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!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

They Start Them Young!

Today I had the opportunity to be part of a wonderful baby shower for a precious little rancher.  Tinley Mary Harvie was showered with love, gifts, and more love at her baby shower.  As proud mama Jill opened her many gifts, I noted just how many of these gifts were farm related.  And I loved it!

I don't know why it seems necessary to do this, but I feel like every time a farm family has a baby it only seems right to buy them tiny wranglers, barn toys, and John Deere t-shirts (even though on my farm we use Case IH).  It just feels like we should start them young by surrounding them with things that reflect their family and their home.

Tinley got bibs with cows on them, tiny pink John Deere t-shirts, small jean overall dresses, clothes that all reflected a farm life!  As if baby Tinley isn't already adorable enough, she now has the cutest farm girl clothes to dress in.  That baby is the best!

I didn't get an actual picture of the clothes, since I was without a camera, but this was one  of my favorites!
Growing up, the toys that we had at Grandma and Grandpa's house were red Case IH tractors.  Being on the farm, we used to spend hours outside, riding in the real tractors with Grandpa which was all the better.  I can remember grandpa pulling me on a sled behind our large loader tractor, can't do that down the city streets!  We also had outside toys, dump trucks and trackhoes, which we used to dig holes and work in the garden with.  These tractors were purchased as a yellow color, but soon after touching farm soil Grandpa gave them a nice red paint job.

When we were younger, my parents bought us many farm sets, starting at a really young age.  We had fences and barns, silos and tractors, trucks and stock trailers, and all the different types of animals.  When we got a bit older our parents treated us to a really fancy farm set, with smaller animals, one that had calf shelters and the works!

This farm set entertained us for hours.  Although it was a dairy farm, we were able to set up our own farms, and do "just what dad does" all on our own.  

When I was only two, my parents got me my very own ride on tractor.  It had a little trailer that you could hitch up to it, a trailer that my kittens soon stopped appreciating.  It had small pedals on it with which I could motor myself around.  Now they make little electric ones, children are really getting off easy. 
Me on my fancy little ride!

When I was only a few weeks old my mother would wake up in the morning, feed me and then send me in my carseat with my dad or my grandpa.  They would set the carseat on the floor of the tractor and I would sleep while they did the chores.  This was great for my mom, giving her an hour or so of peaceful sleep.  

What a great way to introduce me to the farming life, to spark a passion in me from a young age.  That's how we attract youth in the industry, we start them young! 

My aunt has a video of me from when I was a year and a half old.  We were at my older cousin's birthday party and he had received some new work gloves as a gift.  I somehow managed to slide the over-sized gloves onto my little hands and started leaving the room.  My auntie asked me where I was going, everyone laughed as I responded "feed cows".  At only a year and a half old I knew what the cows were, I knew that when dad had his gloves on he was feeding the cows.  I already had an interest in the farm, and that is because I was introduced at such a young age! 

After the shower I had the opportunity to check out Tinley's fabulous nursery!  Jill's creativity is unreal, I want her to decorate my entire house!  Crystal Cattle did an excellent job photographing Tinley's cute room here and I am sure after seeing it, you will want to live in it too!  

On the wall in her room, Jill has individual photographs of all three of the farms dogs, as well, she has individual photographs of a baby calf of each breed that Harvie Ranching raises; Charolais, Simmental and Hereford.  I loved this idea.  Jill said "I thought it would be nice to have Tinley grow up seeing and learning about all the things in her life".  That's exactly it.  They are starting Tinley out young.  Her life is going to be full of love, family, friends, and farming.  Cows, cow shows, and more cows.  Not to be biased or anything, but is there any better way to grow up?

I love little Tinley, and I can`t wait to see her grow and see all the awesome things that she will do in her life.  It is so exciting to know that another young rancher is setting foot in the industry, and that her family is starting her out so young!  Jill and Cole are great parents, and great ranchers, and little Tinley couldn't have a better spark to light her passion for agriculture!

All the best!


Saturday, 25 June 2011

Farming Funnies

My lacrosse team just got home from a game in Calgary.  It was an interesting game, to say the least.  It was a really back and forth game, but in the end we took the loss.  So I wanted to cheer up the ladies with a few jokes.  Conveniently I know a few funny jokes about cows, that should cheer them up!

When is a farmer like a magician?
When he turns his cow into pasture.

If anyone knows my younger sister and I, you will know that she is a blonde, I am a brunette, I feel as though this next one could be the story of our life :)

Two sisters, one blonde and one brunette, inherit the family ranch. Unfortunately, after just a few years, they are in financial trouble. In order to keep the bank from re-possessing the ranch they need to purchase a bull from a stockyard in a far-away town so that they can breed their own stock. They only have $600 left.

Upon leaving, the brunette tells her sister, "When I get there, if I decide to buy the bull, I'll contact you to drive out after me and haul it home." The brunette arrives at the stockyard, inspects the bull, and decides she wants to buy it. The man tells her that he will sell it for $599, no less. After paying him, she drives to the nearest town to send her sister a telegram to tell her the news. She walks into the telegraph office, and says, "I want to send a telegram to my sister telling her that I've bought a bull for our ranch. I need her to hitch the trailer to our pickup truck and drive out here so we can haul it home." The telegraph operator explains that he'll be glad to help her, then adds, "It's just 99 cents a word." Well, after paying for the bull, the brunette only has $1 left. She realizes that she'll only be able to send her sister one word. After a few minutes of thinking, she nods and says, "I want you to send her the word "comfortable." The operator shakes his head. "How is she ever going to know that you want her to hitch the trailer to your pickup truck and drive out here to haul that bull back to your ranch if you send her just the word "comfortable?" The brunette explains, "My sister's blonde. The word's big. She'll read it very slowly... com-for-da-bull."
Whenever I say I live on a farm, people always ask me if I go cow tipping.  My response "Do you really think a cow is just going to let you walk up to it, put both hands on it and try to "tip" it and not move?" or "Have you ever tried to tip a small car that was moving? Pretty much the same idea"
What do you call a cow with no front leg?
Lean beef

What do you call a cow with no legs at all?
Ground beef

A farmer was milking his cow.

He was just starting to get a good rhythm going

when a bug flew into the barn and started circling his head.

Suddenly, the bug flew into the cow's ear.

The farmer didn't think much about it,

until the bug squirted out into his bucket.

It went in one ear and out the udder!

The man above ^ has a bunch of different videos all titled "The Laughing Cow - Milton Jones"

A farmer had been taken so many times by
the local car dealer that when the dealer wanted
to buy a cow, the farmer priced it to him like this:
Basic cow, $200; two-tone exterior, $45; extra
stomach $75; product storage compartment, $60;
dispensing device, four spigots at $10 each, $40;
genuine cowhide upholstery, $125; dual horns, $15;
automatic fly swatter, $35. Total = $595
(if only we could make deals like this in real life!)

Hope you liked!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Bucks For Your Beef, Or Beef For Your Bucks?

A blog follower recently asked me about the cost of raising cattle, and as a farmer, where our income comes from.  What an awesome question! Of course people who don't live on a farm really only see the prices on the meat that they purchase in the supermarket, and it isn't the money from those packages that are coming to the farmers!

So bare with me while I try to break down some farming finance for you! 

My family runs a commercial cow/calf operation as well as a grain operation.  This means that we have two sources for income, the cattle, and the crops.  But this also means we have two sources for cost.

When I tell people that we have crops and cattle, their immediate reaction is, "wow, you must be rich".  Rich as in lifestyle rich, yes.  Rich as in monetary rich, not quite.  They immediately think strictly of the income.  But what most people don't take into consideration are all of the costs that come with farming.  So I am going to lay it out on the line for you!

Keep in mind, that the cost will be different for every farmer.  Not all farmers swath graze so they will have higher feed costs.  Some farmers calve all of their cows indoors so they won`t have to use as much bedding, but they will have higher electricity bills.  Not every farmer feeds the same type of feed and the same quantities, so you get my point.

We'll start with the spring.


This is a busy time of the year on our farm.  Our cows are all calving, and it is time to start seeding the crops.  
Your immediate thought is probably "baby calves = money in the bank".  This is true, to an extent. 

Now, what you didn't consider:
  • Calving. When a new calf is born we give them shots and they have to get their CCIA and RFID tags (read about this in the "All Things Agriculture" tab under the Traceability topic).  These all cost money.
    • A tag applicator can cost anywhere from $15-$50.  Now you don't buy these every year, in fact, if you take care of them they can last for many years, but they still depreciate and they are still a cost
    • RFID Tags and CCIA tags cost roughly $4.00/calf. 
    • Shots- Vitamin ADE and Selenium.  A 100 mL bottle of Selenium will treat roughly 50 calves.  So we buy 4-5 bottles a calving season.  The bottles are usually $30-$40, so if you divide $35/50 calves, it is roughly $0.70 a calf.  For the Vitamin A,D&E injection, we can treat all of our calves with one 250mL bottle.  
  • Calving. On our farm we calve our cows from March to May.  This means that calves can be born in pretty cold conditions.  Since the weather can be so bad, we have to bed our cattle (make them beds out of straw) to make sure they are comfortable and warm.  The cattle also need hay and silage for feed during this time.  This means that we have to use more diesel in the tractors and more straw bales, as well as more feed than in the summer.  This all costs money.  
    • Right now, round hay bales (roughly 1000-2000 pounds) are selling for 45-80$, depending on the quality of the bale.  We were feeding our 200 cows, 1-2 round bales of hay a day, as well as silage.  So that would be roughly $120 dollars a day on hay.  Now you also have to take into consideration the silage.  We make our own silage on our farm, but we don`t have the macinery so we have to hire people to do the harvest for us.  
    • The straw bales come from the straw that we bale after we combine our grain land.  This means that what we are paying for is the fuel in the machinery.  With the rising fuel prices, this is starting to get quite costly.
    • Not all of the cows have a successful labor and each year we lose a couple calves.  Losing three calves if a pretty big financial hit.  Sometimes the vet has to get called to preform a c-section or to treat a calf.  Vet bills are not cheap. A c-section costs roughly $400, depending on your vet.
  • Seeding.  Seeding crops can get quite costly.  On our farm we still use the till method of seeding.  So we have to go over our land with the cultivator, the harrows, the drill, and then with spray and fertilizer.  That equals a great deal of fuel consumption.  And the seed and products aren't free either.  We have to buy the seed, the fertilizer, and the sprays to fight off weeds.  We then have to pay someone to spray the crops for us.  
    • To give you an example I will use barley.  This year we put in 400 acres of barley.  Seeding barley costs about $12/acre.  Multiply this by 400 acres, you're paying roughly $4800.00 to seed 400 acres of barley.  Fertilizer costs on the barley were roughly $50 an acre; 50X400= $20,000.  Since we don't do our own spraying, to spray our barley crops we are paying $30 dollars an acre, this includes the spray and the application; 30X400= $12,000.  So add the spray, the seed and the fertilizer, you're looking at $36, 800 to plant 400 acres of barley. This year we have acquired extra costs because of all of the rain.  Right after we seeded a few of our crops, it rained so much that the seeds started to rot.  So we had to re-seed part of our crops.  Then, if re-seeding wasn't enough, the rain washed the sprays from the fields and we had to redo some of the spraying also.  This means we had to pay for the spray and the man doing the spraying!
  • Pasture. As soon as the snow melts the cows head out to pasture.  This is a way easier time of the year for us as far as cattle go.  The bulls get put out with the cows, and the temperature is warm so the babies start growing rapidly.  This year we were fortunate enough to have rain and fantastic pastures, but a few years ago during the drought, we were forced to feed hay bales to cattle, adding just another extra cost, and putting us in a position where we needed to save all of our extra bales for winter.  On our farm we usually have a surplus of round hay bales and are able to sell some for income.  This works well when weather cooperates and we have a good hay season, but we can`t always count on this. 
  • Processing calves.  For our family processing calves involves giving cows and calves shots, branding, and castrating the calves.  
    • Castrating- On our farm we have the vet come out to castrate our calves.  This means that she has to cut every set of testicles out.  It`s a pretty rough job, and it isn't cheap.  Our vet charges us $4/calf, when you're doing 100 calves (differs every year), it can get pricey.
    • Shots- Before the cows disperse to their summer pastures we treat the calves with 8-Way shots and Live IBR.  The calves also get Ivomec.  We also treat some of the cows with Live IBR shots.
      • IBR- 100 mL bottle treats 50 calves for IBR.  It costs roughly $2/calf
      • 8-Way - 60 head can be treated with a 250mL bottle, costing roughly $0.50/calf.
      • Ivomec - 5L jug of Ivomec can treat 70 cows, or 400 - 500 calves.  A jug of Ivomec costs $90.
    • Branding- there aren't many costs associated with branding once you have the branding iron

The summer months for us are the least busy months.  Once the seeding is done and the cows are happy in their summer homes, we have time to do the odds and ends.  Of course we still have to check cows and crops.  The summer is also the season for Junior Cattle Shows! My sister and I are active in Junior shows, and have been for the past nine years.  There are entrance fees, travel fees and accommodation fees all associated with cattle shows, but I wouldn't give them up for the world.  Through summer shows I have made many friends, had countless opportunities and doors open for me, and have learned to do by doing.  Cattle shows helped me to find my passion for agriculture and helped me realize this is where I belong!  For the summer synergy show, I entered three yearling heifers; one Simmental, one Charolais, and one Red Angus.  My entrance fees were almost $200, not including accommodation, feed for the cattle, or travel expenses.  

Out of all of the seasons, fall is our money maker.
Fall brings our harvest and the steer calves get shipped to market.  
  • Calves.  My dad hauls our calves to the market at the beginning of October.  The calves are roughly 700-850 lbs by this time.  This week at the Rimbey Auction Mart, where we sell our cattle, 700-800 pound steers were selling for $1.25/pound! This is a great price!  That means that for an 800 lbs steer, we're making $1000! That is a super price, especially if we are selling 70 steers! However, that doesn't mean that we have a net income of $70,000.  But we don't sell our cattle in the summer, so likely by fall the prices will be a less.  There is also a National Check Off of a non-refundable $1.00 that comes off of the price of every animal, as well as a Provincial Check Off of a refundable $2.00 that can be returned if applied for.
    • Let me break down the cost of raising a steer to butcher size, say, 1300 lbs. 
    • If we were to fatten a steer for butcher, we would likely start the calf on feed in September when the calf was roughly 700 lbs.  The cost before the 700 lbs isn't very high, roughly $100/calf, if you count the calf feed, any medical bills and extras.  Once they hit 700 lbs, we send them to the auction mart.  If we wanted to fatten the calf starting in September, we would likely butcher it in April.  For example, with a 4-H steer, the calf is on feed for 212 days.  The estimated feed costs for this calf are $420 in those 212 days.  
    • There are also other costs:
      • Straw bedding- $50
      • Health Costs - $15
      • Sale costs - $50
    • Roughly $550 in deductions off of the sale price.  
    • So if we sold a 1300 lbs calf today we would make $1625 - $550 in deductions so roughly $1100, not that much of a profit when you consider all of the money that went into making the feed and raising the calf.
  • Harvest.  How much money we make all depends on how the weather treated us, and the yield of our crops that year.  Farming is one of those occupations where you never know how much you will make.  The prices of everything in the agriculture industry can change in an instant, for the better or the worse. This is what makes the industry somewhat challenging.  We cannot predict what the weather will bring, nor what the market prices will be, so we never really know what we will be making as income from the crops.  Interested in figuring out the daily grain and canola prices??? I know you are, you can find them HERE
  • Swath grazing.  Our family swath grazes our cattle which helps us to save on fuel costs and time spent feeding.  It also allows us to naturally fertilize our crop land by having our cattle roam on the sections

The cows need feed and bedding everyday.  We have to use heated water'rs to make sure that the cows always have water.  Electricity costs are higher, and the depreciation on the loader tractor, and all of the farm vehicles increases.  The cost of machinery is not cheap, so my father and grandfather always work hard to take good care of their equipment so that we can make it last as long as possible. 

So hopefully that summed it up a bit for you.  It would take way more than one blog post to explain all the costs to farming, and all of the aspects of it all, but I hope I was able to put a bit of it into perspective for you!

I found a really great database all about farming! The Farm Budget Database breaks information right down to type of farm and everything! It is awesome! 
Another awesome farming website is 24-7 Ag TV, there are a bunch of different videos all about agriculture and different aspects of the industry! I love the site, and I can promise you will learn something!

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A Bunch of Bull

For any of you who have heard of Ponoka, I am sure your first thought is "Ponoka Stampede" or possibly "isn't there a mental hospital there?".  Those are the sorts of questions which I am asked when I mention my home town.

For Ponoka, the town and the residents, the Ponoka Stampede is the biggest function of the year, exponentially increasing the towns population of 6500 to 60,000+.  All of the hotels are filled, tents and holiday trailers fill all open grass areas, and people from everywhere crowd the small stampede grounds.

From the midway to the rodeo, there is something for all ages at the stampede.  This year will be Ponoka Stampede's 75th year in the works, our diamond jubilee.  We will be hosting two concerts, Gord Bamford and Dwight Yoakam will be performing for the big celebration!
The video below gives you a little overview of Ponoka and the Stampede.  If you look closely at roughly 20 seconds in, you will see my roomate and I with my cow Pheebee getting ready for the mile long parade! My cow walked the parade four years in a row, giving all of the spectators a feel for just what 4-Hers in Ponoka get up to!

I love the rodeo.  I don't think there is much better than sitting in the sunshine watching a barrel racer round her last barrel and head home, or to hear the buzzer sound after an 8 second ride.  The thrill and the excitment of the rodeo entertain everyone.

For me, the best part is the bull riding.  I don't know if it is the excitment of seeing a 200 pound man grasp onto a bucking 2000 pound bull or if it is the clown, ducking into his barrel as a bull rolls him across the arena, that make me love it so much.

Luckily for me, right before the Stampede rolls into town, the Jace Harty Memorial Bull Riding takes place.  This year was the 9th year for the memorial ride, and it included 30 top PBR bull riders, as well as a performance from the Denver Daines band!  One of my favorite parts of the Memorial Bull Riding is the bull soccer.  If you have never witnessed bull soccer, you're missing out.  Two teams of people meet in the middle of the dirt, and compete in a soccer match.  But this isn't your regular soccer match.  A couple minutes into the match two bulls are sent into the ring to join in on the game.  However, instead of chasing the ball, the bulls chase the players!  It is so funny to see the players jump onto the fences for safety.  It is dangerous, of course, but that is what makes it so exciting! Check out this video to see the action from the bull soccer last year!

For me, having the chance to watch 30 bull riders try out their luck on some wild bulls is an opportunity I won't pass up.  Better yet, the memorial ride is for a great cause.
Jace Harty was a young bull rider who passed away in 2002 in a car accident at the age of 23.  The memorial bull riding has been put on every year since then to carry on his legacy.  And what a legacy it is.  Last night I watched as friends shared stories, as bull riders took the stage in their head to head battle with the bulls.  I witnessed tears and laughter, and I was truly touched by a poem written by Curtis Anderson, as well as the speech that he delivered following the tribute to Jace.  Curtis Anderson was a bull rider injured in 2002 while competing in a bull riding event in Ponoka.  He was brain injured and had to re-learn everything from speaking to walking.  Nine years later Curtis stood up alone and was able to share his story with the audience.  I was touched.  Curtis now hosts a trail ride with Courage Canada to raise money for brain injury awareness.  Just another bull rider touching the lives of thousands.  And it is all for the love of the sport.
To read more about Curtis Anderson's inspiring story, check out this link -

If you are unfamiliar with the sport of bull riding, let me fill you in on the basics.
First and foremost, bull riding involves a cowboy (the rider) and a bull (the riden).  The bull rider cannot touch themselves or their bull with their free hand or else they will have no score.
There are two judges who watch the ride.  Each judge gives the rider a score of 1-25, as well, they give the bull a score from 1-25.  A perfect ride would score 100.
The bull rider wraps a braided rope around the bull, and then wraps around their hand, trying their best to secure themselves.  The bullrope is the only thing holding that rider onto the large bull
The main priority of the rider is to stay on for 8 seconds.  This is a task in itself, and last night only six riders out of 30 made the 8 second ride.
Bull riding doesn't only include the rider and the bull.  There are also clowns, and bull fighters in the ring to protect the rider when they leave the back of the bull.  The bulls are not impressed with the riding so they try to take out anything in their sight.  Bull fighters get the lovely job of trying to distract the bull from the rider once the rider hits the ground.  I don't know what would be more scary: being on the bull or being on the ground getting ready to distract the raging bull!
Bull riding isn't only physically challenging, but definitely mentally.  If you are not in the right mind set, the ride will likely not go well.
Bull riding is one of the most loved rodeo events, and even has it's own tour, the PBR (Professional Bull Riding) Tour.  The PBR was started in 1992 by 20 professional bull riders.  PBR now has 1200+ bull riders from United States, Canada, Australia and Brazil (The Sport Journal).

The Brahma breed (imported from India) became popular in the bull ridding because the bull had horns and large humps on their backs.  But the breeds of the bulls don't really matter as much as performance of the bull.  Each bull has to be flexible and want to jump around and be crazy.  After all, the bulls score makes up half of the riders score, so the riders want good bucking bull!

This year at the Canadian Finals Rodeo, a bull gave everyone a bit of a surprise! I was there for this! Check out the clip, it will give you an idea of just how the cowboys prepare, ride and how the bull fighters distract the bull.  It will also show you just how well bulls can jump! Check it out y'all!

So there you have it! Want to learn more about bull riding? Check out this awesome video! Saddle Up To Bull Riding.  I promise it is well worth your time!

Have a great day tomorrow everyone!

As long as there is a sunset there will always be a west.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Carnivorous Cravings

We've all had them at some point in our life, yes, even the vegetarians and vegans in this world, at some point you also have craved the deliciousness that comes with a juicy steak.  We've all had those carnivorous cravings.

This past weekend was my birthday weekend.  A fabulous weekend shared with friends and family.  I wrote my Physiology exam on Friday, and then it was time to enjoy the weekend.  Friday night, I celebrated with a few friends from the city.  I had to be up early Saturday so I could make it from Edmonton to Calgary for my Lacrosse game.  Unfortunately, because of my bad burn, I was still unable to play!

Saturday after the game my team went out in Calgary to celebrate my birthday.  It was then that I had one of those carnivorous cravings!
Before we had even sat down, I knew what I wanted.  Steak sandwich, medium rare.
The chef delivered me a steak that was delightful, grilled to perfection.  But just not as good as a home raised steak!

Sunday brought more lacrosse. The team traveled to Sherwood park for a game.  It was an early game being Father's Day, and after the game my family headed to my Opa and Oma's house for a quick visit with my dad's side of the family.  After this, my mom's side of the family came over to have supper and some birthday cake.
Once again there were some carnivorous cravings and the family enjoyed some homegrown beef.

This weekend I got a pretty awesome birthday surprise! If you have been keeping up with my blog you will know that all I wanted for my birthday was a kitten!
I got my wish.  Good friends of mine, Eryca and Justin and their family got me two little babies!
Super sweet, super crazy, ad super wild.  Oliver sleeps with his mouth open, and Otis suckles on his own fur to comfort himself when he goes to sleep.  Not your ordinary carnivore kittens!

But back to the main point!

Alberta Beef on your plate is probably one of the best ways to solve any carnivorous cravings that you might have.

Canadian Beef Brand PromiseMcDonalds, Quiznos, and Jack Astors restaurants would also agree.
All three of these restaurants support the Canadian Beef Brand.
From November 2009 to January 2010, Quiznos ran a feature sandwich called the Triple Cheese and Roast beef.  If you had ever tried it, it was awesome.  What made it even better was that the Beef Information Center (BIC) made sure that the meat was 100% Canadian Beef.  This sandwich was sold in 456 places across Canada, what better a way to ensure that Canadian's are getting the best beef possible.

McDonalds is one of the largest supporters of Canadian Beef.  Throughout Canada, McDonald's serves approximately 2.5 million customers every day.  This means that they are using more than 64 ,million pounds of locally raised, Canadian Beef, every year.  McDonald's Canada uses 100% Canadian beef for all of the burger offerings (BIC).
For more information on McDonald's supporting Canadian Beef check out these facts:

And it doesn't stop there.  The Canadian Beef brand has 110 industry partners, and 56 brand license agreements with retail, foodservice and processing operations.  Some of these partners include: XL Fine Foods; Costco Canada; Canada Safeway; McDonald's; Boston Pizza; Panago Pizza; Sobeys in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes; abc Family Restaurants and T&T Supermarkets.  These are all big supporters of Canadian Beef.  I know for sure which stores I will be supporting!
Canadian beef is packed with 14 essential nutrients.  It is yummy and good for you!

  1. Protein - used to fight infection, build muscles, growth
  2. Phosphorous - builds and maintains strong bones and teeth
  3. Zinc - helps build the immune system
  4. Iron- brain devbelopment in babies and children.  Iron in beef is absorbed more readily than from plant sources
  5. Pantothenate - helps energize the body 
  6. Thiamin - helps with appetite and normal growth! Energy!
  7. Vitamin B6 - assists protein building and immune system
  8. Vitamin B12 - helps all the cells in muscle, brain and nervous system.  Found naturally only in animal foods!
  9. Niacin - essential for nervous system and energy
  10. Magnesium - contributes to health of bones and teeth
  11. Vitamin D - maximizes calcium and phospohrus absorption.  Found in Canadian beef is more potent than in plant sources
  12. Potassium - maintain healthy blood pressure, prevents bones from losing calcium
  13. Riboflavin - helps energize body
  14. Selenium- anti-oxidant

Many of you have probably heard of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check Program.  What you likely didn't know is that there are eight cuts of Canadian Beef that qualify for this program!  That's right! Eight different ways that you can surrender to your carnivorous cravings, while still staying in the Health Check Program!

Lean Beef Choices
(100 grams raw meat)
Eye of Round5
Inside Round5
Sirloin Tip5
Top Sirloin6
Strip Loin8
Cross Rib9
Outside Round9
Extra Lean Ground Sirloin or Round10
Extra Lean Ground Beef10
Lean Ground Sirloin, Round or Chuck15
Lean Ground Beef15

The Canadian Beef Information Center offers a really cool way to see just what the nutritional value of
Virtual Beef Counter
This website is awesome! It is so easy to see just what you are getting from your beef! As you can see above, when I scrolled over the "Roasts" tab, a drop down list pops up with a list of different types of roasts.  This allows you to choose which kind of roast you will be cooking.  In the example above, I had clicked on the "Steaks" tab, and then chose the "Blade Steak".  This made a small nutritional report come up, as shown.  This allows you to compare different cuts of beef, cooked and raw, to see just how the nutritional values compare.  Pretty great.  Just shows you how much the Canadian Beef Industry really care about our consumers!
Of course, these values will vary depending on how well the meat is cooked, and how much of the fat is trimmed, as well, it will vary from animal to animal, but this gives you a pretty accurate average!

Canadian Beef Merchandising Guide  - This has everything you need to know on cuts of beef!

How does lean beef compare??

Lean beef vs. Chicken
To chicken
Lean beef vs. Fish
To Fish 

Fact: When you see something say "lean only" it means that the beef has been trimmed of any visible fat and only includes marbling and muscle tissue.

Fact:  The nutritional value of Canadian Beef and American Beef differ due to the differences in production!

Fact:  Ground Beef that is drained and rinsed after it is cooked with hot water, will have reduced fat content!

Fact: One of the main saturated fats in lean Canadian beef is Stearic acid.  An issue with saturated fats is that they often have an affect on cholesterol levels.  Not Stearic acid, it has little effect!

Fact: Grass fed beef and grain fed beef both contain 14 essential nutrients.  Studies have shown that grass fed beef has elevated levels of Omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, but it is undetermined whether these increased levels are high enough for health benefits! Therefore, all beef is good beef!

Fact:  Beef is made mainly of water and protein.  Of course there are smaller amounts of fat, vitamins and minerals.  The proteins are the main nutrient in beef! Proteins help us fight infections, grow, and build muscles. Proteins = muscles, muscles = strength.  Muscles and strength attract the babes! Who doesn't want to eat Canadian Beef!

Fact:  Beef is graded Prime (best), AAA, AA and A.  The higher the grade, the more marbling in the meat.  It is the marbling that gives the flavor to the beef, makes it the most tender and juicy! The majority of Canada's beef is AAA.

Fact: Beef is aged by processors for 3 to 21 days at a controlled temp and humidity.  This allows the fibres to relax, making our meat more tender with stronger flavor!

Fact:  The color of the meat is not a good way to indicate freshness.  A change in color could be due to anything from a stressed calf to a difference in packaging

So.  Now that you know just how fantastic Canadian beef is, I'm sure you're having some carnivorous cravings.  So what will you cook for diner??

Check out these recipes!
Beef It's What's For Dinner
Beef Info Recipes
Beef Thai Salad