Friday, October 21, 2011

We are not a Factory Farm....we are a family! (Food Day Principle #4)

Good Afternoon!  There have been lots of blogging this week about Food Day!
Check out some other farmer blogs on this topic!


South Dakota Farm Wife Food Day Voice & Food and Farming



And you can always check out my previous post.

Also don't forget to help make a difference in the fight against hunger and donate to my virtual food drive here!  

So let's move on to today's Food Day principle.  To be honest...this one makes my blood boil because I feel like I am constantly fighting the same fight but not gaining any ground! 

Food Day Principle #4: Protect the Environment and farm animals by reforming factory farms.

Dawn over at Lady of Ag has done a great job helping people understand that we aren't factory farms we are family farms.  Take a few moments to hop over there and read from her side of the fence!

Here is a quick video to recap some of what I am going to write today!


And again in the interest of full disclosure we are considered a large farm.  "The  National Agricultural Statistics Service report divides up the U.S. farms into economic (annual) sales classes. These are between $1,000 and $10,000, between $10,000 and $100,000, between $100,000 and $250,000, between $250,000 and $500,000, and finally those farms that have annual sales > $500,000. In 2007, the NASS report estimated there were 1.22 million farms in the first economic class (between $1,000 and $10,000) while there were 126,000 farms in the fifth class (> $500,000). (Larry Jacobson, University of Minnesota)."     We fit into the 4th class of farms having annual sales between $250,000 and $500,000. 


The first thing Food Day organizers attack in this principle are confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs.  According to the EPA Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) are agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.  The C just means confined in South Carolina, which is kind of misleading since our cattle are only confined during milking.  The principle states that size and location of CAFOs should be strictly regulated.  CAFO's are strictly regulated.  We are inspected on a regular basis to ensure we are not polluting the air, land or water.  We have a waste management plan that we must follow and update as needed.  Also with me working as an environmental outreach coordinator specializing in water quality we participate in numerous programs to help improve water quality on our farm...including installing buffers, limiting or eliminating access to creeks and ponds, and stabilizing run-off proned areas. 

This statement just shows more of  an agenda (in my opinion) as HSUS & PETA want to control operations they don't understand.  (I would like to control the size and location of those two organizations...like give 95% of their annual donations to local animal shelters and leave their directors on a deserted island...anyways) 

It always amazes me that we point fingers at people so we don't have to point them at ourselves.  We have found in York County we can contribute more fecal contamination of our waterways to irresponsible pet owners and improperly functioning septic tanks than we can farmers and I am sure this could be true in other areas as well. 

The principle also spews some major misinformation lets just look at the 1st 2 of 5 bullet points:

•Livestock produce some three trillion pounds of manure annually. Mountains and lakes of excrement pollute the air and water.  According to the EPA the entire U.S. agriculture sector accounts for only 6 percent of annual U.S. Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.  Of this livestock production is estimated to account for 2.8 percent of total U.S. emissions.  Most farmers use their manure as fertilizer instead of purchasing chemical fertilizers.  This is a type of recycling and giving the land back many of the nutrients it needs.  There are even large businesses now who purchase animal waste just to compost and sell to homeowners.  " Almost every farm, large or small, will maintain the soils nutrients by the addition of natural (cover crops), organic (animal manure), or chemical fertilizers otherwise it will not produce the crops planted. Similarly, soil conservation practices such as contour farming, wind breaks, and vegetative buffer strips are practiced or built on both large and smaller farms.  (Larry Jacobson, University of Minnesota)."    


•Antibiotics added to animal feed may lead to antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.  First you need to take a look at this Antibiotic Approval Process Factsheet to get a better understanding of the rigorous testing.  Then understand that farmers/ranchers and veterinarians take great care to administer only the amount of antibiotics needed to bring an animal back to health. The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA)program has been training beef producers about the safe and appropriate use of antibiotics since the 1980s.  The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Producer Guidelines for “Judicious Use of Antimicrobials” have been in place since 1987 and specifically outline the appropriate use of these products:Multiple studies have reviewed whether antibiotic use in cattle production causes an increased risk to consumers by developing antibiotic-resistant foodborne or other pathogens, and none have found a connection (Journal of Food Protection, July 2004; Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 2003).

• Avoid using antibiotics that are important in human medicine.

• Use a narrow spectrum of antimicrobials whenever possible.

• Treat the fewest number of animals possible.

• Antibiotic use should be limited to prevent or control disease and should not be used if the primary intent is to improve performance.

These are guidelines that not only apply to beef farmers but dairy, pork, poultry, and lamb.  We all do our best to ensure our animals are healthy and safe to consume.  Here are some facts from studies which have been conducted:


The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) was established in 1996 as a collaborative effort among FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This program provides an early-warning system for detecting
any change in pathogen resistance patterns.  http://www.fda.gov/cvm/narms_pg.html


• Guidance 152 is an FDA recommended process implemented in 2003 that adds an additional safety measure to prevent antimicrobial resistance that may result from the use of antimicrobial drugs in animals.

http://www.fda.gov/cvm/Guidance/fguide152.pdf

• The beef industry takes seriously the potential of antimicrobial resistance. As a result, the industry has funded more than 13 comprehensive research projects to enhance the understanding of the basic science of resistance development, as well as collect information on the effects of beef production practices on resistance development in food borne pathogens. www.beefresearch.org
The article continues to throw misinformation around in this sentence "Many dairy cows have their tails cut off without painkillers and generally never eat a blade of grass in their lives." That is simply not true!  Yes some dairies dock the tails on their milk cows for sanitary reasons but many dairies do not.  We do not. 


a dry cow...grazing

Our dry cows (cows they aren't milking) and heifers (female cattle which haven't had a calf) graze almost exclusively expect for in times when there is a shortage of grass then they are supplemented with hay.  Once a cow or heifer has a calf they are then brought into the milk line and calves are placed in hutches to receive daily care. 

young calf in hutch....with grass
These cows are fed a different diet as their dietary needs have now changed.  Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows that once the baby is born and you are nursing you must change your diet to meet the new demands on your body...the same is true for cattle.  On our farm the milk cows are allowed to go out and graze between milkings however that isn't possible on all dairies therefore those cows are given roughage (typically hay) to help with their digestion.  Never would you find a cattlemen feeding just grain to cattle...the cattle will also have access to hay in order to ensure proper rumen function. 

Farmers currently raise animals in the most efficient way ever.  We are producing more food using less resources than ever before.  It is not possible for us to convert back to the 1950's way of farming and feed and ever expanding nation and world.  Doing so would cause approximately 150 million people living in the U.S. to be without food.  That's everyone in the 13 largest U.S. states, hungry!  (www.bestfoodfact.org)

OK so to wrap today's principle up:

1. I am not a factory farmer....neither are 98% of the other farmers out there
2. We do our best each and every day on our farm to ensure we are supplying a safe, wholesome and affordable food supply.
3. We protect the environment daily because that is what is best for our family, your families and our business...we want to our son to become the 11th generation of our families to farm unless we protect our natural resources he won't have those opportunities.

If you would like to ask specific questions or start a conversation about farming and food please feel free to contact me or check out CommonGround's website.   

Until next time---

Caci