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Calf Rearing with the Madre Method

Photo by Laura Joseph

Photo by Laura Joseph

by Phyllis & Paul Van Amburgh

Madre Method: the unencumbered suckling of a calf on its own biological dam from birth to the age of 10 months.

There are three main commonalities of all successful dairy farms: the first is farmers that read and research, second is a good mineral and feed program for cows and soils (or nutrition program, as it may be called when incorporated in a feed ration), and the third is a good heifer program. Farms that do a top-notch job raising their replacements have healthier cows that perform and thrive. These farms suffer far fewer problems with their cows than the ones who lack proper management or the ones who rely on purchased, unknown, young stock.

Eight years ago we began raising our replacement heifers one-to-one on their mother. We have tried numerous other methods, but found all fall short. Most dairy farmers dismiss the technique of cows raising their own calf. They fear a financial disaster if they don’t sell all the milk from all of their cows.

We have seen that a cow raising her own calf for an entire lactation, as nature designed, is by far the best method of raising calves; it produces the healthiest, strongest, most disease-resistant, most resilient cows. In our opinion it is the only way to raise calves in a grain-free herd. It is also by far the most economical method for raising young stock. Continue Reading →

Improve Soil Health with Mob Grazing

Saskatchewan grazier Neil Dennis places posts without having to leave his 4x4 vehicle.

Saskatchewan grazier Neil Dennis places posts without having to leave his 4×4 vehicle.

by Tamara Scully

Saskatchewan grazier Neil Dennis comes from a long line of pioneering innovators. His grandfather raised purebred cattle, sheep and racehorses. His father was one of the first to use an air seeder. Dennis himself is now a leader in promoting Holistic Management grazing techniques, and he has pushed the boundaries of high-density stocking on the 1,200-plus acres of the family’s Sunnybrae Farms.

Today, the pastures of Sunnybrae Farms are thriving, with over 40 types of native plant species and a variety of legumes, none of which were ever seeded. The pastures boast a very high plant density, and water is retained in the soil with little runoff. The carbon content of the soil has dramatically increased over the past two decades, along with the microbial activity. Soil warms up earlier in the spring, stays cool in the summer and produces well into the fall. Salt and mineral supplementation of the 800 to 1,000 head of cattle that call these pastures home has been greatly reduced, as the nutrient content of the forages has increased. Continue Reading →

Preventing, Treating Pasture Bloat

friendly cattles on green granzing land are trusty

You must wait two hours until the frost is off before putting animals onto legume pasture.

by Hue Karreman, V.M.D.

With grazing season starting again, please keep in mind that legume pastures (clover and alfalfa) tend to cause bloating problems at any time of the grazing year, but especially when frosts are still happening. Pasture bloat is entirely preventable, but unfortunately every year I hear of a few farmers that have lost a handful of animals.

How can it be prevented? In short, make sure there is effective dry fiber in the cows’ bellies prior to putting out to lush pure stands of legume pasture. Realize that it takes a few days for the same group of animals to be on the same legume pasture stand (rotating through it onto lush growth) before any problem will be noticed. Generally, bloating will be seen by day 4 or day 5 of animals on heavy legume stands. This is especially true if the animals are fed very little if any forage in the barn during milking times. Granted, the animals want to eat the fresh feed compared to the preserved feeds they’ve been eating all winter, but they must be persuaded to eat some effective dry fiber in the barn area about a half hour before going out to pasture. Putting molasses or some other tasty type feed on (or in) the forage will work. Otherwise they will pig out on the lush pasture offered. Continue Reading →

Thinking Outside the Nestbox ─ Getting Started with Alternative Poultry

ducks

by Kelly Klober

A few times in my life I have found myself on a very old homestead. When visiting them I am nearly always impressed at how they are laid out in such a thoughtful and efficient manner. On nearly every one a section of the farmyard was given over to poultry care, a poultry yard. Not a chicken yard, but a segment of the all-important farmyard given over to brooding, rearing and maintaining all manner of poultry that were kept for meat and eggs.

Yes, large fowl chickens were generally the primary birds kept, but turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas and more were also often kept — first for the needs of the family and then for sale into local markets where regional favorites developed. One such item is fried young guinea that is a late-summer and fall favorite here in eastern Missouri. A short time back our local farmers’ market did a survey of poultry producers as part of a SARE grant-funded project. The group surveyed included attendees at one of the Acres U.S.A. conferences.
One of the more telling things that the survey revealed is that while most kept large fowl chickens, over half kept one or two more varieties of poultry. A good many actually kept as many as four different poultry species. Continue Reading →

Practical Pork ─ Heritage Breed Selection Considerations

Duroc Piglets

Duroc Piglets

by Kelly Klober

I’ve been around the hog business for 50-plus years, saw the Ohio Improved Chester breed go extinct and the Mulefoot come close and the demand for heritage pork arise. I was on the auction seats when boars sold for five figures and had butcher hogs to sell when the price per pound was first a zero and then a single digit to the right of the decimal point.

It seems that pork producers most often fall onto hard times when they move too far from the traditional roles for hogs and the keeping of them in modest numbers. Hogs were once but one part of a number of livestock ventures kept on a farm, kept in quite modest numbers often following rather seasonal patterns of production, and the resulting pig crops were marketed in any number of ways as the markets might dictate. Continue Reading →

Pigs on Probiotics

Probiotics may help fight antimicrobial resistance.

Piglets fed probiotic Enterococcus faecium showed reduced numbers of potentially pathogenic Escherichia coli strains in their intestines, according to a team of German researchers. The research is important, because in 2006 the European Union prohibited the feeding of antibiotics to livestock as growth promoters. Therefore, the research team sought to investigate whether probiotics could substitute for antibiotics, by reducing pathogen populations in the intestines, says Carmen Bednorz of Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany. The study was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Antimicrobials are thought to promote growth in industrially grown livestock because without them, the rationale goes, in such close quarters, a surfeit of pathogens would slow growth. “Our data suggest that the feeding of probiotics could substitute for antimicrobials as growth promoters,” says Bednorz. “This could help to reduce the burden of antimicrobial resistance.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.