Stories, opinions, facts, convictions, and lessons learned from a small town farm girl.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vacation Destination: Hay field and cattle.

Isn't it ironic how we spend our whole childhood trying to get away from home and our whole adulthood trying to get back...

I am going home! In exactly 22 days, I will be on a plane heading to my home state. And just to think, most people spend their summer vacations away from their home, farm, and work... I'm headed straight into the hay field for mine... and for the first time in my life, I couldn't be happier about it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Women in Agriculture... Blogs.

My original inspiration for this blog came from several others that I have been reading for quite some time. While theirs are much more elaborate, organized, and eye-appealing, it is my hope that one day my blog will be modeled after theirs. Thanks ladies, for spreading the word about agriculture and farm & ranch living. It's women like you this world needs more of!

I can spend the better part of an afternoon looking at and reading posts, recipes and looking at pictures on these sites, so beware: click at your own risk. Enjoy!

The Pioneer Woman: "Plowing Through Life in the Country... One Calf Nut at a Time"

The Real Life of a Ranch Hand's Wife: Get a glimpse of this Wyoming Ranching family's daily life. This blog will send you into stiches of laughter and reaching for the box of Kleenex.

The Cotton Wife: A glimpse of a Virginia cotton farming family - Warthan Farms.

BEEF Daily: Amanda Nolz of BEEF magazine brings you up-to-date with all the happenings in the beef industry... from everyday producer challenges to organic farming, from stopping the HSUS to calving season... Here, you can find the discussion about it all!

Monday, June 7, 2010

When I was young and dumb (ok, ok, maybe just "uneducated") I did not fully understand other sectors of the beef industry, therefore I was unable to appreciate all the gears it takes to make our wheels go round in the cattle business.

I grew up on a cow/calf operation in western Maryland where small farms are common but were just that - small. And agriculture was limited to cow/calf operations, small farrowing operations, a few chickens for laying and eating, a few lambs that were possibly shown at county shows, a horse here and there, a little corn, a lot of gardens, pasture, and hay. It was not until I left home when I was 18 that I really saw what the agriculture industry had to offer and what it really meant to raise cattle.

While in Kentucky I experienced large scale cow/calf operations and how non-challenging it can be to keep a cow who raises a calf on "tall grass and sweet water" (Thank you, Dr. Wistuba, for forever engraining that phrase into my mind...) with the right management techniques.

I had the opportunity to go on a short trip out to the Panhandale of Texas at the beginning of last summer to see feeding cattle at it's finest. With feedlots of 100,000 head of cattle being finished for slaughter, it kind of brings a new meaning to the word "fattening."

Last summer while interning in western Arkansas for the USDA-Ag Research Service, I saw what "stockering" was all about... Field after field after field of 400-800 lb. stocker calves grazing grasses of all kinds, preparing themselves for the feeder stage.

Here in Oklahoma I am seeing what it's like to manage a cow herd on native prairie grass... something that a farmer from where I came from would think is insanity. Some of these ol' girls require up to 50 acres per cow/calf pair, depending on the area of the rangeland. That's a far cry from the 2 acre per pair stocking rate I came from. Talk about strategic planning and management - the epitome of "risk management."

And today with so many different areas of the cattle industry coming into the spotlight - Grass Fed, All-Natural, Organic, Home-Raised - it's easy to get caught up in the buzz.

However, yesterday I experienced a sector of our industry that I have never experienced - I went to a bucking bull sale. Don't get me wrong, I've been to my fair share of rodeos and bull rides, but never have I witnessed what goes on "behind the scenes." D&H Cattle Co. of Ardmore, Oklahoma had a sale - you wanna talk about an educational experience. Some of these bloodlines are so respected in the bucking bull industry, people will pay out the wazoo for a yearling bull sired by [insert name of famous bull here]. But honestly it was incredible and very intriguing to observe the buyers and the cattle sold at these sales - both cow/calf pairs and bulls alike. Some of the most famous bulls owned by D&H Cattle Co. include: Coppertop, Mossy Oak Mudslinger, Night Moves, Fandango, Copperhead, Crossfire Hurricane, Western Wishes, and Hotel California.

Displayed at the sale on a huge tv were these bulls with "bucking dummies" on their backs to show how well each of the yearlings bucked on their first try. It reminded me of a young teenage athlete - one who will certainly be great in his day, but is still too young and clumsy to know just how to put it all together. These bulls will be enetered in "futurities," which are essentially like prospect shows in the show cattle business. There is a points system and money winnings and the bulls that score the highest in these futurities will be ranked the highest when they are invited to the PBR or other rodeo associations.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

All Gave Some, Some Gave All

"This nation will remain the land of free so long as it is the home of the brave."
-Elmer Davis

Every patriotic holiday I nearly always have at least one sappy moment where I get a little choked up and realize just how proud I am to be an American. Whether it's seeing an old vet in a wheel chair proudly wearing his USMC hat, hearing Billy Ray Cyrus's "Some Gave All" on the radio, or seeing a flag that's bigger than a house flying fiercly - it never fails, every year, every patriotic holiday, at least one teary moment.

And as I lay out bathing in the sun on my day off work, I began to look around and wonder just how many people are on this beach and have no idea why they are here. How many people were taking for granted their long weekend and don't even know what Memorial Day is about. How many people take our armed forces for granted in general!

I know I'm a little late and I realize that this post is a little off-topic from my usual agriculture-related topics, but I figure better late than never. Here is a website to check out that tells a little about the History of Memorial Day.

Thank a veteran - not just on holidays but everyday - and remember those who have given their lives for our nation... and for our freedom.

"It is easy to take liberty for granted when you have never had it taken from you"
-Author Unknown

Monday, May 24, 2010

Barbed Wire Scars Will Fade

I recently saw this quote on a website that I frequent. I often try to put into words the way I feel or the passion that I possess, but I can't help but feel sometimes that I've fallen short and haven't really portrayed the message that I want to get across. However, this man could have said it no better way... And everytime I read this, I can't help but get a lump in my throat.

An old rancher on why he is proud to be a cattleman:
"I have never ranched for the money; it pays more grit than dollars. It is more for the feeling of a rain after a year-long drought, standing in the mud where the pasture was, laughing so loud and hard they could hear me in town. More for the pride of saving a newborn calf's life that even the vet said would not suckle. More for the huge knot that ties in my stomach when walking up to the seller's window at an auction barn. The knowing that the barbed wire scars will fade,
but my cattle blood line could run forever."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Home is Where Your Heart is...

"We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it."

Most of you who read this know me pretty well, and if you know me pretty well, you know any sort of "metropolis" or highly populated area can send me straight into an anxiety attack. Heck, where I grew up we didn't have to look both ways to cross the street - we didn't even have a street! We had roads, and if we were lucky, there might be yellow lines on them. So, you can imagine my anxiety when my boyfriend and I began house-hunting in Fayetteville, Arkansas - where the University of Arkansas is located. Here in Oklahoma is the first time I've ever lived in a "town"... even in undergrad I lived on a farm! We knew going into this house hunt that it wasn't going to be easy trying to find a place within our price range and out of city limits.

Last weekend we began the long trek around Fayetteville - made a few appointments, stopped at some houses, and merely glanced at while driving past a few. We found an ad for a house in Prairie Grove, Arkansas and as we were just driving out to it, I knew this would be it. We were driving down beautiful roads with dairy and beef farms lining the shoulders. We pulled up to the house and not only did it have a front porch, but a herd of black cows were grazing in the field right down from it - our everyday view from our own home.

So after we found the place I shortly thereafter began to panic again - What if the landlord did not want to rent to us? But, thankfully Ben got a phone call the other day saying the place was ours if we wanted it! Hallelujah! One other thing to cross off on my to-do list.

I spent the morning breeding cows again - once again, it was one of the best days I've had with my internship here at The Noble Foundation. I tell ya what, there is absolutely nothing in this world better than working outside. I thank God everyday that He blessed me with my heart and the passion for agriculture. I truly want nothing more in this life than to spend it doing what I love the most - working with cattle.

Monday, May 17, 2010

BEEF Magazine

I recently had a very exciting occurence - I found out that an article that I helped to write has been featured on I know that for some this would be no big deal, but imagine my surprise - as an avid reader of BEEF Magazine and a subscriber to BEEF Daily - when I was rummaging through the website one morning and I saw my article featured! A very small step towards where I want to be, but nonetheless, a step indeed! To read the article, link here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

For Everything There is a Season

"For everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven."
Ecclesiastes 3:1

The past week has been a good one for me... My parents came to Oklahoma to visit me from Maryland and see what my "new life" is all about. I think they've really enjoyed their time here and I know I have certainly enjoyed their company!

Last Saturday we went to Fort Worth, a town I am becoming ever increasingly fond of every time I go there, to go to the Fronteir Fort Days. It was amazing and I think my dad enjoyed seeing the old stockyards. We went to Oklahoma City yesterday to the Oklahoma National Stockyards - the world's largest feeder calf market - and then to the National Softball Hall of Fame.

As many of you know, softball used to be my life. My biggest goal was to play Division I softball... and after I found the team that I loved, I shortly had the game taken from me. I tore my ACL twice before my sophomore season and was unable to play anymore. Softball is still a ghost I face everyday of my life, even though it has been nearly two years since I have last played. The Oklahoma City field is a place that every young girl that has a deep passion for the game dreams of playing - including me. I would be lying to say I didn't have a lump in my throat the entire time we were there yesterday, but it's also something I am so grateful I got to see...

I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. While it is still a hard thing to swallow, I know that perhaps God used softball as a way to get me where He needed me to be. If I had not had the gift of softball, I would not have gone to the school I chose to play. I would never had been given the opportunities that I had in college at any other school, and I know that I wouldn't be here if it weren't for those opportunities. And if I had it all to do over again, I would want to end up right where I am... Right here.

Sometimes it's so hard to remember all of our blessings when we have to face what we've lost. But sometimes we have to face what we've lost so we can more clearly see what all we've been blessed with...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Breedin' Some Cows...

I had the most wonderful day today - one that I'm fairly confident only I would think was marvelous.

It is that time of year again - breeding season. However, this year I will have a slightly different one than the past that I am used to. On our research farms at the Foundation we A.I. (Artificially inseminate) all the cows. Today was the first day for A.I. and thank God I got my certification years ago because I got to breed some! [I know, only I would get excited over that...but at home we use natural service (herd bulls) so cattle is something that is a very very rare activity for me] It has been my dream to have our herd at home go to 100% A.I., but time and labor restraints make that nearly impossible... So in a way I guess I got to make-believe today. Haha...

And it is absolutely gorgeous outside - about as beautiful as south central Oklahoma can be anyway, with winds whipping up to 40 mph on a "still" day... (Something I'm still having trouble getting used to) And this day will only get better - my parents flew in from Maryland to Dallas today and they are on their way to see me and spend a few days here! I am so absolutely blessed and at this moment, I couldn't imagine how life could get any better...

"Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart..."
Colossians 3:23

Monday, May 3, 2010

Going Home Again

"Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and
you're a thousand miles from a corn field."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
About a week or so ago, I had the opportunity of spending the afternoon with a feedlot consultant from Australia. He grew up there and began his secondary education there as well, but to earn his Ph.D. he came to the states and attended a school in west Texas. Just hearing his story and listening to what he had to say got my brain running in overdrive...
Can we ever really go home again?

West Texas offers countless opportunities for feedlot consultation... After all, it's the heart of the feedlot industry in America. And although he could've stayed in the states and pursued his career in the beef industry, he went home.

It's been a lifelong battle for me - to stay or to go. I absolutely love where I grew up and if I could, I would move back tomorrow. But unfortunately where I grew up in the country, while hundreds of small farms and animal agriculture is prevalent, not many make their living in agriculture. I have always wanted to move back home, but I just don't know if that will be possible while in the line of work that I want to do...

It's a shame that this is an issue faced by young agriculturalists everyday. Stay on the family farm or leave. Simple as that. Tough as that. And while we know that it is up to our generation to preserve the heritage of American agriculture, it is next to impossible to make a living on a small family farm...

I guess until I get my life together and I find which road my heart wants to take in life, I'll continue to vacation in the small western Maryland town I call my home, on that beautiful mountain farm I call my life.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"I do not believe there was any life more attractive to a vigorous young fellow than life on a cattle farm in those days. It was a fine, healthy life, too; it taught a man self-reliance, hardihood, and the value of instant decision... I enjoyed the life to the full."
-Theodore Roosevelt

What we love the most...

Last night as I watched my favorite show, Everybody Loves Raymond, a commercial came on that could've fooled even the most educated folks... A commercial for the Humane Society of the United States. This commerical, along with several others that are similar and have the same intentions, tugged at the heart and used emotions to portray their cause.

After speaking with some friends and family members about HSUS, I've come to realize just how little people actually know about this organization. HSUS is not an organization that donates their proceeds to reach out to local animal shelters ... their main agenda is the abolition of all animal agriculture. Again, let me restate that: The Humane Society of the United States' main goal is to remove all animal agriculture from our great nation.
I am unsure if the folks at HSUS and their supporters are aware of just how crucial livestock are to our daily lives - even vegans. Make-up, car tires, paint, soap, laundry detergent, drywall, and most importantly medications a just a few of the millions of things we use to enrich our daily lives as a result of animal by-products. For the sake of time and in an effort to keep myself off my little "soapbox," I will refrain from even getting into the economical impact that the removal of animal agriculture will have on America - let alone the livelihood of millions of American families that will be destroyed!
Thankfully, an organization has been created to monitor HSUS in an effort to spread the word of their agenda: HumaneWatch. Thank you, HumaneWatch, for all you work and efforts! I encourage you to visit their website and help to educate others on HSUS and how we can combine our efforts to stomp out this agenda!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and above all: happiness."
-Thomas Jefferson

The Land of Opportunity

I'm new to the blogging world, so please just bare with me as I venture into this new form of communication...

I'll start off with a little about myself so I can lay the groundwork for my readers. My name is Jessica and I grew up in western Maryland on a cow/calf operation. My whole life has revolved around agriculture and in my heart I always knew that it would be my greatest passion. I grew up showing cattle in 4-H, in high school I was very active in FFA, and I continued my pursuit of agriculture on into college. Last December I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from a university in eastern Kentucky. I will begin my work for my Master's degree in August at the Univeristy of Arkansas studying ruminant (cattle) nutrition. In the meantime, I have been blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime - an internship with a private, nonprofit agricultural research institute in southcentral Oklahoma - The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

While I am a huge fan and follower of several other agricultural blogs highlighting the industry's production side, I would like to take a slightly different look at things - a side that is frequently overlooked and misunderstood... Agricultural research.

Now, please understand that I have just recently dove into the research side of the industry - up until a few years ago my entire life has centered around production ag... Striving for economic efficiency while turning over a profit. But frequently not much thought is put into how a farmer or rancher can become more economically efficient and who is behind the scenes making this happen...

Today, as I spent my afternoon in a greenhouse planting thousands upon thousands of switchgrass seeds into little tiny cells filled with sandy soil, I took a moment to stop and look around me. I was surrounded by scientists wearing white lab coats and rubber gloves, barrel after barrel of different varieties of soil, hundreds of different varieties of forages, several soil autoclaves, and over an acre of state-of-the-art greenhouses. I began to reflect on the life I've come to know and love for 22 years in a small town in western Maryland and just how far from that I am.

My dad has farmed nearly his entire life. Some of the grass seed that he plants annually for pasture to feed his cattle could have been developed right there where I sat in this chair. My grandfather, who is also a life-long farmer that works in his greenhouse from sun-up to sun-down, could have used tomato plants bred in the greenhouse right across from me. If Pap could only see this place I work... If he would've only had the opportunity to pursuit the dream that I pursuit every day.

I was struck with such strong emotion it nearly took my breath away. This is where it all starts - an idea, a plan, a dream - and the farmer is where it continues to take root and grow.

America is the land of opportunity and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine where it would take me. Oh, what I would give for my dad or pap - and for other family members who have passed on but managed to make agriculture their dream - to see agricultural research at its finest. But it is because they are who they are that I am who I am today. Their love for the land and agriculture instilled a drive in me that has allowed me to reach for my potential. And it is all I can hope for that they know just how much their passion alone can change their farm girl's world.

America is the land of opportunity. Do what you love. Love what you do.