Wednesday, November 2, 2011

HIATUS

I am sorry to say that I am suspending posting until further notice.

Family illness and responsibility to such requires my undivided attention.

Hopefully, I can get back to writing in the near future.

Monday, September 19, 2011

BRIGHTNESS IN A DARK TIME

Well, the drought continues, hardship abounds...out of the darkness comes BRIGHTNESS!!

Our newest additions to the herd:





Saturday, September 10, 2011

DROUGHT PERSPECTIVE

FROM: The Austin American Statesman


Photographs by Jay Janner
Story by Brenda Bell
Austin American-Statesman staff
The meanest drought in modern Texas history looks different out here, away from the cities.
There are no emerald swaths of St. Augustine lawns, no blooming shrubs, no misters cooling bar patrons as the sun goes down on another cloudless, 105-degree day. The disconnect between what rural Texans are experiencing and sheltered urbanites are seeing has never seemed greater.
Out here, the brutality of the drought is measured not in annoying water restrictions or water pipes bursting in the dessicated ground — all now commonplace in Texas cities and towns — but threatened livelihoods, and the waning of life itself.
Livestock and agricultural losses are already estimated at $5.2 billion, and expected to rise. Stock tanks have dried up, hungry cattle are being rushed to market, crops plowed under. Wildfires have torched more than 3.4 million acres; deer are abandoning their young; oak trees that have weathered many a hot summer are fading.
The state’s aquifers, which supply 60 percent of its water supply, are dropping, squeezed by development pressure and lack of rainfall. Some of the brightest jewels in the river system - the Blanco, the Pedernales, have slowed to a trickle. The Sabine, in normally lush East Texas, is at an all-time low.
The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows an angry red blotch covering almost all of Texas, denoting extreme to exceptional — the most severe — drought conditions. In the past 12 months, just 15 inches of rain have fallen, the driest such period on record. The average daily temperature in July (87.1 degrees) beat the old 1954 record, by nearly two degrees. August temperatures, currently averaging over 89 degrees, are on target to set a new record too.
These “phenomenally consistent” weather conditions are the result of a long-running La Nina weather pattern — the same set-up for the infamous 1950sdrought, says Mark Rose, meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority. When it began in 1949, one of every two Texans was still living in rural areas; by the time it ended seven years later, Texas had become an urban state, most of its population unfamiliar with the yearning for a good, two-inch rain.
There is no better depiction of that earlier time and place than Elmer Kelton’s “The Time It Never Rained,” the story of an old rancher’s struggle against the unforgiving “drouth” (in the Texas vernacular) — a story that rang so true that many readers believed the main character was based on their own fathers.
“I hoped the novel would give urban people a better understanding of hazards the rancher and farmer face in trying to feed and clothe them,” Kelton wrote in his preface to the book. “The heaviest readership, however, was west of the Mississippi. In effect I found myself preaching to the choir.”
Kelton died in San Angelo in August, 2009, a few months before the last statewide drought ended.





Friday, September 9, 2011

TROUBLES IN TEXAS

Well, almost a month since I posted....Between the "BEYOND SEVERE" drought, wildfires and a hay shortage....

The situation here is very dire. There is little forage left and hay is in short supply...and what is available is coming in from other states at 4 to 5 times the normal price. Hundreds of thousands of acres have burned in the numerous wildfires and lakes/rivers are literally drying up.

These are pictures of a couple of wildfires that have added to the misery.



Just as Americans across the Gulf Coast after "Katrina" and those hardy "East Coasters" now, We will PERSEVERE...for we are not only Texans, but Americans to boot!!

Will be back to posting very soon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Traveling Through "The Heartland" con't

Almost Home!
Drought conditions in Texas are continuing to worsen. Long range forecast says no significant rain until the first quarter of 2012........

Here is a pic of a vineyard over looking Lake Michigan at sunset.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Traveling Through "The Heartland"

As Mentioned, I am currently traveling. I am visiting "America's Heartland" where I have visited with a couple of farmers in Ohio and will be in northern Michigan for the next 10 days.

I can honestly say...The family farm is still alive and once again beginning to thrive. Will be posting an article with some pictures on "buy local" and some of the innovative businesses that are springing up "from the farm" in a few days!

In the meantime, here is a pic of the road that leads to part of our ranch...beauty comes in many forms and structure...


Friday, July 29, 2011

The DROUGHT Continues

27 Consecutive Days of 100+ Degrees

The Texas Drought is worsening
This picture was taken on our 23rd consecutive day of 100 degrees or higher.

Due to their deep and extensive root systems, the trees in the background will stay green longer than grass. However, close inspection will reveal a browning effect on the leaf edges caused by stress from lack of adequate moisture.

I will be traveling for a week or so. Hope you enjoy the photo.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

GROW! the Movie




THIS is why I write...because there is a "Growing" movement, slowly, surely, spreading across this great land. The Renaissance of our heritage.  A heritage, though bruised and battered, is healing...there is real hope that the family farm and ranch will rise again!








GROW!
is a documentary profiling a group of young farmers in Georgia


A new 50 minute documentary that captures the energy and independence of a fresh crop of young farmers.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It's not just 'Old MacDonald' on the farm anymore. All across the U.S. there is a growing movement of educated young people who are leaving the cities to take up an agrarian life. Armed with college degrees, some are unable to find jobs in the current economic slump. Fed up with corporate America and its influence on a broken food system, they aim to solve some of the current system's inequities by growing clean, fair food. Mostly landless, they borrow, rent or manage farmland in order to fulfill their dreams of doing something meaningful with their lives.

GROW! takes a look at this new generation of sustainable farmers through the eyes, hearts and minds of 20 passionate, idealistic and fiercely independent young growers. In the film they speak of both the joys and the challenges involved in tending the land.

Filmed on 12 farms throughout the state of Georgia during an entire growing season, GROW! provides an honest and inspiring look at this next generation of farmers.

Anybody who appreciates the value of good, wholesome food grown close to home, who cares about our food supply and the future of farming will want to see GROW!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

HISTORY - It is All Around Us

This Cemetery is located within the boundaries of our ranch

Oldest Headstone date is 1845

I will be traveling for a week or so. Hope you enjoy the photo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

REVISITING "LET THEM EAT GRASS!" - (Cattle and the Greenhouse Gas Myth)


  1. **Warning! This is a  continuation of a "SMOKEY" Rant and an exercise in Self Indulgent Pontification**



    As I have stated, my interests and passion lie in protecting and promoting the “small producers” in agriculture…if you browse my writings, you see that I have tried to communicate the major disadvantages “we little guys/gals” face in the current food production model(s). I advocate, vociferously for the family farm/ranch, eat local/buy local, farmers markets, etc, etc.

    I have been engaged in healthy debate, in the comment sections, on a couple of websites, regarding my harsh remarks about the new book by Environmental Working Group (EWG) Meat Eaters Guide to Climate + Health
    In the interest of “full disclosure”, I have not read the book.
    What I have read is an article, about the message in the book, on “Civil Eats” , that slants the material to give the reader the impression that beef production is not only bad for the environment, but a bad food choice as well…read the article again, carefully because there is a “negative tone” towards beef (the word is beef, not grain fed or grass fed) in the opening paragraph:
    “Yes, I buy meat. I’d rather not”
    Now, as any trained journalist knows, the writer must “set the message and tone” in the first paragraph because a high percentage of readers “skim” the first few sentences of an article…so, this authors message, in the opening, is negative toward BEEF in general. 
     Later in the article, the author, does attempt to differentiate between production styles with a tepid endorsement of grass fed beef…I say tepid because they then close the article with: “Start today by taking EWG’s pledge to eat less meat. (and hey, it’s Monday, why not make today your first Meatless Monday?).” It doesn’t say less grain fed or CAFO beef…just beef.
    NOW THEN…how many people read Civil Eats daily? How many readers could be influenced by this article?…My response was harsh and inflammatory because I was (am) trying to get people to at least look at both sides of the issue…not make a snap judgement.
    I’m sure the EWG authors are very nice people. BUT, they are trying to sell a book and bashing the meat industry is fashionable, right now…regardless of who gets caught in the web of negativity.
    Let’s look at “Peer Review”
    The book is putting forth a “Theory” that the authors have surmised based on their interpretation of the data gathered.
    VERY SIMPLY PUT: Peer review is the presenting of a study’s data (facts) with detailed information on methodology and interpretation, then published in an accepted journal for other scientists to review..."review" means that other scientists can see if proper/accepted scientific methodology and protocol were followed in order to reach the stated conclusion(s)...not, necessarily to say the conclusion is "right or wrong".
    Facts may be interpreted in different ways by different individuals.
    Which is why I stated in my comment on Civil Eats, WE *MEAT* AGAIN, and the first part of this article on my blog, that I could interpret the authors data to fit my theory…of just the opposite.
    PARA-PHRASED from “Cattle Today”
    (article is based on the above referenced study)
     …Until recently, some claimed the level of atmospheric methane was related to the number of ruminants in the world (mostly cows, sheep and goats). It seemed as though for each additional billion large ruminants (where 8 sheep = 1 large ruminant), atmospheric methane increased by 1 ppb (parts per billion). Between 1979 and 1999, methane concentrations increased by 10.8 ppb per year, and large ruminant numbers increased by about 8.7 billion per year….
    …the increase in methane in the atmosphere has slowed. On November 17, 2003, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere was leveling off and it appears to have remained at about the same level as in 1999 (there has been a nonsignificant increase of 0.3 ppb/year). Now it seems the strong relationship between number of cows and methane that once existed has vanished. Since 1999, it seems as though for each additional billion ruminants, methane now increases by only 0.005 ppb….

    …a recent report, by an organization that won the 2007 Nobel Peace prize, said “If methane emissions grow in direct proportion to increases in livestock numbers, then global livestock-related methane production is expected to increase by 60 percent up to 2030 (FAO 2003),” The slow increase in methane now raises questions about the accuracy of this prediction by Nobel laureates….

     The Defense Rests, Your Honor. 






Friday, July 22, 2011

NEW "KID" on the BLOCK!

"Roses" has a new baby bull calf. She is an outstanding Mom!



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"LET THEM EAT GRASS!" - Cattle and the GREENHOUSE GAS MYTH

**Warning! This is a "SMOKEY" Rant and an exercise in Self Indulgent Pontification**


This Book is quite possibly a "CROCK", especially about GRASS FED BEEF.
 It appears to be another example of manipulating data in order to profit from the use of scare tactics.

From the Website CIVIL EATS:




"...Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) new Meat Eaters Guide to Climate + Health. In it, EWG took a close look at how a variety of protein foods rank when their total, “cradle-to-grave” greenhouse gas emissions are calculated. Then we factored in the non-climate environmental impacts (like water pollution) and health effects of meat and confirmed that, indeed, not all meat..."


I am FED UP with the yammering about cow burps and "farts" having some kind of huge impact on green house gas. It’s Bull s__ (no pun intended, well, maybe)! The stated impact by the “Global Warming” crowd is nothing short of...hyperbole.


Using the “greenie” method of carbon offsets, bovines more than offset their gas emissions with what they return to the environment.


-They “harvest grass” and poop the seeds, thus propagating the spread of oxygen emitting grass/plants.
-Their poop/urine is a fantastic source of nitrogen, one of the essentials of life itself, and is a natural fertilizer as well.
-Their weight and hoofs act as “plows” scraping, tilling, and mashing the soil thus allowing seeds to germinate faster

(In fact, an ancient method of planting was to spread seed on the ground and then herd the cows back and forth to mash the seed into the soil)
Just to name A FEW!


Furthermore, your statements on unhealthy fat is flat WRONG when talking Grass Fed. 


The beef that is unhealthy is the feedlot beef that has been fed grains (either conventional or organic)…over use of grain in a ruminant animal changes the chemical structure of the fat content to an unhealthy fat (not to mention the havoc it wrecks on animal health)…Grass fed fat has certain levels of Omega 3 and cancer fighting CLA. 


Oh, and you trust the findings of the USDA, “Really? I beg to differ! The jury is not “out” on grass fed vs grain fed….Many independent studies have proven GRAIN FED IS BAD, Grass fed is NATURES NATURALLY PREFERRED METHOD and better for you.


This book will cause further harm to the individuals who are the backbone of what’s left of our “healthy” food production system…the quickly fading, American icon known as the Family Farm…


Well, done! This book will help to drive yet another nail into their coffins by driving more people away from beef.


For "the REAL FACTS" Read a previous Smokey Rant:
"Healthy Beef - It's In the Grass"
                                                                    





Sunday, July 17, 2011

"The "COW" DAYS OF SUMMER

A mid-day Siesta (Spanish for resting) in 100+ degree weather. 
Texas is now in the grip of the worst drought on record...

Friday, July 15, 2011

WHAT'S YOUR BEEF?

AUTHOR'S NOTE - All of the premises presented in this series of posts are solely based on personal experience as a livestock producer and strictly as a cattleman (I have a basic understanding of farm commodities markets, but no real experience with such, and cannot speak with much authority from the farm side of things; Though I would think there are going to be some similarities). The information represents my opinion and is based on personal experiences. Any factual information may or may not be referenced, but be aware, the majority of the content is personal conjecture. Dialogue and comment are welcome.


“Don’t Sell the Steak—Sell the Sizzle!" (Elmer Wheeler; "Trusted Sentences that Sell", 1937)




"Oh, the power of marketing". We have all heard that said, but, just what is Marketing? Well, the answer is based on who is being asked.


- Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.” (Small Business Branding)

- Marketing is based on thinking about the business in terms of customer needs and their satisfaction. (Business Dictionary)

I see the practice in very simple terms: Marketing is about exchanging value through the use of "half-truths".



EXAMPLE: "The" customer is health conscious and knows "whole grain" bread is better for them, so:
Marketing is a loaf of bread label that says "made with whole grains" and has the                   American Heart Association seal of approval. Sounds healthy, right(?)...until you read the ingredients and see it is made with high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and a load of preservatives.


In essence, our food industry markets or advertises what the consumer wants to see or hear.  They "market" half of the truth....the whole truth is right there on the label as well...in "itty bitty" small print.




http://www.angus.org/

Which, brings me to the selling of beef and the marketing juggernaut known as "Certified Angus Beef" or CAB for short.

Now, traditionally, beef has been sold in steakhouses and supermarkets based on USDA grading (Prime, Choice, Select, etc.); however, many restaurants and retailers have recently begun advertising beef on the strength of brand names and the reputation of a specific breed of cattle.

The American Angus Association set up the "certified Angus Beef" brand in 1978. The goal of this brand is to promote the idea that Angus beef is of higher quality than beef from other breeds of cattle. Cattle that are at least 51% black and exhibit Angus-type characteristics are eligible for "Certified Angus Beef" evaluation.

Before the advent of the Certified Angus Beef brand, beef was just, well, beef. The commodity was bought and sold, based on grade with little, if any, preference to breed. Branding was the sole province of the Swift, Armour, and Stanko meatpacking companies.

The CAB concept was revolutionary and changed everything. The American Angus Association took their message straight to the consumer and then "partnered" with the meatpackers to create the image that angus beef actually tasted better than other breeds. Today, Certiļ¬ed Angus Beef is the world’s largest branded beef program, commanding an eye popping 60% market share.

THE HALF-TRUTH
Wow! When the consumer buys a package of beef with the CAB label, they are getting pure angus meat, right? Originally that was true, but today, certified angus beef comes from an animal that has just 1/8 angus in its bloodline or breeding. It doesnt come from pure bred angus cattle... just an animal that has angus somewhere in its breeding. If certified angus beef came from 100% angus cattle there would not be enough to supply the demand, thats why it comes from an animal that is known to have angus in its breeding. Clever, huh(!)?


THE TRUTH
In the United States, the USDA operates a voluntary beef grading program. The meat processor pays for a trained USDA meat grader to grade whole carcasses at the abattoir. The grades are based on two main criteria: the degree of marbling (intramuscular fat) in the beef rib eye (at the 12th rib cross-section), and the age of the animal prior to slaughter. Most beef offered for sale in supermarkets and most restaurants is graded choice or select. Less than 3% of all beef gets the highest grade of Prime beef and the majority of that is sold to exclusive hotels and upscale restaurants.

The USDA Grade Inspector Does Not take into consideration what breed of cattle they are inspecting. In fact, they rarely know which breed they are grading!

So, kudos to the Angus Beef folks...masterful job of Selling the Sizzle! And, in all fairness, they do provide a quality product...but, so do the producers of non-Angus breeds.

POP QUIZ:

These two Ribeye Steaks are of equal grade...Can you tell which one is Certified Angus Beef? (Look closely for a clue in one of the pics)
























FYI: USDA BEEF GRADES
USDA Prime — highest in intramuscular fat. (Currently, only three percent of the steaks sold are USDA certified Prime.)
Choice
Select — the leanest grade commonly sold
Standard
Commercial
Utility
Cutter
Canner
**Ground Beef is not Graded**


Sign That the Apocalypse is Upon Us:
The "Big Three" national hamburger chains, notorious buyers of the lowest quality beef, are now promoting (marketing) the addition of Angus Beef Hamburgers to their menus.





Wednesday, July 13, 2011

USDA GETS IT RIGHT WITH "KNOW YOUR FARMER" PROGRAM

"Today, there is too much distance between the average American and their farmer and we are marshaling resources from across USDA to help create the link between local production and local consumption" - Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food


The USDA is getting this one right. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative emphasizes the need to create a "reconnection" of U.S. farmers to the consumer. Some 50+ years back, the majority of our food came from farms within a days driving distance. Today, most of the grocery market offerings have traveled from California to New York, Florida to Texas...not to mention the fruits, vegetables, and meats that are imported from Mexico and South America in the "off season". Now, under the auspices of the 2008 Farm Bill, the USDA has launched a program to promote local farmers to the consumer.


 The following, from the "Know Your Farmer" web page, actually states the program mission very clearly:
_Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) is a USDA-wide effort to carry out President Obama's commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems. 
_We know that demand for local and regional foods is strong, as consumers across the country are looking to connect with their food and the people who grow and raise it:

_The number of farmers markets has more than tripled in the past 15 years and there are now more than 6,100 around the country;

_In 1986 there were two community supported agriculture operations, today there are over 4,000;

_There are farm to school programs in 48 states, totaling more than 2,200 and up from two in 1996;

_All 50 states in the U.S. have agricultural branding programs, such as "Jersey Fresh" or "Simply Kansas;"

_And the National Restaurant Association declared "locally sourced meats and seafood" and "locally grown produce" as the top two trends for 2011.

Local and regional markets often provide farmers with a higher share of the food dollar, and money spent at a local business often continues to circulate within community, creating a multiplier effect and providing greater economic benefits to the area.

An Economic Research Service Study (May 2010) identified barriers to local food market entry and expansion, including capacity constraints for farms, a lack of infrastructure for moving local food into mainstream markets, and regulatory uncertainties. This is the work of the Initiative.

Our mission is to strengthen the critical connection between farmers and consumers and supports local and regional food systems. Through this initiative, USDA integrates programs and policies that:


_Stimulate food- and agriculturally-based community economic development;

_Foster new opportunities for farmers and ranchers;

_Promote locally and regionally produced and processed foods;

_Cultivate healthy eating habits and educated, empowered consumers;

_Expand access to affordable fresh and local food; and

_Demonstrate the connection between food, agriculture, community and the environment.

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food also leads a national conversation about food and agriculture to strengthen the connection between consumers and farmers.

"The largest 12.4 percent of farms in terms of gross receipts received 62.4 percent of all government payments in 2008." -
Farm Commodity Policy 


I heartily applaud the USDA for this initiative and have high hopes that this is a "turning point" in government recognition of the plight of the family farm in America.




 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MEATPACKERS OPPOSITION to GIPSA RULE SHUTS OUT SMALL LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS

Fair, open and transparent markets are essential to rural economic recovery.  We need strong rules to curb corporate control over livestock and poultry markets and to foster a livestock industry in which small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers can thrive. - Sustainable Agriculture Coalition




House blocks GIPSA* rule, defeats income limit
Friday, June 17, 2011 

The U.S. House on Thursday knocked down proposals to set new income limits for farm program recipients and slash funds for an important export promotion program.... The House scrapped Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) proposal to set an $250,000 annual adjusted gross income (AGI) limit for farm program eligibility. The current limit is $500,000 in AGI from off-farm sources or $750,000 in on-farm income...Flake also lost a bid to eliminate funding for the popular Market Access Program, which helps producer groups promote products overseas.
 (Read the Article here)





THREE YEARS AGO, Candidate Barack Obama promised to stand up for open andfair markets for family farm livestock producers.
THREE YEARS AGO, Congress passed a farm bill directing USDA to write rules to end price discrimination against small and mid-sized farmers by corporate meatpackers and processors and to ensure fair production contracts for poultry and hog producers.
ONE YEAR AGO, USDA issued a proposed rule that would reign in some of the worst abuses of giant meat packers and poultry companies
THREE WEEKS AGO, Our congress caved in to large special interests (Meatpackers and Integrators) and stripped any meaningful legislation out of the Proposal that could help the small farmer and rancher.
The proposal to set a lower annual AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) would have channeled more money to the small agricultural producer. Instead, by "stripping" the lower AGI proposal, the majority of subsidy dollars will continue to go to large corporate agricultural operations.
The Market Access Program that was also scrapped would have opened up avenues for small livestock producers and groups to overseas markets...these markets are currently almost impossible to enter without the clout of large enterprise. 
The following best explains what this means to livestock producers:

The Case for Competition

By: 
 John Crabtree

Livestock markets don't work. I should say they don't work for family farmers and ranchers - meatpackers don't have any complaints.

If you raise cattle, hogs or sheep then you sell into a largely dysfunctional market where packers hold all the cards and routinely discriminate against smaller producers by offering massive, volume-based premiums to large, industrial producers (and deep discounts to smaller farmers and ranchers).
How massive? Take a small hog farmer with a 150 sow farrow-to-finish operation that receives a small-volume discount of 6 cents per pound for his market hogs - a conservative estimate for volume discounts. At 250 pounds for each of 3,500 hogs marketed, that would mean an annual loss of $52,500 for that producer, simply for being small.
USDA is poised to propose a new rule under the Packers and Stockyards Act that will, hopefully, help address this price discrimination against smaller producers. The rule will define the term "unreasonable preference," the granting of which is prohibited under the Act but has not been well enforced absent a definition of what constitutes an "unreasonable preference."
The packers will hate whatever they come up with. But, honestly, USDA has given the packers a pass on competition laws for decades, so why should we listen to them on this one? Family farmers and ranchers want, need and deserve competitive markets in which to sell their livestock. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack should end the volume-based discrimination against small volume producers and breathe some life into their livestock markets. - Center for Rural Affairs

What does this mean to the average consumer? Higher prices, fewer choices, and the continued decline of an American Icon...the Family Farm








*Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration - Part of the U.S.D.A