Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Celebrating National Ag Day I am #agproud

Today is National Ag Day and to start this off I want to thank all of my readers both ag employed and otherwise from every corner of the globe. As a great person once said, "If you EAT, you are connected to agriculture!" As I share today's post I will also intersperse some pictures that relate to what make me #agproud.  I also must mention two specific people. A young man, a great agvocate and an all around nice guy named Ryan Goodman who runs an incredible blog     Agriculture Proud  where this passionate and hard working young man works tirelessly to share agriculture's story. He and his efforts inspired me as well as another great agvocate and also wonderfully cheerful and funny lady named Janice Person who also blogs at A Colorful Adventure  asked fellow ag bloggers to share why we are #Agproud on National Ag Day. It was through my efforts to share my story and jump into social media that I found these two great people and I was able to meet them both last year in Nashville at NCBA's Cattle Industry Convention. Thank you Ryan and Janice for doing this, for being great agvocates and for becoming friends. I am like a first year grid kids player to a NFL all star compared to these two when it comes to social media and agvocating so this opportunity means a lot to me. Thank you so much!  

So let's talk about what makes me #agproud. There are so many things but I think at a base level what makes me most proud is the people involved in agriculture. My Dad used to tell me this over and over that the best part of agriculture was the people. I don't think I ever fully appreciated this until just a little over 5 years ago. As I steeled my emotional composure for his services at his celebration of life I took a look at the overfilled parking lot outside of the church. Seeing the plethora of pickups of all makes and models with some sporting spring mud and a few flatbeds with bales of hay was certainly a "I told you so" moment for me.

 Everyone from those in production ag to those that help make it go by driving trucks, selling seed, or installing a GPS navigation system on a tractor or picking crops. My Dad had a firm belief that most of these people were great people and I would concur. We will use the term #agproud and the letters to compose this word to define why these are such great people and why I am #agproud.

Agproud "A" Appreciative; people in ag are thankful to be able to do what they do for a living. They understand that life is not always perfect but the chance to be connected to such a basic thing as raising food for people is a noble endeavor. They appreciate the chance to share Mother Natures beauty as well as her tribulations in what they do every day. They appreciate the opportunity to teach their children and grandchildren a work ethic and the joys of life and the realities of eventual death for all living things.


aGproud "G" Generous; generous with their time,money and talents. Time by coaching kids sports teams, volunteering to lead events like county fairs and participating on school boards etc. Money by supporting 4H and FFA kids at their market stock sales, scholarship drives as well as supporting things like disaster relief for those in need. Generous with their talents by helping a sick neighbor in need to plant a crop or calve out their cows. I have witnessed this so many times at such a common level but it never fails to amaze me how generous they are even when sometimes it isn't the best choice to their own operations or circumstances from a monetary standpoint.

agProud "P" Passionate; No matter where I travel, no matter what segment of the ag industry these people are connected to, they live and breathe what they do everyday. They do it with a passion and vigor that is hard to find industry wide in any other calling.I have yet to meet someone involved with agriculture that lacks a passion in their life for what they do.

agpRoud "R" Respectful; I have yet to attend an ag related event where I wondered why a younger person did not hold the door open for an elder. People in ag do the little things like say "please" and "thank you" and they mean it. They also carry a great respect for the land, their animals and for those who came before them in this ever evolving industry.

agprOud "O" Observant and Optimistic; People in ag have to be observant and they are good at it. They have to "see" that a particular calf might have a fever or a particular crop is lacking an individual nutrient and then make management decisions to remedy those situations. They also must observe things like weather and market trends and constantly do a delicate dance with that information. They know by the return of certain species that spring has arrived and by the color of a crop that it is ready to harvest. Optimistic in even when markets are not good or weather not perfect that in the long run it will work itself out. Optimistic that in every mistake there is a life lesson, in every disaster an opportunity in the future.


agproUd "U" Unique; I firmly believe that people in ag will often fool those who try to stereotype them or their individual personalities. That lady brand inspector might be the most gifted and artistic leather worker and that broken down bowlegged pen rider might play the piano like Beethoven. That dairyman may have spent his younger years working on Transatlantic ships and have some great stories to share. When you open the door to a combine and hear Adele singing "Rolling in the Deep" or see someone that usually wears Wranglers and spurs in a suit testifying before a Senate hearing you should not be surprised.  

agprouD "D" Dedicated; This trait is practically a necessity in the agriculture industry. There are so many other places where people with the intelligence and skills needed in ag that pay more, offer more time off, more certain hours and less uncertainty about the future than ag. It takes a special person that is dedicated to their passion to get into and stay in agriculture. 

So I salute you fellow agriculturalists. I am very #agproud to be part of a group of so many people that are appreciative, generous, passionate, respectful, observant, optimistic, unique and dedicated. If you think agriculture is not important or part of your life you might one day be hungry and this Vern Gosdin song captures what you will be feeling. "Do you believe me now?" 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Profitability can be "ugly"

Today was a pretty great day when looked at from a total perspective. I did have one moment this morning that gave me a bit of attitude anger but overall it was a pretty great day. I needed to clean out Griselda and sort the tools, fencing supplies, empty beer containers, garbage and matted up hay remnants. This went pretty well as I tossed the fence supplies and hay remnants on the ground and put the tools into an empty protein tub. The mistake I made was leaving the cleanup area since Griselda is without a tailgate. Whoops!
The highlight of the day and the subject of tonight's blog post  was the first calving of a specific heifer #1902. This heifer is a good enough heifer but because her mother is a cow that is bigger than I really want to own from an efficiency standpoint she was right on the cutoff line of being a replacement heifer or being sold as a feeder heifer. Here is 1902's mother 4902 with her calf in 2012. As a reference 2902 is still here as a replacement based on her deep body and what I see as future profitability.

 The problem was as a young calf 1902 developed an abscess on her face. My assumption at the time was that she had some kind of "sticker" that had lodged in her skin and with the quick puncture of a sharp scalpel one day I was proven correct. Fetid pus and liquid spewed forth and in total amazement I caught the offending sticker in my hand. I was happy with this because I knew it gave her some swelling relief and also because I hoped her lump would shrink and she would no longer be stricken with this feature that did not adversely hurt her other than from an aesthetics standpoint and her marketability.

One thing I have learned in the cattle business and something my Dad and I agreed on and spent many hours discussing and debating. Just about every bovine, especially females bovines have at least one "win" and one "wreck" in her at some point of her lifetime. For the rest of this discussion win means profit and wreck means loss from my perspective.Others have a different view as to what winners and wrecks are. Like many things in the cattle business there are few absolutes but many generalities.

I look at these wins and wrecks all the time when making marketing decisions. They are much like "turnovers" in a sporting event in that sometimes they are the difference between winning and losing. I will readily admit that sometimes these gambles or games do not always come out in my favor. I have at times tried finding a win in discount cattle and failed miserably but each time I learned and kept that for future reference. The key is finding more wins than wrecks. I won't give you a long math lesson here but the reality is that because of her superficial facial defect 1902 would have likely been severely discounted as a feeder heifer calf going into a feedlot and becoming beef at around 18-24 months of age. I am not saying this is wrong because if a feedlot buys a calf with a lump on her face and it turns out this blemish hurts her ability to eat and grow they would be looking at a potential wreck or loss for themselves. For me as a primarily cow calf guy and knowing this would likely not hurt her ability to be a calf raiser I decided to make her a cow by breeding her and adding her to the herd. That being said I doubtfully would buy a heifer calf to breed with a lump on her face unless she was deeply discounted in price because of the same concerns as a feeder. 

So last spring and summer 1902 spent her time grazing and growing with the company of a bull. Sometime in early June of last year 1902 became impregnated. Today 1902 did just what I had hoped and produced her first of hopefully many offspring over the next few years. Yes, she still has her facial blemish but she also has a beautiful udder just like her momma and should raise a quality and profitable calf. She also calved unassisted in a 350 acre pasture, cleaned off her calf, got her calf up and provided her with the all important first milking (colostrum) with zero human assistance (or as i say interference) Here she is with all her ugliness and beauty with her first child. Welcome to the world 3902!

Certainly at some point her calf production life will come to an end and she will be sold as a "cull" cow based on age, a lack of pregnancy or potentially other issues. When that time comes she will probably still suffer some type of discount because of her facial feature but it will not be near as severe given the fact that she will go directly into the beef complex at that time.

Two conversations in recent memory related to this, one on Facebook and the other in person. In the Facebook conversation a young man in the cattle business asked me, "What kind of cows do you run?" My answer was, "I run cows that I think will make money. I don't get too hung up on color and /or breed. I like little efficient cows that raise profitable calves."  The other in person conversation was with a couple that raise purebred cattle of a breed I wont mention because their selected breed is not the problem in my opinion. "We look at bull calves with a less than a 85 pound birth weight as throwaway calves because you just cannot make any money on those kind of calves because they wont grow!" They also added this gem, "For us having cows that "look" like winners is more important than anything!" I just politely listened, nodded and made a mental note to not ever buy their bulls. To each their own and I do not give unsolicited advice to anyone in the cattle business because freedom is what built this country. But here is a classic country Bobby Bare song that captures the sentiment of being a perceived "winner" in my humble opinion. Or in other words, "sometimes ugliness can be very profitable". You just keep on keeping cows that look like winners and I will just focus on making a profit for a living. All pics can be viewed in full size by clicking on them.

So as we plod along through this life especially the cattle business you are welcome to laugh at my small or ugly cows. You see, my ugly little cows take it real personal when you laugh at them. Make sure that everything you own looks like a "winner", my mistake 4 coffins.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Blog school and Chicken lights

So the past few days I have been studying in "Blog school". Well technically it is a Facebook group called "Blog overhaul" led by a great agvocate, blogger and all around nice lady named Judi Graff. Check out Judi's site and blog at  
I met Judi and her husband Bill "in real life" (IRL) at NCBA's annual convention in Nashville in 2012 after following her blog and Twitter account. I was invited to this group but was hesitant about joining for several reasons. In my first post on the site I thanked her for the invite but hoped that I would not be the dunce student of the class. Everyone else in the class already had better blogs in my opinion then I could ever dream of having. Content is not a problem for me, dealing with technical issues, updates and getting things to look how I want them to look constantly test my patience level.

Growing up I did pretty well in school, not spectacular but other than some algebra math I was a mostly B student and a sometimes A student. Part of my problem was I could cruise and get a B or give some extra effort and concentration and get an A. Now you know why I got mostly B's and just squeaked by on GPA to be allowed to wear a coveted "honor cord" at graduation. One other issue for me that I still fight with today is patience. For instance just today on my way to Dakotas volleyball tournament I was third in line at a red light. I have never comprehended why everyone is not like me and famous drag racer Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and constantly trying to understand why everyone does not have a 0.084 reaction time. You can practice here   so you don't piss me off next time you are ahead of me at a traffic light. Green means go damn it and those clutch plates can take a little slippage!

So back to blog school. My blog DID need an overhaul no doubt. My comments were not working despite literally hours of actually some pretty good effort on my part to fix them. My blog was certainly a bit bland and I decided to give blog overhaul a try. Things did not start off well for me. I would try something new, not like it and then struggle to at least get back to where I was in the beginning. I could not just cruise and get a B I was going to have to give some effort and take a pass/fail. I have been close to quitting the whole blogging thing more than a few times and I was getting close once again. 

Well teacher Judi stepped in, offered to help me out and 4 great things have happened. Because of her attention to the guy (me) that felt like I was a 23 year old senior that was still hanging around thinking maybe that the more years I was here the better the chance of being elected class President in High School.

 On the main page you will see some new tabs for new pages.
1. I now have an "about" tab that will be evolving but sums up what I want to offer to readers and who I am.
2. There is now a "contact" page where you can get all the information needed to engage with me about the blog as well as Twitter and Youtube. You can also now easily subscribe by email with the little "follow" widget in the right hand sidebar of the blog.
3. Judi got my comments section fixed! Now anyone including my old cowboy friends can respond to individual blog postings.
4. I have some renewed blog energy and think more engagement from readers will compound that.  

So now that I have a YouTube channel here is my latest upload from a twin bull calf that is seen in our mud room at the top of the page. You might also notice that I must be waiting for someone to offer some cash for broken down old Tony Lama work boots by looking in the background of the picture HA!

So tonights Cowman twang music selection is from Jesse Watson called "Chicken lights and chrome" the beginning of this song and the little rift from about the 2:24 to 2:36 mark in this video are pure twang heaven! So please give me some feedback on the new "chicken lights" that the blog is sporting and as always thank you for reading!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tribute to good Mommas

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my Dad and all the things he taught me and how much I miss him every day. Today I am going to spend some time talking about my Mom who did just as much to support, encourage and raise me. Being in the business that I am I get to see first hand the importance of having a good mother. Today I was able to actually video just how strong a good mommas natural instincts are and I can attest to how much positive difference a good momma cow can make in the life of her calf and the profitability of a ranch. So today I honor my Mom with some commentary and good mother pictures taken today. Happy Birthday Mom, I love you very much!

Being the first born and only son in the family certainly did not hurt but my mom was there for me. From cookies for a Cub Scout meeting, frying up fresh beef heart and scrambled eggs for breakfast when asked, to being the one who would get dad calmed down before he meted out punishment for some of my misdeeds as I grew up, she was always there. There were plenty of times that our individual personalities clashed and at times still happen but I never doubted her support or love. 

As an example, like many mothers she would remind me to always wear underwear that was clean and not torn or tattered. I mean what if I was involved in some sort of accident we clearly did not want some paramedic seeing this! I announced to her in 1981 that I had finally embraced her wise words and had solved the potential problem permanently. She beamed with pride for a few seconds until she asked me how?  I told her that I was no longer going to wear underwear of any kind so no more need for her to worry. It is and was moments like this that her love is tested but has never wavered.

 Thank you Mom for all you have done for me, all that you sacrificed in your own life in pursuit of being a good mother to me and my sisters. Thank you for being a great Grandmother as well. We all love you.

Today's Cowman Youtube video selection is a song by Shenandoah dedicated to my Mom on her special day.