Monday, February 28, 2011

Becoming an Agvocate: Telling the Story of Production Agriculture

January 21, 2011

A date that would change me for the better. On this day I was watching The Today Show, and Natalie Morales was interviewing Suzanne Somers about her new book. In the interview Somers made several false statements about not only the agriculture industry but also about the scientific evidence needed to provide a causative agent for a disease state. After watching this interview I was spurred into action to tell the story and the truth about production Agriculture. I composed an email and sent it out to my family and friends. My email made it to Allie Devine, Vice President and General Counsel at the Kansas Livestock Association, she then forwarded it on to Stephen Russell, Director of Industry Relations at the Kansas Beef Council. Mr. Russell responded to my email with some educational information about antibiotic use in cattle. You will find his comments later in this post along with the links to this information. I guess in a round about way I have Suzanne Somers to thank for motivating me to do something to spread the truth about production Agriculture by becoming an Agvocate for the industry. Maybe I'll send her a thank you....

The interview with Somers that aired on January 21, 2011: Suzanne Somers on staying 'Sexy Forever'

This is the email I sent out to my family and friends on January 26th:

Every once in awhile you see something that is so disturbing it makes your blood boil and it motivates you to take action. Well today was that day for me; I simply could not believe what I was hearing. I was watching The Today show and Suzanne Somers was being interviewed about her new book, "Sexy Forever- How to Fight Fat Over Forty." After watching this interview I could not simply sit back and turn a blind eye to the attack on production agriculture and the misinformation Somers was feeding the public. I decided to take action and spread the truth and the facts about what actually happens. Now, it is fair to say that 99% of what came out of Somers’ mouth was false. I would be here all day disputing everything; I picked a few topics and provided the facts. At the bottom of this email you will find the link to a farm wife’s response that goes into more detail about all of the false statements.

In the interview Suzanne is afflicted with a case of verbal diarrhea. She just kept spewing completely false statements from her mouth. I couldn't believe what I was watching, I cringed in agony because the American public was watching this and may believe her statements to be the truth. What is even worse is that the book she is promoting is already on the New York Times bestseller list. This means people are buying her book and believing what she is preaching. Thank goodness Natalie Morales is a well-educated journalist who actually checks her facts before reporting on a story! She disputed and debated several of Somers' claims!

In the interview Somers goes on to completely bash the production agriculture industry. She states that antibiotics in our food cause women over forty to become fat. She says, "The antibiotics in the meat we ingest from our food accumulate over time in our bodies and gets stored in our fat tissue. As women age they accumulate more of these so called "toxins" and so they need more adipose tissue to store them, thus leading to the reason why women over 40 feel bloated and can't lose weight as well." She recommends we eat grass-fed beef to rid our systems of the antibiotics that are found in corn-fed beef. She then goes on to say that antibiotics in the food supply causes "leaky gut syndrome." This is a completely false and absurd statement and here are the reasons why:

Reason1: Antibiotics which are administered to food animals have a withdrawal period (usually 20-60 days) before they can be slaughtered and enter the food supply. The antibiotic is excreted of the animal's system before it ever enters the food supply. So the only antibiotics you are ingesting, Suzanne, are the ones your doctor prescribed to you! Oh, but wait, I forgot you don’t believe in Western medicinal practices, and you say in your interview that, “you would use Western medicine as your last stitch effort to get better.”

Reason 2: Testing is done in the locker plant for traces of antibiotics. If a test returns positive, the entire carcass is pulled off the line and disposed of. It never enters the food supply! IF this happens the producer is not paid for the animal, which means it hurts the producer’s livelihood. I find it hard to believe that a producer would intentionally risk their bottom line by trying to sell/slaughter an animal before an antibiotic had been purged from the animal’s system.

Reason 3: Producers eat the same meat as everyone else. Therefore, they are not going to knowingly damage the food supply by putting something harmful in the animal that may end up on their plate too.

Reason 4: Here’s a newsflash Suzanne, you may want to sit down for this one: Grass-fed beef is not guaranteed to be antibiotic free!! The only way you can ensure your meat is 100% antibiotic free is if you buy beef that is labeled antibiotic free.

Now to address the subject of “leaky gut syndrome.” I don’t recall hearing that Suzanne Somers recently earned her M.D. degree or that she is conducting scientific research on the causative agents for lupus, M.S. and fibromyalgia. When searching for Somers’ degree in anything from anywhere I came up short. Therefore, this does not give her permission to scare the American public into thinking they can get these diseases from eating beef that has been injected with antibiotics.

I am not studying to be a medical doctor but I am working on my Pharm.D. Degree and have learned a thing or two about the human body. In all my years of studying the anatomy, microbiology, physiology, biochemistry and now learning about disease states in pharmacy school I have never come across the term “leaky gut syndrome.” I was curious to learn more about this “new syndrome” so I did a little research on the topic. I searched trusted medical journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine, for the term "leaky gut syndrome." The search returned this statement, "no search results found for ‘"leaky gut syndrome.’" Huh, imagine that. Maybe it returned this statement because it is a hypothetical disease, not a scientifically proven condition!! I was able to find it on Wikipedia, which we all know is a trusted source for your information. And yes that was sarcasm. :)

As producers, we often wonder why the American public has such a negative view of production agriculture. THIS IS WHY!! There are people spouting off their own personal beliefs and opinions without checking the facts or heaven forbid consulting someone who actually works in the industry. I challenge you to be an advocate, or as the term has been coined an "agvocate" for production agriculture by educating the public about the truth!

I found a response at Prarie Farmer, written by Holly Spangler, that discusses all the issues of misinformation Somers stated. It is very well written and provides the facts with just a hint of sarcasm.

This is response I received from Stephen Russell of the Kansas Beef Council a few days ago:

Ms. Navinskey:

I received your e-mail from Allie Devine at KLA. Thanks for you interest in this topic.

Yes, Ms. Somers makes several unscientific statements in her interview with the Today Show. Her viewpoints towards beef production are unfortunate and a bit disturbing. Melissa, your comments are well-said.

The beef checkoff program monitors media events on a daily basis that are potentially damaging to the industry. This interview is an example and was monitored by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the beef checkoff program, when it originally aired in January. In this case NCBA did not provide an official industry response to NBC. It was concluded that Ms. Somers' comments/data are not backed by science and that a response could have created additional unwanted media attention to the topic. Some individual producers expressed their concerns directly to NBC.

I've attached a document titled Antibiotic Use in Cattle Production. This document explains approval process and safeguard measures that are in place to protect the food supply. In short, antibiotics are heavily regulated and closely monitored by government agencies for the protection of the health and well-being of both animals and humans.

This document and others are available on the Internet at For information about how beef fits into a healthy diet visit

If you have additional questions or need additional information regarding beef production and beef nutritional values do not hesitate to contact the Kansas Beef Council, If you'd like training on how to become and advocate for the beef industry visit the Masters of Beef Advocacy program websiste at Your interest in advocating for agriculture is appreciated!

Best regards,

Stephen Russell

Director of Industry Relations
Kansas Beef Council

Monday, February 21, 2011

To keep, or cull: that is the question

This post was written by Adam

The winter months on our farm are filled with many things. Doing cattle chores, having baby calves, caring for those calves, rolling out hay for them to lie down on; I could go on and on. One thing that is rewarding this time of year is selling our calves from last year. The calves were weaned off their mothers in November and have been getting fed at our house since then. They get corn silage, ground corn, protein, mineral, and all the hay they want. Selling these calves is a big deal; it’s one of the few paychecks we get every year.

There are several good places in our area to market these calves, but knowing which place and at what time to sell the calves is not an easy decision to make. Cattle prices this winter have been at record highs. My dad and I have compared many different sale barn prices and still haven’t decided when or where we are going to sell them. This is just one example of how farming and ranching is a risky business. If you wait too long to sell you could lose a lot of money; sell too early and you could leave a lot of money on the table. This can be a stressful time, but it is one of the many stresses we as farmers deal with.

One thing that is exciting and fun for me during this time of year is choosing heifers from our calf crop that we will retain and breed to make into cows. There are several factors that play into choosing such a heifer. First, in my opinion, you need to look at the calf and see how she is built. Melissa always tells me that structure defines function and this is a fact that can solidify my decision to keep a heifer. The first and most important thing I look at is if the heifer is structurally sound. Structural soundness is essential if the heifer is going to have a long reproductive life. To determine if the heifer is structurally sound I look at her legs. A heifer needs to have strong straight legs. The legs should be squarely placed on the corners of the body with the weight evenly distributed. The heifer should also be able to move without any evidence of unsound feet or legs. If the heifer passes this test the next set of questions I ask myself are, "Is she deep bodied? Does she carry herself well? Does she have a nice, small, feminine shaped head?" Next I reflect on looking into her genetic history. I ask myself, “What is her mother like? Does she have a good calving history? Is she a good mother? Does she produce enough milk and raise a good calf?” Then I take the heifer's temperament into consideration. I look at her personality to determine if she is calm and easy going. This is an important deciding factor because the last thing I need in my cattle herd is a cow that is stubborn or difficult to deal with. The last major thing my dad and I look at when selecting a heifer to keep is the bull that sired the calf. For the most part, I feel comfortable keeping heifers out of the bulls my dad and I have due to their genetic makeup. I purchase bulls that have a history of making females that have good udders, good milk supply and good mothering ability. However, my dad has a couple of bulls that just put pounds on the calves. They are used strictly for making calves that grow and put on weight, not for keeping females. All of these things are taken into consideration when my dad and Melissa and I choose heifers to keep to make into cows.

For me, after looking at the structural soundness of the calf, the thing I look at the most is the calf’s mother. We have kept back heifers for at least 10 years, and I know every cow in the heard front to back. There are cows, that if they have a heifer, right then and there I know we will be keeping it because of the history of that cow. Then if that heifer goes on and produces a heifer we will be keeping it, and so on. My dad and I have so many cows that have daughters and granddaughters in our herd. It’s good to keep using what works, as in so many other things, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Farming and ranching is an occupation of constant improvement of the operation. As a producer, I am always looking for ways to improve the herd to make a better product for the consumer. Raising cattle is an in-depth process, one that requires a lot of time spent looking at genetics, and evaluating the desirable traits we want in the herd. To keep or cull a heifer is not a question that can be answered right away; it is a process. Choosing to keep a heifer takes time. It requires a thorough evaluation of all the factors involved in selecting the traits and characteristics desired for the herd. It is not easy to cull out the heifers I don’t want, but I have to keep the end goal in mind; the overall enhancement of the herd.


Corn silage- Fodder prepared by storing and fermenting green forage in a silo. Corn silage is a popular forage for cattle because it is high in energy and digestibility.

Cull- To remove rejected members from the herd

Heifer- refers to a young cow before she has had a calf

Sire- Male parent of an animal.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mr. Pharmacy

A few weeks ago the UMKC School of Pharmacy held their annual Mr. Pharmacy Contest. This event highlighted the talent of the male pharmacy students while also raising money for The Horizon Academy; an organization in Kansas City that serves children with learning disabilities. The contestants were nominated to compete in the event by their class or by an organization they are involved with. Each contestant was judged on the following three categories: white coat wear, pharmacy talent, and a question and answer session.

At the conclusion of the contest the winners were announced. The second place winner was Patrick Shaw; he represented the class of 2015. For his talent he performed a Cooking with Emeril segment on how to make Magic Mouthwash. The runner-up winner was Jesse Mertens; he represented the class of 2012. His talent was titled, “The Pharmacy Flirt.” In his performance he showcased his tango and salsa dance moves.

And now if I could have a drum roll please………

The winner of the 2011 Mr. Pharmacy Contest was Kyle Bliss!! Kyle represented my pharmacy class (2014). He played his guitar and sang a song titled “You Can Find it at Your Local Pharmacy.”

Congratulations on a job well done Kyle! Enjoy your reign as Mr. Pharmacy!

All the participants did an amazing job with each portion of the contest! This was a fun event to attend, and I will be back next year to see who will be crowned Mr. Pharmacy 2012.

To see Kyle performing his talent click on this link.

All of the contestants awaiting the results.

Kyle was crowned the winner!

Group picture with Mr. Pharmacy.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Response to the Oprah Show on February 1, 2011

On February 1st, Oprah aired a show titled The Harpo Vegan Challenge. The show challenged 378 members of the Harpo staff to try a vegan diet for a week. Guests on the show included Michael Pollan, the author The Omnivore’s Dilema: A Natural History of Four Meals, and Kathy Freston, a self-proclaimed vegan expert. The show also highlighted a Cargill meat processing plant and a feedlot manager.

The overall consensus Adam and I had after the show was that it was a step in the right direction to showcase the transparency of production agriculture and the food production process. However, Adam and I would have liked for the Cargill representative, and the feedlot producer to have had more airtime to continue to tell the story of where our food comes from.

I would like to commend Cargill for opening up their doors to the cameras. The American public was allowed access to the processing plant to see where their food comes from and how it gets to their table. The Cargill representative did a great job of explaining the process and describing how the animals are kept calm and treated with respect. Millions of people saw this show and as a beef producer I hope seeing this process made people think about how the food they purchase in the grocery store makes it to the shelves. I also hope it starts a conversation about the topic of production agriculture. It is our desire for people to become more interested in learning about the steps involved in getting food to their table.

The statements from the show I want to focus my attention on are Michael Pollan’s comment about there being a renaissance in small-scale animal farming; animals are now being raised in a way that he can feel good about. As well as Kathy Freston’s statement about the reason she does not eat meat is due to the fact that she exhibits kindness, compassion, empathy, and mercy for the animal.

Mr. Pollan I feel it is my obligation to correct you about your statement. You see a renaissance is not taking place in production agriculture on the farms and ranches of today. I can assure you with 100% confidence that taking care of the animal in a decent and humane way has always been the number one priority on a farm or a ranch. I invite you and Ms. Preston to come out to visit our farm, especially on a day like today when we have just been hit by the worst snowstorm in 50 years. The weatherman has been saying all day, “If you can avoid going outside please do so. The conditions are treacherous out there.” There is a foot-and-a-half of snow on the ground, the temperature is 4°F and by the time you factor in the wind-chill it feels like -17°F. Even in theses conditions I can assure the two of you the cattle raised here are being taken care of in a way you can feel good about. I can attest to and provide several examples of how a producer puts the animal above other commitments and priorities. As well as how they sacrifice their health, sleep, safety, time away from their families and how they exhibit compassion for the animal.

Example 1:

My husband, my dad, my father-in-law, several of my uncles, and friends have been outside all day battling the elements in order to take care of their cattle. They leave the warmth and comfort of their homes to brave the outside conditions before the sun comes up, and often return after the sun goes down. They feed the cattle and ensure the water source has not frozen over during the night. They roll out large bales of hay on top of the snow so the animals have a warm and dry place to lie down. The cows are continually checked to see if one is getting close to having a calf. If the signs are right and the cow or heifer is close, it is put in the barn so it has a warm place to deliver the calf. Then my husband and other producers spend hours outside to ensure a calf is born without complications. After the calf is born they use towels to assist the heifer in drying the calf off and heat lamps to keep the calf warm. These farmers and ranchers continue to stay out in the harsh conditions after the birth of the calf to make sure it gets up, walks around and nurses. Then as if that is not enough, they get up several times during the night to check on the cattle to make sure complications are not arising with the labor and delivery process.

Example 2:

A farmer in our community went to the pasture last night to check on the cows to make sure all of them were doing okay. While doing this the wind blew the snow into such a big snowdrift that he could not make it home. He had to sleep in his truck until the next morning when he was finally able to make it home at 7AM.

Example 3:

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be in a dear friend’s wedding. I was looking forward to going with my husband, enjoying the beautiful wedding ceremony and dancing the night away with him by my side. A few days before the big day Adam informed me I would be going solo. It is calving season and that means the heifers take priority over everything else. While I was at the wedding Adam was continually checking on the heifers to guarantee they were not struggling to deliver a calf.

I can continue to list off examples, but I’m confident you are comprehending the overall theme I am presenting. Farmers and ranchers take care of their animals and this is not a new-found convention, renaissance, or way of thinking. It has always been done this way, and will continue to be how we operate. I will once again extend my invitation to the two of you to visit our farm. Then you will be able to witness firsthand the selfless acts of kindness, compassion, empathy, and mercy we exhibit for our animals on a daily basis. If you do decide to take me up on my offer I would recommend investing in a pair of coveralls, a Carhartt coat and a good pair of snow boots. The cold weather and snow will be here for a few more weeks.

This picture and the one at the top of the post depict
the outdoor conditions on February 1, 2011.

This calf was born a few minutes prior to this picture
being taken. As you can see, the heifer and calf are in
the barn with a bed of straw. The heifer will lick the calf dry,
then if needed Adam will use a towel to ensure the calf is
completely dry.

A heifer and her calf that is a few days old. Adam and his dad have rolled out large hay bales on top of the snow so the cattle have a warm and dry place to lie down. You can see the large round bales in the background. These were put here prior to the storm to create a windbreak for the cattle. These bales block the north wind to create a warmer place for the cattle to stand.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Incorporating Agriculture in to our Wedding

Adam and I wanted to do something unique that would allow us to show off our agriculture backgrounds during our wedding. We were thinking about this a few months before the big day, and Adam had the idea for us to ride away from the church in the Case IH Quadtrac tractor. I thought about it for a little bit. I liked the idea, although I didn't know how I was going to hoist myself up a seven-foot ladder to climb into the cab of a giant tractor while wearing a huge wedding dress and heels.

The idea grew on me as we got closer to the wedding. I agreed to the proposition and decided it would be the perfect way to celebrate the union of our farm families. Then I thought, why do we get to be the only ones who ride away in a tractor? Why can't each bridesmaid and groomsman drive off in a tractor too? Adam thought this was an awesome idea and was all for it.

A few days before the wedding Adam, his dad, and Adam’s cousin, Shawn, washed and waxed all the tractors. This was quite a chore considering how big and how dirty some of the tractors were! The guys got all six of the red tractors looking their best for the big day. Adam’s sisters made a "Just Married" sign and attached it to the rear window of the Quadtrac.

On the day of the wedding, the tractors were parked near the church in a semi-circle. The wedding party, and the fathers of the bride and groom took pictures with the tractors before the ceremony. During the ceremony, Adam and I recited our vows, kissed, and the priest pronounced us Mr. and Mrs. Navinskey!

While all this was taking place, a few farmers from the community brought the tractors over to the church. The farmers left the tractors running for the wedding party to make their getaway. The church doors opened as the guests were leaving, and in the driveway sat six Case IH tractors. They were so surprised to see this display of farm equipment! The bridesmaids and groomsmen climbed into their respective tractors, and we made our way down the road. Now that’s what I call making an exit!

The girls showing off their boots.

The bride and groom.

The guys in the soybean field Adam planted.

The bride and groom with their dads.

The wedding party

The wedding party with all the tractors.
The church where we were married is in the background.

The tractor models are International Harvester 350.
Our neighbors had this on display for us in their yard.
It was so thoughtful and awesome!
Photos courtesy of Erica May Photography
If you'd like to see more photos of our wedding visit Erica's blog.

The Pharms

Our Farm

The farm we live on was purchased, on February 26, 2009, at an auction. The location and setup is ideal for Adam and the farming operation. We are in close proximity to Adam’s grandparent’s and parent’s homes. This cuts down on the driving time when equipment or livestock has to be moved. The farm has 140 acres, 120 of those acres are able to be used to plant crops. On the property there are three Harvestore Silos and an elevator that is set north of the house. The west one is 20X50, the next one is 20X60, and the east one is 25X80. There is an elevator in the middle of the Harvestores that also has silos inside of it. There are several buildings located on the farm to store equipment and hay. Along the road there is 450 feet of concrete bunk line, and five or six acres of lot space which leaves room for a lot of cattle.

The two-story farmhouse we call home.

The elevator with the three Harvestore Silos

This silo used to have the previous owner's name on it.
Adam had a sticker made with our name, and used a
cherry picker to put up the new sign. It is great to finally have
our name up there!

Looking east, down the fence line at the cattle lots.

This is the view looking west, the horizon line is the end
of our property. This is the first crop Adam planted on our farm
in the spring of 2009. You can see the emerging corn plants in the field.

Looking south, down the road to the pond.

One of the barns on the farm.

Looking south, this is the 450 feet of
bunk line used to feed the calves.

Pharmacy School
I attend pharmacy school at the University of Missouri Kansas City. The building where I attend class is named The New Health Sciences Building; it houses both the pharmacy and nursing programs. The building was completed in the fall of 2007 and has technology to enable the lectures we have in Kansas City to be broadcast in real-time to the satellite students in Columbia, Missouri. Each pharmacy class admits 107 students at the KC campus and 27 students at the satellite campus. The school is located on Hospital Hill. The location of the NHSB is within walking distance of the UMKC Medical and Dental Schools. Truman Medical Center and Children’s Mercy are very close as well. The close proximity of the school to these hospitals is ideal for students. It enables them to apply the knowledge they have learned in the classroom to real situations and patients without traveling long distances to do so.

The New Health Sciences Building
Pictures courtesy of

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