Low Stress Cattle Handling Workshop rescheduled for April 12 in Salina, Low Stress Ranch Tour set for May 3 at Olsburg

5 03 2014

The Salina workshop and Olsburg Ranch tour complete the grand finale of the Amazing Grazing Series of Educational Events. The rescheduled workshop will be offered April 12, 2014 at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center, 1616 W. Crawford St. in Salina, KS. On May 3, two Olsburg ranches will highlight working facilities that utilize low stress methods to quietly and effectively process cattle, sheep, and goats.

People’s interaction with livestock can have either a negative or positive impact on animal health, performance, and subsequent handling ease. Cattlexpressions Low Stress Cattle Handling Workshop will explain how to reduce stress on animals and their handlers during several critical points: cow-calf, back-grounding, stocker and feedlot operations.

Dr. Lynn Locatelli of Cattlexpressions is a student of renowned animal handling expert Bud Williams. Dr Locatelli began her veterinary career in Benkelman, Nebraska after graduating from UC Davis, and has 19 years of experience in both large animal veterinary practice and consultation. She educates many by private consultation and as a national and international speaker at veterinary seminars and cattleman’s conferences. She resides in Watrous, New Mexico.

Registration begins at 8:30 with a welcome at 9:00 AM, followed by “Understanding Cattle Behavior in Order to Modify Our Behavior and Effectively Communicate with Cattle,” then “Bud Williams Low Stress Cattle Handling Concepts and Techniques for Cattle Movement.”

“Managing Cattle Movement During Grazing” takes the group into lunch, which is followed by “Cow-Calf Production Event Management and Calf-Formative Behavior,” “Weaning, Acclimation and Transition Management, “Processing and Shipping Facilities Design, Trouble Shooting and Effective Use,” and Wrap-Up, Questions, and Evaluations at 4:00 PM.

Everyone has a little different opinion about what low stress animal handling means. Plan to attend this Low Stress Cattle Handling session to learn cattle handling techniques that will improve cattle health, well being, performance, handler safety, and profitability in your operation. Registration for the day is $25.00 and can be done by going to http://www.kansasgraziers.blogspot.com, or by downloading a registration form and mailing it to the address given. For questions, or for folks with no email to register, please call Mary Howell at 785-562-8726.

Two Olsburg ranches will highlight working facilities, on May 3, that utilize low stress methods to quietly and effectively process cattle, sheep, and goats. The tour highlighting low stress handling will begin with registration at 9:30 A.M. at the Edwards Ranch, 15225 Dry Creek Road, Olsburg. The working facility designed by Bill, that he can operate alone, will be
demonstrated starting at 10:00.

A catered, noon picnic lunch will be served at the Joseph Hubbard Barn, 5025 Highway 16, Olsburg. Joseph raises sheep and goats and has designed and will demonstrate the facility using Bud Williams philosophies for low stress, small animal handling.

Alan Hubbard is one of the first ranchers in Northeast Kansas to adopt Rotational Grazing (MiG, Management-intensive Grazing). Alan will present his lessons learned with cattle handling and grazing management. The tour will then resume to the low stress facilities designed to work in sync with livestock psychology and behavior to minimize stress and improve safety to both the animals and the rancher. The tour should conclude by 4:00 p.m.

Information is located at http://www.kansasgraziers.blogspot.com. Registration is $15.00, which includes lunch. Please register online or download a mail-in registration form. For questions, or for folks with no email to register, call Mary Howell at 785-562-8726.


Understanding the future of agriculture may be found in our history, Mitchell tells KFU members

26 01 2014

By Tom Parker

MCPHERSON, KS- The early 1970s were good times for American agriculture, with expanded exports to the Soviet Union creating higher profits for producers, stimulating rural economies and revitalizing farm implement manufacturing. News from the agricultural sector was generally upbeat. Then, on June 30, 1975, Time magazine ran an expose piece entitled “Dirty Grain,” and suddenly Americans-and the rest of the world-discovered that the U.S. was not a reliable supplier of grain.

By the end of that year 256 criminal indictments were handed down for corruption in a scandal involving private sector grain inspectors, grain prices crashed and the farm crisis spiraled out of control. “What did this erosion of our credibility do?” Larry Mitchell, Administrator of the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), asked. “I won’t say the grain scandals were the reason for the farm crisis of the late ’70s and ’80s, maybe not even a large reason, but its impact was huge.” In the following decade hundreds of thousands of farms were foreclosed and over a million family farms were lost.

Then-Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz fought for a federalized system of inspecting grain to reduce possible conflicts of interest, but he was reminded by the White House Budget Office of President Ford’s initiative to reduce overly-burdensome regulations on the private sector.

The following year Congress established the Federal Grain Inspection Service, to  federalize grain export inspection and weighing. Domestic inspection would be voluntary.

The grain scandals of the 1970s aren’t just past history, Mitchell told members of the Kansas Farmers Union during their annual convention in Topeka in early January. “It’s not that we want to dwell on the past,” he said, “but we need to understand the past in order to understand where we’re going in the future.”

Though the second smallest agency in the Department of Agriculture, GIPSA is responsible for a variety of programs that facilitate the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, oilseeds and related agricultural products, as well as promoting fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and producers. Mitchell stressed that the grain scandals of the 1970s were symptomatic of larger forces still pushing for the complete eradication of regulations. A careful reading of Dan Morgan’s “Merchants of Grain,” a history of five major grain companies from their inception to the mid-eighties, was not only the best explanation of the scandals but also an indication of where the U.S. might be heading.

The Federal Grains Standard Act, for instance, has been controversial since its beginning. In 2005 when the act came up for reauthorization, many major grain companies lobbied to return to private grain inspections similar to the 1970s, Mitchell said. Farm organizations such as the Kansas Farmers Union rallied to defeat the measure and continue a federal system of grain inspection. Mitchell predicted a similar if not tougher fight when the act is up for reauthorization next year.

When Mitchell was hired to lead the agency, he reread Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” a novel that exposed health violations and abuses of America’s meatpacking industry during the early 1900s. Though the book brought about many necessary changes, including the Packers and Stockyards Act, legislation since then has been contested at every turn. “We still have a long way to go,” he said. “The act is a former remnant of what it was.”

Mitchell also spoke on changes in farming practices and of the constant battle for small producers and farmers to compete with increasingly powerful corporate interests.

“I don’t think agriculture is always asking for special treatment,” Mitchell said, “it’s asking for equal treatment.”

Farmers and producers need to learn to work together for the common good, he said. Unfortunately, agricultural groups often tend to disdain others even when their similarities are more than their differences.

“Too often farmers are crop bigots,” Mitchell said. Beans and corn, the major staples, are prioritized while fruits and vegetables lag behind. Jimmy Carter, for instance, wasn’t known as a farmer, he was referred to by most farmers as a peanut farmer, Mitchell said, “and in farmer jargon that means he was knocked down two or three pegs because of it. I know a lot of crop farmers who think a little less of dairy farmers, and it doesn’t serve us well.”

The basic makeup of American agricultural production encompasses the whole, not the parts, he said.

“This is all of it,” he said. “Half of it is animal agriculture, half of it is crop agriculture. Half of the crop half is the major commodities, the other half of the half is fruit and vegetables-in value. Fruits and vegetables are one-fourth of our food industry regardless if you’re a truck farmer or a peanut farmer.”

Currently there’s a huge demand for local foods, he said, and it’s growing stronger. “Some people want organic, some want natural, but a lot more folks just want something local,” he said. “Maybe that’s the future.”

Mitchell said he’d been to too many agriculture banquets, especially in 70s and 80s-even FFA banquets-where spokesmen would stand up and tell attendees where everything on their plate came from. The beef came from some faraway place and the lettuce equally far or farther, until it seemed everything on the plate was as exotic as kiwi.

“So I added it up and I’m thinking, there’s 7,000 miles of travel on this plate!” Mitchell said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. This is just not efficient. Don’t downplay the impact of locally-grown fruits and vegetables. And we need to expand it to animal agriculture.”

The bottom line, he said, was simple. Know your farmer, know your food.

Climate change, the 1980s farm crisis, and the future of family farming discussed at the Kansas Farmers Union convention

26 01 2014

By Tom Parker

MCPHERSON, KS- “Celebrating the International Year of Family Farming” was the theme of the annual Kansas Farmers Union convention, held Jan. 3-5 at the Ramada Topeka Downtown Hotel and Convention Center. Farmers and ranchers from across the state convened to discuss policy, climate change, the farm crisis of the 1980s and how its memory still shadows modern farming, the farm bill, and other subjects.

A diverse group of guest speakers offered a broad array of topics applicable to today’s farmer. “There was a nice mix of topics that set the convention apart from others like it,” said Mary Howell, KFU membership specialist. “There was something for everybody.” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson gave an update on the lingering effects of last year’s government shutdown, provisions NFU would like to see added to the new farm bill, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the furor over Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL).

Dr. W. Chris King, chief academic officer for the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, discussed rising risks from climate change such as loss of arable lands, depletion of the world’s aquifers, and reduced access to clean water. King also noted how overpopulation magnifies environmental, geopolitical, and militarization stresses, and why it’s a national security interest for the U.S. military.

Larry Mitchell, administrator for the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), spoke of new threats to grain and livestock production and exports, the push toward privatization of grain exports and how their precedence in early scandals and compromises dates back 100 years, and why Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” is as applicable today as it was in 1906.

Adrian Polansky, executive director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Kansas, outlined micro-loan programs for small and niche producers, the importance of the school nutritional program, and modernization of the USDA’s public information outreach.

Linda Sheppard, special counsel and director of Health Policy for the Kansas Insurance Department, explained enrollment cutoffs, benefits, packages and financial subsidies available through the Affordable Care Act following the initial enrollment deadline and offered real-world advice for navigating the government’s Web site.

Tom Giessel, honorary NFU historian and Pawnee County Farmers Union president, presented a brief history of farmers’ co-ops in Kansas in conjunction with a broader research project on Kansas co-ops currently in progress through the Chapman Center for Rural Studies based at Kansas State University; interns Rebecca Hall and Billie Chesney gave a slideshow about their findings for their recently completed Kansas Co-Op History Research Project.

Jeff Downing, general manager of the Midwest Agency, LLP, presented the agency’s year in review.

Karen Pendleton, co-owner of Pendleton’s Country Market, Lawrence, spoke of the farm crisis in 1980 from a beginning farmer’s perspective and of how she and her husband reinvented their farm in the wake of a drought to become a successful agri-tourism industry.

In addition, KFU projects and communications coordinator Nick Levendofsky spoke of his three-week international rural leadership conference in Germany last summer, Sen. Marci Francisco provided an update on recent agricultural legislation in the statehouse, Douglas County Sustainability Coordinator Eileen Horn spoke of the new Douglas County Food Policy Council’s food hub program, the first in the state, and Republic County Economic Development co-director Luke Mahin explained social networking for farmers, producers and small businesses.

A special screening of the documentary, “The Farm Crisis” was aired on Saturday evening, followed by a panel discussion of its effect on Kansas farmers and the advisory role played by members of the panel.

Participants also toured the recently-renovated Kansas State Capitol, which opened to the public on Jan. 2. The $320 million project included a new visitor center, 550-vehicle underground parking garage, site utilities and infrastructural upgrades, replacement of the copper roof and dome and maximization of existing spaces.

“I’m very proud of how the convention turned out,” Levendofsky said. “Some of the highlights were the tour of the beautifully renovated Kansas Capitol, hearing from both state and national agriculture leaders, and discussing the grassroots policy that will guide our organization through the coming year.”

Kansas Farmers Union, based in McPherson and affiliated with the National Farmers Union, is a general farm organization working to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers and their rural communities since 1907.

2014 Annual Winter Grazing Conference – “Grazing and Soil Health”

26 01 2014

SALINA, KS – This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Kansas Graziers Association (KGA) along with the 2014 Annual Winter Grazing Conference. “Grazing and Soil Health” is the focus of this year’s winter conference, including a component on “The Value of Cover Crops.” This workshop, part of the Amazing Grazing Series of Educational Events, will be offered January 25, 2014 at Ramada Hotel & Conference Center, 1616 W. Crawford St. in Salina, KS.

Presentations during the conference will focus on grazing thoughts during the uncertainty of drought, soil health demonstrations, the benefits of using cover crops for soil health, the benefits of grazing cover crops, and how to select cover crop species.

The conference will feature David Kraft, NRCS state rangeland management specialist; Chad Remley, NRCS state soil scientist; Candy Thomas, NRCS state agronomist; and Kris Etheridge, area resource conservationist. The conference will also feature producers sharing their experiences grazing cover crops.

A new feature of this year’s workshop is an invitation to participants to submit any “Good, Bad or Otherwise Ideas” that have been tried that other graziers can learn from. Conference organizer Mary Howell shares, “The beauty of KGA is that we so openly share and learn from each other. We don’t have enough time or money in life to make all of the mistakes ourselves!” Ideas will need to be displayed as the actual genius grazing device, in a poster or notebook-type fashion, or as a ‘short’ presentation to the group. If you have something to share, please contact Mary Howell at kfu.mary@gmail.com so she can organize the exchange. Howell adds, “Graziers have many great ideas and inventions to make our jobs easier. Let’s share what we know, this could be really fun! Please plan to join us for a very educational and as always enjoyable day.”

Kansas Graziers will host a social at conference headquarters in the atrium starting at 7:30 P.M., Friday, January 24, 2014. All graziers are invited to attend and enjoy the networking, snacks, and refreshments. For food planning, please note on your registration form if you plan to attend the social.

Pre-registration for the day is $50.00. At the door: $60.00. You can also register online at http://www.kansasgraziers.blogspot.com or by downloading a registration form and mailing it to the address given.  A block of rooms for $52.00 is reserved thru January 20, 2014 at Salina Ramada, 785-823-1791.

Conference sponsors are the Kansas Graziers, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas NRCS, Kansas SARE, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, Kansas Grazing Land Coalition, with funding from North Central Risk Management Education Center, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The Farm Crisis documentary to be screened in Topeka January 4th

26 01 2014

TOPEKA, KS.– The public is invited to a screening of the documentary The Farm Crisis at 6:00 P.M. Saturday, January 4, 2014 in the Grand Ballroom of the Topeka Ramada, 420 SE 6th Ave.

Narrated by NBC News reporter Harry Smith, The Farm Crisis examines the tragic circumstances faced by farmers for most of the 1980s, when thousands were forced into bankruptcy, land values dropped by one-third nationally, and sky-high interest rates turned successes into failures seemingly overnight.

“For those of us who farmed through that time, it is never forgotten,” relates KFU president Donn Teske. “People’s lives were drastically changed, sometimes violently. Multi-generational farms fell by the wayside to be sacrificed like straw out of the back of a combine. What’s really sad is, those discarded farms & farmers were judged to be the failures in society when the events that took them down were out of their control.”

The program features interviews with policymakers, business owners, economists, and farm families, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), former Rep. Jim Leach, the late Iowa farm news broadcaster Mark Pearson, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), Iowa State University economist Neil Harl, and recording artist and Farm Aid Founder Willie Nelson.

A panel discussion will follow at 7:30 P.M. featuring National Farmers Union (NFU) president and former director of the North Dakota farm crisis hotline Roger Johnson, agricultural mediator and early farmer advocate Linda Hessman, director of the Kansas Rural Family Helpline Charlie Griffin, director of Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services (KAMS) Forrest Buhler, and former Kansas Rural Center (KRC) farm financial counselor and Nemaha County, KS farmer Ed Reznicek.

A buffet meal will be served prior to the film at 5:00 P.M. Meal cost is $25 per person. Please register by by December 30 to reserve a meal for the evening. Online and mail in registration available by visiting  http://www.kansasfarmersunion.org or calling 620-241-6630.

Kansas Farmers Union convention to kick off International Year of Family Farming

26 01 2014

TOPEKA, KS.– Kansas Farmers Union, the state’s oldest active general farm organization, will hold its annual convention at the Ramada Hotel, downtown Topeka, Jan. 3-4, 2014.

“This is going to be a great convention,” KFU President Donn Teske said. “It will be, above all, fun, interesting, and educational.” During the two-day convention, an array of speakers will discuss everything from rural healthcare, the 2013 Farm Bill, local food, global agriculture, climate change, and many other issues facing rural Kansas. The public is invited to attend.

During the Friday noon luncheon, Nick Levendofsky, KFU projects and communications coordinator, will give a presentation about his trip to Germany this past summer as a participant in the 26th Annual Leadership Workshop for Rural Youth. Following lunch, Linda Sheppard, special counsel and director of Health Policy for the Kansas Insurance Department, will speak on the Affordable Care Act and how it affects rural Kansans. Later in the day, KFU members will be treated to a tour of the newly renovated Kansas Capitol building.

During the Friday evening banquet, Tom Giessel, National Farmers Union honorary historian, will share history from the organization’s past and K-State students Rebecca Hall and Billie Chesney will give a presentation on their research into Kansas’ cooperative history and the role Farmers Union has played in cooperative development over the years.

Following the banquet, an entertaining evening is planned with Dave Lewis’ “Game Show Road Show.” A live and silent auction will also be held with all proceeds going to the Kansas Farmers Union Foundation to assist with education programs within the organization.

On the morning of Saturday, January 4, National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson will join the convention to discuss the Farm Bill, Country-of-Origin Labeling, and other national issues important to farmers and ranchers. Kansas Farm Service Agency director Adrian Polansky will also give an update on FSA happenings across the state.

Through the morning, Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for Douglas County and the City of Lawrence will discuss opportunities in local foods and Dr. W. Chris King, Brigadier General (R), U.S. Army Dean of Academics, Command and General Staff College will discuss world instability in the face of climate change. Dr. King has authored two books and 13 book chapters with his most recent manuscript being, Understanding International Environmental Security: A Strategic Military Perspective. He has published more than 30 journal articles, dozens of scientific reports, and lectured at more than 40 professional conferences including the technical sessions of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009.

During the noon banquet, USDA GIPSA director Larry Mitchell will discuss his involvement in the American Agriculture Movement during the late 1970s. Prior to serving at USDA in the 1990s, Mitchell was director of Federal and State Relation for the American Agriculture Movement, Editor of the AAM Reporter and an independent consultant and writer on American farm issues.

Following lunch, Sen. Marci Francisco, Lawrence, will give an update on the upcoming legislative session, and GIPSA director Mitchell will address the afternoon session on how USDA and GIPSA can help small livestock producers thrive. John and Karen Pendleton of Pendleton’s Country Market near Lawrence, KS will also discuss their operation and the next generation of family farming. The couple planted their first ½ acre of asparagus in 1980, and now the farm grows a wide variety of vegetables, bedding plants, and cut flowers, plus a CSA program with about 100 subscribers.

Saturday evening, an Italian buffet will be served at 5:00 P.M., followed by a 6:00 P.M. screening of the film “The Farm Crisis” which will take place in the Grand Ballroom of the Ramada. The public is invited to attend. Buffet cost is $25 and the meal is optional.

After the film, a panel discussion moderated by KFU president Donn Teske will feature NFU president and former North Dakota farm crisis director Roger Johnson, agricultural mediator and early farmer advocate Linda Hessman, Kansas Rural Family Helpline director Charlie Griffin, Kansas Agriculture Mediation Service director Forrest Buhler, and former Kansas Rural Center farm financial counselor and Nemaha County farmer Ed Reznicek.

Sunday, January 5 features the second annual meeting of the Kansas Beginning Farmers Coalition (KBFC) beginning with Linda Hessman, KFU board member and Jessie Deelo, farmer resource specialist Farm Aid who will discuss the importance of agricultural advocacy with the group.

John and Karen Pendleton will address the meeting before lunch to talk about their farm and their outlook for family agriculture in Kansas. That afternoon, representatives of the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s “From the Land of Kansas” program will discuss the program and Luke Mahin, co-director of Republic County Economic Development will discuss social media and online marketing and how they can benefit direct market producers. The rest of the day will be devoted to open discussion among KBFC members and attendees.

Kansas Farmers Union members and the public are invited to attend the annual convention. For more information, and to register online, visit http://www.kansasfarmersunion.org or call 620-241-6630.

Fall Forage Tour: Carry More Cattle by Acquiring More Land OR Making the Land You Have More Productive?

26 01 2014

McPherson, KS– Cattlemen and producers are invited to the Fall Forage Tour, Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November 2, 2013. The tour will begin at 1:00 p.m. on both days at the Dale Strickler Farm, one mile south of Courtland on the west side of the highway.

Two audiences will benefit from participation in the Fall Forage Tour-cattle producers and those interested in utilizing cover crops to improve soil health. The tour will focus on improving soil productivity through the use of cover crops, forages, and perennial grasses.

According to Strickler, ranchers have two options to increase cattle carrying capacity. They can choose “Horizontal Expansion” by acquiring more land-and more debt-or they can improve existing pastures through “Vertical Expansion.” Vertical Expansion increases the cattle carrying capacity by both expanding the root zone and increasing plant bio mass. Strickler advocates expansion of the root zone through the use of selected cover crops and enhanced soil biology.

Soil and plant roots tell the story of how managed grazing, re-growth, and rest effect not only the top growth of grasses but also their roots. To illustrate this, Strickler will dig a soil pit at his farm’s Eastern Gamagrass site permitting attendees to walk down into it and closely examine the roots and the soil beneath the grass. Dale will explain what is happening at the site so that ranchers can see for themselves that increased root depth results in elevated organic matter levels and improved biological activity in the soil. Expanding the root zone by managing the grazing has the potential to increase the land’s carrying capacity.

At the cabin site, ranchers will have the opportunity to view 27 varieties of cool season cover crops. Most varieties are solo seeded to see the effects of soil tolerances. Five different soil types exist at this location: Calcareous, eroded, poorly-drained bottom ground, well-drained bottom ground and saline sodic. Participants will see Eastern Gamagrass, Grazing Alfalfa, Low Alkaloid Reed Canary Grass, Dale’s Cover Crop Test Plot, Brown Midrib Forage Sorghum Sudan, Tropic Sun Non-Toxic Sun Hemp, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, and frosted warms season residue as well as many other legume, forage and grass varieties.

Dale Strickler, a former Agronomy Instructor at Concordia’s Cloud County Community College, is a Cover Crop and Forage Specialist for Star Seed and is passionate about soil health.

There is no registration fee, but RSVPs are requested. Producers can register on the Amazing Grazing blog at www.kansasgraziers.blogspot.com to indicate the number of people and the day chosen to attend. Questions can go to kfu.mary@gmail.com or 785-562-8726.

The Amazing Grazing Project is a collaborative effort of the following sponsors: Kansas Graziers Association, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas SARE, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, Kansas Grazing Land Coalition and NRCS-KS with funding from North Central Risk Management Education Center and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.