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)”

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: 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!


Here in the Real World…

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I was browsing the online classifieds one evening after another weekday at work and three college classes when I stumbled across a job for a ranch manager in Eastern Montana.  “Look, at this!  Wouldn’t that be awesome?” I exclaimed as I read the ad aloud.  Every bit qualified, and always ready to run off and cowboy somewhere other than where I am at the present time, it sounded worthwhile to load our lives into the Ford pick-up and brave the icy northwest winter roads.  Of course that’d mean dropping out of a semester of classes and leaving a job with a pending promotion in the dust, but it was MONTANA!  Something about the Montana cattle country has called to me since my last deployment in the Middle East prior to leaving active duty a year and a half ago.  I slept on it, mulled it over the next day and came to the realization (as I had last summer when I had the chance to run a pack string in the Idaho mountains) that no matter where you are or what you are doing, there is a pretty likely chance that somewhere, somehow, the grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence.

Needless to say, since I just took a math test this past Wednesday and did get that promotion at work, that I am not writing this from the house included with the job as a ranch foreman.  But I have been in this situation on a few occasions now and realize that it’s just life, and here in the real world, there are bills to pay, uncertain paths to future dreams and aspirations, and sometimes in order to get to where you want to be, you have to buckle down to the job at hand might not always get to do exactly what you want.  That being said, once I started thinking about it, I am lucky enough to have a drama-free lifestyle, a job that I don’t hate that pays the bills and helps put food in the cupboards, and a comfortable place to call home.  And that’s what it all comes down to, right?  The nuts and bolts that build the foundation for a happy, rewarding life regardless of where you are, where your headed, or what title you may hold.  Sometimes all we need to reflect on how good we really have it are moments like this.

Wordless Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012


Tips About Blood Vacuum Tube Samples


I popped the stopper off of a red topped tube on an equine sample I was processing after being spun down, only to find the clot was stuck to it and pulled out as well, flinging blood all over the table.  I may have uttered a few choice words at that point and then went about cleaning up the mess and resetting the sample to be spun again…  There was plenty for sampling left, but situations like this happen all to regularly in the lab and are easily avoided.

I recently switched from working in the office to the serology lab at the animal disease diagnostic lab.  It may not be my life’s calling, but it has been a valuable learning experience, and those of you who know me know I promote owner submitted sampling for herd health checks.  Prior to this shift, I thought blood tubes were blood tubes, yes, different colored stopper lids indicate use for different testing, but lets go more basic than that and focus on Red Topped serum collection vacuum tubes.  These are the most commonly used and necessary for many animal health tests.  Basic tube construction, size, stopper, and label.  That’s about all they’re made up of.  You may ask, “So what?”, but the varieties of these components can help or hinder your sample quality as well as how the sample is collected.

1) Tube size.  This is pretty simple to figure out, look at the test to be done and the amount of blood/serum needed to complete it.  Multiple tests may need more, but usually in a very minuscule amount.  There is really no use in adding further stress to an animal and taking more of your time to bleed excessive amounts or fill multiple tubes that will not even be used for sampling.  Ensure you do take the minimum amount to properly mix with the additive, though.  Besides, at some point you have to put that sample in the mail, and less weight = lower shipping costs.

2) Tube type.  There are very few options, but glass and plastic.  Plastic can be more resilient if dropped or handled roughly, but in my opinion the clot does not from as well in plastic and that can raise the red cell count in a serum sample which can affect the end results.

3) Labels.  This is important and often forgotten, most tubes come with labels already adhered to them.  Before you leave the barn, and more importantly before you ever send it on it’s way, ensure it is properly and legibly labeled.  If you should have a positive, you’re going to want to be 100% sure you know where that sample came from.

4) Stopper.  There are several different styles of stopper, and they all seem to work as well as the next- as long as they are not removed prior to use.  The vacuum is lost at that point and the tube will not work properly.

5) Clotting. After sample collection, ensure lid is well seated and gently invert the sample 4-5 times for plastic (none for glass) to ensure good coverage of additive.  Let the sample sit for a minimum of 30 minutes up to an hour to allow for good clot formation.

6) Shipping.  As I touched on above there are a few points to consider when shipping and in addition to these, pay close attention to packaging.  A glass tube in a standard envelope will probably not make it to it’s destination in one piece.  Keep in mind, your name and address are on that package and any fines incurred for leaky specimens will be easily forwarded.   Ice packs are recommended in the hotter months, but generally not required other times of the year.  Use proper padding, bubble wrap or foam works well, but 25 layers of toilet paper really does not.

These are some pointers I have learned firsthand from being on the other side of the process from the producer, hopefully they can help you streamline your own testing processes.

For more information on different types of collection tubes and other helpful information, as well as products available, please visit:

Wordless Wednesday (26 Oct, 2011)

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From a local newspaper publication, please visit to see more!

Please Stand and Remove Your Hat…

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I love rodeos.  Something about being there on either side of the chutes that just really gets me going.  The smell, the sounds, hanging out swapping stories with the cowboys and the people who take so much time to organize the events is just about as American as it gets.  I was at a rodeo this weekend and had the opportunity to observe from the announcing booth area which is a great view.  Chatted with the folks there and as the very nice woman prepared to sing the National Anthem, the announcer stated the usual “Ladies and gentleman, please stand and remove your hat for the singing of our National Anthem!”.  I popped to attention (can’t be helped after serving for so many years) and covered my heart with my cowboy hat.  As she progressed through the Anthem, I observed the crowd in the stands and behind the gates from a vantage point I’d never had before.  I was appalled by the sheer number of people who didn’t budge or those who kept their hat on.  The worst part was there were many more behind the chutes than in the stands.  I don’t mean young people who don’t know better, bronc riders prepping their animals, or the guy nearly out of earshot stacking hay bales- I mean all the other people who live and breathe rodeo, ranchers, family members and friends who get the chance to watch the show from the best seats in the house.  Red-blooded American people who should know better!

There are things about this country’s politics and procedures that I may not personally agree with (and also a subject I will steer well clear of), but I also know how good we have it here.  We still have enough surplus that a cowboy can climb on a bull worth thousands of dollars that will never be anyone’s dinner and try to get paid for 8 seconds’ work, for crying out loud.  To me, removing your hat and standing up isn’t just paying homage to a song or a flag or the recently established national budget; it represents showing respect for everything we value and have accomplished, for our friends and family serving here and overseas, and it allows us to take a moment to do this when we may not otherwise.  If drinking your beer or that conversation with someone next to you is that important, maybe you have never served this country, your state, your county or city in any capacity, know anyone who has, or lost a friend in the line of duty.  But you don’t have to.  Because this is America, and you get that choice.  So, if you enjoy that ability, that freedom, to make independent choices like that, maybe the next time you hear the announcer says those words you’ll stop what you’re doing…

…And stand up, remove your hat if you’re wearing one, and cover your heart for 30 seconds.

Wordless Wednesday, Sept 7th, 2011

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