To Feedlot to Feed Alot, or Not to Feedlot At All? That Is My Question.

{5 min read}
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I feel like the man who was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. To the man who asked how he liked it he said: “If it wasn’t for the honour of the thing, I’d rather walk. ~Abraham Lincoln’s response to a friend who asked him how he liked being President.

 

How much food could a feedlot feed if a feedlot could feed food? ~ Jill Riley

It was the summer of my junior year of High School – 1983, when my grandfather called me into the dining room of our ranch-style house and pointed to several green ledger books which were opened and spread out across the table for eight. I’d never seen a green ledger book in my life.  “Start here and look at these.” he instructed. “What do you see?”

Numbers is what I saw and I really hated numbers. But, I knew this exercise wasn’t going to end until I cooperated in the search for the point he was determined to make. I saw numbers – numbers with dollar signs on the front end of them. Then I saw it. These numbers were declining over time, drastically and fast. My grandfather was a cattleman and wheat farmer. “This is what happens when democrats are no longer in the White House.” he said as he pointed his weathered and aging index finger toward the ’81, ’82 and ’83 ledgers. He was determined to sear this – like a brand, onto my brain, and it worked. In my mind, farming was food, and it was more than alarming to me that he suddenly couldn’t afford to do it anymore.

Of all the grandchildren, why he had called me in to see this was a mystery to me back then. I was terrible at math and couldn’t care less about raising cattle and farming. I now believe my grandfather, Joe Davidson “Pike” Cluck, was an extremely intuitive, deeply intelligent, and in some cases, to his own detriment, stubborn man.

It has taken a while but I finally came to believe that what he wanted was for me to tell his story through songwriting someday, and that is just what I’ve done on my upcoming album, “Common Ground” – slotted to be released late fall, 2017. He saw that I was very serious about songwriting as a teen and he even paid for my first recording sessions.

Pike’s story differed from his five brothers. He was the only one of the hugely successful brothers that stood adamantly opposed to the idea of feedlots.

As a matter of fact, his brothers were instrumental in introducing and launching feedlots in our region of the great state of Texas. But, as I could see by the glaring green ledgers, he was also the only one of the bunch about to go belly up.

I was around cattle all of my life – or, I should say they were around me – like literally all around me. I drove through them on the way to school, walked through them on the way to the barn, rode through them on the way to my favorite set of canyons.

Still, I’ve never once raised even a single cow myself.

So, how could I possibly know who was right and who was wrong in that debate? I understand that the claim was, and still is, that feedlots are necessary and beneficial in our efforts to feed the ever increasingly, over-populated world we live in.

But, knowing this about my grandfather – that he would stand so strongly opposed, even unto bankruptcy and near financial ruin, coupled with a little cancer scare of my own in 1999, a journey to find the truth about this has beckoned me for years and this blog so begins that journey.

This question has actually opened a floodgate of other related questions. I have much to say – or ask, on this matter and the related topics. I am clearly NOT the expert! I am the student and I more than welcome the voices of other students and especially experts. My commitment to you is to do my best on this little adventure to stay unbiased, do my homework, get educated, and share with the world what I learn along the way.

Along with the release of the Common Ground album, I am currently scheduling live concerts and public speaking engagements. I am publishing this Common Ground Album Blog, as well as the Common Ground Album podcast, and eventually, with the right support, I plan to launch a Common Ground Magazine and Common Ground TV. Through these various avenues, I am platforming the question, “Are we doing the right thing the right way in food production, food distribution, and water stewardship?”

In this first blog I’m simply asking the question:

Are we doing the right thing the right way … in how we raise cattle in America.

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