As we share thanks this season, farmers have a lot to be thankful for.
As we pause to reflect on all of those who “labor” for our country and enjoy the last few days of summer it is important to remember that not everyone gets the day off. In fact, farmers never get
a day off. My sheep are part of my family and they have to eat everyday. We will be up early as always and in the barn late into the night on Labor day as every other day. While we aren’t in the fields yet, there are many farm families who won’t get a day off of harvest this weekend. When the crop is ready and the weather is right you keep going! Not everyone is willing to work a job with no days off, let alone deal with the risk and stress involved in the job. As you stop to barbecue with our friends. Please take a second to thank the farmers who are providing that food for you, because they are probably on a tractor somewhere! Thank you to my Farmer!
As the new Fall Semester gets underway there are a few things I want to share with you from a professor. We know you are anxious this first week about how your classes will go. Guess what? So are we! Is our class ready? Are we ready to teach, grade, and engage you? Is our material challenging enough to push you to grow and learn without pushing you too far?
Over the summer while you were working and enjoying the warmth, I was at conferences trying to learn to be better for you. I am constantly thinking of how I can be a better teacher for you. How can I be the one who helps you think critically about my content? How can I be a support for you during your time here? How can I make the impact on you that my teachers made on me? How can I make you the best you to have a great future?
As day one starts I hope you remember a few things:
I hope that you have an amazing year. I hope you get all you can from my class and others. College is one of the best times of your life. It is more than in the classroom. I know that (remember I went to college too). I want you to get a great degree and career. Know I am here to help you get there and as long as you respect me I will respect you.
Being short, the size of my sheep has always been important to me. I don’t want to breed something that is going to be taller than me and over power me. Recently, I was talking to a judge at our state fair about the “growth” of our sheep industry, not out but up! We continue to breed and judge for height while breed standards and conformation get ignored. We will get to a point that they are too tall and the meat processors won’t be interested, i.e., the cattle industry.
Over the years we have seen beef make that move to taller stock, but that has taken a swing in a different direction. One I think we in the sheep industry should follow. They aren’t worrying about height as much as build, muscle, etc. And we are seeing them get progressively shorter.
As I see sheep in other countries, I’m always jealous of their standard heights. These Suffolks form a show in Scottland are a great example. When was the last time you saw a Suffolk like this? Most in the US are taller than me! (ok maybe a little exaggerated, but not by much) If we are to compete in a global market we should be breeding for wool, conformation, meat quality, but not height. Height doesn’t increase the value at the end of the day, it is a wasted product. As breeding season hits think about what is most important in your genetics? Your breed integrity and quality, or being the tallest in the class?
Realistically I know it will take a swing in the show ring as well, but that won’t start if we don’t start talking to our judges and breeding as we should.
I know many bloggers have given their two cents on lessons learned in the show ring every year and what we are teaching our children, but after a few weeks of watching another fair I can’t help but add in my opinion!
A little background… I grew up in a very competitive county where showing market lambs was big business, but thankfully my parents steered me in another direction… breeding sheep. I showed a market lamb every year, but I wasn’t out for champion. I was more excited to show my breeding sheep. I quickly learned the lesson of hard work all year ensuring you are producing a quality animal that was ready to produce offspring, not just win a ribbon. And this is where I worry we are going wrong today.
At the state fair every year we see market lamb numbers go up or stay level, but kids showing breeding sheep keep declining. Yes youth learn skills in the market industry, but I think it is also important they are learning the importance of what is needed in the breeding barn to produce the wool and meat needed around the world. I’m not blind and I know some treat even their breeding flocks as show strings, but I think our youth should be learning about the whole industry, not just how to fluff legs right.
In a recent trip to the UK, my students (who grew up in the show stock world) and I watched a couple classes of sheep at a national show. There wasn’t a market lamb class, it was all breeding sheep and people were not “showing” them as we would see in a US show ring. It was fun to watch, but my students were in awe. I think for our industry to grow and continue we need to be developing youth who have a passion for breeding and raising sheep, not just making sure they are fresh the day of the show.
As a first time mom I received lots of advice from everyone on how to keep things clean for my baby. “She dropped her pacifier on the floor, you better not give it back to her.” ” You have to sanitize everything.” “The dog licked her hand; hurry and clean them before she sucks her thumb.” Not only did people share with me their clean advice, but I’ve watched friends chat over social media about all the protections they do to keep baby “healthy.”
Well, frankly, I think by trying not to hurt are kids with germs we are hurting them. The U.S. is one of the cleanest countries, and our children show it by getting sick so easily. If you travel anywhere else in the world you’ll see moms who love their kids but don’t put them in a bubble. I’ve watched
children living in South America in homes with dirt floors, outside squat toilets, and bucket showers, and they were fine! Were they covered in dirt? Yes, but they bathed. Their moms just don’t follow them around with hand sanitizer and wet wipes!
By allowing our kids contact with germs and dirt we give them the chance to build immunity. Are there bad germs? Of course, and that’s where vaccines come in to help. You may not agree with me but my little girl sucks her thumb after petting our sheep and playing in dirt (and probably manure). If she drops her bottle on the ground in public we pick it up and go. Our dog licked her spoon the other day and she promptly put it in her mouth. Did she die? No. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want her crawling a all over a public restroom floor, but she needs a few germs! Millions of children around the world survive everyday. Why are we so worried? Let them have fun! Let them have dirt!
Every trip across the field whether it’s spraying chemicals, planting, or harvesting costs us money, let alone puts off emissions into the environment. So we’re not going to do it anymore than we absolutely have to. We’re not going to put on pesticides just to throw on pesticides, we only do it when we need to to produce a healthy crop. On our farm we do no-till to reduce our trips across the field compacting the soil and hurting the environment. We soil sample by the acre and only apply fertilizers and pesticides on the square foot of soil that needs it, and only just to make it grow well.
We don’t want someone to stereotype based on the color of their skin, so why do you stereotype me as a Farmer and how I care for my livestock. My animals are part of my family; they eat before we do. No one opens Christmas presents or goes to church before the animals get their breakfast. I will stay out in the below zero temperatures all night long to make sure a lamb survives. I don’t abuse my animals to make money, I take care of them. But yes they are business. If you were a hairdresser would you think you could just go in and start chopping someone’s hair and be successful? No, just like I couldn’t go in and harm my animals and still have money to feed my family. My sheep get antibiotics when they’re sick because I want them to live. My daughter gets antibiotics when she’s sick because I want her to live.
Please don’t stereotype my family for the profession we have. As educated consumers you can’t believe the images and the stereotypes always put before us in the media when it comes to race, religion, sexual preference, or gender, so why do you take everything for face value when you see something negative about my family. I’m not against being a vegetarian, I’m not against organics, I’m not against GMO or chemicals. I don’t make my mind up based on one blogger’s opinion or one news report. I do research myself, and I look at all the facts and where those facts come from before I make an informed educated decision. Please get to know all sides of agriculture before you lump us all into one stereo typical box.