Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grazing, Science or Art

Many livestock producers in the US have no idea what this title is referring to or even care.  The attitude is, primarily, "open the gates and let them eat, that's all there is to it".  This has led to an industry that is more hobby than business, and an end product that little or no thought is given to its safety and nutrient content, or quality of eating experience. 

Grazing is a whole lot more than just the quote in the previous paragraph.  Now at a time when I have been observing the grazer at work for over forty years on these Missouri rock prairies, I continue to be amazed at how much more there is to be learned.  Greg Judy says there are over 1 billion life forms in a table spoon of good soil.  And most of those life forms have yet to be catalogued.  It is these lives in real soil that make livestock grazing a science.   It is combining the necessary parts in a systematic approach that create the art in grazing. 

We must learn better ways to propagate and build larger populations of these micro organisms living in the soil.  It is certainly a biological world understood best by the scientific mind of these miniature life forms.  There is an artistic flow that encourages and improves on the symbiotic relationship between grazer, man and the soil structure in which all this life is dependant upon.  Any product or practice that depletes the effectiveness or efficiencies of the animal, man or this ecological matrix is considered by the grazer as not allowable.  The ends do not justify the means.  This is a phrase utilized by those who have either an alterior motive or have not yet reached a level of understanding of the enormous consequences of neglecting his responsibilities.

A rancher by the name of Tom Lasater said, "...this business is very simple, the hard part is keeping it simple...".  This simplicity is part of the down fall and has opened some doors to opportunists each building on his predecessor's successes.  What I mean is grazing is so simple that our logical minds have been developed to not accept that simplicity has a chance of being the best bet.  After twenty five years of operating more or less under contemporary practices in the cattle business, I had decided Mr. Lasater may actually have something of value.  We went simple, and discarded most all modern technology, chemical innovations, Grant University methodology, the current failed genetic merry go round, and began to undue just about every rung on the ladder I had spent time and money on since I started this business now almost forty years ago.

Some of the new but yet very old practices we began putting in place were things like moving the herd into a pasture that has only enough forage for about one day.  Creating enough of these pastures so that the soil and forages could rest without disturbance for at least 90 days before grazing them again  (planned grazing, mob grazing). This practice alone eliminated all requirements for the expensive use of chemical parasite control.  The animals that had lossed their abilities to fend off even a low level of parasites were eliminated from the herd.  This was a step forward on the genetic pool at a cost of zero.

Another step was to eliminate the use of all salt chemical fertilizers.  Along with the elimination of residue from the once used chemical parasite control on the animals, the microbiological life in the soil began to flourish.  These two simple steps were a gigantic move forward towards increasing total annual forage production.  The complete elimination of mechanically harvesting forages on the ranch put the ranch over the top on production and was at that time beginning to produce more forage than the then current herd could utilize in a growing season.  Changing the shape of standing forages into a bale of hay does not increase the quantity of forage produced on the farm.  It actually reduces total forages available to the livestock by a significant amount.  And the costs of all these inputs were completely removed after we understood simplicity better.

The genetics of the cow herd began a slow change for the good by replacing the once used inefficient grain induced bull power with bulls who have a propensity to produce on forage alone. Replacing older cows with younger heifers out of these bulls that have grazing abilities eventually has created a fat calf that can grow completely out to finishing stage right here on the ranch on nothing but grass and a little salt.  This began to put beef on customer's plates that increased in nutrient content and removed all chances for pathogen contamination now running rampant in contemporary grain fed operations.  It also gave the customer for most what was the first experience of tasting real beef flavor instead of ground up Bt corn. 

With all this extra forage, and to increase bio diversity and utilize it's efficiencies, additional species of grazers and browsers have been added.  It has been proven many times over that a rancher can run two sheep for every cow he grazes with no loss in forage utilization.  And we have found that these sheep will earn more profits than what the cow herd does.  By adding even more species of animals efficiency continues to climb.  This ART of combining animal species has been all but lost in modern agriculture.  The profit potential and ecological advantages gained by these techniques are the cornerstone for a sustainable farm or ranch. Without these very simple practices, livestock production becomes a poor substitute for a petting zoo and yet something completely short of a productive, sustainable farm.     

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Biological Farming

The average American corn farmer spends three bushel of soil to produce one bushel of corn.  About 80% of the nitrates, that are applied in the form of anhydrous amonia and/or other chemical fertilizers, are generally soluble and erode into the water system including eventually the dead zone now residing in the Gulf of Mexico on the far end of the Mississippi river.  Most cattle feeders spend more on transporting feed and purchased inputs than many times the value of the animals in several years out of many.  The typical livestock farm in any state you care to travel through will have primarily if not only one species of animal on that farm. Most of our grazing livestock in the US have lost their innate ability to survive in a grazing environment.  This agricultural system professed as being highly productive is in reality a poor example of food production.  What was once the wealthiest nation in the world now spends more on health care than it does on food as a percentage of household income.  We have more prison inmates than we do farmers.  One might be questioning what these seemingly unrelated issues all have in common.  By my observation I conclude these are all one in the same problem caused by the same source.

If you ask yourself to take out a piece of paper and write down the number of farmers you know who make their living completely from their farm your list would be short.  I venture to say most of us do not know of a single person or family in this category unless we include retirees who contribute part of their pension towards support of their farms.  And if we do not include those households who have outside income as from the wife's job in town, our attendance of the population of full time farmers might be zero.  Again, I see this all being caused from the same source.

We have become a specialized, industrial, chemical, technologically driven many persons removed professional agricultural knock off.  And remember a knock-off is a copy cat of the actual thing and never can live up to the original standards.  And it is usually driven by greed and with a bag of a-moral tactical methods.  Since we as humans are biological to the bone, bar none, our survival will always depend upon our abilities to produce and maintain biological standards that up hold these requirements our human bodies demand.  A knock-off will simply not due.  Our agricultural experts, with the help of congressional and industrial greed, have made every attempt known to man thus far to by step this primary requirement for the sustenance of life, the propagation of biological life.

Since we are on top of this grand pyramid of biological life, we must be dedicated to the base of this pyramid and its propagation, less we continue with our current down fall.  This base has been right under our feet all the time.  And its access is free for the taking.  I am talking about the biological life in the soil that all life above the soil depends upon for its sustenance entirely.  Man is at the top of this biological pyramid and the mostly micro sized life below the surface of the soil is at the bottom.  If we will re-learn to utilize soil biology as the basis for all farming enterprises, all health, including economic health of our nation, will surely improve. 

A Real farm has many species of animals grazing and browsing an almost unlimited number of species of plants, forbs, leaves, trees, grubs, insects, grains wild and domesticated, etc.  Most farmers put all the emphasis on the single species of animal they have on their so called farm and tend to see them as only eaters.  These farm animals are actually feeders of the biological life beneath the soil.  The farm animal itself is almost inconsequential.  When in fact, most of the farmer's time should be spent on propagating the life beneath the soil.  If we become successful with increasing sub soil life in our management of the farm, the by product produced from this micro biology will in turn provide us with all the sustenance our farm animals can need.  And instead of the farmer choosing what animals his farm should employ, the farm itself will choose which animals to propagate and what that animal should look like.  

Our country needs at this time about 6 million more of these kind of farmers.  This kind of farmer will have to learn these methods which are no longer considered viable agricultural activities.  The farmer that is now working a job off the farm in order to meet his obligations must learn these concepts if he desires to reach sustainability.  These concepts will at first seem contradictive to everything he has learned about his farming or his animals.  And in all practicalities the animals or the type of farming he currently practices will have to be extremely modified and his reluctance to make these improvements must be over come.   

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fall Growth

It's November 12th and the fescue is bright green and growing very well.  The growth rate this week, following a good rain we had earlier, is probably close to one half inch per day, or about fifty pounds of forage per acre per day.  On one thousand acres of grass that could be as much as about fifty thousand pounds per day.  A cow herd of five hundred head consuming thirty pounds of forage per head would be taking out fifteen thousand pounds per day.  So in realty, for the week, we are still producing more forage than what we are taking.

Several things must have come together to put this growth scenario in place.  One really big factor is the location of our ranch.  Here in fescue country, which is cool season grass country, the thirty degree nights and sixty five degree days is almost perfect conditions for growth of our type grasses.  Even after a very dry summer, almost no rain in July and August like normal, our grass continues to grow.  I can expect some growth maybe on up until mid December on a good year. 

Now the other important condition that also must exist is the grazing plan must have been put into place to take advantage of what rain we did get this summer.  We also must learn how to manage our grazing so that we go into these cool growing days with plenty of root system and leaf to take advantage of the photosynthesis and wicking ability of the plant.  About seventy percent of our annual growth comes in the spring time.  This is the one time of year that we are given the opportunity to advance as much growth as possible all across our ranch to increase that root mass and improve our ability to collect as much of those early heavy rains as we can.  We know we will need that precip later in the year.  One tool we do not want to use is mechanically harvesting of our forages.

It is natural to have the idea to process and store a great deal of this spring growth in baled hay or baleage.  This will only reduce the total forage production for the year.  What happens so often is we will mistakenly go into the paddocks and mow down the forage for hay so low that when it gets dry in the summer, like it always does, the root system is so diminished that the plant simply sets there and suffers until later in the year when rains do come and the weather improves.  The plant is starved for water and other nutrients.  If we will manage the plants in a total grazing plan we can eventually double the forage production or more.  Spending a lot of money putting the plant into a bale of hay will not give us more feed than if we left it standing.

Another key component to pull this together is multi species plant growth.  A mono culture planting can only take benefit from one very narrow window of temperature, precip, and growing conditions.  Our cool season grasses take off like a race horse in early spring.  When it gets hot and dry during the summer our warm season grasses like lespadeza, red clover, forbes, and many other plants take off.  In one years growing season we have catalogued over one hundred different edible plants for our animals on the ranch. 
I think fescue country really is a great place for grazing the right kind of animals.  But no matter where your ranch is, putting together a planned grazing program is a major step towards reaching a level of sustainability. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Farming For A Living

As we drive across the state of Missouri the fertile green pastures are dotted with livestock, mostly beef cows.  It is more unusual now, more than it was forty years ago when I was a kid, to see a family sized dairy farm.  I remember the 1960's and many neighbors of ours milked twenty or thirty cows and appeared to have plenty of food on the table.  And it was unusual for the family to have to have permanent jobs off the farm.  Today it is almost impossible to find a family farm where at least one of the family members if not both adults don't hold down full time employment off the farm and then come home to their night job with the livestock. 

Something very significant has taken place on today's farm that has changed this system.  I believe this change has not been for the good.  Yes, part of what is going on is that we expect a higher and higher lifestyle as each generation comes by.  Just take a look at our costs of housing we demand and the dollars we are willing to put into our transportation.  I mean really now, can any vehicle in which its main purpose is to simply get you to town and back be worth over $50000.  We are talking a pick up truck here.  But the problem is also related to the methods we employ today compared to the methods of farming decades ago have changed.

Cows, both dairy and beef, have historically been allowed to graze in order to supply their primary daily fix for nutrition.  Somewhere along the way, maybe the upswing was about 1971, we began to think we knew more about nutrition than the cow did herself.  Regardless of the fact that she does have a few more years of experience than we do, we chose to begin the process of taking feed to her instead of allowing her to walk to the feed.  Now this sounds really simple, and it truly is simple, but most of us will never understand this concept. What I mean here is that instead of allowing these animals to do what is natural to them, graze, we chose to pen them up and began a very expensive process of mechanically harvesting, storing and then mechanically feeding what was already feeding the cow at a very low cost to begin with.  We then got real smart and started mechanically planting different crops in order to 'be more efficient', because we didn't think the old crops were producing enough milk or meat.  This added even more costs.  Then came the next step.

We thought since we are now feeding all this expensive feed including the most expensive feed of all which would be grains, we needed cows that would 'be more efficient'.  So we began breeding for animals that only produce high quantities of milk and meat when fed grains. We began a breeding process known as single trait selection.  The only thing we became interested in was production.  This is primarily because we mistakenly confused high production with high profits.  When in fact, these two are almost always antagonistic.  That is when one goes up the other goes down.  Something else also happened during the last fifty years or so.

Many of us old guys who can still remember that a cow can feed herself by grazing, died off, got lazy, or just quit talking about the old days because we got tired of being made fun of.  So during this period of time we completely changed the genetics of these cows, some refer to these new cows as welfare cows because they can't seem to make it on their own accord.  These type animals have much shorter lifespans, reproduction problems, and higher nutritional demands which equate to higher production costs.  We chose to increase the size of not only the animal but also the size of the farm because we got confused and thought increasing numbers was the direction towards profitability.  When that didn't work we sent our wives to town to get a job.  After a few more years, her pay check wasn't near enough.  So then we went to town and got a job as well and began working the night shift on the farm.

We now have gotten to the point with most livestock production that this once thriving industry is nothing more than a past time or hobby.  If you doubt this statement, I challenge you to locate three persons you know who now can say they make their entire living from their farms.  Most will never find a single person in this category.  We must accept the fact that agriculture as a hobby is not sustainable for the human race.  We will become extinct ourselves if this system of failed agriculture continues.  I have spoken about animal agriculture in these few words but I see the same scenario in most all areas of food production.  We do not have to live in quarter million dollar houses and drive fifty thousand dollar transportation devices.  But we do have to eat regularly.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall Planning

Today is the first Monday of October and as I just got back in the house from morning chores I can report a fantastic temperature of 58 degrees F.  The gardens got frost bit for two nights in a row so they are really shrinking fast.  Thank goodness for cool season grasses though, our fescue has really taken off.  We will have enormous growth for the next 60 days in our pastures.  It is our ability to have not only substantial forage growth in the spring time, like most places, but our fall growth is like earning 10% over prime. 

However, this fall growth is not a time to begin stockpiling for winter feed.  If we have done nothing all year long to prepare for this growth spurt, little can be gained over the next two months, of almost perfect growing conditions to reduce and especially to eliminate winter feeding of hay.  What I mean is all year long up to this point we will have had to be moving the herd through our many paddocks in a planned grazing program in order to keep the root system and biology in the soil ready for this time.  It is also very important how we managed these paddocks in the prior year.  How I grazed this spring will have a direct consequence on next years growth. 

 Even if you do not farm or ranch where cool season grasses thrive, a system of planned grazing is absolutely necessary for optimum growth of forages.  Even in Southern Missouri where stocking rates can be very high, we can easily double our forage production or more.  Other types of growing areas will have even a greater need to learn the requirements of capturing every drop of rain water that falls during the year, gain the understanding of feeding the biology in the soil, how to maximize photosynthesis, so that mechanically processed feeds can be reduced or eliminated.  First we eliminate these high costs of processed feeds then we begin to add additional animals.

Not only will the need be to add more to your current herd once progress appears in your paddocks.  But the need will be to add other species to not only promote more growth but to better utilize what grows there already.  It has been a naive agriculture community to believe that single species farming was sustainable.  Farms of distant past involved rotations of crops and many different species of animals and plants.  This was not only a good idea because of nostalgia, but because of the symbiotic relationship between these different species and the improvement in the whole system when the farm is not subjected to the limited potential that single species environments perpetuate.  

So I encourage all to learn more about multi-species farming and to implement a strategy to gain from what advantages it will bring.  Farming without animals is not farming at all.  The life cycle of birth, growth, death and decay are essential for a planet based on a biological structure.  Science has benefits when applied in a constructive manner.  It helps teach us how and why a system functions in such a way for all to benefit.  A science that makes an attempt to replace a biological world with man made chemistry and or technology will surely succeed.  It will succeed so vehemently that all biology will in deed be ultimately and completely dismantled. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Raw Milk

By estimation made by the USDA about 12 million people across the US drink raw milk every day.  Of course the opposite of raw milk is generally considered to be pasteurized, homogenized milk from large commercial dairies.  In controversy all across this country, not so in many parts of Europe where raw milk is accepted as nutritionally demanding, is not only should people drink raw or processed milk, but the USDA would claim that Americans do not even have the rights to drink raw milk if they choose to.  And of course since practically never do any of the 12 million raw milk drinkers fall to their health demise, as suggested by the USDA. I'll take my chances drinking milk from cows standing on grass instead of in their own feces.

Since I have been drinking raw grass fed milk daily for most of my 50 some odd years I am extremely biased and can't for the life of me see what all the hoopla is about.  Since the government is suspected of more than one disservice to it voters, I suspect they must have their hand somewhere in the milk bucket or why else would they even care.  People die everyday from car accidents, cancer caused from tobacco, drowning in swimming pools, and the list goes on and on but all of these highly dangerous activities are allowed.  I think it's pretty easy to put the economic pieces together.

Some may think that drinking raw milk is some sort of new fad and practiced by only the liberals from California or some other forward thinking local.  Nothing against my friends from California.  Anyway, raw milk is drunk all over the world and has been for centuries.  Many believe raw milk has important nutrient content and has even been used as a treatment for illness by yes, real certified doctors.

One very interesting medical practice is to utilize the immunity offered up in colostrum, milk from a ungulate who has just given birth, for fending off diseases or pathogens.  There is even a US patent from work done back in the 1950s describing the process.

It seems the medical profession was injecting serious antigens into the teats of the cow just before calving.  The biology of the cow lends itself to the manufacturing of antibodies to combat these deadly pathogens.  From a cowboy's perspective what they were doing makes all perfect sense.  Once the cow, goat or sheep, gave birth and began producing colostrum, this colostrum would contain the antibodies to fend off the disease.  Once the infected individual consumed the colostrum with the produced antibodies, the healing would take place at phenomenal rates.

This appears to be a very economical and efficient way to fight disease.  I in fact have a friend who was deemed terminal from a well known disease, and went through this very process on his own.  He has told this story for many years now and obviously has outlived his termination date.  I can't imagine our current day highly esteemed medical profession accepting this sort of human treatment for disease.  And I even have a greater problem living long enough to see this ever get FDA approval.  I guess there is more money in statins.

But whether or not raw milk from grass fed cows contains disease fighting qualities from the manipulation described above, I feel much healthier personally when I get my daily fix.  And knowing how dangerous driving a car is compared to drinking raw milk I intend on doing both.  And surely common sense would dictate that no one else, and particularly the government, should be given the authority to dictate over our diets.  And besides, it tastes like drinking the best milk shake in the world.  And to my friend, Dr. ####, anyone who can't taste the milk shake in my raw milk has lost the battle of mind over matter.  But then I can't force myself to eat cottage cheese.  At least we now know our weaknesses don't we, Doc?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

America The Beautiful

I have very little patience for the conspiracy theorists of today.  As a farmer I believe to be somewhat pragmatic, slightly logical,  a believer in faith, an optimist, and I seldom count on a good rain until AFTER it arrives.  However, the mood of this country, I believe, is changing to an almost aggressively, quasi-militant, average working class of struggling soccer moms and fed up dads with the FEDS.  That is, more average folks are seeing dirty stuff going on in Washington and being of the nature many Americans are, we might even have a chance if we somehow make changes for the better sooner than later.  Of course it will takes some sort of unification and strong leadership.

Something I have been having a problem with for the last couple of years is this bashing of big corporations.  As a graduate of a business school my teeth were cut on the free enterprise system, the economics of Adam Smith, efficient operating systems, and buyer be ware.  When I heard my first bashing of the cooperate form of business structure at one of the annual sustainable agriculture conventions, I thought I was witnessing heresy.  After reading, listening, and lots of observation, I may be getting a little goofy myself.  It isn't that I do not believe in the benefits of pooled resources put to benefit in the form of a corporate entity.  But now, our politicians and complete political system have learned to suck out all the fresh quarters before milking time starts.   That is, politicians have learned which business entity can garner the most financial support, and it sure isn't us small farmers.  This frenzy of Washington huddled around big corporate activities has distorted basic business practices of free enterprise and nothing is even close to being black and white any longer.

So I am now coming out of the closet with my old college business classmates and will surely be black balled.  Our corporate business structure as we practice in the US is quickly destroying our country at a rate that is not sustainable for very much longer.  Greed has taken precedence over everything from child rearing, to basic food consumption.  Big government desires to legislate what we eat because it is in their best financial interest for the corporate giants they are nursing.

We have displaced millions of Americans and have put them on some sort of government form of welfare because someone said big farms and big business is the wave of the future.  As farm ownership shrunk, unemployment and government subsistence sky rocketed.  Doesn't this look a little bit like prerevolutionary Europe?  Think about how many folks could be put to work if 70% of our population once again moved to small farms and once again became real farmers instead of pesticide mechanisms and tractor mechanics.  The 2% that now produces on our farms would certainly benefit because they could finally become what they really dreamed of being, real farmers.  Unemployment would be almost non existent, many of the large deceptive and politically run corporate entities that cater to agribusiness could go to the way side.  Now this would be truly a free enterprise system that Adam Smith would recognize.    

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Some are alarmist and some are conspiracy theorist and others like me are just farmers that are looking around and taking notice.  This blog reports on the status of American farmers quite frequently with the intent on securing better food for the citizens we are responsible to.  I am among the crowd that see our archaic methods of agriculture costing loss of soil by monumental levels, destruction of ground water through abusive pesticide use, and the massive desertification of our farm land from one end of this nation to the other.

This shortage of water and loss of top soil being one in the same problem.  Bare soil, as in between rows of corn, causes massive soil erosion and reduces perculation of rain water downward by astronomical proportions now showing in every state in the union.  Grass covered soil is critical for the sustenance of man. "Grass is the forgiveness of nature."  Bare soil causes crop land to become deserts.  Shortages of drinking water are a direct result of poor farming practices.  Sequestering of atmospheric carbon by way of grass lands is an absolute necessity for man to balance the resources needed to perpetuate our existence.  A society dependant upon annuals will go by the way side no matter high tech that society thinks they are.  In fact, we have proven in the United States that our technological advancements have primarily increased the rate of desertification at alarming rates.  But then I'm only a farmer looking out my windows.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How We Farm

After farming in this country now for over 200 modern years you would think we would have it down pretty good.  But in fact, we are probably the worst examples of farmers since the dawn of time.  Our mono-culture slash and burn system has eroded our soils, depleted our ground water, and contaminated most of what is left.  Those still stuck on this old warn out paradigm have the misguided belief that this type of agriculture is high tech, high production and efficient, and necessary to feed the masses.  When in fact our per acre production is less even with all our high tech, killer pesticides, and government hand outs known as subsidies, than the much more simple organic farming used today in China.'s_Republic_of_China
Their high level of production isn't based on large quantities of oil consumption and unsustainable practices.

Our form of food production is based on putting dollars in as many people's pockets as possible before it gets to the consumer, that is, all except for the farmer.  And because our production is so low, and because so many folks selling and providing services and stuff along this food production line, the prices paid for FOOD must reflect it's true value.  Our food is extremely cheap both in real dollars and nutritional content.  Our farmers have the ability to produce nutrient dense, affordable protein, fiber, minerals, and other quality food that can be affordable and can provide a good payment to those actually responsible for growing it, the farmer, but not if it must pass through the hands of an entire army of non agricultural types adding on their withdrawals.  So the agr. industry redesigns food like genetically modified corn and the production model all the way to the consumer.  Some peoples in far away places are not buying off on this trash.  And are sending a message to the agr. industries responsible for this destructive process.

Small farms and farmers living on the farm from which they are responsible for is the only solution to this massive food and humanity problem.  Most problems in agriculture simply can not be solved in the cab of a 300 horse power tractor or a bottle of pesticide.

We farm 1000 acres, which is not considered a small farm, producing beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, cow milk, goat milk, eggs, cheeses, garden fruit, garden vegetables, under a holistic system of farming.  Our production quantities are above average and are not achieving capacity.  In fact under this multi-species system we have forage production not yet utilized even when neighboring farms are feeding hay in the heat of the summer due to their lack of forage.  We not only employ our family on this farm but provide income to several others and have capacity to supply income to even more families. 

We have begun sharing our farm with others to better utilize our over capacity.  At this time we have space and the need for a family to bring  their goat herd of at least two hundred to three hundred meat goats to utilize what forage we have not yet been able to utilize.  This type of system can allow families that may not currently have the resources to farm entirely on their own but do have initiative and desire to have independence on our farm.  In the case of these meat goats you would share in the harvest of the annual production for your rent. 

This type of system is designed for our type of farming operation that is larger in size than what one family can tend to.  There are farms of this and various sizes all over this land.  From very small 40 acre single family farms, to our size farm and larger, production can be increased and ecological conditions will improve.  Quantity and quality of the food produced can be improved because the people living there will have a vested interest.  They are responsible for the nutrient quality and condition of what leaves their farms and which lands directly on the consumers dinner tables.   

Monday, July 18, 2011

All Life Depends Upon The Farmer

Texas is currently in a drought that is devastating that state's agriculture.  Much of the water flowing to irrigated crops in California has been reduced below growing standards or completely stopped.  Not only is drought and dry conditions covering these big ag western and southern states, but lack of water or even to much water is currently a much bigger problem than most anything going on in our country. 

We not only raise livestock here at the Rockin H Ranch we also raise and sell produce.  Last year a box of red tomatoes were selling for about $25 this time of year.  Last week these same kind of tomatoes were bringing $55 a box.  These prices and many more are substantially higher than the Washington reported inflation rate of about 4.5%.

The reality of these poor growing conditions are in many ways caused by man.  Much of our water for growing crops that are later feeding much of this country's human population, is piped from under ground out of the much discussed and cussed massive aqueduct water system.  The big problem is this supply into the aqueduct is not being replenished at a rate as fast as it is being used.  Kind of like our Washington budget.  And as well in this case this is also caused by man.  And the water issue is primarily caused by poor farming methods.  That's right, the very farmers, business men and women, that need good conservation practices are destroying their abilities to produce food.  I am including myself, as a Midwestern farmer, in this category.

This large under ground system of water ways is being depleted in many cases due to the slash and burn and don't give a dang, Washington subsidized, backward farming system used all across this country.  The water table in my county has been lowered each and every year since I was a child.  The manner in which we manage the thin layer of top soil, that all life is dependant upon, will determine porosity or the ability of rain water to perculate down to our life giving supply of good water in its natural water holding storage tank.

 Most of our grain production farmers in this country, again government subsidized grain, have a standard practice of purposely collecting this rain water and taking it to the rivers, primarily the Missouri and Mississippi, eventually, and dumping all the good drinking and growing water all we would ever need into the gulf of Mexico where it pollutes and destroys along with the farming toxins and pesticides carried with the water.  And please don't forget to mention three bushels of top soil, that life giving top soil all life depends upon, for every bushel of corn produced, is also carried away. 

You may ask how is this done.  It's very simple.  Most all dry and some wet farming ground is layed out with miles and miles of underground drain pipe set up on gravity collection to rid each farm of most of what water falls on each field of corn.  This is done for the sake of big production and big subsidies, there is literally no good farming practices followed under this system.  No body seems to give a flying fig that this system is destroying our country and is part of a very big scenario that is desertifying our Nation.

Many civilizations have been destroyed in this very same manner.  We first begin causing droughts and floods from mismanaging our top soils, loose our access to quality water, loose our access to life giving top soil, which causes starvation, which always follows high food prices, like currently happening, and sooner or later someone else is relaxing in your easy chair right there in your front room.  The last decades of most any dying civilization feeds its people on the bare necessities and cheap produced grains, like corn, beans, rice etc.  This is currently happening in the U.S. and very few seem to realize this calamity.  Corn is represented in almost every food we eat.  We are already feeding our citizens on this starvation diet.  This grain has just been disguised with coloring, additives, processing, as we destroy first our health until we blow away with the last spec of lifeless dry teaspoon of soil.

I am working on my farm and ranch to stop this nonsense.  There is plenty all can do even folks who don't farm.  You can start by stop supporting these businesses that are killing our country.  Your spending dollar is the most powerful tool we have.  A great president once said, 'he who controls the food controls the nation or world.'  We the people can control the food if we choose to.  I also challenge all farmers once again to farm more responsibly.  We all know this is not working.   

Sunday, July 17, 2011


 We just sorted off 120 grass fed, angus steers and heifers here at the Rockin H Ranch.  These calves are out of Kit Pharo's Emancipate bulls.  These girls can go back to a grass fed herd or right into a grass fattening program.  Call or e-mail if you want to purchase one or all.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Responsible Farming

I have put much responsibility in the hands of our farmers for producing quality, nutrient dense, safe foods.  As home owners, I ask for the reduction and eventually the elimination of weed and insect spraying around the yard and fence rows of harsh chemicals to stop ground water contamination.  Food processors seem to keep adding more and more additives and are only deterred when USDA makes changes, which only appear to be more biased and allow more and more poisons into our foods. I actually believe a responsible society actually needs very little regulation when its citizens are responsible and also demand safe food. 

It is now become a common occurrence for yet another friend, neighbor or relative to get cancer at an early age.  My friend Molly, 39 years old with three children has been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.  I can not keep from believing that as a community we have contributed in the worst way.  First I ask for all who read my blog to please mention Molly in your prayers and ask your church on Sunday to pray for her and her family.  At the same time I also pray that my farming community will become more responsible in its farming practices and eliminate all herbicides and pesticide usage.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Winter Feed Management in May

As many followers of this blog already know we graze all winter long here at the Rockin H Ranch.  We do not follow the protocol for traditional rotational grazing and stockpiling forages.  Our system of grazing is based on the Holistic approach of planned grazing.  We have found out that if we wish to graze all winter with no hay feeding what we do right now with our forages, early May, will have tremendous effects on how much grazing we can do next winter. 

It is real easy to slough off any serious planned grazing this time of year because for most of us it appears we have much more forage than we can utilize.  And for some it is approaching that time of year where mechanically harvesting of hay begins.  On our ranch we have found that the quickest road to shortages of winter grazing can be accomplished the quickest by processing hay on your own farm.  Yes, cutting of hay in a paddock will eventually reduce total annual production of forage from that paddock.  Allowing that forage to come to full seed head, before grazing and trampling in the residue, will build organic matter in a way that no other system can.  This will slowly increase total production of forages, and increase diversity in the paddock of higher quality forages that never get a chance to establish if the paddock would have been cut for hay. 
Dense, multi specie forages create healthy balance for soil and animals

A productive planned grazing program is not as simple as always letting all your paddocks grow to maturity.  But we all know we must minimize winter hay feeding to be profitable on the ranch.  What many have not learned that it is during this fast growth period in the springtime that we must act upon to take advantage of what this system has to offer in this area.  Once the summer is over and fall is here it is literally impossible to grow enough forage before growing seasons ends, in a closed system, to eliminate winter hay feeding .  But with a sound planned grazing program not only can most all winter hay feeding be eliminated, but total livestock numbers will eventually have to be increased if you choose to use this extra forage production.  It is possible to grow an amount of forages in a planned grazing program that approaches silage production in tonnage per acre.  And this is without ever firing up a tractor or buying anything.  When perennial forages approach the production level of annuals, the entire reason for the huge expense for working ground, planting seed, harvesting, and then mechanically feeding animals from this high input system no longer has advantages of any kind.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


As we manage our farm and ranch under this Holistic Systems approach my thoughts are primarily on the micro-organisms in the soil.  These are the mostly un-identified micro creatures living in the soil, breaking down soil organic matter, decomposing, helping minerals and other nutrients become more available to the plants and ultimately to the animals above ground.  These micro bugs are mostly only visible under high powered microscopic conditions.  But I am quite sure they are there.  Some in the form of bacteria others will be fungi and others by unknown names to this simple farmer who utilizes them daily for increased forage production and increases in good animal health.  Even to the scientific community little research has been accomplished to the point that most of these little bugs have not yet been identified and catalogued.  I find this quite unbelievable considering their importance to the fecundity and therefore life of this farm.  A new term to this farmer, 'microbiome', was discovered this week by accident.  Not used under farming lingo but let me tell you the story and how I see its connection to life on the farm

It seems this poor lady had serious gut problems which had threatened her life for sometime.  Out of almost desperation, after failures with antibiotics and many other treatments, her doctor injected her with healthy  bacteria from her husband's fecal material.  In hours her health began turning the corner and health was restored.  The good bacteria took on the task of helping this lady from her gut forward where modern prescriptions had failed.  This area of bacteria life has been labeled the Microbiome.  I see a direct correlation from this microbiome in the gut or human body and the Microbiome in our soils on the farm and ranch.

This Microbiome in my soils continues to fascinate me to no end.  Here at the Rockin H Ranch we are not able to increase livestock numbers fast enough to stay up with the increase in forage production.  We have increased our sheep numbers over ten fold in less than three years with even more increases in sheep forage in that amount of time.  We have come to the conclusion that one help in this area has been to eliminate the practices that were reducing the population in this so called Microbiome within our soil level.  Our past usage of chemical fertilizers and chemical fly and pest livestock applications were annihilating this population which in turn was limiting our forage production.  I find it appalling the very application of soil amendments that are touted for increased forage production actually worked in just the opposite manner.  Not only is total forage production two, three or four times more than ever in my almost 40 years of farming, but the variety of species of forages has increased many fold.  This all being done without so much as a penny being spent for seed or soil amendments.  

More education is needed worldwide to move agriculture more into this simple but sophisticated level of forage production.  Our current stone age level of growing food is destructive not only for farm families struggling economically, but for the continuation of a growing worldwide population demanding more food from a static number of arable acres.  Many health, ecological, and economic disasters have come about from our industrial model of rip and destroy politically supported agriculture models.  And farmers like us are not the only ones to take notice.   So the next time someone says 'what you can not see can not hurt you', just remind yourself that what we can not see in our soils and in our guts may also help us.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Developing the Farming Skills

We are living in a fantastic time in history.  We have so much technology, education, choices for good health, and many other attributes that make for a really good life.  There are great numbers of people in America that have connected the dots between good nutrition, low stress living and good health. Many are even chucking their high stressed city lives and moving to the country with the new desire to become farmers and grow their own food and sell to others not desiring the country life.  I know this to be a fact since I have and continue to consult with quite a few of these new farmers on their new farms.  Big changes are in store for these folks.  Some are prepared, some are not.  I also work with modern day traditional farmers desiring to better their lives and farms by leaving the commodity driven race track behind.  Even some of the promoters for good nutrition through growing quality dense foods can make farming appear much, more easily accomplished than it is. Farming, which is the production of food, requires extremely high levels of skill, knowledge, investment capital, ingenueuity, perseverance and lets not leave out maybe the most important, good luck for success.

First and foremost, farming is a business.  If you can not see through the cow piles, tomatoes, and gardens, that make up the fun stuff, and work daily on a well orchestrated business plan, farm failures are just as common as businesses in town.  Even with the best intentions and careful planning farmers do fail.  I believe failure to accept this endeavor as a real business is critical.  But also, many good meaning folks have this misguided mind set that you can farm if you can't do anything else.  The learning curve is extremely steep, and in this organic, bio dynamic, non commodity production type model we are in, creates even more challenges because good advice and help is far and in between.  Even a garden looks simple until you worked at the end of a hand tool all summer for rotten tomatoes and squash bug eaten zucchini.  Try setting at the farmers market for 5 hours and selling $29.99 worth of broccoli.

We have very little to nothing in place at the University, or extension level that prepares new farmers for what they will jump into.  Sure, if you want to learn how much Roundup to spray per acre on your GM corn the best place to spend your education dollar would be the closest land grant agricultural college. (No sarcasm intended?)  But family farms are small businesses not chemical suppositories.

I encourage the young, or more mature, interested parties to intern or coop with some farm that is operating in the manner you "think" you would like to before going out on your own.  Get an idea of what you are getting yourself into before going for broke.  We have interns stay with us on our farm every year.  Some even come back year after year.  We also recently initiated what we call the "Young Farmer Program".  This program is intended to help train people of interest in our system of farming and marketing our farm products.  We have a 6 month commitment from both parties and after this six month period some people have decided that farming just was not what they thought it was cracked up to be.  I see these people as the lucky ones compared to the ones who invest their life savings into a new farming business they are not prepared for and then loose all they had. Some may eventually go into farming on their own following this sort of apprenticeship period.  And hopefully, we may wind up keeping some on as permanent residence here at the ranch.

In summary; farming for a profit is a highly skilled profession.  And the training required is not unlike an undergraduate degree which would typically require about four years.  And just like this new graduate on the job market, his learning is only beginning.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Raw Milk

As a farmer I accept the responsibility that we are producing food on this farm.  I detest the word commodity and believe using that kind of language degrades and reduces the importance of life giving nutrients.  Our primary goal  here at Real Farm Foods is to grow food of the highest quality no matter what.  We enjoy providing our customers with quality, nutrient dense foods for their friends and family.  It really makes us feel good and makes all our very hard work even more rewarding when these folks give us feed back on how we are doing.

The following cut and paste came in today from one of our raw milk customers.  We imply nothing of the sort that would lead anybody, including bottom grazing attorneys, to believe we are making any kind of claims what so ever about the health benefits of any food we grow.  And we are not claiming to be doctors, nutritionist or even being intelligent people at all.  So don't waste your time sending me nasty e-mails, mean people, I'm just forwarding another e-mail, because I like sharing e-mails.  And I'm not saying anything bad about any other kind of food either.  Enough of that.  

This came in this morning from a new customer to us just early this year.  She chose to use our raw milk from our grass fed only Jersey cows for a 30 day raw milk diet.  We have known about raw milk diets for quite some time and I suggest you start your read with Sally Fallon if you want to research some. 

Our customer writes:

Raw Milk Testimonial

In the spring of 2009, I had a high fever and was extremely sick for 9 days. I am health and nutrition conscious and tried many different things during these last two years to bring back my prior vigor and strength. I gave up meat and lived on mainly raw fruits and vegatables for periods of time, but I felt like I was starving! My body kept feeling weaker. In the fall of 2010 I started experiencing joint pain in my feet, hands, hips, tail bone and left knee. I have been experiencing fatigue and digestive issues (gas, bloating, cramping and constipation), bladder/kidney infections that I couldn't get rid off, headaches, joint pain and a skin condition (psoriasis) which prompted my decision to go off all food and beverages and give the milk diet a try. I began an exclusive grass fed raw milk diet in February, 2011. I drank 1 1/2 gallons of milk a day for 30 days. I have included some comments below.

Week 1
Prior to starting the milk, I ate raw fruit for one day to start the cleansing process. I consumed 8 oz. of milk every half hour for 10-12 hours. I didn't think my body would be able to handle that much volume, but I was surprised by how easily I adjusted. I was tired and rested a lot for the first 3 or 4 days. I also had a few headaches from my morning cup of black tea (caffeine) withdrawal. After that time, I started feeling really good and the pain in my joints was much less noticable. I wasn't much of a milk drinker so I was only doing this by sheer determination and will to improve my health. I found to my delight the milk tasted wonderful! It can best be described as tasting like melted vanilla ice cream. Who doesn't like vanilla ice cream?

Week 2
I thought I would try skimming the cream and making butter for my family while consuming the skimmed milk for my diet. I didn't feel as good so I decided that experiment wasn't a good idea. My body needed the extra calories and nutrients from the whole milk. Prior to starting the milk diet I was experiencing swollen joints in my right hand and the swelling had gone down at least 50% by the end of week 2.

Week 3
Back to drinking the whole milk and my energy level soured once again. I love this diet because I feel full all the time. I am giving my body the nutrition it needs. I noticed the biggest improvement in my dry, scaly skin this week. One area is completely gone and the other areas are improved 50%. My digestive system is working properly with no upset in either kidney/bladder or colon areas of digestion.

Week 4
I consumed 40 gallons of milk during this 30 days consisting of 4200 calories a day. I was desiring to build up energy and body fat and muscle. While mostly resting and exerting myself very little on absolutely necessary housework I found that due to the good calories from this grass fed milk, I still only gained 3 pounds after 30 days. I have no negative digestive issues whatsoever, the joint pain is hardly noticable and the psoriasis is 80% diminished. My body continues to improve and it is hard to believe that I once felt tired all the time. I now have the energy to engage in those wonderful outdoor spring activites and just wish the weather would cooperate! Who needs caffeine? Just drink raw milk!!!

My special thanks goes to Cody and Dawnnell Holmes at the Rockin H Ranch/Real Farm Foods for providing me with this wonderful milk. Cody even went without himself some weeks so I would have all I needed for my milk cure. How happy I am to have found you and plan to never be without this wonderful grass fed raw milk.

Bad Habits Are Hard To Break

Many of us do things every day in a certain way because more than anything else action simply forms habits within our lives.  This is never more true than feeding grain to ruminant animals like our friendily bovines the cow or bull.  These ruminant animals do not have the biological make up to handle high concentrates like soybeans, corn and many other harvested grains.  Yet in America most continue to force feed our cows this very toxic menu because in the short run we see increases in production, that is in weight gain and milk. 

This animal which internally is designed to function quite well eating forages only, will show us just how adverse they are to grains if we simply open our eyes and back off some of these bad habits we continued for way to long.  The attached article reflects on university research that demonstrates just one of the damages we are causing by feeding bulls grain. 

Many of my readers and clients have heard me talk on this topic before.  But my friend form Colorado, Kit, "no grain" Pharo, reminded me once again in his e-mail.  For your reading "click here". 

This blog entry will not speak of all the bad environmental and social problems caused by our insistance on all the grain feeding to cattle.  But just from the economic point of view of the rancher, why is it so hard for the cattleman to not recoginize that grain feeding is one very large part of his financial difficulty.  The answer is simply, "Bad habits are hard to break".

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Responsible Farming

Just got back from speaking at the Farm To Table Conference in Pittsburgh Pa. Sally Fallon's presentation followed mine so we got to rub elbows once again. What a fine lady Mrs. Fallon is and quite the advocate for correcting many of our health issues through diet.

As farmers we can begin to take on some of this responsibility for the health and welfare of our citizens. After all we are the food producers for everyone who does not grow their own food, which takes in just about the entire population. There was a very large campaign, which began over 40 years ago, to convince our farmers we had to quit raising food and become big commodity growers. They were very successful at the expense of our farmers and consumers, the American public. Most of the auto immune deficiency diseases we cope with each day ravaging the lives of our friends and relatives were hardly known of prior to that time in history. These diseases were by no means as common as they are today.

No one forces the dairy farmer to inject Rbst, the calf feeder to force feed antibiotics in the form of Ionophores and inject growth hormones, the grower to spray pesticides on plants, plant Eco dangerous GM seeds just so he can spray more Glysophate, feed arsenic to chickens housed by the thousands living in their own feces, and the list goes on and on. And most do this because of the training most of us have received over these last 40 years. And with all this bigness in play, our farmers are having some of the most difficult times in history at keeping the ink from turning red and even keeping their farms at all.

So when Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, almost a half century ago, was telling farmers to get big or get out what he was really saying was to become slaves on your own farms, produce the way we tell you to, have no conscience for your fellow Americans, or you can sell your farm and move to town. Now our smaller farmers that are left are mostly broke, working full time jobs in town to support their farms, and many of those who gave in and went to town are contributing to the ranks of the unemployed.

We have markets that are screaming for farm fresh, quality grown food not laced with pesticides, meats and milk that does not have to be heat treated or dipped into chlorine baths, and all kinds of non processed real food. And we no longer have many farmers that know how to do these things. This is because we followed Earl Butz's scare tactic and got out. And one big result of this is the battle we as a nation are loosing as a whole in our poor quality of health. This massive increase in health issues is extremely expensive on our nation, our people, and our chances for a future. No matter wether or not there is a national health insurance plan, the people will have to pay for these enormous costs of a civilization in the sorry health condition we have become. And all the blame can not be placed on pre-packaged fake food and the companies that produce that trash. Farmers will have to carry a very large load of blame for growing it to begin with.
Less than 2% of our population produces food for all the rest. Many in agriculture will brag about this feat. I am here to declare that this is an embarrassment to my own industry of agriculture. Other societies report tremendous increase in productivity over our abusive systems we practice here in the states. We have been successful in displacing many good farm families over the last 40 years and removing them and their highly skilled abilities and have put the burden of commerce on the American people of feeding and taking care of a large population of people that can no longer find employment. They have been replaced by a system that produces frankenfood that helps incubate cancer, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, M.S., obesity, and a host of other auto immune diseases that in themselves have the capability of destroying the health of our entire nation.

By ridding our country of the small farmer we have created a serious health endemic never seen before in our history. We have created the loss of waves of jobs and placed the burden of feeding and caring for millions of others in the form of welfare and other public assistance programs. By doing this we installed a monstrous farming conglomerate whose only goal is to produce large short term profits while insuring the destruction of most of our natural resources, at the top of that list primarily our very limited top soils, in which by some calculations will no longer sustain our civilization past the middle of this century.

Because the solution is so simple and has no chance for corporate ownership and control, talk of food production from small, highly skilled farmers, with high moral standards, can only be successful by one convert at a time.  This will require a point of view that extends beyond what most are fixated on from what they have been trained to view as acceptable from what they see on T.V., magazines, other media, and from whom they are influenced by in society.  We have been trained that we can not die of starvation from a full stomach.  This is not true.  Most critical historians know of many civilizations, including ancient Rome, that no longer exist due to their lack of ability to feed its people in a healthy manner.  Food and good health are synonymous.  And with out quality farmers, we have neither.  I urge all to purchase food for your family from only responsible farmers.  At the same time I encourage all young men and women who desire to farm to avoid the advise of Earl Butz.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Big Ag Bluff

Once being on the side of big industrial ag and now in transition for being re-educated, I still recall boasting how we were so good at farming here in the US that we were feeding the world.  This could never be more false once we learned how to read, that is between the lies and the lines. The next time some big proponent, or industrial ag vehement brags about feeding the world, ask him "just what kind of food do you produce?".

Over 70% of all corn grown in the US is fed unnecessarily to cattle walking around in feed lots in knee deep, ecoli feces.  Pesticides are so prevalent now that many vegetables bought in the supermarket are laced with levels above FDA standards, as if there is a safe limit to poison.  Most illnesses of today are food related.  And I do not mean contaminated with bacteria.  Almost all of these listed immune deficiency diseases are directly related and are an outcome from poor nutrition. 

Secretary Earl Butz gave a speech over 30 years ago slamming small agriculture.  His famous statement was, "get big, or get out."  Those must of been powerful words because small farmers have been exiting the business ever since.  And our health has never been worse in history.

This article gives hope to those of us who have chosen not to listen to the likes of Earl Butz, and do not have our head stuck in the sand.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What's So Important About Alfalfa

Washington just cleared the way for the sale and planting of all the GE Alfalfa.  You might be asking what is GE Alfalfa and why do I even care.  And you may think that alfalfa has no connection to your life.  You would probably be wrong under this assumption.  Alfalfa hay and pellets for concentrate is one of the primary protein additives for dairy cattle, beef cattle, goats, sheep, and many other animals we get meat and milk from.  Have you ever eaten ice cream.  Well, ice cream comes from cows, and many cows eat alfalfa every day.  What about butter, cheese, milk, hamburgers, etc. and the list goes on and on.  Some mineral supplements for humans even contain alfalfa. So what is GE Alfalfa and why does Washington care about it?

As suspected, this is no ordinary alfalfa plant.  These plants come from seeds that have been genetically modified.  The primary reason for modifying the genes are to alter the plant so that it can accept more of a very extremely toxic chemical insecticide called Glyphosate.  You see now, the farmer can plant alfalfa seeds and spray the living daylight out of the entire field with an extremely powerful weed killer, not unlike DDT, without causing damage to the alfalfa plant.  So now the alfalfa is bathed in this pesticide at even higher and higher levels.  The alfalfa is later processed for animal and or human consumption.  What parts of the bug killer doesn't get blown over into the neighbors field, into your air and heating system in your house, or in through your window of your car, gets washed down towards our drinking water system or either stays on the plant to be consumed by food producing animals.  Isn't that just great.

There is little to no question about the dangers of pesticides.  So why would a farmer contribute to such a destructive process.  And why would our hired help in Washington want to contribute. In the old days before pesticides and Monsanto, farmers had better understandings of plant, soil and animal life than they do today.  The also must have had better moral fiber as well.  They understood that in order to grow living food for living people the act of growing food must involve care and consideration for what exists in the quality of the food not just the quantity of a commodity to turn into cash.  And to understand why Washington is even involved we must understand how our USDA employees are connected to the company, Monsanto, that makes and sells these products.  When we spend only a small amount of time looking we easily find that most of the upper level management staff for USDA and FDA have once or in some cases several different times, also worked for Monsanto.  Big companies have found out that not only is paying billions of dollars on lobbyists and bribes a pretty good way of doing business, but promoting your high ranking employees to government positions that actually have the power to approve your products for the market has value as well. And then of course when they get tired of working for uncle sam they are always welcome back home.  What a system.

I have encouraged farmers many times in this blog to become more responsible in this wonderful endeavor, the people of the world have placed in our hands, to produce life giving foods.  I am honored to be given this opportunity and value it tremendously.  I have wondered for sometime what means of legal protection has Monsanto devised to protect themselves for legal liability from creating these poisons that cause cancer and other immune depressant diseases which kill adults and children everyday.  It appears that when the farmer purchases these cancer causing products he is required to sign off on what I call a waiver, which he then accepts all the liability.  This legally exonerates Monsanto from everything under the sun. Isn't that just amazing.  Again, I appeal to the farmer.  Lets quit playing this dangerous game.  It will be the farmer left holding the bag some day when the attorney or someone even valuable who asks,"did anyone force you to farm this way"?  And of course the answer will be, "we were only doing it for the money".  And the reply from the bench setting next to Monsanto, "Off with his head".

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Search of Sustainability

This was the title of the presentation given by Jim Lents from Oklahoma during the Spring Forage Conference yesterday in Springfield Missouri.  I was also a guest presenter during the one day conference as well.  Jim Lents and his family have been line breeding hereford cattle since the 1940's.  He and I have many of the same ideas concerning the degradation of our livestock in this country due to our inefficient and non professional system of breeding our cattle.  He made the comment that our problems are an accumulation of poor breeding that began around the middle of the 1800's.

To first state the problem: current day livestock production has not passed the sustainability test which has now resulted in most cattle operations existing more as a hobby to its owners than a genuine profit enterprise.  If anyone should doubt this comment, try and write down a list of people you know in this business that actually make their living from this business.   I contend, as does Jim Lents, that we no longer breed a cow that even has the remote possibility at procreating, living a long life on forage alone, and making her owner a living.  We now have many more people in the supply business to sell us farmers gadgets and gizmos to help nurture these money loosing pet elephants along than we do farmers themselves.  In my lifetime I have witnessed many more farmers exiting business due to business failure than I have seen new ones or existing ones remain. 

One of the primary reasons this has existed is because our cows have been bred for many, many generations to do a lot of things besides consume forages.  Most no longer have the genetic make up to convert forages to meat and milk in a sustainable manner.  And most of these cattle owners I talk to have no idea of these concepts.  They generally assume that a cow is a cow and the method of breeding has little effect on profits.  When in fact, with out this concern, there is little to no chance at all for any profit under sustainable methods. 

The seedstock industry is now based around numbers on paper known as the EDP system.  Under this concept it is purported that you can breed and perpetuate a cattle herd by reading these numbers without ever even looking at the animal.  And with the advent of artificial insemination, this process of perpetuating poor quality animals is sped up to lightning speed. 

One good example of this is in the Holstein dairy industry.  The average holstein cow no longer lives long enough to have her second calf, which is about four years old.   The average age for a black angus cow is about six years old.  There are records from the early 1800's of black angus cattle living 35 years old.  This extremely shortened time period for the life of cattle is a good example of a regression rather than a progression in good attributes.  This not only demonstrates how a single cow no longer has the ability to stay productive in a herd for long periods of time, but it also shows how frail we have made these animals.  This frailty adds a great deal to the cost of production to keep these animals alive so that they may have an opportunity to stay in a herd.  It is this frailty issue that keeps purveyors of products in business selling their wares to the farmer while he digs deeper and deeper into his pockets at the attempt to keep a very poor quality animal productive.

I know of a few breeders that have not followed this protocol of breeding these type of cattle under these conditions and have cows aging 15, 16, 17 years old and older.  Dairy cattle as well as beef cattle.  The average North American cattlemen has no idea how profitable cattle could be if they weren't so frail.  Most have never seen anything other than substandard breeding. 

No one in the industry, and most intelligent people on the periphery, would not question that the big advantage and natural benefits a ruminant animal like a cow has is that she can take average quality forages and turn it into very high quality protein in the form of milk and meat.  Mankind as of yet has not figured out how to do this more sustainably in any other way, and I'm pretty sure he never will.  And therefore we are pretty assured that this system of utilizing large quantities of green forage through the cow, that we would otherwise  have a very hard time surviving on as the main staple in our diet, is absolutely critical to man's survival.  If you have any doubts about this statement take a look at what happened to the American Indian civilization when their grazers, browsers, the bison, were decimated.  When a civilization can no longer feed itself, destruction is not questionable, it is eminent.

What began in the mid to late 19th century was man's road to dependence on industry, mechanization, university research and training methods, and a god like authoritarian position over the farmer as though he did not possess the high level of skill to feed the populace, although he has done this since the beginning of time.  I think it must have been an even worse time to be a real farmer during that period than now.  Quality livestock breeding requires an extremely high level of skill only acquired through generations of practice, learning, and observation.  This ability to select and breed for health, longevity, sustainability, etc., is better known as animal husbandry. 

"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares." George Washington

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What are grass fed meats?

Grass fed meats come from animals that eat nothing but grass.  Sounds pretty simple, but it can become extremely complex in our society of hype, advertising, media blitz, and farming.  Now how does farming fit in with hype, advertising and the media, you might ask?  That part is really simple.

You see it is very common knowledge now days that most of us are informed to the level of understanding that we know how grass fed meats are higher in CLA's, omega 3's, have more vitamins A, D, E, K in the fat etc.  And typically higher quality foods are in demand and therefore receive a small premium at the check out.  So many farmer folks have jumped on the band wagon and are now using hype, advertising and media to push their grass fed products.  And this is all well and done if the product actually meets this very high level of criteria of belonging in a class of grass finished meats.  Big problem is, most meats or most animals do not meet this high level of quality.  You see you can  not simply take an animal that has been bred genetically for several generations to perform on grain and expect him to magically become a grass finished animal.  That would be comparable to taking an NFL team and placing them on stage to perform a ballet.  Again, only with hype, advertising and with a well paid media could you get that accomplished.  And most people would leave long before intermission.  Unless you expected to see a comedy.  Putting a grain fed genetic cow in with a grass genetic finished cow and expecting similar results would also bring about a comedy situation.  That is if you had a really good sense of humor. 

Most of the general public and even a great majority of farmers do not understand this conundrum.  You see we have been breeding livestock to produce larger and larger quantities of milk and meat on very large quantities of government subsidized grain, no matter the cost or quality of product.  More and bigger has always been promoted as better.  Well, we as a nation have gotten more and bigger right around the middle and also less healthy.  And the poor economic condition of our farmers have gotten to a point where most of us are no longer even capable of determining a viable alternative to making all things bigger.

I speak to many farmers as I travel across this country and I believe that as farmers we will be the ones that will get left holding the bag.  After all we all have the ability to change our farming operations and quit feeding cattle on pesticide laced, hormone injected, antibiotic feeds, living out their lives in knee deep animal feces before slaughter.  This system promotes massive loss of top soil, water pollution from chemical run off, a gigantically growing dead zone in the gulf, all from unsustainable production of grains primarily across the Midwest to feed these confined animals.  And in the end it produces a product of less quality than grass finished, and helps farmers go broke faster.  The only people that win in this system are agricultural input salesmen and Washington lobbyists.

As a breeder of grass finished livestock we know that it takes at least three cattle generations, which is about 10 years, to make even the smallest of significant improvements in a cow herd from a grain based type cow into a cow that will perform well on grass or forages only.  This is if our new grass genetic bull is all he is supposed to be.  Selecting for grass based genetics will be a new part of the farmers education that is seldom seen even by today's most experienced livestock producers.  And because grass finishing or milking cows only on grass is so new to the US, that locating quality grass genetics to begin with almost requires magic.  However, once we get on the right track genetically we begin a whole new livestock enterprise not seen here by most standards for well over 60 years or more.  This type of cow requires absolutely nothing in the form of inputs.  Once the entire system of forages, genetics, and management to put it altogether arrive, our primary costs of production are the initial purchases of livestock and land.  That's it.  For the livestock producer this is monumental.  And for the consumer, its meat that can build health instead of deteriorate life and the earth we all live in.     

Thursday, February 10, 2011

We Eat What We Eat Eats

Farming has been typically a high investment, small margin, which can lead to low returns, type business requiring long hours and quite often long periods of solitude.  We are an extreme minority, less than 2% of the population, and very, very misunderstood.  This business of high investments and high cost inputs and low returns has gotten even worse in the last 35 years for most all of us in the business.  The folks selling the inputs have gotten very good at what they do and in most cases make most of the money made at the farm gate. 

My Australian friend, John, and I have had a really good conversation about this very thing just yesterday.  As farmers we have been very gullible when the input salesmen come around.  The only thing these guys promise to do is to increase production if you buy their most popular gadget.  And for the most part production has been increased.  But increasing production on the farm all most always reduces profits.  Bigger production does not equal bigger profits.  Bigger bulls bred to our cows to produce bigger calves to sell, create bigger heifers from those cows that go back into our herd which in turn require more maintenance costs.  Breeding milk cows for more and more milk builds cows with life expectancies of less than four years old when other herds have cows aged 15, 16, 17 years old and more. And in this case those costs always exceed the value of the extra milk or weight from those calves.  Not to even mention the humane consequences brought about from this type of breeding.

From a very early age we are taught that more is better and it becomes very easy for professional marketers to tap into this physiological programming as John describes it.  Generally speaking when one of these salesmen succeed with their sales pitch another one comes along next year to fix the problem that the last new gizmo caused and because we have been programmed in this manner they most often succeed.  Creep feeding calves and cross breeding as an example.  How could anybody fall for this.  And most college ag departments and farmers have been so brained washed they see value in both of these money loosing schemes.  Most of these farmers will still argue for these practices while their wives drive off to work to support their poor farming decisions.  

As farmers we have become the suckers for these professionals and now we actually are producing very little from our farms.  We have become consumers of things from a bag, box, syringe, a tractor seat, etc.  We will have to learn how to become producers once again.  It takes about two years to finish a quality grass fed steer on the ranch.  We can cram 50,000 steers into a feed lot and force feed corn and butcher them in about 15 months.  One big problem is in this scenario in about 8 out of 10 years this system produces a net loss on every steer fed.  It is primarily tax dollars that keep this system perpetuating, that is your tax dollars. And it doesn't produce more food.  We also destroy most of our quality farming ground from soil erosion, deplete soil organic matter and soil biology from excessive applications of anhydrous ammonia, potassium chloride,(chemical fertility), and contaminate our precious limited supply of drinking water through heavy doses of pesticides that run out of drain pipes from these oceans of corn fields that grow the corn and beans for these poor animals.  And of course when this excellent type of farm ground is used to grow and force feed livestock, we create shortages of human foods that could be grown there instead.

Raising cattle in this manner has become so non profitable, our nations cow numbers are down to what they were in the early 1950s.  And our population of meat eaters has grown and continue to grow many times over.  Acre after acre of pasture land on farm after farm sets idle, where once many cattle grazed.  This because farmers see no way to make a profit from livestock.  With only an elementary understanding of economics I can speculate where the price of food will rise to under this system.   

So what if it takes a little longer to fatten a calf at the ranch instead of at the knee deep feces infested feed lot, we all are winners.  That is except the fellows selling last years fix-a-flat products that we didn't think we needed until it was made available. This whole 'sell the farmer things he has no need for' mentality has horrendous effects on our entire nation.  As our farmer numbers continue to dwindle, primarily because of this system, these once dedicated farmers are left broke and wondering what they did wrong.  Most people involved in this ridiculous system have know idea what is happening.  Farmers have been struggling from this system for so long now that most think this is normal.  The production of food trumps every endeavour known to man.  If you do not believe me try  and not eat this month, this week, or even today.  Not only does this situation back farmers into the corner financially, the food produced from this system guided by these money hungry, narrow minded fools, is a food production system that yields substandard food that has created a health problem in the U.S. like no other time in the history of man.    

The diet of a feed lot beef is made up of primarily GMO corn, that would in most likely have been drenched in Glyphosate, a very strong weed killer, look on the label of your 2-4D bottle, a lot of GMO soybean for protein, think estrogen here, and quite often other dead animal parts, of course they must be from non ruminating animals, because that would be illegal.  The feed additive or antibiotic ruminsun more than likely will be added, better known as an ionophore, and a hormone implant or two or three would be injected.  Sounds yummy doesn't it.

Since this ruminating animal was designed by nature to eat grass only, this high starch diet begins a process of destroying his digestion which will require more antibiotics, and of course his internal organs like the liver may very well become inoperable as well as another organ or two before he goes to slaughter.  A better way to say this is he might be just a little sick before he winds up on your table.

Lets compare this to a beef that is raised on grass and mothers milk.  This is a short story.  You simply eat a quality meat that nourishes your body with out concern with all of the above.

Big ag would like you to believe that what the animal eats has no baring on the meat.  That would be like saying it doesn't matter what your kids eat so feed them the cheapest pizza, soda, and corn chips you can find every day. 

Big ag also believes in pasteurizing raw milk so that they can feed and treat those cows in anyway they wish to and the milk will be just fine.  Sort of like how they irradiate the meat from the cows above.  So do you believe you eat what you eat eats?  And do you believe that simply heating the milk or meat from sickened animals makes that product consumable? 

I found an interesting test done on a farm where one calf was fed pasteurized milk and the other calf fed raw milk.  I suggest you read through this short article and make up your own mind.

By the way, we eat only grass fed meats, and raw milk here on our ranch.   We are happy to share our food that we produce with anyone.  Most people have a doctor, a lawyer, a mechanic, and many even a plumber.  A lot of people I talk to are now finding the need to have their own farmer.  Again, make up your own mind.  If you would like for us to be your farmer, contact us.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Freedom to Speak

Do we really have freedom of speech?  If you ask Ricardo Salvador after his interview for a directorship position at Iowa State University he might question that premise.  Mr. Salvador had suffered through the academic throngs of multiple interviews reaching the final stages where he was surely expected by most to be a shoo-in for the position.  The challenge had gotten down to him and one other when the other opponent become unavailable.  This last interview was seen more as a formality.  That is until Mr. Salvador simply answered a seemingly very simple question with a very simple answer.  The question put to him was about how meat should be produced.  His response was,"produced in the natural way that meat should be produced, which is on land suitable for grasses and perennial crops.”  At an agricultural college, in a state that produces mostly corn and soybeans, this was obviously not the answer the college was looking for.

From that point forward Ricardo Salvador was no longer a viable candidate for a position at Iowa State University.  Of course Farm Bureau had plenty to say about "cattle eating grass", when they are the most powerful lobbyists in corn and bean country.  President of the Farm Bureau, Bob Stallman, said the Farm Bureau, "must aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule."

Later the Dean of Agriculture there, Ms. Wintersteen, was asked if cows should eat grass.  Her response was, "I don't have an opinion on that statement,"  It appears Ms. Wintersteen is a very observant person.  She saw first hand what happens at Iowa State when you speak out of turn against The Farm Bureau and big Ag.

So I guess we only have freedom of speech when we are willing to cower to big business and Universities supported by such.  I find it a huge contradiction that a research University such as Iowa State squashes all innovation in the industries and peoples it is deemed to serve.  There is little question in my mind that this sort of suppression of ideas and advancements for society occurs regularly in our society.  This is because big business and big government, has one primary objective and that is to collect big money even at the cost of humanity.  It takes only a simple minded farmer like myself to extrapolate from this incident how this behavior, across many disciplines, puts constraints on progress against better ideas, better health, and a stronger country that might exist if its citizens were not lied to and sold out to the highest bidder.

I recommend you click on the link above and read through the short article in the Chronicle from Iowa.  I found the comments from readers at the bottom of the page very interesting.