Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Little Spring Cleaning Never Hurt Anyone

When Spring came around my mom always had a chore list filled with cleaning tasks that needed to be done around the house. Chores such as washing the mini blinds, windows, cleaning out the medicine cabinet, dusting every surface in the house, and moving furniture in order to clean behind it. My mom always told us, "A little spring cleaning never hurt anyone," and this is so true.

My siblings and I didn't realize it at the time, but completing these yearly tasks was beneficial to our health. All the dusting we did decreased the amount of allergens in the house, which reduced our allergy symptoms in the spring. Cleaning out the medicine cabinet ensured we were not taking expired medications when one of us had a headache or needed something to take for sinus congestion. Today, however, cleaning out the medicine cabinet needs to be done for an entirely different reason in addition to the one my mom had ten years ago. The saying, "A little spring cleaning never hurt anyone," couldn't ring more true when it comes to properly disposing of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

You see, there is a an increasing problem in this country, and it is the abuse of prescription medications. The medications in your home may be falling into the wrong hands and used for purposes other than what was indicated. An article in the Kansas City Star discussed this topic and how it is becoming the fastest growing problem in America. To read the entire article click here. It was reported that drug overdoses are now the second most common cause of accidental death in the nation, killing more than gunshot wounds and behind only to traffic accidents. So what can you do to help combat this issue? The answer is simple; do a little spring cleaning.

As you set out to do those once-a-year cleaning chores, don't overlook your medicine cabinet. Take some time to review the medications in your home and properly dispose of them to ensure your family, your community members and your environment are kept safe by not allowing prescription medications to reach an end destination that could elicit harm.

Ways to properly dispose of your medications:

Saturday, April 30th, a national prescription take back day will be held. There will be over 5,000 sites across the nation available for you to take your unwanted and expired medications to. For more information and a site near you click here. Taking medications to one of these locations will allow you to feel confident in knowing the drugs were disposed of properly, safely, and did not reach the wrong hands and cause someone harm.

If you are not able to make it to one of these take back days you have additional options for disposing of medicaitons.

Certain local pharmacies have envelopes available for purchase. The medications are placed in the envelope, sealed and mailed to a company that incinerates or properly disposes of the drugs.

Another option available is disposing of your medications at home. This can be done by placing the contents of the bottles in a plastic container or sealable plastic bag. The medications should be crushed and then water is added to the tablets and capsules. The next step is to add an undesirable substance to the mixture to make the contents unattractive to someone who may find the medications in the trash. A substance such as coffee grounds or kitty litter is recommended. To learn more about this method of disposal watch the video below.

The piece of information I would like to stress the most when disposing of your medications at home is that MEDICATIONS SHOULD NOT BE FLUSHED DOWN THE TOILET!!! At one time this was common practice, but it is no longer recommended due to the fact that pharmaceuticals in the water supply can have detrimental effects to fish and wildlife populations of our rivers and streams. To learn more about why pharmaceuticals should not be flushed down the toilet visit the Department of Environmental Conservation's website.

When you are crossing off those spring cleaning tasks don't neglect the medicine cabinet, and remember, "A little spring cleaning never hurt anyone."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Crunch Time

The countdown to finals has begun, and a date I'm excited about is quickly approaching. The date is May 3rd. More specifically, May 3rd at 3pm. This is the date and time when freedom begins! I will be done with finals and summer break will officially start! No more days spent secluded in my study cave reviewing biochemistry, or memorizing complex chemical structures. No more nights of 4-5 hours of sleep and ingesting absurd amounts of caffeine throughout the day. I will actually have time to cook instead of heating up a microwavable food for lunch and dinner. The thing I'm most excited about once May 3rd gets here is moving back home for the summer and seeing Adam everyday!

Before all of these glorious things can take place I have to take four final exams, and present our group project for Professional Skills Lab. I have nine days to review an entire semester of Biochemistry, as well as study for three other finals (Pharmacy Physiology, Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutics). Crunch time is here, and I'm hoping I will be able to cram it all in by the time the time of the exam.

I've got to get back to my study cave, wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's All There in Black and White

The concept of branding cattle has been around for hundreds of years. In the days of the Wild West, fences were not as abundant as they are today. Cattle would graze on the open range and it was common for different cattle herds to become mixed with each other. When it was time to round up the cattle, the brand provided a way to separate them and get them back to the rightful owner. In those days, hot branding irons were used to burn the brand into the animal’s hide. Today, a more humane technique of branding is used and this is termed ‘Freeze Branding.’

This past weekend Adam and I took advantage of the wonderful weather by working our yearling heifers and turning them out to the pasture. Part of this process involves putting a permanent identification on the animal. To do this we freeze brand each one with its own number and the year it was first bred. In this case, 2011. Identification of each animal is an important aspect on a farm or ranch; it aids in keeping more accurate cattle records on each animal as far as age, which bull an animal is bred to each year and so on. We put ear tags in each ear, but those can be lost over time; a brand is there forever.

Freeze branding uses cold temperatures to turn off the pigment of the hair. When the hair grows back, usually in about 90 days, it will be white. This provides a nice contrast against the black hair of the animal and a way for us to easily identify a cow from a distance. The entire process of branding is a laborious one. First, the branding irons are placed in a cooler with a dry ice and gasoline mixture. The irons must cool for about 20 minutes in order for the branding process to work. Next, the cattle are put into a squeeze chute. The hair is then clipped off over the rib cage; then rubbing alcohol is applied to the hide to numb the skin. Our personal brand is then held on the animal for approximately one minute to ensure the brand will show up when the hair regrows. The symbol of the brand will be indented on the hide for a few minutes, then it will disappear and you won’t even be able to see it again until the hair regrows. Holding the iron in the same place on the animal can be a challenging process due to the fact that the animal can move around in the chute. In order to produce a satisfactory final product (i.e. a clear brand and not a blurred one) the branding operator must exhibit strength and stamina. He or she must be able to hold the brand in the same place for a minute and be able to move with the animal so the brand does stays in the same place. A minute may not seem like a long time, but when you are putting up to 6 symbols on the animal the time adds up quickly. On this particular day Adam and my cousin, Gavin Swearngin, were responsible for placing the brand on the animal. Gavin’s help was greatly appreciated and it made the process go smoothly due to the fact he has a lot of experience freeze branding cattle from growing up on the Swearngin Angus ranch.

The technique of freeze branding is less stressful on the animal than hot branding. Freeze branding only affects the hair follicle, and the animal only experiences mild muscle soreness once the process is complete. The colder temperature is also safer for the person doing the branding because they don’t have to worry about being burned by a hot iron.

A brand is not just something we put on the animal to say that we own it. The brand is a symbol we, and many other farmers and ranchers, take tremendous pride in. It is our sign to let others know where the cattle came from and it is also a symbol of our hard work and dedication to the beef industry. It also symbolizes the many hours spent caring for the animal and time spent selecting genetics we want to use and exhibit in our herd. On our farm we place the brand over the ribcage, then the numbers are placed below that. We use a numbering system that identifies the cow, such as 3. The year the heifer was bred is placed after that. For example 3-11 tells us the cow is number 3 and that she was bred for the first time in the summer of 2011.

When we were done working the yearling heifers we let them have some time to de-stress before we loaded them in the trailer to take them to the pasture. They are now enjoying the green grass and wide-open spaces of the pasture and will be there until the fall.

To learn some additional information about branding visit Kelsey Pope's blog: Ag on the Forefront.

Clipping the hair over the area where the brand
will be placed

Putting our personal brand on the animal.

The indentation of the brand. This will go away after a
few minutes.

Putting the numbers on the heifer.

Putting the year the heifer was bred on the animal.

The process is now complete. You can see that the
top brand is almost completely gone.

Adam and Gavin working together to put the
brand on the animal.

This is a picture of what the brand will look like once the
hair regrows. This cow was branded in the spring of 2009,
and as you can see the brand is easy to read and the cow can
be identified from a distance.

The heifers enjoying the green grass in the pasture.

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