ADS 4221: Sheep Group Press Release

 4-H and sheep industry save the future of farming

By Andrea Seitz, Neely Gaddy, Ayla Oneal, Courtney Ransom, Char’Lesa Tadlock, Destiny Winkler

Fourth Year Animal and Dairy Science Students at MSU

Capstone in ADS 4421

STARKVILLE, MS- Recently the question, “What does 4-H bring to our youths’ development?” has become popular. Uniformed individuals often have the false belief that 4-H “desensitizes” children to the mistreatment of animals, which is far from the truth.

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Two sheep at a local producer’s farm in Oktibbeha County. 

Char’Lesa Tadlock, a fourth year Animal and Dairy Science student at Mississippi State University, comments, “children that are active in 4-H gain a better understanding and appreciation of the sheep industry. I feel that kids who aren’t involved in 4-H view sheep as cute animals being eaten, whereas 4-H kids understand the importance of sheep harvesting… and take pride in knowing how they contribute to improving the industry.”

In an interview with Will Christiansen, the son of a local sheep producer and a participant in 4-H, he states that sheep are “not really pets; they’re meant to be livestock”

4-H is a youth program, open to young men and women, between the ages of five and nineteen. The purpose of the 4-H club is to provide an opportunity for the youth of our nation to develop skills and gain knowledge that will help them become “productive and contributing members of society.” (USDA.gov)

A more appropriate term for the efforts of 4-H is education, not desensitization. 4-H promotes responsible animal husbandry and ethical treatment of animals. It also promotes the consumption of locally sourced, fresh products that are very rarely seen in supermarkets.

“Without an interest in agriculture from our youth, how will our society obtain food in the future when the current farmers are aged out of this industry?” questioned Andrea Seitz, a fourth year Animal and Dairy Science student at Mississippi State University.

Nancy Christiansen, a local sheep producer whose sons participate in 4-H, states that “4-H and FFA help to train our youth so that they will be competent farmers and ranchers for years to come. These children love their animals, but they also understand that they are livestock not pets. Yes, it is hard to say goodbye to an animal that they have put so much time into. Learning that there must be someone responsible for feeding an ever growing population is the other side of the loss that they feel.”

In light of the agricultural generation gap, now, more than ever, there is a need for educating the younger men and women of this country on the importance of being involved in agriculture. Because of 4-H, the youth across our nation are steadily gaining skills, knowledge, and hands-on experience in the agricultural field.

When asked about his experience with 4-H that has turned into a sheep producing business, Will Christiansen stated, “I’d like to keep raising [sheep] and pass it on to other people so they can have the same opportunities that I had”.

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Will Christiansen looking after his sheep.

Alya O’Neal, a fourth year Animal and Dairy Science student at Mississippi State University, commented that “the sheep industry coincides with 4H very well. Since the species is a smaller species compared to swine or cattle, it allows younger children to be involved and teaches them how to relate to animals as well as other children. These children learn at a young age how sheep play a role in their everyday life as well as learn to care for animals and develop a sense of responsibility.”

More recently, studies on the effects of 4-H on developing character have shown that members have the opportunity to gain: confidence, a larger knowledge of nutrition and health benefits of certain food groups, skills in conflict resolution, and a deeper understanding of record keeping. Also, research has revealed that 4-H helps young adults in their everyday life by encouraging members to be “more motivated to help others; develop skills in leadership, public speaking, self-esteem, communication and planning; and make lasting friendships.” (USDA.gov)

ADS 4221: Dairy Group Press Release

 Holy Cow, Why is that Cow so Skinny?!

By: Mississippi State Senior Seminar Dairy Group

As the dairy group, we are here to inform you that these cute little cows serve a purpose to provide for us. Many people have negative things to say about producers. They are concerned that producers do not adequately feed their animals or take care of them. Cattle, just like dogs, are not all designed for the same purpose. A German Shepherd is not built the same as a Chihuahua, as a dairy cow is not built the same as a beef cow. Both types of cattle serve a different purpose. Dairy cows are bred to produce milk, while beef cows are bred to produce meat.

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Ms. Susie Wall, a jersey heifer-calf farmer in Sturgis, Mississippi, feeds her calves twice a day allowing them to get the amount of nutrients they need to be healthy and produce milk. She started raising heifer calves on her family farm to teach her sons responsibility and stewardship. When prompted about issues she has encountered from the community, Ms. Wall said, “Over the past ten years, I have noticed that the public perceives dairy cows as emaciated and frail.” People criticize that they can see the cows’ ribs and bones leading them to think that the owners do not feed them enough. Generally, the public does not understand that dairy cows are not meant to be muscular and over-conditioned. Dairy cows serve a purpose, and that purpose is to produce milk. Ms. Wall shows love for her animals as if they are her pets, but she knows that they are livestock and have a job. If a dairy cow is overweight, her udders will become filled with fatty tissue, inhibiting her milk production. A high producing dairy cow is using her energy to produce milk, thus she is leaner than a typical beef cow whose goal is to use the same energy to gain weight and fill out. The farmer and the cow work to benefit and provide for each other, contrary to the belief that only the cows work for the farmer. We, as the dairy group, aim to inform our local community about the dairy industry and remove any confusion or misinformation that stems from lack of knowledge.

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ADS 4221: Horse Group Press Release

Eventing makes athletes, not victims

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Photo courtesy of Charlie Blanton http://www.louisville.com/content/equestrian-events-inc-producer-rolex-kentucky-and-kentucky-reining-cup-makes-charitable-cont

Throughout history, horses have been used for transportation, aid in agriculture, and leisure.  Today many horses have retired their carriages and replaced them with riders.  One main category that performance horses can be grouped in is eventing.  Eventing is comprised of three different disciplines: dressage, show jumping, and cross-country.  Although many see eventing as decadent sport, there are some who deem the sport dangerous to both the horse and the rider.  A recent article in Time.com calls equestrian events the “most dangerous sport” in the Olympics, citing a number of rider and horse deaths occurring in competition (Cooke 2012). While the article focuses on the human dangers of riding, various animal rights activists spin stories about animal welfare issues arising from the continuation of these events.

For our project, we were asked to find an issue in the horse industry and disprove those issues with the help of a producer in the industry.  We met with Betsy Ball, an eventing horse trainer in Mississippi, and asked her about the eventing community as a whole.  While she has not encountered many negative issues in eventing, she could explain to us how important animal welfare is for the industry.  She states that “Animal welfare plays a huge part in all of the disciplines that I take part in.  The United States Eventing Association has started several groups to monitor the welfare of the horse as well as the rider.”  The United States Eventing Association is an educational organization that assists, organizes, and maintains responsible safety standards during an event.  Their mission statement explains that they “advance the sport of eventing through education of riders, trainers, officials and organizers, with the health and well-being of the horse of paramount importance” (USEA).

Betsy explained in an interview that the USEA and several other groups have implemented various rules and regulations to ensure the safety of the horse.  She states that most people do not realize that these rules are enforced to discourage neglect within the eventing community.  She continues by saying, “Every rule in eventing is made for the animal.  Everything is about safety and looking out for them… [The rules] encourage people to school their horses to come to the events prepared and be ready to answer the questions that are thrown at them.”  There have been some new rules implemented in international competitions that allow stewards to walk around and make sure that horses are looked after.  This includes details such as clean stalls, fresh water and hay, and the general healthy appearance of the horse.  If any of these are found inadequate, trainers and owners alike can face hefty fines, or even disqualification from the event.

Fitness programs are established for horses in the eventing community to protect their health when they perform.  These programs monitor feed intake, energy output, respiration, temperature, and stress levels.  Recently, a study was conducted that focused on stress levels in horses that were used in different kinds of work.  There was a non-significant increase in stress levels and heart rate after performing more intense work, but was not shown to adversely affect the horse long-term (Fejsakova et al., 2013).  Another study proved that horses could adapt to the demands of usual work.  When a healthy adult horse is regularly exercised, no abnormalities were found in heart rate, respiratory rate, or temperature (Popescu et al., 2012).

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Photo courtesy of Ben Radvanyi http://rk3de.org

Just as an athlete works to perfect his or her sport, so does a trainer and their horse.  Experienced trainers know their horses and how they respond to stress.  They are diligent in their training so that the horse can get better with time.  We asked Betsy to explain how all of the training that horses go through makes them athletes.  She said, “There are a lot of horses that are better athletes than the humans that ride them.”  She also says that many horses involved in upper level eventing exercise up to six times a week for multiple hours per day.  This made us question if people outside of the industry considered horses as athletes.  We randomly selected sixty people between the ages of 20-50 and asked them their opinion on if horses should be considered athletes.  60% of them agreed with Betsy and said that horses were indeed athletes, while 40% disagreed.

Some animal rights extremists have attempted to corrupt the eventing industry by accusing them of neglecting the horses.  However, most owners and riders in the industry understand that horse welfare is of the utmost concern in any event.  The USEA and many other associations constantly monitor the horses during the competitions.  They also enforce rules and regulations regarding animal welfare that come with a hefty fine if they feel the horse is being neglected.  Horses that compete go through rigorous training so that they are fully prepared for anything that could be given to them during the event.  Therefore, horses are treated as athletes and are properly cared for, just like the rider.

Devin Allen, Emily Beaty, Casey Fekete, Kimberly Hardy, Jarrett Isabel, and Melissa Steichen

Literature Cited

  •  Ball, Betsy. “Horse Welfare.” Personal interview. 13 Nov. 2014.
  •  Fejsakova M., J. Kottferova, Z. Dankulincova, E. Haladova, R. Matos, and I. Mino. 2013. Some possible factors affecting horse welfare assessment. Acta Vet BRNO. 82:447-451.
  •  Popescu S., E.A. Diugan, and C.I. El Mahdy. 2012. Animal Science and Biotechnologies. 45(2):256-262.
  •  Time. Sonia van Gilder Cooke. 2012. Equestrian Eventing: The Olympics’ Most Dangerous Sport. http://olympics.time.com/2012/07/28/equestrian-eventing-the-olympics-most-dangerous-sport/. (Accessed 17 Nov 2014).
  •  USEA. 2014. About Us. http://useventing.com/about. (Accessed 17 Nov 2014).

ADS 4221: Swine Group Press Release

All it takes for the public view to change is one misconception. One agriculture sector where these misconceptions have occurred is in the swine industry. Any agriculture sector has its own public misunderstandings. However, the swine industry may have the most. From housing quarters, disease prevention, and waste removal, the media and other sources have blown these issues out of proportion by providing misinformation to the public. It is the responsibility of Animal Scientists and producers to combat these negative views with the facts.

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Our group decided to explore the truth behind waste disposal methods in the swine industry. When researching articles about swine waste removal, we found many different articles recording false facts about the swine industry such as how the “s  wine waste is poured into a pool to rot before being emptied into human water sources and sprayed onto crops for human consumption.” There is also a belief that harmful gases are being released from the large amounts of waste products. We believe that it is our job to educate the public how producers actually dispose of waste products.SWINE1

According to the Journal of Animal Science in an article by Miner, the most common practice for disposing of waste is by using an anaerobic lagoon. Well-designed lagoons have three functions: first, they are a location for bacteria to decompose the organic waste, much like a household septic system. Secondly, a lagoon provides a convenient storage place for treated waste until it is appropriate to apply the material to cropland. Lastly, a lagoon allows there to be absolutely no runoff from the facility. An anaerobic lagoon allows for no waste materials to be taken off the farm. After the water is applied to the cropland, all chemicals are absorbed by the plants and converted into nutrients that can be used as food for livestock animals.

It is our job as animal scientists and producers to educate the public about our business. If we are able to use media as positive reinforcement of our industry rather than negative media sources, we can turn the media around to be beneficial to our industry rather than harm it.

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Latham Brister, Jessica Cowley, Chelsea Feathers, Blaire Fleming, Ethan Sutherland, and Taylor Tate

Works Cited:

ADS 4221: Beef Group Press Release

  Growth hormones provide more beef, less cattle

MISSISSIPPI STATE– Mississippi State University animal science students advocate the use of growth promoting hormone implants in beef cattle production.

The use of growth hormones in the cattle industry is an issue causing mass skepticism among American consumers. For decades, beef producers have relied on growth hormone implants to improve feed efficiency and enhance lean yield of their herd. By repartitioning nutrients to muscle growth instead of fat deposition, these hormones enable producers to finish their cattle earlier and, thus, conserve natural resources. Production costs for producers decrease by 5-10% from reduced feed requirements alone, while a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases per pound of beef supports the environment. Despite these benefits, public concerns about hormone implants in beef cattle focus on public health and animal welfare.

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This calf enjoys a warm, autumn day in Artesia, MS.

Because the hormones used in growth implants are already present in cattle for normal physiological functioning, all meat products, whether they are “organic” or not, contain hormones. Considering a three ounce serving of beef from an implanted steer has 1.9 nanograms of estradiol and a three ounce serving of beef from a non-implanted calf has 1.3 nanograms, the difference is insignificant and does not account for any negative impacts on animal or human health. Consumers must also be reminded of the strict federal regulatory testing in place to monitor all beef products before they are able to enter commerce. To attest to the minimal stress it causes the cattle, the students met with a local cattle producer to witness the implantation process. The growth hormone implants are released slowly over a period of time in small pellets, which are shot into the ear using an implant gun (shown below).

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This is the tool used to administer growth hormone implants. The white capsule (containing the hormone) gets injected subcutaneously on the backside of the ear of the cattle. Because the ear is discarded at harvest, the implant never enters the food chain.

As Mr. Doug Yelverton, a cattle producer from Artesia, emphasized, “Farmers need to help educate the younger generations, so they know where their food is coming from.” Students hope that openly advocating the research promoting the safety of growth implants in beef cattle, the research refuting harmful public health issues, the positive effects they have on the environment, and the financial benefits trickling down to consumers because of them will ultimately increase the acceptance and confidence consumers have in beef products and display the animal agricultural industry in a more positive light.

“As animal scientists, we must promote the benefits hormone implants serve both environmentally and financially to dissipate these negative perceptions, or our industry will lose the respect it deserves,” explained Jamie Huselton, one of the students determined to educate the public on growth hormone use in cattle.

To learn more, visit the Bost Auditorium on December 4, 2014, at 3 p.m. to view the video presentation created by these students on growth hormone implants in the beef industry.BEEFYelverton

This cattle producer looks at his herd with accomplishment, knowing he has provided them with the best care and necessary resources.   

Beef Extension Intern – Tucker W.

Week 9 & 10

On Monday of Week 9, Tyler and I took all the AI school materials out to the shed at beef unit. It was good to finally put away AI school stuff and move on to the next activity. On Wednesday of that week I left for Block & Bridle Convention in Lubbock, TX. While there on Saturday listening to speakers for various areas of animal agriculture, I was able to tweet some interesting quotes and facts from the speakers. I think the MSU Beef Cattle twitter is a great what to get bits of information out to producers, who believe it or not are on social media, along with getting correct information to our consumers. So make sure to follow us @MSUBeefCattle for updates and info.

Week 10 was a slow week were our main task was getting Dr. Karisch moved into her new office two doors down. It took a crew of us to get her moved, but we were able to get it done in one afternoon.  Now our main event is to get ready for the BCIA sale coming up.

Advocating for the beef industry – Chelsea Freeman

This past week was full of traveling as I had the opportunity to be a part of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in Nashville, TN and then the Dixie National Livestock Judging Competition in Jackson, MS this weekend. At the convention, I sat in on multiple American National CattleWomen sessions and attended the Cattlemen’s College where I learned the importance of beef promotion, consumer perspective, and better cattle management practices. Cattlemen and women must realize the future of the industry belongs to today’s youth, who can be social media “agvocates”. For example, the Peterson Brothers put together parodies to promote agriculture; their YouTube channel is linked here http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePetersonFarmBros

I was actually chosen to meet and have lunch with these Agvocates while in Nashville! The judging competition was also a great learning experience to see what the extension service offers to Collegiates in the industry. Investment in these events is investment in what will be on America’s dinner plate!

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