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Archive for January, 2010

Soaking up Advice

I had a really nice visit today from Chad Cochrane, our local District Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. We took a walk in the pouring rain and talked about all our conservation concerns (fencing off a seasonal stream, controlling erosion on a hillside, dealing with soil impact in high use areas, etc.). Chad had some great advice, including which projects might be eligible for funding under the EQUIP program of the 2008 Farm Bill. Whether or not we get the funding, Chad is a great example of what I  wish the government could always be: efficient, highly competent, and really out to help us.

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E.coli still remains prominent in the news and recalls of product seem to be happening all too often. What is being done to remedy this?

An article written in the NY Times last December, After Delays, Vaccine to Counter Bad Beef Is Being Tested , describes how the meat industry is testing a new cattle vaccination to help make cattle  immune to a dangerous form of the E. coli bacteria that is resistant to the acidity of the human stomach.  I believe that by vaccinating the cattle, we are only treating the symptoms and not the cause.

Research conducted by Cornell University, Cattle diets could control E. coli danger , shows that cattle fed a grain based diet promote the growth of harmful acid resistant E. coli, and that just feeding cattle hay for five days before butchering, will “dramatically reduce” these forms of E.coli.

Imagine if the cattle ate just grass or hay and did not stand knee deep in their own feces.

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Cows have a natural ability to find the right forage they need to stay healthy. The only problem is that they need certain minerals that just aren’t present in my soil. For example, no species of plant will give them the iodine they need if iodine is not present in the soil. So I have just built a free-choice mineral feeding trough. I filled it with 16 different minerals and let the cows at it. They gobbled up the iodine by the way, and did not touch the sulphur or phosphate (our well water has sulphur in it and our soil is high in phosphate).

Eventually, the minerals they eat will be returned to the soil in their manure, returning balance to the soil and reducing (or eliminating) the need to supplement with the trough.

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I posted earlier about visiting Greg Judy’s farm. Greg’s pastures are so dense, he claims that his cattle will graze even through two feet of snow.

Recently, I was excited to see a bit of snow-grazing on my own place. I have a small amount of stockpiled pasture where the forage was pretty thick before the snow came. When I gave the cows access to this spot with a normal day’s ration of dry hay and high-moisture hay, they bypassed the hay and went straight for the grass through the snow. It was a nice validation that I’m on the right track with Greg’s holistic grazing management concept.

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