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Texas State Fair Internship

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Last fall I had the fantastic opportunity to be an intern for the Texas State Fair in Dallas. It was only a four day internship working with Big Tex’s Barnyard where fairgoers can learn about the show animals and agriculture in general. On our first day I was was re-assigned to work with the Southwest Dairy Farmers representative. All of my previous cattle experience was with beef cows and so I was extremely thrilled to learn to work with the dairy cows. Since there were several milking demonstrations a day, there were three dairy cows that we rotated for the demonstrations. One old Holstein Cow, a Brown Swiss, and a Jersey Cow. The demonstration stall had machine milker that I became a pro at. The audience could see how the milkers worked and how much milk a cow could give. We had our routine: as the audience started to arrive, the cow was taken from her stall into the demonstration stall. As the Southwest Dairy Farmer began his presnetation, the cow was given a scoop of feed and once the rep started to explain the process, I dipped the cows teats in iodine dip, wiped clean, and the milking suction device was placed on the four teats. It was always pointed out that if the suction hurt the cow, she would stop eating, kick off the machine and probably kick me in the process. That didn’t happen so it was evident she was comfortable, especially since the pressure of the milk was being relieved. After she gave us a certain amount of milk (we pre-determined the amount in order to allow her to give milk each time) the machine would be taken off and she would be cleaned again. Once the presentation was over, we put her back in her stall where she would lie down comfortably and chew her cud. (Cattle are ruminant animals meaning that they have a four compartment stomach so in between switching compartments, their “cud”, or already chewed food is regergetated, and chewed on some more in order to continue the digestion process, usually this is a sign of relaxation) We usually only used two cows a day and rotated them, that way a cow got a day off but still had to get milked. It was interesting talking to some of the fair goers and one of the most popular questions/subjects was drinking raw milk. We couldn’t give any raw milk because of liablility reasons but a lot of people were very interested in it. At the end of the day we took all three cows to the milking room of the fair and milked the cows out, in order to relieve the pressure, and placed them in their little paddock. I was so amazed by the machinery and the milking process. The suction on the milking part didn’t need any sort of attachment to keep it attached. the suction enough kept it on while still keeping comfort for the cow. The iodine dip keeps the milk and machine as clean as possible and the milk never is never touched by the human. Since we weren’t keeping the milk, we simply discarded it but the cleaning process of the machine is extremely important as well. The whole process just blew my mind. Of course I have to report on the three cows themselves, the old Holstein was known as pokey because she had no hurry to get anywhere. She took her time and loved attention. The Brown Swiss cow was the exact opposite, she was in a hurry and if you were in her way, she ran you over but she was still sweet and did what you wanted her to without any hesitation. My favorite, the Jersey Cow, was the cutest little cow and loved to play. She would playfully nudge you when you went to put her halter on and was just a sweet heart. Just a little tip, don’t lead dairy cows like you lead show cattle, they don’t like being on a short lead, they like a little slack (no pun intended).

Even though I mainly worked with the dairy cows, they were put up before the barn yard closed so I worked a little at the barn yard. Another tip: If you are going to a fair and not showing an animal, please do NOT pet the animals or ask to pet the animals if you are not in a petting zoo. Even though most of these animals are friendly for liability purposes they can not let you pet them… but there are unfriendly animals that will bite you. We had a longhorn steer on display and dispite the “Do Not Pet Me” signs every six inches, it seemed like one in every three people tried to grab his horn. He was not a mean steer but it would be so easy for the steer to simply move his head and break someones hand in between his horn and the gate. The sad part was that most of the people trying to grab his horns were over the age of 25, english speaking, and litterate so there was no excuse… Other than that it was a blast talking to some of these people and engaging them on animal industry discussions.

If you ever get a chance to work with the state fair or even just go visit it, go for it, you just may learn a thing or two without even realizing it.   

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Animal Rights and Agriculturalists

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This type of subject deserves a story….

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When I was 17, the cattle market was booming. Good rainfalls brought good calves and good grass, which good grass is quite rare in my part of the state. Well, that year seemed like the perfect year to start a cattle business, so I did what every other teenage girl strives to do, I decided to start my own cattle herd. My father was running 900 head and had 20 perfect 2 year old heifers and a pair of bulls to go along with them so he offered to sell me his heifers at market price. So I came up with a business deal, I would buy 18 heifers clean and clear, finance the other two (with interest) as well as the two bulls. I would lease the land per acre, each month and I would compensate my father for the feed at the end of the year. I was ecstatic the minute I signed that check. I immediately went on-line and purchased hot pink ear tags (the neighbor already had blue) as well as the other necessities needed for raising cattle and created an excel spreadsheet compatible with my computer and my iPad for record keeping. Every time that I could go and check on them, I would bring a sack of cotton seed cake (a pelleted feed that is like candy to them) and the minute I started honking my horn, they would start running and bellering (an excited moo) towards the truck to be first in line for the cake. Looking at my pretty ladies with their pink ear tags I would swell up with pride especially when calving season began. I think that I can speak for most ranchers and farmers when I say that there is a sense of pride when they look over their thriving herd or good crop, a sense of accomplishment after hard work. Now when it comes down to business, I believe in one thing; a quality product starts with quality care. That is a saying that I take to heart. During my first semester of college, I became Beef Quality Assured certified (I will have a blog about that in the future) and managed my herd away from home. I am continuing my animal productio education by going to seminars and speeches for livestock producers. Keep in mind that I was raised and taught throughout my life to have the highest respect for animals. However, there is a fine line between what has been known of as animal rights, and animal respect. The way animal rights activists are going now, is that they will not be satisfied with animal producers until all of us give our cattle individual temper-pedic beds and we keep our calves in our rooms as we cuddle with them. I can not fit that many calves in my room, nor can I afford to buy them all temper-pedic beds but I can work with them calmly and with the best, most humane livestock handling equipment avaliable. Through safe handling and a good enivrionment, well tempered cattle and on overall good product will be the result.

Now I want to get to the point of this blog… when someone accuses me of being cruel to my animals, my feelings get hurt. Plain and simple. Someone who believes that they know my story and think that they know how I feel about my cattle (cattle in general) and tells me that I don’t care for the well being of my animals, it breaks my heart… PETA finds the very few animal producers that are inhumane and video tapes/takes pictures and claims that every animal producer treats their animals that way. I’m not going to defend inhumane producers because sadly, there are very few, however, I’m defending the most of us who are honorable and who treat every animal with respect. Here’s my argument, if animal activists can use circular reasoning to sling mud on the agricultural industry, I can use circular reasoning to sling mud on them. For instance, A PETA woman is an animal activist, she posed naked on a grill, family friendly people do not pose naked on grills at a public event, therefore, every animal activist is not a family friendly person. A little ridiculous isn’t it, I don’t know these people and I’m making false assumptions about them. Is that fair? How about this one- A man was caught shoplifting from a convenient store, the man was associated with PETA, therefore, all people associated with PETA shoplift. Once again, it’s not fair to make these false assumptions about people I do not know. So why is it accepted for these people to do that to us animal producers? Even more puzzling, how are they becoming influential with these false accusations? I honestly believe that the root of all this, is the lack of agricultural education in today’s society. There are plenty of agriculture education classes in small rural towns and you if you pay attention, it’s rare that you see an animal rights activist that was in FFA or 4-H. These programs need to be expanded in to more urban areas to students that do not have experience with livestock or any other agricultural industry. There is an FFA program in Chicago where public school students are chosen by lottery to attend and learn about agriculture. These student didn’t all grow up with agriculture experience and with this educational experience, they were exposed to the industry and a lot of them enjoyed it. http://ilfbpartners.com/chicago-ag-sciences-high-school/

I started to ramble a little but I honestly think that education for our students in public schools and engagement of the community will help strengthen the support for agriculture. We need agricultural advocates, we need a community who understands not only the industry but the good, honest people behind that industry as well.Those of you reading that may be animal rights activists or PETA members, I ask only that you have an open mind and walk in our shoes a little bit. You may just find that we’re not that bad, just misunderstood

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