Farm Side

By Marianne Friers

As disaster after disaster, fire, flood, and tempest, strike our continent there is still good news to be found. A high school class in Montana has donated their entire homecoming budget to fire relief there. According to KULR 8, the Laurel High School class of 2018 would normally have used the money they had raised for the construction of a float for  the event, but instead chose to help those afflicted by the flames. They also decided to use the time they normally would have used to build the float to do more fundraising for fire relief.

And I am sure you remember young Reese Burdette, a dairy farm girl from Pennsylvania, who was seriously injured in a fire in 2014. Reese has struggled valiantly to recover from her injuries, always with the dream of being able to show her registered Holsteins with her family, who run Windy-Knoll-View Holsteins. On Monday, Reese, who has been coping with some ongoing health issues recently, led her calf, Windy-Knoll-View Poser to a win in the Spring Heifer class at the All American Junior Holstein Show. Way to go, Reese.

In other good news, although perhaps not a surprise to rural folks, cows are not eating our food. As I gaze out at the old heifer pasture, where Neon Moon, Bama Breeze, and Moonshine dine at leisure every day, I am not so very astonished by this. The girls eat grass, clover, alfalfa, and the occasional box elder leaf, none of which figure heavily on the menu here. Alas, popular fiction claims that the food cows eat could go to feed people and the land they utilize could better be used to grow more food for people.

However, Morning Ag Clips reports that a study published in the Global Food Security Journal, reveals that not only do livestock not contribute as much of a burden as thought to human food supplies, but in fact, many livestock production systems contribute significantly to supplies of protein for hungry, hungry humans.

“As a Livestock Policy Officer working for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I have been asked many times by the press to report on the negative environmental impacts of livestock,” said lead investigator Anne Mottet, PhD. “Doing so, I came to realize that people are continually exposed to incorrect information that is repeated without being challenged, in particular about livestock feed. There is currently no official and complete international database on what livestock eat. This study contributes to filling this gap and to provide peer-reviewed evidence to better inform policy makers and the public.”

The study reported that meat makes up 18 percent of global calories and 25 percent of protein, as well as providing important nutrients such as vitamins and iron. It also was concluded that cattle can graze places too rugged or dry for crops to be grown, turning wasteland into a source of valuable food for world tables.

It also turns out that it takes a lot less grain and grass to produce a pound of meat or a gallon of milk than has previously been claimed.

As I said, this is no surprise to rural folks, particularly farmers, who have been saying it for years, but it is good news that a study has been published that bears out what we have been saying all along.

I also find it disingenuous that pundits think that if land were taken away from livestock production it would necessarily be turned to growing row crops for human food. Much more often land that used to be farms and ranches is turned into housing developments and strip malls, which do far less to feed the hungry than do cows and sheep.

Dr. Mottet concluded, “Animal production, in its many forms, plays an integral role in the food system, making use of marginal lands, turning co-products into edible goods, contributing to crop productivity and turning edible crops into highly nutritious, protein-rich food.

Still more good news comes in a story from Progressive Dairyman that says that a study has found that drinking milk can make us smarter. Not being one to take things at face value I hunted up the study. According to Medical Press, “The study, funded through the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program and conducted by Jae Kun Shim, a professor of kinesiology in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, followed 474 football players from seven high schools in Western Maryland throughout the fall 2014 season.”

Preliminary study results showed that even after concussions, football players who drank milk scored higher in tests of visual and verbal memory than did those who did not.

Once again the amazing array of nutrients found in animal products come into play. The Progressive Dairyman article offered an extensive list of vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins, which contribute to improved brain function in people who drink milk, especially full-fat milk. Among these are several amino acids and antioxidants that act to enhance the brain’s ability to produce the chemical messengers it needs to function and protect it from oxidation damage. These include Glutathione and Tyrosine, which are found in milk, as are important B vitamins, iodine and Galactose, which the article said is known as  “brain sugar” because it supports the brain development of babies and children. Studies have indicated that the sugar helps trigger long-term memory formation and enhances cellular communication.”

Even that much-reviled dairy ingredient, cholesterol, turns out to be more friend than foe, “Cholesterol enhances signal transport and the functioning of the synapses of the brain and protects the bioelectrical signals. It also works as an antioxidant to protect brain cells from oxidative damage.”

Once again all this would not have come as a surprise to our grandmothers, who although they may never have heard of Glutathione, certainly told us to drink our milk. Guess they were right all along.

And finally the USDA is sending Rural Development Aid, plus food boxes and other resources to hurricane ravaged areas in the southern USA. Good on them.

Fultonville dairy farmer Marianne Friers is a regular columnist. She blogs at