Saturday, July 14, 2018

cattle working

When it is time to handle cattle for treatment or sorting or whatever, there is a sequence of moves to be carried out.  First the herd is brought in from pasture.  The easiest way is chosen, and this is made easier so far as the cattle can be made to think it is their idea.  The human handler needs to have his mind engaged.  When the herd makes it to the yard, they land in a lot which is much smaller than the pasture paddock, and with more substantial fences.  After a calming five minutes or so, another gate is opened and the cattle are allowed to drift into an area close to the handling.  By this time the cattle are mostly moving themselves.  The fences and gates grow more substantial as they progress and if the handler understands them well, they grow calmer as well. 

After another passage of time, they are brought slowly around a corner to land in a well fenced box. The handler knows the cattle have a built in tendency to circle around him at a certain distance.  From there they will be brought up in the box, a few at a time, toward where they entered and calmly squeezed with a gate in a rough semi-circle until one of their number steps into the approach chute, which features seven foot solid plank walls.  The rest follow.  One at a time, they get to the working, or squeeze chute and put their heads into the headgate, where whatever procedure is needed can be carried out. 

Is it just me, or is this a pretty good description of what is happening to us humans sponsored by Silicon Valley and Amazon?   Our situation gets tighter all the time, more under control.  Ownership is being centralized, on the farm and everywhere else. All repair work is being abolished in favor of planned obsolescence.  Local retail is being put out of business, first by Wal Mart and Menards and Home Depot, and now by Amazon.  Soon the package delivery services and the Post Office they have crippled over the years will be owned and/or controlled by Amazon.  And like the cattle we keep stepping along, thinking we have a myriad of choices.  It is past time to ask what people are for.  The headgate is looming just ahead.   


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

heat advisory

Heat and humidity, seemingly on the increase, puts us here at Pastures A Plenty in the circumstance of needing to pay close attention to the livestock, providing shade, sprinklers and sometimes extra fans, while we watch ourselves for signs of heat exhaustion.  This weather, 92 degrees and humid, is dangerous. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

calves



 The snowstorm of April 14 and 15 demonstrated once again how powerful the life force really is.  As was pointed out before, we had two calves born before the event and then the cows took several days off.  The calves in these two pictures were all born since the storm, born wet and onto snow.  The boys got some corn stalks spread for help in getting them off the snow, and soon out of the mud.  You can see in the pictures how very hard this was on the pasture paddock, with the pugging and the mud showing, where they are being fed.  But there too, we can have some confidence that the same strength that is in the calves will also be in the grass.  Livestock farms teach this over and over.  Nature is anything but weak, if we would just try to stay out of her way a little. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

spring

It is a slow and difficult spring here at Pastures A Plenty.  Sometimes a livestock operation as exposed to the elements as is ours suffers from it.  And yet, we managed to luck out in the late April snowstorm.  Two calves were born before the storm hit and were doing well.  Then the cows took a five day break while the weather blew through before they started calving again.  So far, they are all happy and healthy out there.  Andrew needed to spread several bales of cornstalks to give the cows and new calves a way to stay out of the mud, with which we have been plagued since middle March.

Another big concern is the hog production.  We use bedding in every aspect of it and by this time of year our hoops and buildings are all bulging with mixed stalks, straw and manure.  We itch to start hauling to the pile where it will soon be applied ahead of the crop, but the frost is in very deep this year and is keeping the soil surface soft and wet.  Too soft and wet to haul heavy loads of manure out.  So we are faced with the choice of piling it temporarily closer to the yards and house and hauling it out when we can.  Extra work and an unsightly mess.  But that is what farming is sometimes. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

"Man shall explore without ceasing
and the end of all his exploring
will be to come to where he started
and know the place for the first time"
T.S. Eliot (from my memory)

How much better could our farming be if we kept this poem in mind?

Monday, April 2, 2018

biomimicry

The idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with.  Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers.  After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

Biomimcry Institute, posted at the Niagara Parks System

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

curious

It is curious that those who are advancing veganism as a one size cure all for everything from obesity to climate change have not seen fit to talk to any farmers.  Now by "farmers" I do not mean commodity groups or political pressure groups or traditional farm groups.  I mean rather some of those farmers who would respond favorably to being called biodynamic or organic or grass farmers.  If an emissary from the intellectual capital of the world-New York and environs-were to make it into the great middle part of the country, she may find a satisfying number of people involved with the land who know that the Middle East is an area desertified by civilizations that fed the overwhelming majority of their people plant based diets. 
She might also find farmers that could tell her that in this time of complete compendiums of knowledge-ask Google-we know fewer than a tenth of the species that we think live in the soil, and even less what they do.  These farmers would know that most of what they know of the soil, they have learned from observation, not academic study.  They would be able to say that perennial agriculture such as pasture and hay crops is most beneficial to the soil, that some of this benefit could be mimicked by using cover crops in and between annual cash crops, that the soil needs animal impact.  Most of these farmers keep steadily in mind that bison, wolves and Indians built the hugely productive grasslands in the country's midsection. 
These farmers know that the best measure of soil health we have today is the percentage of organic matter, that this percentage drops with regular tillage and compaction but is built with perennial plants and grazing animals.  And they are beginning to understand that good grazing practice can build it faster than we previously thought.  People who understand increasing organic matter and its function know that it reduces erosion on land in use and it sequesters carbon.