I had the privilege to be a part of the Farm Families Field Moms Tour for a second time. We were headed for a modern cattle processing facility, Larson Farms, in Maple Park. Our bus soon pulled onto the property, and a handful of friendly people were there to greet us including Mike Martz, a partner in the company. Then began our tour of their property. Mike and his wife Lynn were both very open and knowledgeable about their cattle business. They spoke often about the safety and care that their animals received as well as the environment.
Many topics were discussed including: how their specialized equipment provided a safe way for the cattle to exit the cattle truck and enter their pen, a padded floor their cattle could comfortably stand on, cattle ultrasounds (which I had never heard of before), the corn grown on their property, the use of manure, a fly larvae eating natural pest control, and good stewardship of the land they own.
We had the opportunity to be up close and personal to three of the cattle whose fate was going to be determined through an ultrasound by viewing the amount and type of fat in the muscle tissue. As the technology was being explained step by step, I couldn’t help but focus on the three large cattle in front of me. They were smelly, clumsy, yet strong and interesting animals. I then realized that they had needs similar to my own pet at home, and how time consuming it must be to take care of all of them and to keep them healthy!
The cattle, although close together, seemed happy. Their farm was considered a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) because of the amount of cattle contained in a single space. The cattle’s structure consisted of a roof with exposed sides, a soft floor with a design that manure could be collected and then removed and used for fertilizer. The cattle had enough space to all lie down at once. I witnessed this right before we left the farm.
So, the perception I received on Larson farms was overall positive. I decided that this was not the career path that I personally would like to choose, but it was good to see that the farmers were there because they wanted to be. I also admired the way the farmers were very aware of the needs of their cattle, such as noticing if an animal was ill and then caring for them immediately. The health and safety of each of their cattle was in their best business interest. In the end, the healthy cattle would help bring in a paycheck to feed the farmer’s own families.
A great thank you to all family owned farm business, such as Larson Farms, whose lives are devoted towards their work!
Valerie is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2013 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visits several Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each tour, the Field Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms, including five things they found most interesting. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago moms meet farmers.