Monday, 4 July 2011

People Know You By Your First Name

Good-bye Ponoka Stampede, you have successfully provided Ponoka residents and many visitors another year of jam packed, rodeo fun!

Whether you are from Ponoka or a guest camping for the week you will enjoy the sights and sounds of the Ponoka Stampede.  For people from Ponoka, the Stampede serves as a high school reunion, a way to catch up with old friends who have, since high school, moved away.  For the kids still in high school, Stampede serves as a mark to the start of summer and the end of classes.

For me, Stampede was a high school reunion.  I was able to reconnect with many friends that I haven't seen since last Stampede.  The atmosphere of the rodeo offers nothing but excitement and it seems as though people of all ages drop everything when it comes to Stampede time.

For businesses in Ponoka, the Stampede brings thousands of people, and business skyrockets.  All of the hotel rooms fill, holiday trailers fill the campsite, the school fields and the ditches of surrounding businesses.  Resturaunts and fast food establishments are completely full at all hours of the day with hungry rodeo goers grabbing a snack before the next performance or after the beer gardens.  If you are a resident of Ponoka, this is the one week you should refrain from eating out.

For parents with small children, Stampede brings stress.  With the rodeo comes the midway, and the rides full of screaming children, cotton candy, ice cream and mini donuts, all of the things that keep the children just wired.  If you have ever been to the stampede and have walked through the midway during the day, you will know just the craze I am talking about.

For the police in Ponoka, Stampede brings double time.  Driving home the other night I passed five cop cars, three with vehicles pulled over.  Check stops are setup all over town, and Police station themselves in the beer gardens hoping to prevent fights and weed out any underage'rs.  The drunk tank in Ponoka is the busiest this time of year, and if you are lucky enough to have that one friend who always challenges the cops, you will hear many interesting stories about the drunk tank the next morning.  You may even be lucky enough to be the friend who gets the early morning call "can you come pick me up, I am at the cop shop".

All in all, I think that Stampede brings much joy to many people, and I for one cannot complain.  I had the opportunity this year to volunteer as a bartender during the Saturday night cabaret in the arena.  Being on the other side of the bar was humorous to say the least.  From this angle you get to watch friends progress through the night, and you watch some pretty funny situations unfold.

Last night I took in the rodeo finals, and watched as my cousin`s boyfriend won the team roping event for the second year in a row! It makes rodeo that much more exciting when you get to cheer for someone you personally know! Congratulations Levi Simpson! The video below is Levi last year at Ponoka Stampede, this year he had a different roping partner.  Levi also competed in the Canadian Finals Rodeo last year

Lately I have heard a song on the radio that reminds me exactly of Ponoka.  I decided to dig up the lyrics and add my own little stories to them!

Artist: Brody Dean
Song: People Know You By Your First Name  
Album: Trail In Life

It's a town just outside of nowhere 
with a general store and one lamp pole
we got wheat fields saw mills and coal mines (Ponoka is surrounded by farms any direction you go) 
down home country folks

raised on 4H and dance hall auctions (Ponoka has many various 4-H clubs)
spaghetti dinners and parkin lot fights,
ohh we might be a little bit backwoods
but `round here thats alright

where people know you by your first name
what kinda truck you drive (You can always tell who is anywhere by checking out vehicles parked)
how your team did back in high school
so you can't lie
better watch out who you take home
`cause `round here its a fact of life
that people know you by your first name
and what you did last night

so c'mon down to our fund raiser dinner it'll be a highschool reunion I swear
another family fallin' on hard times
so there won't be an empty chair (this recently happened in Ponoka.  A farm family lost their young father to a heart attack, and a fundraiser/silent auction was held at the Stampede grounds to raise money for the family.  Everyone was there, from farmers to hockey coaches, figure skaters to business people, not a seat was empty)

listen close and you'll hear a local legend
Billy Crocket and that twelve point rack
oh and you thought you were alone skinny dippin in the springs last night
word here travels fast

where people know you by your first name what kinda truck you drive
how your team did back in highschool
so can't lie
better watch out who you take home
`cause `round here it's a fact of life
that people know you by your first name
and what you did last night

here we go

where people know you by your first name what kinda truck you drive
how your team did back in highschool
so can't lie
better watch out who you take home
`cause `round here it's a fact of life
that people know you by your first name
and what you did last night

yeah people know you by your first name
and what you did last night

[Thanks to Jacob Scully for lyrics]

Out to the cows I go!

Have a good day everyone!


Thursday, 30 June 2011

It's Showtime!

I love to show off... but I'm not talking about showing off myself... I love to show off my cattle!

If you have ever heard of a cattle show, this is what I am referring to!

What is a cattle show?

A cattle show is just like any other type of show, like a car show or a horse show.  It is a way for cattle producers to market their product, hear about what the industry is looking for and compete against one another for the top cow!  The video below gives you an idea of just what a cattle show looks like! The video is from a fair in Prince Edward Island, but cattle show are fairly standard around the world!

At a cattle show, exhibitors compete against other cattle in their breed for a chance to be number one.  A judge enters the show ring and judges the cattle based on which cattle he thinks have the best conformation.  Conformation:  the best body structure, the best structural soundness, the animal that carries itself the smoothest when it walks in the ring.

Cattle shows not only market the cattle, but at most shows there is a chance for people to market themselves!  Junior shows are cattle shows that only allow young ranchers to take part, usually ages 9-21, with some shows starting at age 3 or 4 to age 24.  At the Junior shows, there are always a bunch of competitions for the junior showman to compete in, all testing the ability of the showman having nothing to do with how good the cattle themselves are.

Junior shows contain many different components to the show including:

  • Showmanship- the junior showman competes against the other showman to see who presents their cattle the best.  They are judged on how well they can handle their cattle, how well they set their cattle up, and how well they present themselves and the cattle.  A showman needs to be well groomed also.  The biggest job of the showman is to best present the calf to catch the judges attention.  If a showman doesn't do a good job of showing the calf, the judge may overlook just how great the animal really is, which could cost the showman and the calf a chance for the championship!
  • Grooming- There are competitions in which the showman has to groom their calf.  The showman are judged on which animal looks the best.  No calf should have any bedding on them, dirt, or mud.  They should all be washed up and squeaky clean.  The calves should be clipped and shaved properly, hiding the bad points and highlighting the strong points of the animal.  An animal with a thick hair coat is the best for grooming because you can easily work with the hair to shape it and hide weaknesses.
  • Marketing - This blog is an example of a senior marketing project for the Summer Synergy Livestock Show.  In the past I have had to make business plans, marketing strategic plans, present ideas for new products, create various products and ideas, and work in groups to market random items.  This all helps the youth get involved, learn a variety of skills and work on their innovation!
  • Quizzes- many shows have quizzes about livestock and agriculture that competitors have to take for points toward the aggregate (overall winner).  
  • Judging - At summer shows all the juniors have to judge everything from dairy and beef cattle, to crops, grains and heavy horses.  Upon judging a class, the competitor has to orally give his or her reasons to a judge.  The judge marks the comments based on quality of the comments, as well as how close the competitor was to judging the class the same as the overall judge. 
  • Art- Sometimes shows have art components such as photography, painting, drawing and various other categories where competitors can show off their other talents in a way that relates to the agriculture industry of course. 
The Summer Synergy Show is a show which combines Beef, Dairy, Sheep and Heavy horse shows as a way of "synergizing" agriculture and the youth involved.  
Shows are a great way to meet people and work at goals, as well as set up future ties in the agricultural industry.  The other showman competing against you at a show are someday going to be the other farmers and ranchers working with you in this great industry.  Youth Shows give young ranchers a head start on networking and setting up good markets for themselves!

What qualities does a judge look for in the champion?

When you step foot in a show ring, you want to be able to pick out which animal will perform the best out of the show ring.  The main goal for any farmer is to raise beef cattle that are productive and can bring him high quality beef.  As a young rancher, I need to be able to go to the pasture and judge the cattle, so that I can easily pick out the more superior cows.  No one wants a sickly, poor producing cow in their herd.  Learning how to judge beef cattle helps farmers improve their herds and make them the best they can!

Before the cattle come into the show ring, the judge sets him or herself up in the middle of the ring, this gives him a good spot to view the animals as they enter.  When the cattle enter the ring, their showman lead them around the outside of the ring in a clockwise fashion.

Having the cattle circle the ring once before they stop allows the judge to see how well each animal carries themself as they walk.  As a farmer, we want cattle that are going to be able to move freely over the pasture in order to stay healthy.  They need to be able to walk good and have good feet so that they can support themselves and a calf.

The first thing the judge does is inspect the group as a whole.  Usually there are one or two animals that really stand out to the judge as being at the top or the bottom of the class (the best or the not so best).

After one circle of the ring, the animals line up head to tail down one side of the show ring.  The showmen now set up their calves feet! 
As a showman, it is important to properly set up a calves feet when they have stopped.  As a showman it is your job to make the calf look its best in the show ring.  You want to highlight the good, and try and hide the bad.  
Harvie Ranching Ms Nylon 102U and Ricochet heifer calf
As you can see in the picture above, Jill and Cole have the cow and calf set up slightly different from one another.  This is because not every animal is the same, so as a showman you have to know how your particular animal looks the best and work with them.  Jill has the calf's left back foot slightly forward; Cole on the other hand has the cow's left back foot forward, as well as her right back foot slightly farther back.
Colorado State University did a great job explaining everything from halter breaking to showmanship here, they also have really good pictures, so check it out! 

The judge is looking for natural muscling of the animal over the loins, shoulder, rump and round.  This is how they judge the beef quality without actually seeing the meat!  When judging steers, the judge is looking for cattle that are finished.  Cattle that are heavy enough, without having excessive fat.  They are also looking for a "good spring of rib", or a voluminous rib cage, deep and wide, in which the animal can have extra intake.  
The cattle should have a straight topline, meaning their back should look nice and straight and from their back to their belly you should be able to imagine two horizontal lines making a rectangle.  
The judge also needs to recognize that not every breed has the same characteristics, so they need to take into account how well that animal does in their breed category! 
The judge also needs to know what to look for when judging a bull, a cow, a steer and a heifer.  These animals cannot be judged using the same guidelines.  For example, on a bull or a bull calf the judge needs to take into consideration the testicle development, scrotum size and attachment.  On a heifer or a cow, they judge needs to look at udder development, teet placement, calf size, and femininity.  

There is a great deal more to do with judging a beef animal and I would love to get more detailed in it in a later blog post, so stay tuned! For today however, I must move on! 

How do you get a cow ready for the show?

Preparing a show cattle takes days and days of work.  Instead of listing it all out for you I found a couple of videos that are awesome and informative and can give you the inside perspective of showing cattle! Enjoy!

The Apicreativemedia Channel on Youtube does an awesome job breaking down the entire showing process!   From feeding, washing and clipping, right to the show ring, they have covered it in two short videos! Check them out below!

Thanks again for following and reading! Stay tuned, much more to come!
Now it is time for me to head outside and get my own show cattle ready! Off to wash and clip some calves!


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Five Nations Beef Alliance - Young Rancher's Video

Remember when I told you I had the opportunity of a lifetime this past year, having the chance to be part of the FIve Nation's Beef Alliance Young Rancher's Program? Well, our video is finished!
For those who don't know, in January I took part in the Five Nations Beef Alliance Young Rancher's Program in Denver, Colorado. I got to meet with people from all over the world, young ranchers just like myself.  I also had the opportunity to listen to and chat with highly respected cattlemen in the cattle industry.  I listened to speeches and had round table discussions, and through these discussions realized that even though we live in completely different countries, as young ranchers we all face the same trials and tribulations.  I feel that this is a huge step forward as a world industry.  By realizing that we are all the same, some excelling in different areas, I hope that the future generation can join forces and collaborate to help one another, share ideas and work together to feed our world.  I heard a saying over and over again during my time in the Cattlemen's Young Leaders Program and I truly feel this sums up the beef industry - We love the animals, we love the land, and we love feeding the world.  That is why we choose farming as a way of live.  It isn't always rewarding, but it is what we are, it defines us, it is a passion.
So now that you have heard me ramble, check out the video, it tells our story!  

Young Ranchers with Dr. Temple Grandin - Denver, Colorado

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Cattlemen's Young Leaders - Samantha Sperber

AgCanada - | Today's Farm News

As I have stated in previous blogs, I had the opportunity to be involved in the pilot of the Cattlemen's Young Leaders Program.  This allowed me to do many awesome things.  It also allowed me to broaden my knowledge and love of the agricultural industry.  I started out being a commercial cow/calf producer, and since then have purchased my own Purebred heifer.  Thanks to my mentor Jordan I was given a personal insight of just what the purebred industry has to offer me.  I loved every minute of this mentorship program, and a big thanks goes out to Jill Harvie for organizing and heading such an awesome program, as well, I must thank Tracy Lundago for selecting me to take part in the program from the Calgary Stampede Youth in Agriculture Scholarship winners.  I also have Jordan to thank for being a fabulous mentor!
So are you ready to hear my story! Read below for all the details!

Cattlemen’s Young Leaders

Jordan Buba (l) and Samantha Sperber
“Leadership is about one’s ability to inspire others,” says Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL) graduate, Samantha Sperber. “All young people are more interested in and excel at some things more than
others in life. The CYL program helps us focus on our own areas of interest and find ways to inspire others.”
Sperber is definite about her interest in agriculture, especially in beef cattle, and has set her course in life on taking full advantage of having grown up on the family’s mixed farm near Rimbey, Alta. “There are lots of opportunities in agriculture in the business sector,” she says, “but it’s very difficult to become a farmer if you haven’t been born into it. That’s why I feel it’s so important to take advantage of the opportunity I have.”
Her plan is to complete her bachelor of science degree at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton and work into farming full time. She already owns some commercial cows and says it’s neat to think that it all started when she was three years old when her grandmother gave her a heifer calf that went on to live for 15 years.
Her grandpa and dad mentor her on the commercial cattle and crop side of things, so her initial goal when applying for the CYL program was to learn as much as she could about the purebred industry. However, the program also opened her eyes to the whole wide world of the beef industry beyond the farm. It has motivated her to do more to encourage others to take advantage of opportunities to be in agriculture and share her knowledge with those who don’t have that chance or inclination.
Her mentor, Jordan Buba of Lewis Farms, committed her time to the CYL program for much the same reason. “I love agriculture. I knew right from the time I was nine years old, picking and halter breaking my first heifer that I wanted to farm. I can’t imagine doing anything else and I think it’s important to help young kids have the best chance possible to be in agriculture.”
Buba, who is still within the age limit to qualify as a CYL candidate, says it was an honour to be asked to be a mentor considering her age and of all of the other purebred breeders who fit the bill. Many of whom, she adds, are among the network of industry people who influenced her along the way.
She doesn’t have to look far to find mentors when she considers how her grandfather has managed through the ups and downs without having to take a job off the farm and still remains active in the farm today. Then there’s her uncle who introduced purebred Simmentals to the farm, and another who is a vet.
Lewis Farms, located near Spruce Grove, runs a purebred operation with Simmental, Black Angus and Red Angus cattle, a feedlot and a grain operation specializing in seed potatoes. She and her cousin, Kyle, are the fourth generation to be involved full time with the farm, while her brother will be attending Lakeland College at Vermilion next year and her sister and cousin pitch in whenever they can fit it in with their university studies.
“Lewis Farms didn’t start out big and today it is so well run and so successful. It was so inspiring to hear their story and see how all of the family is still involved,” Sperber says. The experience has given her confidence to go ahead with her own purebred operation by starting small, focusing on quality, and showing as much as possible to get her name out there.
She and Buba met face to face at Lewis Farms for five mentoring sessions and between times to cover everything from genetics, breed attributes, expected progeny differences (EPDs), feeding regimes to meet specifitargets for all classes of purebred and feedlot cattle to marketing savvy. She also had a chance to visit the family’s exhibition stalls at Farm Fair and Agribition, where she saw how they set up the show string she had learned about back at the farm, as well as all of the work required to show and market cattle at premier events.
The shows were a great place to start making the connections that are so important in the purebred industry.
It didn’t take her long to put her new understanding of genetics and EPDs to work when she attended the SanDan Charolais purebred sale and in a roundabout way managed to purchase her first purebred heifer. Sperber says it was really encouraging to see the breeders go that extra mile and be so excited to have youth involved, which again goes to show that there are leaders and mentors at every turn if you are willing to ask.
The CYL program also provided opportunities to learn more about the commercial side with student tours of Western Feedlots and the Cargill plant at High River as part of the International Livestock Congress (ILC) in Calgary, and to King Sooper’s case-ready plant in Denver, Colorado, as part of the Five Nations Beef Alliance Young Ranchers Program during the International Livestock Congress and National Western Stock Show.
Those events and sitting in on the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association semi-annual meeting during the ILC, and attending the CYL Fall Forum were great opportunities to hear leading industry people address topics about which she had little prior knowledge.
Sperber recalls Temple Grandin telling the Five Nations group that young people are most influenced by other youths and how important it is to spread positive stories out about the people who dedicate their lives to producing food. Since then, Sperber has been busy posting pictures and links to informative videos and articles on her Facebook page and says it’s surprising how many kids really do read them and comment.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Animal Welfare - Australian Export Ban

There are many different organizations that are against animal abuse.  It may not come as a surprise, but farmers are against animal abuse too!  Why would a farmer want to abuse his very source of income, putting his families' life at risk of debt?  Think about it, if a carpenter wants to build a good strong house, and make a good profit off  of it, he isn't going to throw the boards around, bash them up and make them weak.  That won't build him a strong house, that will make the house shaky, and more likely to break.  So as a farmer, who wants to sell good, healthy steer, or raise good healthy calves, do you think he is going to abuse the product, make the cattle sick and ratty looking?  What auction mart or butcher is going to want to buy that beef?

So now I come to the story that has started me thinking about animal abuse.

(warning: the videos are pretty gruesome)

If any of you have been watching the news the past couple of months, you may have heard of the the Australian beef export ban to Indonesia.  BBC does a really good job of summing up the matter here.

What the problem is?

On Wednesday, June 8, 2011, Australia suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia.  Indonesia is Australia's largest market, importing 60% of Australia's live beef.  Australia is going to ban export for as long as six months because of their concern of the safety and welfare of the animals being shipped there.  Videos were shown to the Australian public of cattle being tortured and treated terribly at slaughter houses in Indonesia.  The Australian government realized how bad this was, and even thought the ban will hurt the Australian export market for some time, they decided that the welfare of the animals needed to be top priority.  I couldn't agree more.

I feel like the choice that the Australian government made to ban export to Indonesia was the right one.  Animal welfare should be top priority, and the animal abuse in Indonesia needs to be dealt with properly.  As Temple Grandin stated in the video, "the conditions are terrible, and it violates all the humane standards all around the world" and it needs to be stopped.  I think that the government took the right step by banning export and offering them help to fix the situation.  This is an example of the cattle industry seeing a problem, and taking action to fix it.  Even though the Australian export markets might be harmed because of the ban, the government still went forward with the ban.
  Annual live cattle exports to Indonesia, which buys about 60 per cent of Australia’s cattle shipments, contributed $340 million (U.S.) to the country’s economy in 2010, according to Meat & Livestock Australia. - Washington Post
This puts Indonesia in a tough place too.  Without the import of Australia's beef they will have to rely more on their own markets, which will be a good thing for a short while.  Keeping the business close to home could help stimulate their economy, but, as the first video said, they may only have enough beef to last them until September.  This means that Indonesia had better clean up their act quick, and start imposing animal welfare acts before their country runs out of beef.

This is a huge issue, and I completely back what the Australian government is doing.  This could be Australia in a bad position if Indonesia looks to other markets for export, but I would hope other countries, such as Canada, would refuse to export live cattle there since the animal welfare issue has been heard worldwide.  I think that other nations need to support Australia's decision, and need make sure that we are all supporting animal welfare.  Thanks to Dr. Temple Grandin and all of her work with humane animal slaughter in Canada and the United States, Canadian cattle are treated properly and humanely in slaughter facilities, and no cases like that in Indonesia have been found.

I also feel that it should be reassuring for people all over to know that when the cattle industry hears of problems where animals are being treated inhumanely, they deal with them abruptly.  Australia did not try to hide this fact, instead, they looked into the problem and are working to fix it.  I think it is good to know that we are made aware of the issues, even when they aren't in our own country, that should provide reassurance to consumers in the sense that if there were animal welfare practices like that of Indonesia, in Canada, we would all hopefully hear about it.

I feel that Australia did the right thing in the animal welfare case even though it will be hard on their economy.  I also think that other nations need to step up with Australia and back them, so that we can show that we all support animal welfare, I know I sure do!

So now I place this issue in your hands, how do you feel? Do you think that Australia did the right thing? And as Canadians, what do you think our country should do?

I look forward to hearing from you!