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Managing Parasites in Livestock

Internal parasites are part and parcel of the animal’s ecosystem, or its “body ecology.” Wild ungulates are continually moving, leaving their parasite loads behind where they desiccate in the sun or just plain run out of nourishment before the animals return to the pasture. However, animals that are subjected to pasture or loafing areas without adequate rest will build up parasite loads, especially on humid landscapes, where moisture and temperature are conducive to their growth and reproductive cycles.

Young animals and those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable, and this includes pregnant and lactating animals. Never allow your stock with parasite challenges to become underweight.

Parasites: Landscape Management

The first and most important component in parasite management is landscape management by employing sound rotation practices. This includes not only the adequate amount of time for the rest period between rotational grazing, but also grazing height management.

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Be Counted: 2017 Census of Agriculture

The United States Department of Agriculture has started sending out the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Sadly, in a world filled with scams attempting to gain your personal information for nefarious reasons and a lack of confidence in the government, the agricultural census is often met with distrust.

Conducted once every five years, the census aims to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture. The resulting data are used by farmers, ranchers, trade associations, researchers, policymakers, and many others to help make decisions in community planning, farm assistance programs, technology development, farm advocacy, agribusiness setup, rural development, and more.

Naturally, most homesteaders, farmers and ranchers have an independent streak. We crave the independence that this lifestyle lends us, and we desire to hold onto it with all our might — especially since it seems to be under attack from numerous directions lately. Despite what may at first seem an invasion of privacy, the census is nothing new to producers and provides a means of opportunity for those involved with agriculture.

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Consider Biodynamic Growing

Viticulture and dairy are two of the best areas of agriculture for revealing the virtues of biodynamic growing — viticulture because quality is what wine excellence is all about and dairy because every tank of milk is tested for quality. Biodynamics is about quality and self-sufficiency. Both depend on life force to attract nitrogen from the atmosphere rather than using nitrogen fertilizers.

Peter Proctor workshop in apple orchard in India.

Chemical agriculture is largely a 20th century phenomenon based on the great 19th century chemist, Justus von Liebig’s premise that plants only take up nutrition as soluble salts — an assumption he repudiated toward the end of his life. However, by then the fertilizer industry was making great strides by capitalizing on his error.

The shortcomings of ‘chemical’ agri­culture became the starting point for bio­dynamic agriculture and was why Rudolf Steiner introduced his Agriculture Course in 1924. But, by then the chemical approach had become dominant with the discovery in 1909 of the Haber Process, which produced ammonia from natural gas and air. Meanwhile, biodynamic agriculture became pigeonholed and marginalized as a cult of true believers rather than a truly scientific method born ahead of its time. Continue Reading →

Breaking into the Egg Business

Perhaps the best place to begin a discussion about the egg business would be with the egg itself. There is just a nine-ounce difference in weight between a dozen medium and a dozen jumbo eggs. A dozen large eggs, the standard in the retail mar­ketplace, weighs 24 ounces. A dozen medium eggs, commonly used in the food service sector, weighs 21 ounces, just three ounces less. Those slight dif­ferences can become big factors when calculating costs to produce a dozen eggs.

Egg grades — AA, A and B — have nothing to do with egg size or shell color. Rather they are used to rate shell cleanliness and uniformity and the condition of the egg’s interior. Under examination and candling an AA egg will have a clean, unbroken shell with even shape and shell surface. The air cell will be 1/18th-inch or less in depth and regular in shape. The white will appear clean and firm and the yolk will be centered and free of defects.

An A quality egg will also have a clean and unbroken shell. The air cell will be a quarter-inch or less in depth and fairly uniform. The white should be clear although not quite as firm as in the AA egg. The yolk should be fairly centered, have a more defined outline and should also be free of de­fects such as meat or blood spots. Continue Reading →

Natural Weed Control

Growers are only limited by their imaginations in implementing non-toxic weed control methods on their farm. The most obvious way is to take the chemical farming approach and find an organically approved material to do the killing. Very strong vinegar has been the most marketed material. The important factor in vinegar formulas is to have a surfactant that strips away any waxy protective coating on the plant surface and that allows the desiccation or drying out of the plant. Salt provides the same mode of action and may be included in the formula.

Natural weed control

Flame is an even more modern and harsher approach. The mechanical approach is the most widely used by growers around the world. Cultivators are a modern version of hoe, hoe, hoe or hand pulling. Rotary hoes or spiked harrows are special adaptations of the cultivation approach. Using plastic films, whether degradable or not, is a form of smothering that is similar to mulching by any material. Here the weed is denied sunlight to prevent nature’s germination response.

Repeated cuttings in a fallow situation of a perennial weed may weaken a plant over time by using up any stored energy. Every attempt is also made to prevent the reseeding of an offending species. Treating isolated patches is worth the effort to keep them from spreading. If a field is overwhelmed to a point of not having an economic crop worth harvesting, be sure to take the whole field down before the offending weeds go to seed. Keep in mind that there are seeds in your fields that may have been there for years. Just lime or activate the calcium in your soil and watch clover appear in uncultivated ground that you haven’t spread clover on since you bought the farm.

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Tractor Time Episode 13: 2017 Conference Highlights — Dr. Vandana Shiva, André Leu and Ronnie Cummings

Good day and welcome to Tractor Time, the podcast from Acres U.S.A. This was recorded on Dec. 21, 2017, from our offices in Greeley, Colorado. We’re coming off a high from our 42nd annual Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show in Columbus, Ohio, and wanted to use this podcast to help us celebrate the highlights.

From left to right, Fred Walters, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Ronnie Cummings and André Leu, on Dec. 8, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.

There were many. They included the 1,100 people who attended from 15 different countries, who gathered to hear diverse and interesting viewpoints on ecology and agriculture. Not only did we learn about the finer points of soil nutrition, micronutrients, microbiology, micro fungi, but we also learned about the larger picture, and how ecologically based agricultural practices can benefit all of our global systems, from climate change to world peace.

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