Tag Archives: livestock

Proud of my work and I’m going to shout it!

When you work in marketing/advertising/public relations, sharing work from your clients in your personal realms seems really self-serving. After all, most people can figure out really quick that you’re just plugging the company who ultimately funds your paychecks. I get that. But here’s the thing.

I’m really proud of the things I work on.

For nearly two years, my agency has been working hard on a rebranding project for the Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. cattle division. Starting the beginning of February, the pieces that everyone has been putting their heart and soul into started getting introduced to the public, first at two veterinarian-specific conferences and then at NCBA. The branding philosophy is centered on preventing disease through improving nutrition, the environment, observing livestock and vaccinating, in order to minimize treatment and improve overall animal health.

Yes, it’s a corporate initiative. But, at the end of the day, isn’t disease prevention and healthy animals something we can all stand behind? I think so. And that’s why I’m so proud of the work we’re doing.

Here’s a bit of an overview of how BIVI is approaching animal health to prove that “prevention truly is the best medicine.” You can also check out BIVIPreventionWorks.com for more information.

Are you already implementing disease prevention strategies on your operation? What types of things do you do? Know of another example of corporate work/initiatives you’re proud of or impressed by? Would love to hear about it in the comments!

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Ideas from our friends in the north!

For the past two days, I have been at the North American Leaders Session, which is a meeting hosted by the Center for Food Integrity designed to bring together leaders of livestock coalitions from across North America to meet and share ideas. Now, you’ll notice that I said North America and not just…well, America. We were really lucky to be joined by a group of great folks from Canada that shared some of their projects and challenges. You may or may not be surprised, but their challenges aren’t much different than ours here in the States and they brought some awesome ideas to the table.

Now, I tweeted about the fact that the Canadian contingent is doing some amazing things related to consumer-outreach and some people on Twitter expressed interest in what those ideas were. In an effort to both share some of those things with you and as a way for me to remember them 🙂 here’s some of the ones I found extremely interesting:

Farmers Feed Cities
This is a program mainly funded by the grain organization in Canada, but has implications for all farmers. Somewhat like the “Farmers Care” program in Michigan, Farmers Feed Cities is designed to raise awareness and education about how farming affects all of us, not just those in rural areas. What I liked most about the program was the material promotions that they’ve put together. They’ve done what I think is a great job with getting the notion of “Farmer Feed Cities” in front of a lot of people. They even gave us a window decal that I fully intend on putting in my car and a pin that’s going on my backpack! You can learn more about what they’re doing on their website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC)
Throughout Canada, there are Farm Animal Councils. The Ontario branch has done a couple of projects that I thought were really neat. They have put together a 40+ page booklet about Canadian agriculture (which is not all that different from the US) called “The Real Dirt on Farming” that they’ve distributed all through the province. It goes to media members, legislators and–something a little different–doctors and other offices. The booklet covers a ton of common topics and is very good at promoting and explaining all types of agricultural production.

They also have created a website where people can take a virtual tour of farms, which range from egg producers to pig farms and orchards. Heather Hargrave, who works for OFAC, said they’d like to get to the point where they produce a modern/conventional, organic and grassfed video for each species that helps show the differences and similarities between different production systems.

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS)
Saskatchewan’s branch of the Farm Animal Council has done some great projects promoting the message that farmers care about their animals (and subsequently the environment and their families). They partook in a very large billboard campaign throughout the province (the largest agricultural media campaign in North America) with the simple message “On our farm…we care.” Billboards featured young farmers and farm families in a variety of animal industries. They partnered with a photojournalist who took the photos, which helped the promotion of the message through journalism circles and built great partnerships with the different commodity organizations to get them done.

They also chose to put together a puppet show–Tales from the FACS Farm–that is used in elementary schools throughout the province to teach kids about animal agriculture. Adele Buettner, who works with FACS, said they hesitated at doing this because they’re not big fans of talking animals (humanizing them) in any way, but also said it ended up being a great choice because of the educational value. They work with a professional puppeteer company and put on the shows at as many schools and libraries as they possibly can during Education Week.

Sometimes we forget about how important it is to get fresh ideas to promote our industries and build trust between food producer and food purchaser. This chance to hear from other people in the US and Canada was a great opportunity for me to think about what we can do in Michigan and throughout the ag industry across the country.

Do you have any neat projects in your state or country that promote agriculture to non-farmers? What do you do? How do you secure funding? Have you done any projects that crashed and burned?!

The pride and tradition of being pure

There’s something about being involved with purebred livestock that just makes my heart swell with pride. Now, that’s not to say anything is wrong with raising commercial livestock – I’m grateful for every farmer that produces the vast majority of what I eat every day – but there’s something to be said for getting around people that have such a deep history in raising outstanding animals.

Like many others, the start of my livestock career focused mainly the county fair. Having only a market show, our goal has always been to develop the best market hog out there – usually the result of crossbreeding. Now, while I will say that I love the market hog aspect (my most favorite set of hogs – Grand Champion Pen! – were a set of crossbred “blue butts”), I developed a whole new appreciation and pride for breeding hogs when I got involved with the National Junior Swine Association, the junior leg of the National Swine Registry.

A Duroc boar from Shipley Genetics in Ohio. Animals like this can have a huge impact on the breed. (And don't you just love how you could drive a truck between his front legs!? Awesome!)

Breeding purebred animals, for me, is an entirely different mindset. Instead of breeding solely for type, you breed for characteristics that will improve the breed – and in turn, all hogs – in the long run. You want to breed Yorkshires and Landraces in a way that will add muscle and leanness to their great mothering ability. You want to add mothering ability and sound structure to the great carcass traits that tend to be associated with Durocs and Hampshires. If anyone can remember how far the pendulum swung towards market hogs that were too lean, too shallow bodied and horribly structured in the late 90s, you know how important the purebred industry can be in making our animals better – whether you’re in commercial production or seedstock production. Having that ability to make an impact is the thing that makes all the difference to me.

Yesterday I got to interview the faculty coordinator and farm manager from the purebred beef farm at MSU and they reminded me how it’s great to be a part of raising seedstock, not only for the pride in your animals, but also for the pride in your people. Throughout the history of the purebred livestock industry, there have been outstanding people that have made a difference – both for animals and for others. There are few things greater than getting to listen to older people – and it doesn’t matter if it’s in cattle, swine, sheep, horses, etc. – talk about those that made a difference in their lives when they were a livestock showman or make a difference in the lives of youth now. That’s huge for me.

As you or your children get involved with livestock – and I sincerely hope you do – I would encourage you to consider involvement in the purebred side of the industry. While both seedstock and commercial production are important for the entire industry, it’s definitely a unique experience to be a part of shaping a breed or multiple breeds. I, for one, am extremely honored to be a part of the great pride and tradition associated with being pure.

Should we thank PETA and HSUS?

Yesterday I, like many people in the agriculture world, tuned in to watch Oprah when I heard that she and her staff of over 300 people were giving up meat and all other animal products for a week-long “vegan challenge”. Now, it’s no secret that Oprah has had her issues with the livestock industry, so it’s also no surprise that when the agriculture community heard about what she was doing on yesterday’s episode that the defenses went right up. Instead of demonizing livestock farming, however, the episode (except for a few criticisms here and there) overall focused on consumers understanding where their food comes from in order to make an informed choice about their meal options.

As food “experts” (although I don’t think that title applies to either person), Oprah invited author Michael Pollan (read about my encounter with Pollan here) and veganist Kathy Freston to join her for the episode. Surprisingly, Pollan almost seemed like the voice of reason on the couch, stating how he thought meat is an important part of the diet and that “eating meat isn’t evil”. Reporter Lisa Ling also visited a Cargill plant and learned how our meat goes from the pasture/feedlot to our plate. Cargill did a great job representing agriculture and everyone in animal ag should be proud of their willingness to open their doors to the cameras.

One of the things that I thought was very interesting about the Cargill tour is a comment that Pollan made after the segment. In general, he noted how animal rights groups like PETA were to thank for the advancements agriculture has made in our processing facilities.

My first thought – as displayed in this tweet of mine – was “PETA and HSUS DO NOT get credit for improving agriculture. Ugh…..”

What did he mean? Is he saying we should THANK them for their never-ceasing pressure? We should be GRATEFUL for their petitions and lawsuits because we now have better slaughter facilities? I DO NOT THINK SO.

But then I got this tweet from @antiquecutie: “@sollmana why not? if there was no pressure…they would never change.”

Wait. What?

That got me thinking and, to be totally honest, way confused. I do understand that pressure from animal rights activists since the time of when ‘The Jungle‘ was released have played a part in the industry’s advancement. But still, these groups aren’t about advancing agriculture – they’re about ending it. The fact that changes occur because of their campaigns seems to me more of a side effect. I am much more grateful for people like Temple Grandin who understand the role of animal agriculture and seek to improve it, without an agenda to put an end to owning livestock.

What do you think? The question from @antiquecutie definitely made me question my own beliefs (which is never a bad thing), but I’d like to hear from others. Should we be thankful for groups like PETA and HSUS, since their pressure has played a role (to what extent is debatable) in our improvement?