Cattlemen’s Corner: Earth Day | TSLN.com

Cattlemen’s Corner: Earth Day

Friday, April 22, 2011 marks the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration that farmers and ranchers recognize every single day. While most of us don’t need a special day to practice environmental stewardship, it’s a great opportunity for beef producers to tell our story. With all the negative media attention directed at livestock producers in recent months and years, it’s important for us to reach out to others in our community and remind them that we are stewards of the land and our animals. Here are a few significant statistics you can utilize as you think about ways to share the everyday stewardship practices of South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers:

Approximately 85 percent of land used for grazing in the U.S. is not suitable for raising crops. By grazing animals on this land, we more than double the area that can be used to produce food. Cattle serve as a valuable role in the ecosystem by converting the forages humans cannot consume into a nutrient-dense food. Here in South Dakota, 90 percent of our land area is dedicated to agriculture.

Farmers and ranchers take conservation of the land very seriously. We plant trees for windbreaks, protecting our cattle, wildlife and the soil. We fence off larger pastures so we can implement rotation programs, keeping our grass supply healthy year-round. By utilizing science-based improvements in breeding and animal nutrition, beef production per cow has increased from about 400 pounds in the mid 1960s to roughly 650 pounds in 2008, without increasing the amount of natural resources used. Also, we currently have 29 cuts of beef classified as “lean,” compared to the mere seven lean cuts we had just twenty years ago, making our product more appealing to consumers across the world. And, did you know, South Dakota Certified Beef is the first state-initiated age- and source-verification program in the U.S.?

Beef producers also ensure proper practices are used to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Act, which ensure that Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) take appropriate actions to manage nutrients in order to protect the nation’s water quality. And even though farmers and ranchers have lately been targeted by environmentalists, the EPA reported that the U.S. ag sector accounts for only 6 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and livestock production is only 2.9 percent of that total.

Ready to tell your story? The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has developed several sample “letters to the editor” you can tailor to fit your operation. They also have pre-designed ads for newspapers or magazines that you can customize with your farm or ranch name and submit to local publications. If you’re interested in any of these materials or want help developing your own Earth Day letter to the editor, please contact the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA) office at 605-945-2333. You can also visit http://www.explorebeef.org for more facts and tips on promoting your operation on Earth Day.

Also, a reminder that SDCA honors great stewards of the land through our partnership with the South Dakota Grassland Coalition and Sand County Foundation to present the second Leopold Conservation Award here in South Dakota. If you know of a deserving operation, please submit your nomination to the SDCA office by April 27. Nomination information can be found on the SDCA Web site at http://www.sdcattlemen.org.

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Friday, April 22, 2011 marks the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration that farmers and ranchers recognize every single day. While most of us don’t need a special day to practice environmental stewardship, it’s a great opportunity for beef producers to tell our story. With all the negative media attention directed at livestock producers in recent months and years, it’s important for us to reach out to others in our community and remind them that we are stewards of the land and our animals. Here are a few significant statistics you can utilize as you think about ways to share the everyday stewardship practices of South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers:

Approximately 85 percent of land used for grazing in the U.S. is not suitable for raising crops. By grazing animals on this land, we more than double the area that can be used to produce food. Cattle serve as a valuable role in the ecosystem by converting the forages humans cannot consume into a nutrient-dense food. Here in South Dakota, 90 percent of our land area is dedicated to agriculture.

Farmers and ranchers take conservation of the land very seriously. We plant trees for windbreaks, protecting our cattle, wildlife and the soil. We fence off larger pastures so we can implement rotation programs, keeping our grass supply healthy year-round. By utilizing science-based improvements in breeding and animal nutrition, beef production per cow has increased from about 400 pounds in the mid 1960s to roughly 650 pounds in 2008, without increasing the amount of natural resources used. Also, we currently have 29 cuts of beef classified as “lean,” compared to the mere seven lean cuts we had just twenty years ago, making our product more appealing to consumers across the world. And, did you know, South Dakota Certified Beef is the first state-initiated age- and source-verification program in the U.S.?

Beef producers also ensure proper practices are used to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Act, which ensure that Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) take appropriate actions to manage nutrients in order to protect the nation’s water quality. And even though farmers and ranchers have lately been targeted by environmentalists, the EPA reported that the U.S. ag sector accounts for only 6 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and livestock production is only 2.9 percent of that total.

Ready to tell your story? The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has developed several sample “letters to the editor” you can tailor to fit your operation. They also have pre-designed ads for newspapers or magazines that you can customize with your farm or ranch name and submit to local publications. If you’re interested in any of these materials or want help developing your own Earth Day letter to the editor, please contact the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA) office at 605-945-2333. You can also visit http://www.explorebeef.org for more facts and tips on promoting your operation on Earth Day.

Also, a reminder that SDCA honors great stewards of the land through our partnership with the South Dakota Grassland Coalition and Sand County Foundation to present the second Leopold Conservation Award here in South Dakota. If you know of a deserving operation, please submit your nomination to the SDCA office by April 27. Nomination information can be found on the SDCA Web site at http://www.sdcattlemen.org.

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