Wednesday, September 20, 2006

National Farm Animal Awareness Week

I never knew until I picked up a local version of TIDBITS ...the neatest little paper ever written, that September 15-21 was national farm animals awareness week. I thoroughly enjoyed finding this article which I have nearly completely rewritten...or copied rather..... filled with interesting facts about farm animals, many of which were still new to me, or at least added some clarity to things that I've learned on this trip.

I was in Sheridan, MT having breakfast when I picked up the Tidbits for Beaverhead and Madison Counties. Appartently this paper is circulated to 3.5 million readers all over the country.

I have written a few brief comments in italics after some of these facts. Here's the article, hope you enjoy it.


By Audrey Cunningham

This is National Farm Animals Awareness Week, so what better time for Tidbits to take a look at the place that makes sure we have fresh eggs and milk for breakfast in the morning?

  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas is home to more farms than any other state in the union. Missouri comes in second, followed by Iowa, Kentucky and Tennessee. Ninety percent of the more than two million farms in the United States are family owned and operated.

  • When it comes to small farms, beef cattle are the preferred livestock. Beef cattle roam freely and require little supervision, unlike pigs and chickens. This makes it convenient for farmers who have other jobs outside of farming. Cattle are also cost-efficient, requiring additional feed only during the winter months.

I have found this statement accurate, in regards to the number of cattle owners that are only part-time farmers (in the west their called ranchers). The idea is that cattle can take care of themselves with little effort except occassional moving, providing winter feed, ensuring access to water, and calving season. However, many of the grass-fed beef farmers, or those who practice rotational grazing would assert that simply allowing cattle to roam freely isn't good for the pasture, is not most efficient for weight gain and pasture production, is harmful to sensitive areas like watering holes, streambanks, or underneath shade trees, and can negatively affect the cows health if they spend to much time on land they've contaminated with their own feces. Joel Salatin described it best when he spoke of a farm where he watched a cow who had waded into a pond drinking the water, as it urinated into the water it was drinking from. In other words, cattle don't behave like the wild herbivores they evolved from. We have to help them behave in ways that are healthier for them, for the environment, and also most efficient for the pasture grasses. The notion that owning cattle is simple and only requires low supervision may be true if you want a low quality operation.

  • Whether the cattle is raised for dairy or beef, the terminology remains the same: The male is a bull, the female is a cow, and the baby is a calf. Females who haven’t yet produced a calf are called heifers. A steer is an altered bull that is raised strictly for meat.

Boy I needed this definition. I'd been confused about the heifer and steer distinctions. By altered bull they mean of course.....well you can figure out what they mean.

  • Those stylish black-and-white cows that we regularly see on posters and calendars are Holsteins. Holsteins feed primarily on grass and clover and are excellent milk cows. A cow must give birth to at least one calf per year in order to keep producing milk. Holsteins cows’ markings are as unique as human fingerprints – no two hides have the exact same pattern.

You know....the Chik Fil A cows.

  • Dairy cows must be milked twice a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They give more milk when they’re relaxed, which is why farmers try to milk them at the same time every day. Cows prefer routine, and get nervous and upset when their schedule is interrupted.

So this may be one reason why so many people are getting out of the dairy business as well. It is one of the most demanding farm lifestyles.

  • Pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world, but the United States only ranks third in swine farming (China is first). Raising pork is becoming an increasingly commercial industry, so family farms of today often raise pigs for the show ring instead of the dinner table.

Now this was a suprising fact, but Wikipedia confirms, 38% of all protein consumed in the world comes from Pork. Chicken is the most widely consumed meat in America.

  • Piglets need to have teeth clipped soon after birth. The babies use their razor-sharp teeth to latch onto their mother and keep their littermates from displacing them. If the sow gets bitten too hard, however, she’ll react to the pain by refusing to feed her litter.

  • Pigs will not only eat grass, they will also use their noses to dig up the entire plant and eat the roots. That’s why you’ll see some pigs with rings in their noses – it prevents them from “rooting.” By contrast, some farmers use this behavior in a beneficial way, to clear entire fields. The pigs not only remove the vegetation, the also plow and “fertilize” the land.

I have encountered two farms that utilize their pigs to do farm work. Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms was the first. Joel actually buries corn kernels in the cow manure that collects inside of his haybarn where his cows feed for the winter. By scattering the corn into the manure throughout the winter, the corn ferments and when the pigs are let loose come spring they will literally turn the entire pile by rooting around for these intoxicating nuggets amongst the excrement. By so doing, Joel gets to turn his manure into compost more quickly, he doesn't have to do any work himself, and the pigs get to do what they love doing best....root through s%#t!

Ryan Morris at Country Roots Farm will actually loan his pigs to surrounding farms after the harvest and the pigs will litterally till the earth, burying crop residues and weeds as they dig out and consume the roots. The benefits to the farmer who borrows Ryan's pigs is he doesn't have to waste time or fuel on tilling his crop residue under, and he also gets his field ferilized with pig manure. Ryan benefits by fattening his hogs without having to purchase feed.

In other words, crops and animals go together.

  • No other animal provides us with a wider range of products than the pig. We use their heart valves to replace faulty human ones, their adrenal glands to manufacture cortisone, and their pancreas to make much-needed insulin for diabetics. And pig flesh is so similar to human skin that it is often grafted onto burn patients.

  • Farmers use various techniques to try to coax their hens into laying more eggs. Studies have shown that hens will lay larger eggs if the henhouse stays lit for a 24-hour period. Soothing music seems to encourage egg production too, as does a nicely heated henhouse floor.

  • North Carolina leads the nation in turkey production. A tom (male turkey) can gain 30 lbs within 18 weeks of hatching. This is possible thanks to years of careful breeding, not hormones; there are currently no approved drugs that are used in the United States to stimulate the growth of turkeys.

  • The red fleshy mass that grows over a turkey’s beak is called a snood, and the flesh under its chin is a wattle. The carnucle is the red skin on the turkey’s neck. Then a tom turkey is trying to attract a hen, his snood and wattle turn bright red. If frightened, the snood and wattle turn blue, and if the bird is feeling ill, these areas will turn a very pale shade.

  • Sheep represent less than one percent of livestock farming. Americans aren’t large consumers of lamb and mutton, so most sheep are raised for their wool. This requires a large investment in animals, food, and shelter for what amounts to a once-a-year shearing.

I haven't visited a sheep farm yet, but I've talked to a few farmers. I've got a couple of sheep farms planned in Oregon.

  • Female goats (does), babies (kids) and castrated males have no odor. Males (bucks) do emit a musky aroma, and are generally kept separately from the does so that their milk isn’t affected by the odor.

And goat milk is delicious, but I advise you brush your teeth shortly thereafter. It leaves a bit of an aftertaste. Some farmers say that goat milk tastes better when the goats are free to range on grasses of their own choosing.

  • Many farms keep a few donkeys on the premise because they make superb “guard” animals. They’ve been used for centuries to mind flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. Donkeys have acute sight and hearing and very in tune with their surrounding. They tend to immediately take note if a predator or intruder enters the area. Donkeys are similar to horses when it comes to saddling or harnessing, but as a rule, the only time you’ll see a donkey gallop is when it’s feeding time.

I got a great story from a tobacco farmer back in Kentucky about donkeys. He confirmed their worthiness as a guard animal and added that they will literally stomp a coyote to death, whereupon they will trample it into the earth until there is nothing but a greasy spot on the earth. There will be absolutely nothing left.

So that's it for farm animal awareness week. My thanks to Tidbits for providing the inspiration.


5/28/2007 4:48 PM Thomas Mcmanus wrote:
I like what you did with the infomation

No comments: