Some People’s Kids…

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The last year has been a struggle starting a new business, but as things have gotten busier, it’s self supportive and I found myself needing a new work rig.  I gave it some time and one day, it just happened and the problem was solved.  Now I had my old pick-up and no real reason to own four rigs, so I decided to sell it.  It’s just a 1989 Ford F-250 with a Diesel engine, but she’s a good old rig and I took plenty of time writing the ad to make sure it was accurate and noting anything I could think of, including all the work I’d done to it.

A little time went by and I got a call from a young guy who wanted to see it, so we set up a time for later that day.  I got home from work and shortly after he pulled in and we shook hands.  Immediately I could tell he was trying to seem like a bit of a know-it-all and tough guy, but I didn’t let it bother me and proceeded to show him the old Ford.  I held out the key and stated that I hadn’t started it in about two days, which was the truth, so he could see how it started and ran.  I suppose my first clue should have been that he didn’t know about the glow plugs, but I have many years as a training instructor under my belt, so I explained it to him and told him when to crank it.  Well, he tapped the key and let go.  I don’t know how many of you have ever cranked a 20+ year old Diesel engine, but it didn’t start like that, it takes a little more turning over.  So, I told him to just do it again.  Apparently he didn’t think he needed to ask if he didn’t know something so he turned the key back, not realizing there is a release lever on the column.  So at that point, he just twisted it back harder and I heard a pop.

He tried cycling the ignition again and now it wouldn’t work.  “Hmm, seems like something is wrong with it.” He said casually.  I traded places with him and sure enough, now you couldn’t turn the key far enough to crank the motor.  I got agitated but kept my head as I started working on figuring it out.  “Wellll, if you get it running, let me know and maybe I’ll come back out.” He said nonchalantly as he headed for his pick-up.  He high tailed it, and after it was all said and done, I can start and drive my old rig, but to fix it, the easiest thing to do is replace the steering column.  WHAT??  Yes, that’s what I said too.  I found one a buddy has, but that’s over an hour away.  I messaged this kid again offering that if he paid $40 for fuel so I could get the part, we’d call it square.  His answer?  “It’s not my problem your rig broke.  Find another buyer.”  And nothing since.

Now I know there may be people out there who would accuse someone of breaking things just for a free fix, but the fact of the matter is I take care of my stuff and make a living by my reputation.  Lying to sell an old pick-up sure wouldn’t help that along in a small community.  But how someone thinks that breaking something and then playing tough guy and not taking responsibility is alright is in for a rude awakening.  It’s true what they say, what goes around, comes around.  I for one, sure hope that when it does he remembers it and actually learns a lesson from it.  What I take from this is that stuff is only stuff, it works, it breaks, that’s just life.  It’s the human element that’ll really mess you over, and while I got the short end of the stick this time, it’s fixable, and life goes on.  I’m not going to search high and low for the guy and pistol whip $40 out of him.  That wouldn’t really solve anything.  It’s just another day, there will be more- some good, some bad, but always worth waking up for.

To Implant or not to Implant?

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There is much contention on this topic centered around marketing and product consumption, but unfortunately, some of the points of view are based on bad or insufficient information.  In my experience having been around both grassfed, non-implanted cattle and implanted feedlot animals, my opinion is based on the goal of the operation.  There are many reasons to choose one side, the other, or somewhere in between; maybe its a niche or local market we try to reach, perhaps its based on our own ethics or standards. For whatever reason though, it really comes down to the producer’s final decision.

Hormonal implants are placed in the back of the ear under the skin where there is no direct contact with edible portions of the carcass as mandated by federal law.  Implants are made up of small beads that contain growth stimulant that is released over a period of time which is determined by the product used and the producers implanting plan.  Growth stimulating products are used in approximately one-third of the nations cattle herds, and while they have been studied extensively and approved for use for over 50 years, many refuse to utilize implants or even consume products from implanted cattle.  Many people do not realize how little if any of this hormonal increase is detectable in beef from implanted animals, and that the potential amount of estrogen consumed pales in comparison to the normal amount the human body produces on a daily basis.

The reality of US beef production is that we are feeding the world essentially, so we also have to take other market’s desires into effect.  Cattle and other agricultural commodities will be feeding an exponentially increasing population estimated to be over 9 billion people by 2050.  Yet we don’t have an increasing land mass and ever tightening standards leave producers constantly finding new ways to increase gains and improve animal production.  Due to these, and many other reasons, we lose agricultural lands every year as the number of farmers and ranchers declines.  The EPA states “less than 1% (of the US population) claim farming as an occupation (and about 2% actually live on farms)” http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/demographics.html.

There are many reasons people may have on either side of the implanting issue, but there are available options to purchase beef produced practically every way you can imagine to fit any lifestyle.  I urge you to disregard rumors, stigmas, and others opinions; instead use the amazing resources available to every American today and spend a few minutes doing a little bit of research.  There are many college and state extension web sites as well as federal guidelines that may not change any opinions, but can inform and educate the general public.  I personally recommend starting at a site like: http://www.drugs.com/vet/ralgro-implants-for-beef-cattle.html.  Drugs.com covers uses and effects of practically every drug used worldwide, and cattle implants are included.  Hopefully this will serve to inform and clear up some common misconceptions associated with implanting beef cattle.  Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave some feedback on this topic!

The Future of Our Traveling Large Animal Vet

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The cattle industry is struggling, not just in regards to natural issues such as drought, feed, or animals produced, but concerning the human element involved.  Individual ranches get larger as the smaller producers are forced to sell out or retire and yet the population, and thus the demand for quality beef,  continues to grow.  Many cattleman’s associations have already seen this as memberships have declined sharply in recent years.  Yet in order to meet the continual demand for beef, there will never be a way to completely remove the rancher from the picture.  As other industries such as technology and the medical field increase and our next generation steps out into those markets, our typical rancher is nearing retirement age with very few stepping up to assume their places.  There are folks out there like myself that are already in or preparing to assume these duties and lifestyles, but not in the numbers seen in the past.

This rings true for many aspects surrounding the beef cattle production market.  A recent study by the American Veterinary Medical Association shows that only 2% of the 2010 graduating DVM classes are planning to work primarily with large ag animals rather than specialty or small animal practices.  I personally know many veterinarians and current vet students (I work at the Center for Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University) and as such, I have seen that fact firsthand.  50% of the current ag animal practitioners are over the age of 50 now (the same AVMA survey as above), and with fewer replacements, this could be a recipe for trouble on the horizon for ranchers and producers.  How, you may ask?  As the number decreases, their time simply becomes more valuable,  and the further they drive, the more expensive the farm call becomes.  It’s not any kind of cloak and dagger conspiracy, but simple economics.

And so, we all ask, what do we do about it?  My answer comes from my roots as a high country, Oregon rancher – self reliance.  Yes, there will be times when it is necessary to call the vet for a farm call, it’s unavoidable.  But there are many things we as the producers can do for our stock between these calls.  Educate yourself in the required testing needed to get your cattle to the market you are involved in.  No matter if it’s breeding and genetics, beef production, or dairy cattle products, there are ways you can do your own testing and actually pay less.   There are many classes offered to teach you animal husbandry and basic skills short of getting your Veterinary Technician license that can make nearly anyone more comfortable drawing blood, taking prepuce scrapings, and gathering diagnostic specimens.  Almost every State University in states with a high concentration of agricultural areas have a veterinary disease diagnostic lab, and with a little research online, you will find that they will accept private owner submissions just as readily as those taken and submitted by your local veterinarian.  The internet puts all this information and more at our fingertips, and I for one believe in using it to it’s fullest extent.  If, however, you’re not comfortable with this, there is another option.  Consulting and herd management services handle many of these same tests as well as nutritional guidance, feed sampling, and general health requirements.

Perhaps you’ve used one of these services in the past or plan to in the future.  I would like to hear any experiences or opinions about it, or answer questions about sample submissions as that is currently the line of work I handle.  Thanks for reading!

The USDA has a comprehensive listing of testing facilities that can be found at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahln/labs.shtml

Cattle Rustling? C’mon, this is 2011!

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It may not be the same as the days of old when a band of cattle rustlers rides in after sundown and makes off with the herd, guns a-blazing, but even today it does still happen.  Over the last year, there have been a number of documented cases that has risen since 2009.  While even after researching this topic I found no solid statistics as I was digging through old newspaper articles and online sources, I did learn a few interesting facts.  Branding and tattooing animals has been used worldwide for thousands of years, but things became much more legitimized with state and national brand registration.  Ear tags can be removed, tattoos easily covered, but altering or attempting to alter a brand is quite easily recognized.  Unfortunately, as free range has faded, so has the tradition of branding cattle in many areas.

Most cattle that are stolen from today’s ranchers seem to follow the economy.  As times get tough most crimes go up, and cattle rustling isn’t exempt.  If you read the news, most of this is happening in Africa and usually by hungry people that would otherwise starve.  Multiple deaths associated with rustling overseas have been documented even this year.  But here in America, most don’t just snip the wire to fill their starving family’s freezer, it boils down to out and out premeditated crime.  Prize bucking bulls are taken, and though a large number are retrieved, not before the thief stocks up on semen that often times sells for thousands of dollars a straw.  With technology coming along like it has and genetics so important in the rodeo circuits, those days may be limited, but it still presents a problem.

Most cattle are stolen, however, to turn a quick profit.  Transported across state lines and sold mostly in the private market as stockyards need proof of ownership and often vaccination records.  To the clever criminal, though, most of these can be forged, and to the private buyer who may not be aware another victim is pulled into their scheme.  I’ve been lucky enough to have never had to deal with this problem firsthand, and I never hope to have to.  If this has ever happened to you, I would be very interested to hear about it if you post a reply!