Archive | May, 2015

Integrating Poultry into Multi-Species Operations

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With the right tools for alternative feeding systems and pasture enrichment, farmers can successfully incorporate poultry into free-range, multi-species pasture or agroforestry production, based on the results of a USDA-ARS Arkansas study. The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE)-funded project, “Integrating Free Range Poultry with Ruminant and Agroforestry Production in a Systems Approach,” examines the various ways pasture can be used as a resource in ecological poultry production.

“In ecological poultry production, using a pasture resource effectively can be key to sustainability. You can use the pasture to its full benefits, but the challenge for farmers is to know how to do it,” said Anne Fanatico, an assistant professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

Fanatico and her colleagues looked at alternative feeding systems, parasite control and pasture enrichment.

“When integrating poultry with other animal species on pasture or agroforestry systems, high-quality forage can be an important source of nutrients for poultry, but the birds also need a concentrated source of feed, particularly energy feed because they do not ferment fiber like ruminant animals do,” said Fanatico.

The researchers studied two feeding systems: free-choice feed and choice feeding as an alternative to fully formulated diets that can make use of the pasture resource.

In the choice feeding studies, researchers found that birds on a fully formulated diet gained more weight than those on a choice feeding diet. However, feed efficiency in the choice feeding diet was greater and was less expensive.

This report appears in the May 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Meet an Eco-Farmer: Godsell Farm

Godsell Farm Eco-Farmer

Mark & Pam Godsell

Why did you begin farming?
Our goal was and is to educate those interested in learning about farm life before technology took over and to promote the humane treatment of animals, all while making it a fun and enjoyable experience for all ages. A trip to the farm provides hands-on learning. We offer a hatchery program for local schools to bring the farm to the classroom and are starting an “adopt the farm” program where they can hear about daily life on a diversified farm in the classroom.

Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?

Yes, it is truly a mission of ours — sustainable living, non-use of large equipment to farm, bringing today’s children to the farm to learn and explore where their food comes from.

What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?

Making a living, as Pam is still employed outside of the farm.

What do you enjoy most about farming?

The animals and how they contribute to the fields; the growing and sharing of veggies to our CSA members; having kids to the farm that have no idea where their food comes from — how crops are raised, how an egg does or doesn’t become a chick.

Continue Reading →

Grafting May Aid Watermelon Crop

WatermelonsThe watermelon crop has declined dramatically in Washington because of disease, but Washington State University researchers are developing a solution that involves grafting watermelon plants onto squash and other vine plant rootstocks. “We’ve lost about a third of our state’s watermelon production over the last 10 years because of Verticillium wilt,” said Carol Miles, a professor of vegetable horticulture at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. “Growers have switched to other crops that are less susceptible.” The fungus also affects tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and many other crops and plants. “Grafting is very old technology, going back over 1,500 years in China,” said Miles. “Farmers in Japan have been grafting watermelon since the 1920s. In the Mediterranean region, farmers have been grafting watermelon, tomato and eggplant for almost 20 years. We just need to find out what works best for our region, and we’ll solve the Verticillium wilt problem.”

This article appears in the May 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Fish Fertilizer Meets Nitrogen Needs

Organic LettuceThe authors of a new study have found that hydrolyzed fish fertilizer holds promise as an economically feasible nitrogen source for growing organic vegetables.

“Soluble organic nitrogen sources suitable for fertigation in organic vegetable production are much needed,” said lead author of the study, Charles Ogles. Ogles and colleagues at Auburn University studied the effects of three different nitrogen sources during a two-year crop sequence of yellow squash and collards. The scientists used hydrolyzed fish fertilizer, inorganic nitrogen (N) source with secondary and micronutrients, inorganic nitrogen without secondary or micronutrients and a zero nitrogen control for the study. Nitrogen was applied at recommended rates for both squash and collards, 80 percent of the recommended rates and 60 percent of the recommended rates. The study design included a zero nitrogen treatment used as the control.

“To eliminate the rotation order effect, the crops were switched each year: yellow squash-collard in year one and collard-yellow squash in year two” said Ogles. Continue Reading →

Book Review: Tales from the Industrial Pork Complex

Pig Tales Book Review

Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat by Barry Estabrook

Book Review:  Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for
Sustainable Meat

by Barry Estabrook, review by Chris Walters

“One Iowa pig accosted her owner in a pasture, and through grunts and nudges, led him to a barn where she had just given birth. The farmer assumed she was showing off her brood, but when he turned to leave after congratulating her on her nice piglets, she blocked his way, then walked over to her automatic watering spigot. She activated it, but no water came out. Even though he had never touched the spigot in her presence, the sow knew he would be able to fix it.”

Barry Estabrook’s previous book told the story of tomatoes, a source of nutrition with no observable capacity for learning. Despite the horrors of the labor abuses documented in that work (Tomatoland), and despite the arguably more egregious labor abuses documented here in the chapters on slaughterhouse workers, it is the pigs themselves that raise the stakes in Pig Tales. Described by a researcher as roughly equivalent to a bright three-year-old toddler, pigs generate anecdotes like the one above all the time. Their high level of sentience, illustrated by their feats of memory and intuition, throw into bold relief the ill treatment they’ve received at the hands of people. Putting to one side the matter of killing and eating them, for centuries we heaped opprobrium on pigs merely because they like to roll in dirt, a habit that makes sense, it’s more or less in their natural context. Nevertheless understandable that we made their name synonymous with slothful, disgusting behavior. When we really added gross injury to insult was the last few years, when we devised novel and innovative ways of torturing them. Continue Reading →

Take the Pain Out of Farming

Take the Pain Out of Farming

Eric Elderbrock and crew working on his farm near Madison, Wisconsin.

by Jack Wax

The animals that should be treated with the greatest care on most farms aren’t getting the attention they need. It’s not the health of livestock that is being overlooked: It’s the humans out in their fields or gardens all day or taking care of their animals. Farmers start out young and strong but as they age, they are more likely than other groups to suffer from joint problems, painful backs and bad knees and hips.

Everyone already knows that farming is one of the most dangerous ways to make a living. Safety around large animals and heavy equipment is a life and death matter. But few farmers consider the long-term health effects of day-to-day lifting, kneeling, stooping, twisting, shoveling and weeding — the activities that define the workload of most organic market farmers. The result? Approximately one-third of farmers and ranchers are limited by arthritis, according to the USDA AgrAbility Project. Surveys of farmers in the United States and other countries show that as farmers age, they not only suffer musculoskeletal problems but that their aching, damaged joints make them more prone to serious accidents.

The flip side is that the physical demands of farming can be a good thing. Young farmers can grow into old, healthy farmers. Back pain can be avoided; arthritis can be prevented or delayed, and daily aches and pains can be tolerated without developing into major joint or muscle disorders. But it won’t happen by chance. Experts agree that to stay healthy, farmers, such as 26-year-old Eric Elderbrock and his peers, need to be aware of the potential damage they are inflicting on themselves and learn how to take care of themselves. Continue Reading →