Cyndi's Two Cents

Outcry for sustainability

Another year has passed with an outcry for improved sustainability on our planet. If you ask ten people to define sustainability, you will get ten different answers.

In the 21st century, sustainability generally refers to the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to coexist.

The definition for sustainability on my farm comes down to three things. First, taking care of the environment. We believe in and practice stewardship of the land, air, water, and livestock and hopefully we will leave our little piece of paradise a little better than it was when we bought it almost 20 years ago.

It is about economics – because if you are not economically sustainable, you’re not going to be around very long.

And it is about ethics.

I believe most involved in animal agriculture in this country work daily to be good stewards of the land, air, water, and livestock. I believe most growing crops do the same. I also believe that we share a common goal of providing a safe and wholesome food supply for consumers.

I also know a few bad actors. We all do. I am cautious when using phrases like “All farmers implement good animal welfare practices,” or “All farmers are good stewards of the land and water.”  Because that would be a lie.

Livestock production has become the animal rights activists’ poster child for climate change. If you Google animal agriculture, you will find link after link linking land and water degradation and biodiversity loss to animal agriculture. The truth is, the greatest contributors to greenhouse gases in our country are transportation, electricity, industry and residential.

The bacteria in the digestive system of an animal cannot extract more carbon or methane than was originally stored in the plant material it ate. Livestock also create conditions in which carbon and methane are sequestered. Show me a car that can do that!

We do not all implement the same animal housing, welfare or feed formulations and regimens on our farms. Every animal is unique. Climates vary. Buildings and pastures and accessible water sources are not the same on every farm. Our vaccination regimen and overall herd health management will vary depending upon climate, location, overall health of the animals and specific challenges encountered. Herd health programs should be tailored for each individual herd or flock.

Animal agriculture is not a cookie cutter process. Sometimes animals get sick and need to be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes there is a need to supplement magnesium in a cattle herd’s diet because they are grazing on quickly growing lush green grass that is low in magnesium. Just do the right thing for the health and welfare of the animals on your farm every day and be proud of your hard work and contributions.

Cheers to a sustainable 2023 on your farm, in your family, in your community and in our world!

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