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Farmers and Ranchers Care About Animal Welfare

February 24, 2010

Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau

Alan Kessler (center) chats with other ranchers during an Arizona Farm Bureau gathering. Kessler says Arizona ranchers wouldn’t even be in business if they didn’t care about their animals.

Love of the rural lifestyle, land and animals comes across clearly if you hang out long enough with Alan and Diana Kessler. Since 1981 the husband and wife team have managed the Orme Ranch, about six miles north of Cordes Junction. The ranch was founded in 1929 when Charles and Minna Orme left their Phoenix-based dairy farm and purchased what was then the Quarter Circle V Bar Ranch.

Today, the Orme Ranch stretches across 26,000 acres, which includes a forest permit on the Prescott National Forest, a state trust grazing lease and private property. The ranch has 120 acres of irrigated land where they produce 30 acres of bluegrass sod, permanent pasture to finish the animals on for direct sales of natural beef, and K&B Farms grows fresh vegetables on 15 acres using drip irrigation for sale in their farm stand at I-17. The Kesslers also manage the Ranch’s cow-calf operation, selling calves in the fall and spring and pasture others’ cattle when conditions are good.

The Kessler’s philosophy of ranching follows the Bud Williams’ method of livestock handling, which emphasizes slow, quiet handling to reduce the animal’s or herd’s stress caused by fear. Actually, slower is faster and more efficient.

“We wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t have a love for animals,” says Alan also clarifying that he’s not an animal lover in the mode of today’s animal activists. “Using any good animal handling method is the right way economically and humanely to manage your herds; we often err on the side of humanely. We feel an obligation to take care of them. It’s not just about using a specialized method like the Bud Williams method. We might have a downer cow on our front lawn that we’ll take daily care of for three weeks to nurse back to health.”

Today, Arizona ranchers employ animal-handling methods or similar strategies that are beneficial for the animals and economically sound for the operation. Besides the health and behavior benefits to the animals, low-stress methods allow the animals to retain an average 2 percent more weight, which pays off when they are sold.

Industry Practices Keep Driving Efforts for Improved Care

Arizona farmers and ranchers attend workshops, read literature and seek veterinary advice to ensure the wellbeing and comfort of their animals. Agricultural organizations work with producers to continually provide professional development in this area.

Any regulations regarding animal production should be based on peer-reviewed scientific research that evaluates economic feasibility. Unfortunately, groups that oppose modern livestock production practices are notorious for employing emotional appeals to push animal welfare-related bills. Often their ultimate goal isn’t evident when campaigning for these bills. The Kesslers and other ranchers highlight that by going to animal activist web sites you’ll discover that the real aim is to eliminate meat protein from the American diet.

By raising healthy animals, Arizona farmers and ranchers produce healthy food for American families and others around the world. Unnecessary regulation – based on emotion instead of science – makes food production less efficient, ultimately leading to higher food prices for consumers. Adding unnecessary costs to U.S. production also will increase the amount of food imported from other countries that often have an inferior record on food safety and animal well-being.

As consumers and voters, it’s important to distinguish the real-life accounts of farmers and ranchers, who take great care in providing for their livestock, from the emotional appeals of people not actively involved in animal care. Look for information provided by animal scientists and veterinarians. Most importantly, listen to producers’ stories. They’re the ones closest to the farm or ranch.

For the Kesslers it’s a way of life. “I really enjoy working with cattle,” explains Alan. “I knew as early as high school I was going to be in agriculture.”

Editor’s Note: Orme Ranch and K&B Farms are on www.fillyourplate.org

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Arizona Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving and improving the Agriculture industry through member involvement in education, political activities, programs and services.

For more information contact Julie Murphree at   (480) 635-3607 or go to http://www.azfb.org.

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