One of the best agriculture internships

The wonderful team at the Animal Agriculture Alliance made me feel welcome from the very first day of my internship in the fall of 2018, and I was sad to say goodbye at the end of my internship. However, my sadness has quickly been matched by complete gratitude. Although I am not entirely sure exactly what my future in animal agriculture will be, I do know that the knowledge gained from my internship experience will stay with me for the rest of my life! Not only did I come to realize a great deal about myself, but I feel as though I have a much greater appreciation for all of animal agriculture.

Intern with a dairy cow
Ashley Cate with a dairy cow

Stepping outside of the dairy world

Up until this past September, my experience with animal agriculture had been almost entirely based upon dairy production. This internship provided me with an excellent opportunity to get to know the other facets of animal agriculture. I was introduced to people involved with poultry, pork and dairy alike. Among other things, this allowed me to learn that, although production practices vary across the different animal agriculture sectors, the goal of every producer is the same: to ensure a safe and secure food supply while maximizing animal health and welfare.

A lot of the challenges that animal agriculture is currently facing are shared across all types of animal agriculture. The Alliance really taught me that the most effective way to face a challenge is to create a unified voice. By bringing together multiple experts from all fields, including producers, animal health experts and welfare specialists, the Alliance provides the unique opportunity to discuss many possible solutions and work together to decide upon the best plan of action.

More than an internship

It is safe to say I learned a great deal from my internship. Perhaps most valuable of all is that I know where ever I end up within animal agriculture, I can count on the Alliance to be there supporting all of animal agriculture. As I embark on a new journey, I can’t stress enough how important internships can be. My next chapter is at the University of British Columbia Dairy Education and Research Centre and although my focus on is dairy, the Alliance helped me see the big picture.

Alliance internships
Animal Ag Alliance internship

The Alliance offers year-round internship opportunities. To learn how you can become the next Alliance intern, click here.

Giving Back To Animal Agriculture

The Alliance is celebrating more than 30 years of working to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. To help us continue our mission for years to come, we are participating in Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving on November 27th.

As a 501c(3) nonprofit, the Alliance is the perfect charity to donate to if you support farmers, ranchers and animal agriculture! Our goal is to receive $15,000 from supporters and we are excited to have Cooper Farms matching all donations up to $5,000 and Morning Fresh Farms matching from $5,001 to $10,500 made on November 27th.

Here are just a few examples of how the Alliance team works hard in pursuit of bridging the communication gap between farm and fork.

Mainstream and Trade Media Engagements

2017 Advances in Animal Ag Report graphic

One way we bridge the communication gap is by talking with the media. We have been working hard over the last year to build and maintain positive relationships with key opinion leaders in the agriculture industry. Between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018 the Alliance was mentioned in more than 1,275 articles, which is nearly twice the number of mentions during the last fiscal year. In addition, we issued 30 press releases during this time period. Our attendance at various media events, such as the Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum, is crucial in the amplification of our mission.

We also use these relationships to share reports and recent news from the Alliance, such as our Advances in Animal Agriculture report, the Alliance’s 2018 Annual Report and updates about our College Aggies Online scholarship competition.  Building these mutually beneficial relationships helps the Alliance reach the public to provide access to factual information about agriculture.

Engagement with food chain opinion leaders

Restaurants, retailers, and food service companies are pressured by activist groups to meet unrealistic demands. That is why the Alliance has increased efforts to engage with these food chain opinion leaders to help them become better informed about animal agriculture and aware of the potential repercussions of these decisions.

The Alliance launched a series of Lunch and Learns for DC-area food chain opinion leaders to build relationships with these associations. Attendees have included representatives from the Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association, National Restaurant Association and National Council of Chain Restaurants. The Alliance also organized a “Farmers Thank Domino’s” campaign to thank Domino’s for supporting farmers and ranchers. We encouraged everyone to order a Domino’s pizza and post picture on social media using the hashtag #FarmersThankDominos. The hashtag was used more than 1,000 times!

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Group picture at the pig operation we toured – Langenfelder Pork.

The Alliance hosted a farm tour for food chain opinion leaders. We visited a poultry, dairy and pig farm in Maryland to encourage attendees to become more informed and involved in the animal agriculture industry. The tour was an excellent way to develop relationships with individuals in the restaurant, retail, and food service industry.

Monitoring activists and animal rights groups

The Alliance monitors activists and animal rights groups. We keep our members abreast with one-page group profiles to help them understand the goals and tactics of each group. The Alliance also sends representatives to the animal rights conferences every year, releasing a report afterwards of important takeaways from the gathering.

Not only are we proactive about learning new methods and tactics used by activist groups, but we also work to keep our members informed about how to protect themselves from possible threats. Through the Alliance’s Farm Security Mobile App, we arm members with security and crisis management advice and resources designed to keep their farms and animals safe.

Join the Alliance for Giving Tuesday

Help us continue these efforts and amplify our mission by supporting the Alliance for Giving Tuesday this year. By sending a donation, you are helping to give farmers and ranchers a positive voice to further engage with consumers. Visit our website on Giving Tuesday, November 27th, to donate and be sure to follow us on social media!

4-H shaped my life

Ashley showing her Milking Shorthorn heifer in 4-H.

Every day I eat, sleep and breathe agriculture – it is what my world revolves around. There are many things that led me to my love for agriculture, but perhaps the most influential factor was my participation in 4-H. I enjoy reminiscing on my time in 4-H. In doing so, I have realized that my love for agriculture is only one of the many things I gained from this organization. I thought I would describe some of the wonderful gifts that 4-H gave me, just in case anyone needs any further convincing that 4-H is the right fit for a child in their life.

Perseverance

Some people learn by seeing, others learn by hearing. Me? I learn by doing, and I know I am not alone. The hands-on experience I got in 4-H taught me success is not guaranteed. However, every failure provides an opportunity for growth. By taking what I learn from every failure and applying it to my next attempt, I become much more likely to succeed. Eventually I fail enough and learn enough to achieve success. I believe a lack of perseverance stems directly from the fear of failure. It is so important to learn that failure is part of the process.

Self-Assurance

This really goes back to the hands-on experience. There is a horse trainer I follow on Facebook, and one of the primary things he is constantly preaching about is how a horse gains confidence purely by doing. It makes sense! The more you successfully do something, the more confident you become in your abilities to perform that task again.

Friends

A group of youth working together.

There is nothing that I enjoy more than being around people who love agriculture as much as I do. How could you not become fast friends with someone who loves the same things you do? Granted, agriculture is only one aspect to 4-H, so not everyone there will be involved in agriculture. However, as much as I love talking about agriculture, I also love listening to someone else talk about what they are passionate about! I learned that friendship isn’t strictly about sharing a passion, but also about listening, engaging and appreciating.

Agricultural Education

A young girl learning how to feed a calf.

Yah, I know, if you’re raised on a farm then why would you need 4-H to teach you about agriculture? But the reality is that farm and ranch families make up only about two percent of the U.S. population. How are the remaining 98 percent supposed to learn about where their food comes from? They could just “google it,” but who knows what they might find if they do that! I love agriculture so much because I got to learn about it through 4-H. I learned early that farmers and ranchers love their animals, respect the land and take pride in feeding the world.

With the future of the world in the hands and the heart of our youth, it makes sense to encourage them to become involved in 4-H. I learned some incredibly important life lessons from this special organization.

How our pumpkin spice addiction supports dairy farmers

A hint of orange foliage and a slight chill in the air are sure signs that fall has arrived. At least for me, the onset of fall means the start of the pumpkin flavor craze. As it turns out, we can enjoy our most popular pumpkin treats guilt free, because we are supporting dairy farmers! As we don flannels and carve pumpkins, farmers across the country are continuing to work to ensure we have the ingredients for our favorite fall treats.

Day in and day out, dairy farmers tend to their cows. Farmers don’t understand the concept of a nine-to-five job. They are in the barn at all hours of the day (and night), making sure their cows are clean, comfortable, healthy and happy so the dairy products we buy in the store are of the highest possible quality.

A world without dairy farmers.

Pumpkin bread.

Without a dairy farmer, our pumpkin flavored goodies would not be complete. The pumpkin spice latte would just be, well, pumpkin spice. No creamy steamed milk to mix in and no sweet whipped cream to top off the beverage. In addition, the inviting scent of pumpkin bread baking in the oven would not be possible without the added butter. Lastly, my personal favorite, and the backbone of every Thanksgiving dessert menu, pumpkin pie, would be missing without heavy cream or condensed milk!

What if you don’t love pumpkin spice?

Apple pie a la mode with whipped cream.

Even the non-pumpkin spice lovers (do they even exist?) can support dairy farmers this fall. Who doesn’t enjoy a warm, homemade apple pie? Well, you need butter to make apple pie! And if you’re anything like me, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream are required companions.

Butter, heavy cream, whipped cream, ice cream and milk are all products of a dairy farmer’s hard work. These tasty treats are simply another reason that I believe dairy farmers should be celebrated year round.

This Virginia fall looks, and feels, much different than the New Hampshire falls I am used to. Thankfully I can still enjoy my pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin spiced latte (iced, of course, because it’s still in the 80’s here!), while also supporting dairy farmers!

Technology is changing how we care for livestock

You don’t have to look very hard to notice all the ways advances in technology continue to revolutionize our lives. Although still following tradition in many ways, animal agriculture has also embraced this revolution. Farmers and ranchers have been able to improve animal health, welfare, reproduction, record keeping and so much more.

Drone flying over field.

New products are being developed and tested every day, it seems. The goal is to continue to enhance the efficiency of modern farms and ranches while also improving animal care. Recently, I attended a talk by Dr. Andrew Huff, a professor at Michigan State University in the Veterinary Medical Center. He discussed the future impact of technology on animal agriculture – and it sure is an exciting one! We look forward to being able to take even better care of our animals using these new advances. 

Thermal Imaging 

Although thermal imaging is not a new technology, we are just realizing its application in animal agriculture. We can potentially use thermal imaging to determine aggressiveness, heats and infections in animals as those conditions are associated with elevated temperatures. 

Object Classification 

Photo credit: Cargill.

Cargill Animal Nutrition has partnered with a machine vision company, Cainthus, to develop a software to identify individual animals. Like snowflakes, each individual animal is unique, and the software will recognize individual hide patterns and facial features. The software will collect data on feed and water intake patterns, heat detection and daily behavior trends. Although the initial version will focus on cows, Cargill and Cainthus plan to expand to pigs, chicken and fish.

Pen or Chute-Side Rapid Diagnostics

Rapid diagnostic machines will provide farmers with real-time health information. The goal is to provide results while the animals are still in a handling chute (a narrow stall used by farmers and ranchers to safely restrain animals during exams and treatment). A quick diagnosis will allow for more accurate treatment of the individual animal and a better sense of overall herd health. 

Remote Sensing

When the animal is out in the pasture, remote sensing can be used to check on them. Farmers will soon be able to use radar detection technology to measure respiration and heart rates from a distance. This is similar to the technology used in self-driving cars. We can even mount this technology to a drone and monitor cattle herds in a pasture. 

Movement Sensors 

Cow wearing a collar.

Movement sensors can determine when an animal is acting abnormally, which can occur for any number of reasons. This can help to decrease the amount of time between the onset of illness and treatment. Some of the new models of this technology can take the animal’s temperature and locate the animal within a pen or pasture.  Farmers and ranchers may be able to download an app on their smartphones to have the information in their back pocket. The most common form of these sensors is as a collar or an ear tag.

Although many of these technologies are still in the development and testing stages, I can’t help but get excited about the potential. It is about to become so much easier to provide more individualized care. This will help farmers manage overall animal health and well-being even more closely than they do today with the tools available to them.