The Truth About Feedlots

Feedlots are depicted as gross, dirty, small and dangerous. That is not the case at all.A feedlot is a type of animal feeding operation, or AFO. Feedlots actually allow for 125 to 250 square feet of space per animal. This may not sound like a lot, but cattle are gregarious animals. They enjoy the company of other animals. Even cattle in large pastures will group together.

How confining are feedlots?Feedlot pens allow for 125 to 250 square feet of space for animal

Here are some numbers that a farmer who runs a concentrated animal feeding operation calculated.

New York City, NY spans 302.64 square miles and is home to 8,405,837 people which equals 27,775 people per square mile.

Manhattan, New York spans 22.96 square miles and is home to 1,626,159 people which equals 70,825 people per square mile.

The feedlot portion of her farm spans 0.156 square miles and is home to 2,772 bovines which equals 17,769 cattle per square mile.

Cattle are more confined in a feedlot than they would be in a pasture, but that does not automatically mean that they are unhappy and unhealthy.

Why/How are feedlots used?

A feedlot in Texas

A feedlot in Texas.

Feedlots are used to help cattle put on weight quickly. At feedlots cattle are fed grain with varying levels of protein that are adjusted over time. The lowest level of protein and grain is fed when the cattle first come into the feed yard. This provides the cattle’s digestive system with time to adjust to their new diet. This is necessary, not because grain is bad for a cow’s diet, but because completely changing a diet in any animal, including humans, can be unhealthy.

This type of diet allows the cattle to grow quicker than if they had lived off grass for the rest of their life. This provides for the delicious marbling that we love in our steaks. How is this possible? Because “..we focus on providing a readily digestible, high-energy diet; reducing the amount of energy expended to find food, directing more toward growth, and managing the cattle to minimize stress and health problems,” explain Ryan Goodman, in his blog.

The cattle that come to feedlots come from green pastures. That means that all cattle are grass-fed at one time, they just are not finished on grass.

How are cattle treated? Cow horses in a feedlot.

Cattle are not abused at feedlots, they are actually cared for extremely well. In feedlots there are cowboys whose only job is riding around and checking each pen multiple times a day. This means that cattle in feedlots are constantly being looked at, so if any problem arises it is easily noticed and fixed. Some people might even argue that cattle are treated better in feedlots, because they have constant supervision and care.

I have personally seen many feed yards, mainly out west, that proved to me they’re similar to other farmers and ranchers; they care for their cattle every day, no matter the weather.

If you are interested in touring a cattle feedlot, feel free to contact me and I will put you in contact with someone that can help. Or you can visit this website for a virtual tour! After seeing the truth about feedlots, first-hand or virtually, I hope you better understand why and how they are used. Just because there is a higher concentration of animals does not mean that abuse occurs. 

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The Truth About “Agvocating”

44f9172d1c2a1a2acfc895e2730594e6Four generations, two percent and fifty-eight. These are all numbers that apply to the agriculture industry. How so?

Four Generations: Most people are four generations removed from the family farm. This means they are not involved in the day to day operations of raising or growing food.

Two percent: Only two percent of Americans are farmers. This means that 98% use a farmer every day, but they probably do not know one. This combined with the average person being four generations removed from the farm raises issues where people could have unanswered questions about their food. But they don’t know how to get their questions answered because they do not know a farmer.

Fifty-eight: This is the average age of most farmers in the United States. While that is not old by any means, they are not the people most commonly sharing what they’re doing on social media.
These numbers are just a few of the reasons we should advocate for agriculture. Now what is advocating for agriculture? Well it might be easier to explain what it is not.

Agvocating is Not:

It is not bashing organic, conventional or even vegetarianism. It is not telling people they are stupid because they do not understand or agree with you. It is not just blindly sharing articles and statuses without reading or responding. It is not you marketing your farm, ranch or brand.

Agvocating Is:

Being open with your friends and followers about what is happening on your farm. Being willing and ready to answer questions about hot topic
issues (like subway’s antibiotic free statement). Being aware of what is being said about the industry and explaining why you do what you do. Untitled copy

How to Advocate for Agriculture:

A picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures better illustrate the truth of what is happening on your farm. A picture inside your hog barn, showing the cleanliness. A video of you moving cattle to show that it’s done humanely. Share a status about why antibiotics are used on your farm. Allow people to get involved in your everyday practices. I’ve seen farms ask people to name calves through social media, people love that because they feel important and valued in the process. Invite people to your farm, be willing to be transparent and honest.

“If you care about ag being accurately represented, know that we need every voice in the conversation.”

The most important part of advocating is like Nike says, to just do it. There are lots of anti-agriculture groups out there that are bashing agriculture. We need to start standing up for ourselves.

The next most important part of advocating is to not bash other farmers or non-farmers, we have plenty of others doing that for us. People are curious about where their food is coming from, be willing to intelligently, honestly and transparently answer their questions. Join the conversation and share the truth about the agriculture industry.

The Truth about Grass vs. Grain Fed Beef

First a disclaimer: A lot of people say grass or grain fed beef, but that does not mean that the cow was fed grain its entire life. Most cattle live off grass for the majority of their life and then switch to grain once in the feed lot. We’ll get to the specifics of how that happens later.

As consumers, we are all worried about what we eat and the health benefits/risks associated with that. One of these worries is surrounding grass-fed vs grain-fed cattle, whether it be health concerns or animal welfare concerns.

The Grain-Finished Life Cycle

All cattle start out living similar lives; they are born, drink milk from their mothers and then eat grass after being weaned. This continues for about 6-12 months, after that, grain-finished cattle are moved to feedlots.

Feedlot penFeedlots are depicted as horrible, disgusting and cramped places (but that’s a topic for another blog post).
There is actually more room in feedlot pens than most people think. At feedlots the cattle are rapidly fattened up with grain, usually made with corn or soy. When the cattle are first brought to the feed lot they are given feed with high forage/silage content and low grain content to help their bodies adjust to the new diet. The grain portion of the diet steadily increases until the cattle are primarily eating grain. This process occurs over a 3-6 month period. If you are curious about finding out more about feedlots before my next post visit this site.

The Grass-Finished Lifecycle

Just like grain-finished cattle grass-finished cattle spend the first ~12 months of their lives in the same way. The only difference is that instead of being sent off to a feedlot they are “finished” or “grown out” in a grass pasture. This means that they eat grass for the remainder of their life, until slaughter. This entire process can take upwards of a year and a lot of land.

Nutritional Differences

Texas A&M University did a study on the nutritional differences on ground beef grass-fed grain-fed beef cattlegrass-fed grain-fed beef cattlefrom grass-fed and grain-fed cattle. As you can see from the table, grain-fed cattle have a higher omega-3 fatty acid concentration and a higher total saturated and trans-fat content, while grass-fed cattle have a higher oleic acid concentration and lower saturated and trans-fat content. The study continued on to say that the effect of the ground beef on cholesterol was minimal, and Grass vs Grain Finished Beefneither type increased risk for CVD or type II diabetes. “So, at this point, there is no scientific evidence to support the claims that ground beef from grass-fed cattle is a healthier alternative to ground beef from conventional raised, grain-fed cattle” said Stephen Smith, Regents Professor at the TAMU Department of Animal Science.

So as of the research we have right now, there is no health benefits to choosing grass-fed beef. It is solely a choice of preference. If you prefer the taste of grass-fed beef, then by all means eat it. But do not feel like you have to because of health benefits or animal welfare.

The Truth about the Humane Society of the United States

If you are friends on social media with any farmers, ranchers, hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, or anything of that nature. You may have seen a frenzy of angry and upset posts about a recent occurrence. The Original Muck Boot Company shared a photo on Facebook about a fundraiser they were doing for the Humane Society of the United States. This caused an uproar in the agriculture and hunting communities, and resulted in #WhatTheMuck.

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Muck has since posted a response to this issue, so for some this issue is resolved for others it isn’t, but that is not the reason for this blog post. 

Some people may wonder, why would people freak out about a company donating money to help save puppies and kittens, they must be heartless. But the truth is trying to save puppies and kittens isn’t all that HSUS does, actually it is a very small part of it. Between 2009-2011 the “non-profit” collected more than $509 million, and gave away $27 million to grants and organizations in the United States, which is about 5%. Watch this video for more info. This would be all well and good, if HSUS didn’t present themselves as helping animals via commercialsRescued Stray Cats Wait To Be Adopted

People assume that because of the name, that their $19 a month goes directly to help animals, just like their local shelter does, but really where the money goes is lobbying against “animal cruelty”, in a backhanded way. 

Rapid City Journal did some research and found that HSUS credits itself with passing 470 state laws between 2004-2010, and 121 new laws in 2009 alone. Alright, so not only does HSUS not really help the pitiful animals in their commercials, they pass laws. So what? 

Well the way some/most of those laws are phrased directly affect/limit agriculture, while trying to hide behind the guise of helping animals. One law they proposed in Alabama in 2008, was a law to end cockfighting. This sounded like a wonderful thing to support, until further investigation, where it was discovered that by the wording of the bill any farmer with two or more roosters that could fight would be accused of cockfighting, fined and shut down. Therefore the poultry industry, a large sector of the Alabama economy, would be limited. Farmers got together and formed the Coalition for Farm Animal Care and Well-Being and prevented this law from being passed. 

UnknownAnother law HSUS lobbied for was Proposition 2 in California; which states that egg laying chickens must be free ranging for a certain amount of time, which is going to drive up the cost of egg production and possibly drive the egg industry out of California.

That is the reason so many agriculturalists exploded about HSUS receiving money, because giving money to HSUS could be synonymous with losing our farms and everything we love, live, and dedicate our life to, the agriculture industry. 

If you want to actually help animals donate money, food, or time to your local humane society where it is guaranteed that your money will help animals. 

I hope now that you know the truth about The Humane Society of the United States you either don’t feel guilty about not donating money to HSUS, or you choose to stop donating to HSUS if you have been.