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Farm & Ranch

Our Flight to Hartsel



By Ralph Chain

I have known Jake Graham a long time. We bought a herd of Angus cows in Nebraska together and some other registered cows from Alfred Draton in the O’Neill, Nebraska, area. We also partnered on quite a few other cattle.

I knew a fellow named Ray Moore, who had a ranch in Hartsel, Colo. He was a Longhorn breeder, and I got acquainted with him. He wanted us to send some yearling steers out to Hartsel, Colo., to summer. I told Jake about the Colorado deal. Jake was interested in going in partners with us, and we would send some cattle out there to summer. We thought we should go out and look at the grass before we sent any steers there. We decided to fly to Hartsel and look at the pasture.

Jake had a good friend named Charlie Williams in Fairview. Charlie was Jake’s banker, and he flew a lot. He told Jake if he ever needed to go anywhere he knew a good charter service in Oklahoma City that would fly us. We decided to have Charlie contact this flying service in Oklahoma City, and we would fly to Hartsel, Colo. We had to fly into Colorado Springs, Colo.,  the closest airport. Hartsel was just a small place.

The charter service had an Air Commander, which is a twin-engine plane. Jake thought that this was what we would be flying to Colorado Springs in. We met at the Fairview Airport early one morning, and we waited around there for a short while. Soon this little airplane came in, actually, it was a fair-size airplane, but it wasn’t a twin engine: it was a single engine Air Commander. It was a pretty nice airplane. We didn’t have any second thoughts. We got on board. There was a young kid flying it, and come to find out, he had just got out of the Air Force the day before and was used to flying jets. I think this was on a Monday morning, and he had applied for a job flying charter service for this company in Oklahoma City. This was his first job.

Somewhere in western Kansas he got to fooling with the radio. We found out that we didn’t have any radio contact with anybody. We couldn’t talk to anyone at the towers or anywhere, but this kid said, “We’ll be all right.” I said, “How are you going to let them know when we get to Colorado Springs that we want to land?” And he said, “Well, there is a procedure that we can do to let the tower know that we want to come in for a landing.” So, we finally arrived at Colorado Springs and sure enough he flew over the tower and gave some sort of signal, and they gave us the green light to come on in and land.

Our pilot wasn’t used to flying this sort of airplane. I was sitting in the front seat. When we came in, he landed too hard on the nose wheel and the wheel gave way, bending the propeller. It almost came back into the windshield where I was sitting. It liked to scare us to death. Here we sat in the middle of a busy airport with a busted nose wheel and a propeller bent back almost into the windshield. They came out and pulled us off of the runway with a vehicle. I told our pilot that Jake and I will just take a commercial airliner back to Oklahoma City, and somebody can meet us there. The pilot said, “There’s no need.  They’ll have to fly out to pick me up, and you might as well ride back with us. There’s no need spending money for tickets.”

We had kind of mixed emotions on whether we wanted to do that or not. Anyway, he said, “Why don’t you go on out and do what you have to do and call me at the office, and I’ll see what they want to do. I’m sure they’ll send a plane out, and you might as well ride back with us.”

We rented a car and drove to Hartsel, which is probably 50 miles or so, I don’t remember exactly. We got there and looked at the pasture. I called back to the Colorado Springs Airport and got a hold of this kid, our pilot. He said, “They’re going to send a plane out, and they’ll pick us up here at the airport about 3:00 p.m.” We had to hurry to get back. We just knew they were going to send that twin engine Air Commander out to pick us up.

We got back in to Colorado Springs and checked in our car and went into the terminal and waited. He said, “We’ll pick you up in front of the terminal doors there.” We walked up to the terminal and looked outside, down the runway. There was an Air Commander sitting there and Jake said, “There’s the plane we’re going to fly back in, I bet.” And I said, “Well, I hope so.” So we stood there a little bit and looked up and down the runway. Pretty soon here came this little, bitty airplane that looked like a kite. It pulled up right in front of the door and there sat our pilot, the one who had flown us out, and another kid younger than our pilot, flying the plane. They taxied right up there where we were standing and opened the door on their little ole airplane and said, “Well, are you ready?”

Jake and I kind of looked astonished. I didn’t know how in the world all four of us were going to get in that little airplane. We stammered and stuttered around there, and Jake or I said, “Well, are you sure we can all ride back in that little ole airplane?” And this kid said, “Oh yes, we’ve got plenty of room.” Well, Jake was a big guy. He probably weighed 260 pounds, and he had a big ole sheep-lined coat on. And I was pretty well dressed, as it was cold. They said, “Get in.” So there was nothing we could do but get in. They had taxied right up where we were standing, and we could hardly say we weren’t going to go. We managed to get in.

Jake got in, and he took off his big coat. I got in and sat on his lap, almost. We were crumpled up in this little Drummond Airplane. It must have been the littlest airplane they ever made. Jake still had mixed emotions and said, “Are you sure this is all right?” This kid said, “Yes, we’re all right.” We all got in this thing, and we taxied way down to the north end of the runway. We took off, but we could not get that thing off of the ground. Every time the pilot tried to get some altitude, a beeper would go off. Finally, Jake said, “Why don’t you turn around and we’ll get off.” This kid said, “No, if we can get some altitude, we’ll be okay.” We finally got enough altitude to get over the fence posts. I don’t know how far we flew at this low level, just missing the tops of the fences.

Here we were in Colorado Springs, pretty open country, and why these kids did this I’ll never know. But anyway, we finally got into the air and we were flying into the southeast. I don’t think we ever had a southeast wind before, but that day, after we flew and finally got some altitude, we were flying right into the southeast wind. I think we left Colorado Springs about 3:00, I’m not for certain. We flew and we flew and we flew. I think we could have walked faster than we were going, because here we were overloaded and flying into the wind. About 6:00 p.m. we went over Two-Buttes, Colo. It took us about two hours to get there. We could have driven in a car there faster.

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Farm & Ranch

Mammals and Avian Influenza



Barry Whitworth, DVM, MPH
Senior Extension Specialist

Department of Animal & Food Sciences

Freguson College of Agriculture

At the writing of this article, High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been detected in over 83 million domestic poultry in the United States (US). The outbreak includes commercial and backyard flocks. Most people are aware that poultry may succumb to Avian Influenza but may not know that other animals can be infected with the virus. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a variety of mammals have been infected with Avian Influenza H5N1 in the US. The list of over 200 mammals includes bears, foxes, skunks, coyotes, etc. Even marine animals such as dolphins and seals have been found with the virus. Current Avian Influenza H5N1 infections in poultry, mammals, and livestock in the US can be found at the Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza website at

Recently, ruminants have been diagnosed with Avian Influenza H5N1 in the US. The World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) reported that neonatal goats displaying neurological clinical signs and death were positive for Avian Influenza. The farm was located in Stevens County Minnesota. The poultry on the farm had recently been depopulated due to HPAI H5N1. According to AVMA News, ten goats died that ranged in age from 5 to 9 days old. Five of the goat kids tested positive for the virus. The strain of Avian Influenza found in the goats was very similar to the previous HPAI H5N1 strain found in the chickens and ducks. How the goat kids were infected is still under investigation. However, the goats and poultry shared the same area and water source.

Over the past several weeks, veterinarians and dairymen have been reporting unusual illnesses in dairy cattle in Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas. According to AVMA News and other reports, the illness appeared in approximately ten percent of the herd. The USDA reported that the illness had a rapid onset and tended to be in older lactating cattle. Clinical signs noticed were a decrease in appetite and milk production. Cows had thick yellow colostrum like milk. Some cattle had abnormal feces and fevers. Some respiratory signs were noticed. According to veterinarians involved in treating the cattle, the most helpful treatment was intravenous and oral fluids. Most cattle recovered in two to three weeks.

After a variety of test were performed on the cattle with the illness described above, no clear cause of the disease was found. This initiated the USDA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to begin a disease investigation. On March 25th, they reported that HPAI H5N1 had been found in the dairy cattle in Kansas, and Texas. Since this initial announcement, sick cattle in New Mexico, Idaho, Michigan, and Ohio were confirmed with the virus and other states were awaiting test results. Whether a correlation exists between the HPAI H5N1 diagnosis and illness in the dairy cattle is still to be determined.

HPAI H5N1 causes severe clinical signs in domestic poultry and normally results in high mortality rates. At the writing of this article, clinical signs in cattle have been mild and no cattle have died. For this reason, several groups have proposed that HPAI H5N1 should not be used to reference the disease in cattle. The adoption of Influenza A Virus-Bovine (IAV-B) or Bovine Influenza A Virus has been proposed. IAV-B will be used in the remainder of this article as the name of the virus.

Prevention of IAV-B and/or other foreign animal diseases relies heavily on biosecurity. Livestock producers should have a proper biosecurity protocol in place. One key to biosecurity is to try to prevent contact with wildlife. While this can be difficult, keeping wild birds away from feeding and watering areas should be a priority. For more information on biosecurity, livestock producers should visit The Center for Food Security and Public Health at

The finding of IAV-B in dairy cattle has no impact on the safety of US milk and dairy products. Milk from all sick dairy cattle is discarded and pasteurization kills most bacteria, viruses such as IVA-B, and other pathogens.

On April 1, 2024, the CDC reported a positive human case of Avian Influenza H5N1. The person had been close contact with dairy cattle thought to be infected with IAV-B. The patient has conjunctivitis and is recovering. This human infection does not change the CDC’s assessment of H5N1 virus human health risk. The risk continues to be low. However, individuals that deal with animals or birds suspected of having Avian Influenza virus should wear proper protective equipment.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. Further testing will be required to understand the role that HPAI H5N1 virus played or did not play in the above situations. In the meantime, livestock producers who have questions about sick animals should contact their veterinarian. Also, livestock producers should be protecting their livestock with a good biosecurity plan. Livestock producers wanting additional information on IAV-B in ruminants should contact their veterinarian and/or their Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension County Ag Educator.


American Veterinary Medical Association (2024, March 27). AVMA News.  

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2024 April 1). Highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) Virus Infection Reported in a Person in the US.

USDA APHIS (2024, April 1). Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Dairy Herds: Frequently Asked Questions.

 World Organization for Animal Health (2024 March 27). WAHIS.

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Farm & Ranch

Hazards of Backyard Poultry



Barry Whitworth, DVM, MPH
Senior Extension Specialist, Department of Animal & Food Sciences, Ferguson College of Agriculture

Having backyard poultry is a popular agriculture enterprise. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 0.8 percent of all households in the United States have chickens. People keep chickens for a variety of reasons with table eggs being one of the more common reasons. Unfortunately, some of these poultry producers are not aware of the hazards that come with keeping poultry because many times they carry pathogens but appear healthy.

Chickens are carriers of several zoonotic diseases. These are diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. According to a recent survey in Pennsylvania, a majority of backyard poultry producers were aware of the dangers of avian influenza. However, this study also revealed that far fewer producers were aware of the risk of possible exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter. The lack of knowledge about the hazards of raising poultry likely contributes to the continued issues of Salmonella outbreaks associated with backyard poultry. In 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,072 illnesses of Salmonella linked to backyard poultry, and 272 of those patients required hospitalization. Oklahoma reported 43 individuals with the disease.

Direct contact with chickens is not the only way to be exposed to the pathogens they carry. The environment in which they live can be a danger due to air quality and waste in the soil. The air in a poultry coop is composed of dust particles, ammonia, pathogens, poultry droppings, and other materials. Breathing the dust while cleaning a poultry coop has been associated with respiratory issues in poultry workers. One study found that human infections are associated with contact with poultry waste and soil. Backyard poultry producers may be exposed to poultry droppings when cleaning equipment or pens.

Most zoonotic diseases can be prevented. Proper hand hygiene is one of the best disease prevention tools available. According to the Pennsylvania study, most poultry producers wash their hands after having contact with their birds. However, that same study found most poultry producers do not wear gloves or cover their mouths when handling animals or animal manure. Backyard poultry producers should wear proper protective equipment when cleaning equipment and pens.

Poultry producers can protect themselves by following some simple rules.

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after having any contact with poultry or any area where poultry are located.  If soap is not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Do not kiss or snuggle birds.
  • Do not allow poultry to enter areas where food and drinks are prepared, served and stored.
  • Do not eat or drink where poultry are located.
  • Cook eggs thoroughly.
  • Clean equipment associated with poultry outdoors.
  • Older adults, pregnant women, children under five, and immunocompromised individuals should be extra careful around poultry.
  • Wear protective clothing, shoes, gloves, and a face mask when cleaning poultry houses.

Having chickens in the backyard can be very rewarding experiences. However, poultry owners should be aware of the potential hazards associated with backyard poultry production and protect themselves. If poultry producers would like more information about hazards associated with backyard poultry, contact your local veterinarian and/or Oklahoma State University County Extension Agriculture Educator. Also, the CDC has a website dedicated to backyard poultry producers’ health. The website can be accessed at

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Farm & Ranch

Inventions of Agriculture: The Reaper



Agriculture has been a staple of human society since around 9000 BCE during the Neolithic Era, when humans began developing and cultivating their own food.

For centuries, food production was a slow, tedious process until the invention of agricultural machinery. One such invention was the reaper. Until its time, small grains were harvested by hand, cut with sickles or scythes, hand-raked and tied into sheaves.

While a few had unsuccessfully attempted to create a similar machine, it was Cyrus McCormick who would ultimately be credited with the invention of the first commercially successful reaper in 1831.

McCormick’s invention was a horse-drawn machine used to harvest wheat, a combination between a chariot and a wheelbarrow. He had joined together the earlier harvesting machines into a single, timesaving one. His reaper allowed producers to double their crop size, capable of cutting six acres of oats in just one afternoon. In contrast, it would have taken 12 workers with scythes to do the equivalent in the same amount of time.

McCormick had simply followed in his father’s footsteps. Growing up in Rockbridge County, Virginia, his father had also created several farming implements and even worked to invent a mechanical reaper of his own.

McCormick would patent his invention in July 1834, a year after Obed Hussey had announced the making of a reaper of his own. In 1837, McCormick began manufacturing his machine on his family’s estate.  

In 1847, McCormick recognized Chicago as the future of the agricultural machinery industry. The railroad to Galena was nearing completion, the Illinois and Michigan Canal would soon be open, and a telegraph link to the east was coming. So, in 1847, McCormick, together with his partner and future Chicago mayor Charles M. Gray, purchased three lots on the Chicago River and built a factory where they would produce the reaper. It was the first of many industrial companies that would make their way to the area, making Chicago an industrial leader.

McCormick wasn’t done yet. He purchased an additional 130 acres in Chicago in 1871, but the Great Fire of 1871 threatened to destroy his company when the factory burned. It was his young wife, Nettie Fowler McCormick, who pushed the company forward when she went to the site just days after the fire and ordered the rebuilding of the factory. By 1880, McCormick was the largest machinery producer in Chicago and employment reached 7,000, a whopping fifth of the nation’s total.

McCormick joined the companies of Deering and Plano to form the International Harvester Company in 1902. At its height, the company controlled more than 80 percent of grain harvesting equipment in the world. While the Great Depression would hit Chicago’s agricultural industry hard, McCormick’s invention of the reaper forever changed the face of agriculture.


Carstensen, Fred. (2005) Agricultural Machinery Industry. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved from

Cycrus McCormick, Mechanical Reaper. (2022) The National Inventors Hall of Fame. Retrieved from

Although the author has made every effort to ensure the informa­tion in this article is accurate, this story is meant for informational purposes only and is not a substi­tute for historical documents.

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