Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Farming--A Business That Cares

A Small Loss, A Big Lesson Learned

by Matthew & Erin Sweet

We are a small scale pastured poultry operation, meaning our chickens live outside exposed to all of the elements. Because of this we can only raise our birds during certain times of the year. We learned a tough lesson today. Upon returning home from our state YF&R summer meeting, we spoke to the young man who cared for our birds this weekend. Though he made sure that the birds had constant access to water, the over 100* temperatures claimed 30 of our birds on Saturday. This is a reminder of why mainstream animal production needs to continue using climate controlled buildings to house their animals. Though the breed of chicken we raise is better suited for the pasture, it still does not make them invincible. These birds are just like humans and always function better under optimal conditions. Our chickens have one job and that is to eat, drink and be merry. If the temperature gets too high, their main focus shifts to staying cool and everything else becomes secondary. Our job as the farmer is to do everything in our power to keep the conditions optimal, so that the birds have no concerns. But as state laws continue to become more restrictive on animal housing, we have to ask ourselves, whose best interests are really at hand?

This is a great post from the Farm Bureau's blog, FBlog. It really illustrates the importance of housing animals in climate controlled environments. Yes, animals are naturally meant to be outdoors but look at dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, snakes, etc. None of these animals are naturally domesticated pets nor are they naturally meant to sleep at the foot of our beds, but they do. Why? Because people care about their pets so much that they want them to be part of their family. We as farmers care about our livestock and want them to remain comfortable, safe, and alive no matter the weather. That is why we house them in climate controlled barns.

Some will argue that it isn't their comfort we care about, it's how fat we can get them in the shortest amount of time. I'll be the first to admit we are running a business. Yes, we have a certain time limit to get our pigs to market. Yes, we want them to be of proper market weight within that time limit--not too big, not too small. Yes, economics play into our everyday lives but does that mean we don't care about our animals? Hell NO! I've never seen any group of people work so hard for so little. Farmers put in more hours of hard physical labor than most Americans spend complaining about their 40 or less hours a week. And for what? For crops that don't always come up and have to be replanted and replanted and replanted. For people who don't complain while they're scarfing down that ninth slice of bacon but by golly they're gonna harp when it suits their agenda. For no respect and little money for the time invested; would farmers farm if they didn't care? I think not. Farming is a way of life and a business.

Just because people are starting to see farming as a business they automatically assume that it's all about the money now. Here is a news flash--farming has always been a business. But for people to claim we don't care about our animals is unfair and completely untrue. See one of my past posts, My Fine Swine, for an example of how much we care. The fact that producers are constantly finding newer, better, safer, more reliable means to raising animals is a testament of how much we care about our animals.

If we didn't care the term "agvocacy" and blogs like this one wouldn't exist.  

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