|Livestock Production: My Paradigm Shift|
|April 20, 2012 Jody Lamp|
Jody L. Lamp, Lamp Marketing and Public Relations
The crop of little black calves and lambs I see springing around the countryside always remind me of prepping for my first year of showing market lambs at the Scotts Bluff County Fair. Already in junior high by this time, I yearned to learn some life skills and develop a basic understanding and appreciation of the livestock industry. Market lambs seemed like a good place to start.
We bought the little ewe and wether with no expectations just aspirations of success in mind. By fair time, they both only weighed enough to make the lower weight category, which we learned later was not an ideal finish for a premium market lamb or a realistic chance for a championship ribbon.
So, after months of caring for “Joanie and Chachi” (if those names sound familiar to you, then I think you are so, like, totally awesome!), with their daily feeding, walking, grooming, working on techniques to show them in the ring, I received two red ribbons and knew at the end of the fair I would be selling them for their market value or hopefully a little higher.
I don’t recall wondering where “Joanie and Chachi” would end up after they boarded the livestock truck with the other market lambs sold that day, but the two little girls I encountered near the truck certainly had.
Through sobbing tears, the one little blonde, braided-hair girl, who was dressed in her red bows, crisp white showmanship shirt, pressed jeans and boots, stated profoundly to her friend:
“You know what they do to the lambs next?”
She proceeded to answer her own question, “They take them to the butcher shop and they cut off their heads!! They kill ‘em!” More uncontrollable crying. More tears.
Whoa! I thought that little girl either has one mean older sibling, who takes delight in telling her stories that spirals her into a depth of hysterical misery, or that “off with their heads” speech was a 4-H livestock club meeting I must have missed!
Certainly, had I really wanted to know the details of the process, I would have just asked my parents or my 4-H leaders and they would have told me.
“Hey, how does a market lamb go from the show ring to mutton on the food plates that they serve at the Quonset building on Sheep Day at the fair?”
Or, “How does it end up in the tightly wrapped packages you see in the freezer counter at the grocery store?”
But I knew the jest of it. I went to Sunday school. I knew the story of God creating animals for people to rule over and to use for substance. Yep! I ate meat then ~ and continue to enjoy it today!
I remember thinking that the little girl’s parents should probably reconsider her participation in a livestock project until she was old enough to grasp the concept of livestock production and understand the necessity and purpose of their existence.
I often wonder what happened to that little girl and how she perceives animal agriculture today.
To me, livestock projects introduce youth to an aspect of the agriculture industry they may not receive otherwise, such as, marketing, growth, carcass performance, feed efficiency and quality evaluation. It teaches youth the daily responsibility and discipline required to care for a live animal and develops confidence and pride in ownership as they watch their animal grow and develop.
Most importantly, an animal project can set the stage for teaching management skills needed for a potential career in animal agriculture, giving youth a logical, foundational base of the farming and ranching way of life. It helps prepare them to educate and answer consumers concerns of food safety and supply issues of where and how our food is produced.
The controversy and hysteria are there if you want to get caught up in it. I prefer to stay out of the emotional minutia and rather delve into and present the facts.
My fellow agriculture “agvocate” friend, Ray Bowman, president of Farmstead Media Group and host of Food and Farm Radio show of Frankfort, Ky., posted this scripture on his Facebook page the other day: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV).”
I asked him how often he used Scripture to address agricultural issues with his radio audience.
He answered back, “Jody, to me, everything I do is measured by God’s word. I often fall short, but I have to keep trying. Quoting Scripture to the anti-ag crowd frequently draws derision, but I’m really only concerned with the Creator of all things and hoping to hear Him one day say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I’ve used Biblical references on the radio shows, in public remarks and in much of my writing. It may not be right for everyone, but its part of who I am - and who I think God wants me to be.”
Ray continued his point by saying that we’re going to take the time to plant, we should plant in fertile ground, as it doesn’t require as much tending. Not to say that we opt for the easy way out, just the most probable for an abundant yield. Because if we know the ground is not fertile, the potential yield does not justify the extra inputs and attention.
A simple, yet poignant agricultural parable applicable to everyday life. Now, what to make for dinner? Mmmm…..lamb chops, perhaps!
Read more by Jody Lamp