Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quarantining new animals

It's spring, which means babies on the farm, and often, buying babies from other farms! A couple of months ago a fairly new farmer was telling me about a boar he bought that brought a whole lot of health issues to his whole herd, and he said the vet told him, "All of your health problems are bought and sold," meaning that you buy new animals and bring health problems onto your farm. This is why it's important to quarantine new animals for about a month after they arrive on your farm.

Sometimes I hear new people say that they don't have a place to quarantine new animals, but seriously, if you don't have space to quarantine new animals, you shouldn't be buying them. Just for regular farm operations, you need a space for animals that get sick or injured and need to be separated from the rest of the herd or flock. Why is quarantine so important?

The fourth buck that I ever bought died only a few weeks after I brought him home, AND a couple months later, I lost two additional bucks to the same problem -- parasites. If only I had quarantined him, at most, I would have lost only him. But I put him in the pasture with the other bucks, so he scattered his parasite eggs all over the pasture, where the other bucks could ingest them. Although I dewormed and moved the surviving bucks to a new pasture, it ultimately proved to be too late. Solving problems is always harder than preventing them!

You should also quarantine a new animal for their own health. Coming to a new farm is very stressful for an animal, and they are going to be especially susceptible to parasites and other health challenges. It is less stressful for their body to be in the barn on clean straw or in a "clean" pasture, which is one that hasn't had the same species grazing there for the past year.

It is also less stressful for herd animals to not be alone, so it's a good idea to buy two or more animals from a farm. It is also a good idea from a biosecurity perspective to limit the number of farms from where you buy your animals. I always cringe inside when I hear someone say that they're starting their herd from five or six other herds. And usually they're bringing them all home and putting them together from day one. Even if all of those herds had healthy animals, the stress of moving will take its toll. And all of those animals had their own physiological challenges that they were successfully combating on their farm, but when you bring them together, and they start sharing their germs, someone is going to get sick -- and you will have no idea where the problem originated. This is one reason modern feedlots are such a bad idea and why they have to rely so heavily on drugs to keep the animals alive. You don't see organic feedlots.

Quarantining should be relatively easy if you have a barn with multiple stalls, but what if you don't have that luxury? If you have a large open barn, you can create separate pens with pig panels (for animals that don't jump) or combination livestock panels, which are taller. New animals really should not share a fenceline because some germs can spread via nasal secretions or saliva, and certainly many can be spread via blood. If you have goats or sheep, they may butt heads through the fence until one or both is bleeding. Other diseases can be spread via feces, and animals can wind up pooping in the next pasture or pen if they are backed up against the fence. And all of us with animals know that "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," so animals will be sticking their heads through the fence to eat the grass on the other side.

It is okay if different species share a fenceline
because they have different diseases and parasites.
Pigs and goats share a fenceline here.
One reason we love temporary electric netting fencing is because you can set up a temporary pasture almost anywhere. You can also create a quarantine pen using four livestock panels outside. It makes a 16-by-16-foot pen, which can be moved every day or two. You can put it in an area where you don't normally have livestock grazing like a side yard next to your house. That way, you can also keep a close eye on the new animals. If they are baby goats or lambs, you can give them a large plastic dog house for shelter. Although I've never used them myself, a lot of people really like the dog igloos because they remove the bottom, which means it can be moved to clean grass daily, rather than requiring regular cleaning.

It is easy to say that you don't have the money or time to create a quarantine area, but the price is small compared to the loss of a valuable animal -- or in my case seven years ago, the loss of three valuable animals.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Are people really so clueless?

A couple of years ago I read this great post online about composting, and in the comment section someone posted a very long comment that said compost was fool's gold, not black gold, and that we can do so much better with modern fertilizers. At first I was shocked that someone could be so clueless about compost, and then I started to wonder if maybe that comment came from someone who works for a fertilizer company. I know that public relations professionals use Google Alerts to keep them informed about what people are saying about their companies, but they could just as easily use it to keep track of -- and comment on -- articles and other posts that might hurt business.

I recently discovered a six-month-old post in which Slow Food USA wrote about their $5 challenge -- make a meal at home for under $5. The writer went on to say that in New York City, an Egg McMuffin costs $2.99, but you can make the same thing at home with organic ingredients for $2.49. It was a really great post. However, the comment section once again had me shaking my head, wondering if people are so out of touch with reality or if the PR people for fast food companies are stalking blogs and writing comments to confuse the issue. "TBONE," who claims to be an organic farmer, wrote:
the one thing you did not consider is the costs to prepare said food. I agree with you that organic food is cheaper than many people think, especially if you consider growing ANY of it yourself, but the time it takes to prepare an “egg mcmuffin” is about 15 mins(by MY calculations)...thats time to gather, prepare, and clean up.  If said person earns $16.27(the national average) then you need to add $4.07 to that meal.  A far cry from the $2.99 McD’s charges. You cant compare prepared food prices to unprepared food prices without considering the time you lose preparing said meal.
Seriously? I'd love to know who is paying this person $16.27 an hour to sleep late instead of cooking his own breakfast. I say this a lot, but telling us to consider "the value of our time" is still the most ridiculous thing Corporate America spouts. No one is paid for every minute of their time, so unless this person is taking off 15 minutes unpaid from his $16.27 an hour job, then his time is worth exactly $0. And if your time is so valuable, then what about the time you spend sitting in the drive-thru at McD's? The fact that this person thinks it will take fifteen minutes to scramble an egg and toast an English muffin also tells me that he hasn't scrambled an egg in a very long time! (Here's a tip for the really clueless -- the English muffin can toast while the egg is scrambling.) I can guarantee you that you will spend less time scrambling an egg than you will spend in the McD's drive-thru.

Then "Hollie" commented,
I love the idea that you can make an organic mcmuffin for 2.59 vs the Mcd’s one at 2.99. But we also have to think about the fact that you cannot buy one egg, and 1 english muffin, 1 piece of cheese and one piece of bacon. You can buy all the stuff u need, but when your food budget is 40 dollars a week for a family of 2, you can choose to eat McMuffins most of the week, 3 meals a day, or have some variety. I tend to go into the store with 40 dollars and buy the cheapest food i can with as much food groups I can (whole wheat, veggies, cheese, ect) It is true though, that the cheaper food will fill you more and give you more variety when buying with such little money. 
Seriously? Does Hollie seriously believe that the only thing you can do with eggs and the other ingredients is to make Egg McMuffins? I find it very hard to believe this person buys any food in the grocery store or does any cooking if she believes what she wrote. English muffins are sold in packages of six, so two people would be able to eat them three times a week, which is not "most of the week, three meals a day." Eggs are an extremely versatile food, and they are one of the cheapest protein sources available. With four eggs, a little milk, cheese, and vegetables, you can make a quiche that will feed four people. Saying that you only have $40 a week to feed two people does not negate the fact that it is cheaper to cook from scratch.

And the ridiculous comments just go on and on, including a woman who says that she has to bake all of their bread products from scratch because they can't have soy, and it takes too much time to make English muffins. Does she really believe that McDonald's makes soy-free muffins from scratch every morning? It does not even make sense that most of these people are reading the Slow Foods blog if they have such contempt for the concept.

I suppose it should not continue to surprise me when I see people arguing that fast food is a good deal financially. I really want to believe that all of these clueless posts are made by PR pros -- and that people are smart enough to see how ridiculous these comments are. But there is a part of me that worries that these are real people who truly believe their completely illogical arguments.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What's so bad about TV?

Need more time? You might be able to find two or three extra hours a day by eliminating most of your television viewing, if you're like most Americans. In addition to having more time, you might also lose weight, be happier, eat better, and buy less stuff. If you reduce your children's viewing time, they will likely see similar results.

If you think you need to watch TV to unwind or relax, consider the fact that a number of studies have linked depression and excessive television viewing. A thirty-year study with 30,000 participants found that although people may feel happier while watching television, they tend to be less happy the rest of the time.

One study that looked at the habits of 50,000 women from 1992 to 2006 showed that women who watched television for three hours or more a day were more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who rarely watched television.

In a British study of ten- to thirteen-year-old children, researchers found that the more a child watched TV, the more materialistic they became and the worse their relationship with their parents. The researchers said that when children watch a lot of television, they are exposed to people who are richer, more beautiful and glamorous, and lifestyles that are more extravagant than their own, which lowers their self esteem and ultimately makes them unhappy and materialistic.

Many studies have linked exercise, time spent with friends, and even reading with lower rates of depression than TV viewing. Another disadvantages to watching television is increased consumerism. I even heard a radio host once say that she got dressed late one night and drove to a fast food restaurant to get a burger after seeing one of their ads on television. Although you may have never done this yourself, the reason that companies advertise on television is because they see a definite correlation between ads and sales. When they stop advertising, their sales go down.

There have also been many studies that have linked television watching with obesity. When you are watching television you are not moving, and you are being exposed to ads for processed foods, which tend to be high in fat, sugar, and salt. One study showed that children who watch television are less likely to snack on fruits and vegetables, and another one found that many people snack more when watching television.

Yet another study “found a significant association between the number of hours of television watched per day and body fat mass, with every extra hour/day spent watching television associated with a 2.2 pound increase in body fat.”

One study broke down the type of television that a child watched and found they were more likely to be obese if they watched commercial television than if they watched DVDs or educational TV. “By the time they are 5 years old, children have seen an average of more than 4,000 television commercials for food annually. During Saturday morning cartoons, children see an average of one food ad every five minutes. The vast majority of these ads -- up to 95 percent -- are for foods with poor nutritional value.” Junk food also uses a lot of packaging and is expensive compared to natural foods.

I used to be addicted to television about as badly as a person could be, but we got rid of cable when we lived in the burbs and never really missed it. We still have a television and use it to watch DVDs or stream movies once or twice a week.

Imagine what you could do if you had an extra hour every day. You could bake your own bread, tend a flock of backyard hens, or maybe even milk a few goats to make your own cheese!
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