Sparboe Farms Open Letter

Thanks to Zachary Bray for sharing his thoughts on the recent undercover video linking McDonalds to animal cruelty and how it effects his families poultry farm. Zachary can be found on his newly formed blog, From Cubicle To Corral

To whom it may concern:

My name is Zachary Bray. I’m a young, beginning farmer. On Friday, November 18th, a video surfaced depicting what I would consider abusive actions against birds in the care of Sparboe Farms. I state this as someone who has seen poultry from a first hand point of a view while my parents have 3 breeder houses for a competitor.

I have different emotions going through me as I see this video at different times. Upon the first time I watched the video, I watched to verify that what I saw was abusive. Upon the second time, I was angered. The third time I watched this video I was ashamed. I urge you to take a look at social media sometime in the near future.

The problem I find with this video is that now, not only are the actions of the individuals in this video reflections of those individuals, but will now be said to be reflections of “the industry.” This a false, at best logical leap of faith, that is being made. The statement that this is just business as usual isn’t just false, but disinformation in its finest moment.

Sparboe farms has put up a website and is putting a lot of money into their public relations to increase transparency. They owe it to the rest of us to clean this mess up. I also would like to see an apology to the industry overall, but most of all, I want to see that the employees depicted are never hired in animal agriculture again. It’s also time to see the US Poultry and Egg Association, along with other organizations within the industry to come to terms with a complete welfare package. It’s time for all of us to stand back and assess our own situations, and our own employees along with ourselves honestly. Healthy livestock are productive livestock. If we cannot honestly state that we are doing everything within our power to ensure, beyond a shadow of a doubt that our animals are as healthy and humanely treated as possible, that we seek out the assistance needed to solve this problem.

Sincerely,
Zachary Bray
Owner/Operator/Farmer
LZ Livestock Company, NC

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Dirty Boots: Wordless Wednesday

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As much as I try to keep clean it is an impossible task.  Take a look at my pants and boots after I assisted a cow giving birth to a calf that was coming backwards.

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Occupy Combine: The Movement

There is a new movement afoot throughout rural America. Every fall, millions of farmers climb In their combine, head to the field and harvest their crops. Over the past couple of years, though, farmers began to add to this annual tradition by embracing a new type of technology: Social Media!

Farmers are outfitting themselves with leather gloves, steel-toed boots and Carhartts and heading to the fields. With them they are taking their Flip cams, smartphones and tablets to share their farm life with the rest of the world, by posting harvest updates throughout the day on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other forms of social media. These people call themselves “agvocates,” or advocates for agriculture.

Occupy Combine on our farm
Occupy Combine taking place on our farm

This movement is built on the ideals of ethics, family, hard work and transparency in how food is raised. This is a peaceful movement, there are no demands, only prayers for good weather to help get the crops harvested in a quick and safe manner.

The easiest way to follow along is to pick out a few farmers from the @followfarmer database ( http://bit.ly/FollowFarmer ) and follow them on their blogs, Facebook pages, Google+ profiles, and Twitter accounts. You can also join in the conversation by tagging your tweets with the #occupycombine hashtag!

Related Posts: Dairy cows stage brief “Occupy Farm Lane” protest

Other related tags to follow on twitter: #harvest11, #ranclife, #occupyTractor, #occupySaddle, #occupyFarmLane #agproud #foodD and #agchat

Be sure to check out this Occupy Tractor video featuring my Friend Jennifer’s son!

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An open letter to America

I’m not sure who may read this and knowing some of you may not know me, I want to start this off by introducing myself. I am a fifth generation grain and beef farmer from Ohio. My daily responsibilities on our family’s farm vary immensely from day to day, but in the end, each day I am striving to ensure that we are treating our land and livestock in a respectable and sustainable manner to ensure future generations will have the chance to continue farming our family’s farm if they choose to.

I have been paying attention to celebrities, special interest groups, and even several media sources talk about how our food is produced in America. I’m sure you have seen some of it too. In most cases I am disappointed at how farms like mine are portrayed. In fact several times I was frustrated or even quite mad at the information that was spewed. My family invests our hearts and souls in our farm and to hear people speak about farms broadly, I have felt personally attacked. That has colored how I’ve viewed questions from regular people like you. Unfortunately, several times I would act inappropriately after hearing misinformation and immediately started throwing stones back at my accusers. I realize now that this was inappropriate and instead of worrying about what the naysayers were saying about farmers like me, I should have made myself available more to listen and answer your questions about my family’s farm.

Honestly, I have several concerns about how some special interest groups are communicating about “the correct way to farm.” Farming is a very diverse career, with varying types of soil and climate across the world every farmer must decide what is best for their family, on their farm, for their customers. Many times if I were to follow the instructions these stone throwers tell me how I should farm, it would mean total devastation to my farm both economically and environmentally.

Please understand that I am three generations removed from you and the rest of America. The things that are everyday experiences for those of you in the city are far from my day-to-day. Those experiences have shaped the opinions we have, the perspective from which we see things and so much more. When I have an question, I turn to the best available science and research to help aid me in my decision on how to move forward. I have now come to realize that you may not be interested in all the research that backs my farming practices. I would like to discuss your concerns more, but please be patient with me as I try to understand them.

I am not alone in my feelings here, I talk to farmers everyday that are curious at how we can better communicate with people outside if agriculture. Personally though, I feel like we are fifty years late to the conversation. I am asking you to forgive our shortcomings in the past and let’s start a new conversation about how we would like to do things in the future, about what really matters to us, about how we’d like our food to be grown. My hopes are that this will be a two-way conversation, and while it will be impossible to please everyone I think it’s possible that we develop a mutual understanding and respect towards each other while we address issues that truly need changing in order to move forward.

Sincerely,
Mike Haley

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On Thursday September 22nd I will be attending the food dialogues town hall in Washington D.C. Please feel free to follow along via the live webcast or on twitter by searching for the #FoodD hashtag.

Posted in #AgChat, Agvocate, Environment, family, Farm, livestock care | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Farm Month(s) in pictures!

Well, its been a while since I shared many pictures as I have been extra busy this summer after an unusually wet spring.

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hauling large round bales if timothy hay out of the field

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liter ruins the environment, the beauty of the country, and is not good for our cattle’s hay

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my nephews new kids
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cover crop of clover growing in a harvested wheat field, we may bale it this fall since we are so short on hay this year

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Pam with a calf in the pasture
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the cows enjoying a drink of water after a warm day!

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One of our earlier planted soybean fields, look at all the 4 bean pods!

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Mums! They are looking exceptional this year!

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look at the corn curl! Luckily we had some rain since this picture was taken, corn is looking a lot better!

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looking towards the barn from the back of the corn field. The cattle will get to graze here once the corn is harvested this fall

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at the Ohio State Fair, it was hot but the cattle didn’t seem to mind as they had lots of fans!

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Kady Davis with a heifer from our farm, she did very well winning showmanship and grand Champion Simmental Heifer!

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Pam also had a good day, here she is with Haley’s Cowboy – grand #simmental senior bull calf champion at the Ohio State Fair!

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The Monarch Butterflies are visiting my farm, I made sure to now around the milkweed in the waterways as that’s where they like to eat!

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Posted in #AgChat, Farm, farm photos, Wordless Wednesday | 2 Comments

Wordless Wednesday at the Ohio State Fair.

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Kady Davis with her heifer “Haley’s Jewel”

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Board Rooms and Tractor Seats

 

Like most kids growing up I always loved to dream and talk about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  For me there was never any question, I was going to be a farmer.  I have always wanted that. I lived in a rural area; even so I was the only kid in my class that actually grew up on a farm and wished to return back to the farm after college.  Whenever I had a chance, I found others that were interested in agriculture, that was the reason why FFA was one of my favorite classes. Yes, I admit it, I was the class AgNerd.

After college my dreams finally came true, I returned home to become the fifth generation to work our family’s farm.  Even then the AgNerd in me lived on as I loved to stop and the end of the driveway and talk to neighbors about daily farm life.  My passion for agriculture was soon recognized and I was asked to run for the county Farm Bureau board.   During my terms on the board, I learned to network with other farmers in the county, state, and country and, like every other Farm Bureau volunteer, helped to develop the policies that govern the organization.  It was a great experience that I enjoyed and learned a lot from, but after six years I termed out and it was time for fresh blood to take my spot.

Still destined to be an AgNerd, I turned to something they called the “World Wide Web” to share with others who I could not meet at the end of my driveway for a brief update on what was happening in the world of agriculture.  I found Twitter was a great way to do this as messages had to be kept to under 140 characters, thus I could just excuse my poor grammar and spelling as a way to shorten a sentence ;).   I soon developed a nice network of friends both on and off the farm that loved to hear and talk about daily farm life. 

It wasn’t long before I began to meet other farmers that were AgNerds just like me, we even created a name for ourselves, “Agvocates” (agriculture + advocate).  I began to have conversations with California dairy farmer Ray Prock Twitter, Blog, Kansas grain farmer Darin Grimm Twitter, Blog, and California rancher Jeff Fowle Twitter, Blog about different ways that we could encourage more farmer’s ways to use this internet thingy in conjunction with their daily farm life to help answer some of the concerns about today’s agriculture.  After reaching out to a few others online we soon realized that we were not alone in our thinking and we joined several friends including the creator of the weekly twitter #AgChat, Michelle Payn-Knoper  Twitter, Blog who were considering similar ideas.  Several of us decided to our heads together and soon the AgChat Foundation was born!

Some of the great friends I made through the AgChat FoundationOver the past year, it has been fun to watch the foundation grow. It became normal to be in a board meeting while I was sitting in my tractor seat planting a hay field, another would be in the meeting while he was checking his irrigation, another setting precision maps and yet another while milking cows.  With the advancement of 4g, Google+ and other tools provided by the internet, it will not be long before these monthly board meetings can take place over video conferencing, even in the middle of a 100 acre corn field!  I will say some of the friendships and memories I have made online and through the AgChat Foundation are some of the best I have ever had, and I am sure they will only grow in time.

Like my time on the Farm Bureau Board, good things must come to an end.  My time serving on the AgChat Board has come to an end as its time to allow new life on the board for newer and greater ideas.  I wish the best to this great community, it has been a big part of my life over the past two years and I will miss several of the daily interactions that always kept me on my toes. And I will continue to participate in some of the community's efforts, including the upcoming training in Nashville.

So what does this mean for me and the next phase of my life? Well I am still destined to be a farmer when I grow up (if that ever happens), but I also know that I also want to be an agvocate as well.  I am just looking for the next opportunity. Please stay tuned, as I am sure bigger and better things will develop.

Posted in #AgChat, Agvocate | 3 Comments

Dog Days of Summer are Here

Well it has been a long time since we last posted on here but there has been a lot going on and not much time to relax and take it easy. 

So let me up date you on what has been happening, we have almost finished planting everything it was a rough year and there are a few fields that just did not get done, but Steve just called as he is taking over in the drill for Mike, they are trying to replant a few spots of beans but is having some problems with the guidance system in the tractor, technology is not his friend, those of you that know him would understand.

Mike just ran out the door to get back in another tractor to go bale the rest of the first cutting hay for a neighbor and for my cows (Yea!!!), we went through a lot more hay this past year than normal because of the wet weather and so our reserves are very low and we have to start getting ready for winter.   Anyway speaking of cows we just weaned the rest of the calves for State Fair, so I have to get those babies broke here in the next week so that we are ready to go, they are a little loud yet but that will end soon.  The 3 older heifers that are going are waiting on me to go give them their bathes today but while they wait they have 2 fans to get them through the hot day (can we say spoiled much). 

The mums that we raise are all planted (roughly 600) and doing quite well this year and they are sure enjoying the sunshine the last few days.  If anyone is interested this fall we do sell the mums at 2 different fall markets and also I set up a display and sell them from right here in my front yard.

Yesterday the guys that work for us started testing the combine for the wheat harvest, every year you have to reset everything and grease and then today they took it out to the field right next shop and are running right now.  We start close to home just in case anything major goes wrong at first that way we don’t have to go far for parts.

Oh if anyone needs any attack birds I know where you can get them, (he he) I have swallow’s nests in both the garage on the house where the dogs live and also the garage where I normally park my car.  It seem though that I have been run out of both places and I get dive bombed every time I go outside , it’s pretty normal for this to happen every year but this year’s group is a little more aggressive than most other years.  They will get over it soon as the little ones start to learn how to fly and like my dad always said you never take down one of their nests because we want them to be happy and eat bugs, the more the merrier, well at least till I lose an eye or something.

If anyone wants a late summer kitten let me know these little guys are just starting to open their eyes.

Ok, I better get out and wash those heifers so you all take care and have a very Happy Independences Day weekend and always remember those that gave us the right to enjoy all that we have.  God Bless our Troops and this Country.

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A Thank You To Our Military

Farmers Thank Military

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But Your Cows Do Eat Grass!?

 

In catching up with a good friend and neighbor over the weekend an interesting conversation arose about the American diet and how we as a country are overweight.  It was very interesting to hear what my neighbor had to say about me, and why I am lucky.  Below is the conversation that took place:

Neighbor: “You grow your own food, and eat grass fed, organic beef so therefore you are not as prone to the same problems as the rest of America.”

Me: “but I grain finish my beef”

Neighbor: “But I drive past your farm I see the cows out grazing all the time, is this not grass fed?”

Me: “Those are the mamma cows and their calves, when the calf is between 6 to 9 months we wean the calf from the mother so she can prepare for next year’s calf and begin feeding the calf grain and free choice hay”

Cows Eating GrassMy neighbor seemed to understand what I was saying, and having other things on our minds the conversation quickly moved on, but there were so many other things that I would have loved to continue to talk about during this conversation and was not able to say, so here goes.

We feed our steers a grain based diet; we do this naturally, with no added hormones and only medicate when we have a sick or injured calf.  There are two reasons why we raise our cattle this way.  First, everyone wants to purchase safe and affordable food products, but others also want more like locally grown source of beef that taste great and they can be sure was raised in an ethical manner.  The second reason is because the resources available to us on our farm are best suited to raise cattle this way.  In raising cattle this way and selling to local customers I am able to follow up with them to make sure that they are happy with this year’s beef, if they are not I know I need to make a few changes for next year.  If they have any questions my wife Pam and I are always willing to answer them, and of course if they wish to see our cattle they are always welcome for a tour around the farm.

Does this mean that farmers that raise cattle differently are doing it wrong? Of course not!  There are a million different ways to feed cattle, and just as many different types of customers that prefer their beef to taste in a different way (this is a topic for another day but if you are interested please visit Oliver Ranch).   We as farmers will cater to what our customers want, weather that is the best tasting steak, grass fed, or just a cheap source of protein there are farmers out there working hard to try to ensure you have those choices.

So why don’t we use growth hormones in our beef?   Many would assume it is because we believe it’s unhealthy for the cattle or the consumer, both of which are false.  Our reason for not using them on our farm is because we are trying to raise a premium product.  When using adding additional growth hormones you give up marbling in exchange for a faster growing steer.  This result in a leaner steer that finishes out quicker, thus a cheaper source of meat for consumers that are not as focused on quality, or like the taste of A1 sauce more than a well marbled steak!

As long as our customers are happy with the way we raise our cattle we will continue to do so as my grandfather did.  If you are interested in  purchasing a side of beef give us a call, if your taste are a bit different and wish to buy beef raised in another manner let my know and I will point you to a farmer that that can assist ya!

Posted in Agvocate, Cattle, Environment | 18 Comments