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Book excerpt: Reproduction and Animal Health

By Gearld Fry

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the Acres U.S.A. title Reproduction and Animal Health, by Gearld Fry. Copyright 2003, softcover, 218 pages. We republished this excerpt in 2018 in memory of Gearld Fry, who passed away and was an important figure to Acres U.S.A.

Gearld Fry

I’ve heard the comment, “I’m doing pretty good,” and there are words like excellent, profitable, and not too bad. For my part, I love numbers. Accordingly, I’ve put together numbers for 400 acres, 100 cows, assuming the average soil in the South, and I hope it will enable the cowman to draw the appropriate conclusion. This model will change according to the area, but it should guide the logic and thinking that backgrounds a profitable bottom line.

The Calf

The average calf has seven owners. It travels 1,400 miles from the time it is born until it makes it to a dinner table. There are two or three beef organizations formed recently that hope to achieve select as their target norm. The American Hereford Association recently entertained the billingsgate that Hereford select was better than Angus choice, this according to Colorado State research.

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Farming to Improve Soil Health

Today, you can’t pick up a farm paper or any other ag publication without seeing something about cover crops, minimum tillage and farming to improve soil health.

But what exactly is meant by “soil health?” Much of the soil health focus is on soil biology and fostering a healthy, diverse, living ecosystem in the soil. I agree that soil life is a key component of soil health, but in my opinion, the other important aspect of soil health is the soil’s ability to dish out nutrients to the crop, and then using the right sources of minerals to make up for any shortcomings in what the soil can provide. This aspect of soil health is often overlooked in discussions on the topic, but is equally important in getting you a high-quality bumper crop.

Like many aspects of biological farming, it’s the balance of different components that makes the system work.

I believe that many farmers now recognize that the soil is alive, a teeming underground city of creatures, all doing their own “jobs,” working together. They can be really productive, naturally balancing things out and providing nutrients for the crop that’s being grown. Soil health under this definition is a balance of organisms — no group crowding out any other group, seizing control and causing crop problems. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: Small Farms are Real Farms

By John Ikerd

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book Small Farms are Real Farms, by John Ikerd. Copyright 2008, softcover, 249 pages. Regular price: $20.00.

After decades of betrayal by the agricultural establishment, farmers are finally beginning to fight back. For decades, so-called producers’ associations have been promoting the industrialization of agriculture, which has contributed directly to the demise of the producers who have been paying for their programs.

Small Farms are Real Farms by John Ikerd

Over the past decade, for example, the Missouri Pork Producers Association has been promoting large-scale corporate hog operation through their support of industrial research and market development programs. During this same time, the number of hogs produced in Missouri has risen dramatically with the influx of large corporate operations, but the number of Missouri hog farmers has dropped to less than a third of previous levels. But, the nation’s hog farmers have voted to abolish the national pork check-off program, which supports the Missouri and National Pork Producers Councils. Farmers are finally beginning to fight back.

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Minerals for Healthy Soil & High-Quality, Top Yields

It’s a new century, and there is more knowledge about farming and the role of minerals, and there are more farmers paying attention to it. When it comes to farming, we know what the “base” is: putting all the pieces together including minerals, biology and soil structure — and using crop fertilizers that provide above and  beyond what the soil can dish out in terms of nutrients and biology.

A fall mixed cover the author grew after rye was harvested. He used the cover crop to capture nutrients in a biological form and to cycle nutrients to get more minerals into the following cash crop.

Even though there’s a lot of discussion about soil health, no-till and soil structure in farming right now, not enough attention is paid to minerals.

It seems like so much of agriculture is spending its time and money chasing magic biologicals, foliars or plant protection and not focusing on doing everything you can to feed your crop a balance of minerals and prevent the problems in the first place.

So what is your limiting factor or constraint that interferes with plant production and plant health? You need to understand that your farming practices have a lot of influence on plant health, and plants that are healthy protect themselves — just as you have an immune system that functions well if you are healthy. Reduce stress; eat a balanced diet with a balance of nutrients; eat a variety of foods that are clean without foreign compounds to fight and a good biological balance. If you get all that right do you need to take supplements?

It’s not farming the same way it was in grandpa’s day because there was a lot he didn’t know. He didn’t understand nutrients, soil health or soil fertility, and didn’t have the tools we have. He was stuck with a “plow.” If I asked you to do everything you could to get your soils healthy and mineralized, what would you do? Continue Reading →

André Leu on Monsanto/Bayer Trial: Glyphosate Safety in Question

By André Leu

The recent verdict awarding Dewayne Johnson $289 million, because a jury determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer, will open the floodgates for thousands of more people suing the manufacturer, Monsanto/Bayer.

André Leu

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) gave glyphosate the second-highest classification for cancer: 2A, a probable human carcinogen, in 2015. This means that cancer has been found in test animals, with limited evidence in humans. The evidence in humans was a strong association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Despite this, the manufacturer continues to state that its studies and the reviews by regulators show that glyphosate does not cause cancer. The manufacturer and regulators, like the U.S. EPA, will not produce these safety studies, to be reviewed by independent scientists and other stakeholders, as they are considered commercial in confidence.

The first issue here is if they have the evidence that glyphosate does not cause cancer, why don’t they publicly release it, rather than hiding it? Continue Reading →

Real-World Composting: Making the Life/Death Cycle Work for Your Operation

By Malcolm Beck

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the February 1997 issue of Acres U.S.A. magazine. We republished it in 2018 in memory of Malcolm Beck, who passed away and was an important figure to Acres U.S.A. and to the world of agriculture.

When I got into the compost business, it was by accident. I made my living working on the railroad. Our farm was more of a hobby than a necessity, although it was a good place to live and raise our family. Besides the usual farm crops and animals, we raised vegetables, up to 20 acres some years, and did it all organically. Our fertilizer was lots of manure gathered from our and the neighbor’s cow pens. We always kept a few big piles around.

Malcolm Beck

A visiting friend who was a landscaper spied our manure piles and pestered me until I finally sold him some. We loaded it by hand using manure forks. He paid me forty dollars for four yards. I got to looking at that money and thought, Gosh, that was much easier than spreading that manure in the field and plowing, disking, planting, cultivating, irrigating, harvesting, then going to the market and letting someone else dictate the price. Then it struck me, Why don’t I sell compost?

But I soon learned that at that time, few people, including farmers, knew was compost was. Next, the landscaper’s mother wanted some compost mixed with sand, then his uncle wanted compost mixed with sand and topsoil. Soon word got out that I had manure mixed with sand and/or soil, and here came the landscapers. I was forced into the soil mixing business. It wasn’t long before I used up all the rotted manure. Then I had to use manure that was still raw to make the mixes. I explained to customers “this stuff may be hot,” but they bought it anyway. One day, I made a delivery to a woman who operated a small nursery. She grew shrubs in big containers and I noticed her containers were free of weeds, while other nurseries always had a weed problem. I complimented her on the good job she did weeding, and she replied, “Malcolm, you soil/compost mix never has any weeds in it.” Continue Reading →