The 86th National FFA Convention Is Underway!

The 86th National FFA Convention Is Underway!

So today kicked off the 86th FFA Convention in Louisville Kentucky. This is my fifth convention. I went to convention first in 2008 when I was serving as a state FFA officer for Alabama. I loved it so much I … Continue reading

Harvest: My Favorite Time of Year

I was an August baby, at home my mom has pictures of me in the cotton field with my dad when I was just a few weeks old. I’ve always been around it been around harvest in the fall . My dad quit farming a few years ago, but because my younger brothers and I have started farming I am still around it. This fall I am looking forward to harvesting my first soybean crop and I am beyond excited.

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My soybeans were looking good when I was home a few weekends ago. They are all but ready to harvest.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to do something I usually do not get to do in Auburn. I left class and went and went to the fields. This time it was not to work. I am writing an article about one of my classmates Mark so I needed some pictures of him working. Although I was along to take pictures it was such a thrill to spend some time in the soybeans.

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Watching soybeans and corn so intently with my internship this summer I am more amazed than ever at the  cycle plants go through. It is absolutely amazing to watch tiny seeds push through hard crusted soil, it is amazing to see them be subjected to harsh environmental conditions and see them bounce back. I have a post in mind to do soon relating seeds/plants to life, but ‘m not going to jump in on that today.

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I’m so thankful that the cycle of life exists for plants, its really remarkable to see how a tiny seed can be planted and cared for and can be turned into a useful product that may be turned into food, fiber, fuel, plastics, medicines, etc. Harvest is when farmers can see all their hard work come to fruition. Some years depending on drought and other factors it may not be a good year, but those are things we do not have control over.

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Another reason I like harvest is just the ability to be outside. Typically the weather has cooled off, blue skies, clear and cool mornings and evenings. I think that is just what I needed yesterday, taking off work and spending some time outside was just the therapy I needed to break up the afternoon work cycle I am in each day. Yesterday was a beautiful afternoon, I wish I could have spent all afternoon there, but alasImage

Whoop! Auburn Beat the Aggies and We Were There To See It!

When they announced the football schedule the 2013 season my brother and I started discussing how we could make it to College Station for the Texas A&M game. We booked flights in January and FINALLY the weekend arrived.

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We arrived in Texas and our first stop, being the conservative, American, Bush loving tourist we are stopped by the George Bush Presidential Library.

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I had heard to much about the Aggie Yell Practice they have each Friday night prior to home games. That was one item on our list of things to do we were not going to miss, we had been up a long time, but we made it to midnight.

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It was interesting, not many people could explain what was going on, but it was still something to see. They do not have cheerleaders at A&M, but have yell leaders who are male. They give signals to inform the crowd of the cheers. It was interesting to see and experience.

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Emily and I got up pretty early on Saturday morning to get prepared for the game and we left the house dressed up and ready for the 2:30 game. Driving through College Station on a game day was not bad, we just couldn’t figure out where the fans were. It was 11:00 and there was not that many people out, parking lots were not too full, a stark contrast from Auburn game days.

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It is 11am and there are not that many people, where is everyone?

Parking at A&M was frustrating, you could only park in a lot, their campus is huge, one of the largest land-wise in the nation, but you were not allowed to park on any grass, you had to pay to park in a lot. A&M’s tailgating reminded me more of what you would see at a NFL game, in parking lots, actually on tailgates of vehicles. We attended a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences tailgate, a great networking opportunity, and was able to meet up with a friend of mine, Anna, who is at A&M finishing up her master’s degree.

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We made our way to the stadium, the majority of the ~6,000 Auburn fans in attendance were in the upper end zone. Their stadium in in three separate sections the student section takes up one whole side and holds around 30,000 people! Very impressive, this is where their “12th Man” sits. Their students didn’t get there extremely early, but they were packed in around kickoff. To be 30,000 strong I didn’t think their student section was that loud, they got that way towards the end, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and sayit was the wind or where we were sitting, but I’m not convinced.

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In case you missed the game report, Auburn was able to hang in there with the Aggies and Ol Johnny Football. Auburn scored a touchdown with about a minute and 19 seconds remaining which was plenty of time for A&M to score again. The next 1:19 was the longest of my life.

It came down to a few seconds and a final down and as Johnny was tackled in the backfield, cheers of victory filled the air in the Auburn section. I am pretty sure I picked Emily up and swung her around. We screamed and hopped and hollered. It was great.


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I had previously been 0-5 on the road, now I am 1-5 so we’re making progress.

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I will never forget this game and I am so glad I will be able to remember it with Emily, Kira and Krista.

We stayed and cheered some more, sang the Auburn Alma Matter and then headed for the car. The entire time I was at Texas A&M we never had anyone give us  a hard time, be rude to us, bark in our faces, scream at us etc. It was such an enjoyable experience, the best away game experience I have had thus far.

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Few Last Highlights of the Weekend:

1) We got a great deal on a rental car for obvious reasons. We dubbed it the washing machine it had the motor of one and was about the size of one. Good thing we didn’t actually have to drive it to Texas.

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Emily Jones “Traveling around Texas with the two tallest people I know in the “washing machine.” #compactcar #tincan #cantstoplaughing #tallpeopleprobs #goodtobeshort”

2) BBQ- Texas Brisket….enough said. Everything else was good whether it was sausage or turkey. Tex-Mex was also great. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

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3) We got to meet some great people, worship with the congregation out there which reminded me a lot of Auburn. A special shout out to Amy, Chandler, Emily and Taylor who let Emily and I stay with them.

Texas A&M has probably been one of my top 2 away games I have attended. It had all the elements of a great weekend. I have two more trips to games this fall so Arkansas and Tenneessee are going to have a lot to live up to. The experience was great, but coming home with a win over Texas A&M…. priceless.

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Where is PETA and the Humane Society?

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Homes outside of Ellsworth Air Force Base. (Image source: iWitness Rob Griffith/The Weather Channel)

Last weekend a very early snowstorm hit the parts of Wyoming, North and South Dakota. This is hard to imagine for me because I only  left there from my internship back in August, and it is currently still VERY warm in Alabama. This snowstorm was one of the worst people in that area have ever seen. They received 12 hours of rain then four feet of snow and sustained 60 mph winds during a 48 hour period of time. Through acquaintances like Katie Pinke I was able to see pictures of the snow over the weekend.

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Katie Pinke a farmer’s wife and mom in North Dakota. She was speaking to a women’s conference in the Black Hills during the storm. On Saturday she posted this picutture saying “Still no power. The hotel has a gas stove and a flash light in the kitchen. We get hot pork sandwiches to eat but it’s getting pretty chilly now and all roads from here are closed! But I spoke to an amazing group of women. We laughed, wiped a few tears and all better together in this experience. Next up? Extra blankets and a fireplace. One big sleepover in the lobby.” Read more about Katie’s Life on the Prairie at http://thepinkepost.com/

As the snow started to melt some the news of its destruction started coming through. throughout the week my heart has ached for people in that area. 4 people lost their lives and so many cattle died. It is estimated that 75,000 head of cattle were lost in this one storm. Some producers have lost anywhere from 20-50% of their heard.

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Cattle who tried to take shelter in this area were buried underneath the snow. More pictures can be seen here: http://bigballsincowtown.com/storm2013.htm

Since this was an early storm cattle were still in the pastures at this point in the year. During the winter months since the winters are so harsh in that area of the country the cattle are moved closer so they can be kept under close watch and cannot be too far away when bad weather comes. This storm wiped out calves that would have been sold this fall as well as their mothers that would produce future calves.

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This poor cow walked until it could not walk any more and was found as the snow began to melt away earlier this week. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Kristina Barker)

Cattle are actually pretty smart. I asked numerous farmers this summer how their cattle made it in the winter. They know to keep the wind at their back and walk with it. They walk to find places of shelter which in bad storms like this could even mean going through a fence. This time even if they found a creed bed, or man made shelter in the pasture to stand against many were sinking in the mud from the 12 hours of rain and were then buried under the snow suffocating them.

This event did not even break national news sources until yesterday because of the flack they received for their lack of coverage. The government is still shut down, therefore there are no disaster assistance programs to offer these people. Fund have been set up by individuals to help people in this region out. But here is my question.

Where is PETA and the Humane Society? 

They claim that they help during national disasters. They post pictures of their “help” and will run television commercials when hurricanes are on their way or wildfires are raging. HSUS has a webpage where you can give specifically for animal disasters.

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They claim to help animals during natural disasters, why aren’t they helping?

But where are they? I can tell you they will not come.

Why?

Because their goal is not to “help” animals. The have two major goals

1) They do not like animal agriculture which means they want you to become a vegetarian

2) Take your money

“My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.” –HSUS Director of Animal Cruelty Policy John “JP” Goodwin Their goal is not to help animals, but push their vegetarian agenda. To push that agenda they need funds and that is why they run commercials showing puppy dogs and kitty cats that have been neglected and abused. They pull at your heartstrings which in turn pulls out your wallet. At the end of 2009 their revenue for the year was $148 million dollars, yet they only spent one half of 1% actually helping animals.

This has happened before: According to Humane Watch

HSUS raised $34 million in The wake of hurricane Katrina, Supposedly To help
reunite lost pets with their owners. But comparatively little of that money was
spent for that purpose. Louisiana’s Attorney General shuttered his 18-month-long investigation
into where most of these millions went, shortly after HSUS announced its plan to contribute
$600,000 toward the construction of an animal shelter on the grounds of a state prison. In 2009,
Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV reported that public disclosures of the disposition of the $34 million in
Katrina-related donations added up to less than $7 million.

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Groups like Humane Watch keep an eye on the Humane Society’s activities and works to inform the public through advertising campaigns, especially in places like DC and NYC. http://www.humanewatch.org/humanewatch-ads-hit-capitol-hill/

However the main reason they are not going to come is because they are an anti-agriculture group. Because they are against agriculture, they are not going to assist these animals and their owners. They will not help. They give millions of dollars to fight agriculture in all 50 states each year. They pay their lobbyist well and have put 17 million dollars in their own pinion plans.

This is just one example of a flaw in HSUS and PETA, they have many. Before you give your money because of a sad commercial you see, research the group. Most likely if they are advertising on national television they have too much money. Do you see your local pet shelter on television? Most likely not, they have to use every cent they have effectively, donate to them.  Most local humane shelters do great work, they are not at all affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States.

Since the government is not around to help if you are interested in donating to the disaster relief  a Rancher Relief Fund has been set up by the AgChat Foundation. You can donate here: http://www.razoo.com/story/Rancher-Relief-Fund?fb_ref=2eYjT2ox1

Arsenic in Your Chicken?

Arsenic is harmful and has been known to cause cancer. Arsenic is an element in the environment that can be found naturally in rocks and soil, water, air, and in plants and animals. When I had seen several articles floating around this week saying that it was in chicken I had to do a little digging. Many times when stories like these surface there is a good explanation behind it or a misunderstanding. I called on Dr. Wallace Berry one of our poultry science professors here at Auburn and asked him for his expertise.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced it will remove three arsenic-containing drug types used to treat food animals, including chickens. Altogether, the three drugs were used in formulations as feed additives, the most common being Roxarsone. Many think of Roxarsone as a way to “pump up chicken”, but according to Dr. Berry that is not the case.

Berry says that Roxarsone is made from an arsenic compound and some companies do use it as an anti-coccidial drug in chickens ( not to “plump up” chicken as the media portrays). When I researched coccidia I found that it is an internal parasite that if coccidiosis occurs that it causes diarrhea with weight loss, dehydration, and (rarely) hemorrhaging  Animals who have bad cases may have problems with  anorexia, vomiting, and depression. Death is a potential outcome. It was used to keep animals healthy, farmers go to great lengths to care for their animals and this is why the additive was used.

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According to Berry we use similar arsenical drugs are used in far higher doses to treat heart worms in pets. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element so traces can be found in all living things. Chickens who are given Roxarsone go through a withdrawal period before they are harvested just like with any other drug or antibiotic the animal might have been given. Arsenic is cleared from body tissues rapidly so only very low levels, about like normal background levels can be found in chicken. Berry pointed out that even when people are intentionally poisoned with arsenic, it takes a high continuous dose to kill and arsenic traces are usually only found in hair and nails because so little accumulates.

When it gets down to the “meat” of the matter Berry stated that Roxarsone is being withdrawn, not because it is dangerous, but mostly because it is an old drug that is not very profitable and because of poor public opinion. There are newer anti-parasitic  drugs without arsenic that the public is more comfortable with and that keeps our animals healthy. Do not be alarmed not every poultry company uses Roxarsone, and the ones that do use it don’t use it all the time. It is rotated with other anti-coccidial drugs to prevent the coccidia from developing resistance. Since the three will be no longer used in food thankfully we will not have to worry bout animals suffering from coccidia because a vaccine for it was actually developed at Auburn by Dr. Allen Edgar in 1952! The anti-coccidial drugs are not related to any human antibiotics so there are no worries about antibiotic resistance transferred to human.

So as I get ready to decide on dinner tonight, I am not going to shy away from chicken in the cooler at the grocery. I’m very thankful Dr. Berry was able to answer my questions and I hope if you hear about arsenic you will now feel more informed. Eat More Chicken!