Labor Day Roundup: Dairy Robots

Rural doctors story is misleading • Dairy farms welcome robots • Fact checking the Nebraska Senate race • Monarch migration to be disappointing

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Several people over the weekend sent me a misleading story from the Associated Press about family practice doctors in rural America — or, rather, the lack of them.

The AP reports that Boomers retiring to rural areas will have a hard time finding a family doc willing to take Medicare. 

The facts of the story, however, don’t back up the headline. It turns out that 22.5 percent of primary care docs practice in rural areas, which “roughly matches the 24 percent of Medicare patients living there, said Dr. Roland Goertz, chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians board.”

In other words, there isn’t a shortage of family practice doctors in rural areas. There is a shortage everywhere.

Ag Yuks From Sen. Roberts — DTN writer Jerry Hagstrom heard Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts speaking to the Great American Farm Lunch at the Republican convention last week. And Roberts did a comedy bit on what agriculture could expect from a second term of President Obama. Roberts did it as a top ten list.

It was stuff such as, No. 5: Schools will observe meatless Mondays, followed by organic Tuesday, vegan Wednesday, non-dairy Thursday and French fry-free Friday. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, asparagus are in, and Belgian endives are back.

No. 9: Resurrect EPA’s plans to regulate spilled milk. 

No. 3: Redefine farm ponds, horse tanks and backyard swimming pools as navigable waters.

No. 1: Under the banner of “Know your farmer, know your food,” require all producers to wear name tags at all times.

Go here for the full list of Sen. Roberts’ funnies. 

Buffalo, Skin and Bones — Tim Heffernan writes about the end of the buffalo. First hunters took their skin, then homesteaders collected their bones for, among other products, fertilizer. 

“The prairies of the Northwest are covered with the bleached bones of the countless dead,” a New York Times (NYT) correspondent wrote in December 1884, “and here commerce steps in again to ask for something else: the very last remnant there is left of an annihilated race.”

Hatfield-McCoy Car Wash — Pikeville, Kentucky, attorney Larry Webster writes that when he can find a “Hatfield-McCoy” car wash next to the Staples store, things will have changed in Appalachian coal country. For example, says the Republican writer:

Back when Franklin Roosevelt and John L. was president, miners actually got on their own side and gained some ground against the large corporations which controlled the mineral wealth of the mountains.

Now a union is as hard to find at a coal mine as a hunk of bologna. The sons and daughters of those union miners now rally in favor of the bosses. The United Mine Workers Association always supported the Democrat. The back windows of coal miner pickup trucks now depict the president being urinated on.

Coal miners now support candidates who want the mines to be more dangerous. Any politician who wants mine safety is said to have joined the “war on coal.” Everybody knows that it is President Barack Obama’s fault that coal is running out, what is left is getting more expensive to mine, and they are giving away natural gas. Energy production has exploded under the Democrat, but that is a secret. 

More Babies on Drugs — The Louisville newspaper finds that the yearly number of drug addicted newborns has risen from 29 in 2000 to 730 in 2011, a 2,400 percent increase.  One day last month, half the babies at the neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital in Louisville were suffering from drug withdrawal. 

The addiction comes from prescription drugs. 

Sagebrush Rebellion Ruling — A three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Wayne Hage, the Nevada rancher who took on the federal government over grazing rights. 

A lower court had ruled in favor of Hage, saying the federal government had violated the rancher’s rights. 

Nebraska Fact Check — The Omaha newspaper fact checks the debate between Nebraska U.S. Senate candidates Deb Fischer and Bob Kerrey. 

Let Burn Policy Working — Rocky Barker at the Idaho Statesman reports that fires allowed to burn in the state over the past 25 years “have restored much of the landscape to its condition during the early 1900s, before the federal government launched a policy of putting out all forest fires….” 

The smaller fires burned away fuel gradually, reducing the size of new fires. But as the climate changes, the new growth in the forests is different, Barker reports:

For example, places such as the hills around Lowman may not grow back into tall ponderosa pine forests. Instead, those trees may be replaced by pinion pine or juniper that thrive in warmer, drier climates, said Jen Pierce, associate professor of geosciences at Boise State University. “Or perhaps those burn areas will be dominated by range lands instead of forests.

“We really have seen a regime change in fire in the western United States since the late 1980s,” Pierce said.

Disappointing Monarchs — This fall’s Monarch butterfly migration is expected to be a disappointment, reports the Kansas City Star

“People aren’t seeing what they should be seeing for migrations,” said Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch, a conservation group based in Lawrence. “It’s going to be much lower this year than last year, and that was a low year.”

There are simply fewer butterflies, and that’s because of a loss of the places where monarchs live. “The population is probably only 50 percent of the long-term average,” Taylor said. “There’s no question the monarch population is going down. It’s the same old story we hear over and over — loss of habitat.” As the nature of agriculture changes, the monarchs are losing out.

Robot Milkers — Robots are taking over work on dairy farms, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 

The robots not only milk the cows, but they also feed ’em. The paper says that about 50 dairy farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin have gotten very robotic. Daniela Hernandez reports that the machinery has all kinds of benefits, including keeping kids on the farm:

Many dairy kids leave the farm because they see their parents slave away in milking parlors twice a day, seven days a week, with never a vacation or even a break for the children’s baseball games. With robots, a mechanical arm handles the milking and each cow chooses its own routine, leaving farmers with more time for family and flexibility for other chores.

“Younger kids like technology. … [Robots] are keeping the new generation on the farm,” said Marcia Endres, a University of Minnesota Extension dairy scientist.

By reducing labor costs and increasing productivity, robots can also help small family farms compete with big dairy operations springing up in California and other states.

But the machines don’t come cheap. Each can cost between $150,000 and $200,000 — a significant investment for small farmers, considering that the price of milk has fallen about 20 percent in the last year.

 

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