Vet’s Voice: Promoting agriculture
January 9, 2009
I hope you all had a great holiday season. It was great to see all of my family and especially my four grandsons. My grandsons all live in large communities and most of my in-laws are relatively naive to agriculture. We must constantly promote agriculture and promote public awareness.
We all hear the news stories about the recession and the uncertainty of future prices. All the financial gurus proclaim prices depend on demand. What can we do to make sure people purchase meat? We must show the consumers we are producing a quality product without using ‘cruel’ management practices. The consumer’s reward should be the satisfaction of a tasty meal.
It is hard for us to believe some of the initiated measures in states like California, which require animals to have enough space to lie down, stand and turn around and fully extend their limbs. This measure passed by over 63 percent forcing the end to many common confinement practices. Federal regulations have also greatly curtailed the slaughter of horses in the United States. Whichever side of these issues you many choose, you must believe it will raise the cost of production. Are consumers willing to pay these increased prices?
We in agriculture have become a small minority in the populous of the country. We must educate non-agricultural people about the way we make a living. At 6 a.m. on Christmas day when I was called for milk fever and O.B. on a dairy cow, I remembered our commitment to daily care. Everyday we must care for our livestock; we don’t get paid vacation days for holidays and rarely get a weekend off. Most are very dedicated to the daily care of their livestock; unfortunately the stories making the news are of the few people who shirk their responsibilities.
As farmers and ranchers we must promote our ethics, values and management practices. The best way is to show by example to anyone who visits your farm or ranch. Invite your grandkids to help you with chores, calf work, preg-checking etc. You never know what will stick in the memory of these young kids. Many times while working calves I have had to explain the difference between steers and bulls. Others are impressed by the care used in vaccination and surgery. Many youngsters get stuffed farm animals for presents. Parents often mention their son or daughter pulling a sock over their hand and doing their own pregnancy checking. One of my Angus bull producer’s young son was holding a cup under his toy bull. When asked he was semen checking.
For years we have watched as our young people leave to find jobs elsewhere. My children moved away but left with a taste for good beef. When they come to visit we will continue to cultivate their taste in the hopes they will invite others to try quality meats. We never know when one of them may know and educate others who understand little of ranch life.
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We like to think it is up to beef and swine organizations to educate the public and insure demand, when actually it is each of our jobs. Always speak positively about our way of life and attempt to influence family, friends and others. It will be very rewarding for you personally and help agriculture to continue to grow and be a viable profession in our area.
dave barz is a veterinarian at northwest veterinary supply in parkston, sd.