Amanda Radke: A Cowgirl’s Perspective 3-12-12
March 13, 2012
My coveralls are crusted with dried mud. My gloves are wet with melted snow. My boots are filled with bits of straw. The bags under my eyes are much more noticeable. My body yearns for a nap. The days are long. The nights are short. The dishes pile up in the sink, and the laundry pile is growing. Frozen pizza is a mainstay in the diet. There’s little time for much else.
It’s calving season on the ranch, and I’m loving it!
We’ve had a remarkably mild winter, except for the last couple of weeks. As calving season started, winter struck, bringing icy, cold rain and snow in a hard-hitting snow that we weren’t quite ready for. It’s amazing what a quick turn of the weather can do to inspire cows to drop their calves in the mud or snow!
For my family, this means getting the cows closer to the barn and keeping a watchful eye on them, checking every couple of hours to make sure we are available to assist the mama cow if needed.
It’s a lifestyle we love, and our cows are our pride and joy. Add the economics of it all – cattle prices are at record highs, and you can bet we are motivated to save each and every calf.
Yes, it’s an amazing time to be in the beef industry, but we do face our share of challenges. Today, Americans are eating less beef, opting for cheaper proteins like pork and chicken. According to USDA, 2011 U.S. per-capita beef consumption was at 57.4 pounds per person, down 13 percent from 2001 and 25 percent from 1980.
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Even though export markets continue to boom, our domestic customers are struggling to afford beef due to tighter cattle numbers, a weak economy and high unemployment rates. With rising food and fuel costs, the Americans who still enjoy beef are now trading down from steak to burgers, in what Erin Borror, U.S. Meat Export Federation economist, calls “The Hamburger Economy.”
While it’s important to expand U.S. beef exports, we must continue to promote beef here in the U.S. To me, this means alleviating the guilt consumers feel about our product and reassuring them that beef is a good choice for a multitude of reasons: ethics, environment, safety, nutrition and taste.
The first week in March marked National Ag Week, a celebration of food producers here in the U.S. My hope is that the week continues into the month and throughout the year, as producers become more aware of the importance of promoting agriculture to consumers.
One way we can do this is through social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest are great platforms to share your story. Post photos of new baby calves on the ranch; create a YouTube video touring your place and introducing your family; share a family-favorite beef recipe on Pinterest; get creative and use this free tool to share the beef production story with consumers!
Of course, being a great advocate takes practice. Polish up on your agriculture facts with a quick course offered by the beef checkoff. The Masters of Beef Advocacy Program is the perfect way to brush up on the science and research that can back our personal stories and family traditions in food production.
Finally, make it a goal to get into classrooms this spring. In the last year, I have traveled everywhere from California to Washington, D.C., to speak with elementary students. To get the students engaged, I read my children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf,” to them, offering them a glimpse of what it’s like to be a kid cowboy on the ranch. The book, available on Amazon.com, even has a spelling and vocab list for teachers to incorporate into their lesson plans that week.
Yes, it’s calving season; I’m tired but joyful at the new calves running around the ranch. And, just because the dishes aren’t washed and the laundry is dirty, doesn’t mean I don’t have time to share my story with the public. Will you make the time to be an advocate?