Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Home Away from Home

My mother, Margaret Wildman, pasted away around Thanksgiving time a year and a half ago. I inherited many things, but the one of interest in today's discussion is her conversion van.

1994 Dodge Pleasureway with 112,000 miles

If ever there was a vehicle that was only driven "By a little old lady", this is it. There are a couple scuff marks on the right side to prove it. Using your mirrors gets harder at some point in your life.

Mom traveled at a slow pace. Moving from place to place as she felt inclined. She met many people and saw those things that interested her along the way.

You can see a lot through a windshield
both seats will reverse for seating

This home away from home provided a kitchen with conveniences. Microwave, refrigerator (this is a standard dorm refrigerator since the gas convertible one died), sink, propane cooktop, hot water, and various storage options, all came with the deal.

The rear area was for sleeping and dining. The table and desk box can lay down between the benches to form a base for the back rests to lay on, making a queen size sleeping area.

The RV is equipped with propane hot water, propane furnace, a refrigerator (originally an electric/propane refrigerator), sewer and holding tanks, fresh water both from a hook up or internal tank, and a cable TV access point.

controls for generator, water pump, holding tanks, co/smoke detector

furnace vent

storage for electric cord

30 amp 120 volt

propane tank

Not sure why fresh water hook up and sewer hose storage are side by side

The bathroom and shower are the same physical space and would seem sort of tight. Not the high point of the tour but handy at certain times.

To me, the air conditioner is one of the nice things about this arrangement. At the end of a long day, I know I can sleep where it is cool. I find that comforting.

I hope this gives you the basic idea of what my mother's home away from home was like. What questions do you have?

I can be reached at Wildman.charles@gmail.com or at 937-462-7082 by txt or voicemail.

Thanks for your interest.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Get in the Basement, NOW!

The farmer's I know are a tough and resilient lot, not given to lengthy speeches, so when they utter a command like, "Get in the basement, NOW!" it is the wise person that obeys. My neighbor's family undoubtedly heard something similar the other afternoon, all obeyed, and all were survived a direct hit from a tornado.

the scene two days later
This is the scene two days later when I arrived to help in the clean up. I was dumbfounded by the destruction and the intense activity involved in the cleanup. It touches my emotions to see a community marshal so many resources in such a short period of time to help a neighbor in need.
I don't know who, but it was obvious that someone that knew how to organize people was leading the cleanup effort.

A food tent was established

A parking area was cleaned and established

Heavy equipment and many hands were hard at it
I observed no sign of law enforcement to maintain order. No one obviously directing traffic. No one driving by to watch. No one (except me) taking pictures. Just a beehive of people doing stuff. If anyone were to be caught looting they are to be pitied among men.

This was a farmstead two days ago

71 years it took to build

One moment to destroy
I noticed that everything a man had built over a lifetime was gone, but the land that has sustained him remains. How fleeting is the work of our hands.

Skill and training are needed to remove grain from damaged structures safely

shinny grain bins are part of a farms beauty and pride

a year's worth of work is stored inside
This is not how you are suppose to move a "wet holding" bin

Trucks, power, cranes, driveways, it all came together

Wonder how that got there?
As I spoke with the two farmer's that call this sight "home", two generations working together, I was struck by their gentle, humble, and peaceful recognition that life goes on.

The verse in Ecclesiastes 3 comes to mind "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,......I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That every man may eat and drink, an find satisfaction in all his toil-this is the gift of God. .....".

There is also the story of how Job responded to the devastation that befell his family and property, a wealthy man wiped out in a single day, Job 1:20 "...Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."

These are not men to preach scripture to you, or lecture it in the streets, but they communicated their deep faith and understanding of life simply in their living and fortitude. The crowd that showed up in their time of need is testimony to how clearly they have lived among their neighbors. This is the stuff that makes a farm community and makes me proud to be a part of it.

On behalf of the families struck by this disaster I want to say "Thank you!" to the community that showed up helped and cared. It is this acting together that makes a person feel safe, secure, and at home. Thank you to everyone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quick notes from Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholder Summit

Cracking the Millennial Code:

The Animal Ag Alliance hosted its annual conference in DC last week. Click for more information.

Honesty drives me to point out that the only part of the code I was interested in cracking is “how do we get money out of their pockets?” If not for that issue there would have been no conference, unless it was the secondary “How do we get them to vote for us?” or "How do I communicate affectively with this group?"
A quick glance at the list of speakers will show you that there were a lot of experienced and talented people presenting their ideas. I had to work hard to keep up. Let alone understand the importance of what I was hearing. For a taste of what the conference was like here is a link to a session from Panera Bread

The take home points for me were something like this and amount to little more than quick notes and personal thoughts:
Millennials are hard to define.

Millennials are an extension of the “me” generation in that they “want it now, the way they want it, with good quality, and a low price”. Which makes you pause and think when you realize how many choices there are for entertainment, news, information, social groups, and so forth, all the way down to personalized coupons at the checkout register.  My thought was, "And our government is trying to give us a “one size fits all” health care system and tax code. Politics aside, can that possibly have any staying power in our society?" I want to be treated as an individual, not a group.

Millennials were defined by age but the working definition at the conference seemed to be,  "those people that are living highly connected, social media lives."

Millenials shy away from long term relationships/commitments (from marriage to phone contracts) since they have seen and been hurt by so many in the past.

Millennials want transparency as a substitute for honesty and trust. Their life experience has taught them not to trust anyone because no one is honest. Broken homes. Broken marriages. Government lies. Depravity in the church. Schools that don’t teach but indoctrinate. Scientific manipulations. A press full of propaganda and not news. Etc.  So if they don’t see it themselves or at least get it from a friend, they doubt it. They are skeptics first. It is a really sad commentary on the failures of society’s institutions. All of them.

Millennials want a company to be about more than “making money”. They are highly sensitive to the ability for a company to make money by ignoring the environmental costs of their endeavor (exploiting the environment) or exploiting workers, so they want to know the company has that cost built into its equation somehow. This can be through environmental reclaimation (planting trees comes to mind) or proving they don’t pollute (green companies) in the first place to auditing of worker conditions in developing countries.

If a company is profitable, Millennials will expect it to be socially conscientious with those profits and give back/pay it forward to society in some public way. This is tough for those of us who think of charity and good works as a private matter. My thought is that one should not do your good works out in the public eye to be praised by man but should do them so your heavenly Father alone is aware of them. Millenials aren’t trusting, and secrecy is not part of their value system, so deeds done in secret/private don’t get a company anything. So start a fund, start a campaign, stand for something, start a hashtag, change your profile picture.

The crisis management exercise pointed out that companies are being judged constantly by the mob that is millenials. The contrast between what the communications department knew needed to be done to protect the company’s image/brand/value (communicate and be transparent) to fend off the judgment of the millennial mob and what the legal department wanted to do to protect the company from the trial by jury that was obviously coming, could not have been clearer. One says “if you don’t tell your story someone else will”, the other says “anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law” so stop communicating/talking.

Sustainability fits in here somehow.

They are cynics until you question/challenge their reality then you are evil and must be destroyed. Perception is reality to them and reality is not welcome.

The conference had too much information for me to assemble and process at one time into much more than the notes listed above. I hope that others who were there or watching on line may comment and post links that expand these thoughts. As a pig farmer, my mind struggled to follow some of these very good and well educated and trained speakers. I am trained to observe animals with my eyes, ears, and nose more than to listen and ponder big ideas, but exercise builds strength, so I appreciate the experience and exposure to the new ideas.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Wall Street Journal, Dried Blood Plasma, Pig Feed, and PEDV

I write this post as a result of a online conversation. A conversation that was kicked off by this article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal which looks at the possible role feed may play in the spread of a new disease in the US swine heard. As a producer, it seems like a pretty reasonable article on the current situation in the pig business related to a virus known as PED-V. Several questions coming out of that discussion were basically, "So what is in pig feed?" "How would I know?" And of course, "Should I be concerned?"

These all seemed like pretty sensible questions that I, a pig farmer, should be able to answer. I now realize that I know answers to some of these questions or maybe I should say I know some of the answer to all these questions. As I conversed, I came to understand that some part of these answers just gets a bit too academic for me. So let me share the part I do know.

Pig feed, in my commercial setting (I will see about 25,000 pigs this year), is made from three main things. Corn, soybean meal, and a product called a "premix". These three ingredients are blended together in various proportions to make numerous "rations" or "phases". Each "ration" and "premix" is professionally formulated by a nutritionist to meet the pigs dietary needs for a particular "phase" in the pigs life. When I need feed I call a feed supplier (a feed milling company) and they use these formulations to prepare the requested feed, then they deliver it to my farm. Here is a video of feeding newly weaned pigs. Feeding newly weaned pigs.

pigs are 21-24 days of age when weaned

Think about your children as they grow. They grow through various growth "phases" and you as a good parent attempt to adjust their meals "rations" to recognize the changing dietary needs your children have. Your baby gets breast milk or formula. Then there is a transition time (which can be challenging for everyone) to solid food. The contents of that solid food change as the quantity being consumed increases. You notice your child having growth spurts where they seem to eat everything in the house, then they slow down. In the teen years, at least for my boys, they ate constantly. So mom adjusted what was in the house to be eaten. And so on it goes on through life.

This is the big picture of what is being done with the three ingredients in pig feed. Now to the online conversation and the Wall Street Journal article.

So how does this work?

Here is the process.

I have pigs that need feed.

In my case I buy young pigs that have just been weaned from their birth mother's at the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure. They are about 21-24 days of age and weigh 12-18 #. They arrive on a semi truck to my barns after a 4 hour ride. Here is a 5 minute video my daughter made of  how we wean baby pigs.

I call the feed milling company and tell them what "phase/ration" is needed and how many tons I want. They mill and deliver the request then send me a bill.

Feed arrives on my farm from the feed mill in a semi truck and is put in these bins. Each delivery comes with paperwork that is placed in the mailbox. This paperwork allows me to know what is in the bins. Which ration. Which bin. What is in the ration. What day. Where it was mixed. And many other things. The paperwork allows for trace back should some question arise at a later date about what the pigs where feed etc.

Bins for pig feed/mailbox for paperwork

The paperwork that comes with a load of pig feed looks like this. There are three pieces of paper. The center white one identifies the ingredients in the ration. The yellow one on the left is the "pick ticket" which tells the driver which rations are in which compartment of the trailer and where they go when they arrive on my farm. The yellow sheet on the right is the scale receipt that ultimately generates my bill. Maybe I ordered 24 tons of feed but the system actually manufactured 48,230# of feed. Life is that way. I get billed for 48230# of feed.

Standard paperwork with a load of pig feed

For this discussion it is the white paper that details the ingredients in a particular ration that is of interest. Below is the label for the first ration my newly weaned pigs will receive. They will eat this feed for 3-4 days and will each get about 2# of it.

This particular ration is named "Prestart 12/15 Pellet MX" which means this is a feed to be used as feed in advance (pre) of starting the pigs on ground feed and it is designed for pigs weighing from 12-15 pounds. It is a pellet type feed, as opposed to a ground meal or mash, and that it is medicated (MX).

All of this is explained in greater detail in the fine print. I describe the medication side of this in this blog about medications in pig feed.

Note: some of this gets down to PPM = parts per million

this tag states clearly what is in the feed my pigs are eating

The next picture shows the bottom of the same tag where the ingredients are listed. This is where my education starts to fall short and I am depending on the professional swine nutritionist and the research community to formulate a proper feed. The nutritionist is using all the research he can find (much of it from the land grant colleges of the US), his experience, and his knowledge of the laws and regulations from FDA and others to put this formula together.  I don't know particularly, what all these things are but you can see that Animal Protein Products, Animal Plasma, and Animal Fat are all listed. This is the product that the Wall Street Journal article was discussing. Here is a link to a paper that describes the Plasma Product in greater detail in layman's language. Please read it at least far enough to realize that the Plasma is reducing the need for antibiotics by boosting immune systems and increasing feed intakes (reducing dietary stress).

"The globulin proteins are commonly called “immunoglobulins”, and they are responsible for enhancing immunity in the recipient animal." 
Having an "enhanced immunity" would mean reducing antibiotic usage, and that seems like a good use of the product.

Ingredient list and feeding instructions

The next tag is for the second ration the pigs will be fed. This will be their first ground (not a pellet or mash) feed. It is corn, soybean meal, and a premix. It is the last antibiotic these pigs will see before slaughter in 5 months unless there is some specific disease outbreak. Again I refer you to my blog post on medications in pig feed.

feed tag for ground feed ration

From my online conversation, I am aware that these ingredient lists can be seen as quite scary and some are quite opposed to parts of this. I would remind you that there is absolutely no reason a company or myself would be putting anything in a feed that we thought might harm the pigs or the consumer that is eventually going to put that pork on their dinner table. That would be shooting ourselves in the foot. I will close with this humorous clip by Penn and Teller and a discussion of Dihydrogen Monoxide.

I am very grateful for the really smart people in agriculture that work tirelessly to come up with innovative ways to put food on our plates that is safe, wholesome, and as environmentally friendly as possible.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thoughts on Amnesty, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Freedom, and Cost of E-Verify

One of our political leaders said, rather famously, that "WE have to pass this bill so you can find out what is in it." in referring to the Affordable Care Act. When we turn our attention to Comprehensive Immigration Reform, I don't want to be in that situation.

I fully support the need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I don't know anyone that is defending the current system as reasonable, fair, workable, or representative of the charitable values that flow deeply in the American mind and heart. I do not want my support to be understood as saying, "any legislation is better than doing nothing". What is in a piece of legislation is VERY important.

I feel we, as a nation, need to resist those who would create a stampede toward legislation and thereby create a chaotic situation that allows bad ideas to be introduced and passed. The list of those pressing very hard for passage of something is quite long but the ones I am most familiar with would be the American Farm Bureau in the farming community, Bibles, Badges, and Business in my church community, and the American Chamber of Commerce in my social community.

At the present, resistance is coming from the very large group of voters that see the needs of the 92 million US citizens that are out of work as a more pressing problem than the needs of the estimated 12 million non-citizens that may or may not have work. This group I recognize loosely around the "Stop Amnesty" expression. Here is an article that describes more of the Politics.

speaker of the House Boehner

Both Houses of Congress have put forward public statements that show their intent to greatly expand the current E-verify system.

The Republican Principals contain this statement:

Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement
In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system
Here is a link to the Republican statement of Principles.

Here is a link that briefly describes E-verify.

 As I understand it, an employer agrees to hire an applicant. Then the paperwork begins. One piece of this paper work is the I-9 which collects the applicant's identity information. This information is entered into the E-verify system. Some nameless, faceless, thing/person then returns one of three answers. 1) employment verified 2) DHS Temporary Non-confirmation or 3)SS Temporary Non-confirmation. Notice that two of the three responses leave both the employee and employer in a very uncertain position. Both are wondering, "Will this work out? How do we move forward?"

My concern with expanding this E-verify system is that it is the government collecting a lot of information on every person who gets a job in the US and then the federal government ultimately being the one that decides whether you can keep that job or not. I see this as a great loss of individual freedom.

A big part of the value of being a US citizen is that as a citizen you can take any job you are offered and leave it whenever you want to take another job that might improve your personal situation. The federal government has no role to play in your career choices. I am also concerned about the loss of personal privacy that comes with the government's data collection activities.

 I described these concerns about privacy and freedom in my blog entitled Patrick Henry.

When I hear arguments about the definition of Amnesty, I often hear that the proposals aren't amnesty because the non-citizen is paying a price in time and fines in order to earn their right to be citizens. But this argument rings hollow. Legal citizens are forced to pay a price for the non-citizen's right to citizenship with a loss of individual freedom and privacy from the expanded E-verify system. This price is paid now and for every generation into the future. Once freedom is lost, it can not be gotten back.

I feel like this loss is an enormous price to ask people to pay to solve this problem and that another solution needs to be found. Let us not get into the situation of the Affordable Care Act and have to pass legislation to find out what is in it (or what it will cost for that matter).

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pondering the Farm Bill and Integrity

Sometimes I get frustrated trying to piece together pieces of information that show up in my "social media news feed". So many things just don't make sense to me. I want the public to see agriculture as an environment that has integrity, but there is a lot that goes on that seems to fight against that. Let me explain a couple of these things.

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the piece of legislation known as "The Farm Bill" today (1/29/14). It is a massive pile of money that affects every American in some way or other since it affects food production, land use, the environment, charity toward the hungry, and we all eat. Here is a chart and an article that speaks to some of it.

An article from the Washington Post

The $956 billion farm bill, in one graph
The article talks about how this money helps promote U.S. crops abroad.

"Trade, $3.5 billion over 10 years (little change). This money is used to promote U.S. crops overseas and provide food aid abroad. "

But the article does not tell you (they probably don't know) that this legislation does not adjust U.S. laws (MCOOL) to comply with our treaty obligations. Since the U.S. has been found at fault in this matter by the courts in the WTO, this legislation virtually assures that our foreign trading partners will place retaliatory tariffs on U.S. crops/products entering their country, costing the U.S. jobs and hard earned market share. Why are we spending money to promote crops and then losing it by fighting over a lost issue? Here is a link if you want to get details WTO MCOOL summary

Much is made of the amount of money being spent on Food Stamps (SNAP) and mighty arguments are fought over reductions and what should be done. It can be seen as American charity toward the poor or Congress trying to buy votes with our money. In either case it is money for U.S. citizens. But as best I can understand it, USDA is advertising the program in Mexico. Couldn't we at least cut the advertising program and there by save those dollars and perhaps reduce the pressure on the border from people trying to enter the U.S. illegally? Here is an article that explains some of this issue.

an article about the USDA advertising in Mexico

USDA partnering with Mexico to boost food stamp participation
These are just two of the things that jump out at me as I read my "social media news stream)

I sit and shake me head. I know the "Farm Bill" is needed for many reasons. I get that. But I sure hate having to take the bad with the good. Where is the integrity in that?

Thanks for thinking along with me.