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How Do Consumers View Weaning Time?

calf-shot.jpgOver the weekend, we weaned calves. It's always a big exciting weekend for us. The neighbors come to help us out, and it's a day spent with friends and family as we wean, weigh and vaccinate the calves coming into the yards. Even though it's a fun weekend, it can also be stressful, too--worrying about getting those calves on feed, keeping them from getting sick and making sure they all get off to a good start. There is a lot to think about from a manager's point of view, and last week, I offered some links to check out as good weaning management resources. However, today, I have a different angle to consider about this time in a calf's life.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with two students from the University of Denver. One is a good friend and fellow Limousin breeder named Cassidy. Her partner's name is Lance, and he hails from Las Vegas. Clearly, they both come from different places in life, but they were teaming up to tackle a project proposal for class that deals with educating consumers to better understand food production. As I answered their questions for this project, I was so proud of them for wanting to address this issue. But, I realized that maybe the problem isn't our consumers, it's us.

While most consumers have no direct ties to farmers or ranchers anymore, do we even try to reach out to those different than us to tell our story? While we often pass off their ideas about agriculture as ignorant, do we take the time to understand why they feel the way they do about us? As we go through the stages in the beef production chain, are we prepared to explain practices such as weaning, dehorning, vaccinating and castrating? Is there a way to regain the trust in our consumers, while upholding the strong practices of animal husbandry and environmental stewardship that we already maintain?

These are questions we need to ask ourselves from time to time, so that we don't get caught in a rut. As ranchers, we might often get caught up in the things happening at home, but we can never forget the turmoil going on outside the pasture gates. Today, I challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and talk to someone new about agriculture life. Try it in the grocery store, comment on a newspaper article or get on a social media channel to talk to somebody. Then, let me know how your efforts are received. If we each stand up and do our part, we can work to educate our consumers and regain their trust.

BEEF Daily Quick Fact: 46 percent of beef farmers say they have incomes outside the farm, even though two-thirds say they work more than 1,000 hours a year on it. Less than one-third of

cattle operators claim farming as their occupation, while 23 percent say they are retired.