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Sharing our secrets
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So, you want to be in animal agriculture? You get to be your own boss, but the pay is lousy. Still the life is generally good. Weeks like this past one makes us reconsider our choices in vocation and, at times, our ability to make sane, rational decisions.

Yes, the past two weeks have brought us record- or near-record-low temperatures and snowfall. Conditions have been miserable to dangerous, but we knew what we signed up for to live this life. While we may not always like our jobs, we still love what we do. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that and show others how much we care.

To say it has been a grind would be an understatement. I do not know about you, but I found it hard to go out every morning, and each day felt kind of the same with no end in sight. It was tough and hard. I would dare say none of us enjoyed the past two weeks, but you know what? Not one of us called in sick. We did not take any days off because of the inclement weather, and none of us stayed inside where it was warm and safe. Most of the rest of the world would ask one question — why?

Because that is what we do, that is who we are, and our livestock take priority over our own comfort, sometimes even our personal safety. I know each and every one of us have felt that the compulsion to not only do our jobs but go above and beyond what was needed to ensure the well-being of the animals entrusted to our care. We went out in the dark and cold, in the face of the howling wind and biting air to make sure our livestock had the best of care. We used extra resources, pushed machinery to the brink and ran ourselves ragged because of that nagging, gnawing need at our core to take care of the animals dependent on us.

While all of this was happening, our customers probably did not think twice about our work. Shame on us, we need to make sure our consumers know how much we care for the animals we raise. They need to know about the sacrifices and the hardships farmers and ranchers go through in extreme weather to ensure the health and safety of livestock. We just do not do a better job telling our story.

I know we are busy trying to get things done, and we do not take the extra step of sharing all we do. I get it, and I am guilty of not sharing enough, too.

Telling our story is especially important when times are toughest. No one else is going to. In fact, there’s plenty of groups eager to misrepresent the hard work we do caring for our animals because we’re not telling our story.

We are the best kept secret in animal care, and that’s a shame. While we may not like making the extra effort to talk about our work, I believe it is worth showing everyone the love and care we have for our profession.

Being a rural advocate at home, in the Capitol
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Democracy needs input from citizens to thrive, but figuring out how to share your voice and have an impact on government can be challenging.

Whether you are interested in federal, state, or local policy, you can interact directly with elected officials by writing, calling, or visiting your representatives. While testifying in person is the most effective way, we understand not everyone is comfortable in that setting. Other options include writing letters to the editor or sharing information on social media.

Traveling to the Capitol or to a representative’s office can be difficult for rural residents, and the pandemic has created additional barriers. The good news is that most advocacy can take place remotely.

However you choose to engage, provide an authentic constituent voice while making sure to keep your message simple, civil, and focused. The audience needs to know who you are, why the issue matters to you, and what action you want taken. In the case of legislation, this means urging the representative to vote yes or no on a specific proposal.

Whatever your medium, stay focused on the topic at hand. Any policy proposal has important history and context, but limited time and space means you can only go into so much detail or risk missing your main point. Commenting on an issue should also be timely. Try to speak to representatives or place your story in the media at a key moment, such as before a hearing or floor debate.

Support for Bill SB 73 “Corrupt Public Officer and Public Reporting Act”
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To the Editor,

According to Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, Kansas is one of five states that consistently rank in the top ten most corrupt states, as evidenced from administrative records of federal prosecutions.

The Attorney General establishes boundaries on the responsibilities of his office, “to advise and represent their legislature and state agencies”. The AG does not act as the “People’s Lawyer” for citizens to investigate corruption. This leaves the responsibly of investigating corruption to local law enforcement. Really, putting them in a position of investigating those that employ or have influence over their careers, really?

As we continue to observe public official corruption, voters have the tendency to abstain from community involvement. They view political officials as dishonest thus promoting antidemocratic movements. This growing disregard of corruption threatens to destabilize our democratic order, creating conditions that erode the foundations of democracy and our commitment to the rule of law.

Michael Mendez


Conducting a prescribed burn
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As you read this, we will likely be on day seven or beyond of this cold snap. Snow isn’t melting, and spring forage management might be the last thing on your mind. Nonetheless, spring will soon be upon us, and our focus will transition to grass management for the growing season, and that may mean consideration of a prescribed burn on forage stands.

I like prescribed fire in forage systems. When conducted safely, they can be an effective management tool. The weed and brush control benefits they provide, particularly in our native grass systems, are well documented. Still, before blindly conducting a burn, the question should be asked: why am I burning?

What benefit is prescribed fire going to do for my forage stand or wildlife habitat? Cool season grasses typically don’t tend to respond to fire like warm season prairie grasses do. In fact, if burned too frequently or at the wrong time, stands can be harmed.

We don’t burn cool season grasses at the same time as warm season grasses. If you are trying to take out brush or taller cedar trees, do you have enough fuel, and will it be flammable during the appropriate time? If ample fuel loads are not available to burn up small cedar trees, or if burns are being conducted prior to the beginning of regrowth on our brush species (as is often the case with our cool season grasses), control will not be as effective as you’d like. At that point, other management options may better help you achieve your desired objective.

There are certainly instances when prescribed fire is a valuable forage management tool. Take a little time now to determine if that value applies to your individual situation. If it does, I’ll share more next week about the planning you can do now to make it safe and successful.

Thinking Ahead

to Spring

With recent weather limiting much outdoor activity, it’s a great time to start looking at trees you might plant this spring…or new vegetable varieties…or even flowers. If that’s on your to-do list before spring arrives, but you don’t know where to start, the K-State Research & Extension Horticulture Information Center has just the ticket.

Visit http://hnr.k-state.edu/extension/info-center/recommended-plants/ for links to a wide variety of plants, including iris, daylilies, fruits, vegetables, roses, and even turf grass and trees (trees are broken out by area of the state). Trying to drought proof your landscape? They also have a list of low water use plants.

Some of the resources will come with picture, but many will not. If it’s iris, daylilies, roses, or peonies you are exploring, however, a good collection of images of those found in the University Gardens Collection Gardens at http://www.k-state.edu/gardens/gardens/collections/.

It might provide just a little bit of a warm feeling even in this cold snap.