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What do you see when you drive by livestock in a field?
COLUMBUS, Ohio ó Iíd like to pose a simple question that doesnít necessarily have a simple answer: When youíre driving through the countryside, and you pass a field where cattle or sheep are grazing, what thoughts cross your mind?

Do you look at them and think of all that beef on the hoof or a wool sweater? Or when you pass by a hog farm, do you wonder whatís for dinner?

Or do you look at the livestock and recognize them for what they are: The biggest consumers of soybean meal and corn in Ohio, as well as an invaluable asset in human medical treatments and in our everyday lives, providing us with materials that make our lives easier and safer?

Thatís right. 94 percent of the 2.8 million tons of soybean meal produced in Ohio is consumed by our livestock industry. The poultry industry is also a big consumer of Ohio corn and accounts for 35 percent of corn used for livestock feed annually. But these are only a couple of the statistics to consider when understanding the vital role livestock and poultry production plays in the Buckeye Stateís economy.

For example, Ohioís livestock, dairy and poultry farmers help generate more than $229 million in tax revenues each year. This is revenue that not only stays in our communities, but goes to work for us by helping us build and maintain schools, hospitals, libraries and additional public services that benefit the community.

The impact goes beyond tax revenues, though; Ohioís livestock and poultry farmers account for more than 47,000 jobs across the state, from the production side of the industry to the processing side. In total, the value of Ohioís livestock industry is worth an estimated $8.13 billion, and that could very well be a conservative estimate at that.

While farmers play such a significant role in our stateís economy, itís also important to remember that with such impact comes great responsibility. The size of a farm doesnít matter, but the level of responsibility does.

Farmers are true stewards of the land, and proper management and accordance with rules for running a farming operation are simply part of the job. We all have to remember we rely on each other in this world, and being a good neighbor is part of the equation. Just as livestock and poultry production plays such a significant role in our stateís economy, itís also important to remember the medical and social benefits that animal agriculture brings to us.

Rapidly advancing science and technology are continually adding to the list of life supporting and saving products derived from cattle, sheep, swine and poultry.

Most of us canít get our day started without some form of caffeine. Likewise, we probably couldnít get up and dressed for work in the morning without utilizing lanolin in some form.

Thanks to medical research involving chickens more than 50 years ago, the therapeutic use of streptomycin Ė the first antibiotic effective in treating tuberculosis, pneumonia, spinal meningitis and typhoid fever Ė was developed.

Probably the best known contribution comes from the pancreas of cattle and hogs. Insulin derived from cattle pancreas is used to treat diabetics and glucagon helps counteract insulin shock.

Extracts from the swine pancreas are also a source of insulin. Even with synthetic insulin, an estimated five percent of all diabetics are allergic to all but insulin from hogs.

So the next time you pass by a livestock or poultry farm, just remember that itís responsible for more than just a healthy and inexpensive meal. Itís also the market for local grain farmers, a source of funding for community development and jobs for thousands of Ohioans.

Perhaps even more importantly, it is the source of a product that not only sustains life, but also saves lives. And thatís priceless.

-David White
Ohio Livestock Coalition

This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.