Red Cowgirl Boots Welcome!

Welcome to my blog!

I am a young agricultural enthusiast focused on spreading the "Colorful" world of Agriculture.

Involved with an amazing group of other Calgary Stampede Summer Synergy Youth who are committed to promoting Agricultural to others. I was introduced to blogging in participation for the Summer Synergy Marketing Campaign, which has truly inspired me.

I am excited to share my thoughts, comments, on serious and fun aspects of Agriculture. I hope that if you have an opinion on my subject matter, that you will leave a comment - I want to know how you feel, from both my agriculture and urban friends. Lets have some fun, relive some memories, make new memories and talk about what really matters most - help spread the word of Agriculture.

Get your boots out, dust them off, and join me in adding a bit of color to Agriculture!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why are dairy cows 'skinny' and beef cows 'beefy'?

 The agricultural industry and its livestock can be associated with many misconceptions perceived by the public. For example: dairy cows are skinny due to starvation and that beef cows have a high average daily gain because of hormones\steroids.

These agricultural assumptions are not out of the norm. Just like most of society, when I first encountered a dairy "cattle beast" I took note of it's lack of spring of rib, decreased conditioning, and noticeable bone structure, associating this to a malnutrition. However, I was very wrong. Cattle have been a principle building block of human civilization being a source of food and primitive agricultural tool for hundreds of years. Domestication of this beast was estimated to have taken place in the Asian steppes 7000 to 10,000 years ago, and resulted in many changes to the structure of this species. The application of selective breeding lead to the specialization of specific breeds for milk production, meat production, or labor, which yielded stronger more productive animals. To simplify, cows with high milk yield were bred to bulls that had an association with high milking, and cattle with exceptional growth were bred to each other. Eventually, this lead to a differentiation in the structure of beef cattle compared to dairy cattle. Like cattle, dogs also show specialization in particular aspects of structure – you wont see a shih tzu winning any races against a greyhound.

First lets look at the metabolic alterations during the transition from pregnancy to lactation in cows as a species. Entering into the lactation phase, cows undergo physiological changes to ensure provision of adequate nutrients for the calf, and thus nutrient requirements can double overnight. The deficits in requirements are met by the mobilization of body fat and protein, as well as decreasing the use of glucose in non-mammary tissues. These processes are regulated by a pattern of hormonal shifts. For example, somatotropin is increased in early lactation causing increased responsiveness of adipose (body fat) tissue to lipolytic signals such as norepinephrine. The fatty acids are then directly used as fuels by muscle, and/or converted to ketone bodies to be used as an alternative fuel instead of glucose.

Dairy cows have been selected over generations for high milk production, averaging almost 13,500kg of milk per lactation – much more than what a typical calf would require. When milk potential increases, cows have high mammary nutrient needs and eat more feed, however even when fed ad libithum (freely) they cannot consume enough. Consequently, body weight loss increases, debunking the misconception that dairy cows are skinny due to malnutrition.

Beef cattle have been bred to be ‘beefy’ through selective breeding focusing on body condition, weight gain, and reproductive performance. Farmers are paid for the amount of weight yielded by the carcass of a ‘cattle beast’, and thus beef animals cannot have a similar body composition to a dairy animal. Beef cows still use glucose to produce milk, but society has not bred beef cattle for increased milk production, and thus less energy is required for milk during lactation. The extra energy/nutrients are converted into muscle and fat, creating their “beefiness”!

This is not suggesting that producers don’t have too fat or too thin dairy or beef cattle. You can refer to the Body Condition Scoring of Dairy or Beef Cattle for more information on the appropriate condition of these production breeds.

Hope you Enjoyed! 


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Break those Boot in! A Calgary Stampede Warm up!

June 27 - July 3
If you love the Western feel of the Calgary Stampede, and are counting the days until it starts on July 8th, why not start early! Get that hat out, dust those boots off and come break those boots back in at the 75th Annual Ponoka Stampede. Start this morning off with a mile long parade, and an outdoor market, then its off to an afternoon of Rodeo Action with the Professional Cowboys who are warming up for the Calgary Stampede, thats not all the World Professional Chuckwagon Association will spin their wheels tonight for some great racing. Wait . . . were not done yet, live bands play in the Stagecoach Saloon every evening for those over 18, those legs might need a two step lesson or reminder. The Rodeo runs every afternoon, and the Chuckwagons every evening, Thursday night join us to watch Dwight Yoakham perform live on stage where you can dance right in the infield! Friday and Saturday night dance to live bands at one of the largest beer gardens in Alberta - and Sunday wrap it all up with not only an afternoon of Rodeo Finals, but a Stampede Cash Showdown of all the top events.
July 8 - July 17
After you experience the Ponoka Stampede, you will be hooked, only 5 more days until the live packed action of the Calgary Stampede Starts on July 8! Don't forget to fit the Agricultural Barns visit in, those exhibitors are there for you to learn more about Agricultural in our beautiful province. Hope to see you at both events! 

Did you know that Rodeo Action was started by our Agricultural forefathers as a way of entertainment and to show off their riding skills! Agriculture is everywhere and has been around for a long long time. 

Well I am off to decorate a float and then to the grounds to help host the Ponoka Stampede! Come on down, we'd love to show you a great time!
~ Carling

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Giving Back - A Salute to Volunteers!

This week I have the opportunity to join my sister, Brittney, as a Ponoka Stampede Public Relations Volunteer  in the private venue boxes. I have the opportunity to interact with business professionals in many areas including: Agriculture, Banking, Oil & Gas, Retail, and Building Construction. The Ponoka Stampede is celebrating its 75th year of Rodeo, and what an exciting event, that is put on by hundreds of Community Volunnteers.

 Last evening, at the opening ceremonies we paid tribute to the many families that were instrumental in starting the first Ponoka Stampede in 1936, and many of these families are very well known in Canadian Professional Rodeo. I tip my hat to the Doran/Wierzba, Butterfield, Vold, Dorchester & Dodds Families who were there in the beginning. These families continue to volunteer generation after generation in many aspects of Rodeo, including the Ponoka Stampede and it just goes to show how continued volunteering and dedication can have an event continue to grow and be successful. I am proud to be a Ponoka Stampede Volunteer and thank you to the other Ponoka Stampede Volunteers for giving your time to make it such a huge success. 

Many of us who have gone through the 4-H program understand how much self satisfaction you get from volunteering. As part of our 4-H Diary points, we are required to give some of our time to a charity of some sort to complete our year. Through my 9 years of 4-H I have feed the hungry not only by collecting for the food bank, but also working in a soup kitchen feeding the homeless. We worked as a team to raise funds for a fellow 4-H member stricken with Cancer by putting on a Pancake breakfast. We have raised steers together to auction off and donate funds to Cancer research, Big Brothers & Sisters, Stars Ambulance and much more. Together we have improved our environment by cleaning many miles of ditches, and recycled oil filters, tires and cell phones. A sense of pride knowing just giving a bit of our time makes a difference to so many.  

Growing up with a mom who was involved in Kinettes, I had the opportunity to assist in making pies for a community fundraiser, assist in building a community playground, and just last year I hosted a Hypnotist fundraiser donating over $800 to the future Kinette Spray Park for the upcoming kids of our community. 

Volunteering, mentoring, and doing community service has a long term effect on the youth and the future of our society. How giving a little bit of your time can make a huge impact on everyone. I take pride in giving of my time to mentoring youth in gaining confidence, self awareness and the importance of giving back. I give so much credit to so many volunteers and mentors that I have had that took me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to just try, I have never looked back.  It is amazing how one persons kindness can change your direction. 

Please take the time to recognize the many volunteers that help us improve our communities - or better yet volunteer a bit of your time, the satisfaction you get from just one happy smile, will be more payment than you will ever need!

As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Remember if you ever need a helping hand you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you get older you will discover you have two, one for helping yourself, the other for helping the others.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Steak au Poivre

I love food! Especially beef; however, I'm not the best cook. :( I found a delishous recipe, thats pretty simple and easy to make. Hope you enjoy it!

Steak Au Poivre
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
4 lean, trimmed fillet steaks, or sirloin steak if you prefer, at room temperature (about 1-1/2 inch thick)
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
6 ounces button mushrooms, washed and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup/75 ml red wine
1/2 beef stock cube dissolved in 1/2 cup/140 ml boiling water
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon of cornflour mixed with a little water
salt to taste

To dry roast the peppercorns, put them into a small pan and roast them over a medium heat. Give them a little shake every so often. This should take only a 2 - 3 careful not to burn them. Turn off the heat and let them sit until they have cooled, then coarsely crush them in a pestle and mortar.

Scatter the pepper mixture on to the base of a plate, and use it to coat each steak evenly.

Pour the olive oil into a heavy skillet and place on a high heat. When the oil and the pan are searingly hot its time to cook the steaks. Place each steak into the skillet leaving a good gap around each one.

Allow the steaks to cook for 3 minutes on each side for medium rare....4 minutes each side for medium.....2-3 minutes more each side for well done.

When cooked to your taste remove the pan from the heat, take out the steaks and keep warm.

Return the pan to a medium heat, add the mushrooms and saute for about 2 minutes increase the heat and add the brandy and deglaze, light the liquor and flambe. Add the red wine the stock and the tarragon, stirring well, then allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cornflour mix and stir until thickened. Season if necessary.

Arrange the steaks on 4 warm plates and pour some sauce over each one. Any left over sauce can be served separately, it will not go to waste!!

Serve with your favourite vegetables.

Serves 4

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pigs 101

Before I was born our farm was a little bit more diversified in that we had pigs, chickens, horses, sheep, and cattle. At that time there was also 2 families working and living on the farm. The families decided to split the operations by moving the pig operation to another location. Growing up I didn't have the opportunity to learn a lot about pigs, well unless I visited my relatives. So I tried to do a bit of research and found some information from the Canadian Pork council!

Eat Like a Pig? 
If you only ate healthy foods from the four food groups and no snack food, than I guess you could say you eat like a pig! Pigs eat a variety of healthy foods like corn, barley and soybeans, mixed with vitamins and mnerals. Pig feed is usually all mixed together, often into a pellet, kind of like dog food. Animal feed doesn't have to be bought from a feed mill, or store, it can also be mixed on the farm. A lot of scientific research has gone into determining the exact amount and type of food to make a pig grow perfectly.

Straight from the Pig Pen
Pigs need many of the same thing that a pet would need like a balanced diet, clean water, a health program, and the right type of environment. The farmers work hard to provide all these necessities each and every day of the year. Vaccinations and medications are used in a herd health program with a veterinarians help. Any medicine or vaccine used on a pig must be tested and approved by the government.

Shower BEFORE you go into the barn?
Some farmers may ask you to take a shower or put on plastic boots over your shoes before you go into their barn. Other farmers do not allow any visitors at all, people or animals. Any guesses why? This is called "bio security", and its one part of a herd health program that helps to keep pigs healthy. Not allowing visitors into the barn helps keep germs or sickness out.
Pigs are adorable!

Pigs = Pork and...
Of course the primary purpose for raising pigs is to provide us with food like ham, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, and pork chops. Farmers are paid for the quality of the pork they produce. Virtually everything from each pig is used to provide us with many items including: leather, soap, medicines, and medical treatments like heart valves.

It's a living and a life
Canada's 15,000 pork producers sold approximately 21 million market hogs in 1999. Pig farms today are way larger than those of the past. Most farms are owed by a single family; but others are managed by several families or hire additional workers to help care for the animals. If you want to be a successful pork producer, you have to enjoy working with animals. many of today's farmers go to college or university to study agriculture, animal science, plant science, and business.

These pigs went to market...

Famers move the feeder pigs out of the nursery when they reach approximately 25kg. This next stage is called the "grower-finisher" section where pigs are housed in a separate room or a separate barn designed for that size of pig. A feeder pig is raised to market weight of 110kg. These are the ones that supply us with pork.

Stock trailer for pigs
Market hogs are sent to meat processing plants on trucks designed just for pigs. There are guidelines for transporting pigs, including the number of pigs on the truck. For example, in hot weather fewer pigs are put on  a truck and are often shipped at night or early in the morning when it is cooler.

Each animal is inspected at the processing plant. Pigs are handled and euthanized quickly and humanely by approved methods. Processing plants follow strict government guidelines for processing and handling animals and meat products. A lot of research has been done on humane handling and euthanasia. Check out Dr. Temple Grandin's website for examples:

This little pig stayed home...
The pigs with the best genetics and desirable pig characteristics are called "breeding stock". These pigs remain in the farmer's herd or are sold to other farmers to add to their herd or replace existing pigs. Farmers look for pigs with characteristics such as a good body and bone structure, muscling, quick growth, or strong maternal instincts.

Houses of straw, sticks, or bricks?
Only pigs in storybooks or movies live in houses, talk, and wear clothes. Most real pigs in Canada live in barns, not outside in the mud. Why? Barns are designed to provide pigs with the right environment, protected from extreme weather temperature.
Pig barns

Sweat like a Pig?
Guess what!? Pigs don't sweat! Storybook pigs are often shown in the mud as they try to keep cool and out of the sun. Real pigs actually like to keep clean. Today's pig barns help them keep cool with lots of fans to help circulate the air. Some barns even have water sprinklers to keep them cool!

Here's a video explaining more about the state of the art pig barns that house pigs.

The pig production really has changed from a small family job to a family operation.

I learned a lot researching this information and I hope you  did too! I'm finally done diplomas, competing my bio 30 this morning. It was a pretty fair test and hopefully I aced it! :) Now I just have to wait for my marks to come back at the end of July. Hope everyone's enjoying the warm weather. I sure am. I'm going to spend the rest of my day weedwacking and working on my show string. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just a Farmer – Just a Doctor – Just a . . .

When we think of careers, we forget how many different types go with it when it comes to farming. When you are introduced to someone new, and they tell you that they are a Doctor, you generally ask - "What type of Doctor" and you will get different answers, General Practitioner, Pediatrician, Cardiac Surgeon, and the list goes on. I always find it funny when I am with my dad and someone asks him what he does for a living, when the answer if "Farmer" the questions usually go like this: "Where do you farm?" or "Do you have Horses?"

The vision of a Farmer starts when we are very young in our first story books, so you can understand how the Farmer steryotyped to most at a very young age. Our first books show the Jolly Fellow and his Happy Wife with the chickens running around, a cow with calf or two, a horse, a sheep, a pig - very diversified farming. However, this is a rare find now a days. Most farmers specialize in one or two different types of farming. I am involved with my family in a beef cattle operation, where the beef cattle operations generally breaks into 3 divisions.

Beef Cattle Operations:
Cattle Operations can vary from Cow/Calf producers, Seedstock producers, to Feedlots. 
Cow Calf Operation

Cow/Calf producers: These operations generally have the majority of their cattle belonging to a specific breed (ie: Hereford, Angus, Limousin, Charolais etc.) and they usually purchase a bull that belongs to a different breed type which give them a crossbred calf. Crossbreeding two different breeds have proven to offer a higher weaning weight than breeding two animals of the same breed. These operations, breed their cows, calve them out, and ship the animals after weaning to a "Backgrounder/Feedlot operation". These operations can range from 10 - 1000 head of cattle.

Feedlot Operation:
This operations, often referred to as Intensive livestock Producers, generally purchase the weaned calves from the Cow/Calf operators, in most cases at an auction market. Feedlots, utilize a very scientifically modified feeding program to produce the best meat available at your grocery store. These operations work very efficiently to increase the weight of these animals  at approximately 3 - 4 lbs per day. Once they reach the optimal size (1000 - 1400 lbs) they are shipped off to the packing plant for slaughter. These operations will rotate pens based on weights, adding new livestock weekly so there is a consistent number in the feedlot. These operations will vary in size from 1000 - 50,000 head of cattle.

Purebred Bull at a Livestock Show
Seedstock Producer:
The Seedstock Procucer are also known as Purebred Breeders. Most of these operations will represent one or two breeds of cattle. My family is in this type of the cattle business, and we raise Hereford and Angus Cattle. This type of producer raises replacement females and bulls for the Cow/Calf operator, keeping them all one breed. This type of producer, works on genetic selection, and they are continually working to improve their livestock keeping what the industry is wanting in mind. They keep in mind things like birthweights, sound feet and legs, good milking ability, and muscling. Many of these operations attend livestock shows to market their breeding programs. These operations will vary in size from 40 - 500 head of cattle.

Many beef cattle operations are operated in conjunction with a grain operations of some sort, either just growing feed to sustain the feed supply of this operation, or they will also sell the grain to offer a diversity of the operation.

Below is a chart of many different divisions of Canadian Farming: (source:

NAICS five-digit classesCensus of Agriculture derived categories
Dairy cattle and milk production Dairy
Beef cattle ranching and farmingBeef
Hog and pig farmingHog and pig
Chicken and egg production Poultry and egg
Broiler and other meat-type chicken production
Turkey production
Poultry hatcheries
Combination poultry and egg production
Other poultry production 
Sheep farmingAll other animal 
Goat farming
Horse and other equine production
Fur-bearing animal and rabbit production
Livestock combination farming
All other miscellaneous animal production
Soybean farmingField crops
Oilseed (except soybean) farming
Dry pea and bean farming
Wheat farming
Corn farming
Other grain farming
Potato farming
Tobacco farming
Hay farming
All other miscellaneous crop farming
Other vegetable (except potato) and melon farmingFruit and vegetable
Fruit and tree nut farming
Fruit and vegetable combination farming
Mushroom productionGreenhouse, nursery and floriculture 
Other food crops grown under cover
Nursery and tree production
Floriculture production

The next time someone tells you that they are a farmer - please ask what type of farming - farming is a one of the largest industries in Canada, that we need to survive.

Well back to a full day of studying Biology 30 for my last official High School diploma exam. Have a great day!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Agricultural Myths

Many of today's consumers don't know about farmers' and ranchers' relationship with their animals, or how modern farmers produce meat, milk, and eggs. The image of the family farm with its red barn, a few chickens in the yard, some pigs in the mud, and cows in the field isn't accurate anymore. We, as farmers, tend livestock, guaranteeing their health, the animal provides an economic return to us by supplying wholesome, high quality foods that people want. As farming continues to grow around Canada two things always will arise: farmers have concern for the health and safety of their animals and their dedication to provide food for the world. 

Myth: Farm animals routinely raised on factory farms are confined in crowded, unventilated cages and sheds.
A hog barn with proper ventilation
 Fact: Animals are generally kept in barns, with an exception of beef cattle, to protect the heath of the animal. This houses the livestock from predators, disease, and bad weather. This housing also makes breeding and birth less stressful, protects the babies, and makes it easier for the farmer to care for sick livestock. This housing is usually well ventilated,  warm, well-lit, clean, and made to meet the specific animals needs (Temperature, light, water, and food). Since these barns are used to support a specific animals needs, a hog barn wouldn't be used for cows anymore than a adult would sleep in a babies crib. This housing is to let the farmer provide for the animals as best as possible. 

Myth: A vegetarian diet is healthier than a diet that includes meat, poultry, milk, and eggs.

Fact: Government heath agencies have said that a healthy diet should contain meat, milk, and eggs. Health benefits can be derived by non-vegetarians who follow a strict diet that is low in fat, sodium, sugar and alcohol. Poorly-planned vegetarian diets can be just as unhealthy as poorly-planned non-vegetarian diets. The key to a healthy diet is moderation. A lot of people take milk out of their diet believing it is a fattening substance; however, milk is one of the best sources of calcium in the diet. Calcium is important in warding off colon cancer and osteoporosis. Beef is also a huge source of different vitamins and minerals for a healthy diet, you can check out my "The Truth About Beef" blog to learn all about the different benefits. 

Myth: Farm animals in confinement are prone to disease, forcing farmers to routinely use antibiotics, hormones and drugs and to keep them alive. This jeopardizes animal and human health.

Fact: Animal scientists, veterinarians and on-farm experience show animals kept in housing are generally healthier because they are protected. Farm animals do sometimes get sick. To prevent illness and to ensure that an animal remains healthy all of its life, farmers will take preventive measures, like using animal health products. These products include animal drugs and vaccines, in addition to vitamins, minerals and other nutrients the animal needs in its diet. All of the products used on animals have been regulated and tested by government agencies to ensure the safety of the animal and its meat. 

Distribution of cropland in Canada (blackened area)
Around 5% crop production and 6% grazing
Myth: By eating less meat,we could improve the environment, free land, and resources for the production of food crops rather than animal products, which could be used to feed the hungry overseas.

Fact: Canadians need to both animals and plants to manage the nation's natural resources in the best way possible and feed its people. A majority of the land in Canada can't be used for growing crops and can only be used for grazing. The land would be of no use as a food resource if it were not for grazing livestock like cattle, goats and sheep.

These are just a few of the many agricultural myth that circle the nation. Before you agree with something make sure you know your facts and don't jump to conclusions. 

Hope everyone's having a wonderful weekend, its been pretty rainy here in Ponoka. Anyways, I better get back to studying Bio for my diploma! Learning about all sort of interesting things like the endocrine system, nervous system, reproductive system, cell division, molecular genetics, Mendelian genetics, and population genetics and interactions.