Agriculture: there’s a lot to it! There’s so much information and knowledge to be had about the industry that it’s quite impossible for anyone to grasp it, and you may even think that you don’t need to know much about agriculture to work in it. Sure…but at the risk of embarrassing yourself at a networking event or when discussing something about the industry with a coworker, there are some things that should just be common knowledge. AgCareers.com intern Danielle Tucker gathered up these 20 facts that you should know about agriculture if you plan to work in the industry. And if you already know them, enlighten your friends with this crash course in Ag 101!
Ag 101: Things You Should Just Know if You Work in Agriculture
1. Most corn in the field, known as field corn (or dent corn), is meant for livestock, ethanol production, and other manufactured goods. Sweet corn is the corn that you eat but makes up less than 1% of all the corn grown in the U.S. each year. (Source)
2. Pigs can get sunburned just like humans. (Source)
3. Free range means that chickens have (and this may be limited) access to outdoor spaces. Cage-free means they are not kept in cages but are not required to have outdoor access. (Source)
4. A withdrawal period/time is the time it takes antibiotics or another substance to sufficiently clear the animal’s system before harvest to ensure safe meat, milk, and eggs. (Source)
5. Sheep are used for both meat and wool. So yes, sheep are a meat animal! The terms lamb versus mutton are used to determine the age/meat quality of the sheep. Lamb is typically under 1 year of age where mutton is around 3 years of age. Also worthy of noting, a ewe is a female sheep while a ram is a male; a castrated male (bred for their meat) is a wether. (Source)
6. Cattle are different colors because of genetics and their breeds (there are over 800 breeds of cattle worldwide). (Source)
7. On that note, if you’re ever in a situation where you might need to know the difference between dairy and beef cattle, know your breeds (there are only 6 main breeds that are commercially utilized for dairy), and know your rear ends! Beef cattle have very rounded, stocky behinds due to their muscle whereas dairy cattle have leaner, bonier behinds and tend to be taller. (Source)
8. It takes about 1.8 acres to feed a cow-calf pair for a year. Cattle eat a lot! (Source)
9. Colostrum is an animal’s mother’s first milk that benefits the offspring’s immunity with antibodies. (Source)
10. Cow, Heifer, Calf, or Steer?! A heifer is a female bovine that has not calved yet. A cow is a female bovine that has had a calf; they are often raised as milk cows. Steers, which are castrated males, are often used for beef production. Bulls are fertile male bovines typically raised to impregnate cows. (Source)
11. Over 97% of farms are family-owned and run, so small farms are the backbone of the agricultural industry. Factory farms are not nearly as prevalent as the media has made them out to be. (Source)
12. Contrary to popular belief, not all farmers are rich. It takes HUGE overhead costs to run a farm. Most are actually in debt for a good portion of their lives and careers. (Source)
13. An important Ag 101 for on-site farm workers: Manure pits are extremely dangerous, so avoid entering or falling into an enclosed pit or manure storage container. (Source)
14. Animals can have Cesarean Sections just like humans. Farmers care very much about the lives and well-being of both the mother animal and offspring. (Source)
15. Farm sizes have increased while total number of farms have decreased. (Source)
16. A combine is a large harvesting machine used to harvest crops. A tractor is an agricultural machine utilized to pull different equipment such as a planter, a plow, a cultivator, a baler, a spreader, or other various implements. Learn more about agricultural implements from this source.
17. Goats are used for both milk and meat just like cattle. Baby goats are called kids. (Source)
18. Livestock can be killed or hurt by predators like coyotes or, in more northern American settings, mountain lions and bears. Farmers will often go to great lengths to protect their livestock. (Source)
19. You don’t need a rooster for your hen to lay eggs. (Source)
20. Both male and female cattle can grow horns. (Source)
Want more Ag 101?Check out e-books available from the National Agricultural Institute if you’re looking for more in-depth information about agriculture. Or, if you’re interested in learning more about agricultural careers to learn what knowledge to hone in on, check out the AgCareers.com Career Profiles.