I received a personal note last week from a fellow blogger. It read:
I’m concerned about the health threats posed by large animal feeding operations. The toxic emissions caused by millions of gallons of manure and the hundreds of thousands of hogs, cows, and chickens confined in small areas put people at risk for everything from E Coli to respiratory problems. (Not to mention the inhumane conditions animals are experiencing). I would like to send you a guest blog post on this topic. Would you help to spread awareness by posting it on your blog?
I was a little bit surprised at the request. I am, after all, the owner and boss lady at what the Environmental Protection Agency considers a large animal feeding operation.
I was left to wonder—Is there a misunderstanding as to what kind of cattle farm I have? Or, is there simply a misunderstanding as to what really is an animal feeding operation?
While I am not knowledgeable enough to speak regarding hog and chicken operations, I would like to take a minute to speak to the above claims as they pertain to my large cattle feeding operation.
- My cattle feed yard houses just under 3000 animals in 24 pens. These pens are on average 220 feet by 150 feet in size giving each animal approximately 254 square feet in which to live and express normal bovine play behavior.
- My cattle eat at feed bunks that line the length of the front of each pen—each animal has 12-18 inches of space to stand at the bunk and eat at any given time during the day.
- I believe that the animals at my feed yard have very humane living conditions, and my crew and I work diligently every day to ensure that every animal on our farm is cared for and comfortable. I passionately believe that housing my animals in a feed yard pen situation does not compromise good welfare or care.
- My husband farms approximately 5500 acres within a 20 mile radius of our feed yard. The manure that my animals make is an incredibly valuable resource for him as he cares for the nutrient needs of our crop ground.
- Without the natural fertilizer that my animals make, my husband would have to solely look to outside sources of fertilizer in order to care for the soil. Manure is an important component to the cycle of life that makes our farm sustainable. We view it as a positive contributor to our farm—an important tool that ensures good soil health…
- It is absolutely true that cattle are carriers of E Coli. It is found naturally in their systems and there are many, many different strains (some can create sickness in humans and some cannot). Cattle grazing grass pastures carry E Coli, just as cattle living in feed yard pens. I promise every single one of you that beef farmers all across the country are working with scientists to develop ways to eliminate the threat of food-borne illness. Food safety is a top priority for us!
- The connection of animal feeding operations and human respiratory disease is one that I am not familiar with. I have worked at a feed yard for almost 16 years and have never witnessed that phenomenon. Archie has worked at my feed yard for more than 40 years and shares my sentiment. I am sure that we are prejudiced, but we both believe that living near and working at a feed yard is a cleaner environment than living in a large city!
My husband and I care about our land, our natural resources, our animals, and the products that we grow on our farm. We strive every day to be responsible caretakers of the resources with which we were blessed.
There are also many other farmers across the United States that share the same values that our family does. We proudly grow food for our fellow countrymen—being a large animal feeding operation does not change our commitment to excellence.