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Archive | January, 2018

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 →