When my buddy Derek first sent me the link to A&W’s better beef website, I really didn’t give it much thought. They promoted beef raised without implants or antibiotics, which isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but they did a pretty good job explaining about how sick animals are properly treated and removed from the program, and how it is raised without added hormones. The only problem I really saw with it is that they weren’t getting all their beef from Canada.
A few days later, the agvocates caught scent of it. The thought of being as famous as Dairy Carrie and her pluckezchicken campaign danced in front of them and they’ve been trying to tear apart good old Ape & Willies ever since. There are a couple major differences between A&W and Panera Bread though. First, PB flat out called farmers lazy. A&W has done nothing to question the integrity or work ethic of this nations producers. Second, PB used harsh imagery and phrasing to insinuate that all meat produced that doesn’t match their their standards is unsafe. A&W has done nothing to slander conventional Canadian beef.
So what’s the real problem here? I think it might be that we wait around, content with the status quo, and then when somebody comes up with a better way to market their product, we jump all over them. I mean, by this standard, shouldn’t all you Hereford breeders be tearing apart the certified Angus program?
Can you imagine where our industry would be if all the folks took the time they wasted harassing A&W, and used it to improve their stockmanship skills, or their knowledge of animal health or nutrition. Maybe they could even (and I’m going out on a limb here) use that time to learn about marketing and finding a niche.
I guess what I’m trying to say is quit your bitching, focus on doing your job better, and maybe one day you won’t need to spend all your time reacting to something on social media.
Last month, I competed in the Zoetis Feedlot Challenge. It’s a feedlot competition in southern Alberta where teams from various feedlots demonstrate their processing and pen checking prowess, and their knowledge of antibiotics, vaccines, and diseases associated with feedlot production. Over the past few years, this has been a great event that’s promoted low stress cattle handling in the area. This year, however, seemed to be a huge step backwards.
Almost every aspect of the event was excellent. The processing went smooth, the exam was fair, the steaks were rare and the beer was cold. My qualms lie in the pen checking competition, and specifically the judging. There was way too much emphasis put on pressuring the animals out of the pen. Truly effective cattle handlers understand pressure and release. If you don’t provide release at the gate, and continue to pressure it out, you will change the behavior of that animal and his pen mates. If you are checking high risk calves, this will translate to missed pulls every time.
When we spend three years promoting pressure and release and showing cattle the way out, what message do we send when we tell the pen checkers to chase them out the gate in the fourth year? We are telling them to revert, to just do it how we did before.
So kudos to the judge, Curt Pate. Anybody who promotes better livestock handling deserves credit, but in the future, the bar needs to be set higher. Every time we work cattle we have to strive for perfection and effectiveness. When the winning team has negative motion in half the pen, this is far from effective. I hope that in the future, our industry sets higher standards for handling and aims for goals that are a little loftier than what’s easily achieved.
A few months ago when I decided to get active in social media and start sharing my views, I kept coming across a buzzword that was on the tip of everyone’s tongue :agvocacy. Initially, I thought this was spectacular. Farmers and ranchers advocating for agriculture seemed like a concept that will change our industry. After a few months of reading blogs and spending entire evenings trolling through twitter, I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority of “agvocates” are full of shit.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I read an original thought on a blog. I read an article from Reuters or Drovers, and then my twitter feed blows up with links to blogs about these subjects. I click these links and I find wannabe journalists regurgitating the same crap from that article. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read several blogs about Zilmax. Most of these are written by cow calf producers and students with no experience to back up what they’re writing about. They just write down somebody else’s thoughts and present it as fact. It would be nice to see some original thoughts on Zilmax and what the real problems are.
When we have thousands of farmers presenting themselves as experts, we are going to do more harm than good. Someone with limited feedlot experience being referred to as an expert on the industry is worse than me telling people why gestation crates are a good thing. It’s important to remember that just because somebody has thousands of people following them, doesn’t mean they’re always going to be the best source of information.