Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Week 15 (December 3, 2012)

This week in our Principals of Sustainability and Farm Ecology classes we started with a review what we covered in last weeks small ruminant dive (refer to Week 14 post).  This led into a very interesting lecture on animal parasites (worms).  Then we tested fecal samples from the animals we worked on last week.  This included those two animals that were as identified by the FAMACHA test as potentially having worms.  This test involves observing the health appearance of the animals lower eyelid, comparing it against a photo chart.
Counting worm eggs for a modified McMasters test.  Info on the test kit used
can be found at www.eggzman.com
I have two full pages of lecture notes, here are a few of the more interesting highlights.

  • There are only 3-different chemicals available to treat animals for worms.  There are many different brands but only the 3 chemicals.  Apparently no one is working on any new chemicals.
  • The historic way of treating worms was to treat entire herd (of flock etc.) two to three times a year, rotating the chemical used going for 100% removal of worms.  This method has led to more worms being resistant to the available chemicals.
  • 20% of the animals shed 80% of the worms.  So now the recommendation if you use a wormer is to worm only those animals, sticking with one chemical wormer until it is no longer effective, monitoring for effectiveness with a goal of taking care of 90% of the worms.
  • Once the larvae hatches from the egg it can only move up the blade of grass an inch or two a day.  Therefore you want your animals grazing high up off the ground and not all the way down to the ground. Rotational grazing helps accomplish this and always has your livestock moving to fresh grass.
  • Cattle, sheep and goats, horses and pigs all have different parasites and are not impacted by those from the other animals.  This means they can follow each other in rotation without getting the previous animals worms.  (you still have to have enough vegetation).  Pasture management can be a very cost effective toll to manage and control internal parasites.  If you are preventing your animals from getting parasites you do not have to spend money treating them for worms.
We finished up the Principals of Sustainability class by discussing the most reading assignment "The On Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka.  The book is about Mr. Fukuoka's life philosophy and how he lives it eventually developing what he refers to as “Natural Farming”.  He further refines this concept by setting out the Four Principals of Natural Farming; first No Cultivation (no plowing or turning of the soil), second  No Chemical Fertilizer or Prepared Compost (if left to itself, that soil maintains itself), third No Weeding by Tillage or Herbicides (As a fundamental principal, weeds should be controlled not eliminated), and fourth No Dependence on Chemicals (The sensible approach to disease and insect control is to grow sturdy crops in a healthy environment).  This “Natural Farming” eventually becomes known as “Do Nothing Farming” (DNF).  One has to be sure to not confuse DNF with sitting around on your butt all day and expecting the crops to just magically show up in the field.  Instead he worked towards a method of farming which was based on nature in which his goal was to make the work easier instead of harder.  The result of the easier work was to give the farmer more time and opportunity to enjoy the life that was going on around him.  

Friday morning crop class started with a presentation on seed saving by one of our classmates Zach.  He presented information that he had recently learned at a week long workshop on seed saving he attended.  Zach is using what he learned to help with saving Native crop seeds at the White Earth Reservation.

In the Farm Skills class the subject was using and maintaining a scythe to harvest grain, hay and cut weeds and brush. Then we worked on animal restraints

Zach sharpening a scythe with a wet stone.

Peening a scythe brush blade to take out nicks


Practice throwing a lasso

Rope halter with a metal honda quick release.  Used to easily
take the halter off the animal.
On Saturday for Artisan Foods we visited Meadow Farms Foods and Owner Joan Kohan.  Meadow Farm Foods is located just outside of Fergus Falls their website is www.meadowfarmfoods.com.  They have been a long time supporter of the Sustainable Food Program.
"Meadow Farm Foods was originated by Jim Kohan in 1981 as a regional distribution source of natural foods and spices,  for buying clubs and stores. The business started out of Jim and Joan Kohan's home garage in rural Ottertail County, Minnesota, where they settled after moving from their homes in Minneapolis, MN..   Meadow  Farm Foods is currently going strong as a retail store located one mile northeast of Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The number one goal of Meadow Farm Foods has always been -- to provide healthy foods at affordable prices".  Joan went over the story of their history, her mentors and then told us about what it takes to start and run this type of a small business.  Everything from obtaining product, managing employees, to dealing with government regulations.  (Incidentally the best way to approach regulations is to deal with them right from the start of the business)   She also gave us some insight into how a farmer might go about selling their product to hers or a similar store.

Table of some of the Minnesota products sold at Meadow Farms
Location Map of producers that sell to
Meadow Farms Foods
Collage of Minnesota Producers that sell to
Meadow  Farms Foods


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