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He’s done it again

October 4, 2010

Joel Salatin has delivered another good read.  My copy arrived at a perfect time.  You know, one of those weeks when you wonder what is going on in the world?  In regards to Jane, I was told that milk replacer was not to replace milk in her diet but a stop gap until she could eat enough grain to sustain her… . Oh I see, milk replacer is actually grain replacer then?  Ok, I get it, I think??  The next funny thing was reading about a farmer who was considering feeding her broiler house chicken manure to her cattle for the winter because she had no pasture, hay was too expensive, and well, after all, it’s (chicken manure and bedding) and it’s “all natural”  LOL and it’s free ‘cuz her 15,000 batch chickens turn this material out like clockwork.  OK.  Joel writes about this sort of thing all the time, but living where I do, where no large livestock operations exist, especially of the broiler house nature, you just hope he is exaggerating a little.  But apparently he’s not.

The book:  The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer. Excellent.

I found though, that I could only read one chapter at a time, since it was like hearing Joel speak at a seminar where a good portion of the people have never heard of his ideals.  At those types of functions he is full on, and this book is like this.  If you get to hear Joel at a producers seminar he is a little softer, and doesn’t have to shock people with the reality of what industrial farming methods and onerous regulations are doing to us as a society.

A good read for farmers for sure, but really a necessary read for eaters (which all of us are.)  The best part is the notion that good food is normal food and that us in the nutrient dense food business need to quit calling ourselves “alternative” farmers.  Industrial farming and yes, even small farms trying to compete in the industrial type market is the alternative food.  Amen.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2010 6:45 am

    I have added this book to my reading list and look forward hearing what he has to say. I suppose that it is really/sadly possible to feed chicken manure to cattle, amazing. After all they do feed cattle and other dead animals to cattle, or used to anyway. Perhaps if they would put an ingredient list up above the meat counter of what goes into these poor animals more people would refuse to be part of these terrible practices and start buying from local farmers that they trust, local farmers that feed their animals foods that they are meant to eat.

    • October 4, 2010 7:29 am

      Mike, you won’t be disappointed in the book.

      Sadly, when it was suggested culling some of that woman’s herd to match the land base, or putting the chicken manure on the pasture as fertilizer, etc., the answer was that it was worth more to sell the chicken manure than to fertilize their own land. I didn’t even bother with suggesting that she hold the cows back and rotationally graze them to drought proof her land. After all her neighbors all are considering doing the same thing this year, so more peer dependent farmers flooding the market…sigh. Raising broilers myself and knowing the protein requirements, I doubt soy was the total protein component of her chicken feed, so she may indeed be feeding cows to cows via meat and bonemeal, and it is a proven fact that the prions that may be responsible for mad cow are not killed with heat treatment, even in an autoclave. And people wonder why I raise my own meat! When you are a contract grower with 90,0000 chickens at a time, and you have no choice in what you feed them, you don’t really know what is in the feed, always it is the cheapest available protein mixed with commodity grains with prophylactic antibiotics. Hopefully she will find some hay at a price she can afford to take her cattle through winter. But the mindset she has will still be in place next winter, next drought etc. It’s up to the consumer to figure it all out and buy from different sources, which is happening on a slow scale, but it is happening.

      Add The Vegetarian Myth to your list too, it is very good, I was surprised at how good it was – never having leaned towards being a vegetarian myself.

  2. October 4, 2010 10:29 am

    Thank you! more good books…. Only problem is my books to buy list is getting so long!!! Too bad our library doesnt carry much of this “non- alternative” farming stuff….

    On another note… I seem to remember you saying you have a horse? Do you feed it the same minerals you feed to your cows? I cant seem to find any posts with the name of the minerals… though i do remember reading it somewhere….
    I havent fed grain to our animals for a long time but am always questioning the quality of the “supplements” we get to add to their local hay diet.
    Anyway im not sure it would be something i can get in BC but maybe i can find something like it. Your animals look beautiful and healthy and happy…. like they should all look!!

    thanks again!!

    • October 4, 2010 3:27 pm

      Kelsey, I hear you on the book list!! Some I do buy, and some I try to read first, before committing space on the shelf. I was 76th on the hold list at our county library for The Vegetarian Myth, I didn’t want to buy it and find out I wasn’t interested, but actually it was very good. I like Salatins writings, and actually had read a few chapters of this newest book in other publications, so I knew it was worth my buying it.

      As for the horse, he and Della are in the same place now, he was my daughters horse, and she offered him free choice minerals, he only really cared for the Redmond salt and the kelp, but she fed him a supplemental grain mix that had minerals, so I think he probably got quite a bit out of that feed in addition to getting some good grazing everyday. Hope that helps!

  3. Kathrin permalink
    October 4, 2010 11:10 am

    Isn’t that how Mad Cow disease started in England? Surely that’s not legal…

    • October 4, 2010 3:38 pm

      Kathrin, I will be corrected if I am wrong, but yes, cattle feed is supposed to be labeled “ruminant meat and bonemeal free”, but cattle feed and chicken feed are separate things. The tankage has to go somewhere, where it really goes is anyone’s guess, and finding out would be a persons life work. And I suppose the way things work, chicken manure isn’t technically feed, so I am sure the spin doctors at the large vertically integrated chicken companies have all that figured out and could skirt the actual law. No doubt the meat and bonemeal is now shipped to China and comes back to us in some other unrecognizable form as an ingredient in who knows what.

      And for the record I have no idea what this person actually uses for her feed, since she didn’t really say, and it most likely proprietary information. So I may be barking up the wrong tree, we use fish meal, and soy for the protein content in our broiler chicken feed, while certainly not environmentally sensitive, at least we can see what is in our feed. Feed mills, even small ones can mix an incredible amount of questionable material into a pelleted feed, it’s anyone’s guess what is in any type of feed that is pelleted and hasn’t been certified organic by an independent third party.

  4. October 4, 2010 1:28 pm

    Well, it seems to me if the lady were to feed her cows chicken manure, then the manure the cows passed would be doubly potent, no? There are people in this world who should be banned from keeping (formerly caring for) animals.

  5. October 4, 2010 2:26 pm

    I was impressed with your restraint in both of those discussions. I’ve learned to avoid posting entirely because sometimes the snark just leaks out and it makes people more defensive. I especially enjoyed the chicken manure poster saying she basically started the discussion just to give everyone else a view on another way of farming, because she had already made up her mind to do it. I wouldn’t want manure from a poultry house in my yard, let alone in my cows and made into milk and meat.

    • October 4, 2010 3:46 pm

      Claire, too funny, I am learning restraint, but I was so darn curious I had to ask, since you can probably count on your fingers the number of poultry farms like that in the entire state of Oregon and Washington, I just couldn’t believe it was real to tell the truth. She is sitting on a goldmine of fertility and doesn’t even see it.

      BTW, snark is my middle name… 😉 But sometimes you just have to let some people have the last word. Reminds me of the barnyard, and the the cow who won’t let the others drink at the trough, even though she isn’t thirsty, she MUST be in control and no one drinks until she deems it time. Here Bossy!

      PS: I always like your posts, always informative and thorough and much needed.

  6. October 4, 2010 6:46 pm

    Question: What do you feed your chicks? They can’t eat cracked grains when they’re tiny, can they? I’m getting very disenchanted with starter crumbles for mine because I totally see your point that we have no idea what’s really in it. Even the ones that say “no animal products” have several unpronounceable things in them, and I have no idea what they are or where they came from!

    I read a post somewhere else that recommended offering scratch grains as young as 4 weeks (I think), but what do you feed them up till then?

    • October 4, 2010 9:27 pm

      Susan, we don’t keep many chickens anymore, just a dozen hens for eggs and in the late spring we raise a small batch of 75 or so Cornish X for the freezer. I have kept some of the production methods we used when we sold pastured poultry and eggs. Namely the feed recipes we used then and had excellent luck with. For quite a few years we made and mixed our own feeds, and then had a small feed mill make our feed for us later. We do use some non-GMO soy and corn, which I know really upsets the heck out of some, but it is how we do it at this time. But to answer your question about grains, yes a small chick will pick up quite a large size piece of grain. Picture a corn kernel shattered in about 5 pieces. Obviously a crimped oat is too big for day old chicks, but by about 2 weeks you would be surprised what they ingest. The key to a good start with chicks that will free-range or be pastured, is to provide grit from day 1. If you don’t, you put the chick at a disadvantage because the gizzard needs to be full of rocks to grind the feed. Withholding grit from chicks, is much the same as withholding grass and hay from a calf! And I think by now everyone knows how I feel about that. Anyway, personally I like Fertrell’s minerals and so subsequently use their recipes.

      You can break down the math and make a 50 pound batch at home for a small flock, or barring that find a Fertrell dealer near you (usually they are farmers) and see if they make feed or know someone who does. Even if you substitute something else like peas for the soy the Fertrell minerals are excellent and well worth it.

      Common around here is a new chicken feed supposedly local grains no soy or corn…well if you read the label, they are bumping up the protein with crab meal, and fish meal, so again it comes down to what you want to support or not support. While the grains are still local and not corn and soy, the crab meal is born of questionable practices too. But it sounds good in the press release because really the grains are local, and that is about as far as anyone gets, people barely read food labels, let alone feed labels.

      Enough ranting I guess, we feed the same feed from start to finish on the meat chickens (8 weeks) and pullets get switched to a lay ration (less protein, more calcium) at 18 weeks and it is in mash form.

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