The Truth about Father’s Day

 

This is an incredibly different article than any other I have written here. Mainly because it is a personal article. So this is just a disclaimer – it is more emotional than agricultural based. 

Me and dadFor the past two years Father’s Day has always brought a little feeling of dread. How can you celebrate Father’s Day without a father? My father passed away from Leukemia on June 26th two years ago. I was every definition of a daddy’s girl. He was my hero, my supporter, my everything.

My father taught me everything he knew about hunting, growing food plots, and loving life. He even quizzed me on weeds and seeds for a final while he was in the hospital. In hindsight, I wish I had paid more attention while he was still here. How he fit so much knowledge in his short life I am not sure. I hope to be half the person he was, and love life and people just as much as he did.

img_3975Our last Father’s Day together was definitely not ideal. He was not responsive in the hospital in UAB (a trip I made countless times). My mother and I had bought a new farm sign for him. Unfortunately he never saw that sign. My father helped me start a Belted Galloway Farm. Even though we had no background, I had a passion. And like any good father he supported me physically, mentally and most importantly financially. I was lucky to have such a loving and supportive father, no matter what.

The first Father’s Day without him was incredibly difficult. I was not sure how to function. I wasn’t sure what that day should look like. I came back to the question, how do you celebrate Father’s Day without a father? I decided to celebrate the time I had with him. But to also celebrate the other people in my life. That stepped up to support me and my family.

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I am incredibly fortunate in that I have a large group of people that love me. These people make up my tribe. I would not have made it this far in my life without them. So instead of focusing on not having one of my favorite person, I celebrate everyone else. I make sure to take time on Father’s Day every year to reach out to “my people” and thank them for their love and support. I believe that is what my father would have wanted. He wouldn’t want me to sit around sad and focusing on missing him.

This doesn’t change the fact that I miss him every day. But I try to not let it take over my life. As bad as it can seem, there is always a positive. Noticing the support from everyone else is my positive. Now I just have to thank these people. It doesn’t change the fact that I miss my daddy, but it does give me something happy to focus on, on Father’s Day and every other day. These people don’t take the place of my father by any means, but they love me and support me just like he did. So to all of these people in my life, THANK YOU.

I grew up wanting to be just like my daddy. Well my dream has come true. I am my father with shorter legs and longer hair.

 

The Truth about Ground Beef Temperatures

This weekend is Memorial Day, which means a time to honor the fallen that have protected this great country that we so love. It is also unofficially the start of the summer grilling season. National Hamburger Day also falls on Sunday. This provides us with a lot of different reasons to grill.

We all have our favorite things to grill, but I would argue that hamburgers are the most popular. But the proper cooking of ground beef is incredibly important to food and family safety.  All ground beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Grilling temps for steaks and ground beef

Photo courtesy of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Facebook page

Why can I have my steak medium-rare, but not my hamburger? Bacteria. Bacteria can only exist on the surface of the steak – and they get killed once it gets cooked. But Erin Beasley, who has a Master’s degree in Meat Science, explains how ground beef is produced differently.

“To make ground beef we begin with whole muscle cuts such as chuck meat and we place it into a grinder. Once we grind and mix it into ground beef, any bacteria present on the surface of that product will exist throughout the ground beef because of the grinding process.”

Beasley says that is why it is imperative to cook ground beef to 160 degrees and ground turkey or chicken to 165. Doing so will prevent food borne bacteria. Beasley is also the assistant executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and is affectionately known as the “Beef Girl.”
Another common issue that arises with grilling hamburgers is leaving them out on the counter or out in the sun for too long. Beasley’s suggestion is to practice the 40-140 rule.

Cheeseburgers on the grillThis means keep all products under 40 degrees or over 140 degrees. “Meat products that sit in the danger zone between 40-140 degrees can create an environment for bacterial growth and increase your risk of food borne illness,” explained Beasley.

If you follow the 40-140 rule and cook all ground beef to 160 degrees, then the odds of a food borne illness messing up your meal, family time or holiday weekend are much lower! And makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

If you’re at a loss for what to cook this Memorial Day weekend, then look into the “Beef Girl’s Special.” Erin pats out two thin burgers, and then places a large slice of cheese on one of the patty’s. She then places the other patty on top and forms the two to make a good size burger with cheese inside. Once it is grilled to 160 degrees she likes to top it with bacon and a fried egg. Top it with a good bun and you have a delicious and safe burger that supports a couple different animal agriculture groups!

If you are worried about hormones in your meat, then read this post. Happy grilling and remember the truth about ground beef temperatures!

The Truth About Shearing Sheep

With temperatures varying all across the nation it is difficult to stay warm. To me the best way to accomplish that is by sitting inside, up under a blanket, in front of a fire. But we usually do not get that luxury. So sometimes we have to venture out into the cold, windy harshness that is winter. That is when you resort to the second best way to deal with the cold, wool clothing.

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Peta advertisement

Recently wool has been getting a bad rap on Facebook. Some people would like you to believe that shearing is a dangerous, painful experience for the sheep. But the truth of the matter is, that is not true.

Shearing can actually make the sheep more comfortable. Maria Linton a sheep farmer in North Carolina explains exactly what shearing is. “Shearing is the process of cutting wool off of a sheep. It is just like you and I getting a haircut.”

It also is very safe for the sheep. Professionals flip a sheep on its butt, which calms them,and shear them in a pattern. “Typically this is a strip down the belly, strokes down each side then down the back,” explains Linton. Professionals shear a sheep quickly, but still do not knick them often. If they are accidentally knicked in the process it is not very deep. It is similar to knicking yourself while shaving. Linton says if she does accidentally knick her sheep she will immediately put an antiseptic spray on the wound to keep it from getting infected.

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Marisa Linton preparing to shear a sheep at her farm. Notice the difference between the sheep in the front and in the background

Professionals often go to shearing school to learn how to shear properly and in the best interest of the sheep, explains Linton. Many farmers while shearing will give their vaccinations, trim hooves and check them to make sure they are completely healthy.

Shearing makes the sheep a lot more comfortable as well. This is because all that wool gets heavy and hot, especially during the summer. Because of this, a lot of farmers will shear their sheep right before summer so that they can be cool throughout the hottest part of the year.

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A sheep that was shorn by Will Jordan

Farmers make money, depending on the quality of wool. The quality of wool depends largely on the breed of sheep, but also on the health of the sheep. Sheep farmers, all farmers for that matter, want the best for their animals. Animal agriculture is only successful if animals are happy and healthy.

Sheep are normally sheared either once a year, or twice a year depending on breed. But what do they do for the rest of the year? They eat, walk around and poop. Marisa keeps her sheep on a pasture year round, but do provide shelter to go into when it rains or gets cold. They also supplement with grain and hay to keep the sheep healthy through winter, to not lose weight.

Along with raising sheep and working on her shearing skills Marisa also runs her own blog, for more of her story visit Rural Ris!

The Truth About Antibiotics in Milk

milk in a bottleConsumers are increasingly worried about what they eat and drink. One of the main concerns is if there are antibiotics present in milk. I, and dairy farmers in the U.S., can guarantee that there are NO antibiotics present in the milk we buy from the grocery store. How? Let me tell you.

 

Testing

The FDA has strict rules about antibiotic residues, because of this milk is tested multiple times. At the farm and on the truck. If there are even trace amounts of antibiotics found on one tractor-trailer of milk, the entire truckload will be discarded. If this happens the farm has to pay upwards of $10,000 for the discarded milk. There is also a time period where the milk at the farm will not be picked up until the FDA has inspected the farm and ran tests.

So antibiotics in milk is detrimental to one farmer’s bank account, but also to their reputation and to other farmers. Most tractor-trailers transport milk from multiple farms, so it’s not just one person’s livelihood being thrown away, it’s multiple. This is incentive for farmers to test their own milk at the farm and follow protocol to prevent antibiotic residues.

On-farm prevention

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Cow being milked at Gilmer Dairy Farm

There are also protocols on individual dairy farms that prevent antibiotics from getting in our milk supply. Detailed records must be kept so that all employees know which cows are receiving antibiotics. Those cows are then milked into a separate tank, sometimes called a dump tank, for a specific period of time. That time frame is called the withdrawal period, or how long it takes medicine to leave an animal’s system.

All farmers follow the posted withdrawal period to make sure that the antibiotic is completely out of their system before they put the milk in the regular tank. Some farmers even wait a few more days just to be safe and then run a test to check for antibiotic residues. Dairy farmers drink the milk the produce, just like you do, so they want it to be as safe as possible for their families and yours.

Why use antibiotics?

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Cow udder with mastitis.

You may be wondering if it is so much work, time and potential money why even use antibiotics. Well because farmers love their cows and want them to be happy and healthy If you or your child is sick what do you do? Usually you go to the doctor and get antibiotics. Why? Because you don’t want to be sick anymore. The same is true for these cows. The dairy farmer would much rather put in the effort to milk into separate tanks and test for antibiotic residue than see their cows in terrible pain from a treatable disease.

One common disease that occurs in dairy cattle is mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland in the udder, typically due to bacterial infection. The only way to treat mastitis is through antibiotics. Respiratory diseases are also common and can be fatal if left untreated.

You don’t have to worry about antibiotics being in the milk we buy from the grocery store, the FDA and dairy farmers make sure that’s not a problem.