Tag Archives: agriculture

The Evolution of Cattle Production: Why Consumers Can’t Have the iPhone 5, Sprawling Suburbs and the Pitchforked Farmer Too

BY AMINA BENNETT, Wife and Mother near Chicago, IL

Originally published Oct. 3, 2013: 

The iPhone 5s was just released a few days ago, excited consumers across the nation eagerly waited hours (even overnight) for Apple stores to open in anticipation of getting their hands on the newest Apple technology. The iPhone 5s now boasts a larger screen, Touch ID, a faster operating system and enhanced camera features. Technology in communication is widely embraced, new inventions are encouraged, and consumers are eager to evolve with the changing times. That said, I think it’s safe to say that I would be an anomaly if I walked down the street with a vintage phone…


or a cell phone circa 1983…

Yup…they once looked like this!

So why is it that the same eagerness to evolve with the changing times, which is so apparent in the communications industry, not exhibited for the agricultural industry? In a recent visit to the Larson Farm, Farmer Mike Martz made mention that he felt as though society wanted him to “farm like how his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had farmed in years passed.” But with an increasing population, more urban sprawl (which leads to less farmland), and fewer farms to spread the labor (as future generations of farmers opt out of the family business), why are Americans unwilling to let farming evolve with the times?

While I haven’t got the answers to why some folks are so unyielding to the evolution of agriculture, I can only address the 5 fears that I once touted as the big WHY. And it goes a little something like this…

1. No Feedlots Please, I prefer my cattle roaming and grazing
As a Midwest city girl I always assumed that land outside of the city lights (and suburban sprawl) was sufficient enough to raise tons of cattle for grazing and roaming. But with the growing population and constant building outside of the city limits we’re encroaching upon farmland and animal habitats. Even coyotes have decided that since they can’t beat our burgeoning population that they’re going to join us here in the city. So when it comes to raising enough cattle to feed a large population, cattle feedlots are in response to the need for more livestock within a smaller farm area.

2. I don’t want my family consuming extra hormones; I’malready portly AND I want my kids to look like kids!
Sure, hormones are implanted into the ear of cattle to increase their size during their last few months of life, but according to the FDA, “all approved implant products have a zero day withdrawal. This means that the meat from the animal farm is safe for humans to eat at any time after the animal is treated.” In addition, the ears are discarded before the animal is slaughtered.

Furthermore, because I’m a believer in the power of statistical information, here’s a couple stats to give you some perspective on hormone use in cattle:

Organic Beef = 1.4 nanograms of estrogen hormone per 3 oz of meat
Conventional Beef = 1.9 nanograms of estrogen hormone per 3 oz of meat 
Potatoes = 225 nanograms of estrogen hormone (occurring naturally) per average sized potato
Birth Control Pills (at the lowest dose) = 20,000 nanograms per pill  

M&M visual of hormone dosages compliments of the Larson Farm
 Left to Right: Organic, Conventional, Baked Potato, Birth Control Pill

3. I don’t want to consume antibiotics when I’m not even sick!
Well, if you’ve followed my farming posts thus far, then you’ve got an idea on what I’ve learned about antibiotics. If you haven’t, check it out a here! But suffice it to say that at the Larson Farm, sick cattle are tagged, removed and then tested. The sick cattle are then kept 2 weeks later than when they are “technically” safe to sell as an added precaution. Antibiotics are not permitted on the meat market.

4. All feedlot farms (especially CAFO’s) are inhumane and mistreating their cattle 
Just a bit of clarification here. A feedlot is an area or building where livestock are fed or fattened up. A CAFO is a concentrated animal “production process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined spaces, and that substitutes structures and equipment (for feeding, temperature controls and manure management) for land and labor.” The Larson Farm is considered a CAFO (due to the number of cattle housed) and as a result, the farm undergoes a required certification every 3 years by the EPA.

While visiting the Larson Farm I didn’t witness any signs of animal abuse (no excessive mooing, cow bullying-yes it happens amongst cattle too, and no fear of people). I don’t believe anyone these days is naive to the mistreatment of animals in the farming industry, but what I can attest to is that not ALL farmers treat their animals cruelly. In fact, cruelty is not a matter of size or conventional versus organic. It’s a matter of the moral fiber of the farmer raising the animal. Which brings me to my next point…

5. I don’t want my food coming off of an assembly line!
Since when did being organized get a bad rap?!?! In fact, it’s when systems are not in place where all good intentions go to hell. Ever heard of Temple Grandin?

Temple Grandin is an autistic woman who transformed the livestock industry by inventing improvements to the animal handling systems found on ranches, farms and meat plants. She is most known for the center-track restraint system that is widely used across North America.

Cows enter and exit the center-track system here


Top of center-track system which prevents cows from backing up and flipping over one another
Gentle “Hug” which calms the cattle immediately so that the ultrasound tech can check marbling and fat levels
Her invention decreases and eliminates the fear and pain animals experience when they are being handled and eventually slaughtered. You see, the successful management of large numbers of animals requires advanced engineering and forethought to prevent falls, crippling injuries and untimely death. Kudos to Larson Farms for incorporating this ingenious system into their farming processes. By the way…it’s composed entirely of scrap metal!  
As our world continues to evolve, our food industry has to adapt alongside of it. In practical terms, with millions more people on the earth, the days of free roaming animals that eat off of the land, and farmers driving horse-drawn plows… are gone. With farmers being charged with feeding more than just their family and their town, and with less space to do it, farmers (although still good stewards of the land) are seeking efficient and effective ways to raise livestock and cultivate the land within the changing times. Everything must evolve, just as the iPhone 5s will soon give way to the iPhone 6… 
…it’s just a matter of time. 

Are you still envisioning the pitch-forked farmers of the past? Do you believe that the agricultural industry should evolve with the times?

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4H: Impact for a Lifetime


Originally published:

“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

smith_martha_More than a decade has passed since I last uttered those words at a 4-H meeting, yet these words that make up the 4-H Pledge still roll right off my tongue, and my hands still know exactly where they should be positioned for each verse. As I sit here reflecting back on my 4-H career, my mind is swarmed with wonderful memories of the many, many activities I participated in through 4-H and the impact those activities are still having on my life today.

I still vividly remember the first time I participated in the 4-H presentations contest as a 4th grader in Mrs. Thompson’s class. This was my first real venture into the world of public speaking, and I was scared to death. But, I knew my older sister had received a blue ribbon for her presentation a couple years ago, so I was bound and determined to conquer my fears and also win my first blue ribbon.

My chosen topic was, “How to Show a Market Hog,” which was quite fitting for a farm girl like me. My parents had assisted me with preparing my large presentation boards that included hand-stenciled letters (a.k.a., the PowerPoint of the 1990s). I brought along a stuffed miniature toy pig for the presentation and used a life-size cane and wire brush to teach my classmates and fellow 4-H members how to show a pig. I recall my hands shaking with fear as I made my way through the presentation, and I recall the huge wave of relief that came over me when I finished and returned to my desk. I had successfully made it through the whole presentation! And to my delight, I was awarded a blue ribbon and, thus, began a lifetime of public speaking for me.

4hpowerofyouthAs a member of my schools’ 4-H clubs and also a member of the local 4-H Stockmen’s Club, I could tell many other stories from my 10 wonderful years of 4-H membership. I experienced so many “firsts” through 4-H: the first time I balanced a checkbook; first time I met with and lobbied legislators; first time speaking to an audience of strangers; first time shooting a firearm; first time attending an overnight camp; first time serving as an officer in a club; and the list goes on and on. Certain memories of 4-H stick out as the ones I’m most proud of: being inducted into the Virginia 4-H All Stars; serving as President of my high school’s “The One” 4-H club; serving as Chief of the Occoneechee Tribe at 4-H camp; and winning Supreme Showmanship at my county’s 4-H livestock show.

But the experiences that really stand out in my mind are the ones where I developed lifelong friends. Just last month, a high school friend posted a photo on Facebook of a group of us at the Virginia 4-H Congress on the Virginia Tech campus. We were all amused at the flashback photo and began reminiscing on our 4-H days. These are friends who I don’t speak with too often now but who I can pick right back up with at a moment’s notice, as we share such a strong bond from the many hours we spent together during our 4-H days.

4-H was a huge part of my entire childhood, and I feel so blessed to have been introduced to the organization at such a young age.  I have no doubt that my experience with events like public speaking gave me a leg up once I entered “the real world.” I developed confidence and poise and learned the significance of being granted responsibility and, thus, the need to act responsibly. I experienced the fruits of success and the lessons to be learned from the times when you don’t succeed at a project. I learned how to be a leader and how to work as a team. I also learned the value and great need for serving others in your community. 4-H gave me many opportunities to experience new things and travel to new places, all while expanding my horizons, which surely gave me the courage to seek out my dreams and ambitions in life. I have no qualms in saying that outside of my family, 4-H had the most significant influence on developing me into who I am today.

In honor of National 4-H Week, I’d also like to give a shout out to all the 4-H staff and volunteer leaders. The time, dedication and passion they put into 4-H truly makes 4-H what it is: the premier youth leadership and service organization in rural and urban America. I owe so much to Mr. McCormick, who served as the County 4-H Extension Agent for my entire 4-H career. The weekends and nights that he gave up to 4-H is truly remarkable, and his desire to aide us in growing and developing left a lasting impression on all of us. I haven’t had a chance to say it recently but, thank you, Mr. McCormick.

Originally published October 8, 2013 by Monsantoco

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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Reporting for Agriculture: YPC feature, Kadee Coffman


Q&A BY LAUREN CHASE, YPC Communications 

Kadee Coffman is a national TV host and sideline reporter who can be seen on networks such as: Great American Country (GAC), Fox Sports and RFD-TV. She currently works as the PRCA Xtreme Bulls sideline reporter, Host of “Superior Sunrise” for Superior Livestock Auction and co-hosts RFD-TV’s “Gentle Giants” with Pam Minick. In addition, Kadee has been hired as a feature reporter on GAC, and was the sideline reporter at the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, the annual Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate Sale and more. Kadee is a true cowgirl at heart. Born and raised on her family’s horse and cattle ranch in Clovis, Calif., Kadee has shown western pleasure, reining and working cow horses since childhood. She has a true passion for rural America and in 2007 was Miss Rodeo California, which gave her the opportunity to promote professional rodeo and the western lifestyle. Today, Kadee calls Fort Worth, Texas home working for the world’s leader in livestock marketing, Superior Livestock Auction.

How did you get involved with Superior Livestock and Pro Rodeo? 

Rural America and the western lifestyle has my entire heart. For me, growing up on my family’s ranch instilled not only the western way of life, but a true passion for agriculture and being proud of where you come from. I had always dreamed of being Miss Clovis Rodeo because so many of the young ladies I looked up to had the opportunity. I was fortunate to win Miss Clovis Rodeo in 2004,and went on to the California Rodeo Salinas to represent the largest rodeo in California in 2005. That year, is when I knew not only did I want a career in the agricultural industry, but when I was being interviewed I always wanted to be the one asking the questions – not answering! After Miss Rodeo California in 2007, I was approached to host a TV program on RFD-TV after my reign and that is when I met the folks at Superior Productions. Following my year hosting “TV Horse Source,” I went back to school and obtained my degree in broadcast journalism. It wasn’t long after graduation I was knocking on Superior’s doors. I will always be thankful for their open arms and truly giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Tell us what a typical day looks like for you…or perhaps a season.

photo-1A typical day varies immensely! Some days I’m behind my computer editing RFD-TV’s “Gentle Giants” and other Superior Production projects, other days I feel like the airport is my second home flying from bull ridings to rodeos. The summer is the busiest time for me, but after Labor Day I slow down until the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December.

What venue is your favorite to host? 

I am beyond humbled every time I interview Superior’s customers on “Superior Sunrise.” Not only do I learn more about their operation (and get to brag about what great genetics they have), but what amazing and hard-working people we have that make up the cattle and ag industry. THANK YOU to each one of you for helping feed our world. On the other end of the arena, interviewing at the Wrangler NFR was a goal of mine for a long time. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say, interviewing someone like Wrangler NFR bull rider Trevor Kastner wasn’t awesome, after he was the only guy to cover a bull during round 9 and picked up a check for nearly $60,000…. It’s pretty neat to be able to capture that kind of reaction and emotion.

 Do you ever get nervous before you go live?  

I think I’d be worried if I didn’t have a few nerves as they were counting me down! I love LIVE TV, for two reasons. Number one: there are no do-overs. You have to roll with the punches and sometimes are better than others! Number two: I have my game face on that much more, you know, it’s go-time. It’s easy to get too comfortable when everything is being taped because you always have in the back of your mind, you can just do it over. With, LIVE TV you can’t!

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had while reporting?  

photo-16The 2012 Wrangler NFR is hard to top, however, interviewing Dr. Temple Grandin last fall in the Fort Worth Stockyards about cattle handling and animal welfare is something I will remember forever. I also did a special feature on GAC at R.O.C.K Ride On Center for Kids in Georgetown, Texas and highlighted their Horses For Heroes program. That was probably the most humbling experience of my life. I was able visit with soldiers who had just returned home, and were utilizing Horses For Heroes to not only alleviate physical pain but pain from scars that can’t always be seen. I think all of us can agree the bond and trust between a human and a horse can change your life. THANK YOU never seems good enough to say to a solider when I pass by them on any American Airlines flight I happen to be on, but, THANK YOU for continuing to fight for our great Country.

What is your favorite part about your job? 

As a reporter, especially in an industry that is so dear to me, I love being able to share a rancher’s story, or an upcoming bareback rider’s long road to making his first run at the WNFR. I love showing the western way of life, and I love bragging about how awesome each one of you are! We’re in an industry to be extremely proud of, and as a reporter I’m thankful I can help send that message.

Why is agriculture important to you? To the country?

photo-15Agriculture is everything to me. I think all of us that we’re raised on our family’s farm, and played with our dolls and John Deere tractors in the manure pile, instead of inside the house, just may be a little better off than our “city slicker” friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have many and absolutely adore them, but they all loved coming to the ranch and being able to play cowgirl for a day. Admit it, we all have a little cowboy and cowgirl in all of us. As far as impacting our country, agriculture feeds the world and not just our country. We provide for so much more than that! Farmers and ranchers are the salt of the earth.

What is one thing about yourself that would surprise people? 

I am an absolute neat freak! I can’t remember the last time I didn’t make my bed before I left my apartment. I’m the proud owner of a miniature donkey named Fiesta, and I’m also VERY uncomfortable with grocery shopping. Don’t ask – my mom will be embarrassed I said that.

What do you hope to be doing in the future? 

photo-13I hope to continue shedding a positive light on our industry and telling compelling stories of cowboys and cowgirls, who are our heroes. I’d also like to report at The Kentucky Derby in the near future and ride alongside the winning jockey. I’ll have to work on that English riding helmet the reporter usually wears. Hopefully, I can wear my cowboy hat! In my spare time, I design western chic buckles for Denver, Colo., based company, Johnson&Held. I’m going into my second year with them and absolutely love it! I’m a western fashion fanatic so who knows, maybe a boot line next?!

 What piece of advice to you have to women who would like to get into ag communications?

Cowgirl icon Pam Minick is not only my mentor but a dear friend of mine. She’s always said to, “Utilize every possible resource you have and give a 150% when you’re passionate about something.” I live by that, and I never say “I can’t.” If you keep your eye on the ball, and stay focused you can achieve anything!photo-14

Since this is a blog for beef producers, tell us what your favorite beef dish is and why. 

No one can beat my dad’s steak! I’m a steak, baked potato and broccoli kinda girl! On rare occasion I may splurge for twice-baked potatoes!

You can follow all of Kadee’s adventures on her Twitter page: @KadeeCoffman.  
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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


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