Why do I dock my lambs’ tails?

I was in Nicaragua a few weeks ago and while on a farm I noticed that all of the sheep Pelibüey  were not docked. This made me reflect on the US sheep that I see every day in our barn. Why is it that the American sheep industry docks (shortens) tails while all the sheep I have seen in European and South American tend to not. In many instances American sheep are treated as well if not better than sheep I’ve seen internationally, especially in Nicaragua. My sheep are a part of my family, and I would never want them to do something that is harmful.

So why to do we dock tails in the US. There are several health reasons that lead to this common practice amongst the US lamb industry.
– It reduces a build up of fecal matter. After all sheep can’t wipe. It also helps with flies.
– It aids in lambing as it makes it easier to watch the udder and monitor for issues.
– It aids in shearing as it isn’t in the way.

So why don’t they do it around the world if it aids in health? Because several hair breeds don’t have large wooly tails that are in the way. These breeds are the ones we find more often in Europe and South America like the Pelibuey ,Barbados, Dorper, Kahtadin, and St Crox. Several breeds also have shorter tails already like Finnsheep and Romanov. For m
Ore checkout Sheep 101

So next time you see some sheep grazing without tails, know there is a farmer who cares for their health .


I Believe…

This is a repost from October, but being FFA week I feel it is appropriate.

If you can finish this sentence, then  you can understand when I say how much of an impact the National FFA had on my life. This week I am spending my time in the National Convention newsroom for the 14th year in a row. Through pictures I watch the stories of amazing youth unfold over the week. From children who are shy and reserved to outgoing and loud. They are all coming out of their shells and improving their lives through the workshops, sessions, and experiences here at FFA. It isn’t about all the competitions or awards (those are nice), it is about motivating youth. You talk to my husband and myself and both of us will recall a speakerIMG_2511 at the National FFA (and/or Ohio FFA) convention that was a turning point in our lives. Their inspirational words struck chords in us that made us the outgoing, successful agriculturalist we are today. Our farm wouldn’t be nationally recognized for conservation practices without the training my husband got, nor would he be the amazing professional speaker he is. I would not have the research and teaching career with out an ag teacher who pushed me forward way back when.

So what is the point of this post you ask? Simple. Gratitude. I am so thankful that I was given the chance to be a part of a youth organization like this, and thankful that I still get to be a part of it today as a professional. While I know we can’t tell our children who to be or what to do (even though I want to), but you can bet my little girl will be in the FFA. I look forward to the day she puts on that blue jacket and becomes the woman she will be. She doesn’t have to be a state officer like me, or win state proficiencies like John and I. I just want her to experience it! Experience the motivation, the excitement, the dedication to an industry you love, and leadership skills to be gained.

Lessons from a duck

Fellow working mommies have said to me recently that they don’t know how I find the time to do all the things that I do, but what I find funny is everyone who said this to me I thought the exact same of them. We as mommies tend to compare ourselves to other women without realizing we are all not that different. Some don’t understand how I have so much time to travel when I have a toddler. Well I don’t understand how they work out with kids at home.

I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this recently while traveling away from my daughter. How do I find time in the day to do everything? I tend to feel like I’m not getting anything done; that I’m letting others down because I’m not productive enough. But apparently my outershell tells a very different story.

When people ask how I am my favorite response is I’m a duck. I may look great on the top view but underneath I’m swimming like mad trying to keep afloat. I think that is how all moms are. We can make it look good but we all have this tendency to be doubting ourselves and swimming like mad. But maybe we don’t always have to be that crazy underwater. I was watching a few ducks swim the other day when I was traveling abroad with students and something hit me. While the ducks paddle to get where they need to go they also tuck their feet behind them and coast part of the way. If I’m always comparing myself to a duck then maybe I need to learn from this unexpected behavior. Maybe there are times when I need to coast and with both parts be smooth and cool.

We have to remember that it’s okay to leave work with something not done. It’s okay to get home and only focus on your baby. It’s okay to go to bed with the dishes in the sink, really it’s okay I haven’t swept the floor in two weeks. If my little one is clothed and happy and healthy nothing else matters. I think it’s the lesson all of us moms need to learn, especially my fellow peers in the academy. We always want to be paddling, but it is ok for us to hold our feet still and enjoy the ride. I’m going to stop beating myself up because I didn’t get the journal article in today. Stop worrying that students will be mad because I wasn’t able to be on campus this morning because I need time with my daughter.

I challenge all my friends to do the same. Let’s stop paddling like crazy and enjoy the view more. Because you know what; my duck friends still got across the pond.


A Little Christmas Lamb

Who said Christmas dinner had to be ham or turkey? We had lamb raised from our farm (can’t get any more local than that)! Looking for a good dinner for your family? Try it out! Did you know 4 oz. of lamb has 27.5 g of protein?

Lamb Chops with Apple Stuffing

2 T Olive Oil Divided                                             2t dried rosemary
1/2 cup chopped Onion                                        1/2 t slat
2 cloves garlic, chopped                                      1/2 t pepper
2 cups cornbread stuffing                                  2/3 cup canned apple pie filling chopped
1/2 cup apple juice                                                  1 cup chopped walnuts
8 lamb rib chops 3/4 inch thick

1. In large skillet heat 1T of oil and cook onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper over medium heat for 3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2. Add stuffing, apple pie filling, apple juice and walnuts. Mix well.

3. In 13x 9 pan spread out dressing and set aside.

4. In skillet heat remaining oil and quickly brown lamb chops on each side.

5. Place chops on top of dressing. Roast to desired temperature. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.   (145 for rare/medium; 160 for medium; 170 for well)

699 calories, 43 fat, 23 protein, 50 cholesterol, 60 carbs




What does Mickey teach us about ag?

Mikcey_Featured-460x280Watching my 20 month old explore and learn the world around her I can’t help but think back to my theoretical courses in my PhD program that discussed how individuals form their views of the world around them. Being in agriculture and in communication I find myself constantly looking to understand how people shape their views on food and fiber. There are tons of theories in education, psychology, and communication that help us understand this phenomena. Whether it is social cognition, semiotic analysis, schema, or any number of theories that you use to conceptually understand how we shape our view of the world, they all explain that your environment, culture, and upbringing have huge influences in how you first shape your cognitive understandings. A colleague of mine (and previous student of mine) and I have been discussing this more and more in relation to entertainment media. She recently finished a dissertation looking at popular movie portrayals of agriculture and I had a master’s student look at top 20 movies in the last 10 years and how they banner_2777portray agriculture brands. We have even more recently started thinking about this early formations of understanding (as research shows it is hard to change these original views learned through media and society) about agriculture. What do cartoons teach youth about agriculture? If we want to help our world understand modern agriculture, how is it being represented in their first experiences with it? Watching shows with my little one has given me a whole new chance to view such representations of agriculture from the view of a toddler and a parent. I think back images-1to my early learning and remember cartoon episodes I watched that taught me about our world. So what do these “representations” of agriculture teach society? Does it enforce the real image of agriculture? One of science, sustainability, good animal husbandry? Or does it give children a false sense of the world? We are getting ready to embark on such a study. I can’t wait to see what we find. Will we be able to change these representations? Probably not, but it would help us understand where to start as we work to change the negative views of our industry that are out there. So next time you turn on Mickey Mouse and he is racing after jumping sheep think about what it is really showing our youth?

Farm Economics– Salt, Pepper and Shaker head to a new home

Growing them up rightOne of the most important things I learned growing up on the farm is that it is a way of life and thus a business (even if it is a small family farm). I think this one of the best lessons we can teach our children.

I’ve visited several sustainable organic farms in South America and have heard from more than one of them that every thing that lived on the farm had to have a job or it was gone. The chickens gave eggs and fertilizer. The cows milk and pasture aeration. The dogs are guardians. In businesses you don’t keep employees around that don’t produce. And on the farm it is the same way.

We had this lesson at the farm this week. We had 3 ewe lambs this year that just didn’t fit into the breeding program I am developing in the flock. Since they wouldn’t be “workers” it was time for them to move on from the farm. Normally this wouldn’t be too hard to do, but these three ewes were special to two special little girls. We worked with a friend’s daughter this spring/summer to help her in her first year of 4-H showing lambs. Salt, Pepper and Shaker became her girls. She walked them almost every night (with Harlie’s help of course), and showed them at the county fair. Again they weren’t the “show” quality we wanted but were a good first year project for her. So when we decided they needed to go it reminded me the lessons we all have to learn. It was hard to tell this little girl that her “friends” have to make their way on the farm or we have to find them a new home. Kids in 4-H and FFA (and on farms period) learn this lesson every year. They raise livestock that they form relationships with and then have to say goodbye. It might seem like a mean lesson for children, but truly doesn’t it prepare them for life? At some point, unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to everyone we love in our lives. For Salt, Pepper and Shaker that time was now.

Thank a farmer today!