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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bruce Vincent Lecture Now Online!

Bruce Vincent speaking at K-State as part of the Upson Lecture Series
If you weren't able to attend the Upson Lecture Series event featuring Bruce Vincent, which is highly unfortunate, but were still wanting to hear his message, I have great news for you!

The lecture is now available online on the Food For Thought YouTube channel - you can click over there and watch or you can view it below.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this event happen - specifically the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine classes of 1962 and 1966 for fully endowing the Upson Lecture Series. Sincere gratitude is also extended to Frontier Farm Credit and American Ag Credit for their generous role in bringing Bruce to K-State!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankful for a Life Around Cattle

Hey FFT Blog readers!  My name is Lindy Bilberry and I’m a new face on the Food for Thought scene.  I am currently a sophomore studying Agribusiness at Kansas State University and grew up around cattle—both in a beef feedlot and on our family’s cow-calf operation.  Growing up, I lived for the mornings that my dad would let me tag along on Saturday mornings to check cattle at the feedlot with him.  A lot of us are probably unfamiliar with what exactly happens in a feedlot, so I am going to share about my experiences in our operation.  Hopefully it helps us all to understand a little bit about how the cattle in the pens eventually become the hamburgers and steaks that we like to see on our plate!

Growing up, spending time around cattle was my way of life.  That’s me in the leopard print jacket with the calf.
One summer in high school, I had the chance to work as a ‘pen rider’ at Circle Feeders in Garden City, Kansas.  Basically, this meant that my job was to get on my horse every morning at 6:00 and ride through pens of cattle, checking to make sure that none were sick.  If we did find an animal that was sick, we would take it out of the pen and to the hospital (yes, we call the barn where sick cattle are treated hospitals) where the employees who are trained in animal health treat the animals for their ailments.  Circle Feeders had a capacity of holding about 13,000 head of cattle.  At that time, I was riding about one-third of the pens and on an average day I would pull maybe four or five cattle out for treatment.

Last summer my dad and I did some work at a feedyard outside of Garden City, Kansas.  This is a picture of what a large-scale beef feedlot looks like.
There is a lot of talk right now about antibiotic use in livestock and the fear that we are ‘drugging up’ animals in order to make them bigger.  I have had the chance to spend time in a lot of feedlots and around a lot of beef producers in my day, and I have never once found this to be the case.  People who are raising cattle, whether it’s in a feedlot, a cow-calf operation, or whatever, ultimately care about the health of their animals.  When I was working at the feedlot, I would pull animals out to send to the ‘hospital’ because I was worried about their well-being.  They weren’t treated with medicine to bulk up or get muscles, but rather to treat an illness.  They’re going to an animal doctor, just like we go to the doctor to get medicine if we have a sore throat or the flu or a fever.  Cattle are treated so that they can get back to feeling normal so that they can continue to eat and grow!

Questions, thoughts, comments, or concerns?  I would love to hear them!  As we approach Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think about how thankful I am to have grown up around cattle, feedlots, and producers who truly care about the well-being of their animals!
Until next time,

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Get Those Hands Dirty! Bruce Vincent to Speak at K-State for Upson Lecture Series

Do you like Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs? Well, get ready because you're going to love the next installment of the Upson Lecture Series!

This coming Monday, November 10 in the K-State Student Union in Forum Hall, Bruce Vincent a third-generation logger from Libby, Montana will be speaking about getting involved in careers that get your hands dirty and the thought process and attitude behind producing goods that stimulate the economy and create a healthy environment.

Think about it, without farmers and the tough, dirty jobs they do we would not eat. Without coal miners or linesman/women we wouldn't have electricity. There is a whole world out there that is driven by hardworking men and women who are committed to using their hands, in addition to their heads, to keep the gears grinding.

Please make plans to join Food For Thought on Monday, November 10 at 7 pm in the K-State Student Union Forum Hall as Bruce Vincent presents "Wish Vision There is Hope -- How NOT to be the Career of Last Choice." It will be an eye-opening lecture and hopefully one that sparks you to institute change.

This installment of the Upson Lecture Series is partially funded with generous support from Frontier Farm Credit and American Ag Credit. Additionally, the Upson Lecture Series has now been fully endowed by the K-State Veterinary Medicine Classes of 1962 and 1966. We are excited about the amazingly generous support of these groups and look forward to bringing many more inspiring and intelligent speakers to KSU for future ULS events!

See you there!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3 Ways Anyone Can Agvocate

Start with keeping up on current issues in agriculture. From GMO labeling to conventionally raised vs. grass-fed beef, you want to be informed about the industry and what it is you’re trying to communicate. You can share as frequently or infrequently  as you’re comfortable with. Try starting with baby steps.

1. Share, like, reblog:

            Perhaps the easiest way to get information out is to pass on what researchers, professionals and agriculturists have published. If you like something you read, feel free to share it with your friends and followers! You can ignite more interest by adding your own opinion or perspective in a few short sentences.

2. Post your favorite recipe or dish

            For me, the main reason I follow Kansas Beef Council or Kansas Pork Association on Facebook and Twitter is the recipes and pictures of yummy food they post daily. It’s a quick, easy way to share fun, new ways to prepare your favorite foods (hello, Maple & Bacon Donut Fries)!

3. Original content

            There are many ways you can share your own agriculture story with others. If you’re willing to take a step outside of your comfort zone, there are opportunities everywhere, from social media to real life conversations (gasp!). Next time you sit next to a stranger on an airplane or bus, strike up a conversation—who knows, maybe you’ll be able to teach them something! However, if you’re not as comfortable with that method, there is always the wild and wonderful worldwide web. Try telling a short story along with posting a picture on Facebook or Instagram. Tweet about a newsworthy event related to agriculture that you’re interested in. Whatever you do, represent the agriculture industry as best you can.

One of my favorite things to do is feed cattle with my grandpa. Rain, sleet, snow or shine, it’s always great to spend the day on the ranch when I go home. These cattle know the sound of the feed truck and wait their turn for lunch while we feed the pen across the road.

If you’re looking for some new reading material or pages to follow, some great examples of agvocating can be found here:

Thanks, y’all!

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Joys of Raising Sheep

We often discuss cattle farming on this blog, but I would like to share a bit about my experiences raising sheep for meat and wool production. Lamb isn’t always something that crosses our mind when brainstorming what to cook for dinner. But raising meat production lambs is something that has been a part of my life since I can remember. It may be safe to say that I have some of the most spoiled sheep in the country. Each evening the flock is let out of the pasture into our yard (yes, our yard) to feast on the luscious grass and clover. There is no better feeling in the world than to see them running and jumping with joy and filling their bellies for the night. It’s a scene we call “pastoral splendor”.

Sheep grazing in the front yard
Pastoral splendor
When it is time to turn in for the night, I get my helper, Cap, to guide the sheep back to the pasture. Cap is an Australian Shepherd and my right-hand man on the farm. Our evening finishes off with some “cookies” and head scratches for the sheep. This is truly my favorite time of the night. I know my sheep are full, happy, and comfortable which means I have done my job as a shepherd. Happy and healthy sheep mean lambs that grow into quality production animals.

Dog and shepherd move sheep to pasture
Guiding sheep back to the pasture with Cap
 While I love my sheep, I understand the practicality of raising lambs for meat production. The money we make from selling lambs is used to buy feed and medicines for our resident flock and the lambs we sell enter the food system to help feed people in America. Another aspect of raising sheep includes annual shearing. We save the wool from the Romney sheep we own for use in our personal knitting projects.

Wool from the flock will be for knitting projects
We'll use this wool for our own personal knitting projects
Thanks for joining me in some of the responsibilities of a shepherd. I hope you enjoyed the trip!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hormones in Beef: The Rest of the Story

Alright, so I want to talk a little bit about hormones in beef cattle.  I mean we all know a lot about them, mass media tells about them almost daily, about how they are bad for us and how they increase the risk of cancer.  But what has always puzzled me is why we only hear about hormones in the beef industry, and about how hormone consumption in beef is going to kill us.  Well I want to tell you a little bit of the rest of the story.  Yes, it is true conventionally raised beef does contain hormones.  It contains 1.9 nanograms per 3 ounce serving.  This is compared to all natural certified organic beef which contains 1.5 nanograms per 3 ounce serving.  That is a difference of .4 nanograms per 3 ounce serving.  That is decimal point with eight zeros and a four behind it (.000000004).  There is not much of a difference.  Now compare that to a food like soybeans.  Soybeans contain phytoestrogens which have been proven to be hormonally active in humans, per three ounce serving of soybean oil there are 168,000 nanograms of phytoestrogens.  Per three ounce serving of cabbage there are 2016 nanograms of estradiol.  Both of these foods contain no meat and are used frequently in vegetarian and vegan diets.

According to USDA numbers an average per capita 60 pounds of beef is consumed per person per year in the United States.  That works out to be 320-three ounce servings per year per person.  Which in turn comes to approximately 1077.17 nanograms of estradiol per year from beef consumption.

Now I want to compare that number to something that is practiced by thousands of women every day in the United States: birth control.  What I have here is a progesterone based birth control product.  It contains .035 mg of estradiol per pill and is based on a 28 day cycle so there are 21 active pills in a dispenser of this product.  If you consider a woman who uses this product for one year, that is 252 pills or 8,820 nanograms of estradiol per year.  Remember the amount estradiol per year from beef was 1077 nanograms per year. Approximately eight times more estrogen from progesterone based birth control than from beef. Now let’s consider a woman who takes an estrogen based birth control pill. They contain 35,000 nanograms of estradiol per pill which for the same 252 pill year works out to be 8,820,000 nanograms of estradiol per year.  That is approximately equal to 875,868 lbs of beef.  Or on a hot carcass weight basis, that is like eating 1100 steers per year per person.  That works out to be just a little over three steers per person per day.  So in summary for every one pill of estrogen based birth control consumed it is like eating 3 whole cows by yourself, daily. 
If you want to trim hormones out of your diets, beef should probably not be the first place you look. 
Thanks for reading and please let us know if you have questions and leave your comments below!
~ Nick Henning

Monday, August 4, 2014

Have You Let Your Voice Be Heard?

I recently went to a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis with four friends, who are all involved in agriculture. While looking at the menu, we saw the wording, “farm-raised beef” and “locally raised” and chuckled. When the waiter came up to get our order, one person in our party asked him, “Isn’t all beef farm raised?” He replied that the restaurant is supplied with beef from a farm located northwest of Indianapolis. He did a really good job answering the question.  
There are a lot of different ways to label food products - start a conversation!
Photo courtesy:
 While my friend’s inquiry was sincere and non-aggressive, the waiter could have been embarrassed or thought we were trying to get a laugh at his expense. What I noticed was no one in our group tried to tell the waiter about livestock, crops or agriculture, not even me. All five of us just sat there and remained silent, listening to the waiter, when we could have sparked a conversation about agriculture.
What have you done to defend or promote agriculture to someone who might not be familiar with it?
Do you communicate with others about their perceptions and opinions or only communicate your own or keep to yourself? Even though we have different roles in the industry, all of us wear the hat of an agricultural communicator. We have countless opportunity to share our knowledge and technical skills with others outside of the profession – our friends, family, co-workers, etc. – about the industry.
With all that said, next time you have the chance to share with the industry we are all passionate about – do it!
Logan Britton

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cattle Eat Hay and Grass and Turn It Into Beef

Cellulose. This polysaccharide is an important component of the cell walls of the vegetation that carpets the ground around the world – which leads it to be the polymer in the most abundance on the Earth. It even makes up 40 – 50% of wood!

So, why do I bring this up? It just so happens that the most abundant polymer on Earth is also one of least digestible polymers for simple stomach mammals such as humans, and its main purpose is to serve as a “dietary fiber.”

A field of one form of cellulose - grass hay - that has been mowed and will be baled soon
A field of one form of cellulose - grass hay - that has been mowed and will be baled soon.
Ruminants such as cattle, sheep, and goats, however, are able to digest various forms of cellulose due to microorganisms that live within their gastrointestinal tract. To explain in further detail, ruminants have a complex stomach that consists of four compartments: the reticulum, rumen, omasum, and abomasum. The rumen contains certain bacteria, such as Ruminococcus, which break down cellulose into glucose that can be utilized during energy production. Simply stated, cattle and other ruminants are physiologically designed to eat cellulose because they have a very small amount of the exact right kind of bacteria in their stomach.
I find this astonishing! Such a small percentage of symbiotic bacteria present in the stomach of a ruminant animal allow an otherwise indigestible polysaccharide to be degraded to glucose and utilized for the production of animal protein which can be consumed by humans and feed our families. And remember when I said cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer in the world??
Baling grass hay to be fed to cattle during winter months
This is a hay baler - it picks up the mowed hay and winds it into
large bales which are used to feed livestock and horses.
These are some pictures from my family’s operation during the hay season. Yes, due to baling hay and other feed production methods, cattle can continue to utilize cellulose to convert it to animal protein throughout late fall and winter when grass is dormant and of poor nutritional value! Long after the pastures have turned brown from the cold, cattle are eating grasses and forages that are unfit for human consumption to produce safe, healthy and wholesome beef.

Thank you for reading,

Monday, July 14, 2014

…The chicken or the egg?

Poultry is not my expertise, nor is it my favorite meat to have at a meal. However, I recently started a position at my company in poultry marketing, and I have to say, the industry is fascinating.

According to the USDA Livestock, Poultry and Dairy Outlook June Report, the United States produces more pounds of chicken, 37.8 million (2013) to be exact, than any other meat. Add the layers with more than 6.8 million dozen eggs (2013), and you have a very large and concentrated industry.

Some background on the poultry business is helpful in understanding how your chicken and eggs are produced. This is a vertically integrated business, meaning companies control almost every point of production. (See the diagram below.) Poultry growers, or the people who raise chickens, can be contracted by a larger company, but it’s important to realize that the individual sites are usually operated by families. By owning and/or operating every point of the business, including breeding, growing broilers, raising layers (the chickens which lay the eggs), and the processing and packaging, a company can increase efficiencies and decrease costs.
Diagram Credit:
Through advances in research and technology, the business of raising chickens and turkeys has changed dramatically over time. See this video for an inside look at a primary breeder farm, one of the only parts of the poultry industry not included in the vertically integrated system. This farm focuses on producing females for broilers (the chicken we all eat) and males for breeding. (

I know many people question the poultry industry on the way they do certain things. However, one thing we can’t question is how much food they produce to feed people across the world. The turnaround on producing a broiler is under 14 weeks which means we can have a lot of chicken in a little amount of time.

 When it comes to making meat, they ain’t no chicken… Get it? J

Your fill-in poultry “expert,”
Cassie Kniebel

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cattle Enjoy Confinement

If you’ve even driven by a feedyard/feedlot you’ve likely seen cattle standing close together at the feedbunk, under the shade or just out in the middle of the pen. It sure seems like they are crowded in there, doesn’t it?

Well, did you know that cattle are gregarious? That’s just a fancy word for being sociable or fond of company, meaning that they live in close herds and social groups. So, while you may think that cattle in feedlots don’t have enough room to move around, they actually just like hanging out with their cow-pals. Cattle in feedlots have plenty of room to move around, play, lie down and eat; they would just prefer to hang out next to each other. It’s their natural instinct!
You’re probably thinking, “But Buzzard, what about when they are in large pastures with hundreds of acres to roam and graze on? Surely they spread out more to enjoy all that fresh, green grass, don’t they?”
Cattle are fundamentally a prey species, so grouping together is a way to keep the herd safer.
See all that green in the background? They could be spread out all over the place, but they prefer to stay together.
Nope! As you can see, the herding instinct doesn’t go away when they are on huge pastures. Even though they may have hundreds or even thousands of acres to roam, they still prefer to chill out in groups.
The point is that feedlot owners and employees want to keep their cattle as comfortable as possible and one of the ways they do this is by providing plenty of room for the cattle, but that doesn’t mean the cattle will take advantage of it. However, it’s important that they at least have the option.

Do you have beef production questions? Shout ‘em out – we’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

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!


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