing them on to the next family.

I hope to have a couple pictures up of our cotton fields soon. They look pretty good still. Cotton endures the heat a little better and takes less water. Plus, it's one of my favorite plants to watch grow!


Tera Rooney

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fourth of July Safety

This post has a double meaning: food safety and fire safety.

 While we all know that July is in the heat (literally) of the summer and is the perfect time for grilling and fireworks, we need to be mindful of two points.

1. Remember to use a food thermometer when you're grilling. Sure, it's hot and you want to get the meat off the grill and onto your plate. But you could be in another kind of rush later on if  you don't make sure that your foods have been cooked to proper temperatures to kill any bacteria that may exist. Here are the proper cooking temps for your 4th of July activities:

      Ground beef/pork/lamb - safe and savory at 160 °F
      Ground turkey/chicken -  165 °F

      Steak - Medium - Rare 145 °F
                  Medium - 155 °F
                  Medium - Well 165 °F
                  Well Done 170 °F - I included this for reference sake, but it hurts to do so!

       Poultry - Chicken & Turkey, Whole 180 °F
                  Breast Meat 170 °F
                  Thighs, Wings & Legs 180 °F
                   **Salmonella is killed at 165 °F

       Pork - roasts, tenderloins and chops - 145 °F  (no higher; nobody likes dry pork)! 

2. Fireworks are awesome. I'm actually a pyromaniac and am one of the first people to buy fireworks on the day the stands open. But we're in a drought now and we all know that fire + dry pastures/hay fields = horrible fast-spreading disaster. If you are in a county with a burn ban in place, consider driving to a neighboring county and watching a sponsored fireworks show. I'm likely going to the Wamego, KS show (it's one of the best in the state). One night of fun shooting off bottle rockets and roman candles isn't worth the devastation of charred fields.

With these safety steps in mind - have a great holiday! And as always, remember the true reason for the season. We are a free country thanks to those who have gone before us and those who continue to fight for our freedoms.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


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