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Dairy, Featured

June Dairy Month- An Inside Look at a Livestock Market

June 20, 2016

Dairy cattle not only produce milk but eventually become beef, along with many other byproducts. In the agricultural industry not a thing goes to waste and dairy cattle are no different. In fact, if you have ever enjoyed one of those famous west coast In-n-Out burgers the chances are very high that the beef is from a dairy cow here in California.

I recently went on a field trip, of sorts, to Fresno Livestock Commission where I learned a little bit more about how these dairy cattle are brought to and through a cattle market. I have been to many cattle sales in my life but most of them were beef. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts, pictures, and a few things I learned along the way.

Although the kind folks of Fresno Livestock Commission have been family friends of ours for generations, I had never visited (shame on me!). What a treat it was to see a day in the life for the entire operation; the owners (family owned), the auctioneer, the buyers, the office staff, the ring-man,  all the help in the pens out back (receiving cattle, sorting in and out, and loading out), etc.

The people above are responsible for a very important part of the dairy/beef life cycle and one I think is often taken for granted or just plain overlooked. Markets like these are what move cattle throughout the nation and to the processing plants.

When I arrived, it was apparent that this company takes pride in their business. Everything was freshly painted, pens were clean, and repairs on the fence were being made. Trailer loads of dairy cattle from local dairies were being dropped off, one after another. The cattle came off the trailers slowly and were put into a pen close by.

There was a brand inspector present, employees counting off cattle, paperwork being completed to track the cows and owners information, and animals were inspected for health. Once they were off-loaded, back tags were attached with adhesive to each cow.

Co-owner Cindy Tews says “back tags are an integral part of the ADT (Animal Disease Trace-ability) program. When an animal arrives on site, they are accompanied by a Transportation Slip that clearly identifies the animal offered for sale. It must have the owners name, address, phone number, number of head being consigned, and brands that those have on them for identification. There is a consignment slip filled out by Fresno Livestock personnel that will include color, breed, and class (SL=Slaughter or FE=Feeder). We also include any ear tag numbers. If they have a brand they are drawn in and if there is not a brand that has to be stated. Back tags are placed on the animals and correspond with the animal being described. All back tags are registered and have the livestock markets identify number and then 4 digits that bring up the animal when entered into our computer. Thus as the animal(s) go through the sale ring all pertinent information is available. Upon sale of the animal, the tag follows the animal through either the processing channel or is used to identify origin if it is going on to feeding.  Should the animal go to the processing plant, that tag is kept with any other identifying information. Should there ever be a reason to trace that animal back to it’s origin, it is usually done within 48 hours.”

Once the tagging was completed the cattle were sorted into pens. As you can can imagine, it was cool and comfortable under these shades; the cattle were quiet and calm. Due to the efficiency of the crew pictured above and the people who transport these animals, these cattle spent very little time here in these pens before the sale began.

As I observed, I realized that so much of this operation depends on the people much like other areas of Ag. From cattle handling to working with customers to the exchange of money, you could tell immediately that these people take pride in what they do. It radiated through a quiet yet friendly confidence.

“Working with my family is a blessing” says Tews. “My father and I have been partners for 15 years. We share the same work ethic and communication style. Some of our common interests include: Customer service/relations, hearing how and what the families of our customers are doing, attending fundraisers and other community events, running pasture cattle, and developing new and better ways to execute our sale through the use of proper animal handling and employee management tools. We spend many hours together on a day to day basis. Very few disagreements have been encountered and we strive to view each others perspective before reacting to a situation. It is challenging from the standpoint that we are up against the clock in maintaining a speed of commerce that our buyers expect. Whenever there is the pressure of time, ones demeanor can be tested. I always remind myself that I want to be welcome at Thanksgiving.”

As the clock reached 12pm, the buyers shuffled from the cafe and picnic tables located on the grounds to the ring and took their spot. The sale began and with the hum of the auctioneer, fun memories with my mom and grandfather flooded my mind.

Each animal spent roughly 20 seconds in the ring before they were let out to the other side. As one cow left another would enter. Cattle were moved about the ring so buyers had full view of what they were bidding on.

And just like that the sale was over. The office was buzzing with people, questions, and the transfer of money. Cattle were loaded onto the respective trucks and all the pens were again empty.  Time to clean up and get ready for the next one!

I am so grateful for this opportunity to have learned and broadened my horizons. The Tews Family is a direct representation of the breed (pun intended) of people that represent this industry I work in and advocate for: honest, sincere, hard working. Cindy, thank you for allowing me an inside look at your operation and for all your wonderful contributions to the cattle industry. You are one of a kind!

 

Featured

June is Dairy Month!

June 29, 2015

You guys thought this blog was just about beef, didn’t you?! Since June is dairy month, I figured I’d switch things up a little bit and throw some love to our dairy friends. After all, dairy cows become beef too (hellooo, In-N-Out!).

I started my career in animal health sales about 7 years ago and in the latter 1/3 of that time I landed at MWI Veterinary Supply, the company I fondly refer to as “home”. Throughout these seven years, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a large percentage of the dairy farms in the Western United States. If there’s one thing I have learned it’s that dairying is not an easy job. With some of the toughest regulations in the country right here in the Golden State, it takes a special type to be successful.

In response to these regulations, dairymen have adapted over the years and become far more resilient. The use of technology has become a significant driver in their success. Some of the current tools available include: EID ear tags, used mostly for identification but also work in conjunction with things like daily milk weights and activity monitoring. There are feed management technologies such as: FeedWatch, Easy Feed, and Read-N-Feed plus numerous smartphone apps for tracking cows, heat activity and even robotic milking (Lely, DeLaval)! Like most other industries, technology optimizes efficiency, streamlines manual processes, and in most cases, adds dollars to the bottom line.  I have found some of the most prosperous dairies to be those that are not afraid to research and employ new technologies.

Lucky for me, I work for a company that believes in the power of technology and added value. One of my responsibilities at MWI includes sales and support of our Cubex Wireless Inventory Management System a product offered through one of MWI’s co brands; Micro Technologies. This has quickly become a favorite part of my job. Mostly because it isn’t a product, rather a piece of technology that when used properly just flat out makes life more simple.

Here’s a visual of how the system works:

Anytime an employee enters the room, they will sign in to the computer via fingerprint recognition. They will then go to the item on the shelf that they need, press the green “take” button on the Qbud and exit the medicine room. That event is time stamped and dated with the employees name attached and that product is removed from inventory.

Below are some shots I took during a recent installation. First the computer system was installed, then the antibiotics, vaccines, and supplies were organized in the room and lastly Qbuds were placed in front of each item.

The Qbuds even go into the refrigerator to track usage of vaccine and antibiotics that need to be kept cold.

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Each rooms that is installed is temperature controlled and locked with a code/fingerprint door lock to help with theft.

The goals of the Cubex System include increasing efficiency, tracking product usage, automating re-ordering, reducing on-hand inventory (and therefore $$ sitting on the shelves), tightening lost or stolen inventory, and overall giving management greater control with less time spent on this area of the dairy.

As regulations tighten, like SB 27 (Hill) (more information below), it is imperative that producers keep accurate records and a strong working relationship with their veterinarians. This piece of technology does just that all-the-while reducing human error.

To some, technology can be overwhelming but to dairymen it’s a necessary tool that keeps them in business. For more information on the technologies used on dairies, feel free to shoot me a message on the “contact me” tab.

Now, time for a glass of milk, better yet, some ice cream,

BB


A few bullet points pertaining to SB 27 include:

• Prohibits the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in livestock and poultry unless prescribed by a veterinarian.
• Bans the use of antibiotics to promote growth or increase feed efficiency.
• Requires CDFA to develop antibiotic stewardship guidelines.
• Mandates CDFA to create a program to track the use of medically important antibiotics and track antibiotic-resistant bacteria and patterns of emerging resistance.