Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why I Do What I Do

I love showing cows. There is nothing else I would rather do. I've made great friends and tons of memories I will cherish for life. The bond with my animals is one of the best feelings in the world and I love learning something new every time I step foot in the barn. All of these things are great, no doubt. However, there is one thing I have learned that is the most important about what I do and that is to teach others.

Before showing cattle, I knew agriculture played a big role in my life but I thought everyone knew that. I had grown up hearing my parents tell me milk comes from cows, farmers grow your corn, and that everything in the grocery store doesn't just show up there. Someone somewhere is putting in hours and hours of hard work and time to get the food on your plate and the clothes on your back. But this is common knowledge, right? Think again.

Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people pass through the dairy barn at the state fair in a day. Some days one person stops to ask a question about the cows, some days it's 10 or more. I believe no question is a stupid question except for the one not asked. I get asked all the time, "How often do you milk these cows?" "Are they boys or girls?" "What kind of cows are they?" and "Why aren't all cows this gentle?" plus a thousand more.

To some, those questions seem ignorant or absurd. But to me it is an opportunity to teach just one more person about why I do what I do. That person may forget about what I said ten minutes before before they leave or they may find it interesting and tell everyone they see. Agriculture will forever be a thriving industry though it may be constantly changing. Social media today will put a twist on words and give consumers the wrong look on our work and that is why we as agvocates need to step up and tell our story to anyone willing to listen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Man's Best Friend Isn't Always A Dog..

And in this case, it's a little girl's best friend which isn't a dog but a cow.

On May 26, 2014, Reese and her little sister, Brinkley, were staying the night at their grandparents house. Around 2 AM Reese's grandma, Patricia, was woken up by the smell of smoke. Mike, Reese's grandfather, went to Brinkley's room and grabbed her while Patricia went to Reese's room where the fire originated. 
Patricia was airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center and suffered third degree burns on 25-27% of her body and inflamed lungs. She's been known as a hero for going into Reese's burning room and saving her.

Reese was sent to John Hopkins Hospital where she has spent the last 13 months recovering from the fire. She improves day to day and her aunt Laura Jackson says her "good days" continue for longer periods of time now. 

The Burdette family shows Holsteins (Windy-Knoll View) and like me, Reese loves her cows. 13 months is a long time especially in a hospital. This little girl, along with her family, is such an inspiration with her will to get better and the faith they show through this journey. One thing that has really stood out to me happened just this past month. Reese's dad, Justin, and some help surprised her with a special visitor at the hospital!

Some of the staff at John Hopkins joined Reese. 

              Pantene in the big city!

My favorite picture by far is the first one of Reese and Pantene. I wanted to share this story with you all to show you just how much happiness one cow can bring to a person. It may sound silly, but until you've experienced it, having a best friend that doesn't talk is sometimes the best kind to have. I'm fortunate enough to be a part of an industry where I can have bonds like this with my animals. 

Please continue to pray for Reese and her family. If you would like to help them out in anyway, please contact me for information on how to do so. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The "Farm"acy on the Farm

One of the most controversial topics in agriculture is antibiotics. Antibiotics, also known as an antimicrobial, are medicines used to treat infections or diseases in both humans and livestock. They are also used to prevent infections/diseases. Just like the medicine your doctor gives you when you're sick, vets have medicines they prescribe to animals when they get sick.

Many people seem to be concerned or confused as to why farmers use them on animals that end up on your plate. If you don't know much about livestock or the process of how they get from farm to plate, the thought of medicines being put into your meat can trigger some questions like; "Is this procedure safe?" "How do I know my food is safe?"

The procedure is safe, otherwise it wouldn't happen. The FDA has approved antibiotic use for over 40 years while vets work with farmers to enforce correct usage. Some consumers worry about developing a resistance to a certain medicine by consuming it through what they eat so they buy the food labeled "antibiotic-free". Spoiler alert: all food is antibiotic free. You're just paying extra for a label.

How do you know all food is antibiotic free? When we give a cow a vaccination we write down what type of shot it was, how much of it was given and when it was given. That way when an animal is ready to go to market we can go back and look to see if the animal has reached the end of it's withdrawal period (the time it takes an animal to metabolize the antibiotic).

Those who are concerned about developing a "resistance" have nothing to worry about when the medicines we use on animals are hardly used in humans.

Just because a farmer uses antibiotics on their farm doesn't mean that their products are not safe. We want our animals happy and healthy and our consumers to have safe food to eat. I leave you with this video with some very interesting facts!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Farming At Disney World

Hello again! It's been a while since I've been able to post anything as I've been super busy lately with school, sports and FFA. Now that I've had a little time to write here and there, I wanted to tell you about my not-so-typical experience with agriculture over fall break.

Back in October, my family and I went to Disney World. While I was there we went to all the parks; Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Epcot. My favorite was Magic Kingdom because that castle is absolutely gorgeous! However, the most interesting thing I seen out of all four parks was Disney's research farm in Epcot. That's right, there's a farm in Disney World!

In Epcot, there's a ride called "Living With the Land". It's not like your normal amusement park ride. There are no stomach dropping hills, no twists and turns, and no going upside down. This ride consisted of touring a research farm by boat. On each side of the boat's waterway, there are crops growing from all around the world. They're not grown in typical soil though. They are actually growing in sand. The purpose of this is to see how well different crops can adapt to a desert-like environment so that places like Saudi Arabia, that have a less productive agriculture industry, can begin growing their own food. There also other research projects taking place to figure out how we'll grow food in the future.
A banana tree that was growing there.
"Vertical Farming"... Scientists predict this will be the most common way of farming in the future when there's less room for bigger farms.
Along with crops growing in sand and hanging from the ceiling, I got a glimpse of aquaculture, something I don't get to see everyday.

To anyone visiting Disney soon, I highly recommend this little tour. Agriculture affects everyone whether you're a farmer or not. Go learn where your food comes from!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

FFA Camp 2015... We Are The Champions.

July 6th through the 10th Metcalfe County FFA took 12 kids to FFA Camp for Week 4 in Hardinsburg, KY. The camp is held at Kentucky FFA Leadership Training Center used specifically for FFA camp. Week 4 consisted of almost 400 members and advisors representing 25 chapters.

Your week at camp is a time to improve leadership skills and make new friends that have the same interest in agriculture as you. I got to learn a lot about how to get more kids involved in FFA, how Parliamentary Procedure works and what all I need to know about going into college.

Here's a few pictures to sum up our awesome week:

The good lookin' group that went to camp.
We had a chapter hour everyday on the front porch to talk about what FFA has
in store this year.
Because of the rain we had at camp all week, the ropes course was closed.
But the activities we completed for leadership skills and team building helped
just as much!
In case you were wondering how much it rained...
Max pep talking the boys for waterball.
And the pep talk paid off!!
Metcalfe was also your volleyball champs!!
We ventured to the "Big Tree" for a picture.
We had an awesome time at FFA Camp this year and I can't wait to go back. If you're an FFA member and interested in going to camp, talk to your school's chapter advisor!
(Huge thanks to our chaperone, Marla Young, for all the amazing pictures!!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cows take baths too!

Show season is here and that means we have to keep our babies looking good to win those blue ribbons and purple banners. One thing we do to better their appearance is wash them. Yes, you read right. We wash our cows!
Starlight getting her first bath.
Wednesday, all of our heifers for this year's show season got to experience their first washing. We wash them multiple times before a show to get them used to the water and because it is easier to clip off all their hair. Once they're adjusted to the water, they love it! A cold bath feels great when it's almost 90 degrees outside.
These are wash supplies: a hose, two wash brushes, a tail comb,
a hoof knife, Orvus (soap) and a water bucket.
The items in the above picture are just a few of the basic things we use when washing. The end of our hose has a spray nozzle so we can control the pressure of the water on the cows. Our wash brushes are mainly used for bodies, legs and faces. The hoof knife scrapes manure off of the cows' feet. Tail combs get tangles and more manure out of their tail. Orvus is the brand of soap we use on our farm. It's a liquid when it's hot and a paste when it's cold. That keeps the soap from freezing and busting in the winter. There are many types of soap out there. In fact, some people use dish soap, or soap you would take a shower with, to wash cows. Different people have different preferences. 

Washing is safe for the cattle and us as long as you do it correctly. Always make sure the animal knows you're there so they don't kick at you when you try to scrape manure off their hooves. Also, if you're are in a wash rack with other people and their animals, always be sure of your surroundings.

I hope to show you some other things this summer that we do to prep our show cattle. They sure are spoiled!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

June is Dairy Month: Dairy Makes Sense

Something every dairy farmer looks forward to is the month of June. It's finally summer, the grass is green, the cows get to enjoy their fans and the farmers get some recognition for all their hard work. To me, every month should be dairy month for all those men and women who get up with the chickens to make sure their girls are milked but getting one month with an official name is pretty cool too!

June Dairy Month is also fun for people who aren't farmers. Places all over the country hold events for locals to come out, try new dairy products, meet the area's farmers and maybe even milk a cow by hand!

Here is a video that shows you exactly how long it takes to get milk from the farm to our table:


Dairy products are full of nutrition and there are a million different ways to take in those nutrients (yogurt, ice cream, cheese, etc.) Farmers also ensure that their cows are healthy and happy to give us safe dairy food items. It makes sense as to why "Dairy Makes Sense"!

Did You Know?
  1. One cow will produce 7-8 gallons of milk each day.
  2. Milk cows eat about 100 pounds in feed a day.
  3. There are 6 main breeds of dairy cattle: Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey (my favorites!), Holstein, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn.
  4. Cows have four stomachs so they can digest plants we can't eat, like grass, and turn it into milk.
I hope this post intrigues you to go enjoy a glass of milk and learn more about dairy products and how they are made. For more information on dairy and June Dairy Month visit www.midwestdairy.org or southeastdairy.org. You can also reach me at brileetucker@gmail.com with any questions you might have!
Video "48 Hours in 48 Seconds" belongs to Midwest Dairy Association.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"I believe in the future of agriculture.."

On May 21, 2015 my school, Metcalfe County High School, held our annual FFA Banquet. Being a freshman, this was my first one and it was awesome. 

What is FFA?
FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America) was founded in 1928 when 33 students from 18 different states came together in Kansas City, MO to start the organization. Since then, FFA has grown to all 50 states and reaches out to over 600,000 members. It's not just for students wanting to be farmers. Anyone with the desire to enhance their leadership skills and pursue a career in agriculture will benefit tremendously from the FFA.

Our 2014-2015 Retiring Officers (L-R: Advisor Josh Jones, Treasurer Audrey Young, Secretary Rayanna Boston, President Kensey Edwards, Vice Pres. Renee Judd, Reporter Harley Hawkins, Sentinel Zach Jenks)
Our 2015-2016 Officer Team (L-R: Advisor Josh Jones, Treasurer Audrey Young, Secretary MaKenzy Avery, President Harley Hawkins, Vice President Rayanna Boston, Reporter Kelsie Hodges, Sentinel Max Hensley)

All the kids in both of these pictures represent Metcalfe County High School and FFA in the best ways possible. Not only do we have awesome students, our principal is pretty awesome too. Mrs. Kelly Bell was the keynote speaker at the banquet and did a tremendous job talking about the importance of agriculture and how hard farmers have to work to put food on the table. Being a farmer's daughter herself, Mrs. Bell pretty well knew what she was talking about.
Principal Kelly Bell speaking on the influence agriculture had on her and how important it is.

Greenhand Degree
Freshmen receive their Greenhand Degree in FFA. This is the first degree you receive as an FFA member. To be a recipient of this you must be enrolled in an ag class, learn and explain the FFA Creed, describe and explain the colors and their meaning along with the FFA emblem, demonstrate proper use of official dress, know FFA history and have access to a FFA manual.
Freshmen receiving their pins for the Greenhand Degree. (L-R: Me, Zeak McIntyre, Barkley Firkins, Danielle Richardson and Warren Summers)
A close up of what the pin looks like.
Chapter Degree
Sophomores receive their Chapter Degree. To receive this they must have received their Greenhand Degree, completed 180 hours of ag ed, participated in at least three chapter functions, and earned at least $150 or worked 45 hours through their SAE (supervised agricultural experience).

Chapter Degree Recipients (L-R: Max Hensley, MaKenzy Avery,
 Kelsie Hodges, Kyle Coomer and Taylor Froedge)
We also had members exhibit talent and had recognition of honorary members. Each senior officer picked someone who had influenced them at some point and encouraged their work in FFA.
Molly Matney singing "At Last". She won with this song at the
regional level and will be competing at state.

Renee Judd playing the piano.
Kensey Edwards and her honorary member, Terry Trowbridge.
Zach Jenks and honorary member, Lynn Hawkins.
Renee Judd and honorary member, Alyssa Wilson.

Floyd Shirley and Rayanna Boston singing "Precious Lord Take My Hand"
I recited the creed during the Greenhand ceremony.

Star Greenhand
One last thing I would like to share with you is the award I received that I'm pretty proud of. I was honored to be chosen for the Star Greenhand award this year. This award goes to the most active first-year member with a strong supervised agricultural experience and has demonstrated a lot of leadership. I can't thank the ones enough that have helped me and pushed me to do my best always. I hope this is just the start of my success in ag and that I continue to do big things!
Thanks Mr. Jones for all your help!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dairy U: Know Before U Show

On May 16th, Kentucky 4-H Dairy held a clinic for dairy showmen across the state to learn the fundamentals of showing. The program was great for dairymen of all ages. The younger attendants learned useful show skills while the older ones caught up with friends or ran a station. I was able to gather a few pics from some friends (amongst the excitement I forgot to snap a few, imagine that!).

Our local 4H Extension Agent, Amy Branstetter, taught us how to tattoo and tie our calves. We all received our own rope halter when we accomplished our slip knot. She even had an awesome demo with tattoo guns and toothpaste. Yes, toothpaste!
National Ayrshire Queen, Kailey Barlow (the pretty one in the blue jacket), taught us the essentials to packing a show box. Kailey is one of my best friends and definitely a good person to be learning from. You'll probably be seeing more of her this summer. :)

My Ag teacher and FFA Advisor, Mr. Josh Jones (the guy in the white t-shirt), has been showing and fitting dairy cows for the majority of his life. He taught us the basics of clipping and some tips he has picked up along the way. He is definitely one of the best!

There were also other stations in the clinic that covered how to feed, wash, register and show your animal that I didn't get a picture of but they were still very informational and taught skills every showman needs to know.
A huge shout out to Tim, Wanda and Blake Quiggins for letting us use their awesome facility, Burley Fields Livestock Center, in Horse Cave and to Ethan Berry, our new Dairy Coordinator of Show and Fair Promotion, for doing a great job putting this together along with everyone else that pitched in!
If you have any questions about our Dairy U Clinic or would like to start your own in your area, feel free to contact me at brileetucker@gmail.com!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Real Truth

"Mother cows on dairy farms are repeatedly impregnated and forced to produce milk for humans, and their calves are taken away from them, often to suffer the same fate. The only way to stop this cruelty is to go dairy-free."

This is the caption for a video PETA posted on their blog sometime ago. I felt the need to go find it after watching a movie in my health class called Food Inc. This movie is supposed to portray the "unflattering side of the agricultural industry" but what it really does, like PETA, is just tell you bits and pieces of what goes on everyday on a mass production farm. The video is a perfect example of hiding the truth. So let me break down this video caption and tell you what really happens,

"Repeatedly impregnated"
Dairy farmers artificially inseminate their cows to get them pregnant. This is the procedure of thawing a frozen straw of semen collected from a bull (that process doesn't hurt the bull either), sticking it into a insemination gun (not a real gun) and inserting it into the reproductive tract of the cow to get her pregnant. It's just like natural mating but without all the extra bull, get it? Taking the bull out of the equation reduces the stress on a cow from having him follow her around and it also reduces the risk of injury to the cow when a bull would normally mount her. It's an easier and safer way to keep the circle of life going on a farm.

"Forced to produce milk for humans"
Dairy cows produce milk on their own, humans just find a way to use it. Yes, it is fine to leave a calf on a cow to drink the milk but on a commercial dairy farm you're producing milk for market so you take the calf off. Both animals continue to grow happy and healthy. Before the momma cow is sent back to the milk barn the calf gets what is called colostrum. It's the first milk given off the cow to the calf and contains extra nutrients for the baby's first few days. The calf is then given warm formula milk everyday so it gets all the nutrients it needs.

"The calves are taken away from them, often to suffer the same fate"
Baby calves on dairy farms get special treatment, especially the heifers (girls) because they're the next generation of the herd. They are taken off their mother and put into their own individual hutch or pen with their own bucket of grain, fresh straw and clean water. This is safer than keeping the calf with their mom at the milk barn for these reasons: they could get stepped on and they cannot compete with the older and bigger cows for food and water. Also, manure is the biggest disease risk to baby calves that's why their immune system needs a clean, personal hutch. Our bull calves are often kept for a couple of weeks then sold to other farmers for breeding or beef production.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cows and Crowns

Just a couple of week ago I got word that I had been selected as the 2015 Kentucky Guernsey Princess. What exactly is that??

For those of you that may not be familiar with the whole idea of showing cows, Guernseys are the breed of dairy cows I show... but why would a cow breed need a princess? The Queen and Princess program is another way to promote the breeders of your area and spread knowledge of your breed to others. My "sister queen", Haley Fisher, will travel with me to different shows, sales and hopefully different schools to represent Kentucky Guernsey Breeders.

My first experience as princess was at the Kentucky National Show and Sale in Louisville, Kentucky on April 10. I got to meet the National Guernsey Queen, Robin Kime, and hand out awards to the exhibitors of the show.

Stephen Terhune and Andy Ashton were the breeders of Lot 21, your Junior Champion and highest seller, along with Lot 33 for Grand Champion. (Pictured L-R Me, KY Queen Haley Fisher, Andy Ashton, Stephen Terhune, National Queen Robin Kime. Photo by AGA.)

I hope to keep you updated on my travels and experiences as princess this year. Almost every state has this opportunity available for those with a passion for the dairy cow. Contacting your local FFA Advisor or 4H Extension Agent would be a great way to find out more information.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

My Favorite Purchase Yet

When Spring rolls around most girls my age are discussing their Easter dresses, getting their nails done, tanning for prom and scraping up the money for their prom dress. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing all those things. However instead of forking out the money for a prom dress this Spring, I decided to do something a little different with my money. 

           Meet 53 and little miss 53a.

On April 4, 2015 I spent my money on a cow/calf lot at the Angus Opportunity sale in Camner, Kentucky. The sale is hosted by Buckner and Jeffries Angus Farm and it's one of the oldest sales in the Angus breed. That Saturday was a big day for me because 53 and her little heifer are my very first cows of my own and they will be the start of my herd.

I wanted to start my own herd because I love the cattle industry and I also wanted another way to pay for my college tuition, even if it is a few years away. In a few years I hope to have heifers, bulls, steers and cows to sell to other farmers.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Why I Want to Blog

"Why would you start a blog?" is a question I've been asked many times. A lot of kids my age don't even know what a blog is or that they exist... Being into social media with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I learn a lot about different ways to communicate with other people who share your same interests. 

Lucky for me, my big interest is agriculture. When you ask a stranger out in town what they think of when they hear the word "agriculture" the answer is typically, "Farmers in bibbed overalls" or "Cows, chickens and pigs". What they don't know is that there is so much more to it. The list of jobs in agriculture is endless because no matter the job, it all starts with agriculture. I said farming was a typical answer when asking a person what ag pertains to, and it isn't a wrong answer. It's actually very true. Farming is a huge part of this industry (agriculture).  But farming is more than a man in bibbed overalls with a straw hat taking care of his black and white spotted cows. Women are farmers too and I want to share messages like that of what agriculture really is and get the stereotypical scenarios out of peoples' minds. 

By sharing with you through posts of things that I see and learn out on the farm I hope others learn a thing or two as well.