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Old 11-09-2009, 11:24 PM
 
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--"Fads"--

I've seen many come and go in my 64 years ( all of them on a farm)

The main one is the breeds of beef cattle.
In the 60's it was mainly Hereford and Angus and crossbreeds of those 2 breeds ( black baldies)

In the 70's and 80's the " fad" was Charlois, Simmental, and Limusine(sp) and you were viewed old fashioned if you still had Angus

Today we are back full circle to the 60's.

Black Angus dominates and next closest would be the Hereford/Angus cross.
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Old 11-10-2009, 05:36 PM
 
Location: tampa, florida
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i think we're all basically in agreement here, so let me present some examples of common ideas in organic farming. when you reply, just say "agree" or disagree" and say why.

-the use of semi-wild or re-domesticated breeds of cattle (and other forms of livestock) like the florida cracker cattle, or the texas longhorn. superior disease resistance, superior versatility for free range

-the use of heritage breeds of pig, turkey, or geese in favor over fast-growing, fast breeding breeds like the broad breasted bronze turkey.

-the use of heritage varieties of vegetables, fruit, and grain that have been bred for disease resistance but grow slower.

-the use of free range chicken, herbs, and essential oils mixed with traditional feed like clover and alfalfa for "medicated feed" instead of ivermectin and other products to fight parasites and disease

-the use of crop rotation and manure-based fertilizer to revitalize the soil

-the use of renewable energy like wind turbines, solar panels, manure-derived methane, and horse power from draft horses instead of diesel, gas and kerosene

tell us what you think. which would you use?
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Old 11-10-2009, 06:23 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saharan View Post
i think we're all basically in agreement here, so let me present some examples of common ideas in organic farming. when you reply, just say "agree" or disagree" and say why.

-the use of semi-wild or re-domesticated breeds of cattle (and other forms of livestock) like the florida cracker cattle, or the texas longhorn. superior disease resistance, superior versatility for free range

-the use of heritage breeds of pig, turkey, or geese in favor over fast-growing, fast breeding breeds like the broad breasted bronze turkey.

-the use of heritage varieties of vegetables, fruit, and grain that have been bred for disease resistance but grow slower.

-the use of free range chicken, herbs, and essential oils mixed with traditional feed like clover and alfalfa for "medicated feed" instead of ivermectin and other products to fight parasites and disease

-the use of crop rotation and manure-based fertilizer to revitalize the soil

-the use of renewable energy like wind turbines, solar panels, manure-derived methane, and horse power from draft horses instead of diesel, gas and kerosene

tell us what you think. which would you use?
I will try to give an honest opinion on some of your points--

Cattle---I recently read in a magazine of a cattle rancher who observed a new neighbor move in and transport in Texas Longhorns
He wanted to tell the guy they were the wrong breed, but bit his lip to not start off on the wrong foot.
Yup, a couple years later the " newbie" shows up and the established rancher is gald to advise him on breeds of cattle that can make him money ( the Longhorns were not doing that)

Hogs-----I have always liked the colored breeds of hogs ( Duroc, Hampshire, Spotted Poland China , Poland China, and Berkshire.

The white hogs now dominate the indystry due to larger litters and being long and lean ( more lean pounds can be put on them )


The reason the Angus breed of cattle has " caught fire" is because the Angus are longer and leaner compared to the Angus of the 50's or 60's.
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Old 11-10-2009, 06:49 PM
 
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----the use of crop rotation and manure -based fertilizer to revitalize the soil--

Already being done for generations where I live ( the leading dairy county in Minnesota)

Alfalfa being plowed under after 3 years and manure worked into the fields going into corn.

Poultry manure is such a "hot commodity" due to increased fertilizer prices, that farmers are cleaning the Turkey barns for the producers plus paying for the manure.
Many have farmers on the waiting list.

However, in areas that have good soil and few livestock, their options to avoid commercial fertilizer are very limited and w/o commercial fertilizer yields would go way down.

There is a reason land has sold for $5,000 an acre in the corn belt.
yield potential
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Old 11-11-2009, 06:30 AM
 
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You run into other issues as well. I mean I 100% agree that my fences are inadequate for my sheep. I use a 3 strand electric fence that is marginal at best...even with 11,000 volts on the wire, with them getting into 3 inch fleeces now, they are immune to the shock. Obviously barb wire would be lethal to sheep due to entrapment in their wool, so page wire fencing is the best option...

But who can afford it? I know I can't.

So yesterday I was cursing my fence as the sheep got out again, but the truth is my less than ideal fencing does work overall. With the very low profit margins on a per lamb basis, inexpensive fencing like I got, pencils out.

So its a tough thing. I cannot in good faith tell another beginning farmer with sheep to use the inexpensive fence I use, but if the beginning farmer goes out and invests heavily in high end fencing...well they are going to be so laden in debt that its going to be a tough pull for them to get by.

Like I said its a tough gig for sure. Every cooperative extension agent, magazine article and farm book will say fences are a great investment (and they are), but I know from experience that reality is, the cost of fencing, and the linear footage I need to farm efficiently, cannot be done and pull a decent profit at the end of the year. As is now, I seldom need to Section 179 anything on my Schedule F Form...I got plenty of deductions as is without looking to maximize depreciation super quickly (LOL).
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Old 11-11-2009, 06:37 AM
 
Location: Nebraska
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Well, BT and I have argued in a friendly manner over at BackwoodsHome Forum (where we both got bashed!), so I'll continue it here. I totally agree with him on some points; some people have a dream of what they want to do on a piece of property, but have neither researched the area, its soil, water, and growth components, nor have any idea of how to raise animals - they just know that they want to. They do trash the land and make it unlivable except for other 'homesteaders with a dream'. They have no plan. They "want" to be self-sustaining but don't want to give up their city amenities. They have never killed anything to eat, much less butchered it. They have no money, for the most part, and what little they DO have they spend on 'the latest thing'.

I have been organic for many years; even in a small backyard my fruit trees, vegies, and chickens were organic and the chickens were free range. This does make for better eating. I have also milked cows and goats for neighbors and friends, and cared for all manner of livestock for sale - even peacocks. When we bought our 60 acres (not even a 'ranch' out here by definition) we knew exactly what we wanted to do; had a one year, a three-year, and a five-year plan for sustainability. We didn't build a weird house; we had a big 100 year old farmhouse and pole barns, fenced and cross-fenced property, right on the edge of town with town water and sewer, so we weren't mucking up the land. We have free-range Barred Rock chickens because they fatten to a decent butcher size in 4 months (not like the white crosses, who fatten far more quickly but can't stand on their own legs) and because they produce the big brown eggs that we and many other people prefer. We just got in our 'dairy' cattle yesterday - two bred cows and a bull of the Dexter breed. Not just because they eat less than half of what the local Angus and Charolais and Herefords eat, and can tough out any winter, but because their milk has smaller fat globules and is more easily digestible - and makes good butter and cheese, with the quart or so of cream from every 2-3 gallons of milk a day. Yes I have a pasteurizer and an old-fashioned cream separator, and yes I have done this before; just never for myself. We have a 2 acre garden that has water, and an ATV with a plow and a snow blade. I know what I want and I know how to do it and I am right in line with our Plan. The locals depend on shopping 40 miles away, and are glad to buy our nice big eggs, and look forward to getting their butter and cheese from us later. Some don't believe we can do it, and some think we are a leetle bit crazy with our 'little' cows. But the purpose is not to become rich farmers, or to take away from the local ranchers - the purpose is to be able to make things for ourselves, and to eat more healthily and even to trade or sell if we have enough beyond our needs. Yes we did get a mare, too - partly because I have always ridden and cared for other peoples' horses, and never had one of my own, but partly because there are several places on our property that has fencing that can only be accessed part-way by the ATV, and the rest of the way only by foot or hoof. A tough little cow pony that can get me wherever I want to go, whenever I need to go, is necessary.

We have spent all our youth planning and working towards this, and we have the experience, knowledge, and ability to make it work. The newbie homesteaders that have no idea what hard work is, who think that 'going back to the land' still involves accessibility to Wal Mart and Applebee's and Outback, who have never canned nor butchered a single thing, nor cared for anything except a cat or a dog, drive me crazy - they know it ALL and can't be told a thing. So while I get BT's frustration with them, I wouldn't say that ALL homesteaders or even most are citified bumpkins who don't know a plow from a disk, or who desecrate the land because they read the latest 400-word article in Mother Earth News or Backwoods Home and think, "Hey, any idiot can do this!" - and set out to prove it.

As for getting government involved, I think that would probably backfire, because it always seems to... no matter how well-intentioned, government involvement always seems to screw the farmer and rancher in the end. Maybe what you need to do is to attract the right people to the right areas, like your houses that share the field... But attracting some people with neither a pot nor a window, nor any idea of how to do the things they so desperately want but don't know how, is always in the cards no matter how you play them.
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Old 11-11-2009, 06:58 AM
 
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Originally Posted by saharan View Post
I have 10 acres in western Maine that is almost on the peak of a mountain foothill. it hasn't been tilled in years and the oldest trees are at least 40 years old. there are parts that are in excess of a 60 degree angle that goes down hundreds of feet. sure the climate is similar to the rest of Maine, and the soil is the typical acidic sort that produces mostly pine trees, but there is solid rock less than 20 feet down. a unique approach would be needed.

For example, if unsure what breed of dairy goat to bring in, i would try different breeds at the same time in pasture based on what is said to be appropriate for the climate. i wouldn't just bring in the "breed of the year" or try any fad. this is one of the oldest professions after all, and there are endless improvements to the tools, implements, animals, construction, and all other relevant technologies over the years. so when i would try various breeds, there will be some animals in the herd that will have to be culled, and others that get sick, so i guess you just have to learn from it.
Oh my...now I have not been to your place of course so I don't really know, but some generalities quickly come to mind. As I said, you have to match the livestock to the farm and I am not sure dairy goats would match that location all that well. Goats certainly like to browse (as do sheep) but dairy breeds of sheep, goats and cows do not tend to be very hardy, and to get any sort of lactation from them, they need some quality forage, that typically means lots of grass. As I said, I could be wrong, but it would seem the match isn't all that great. It sounds like you are looking for a dairy type product in a location that is better suited to meat goats.

That does not mean you can't do dairying stuff, it just will mean you might need to supplement more with hay, minerals etc to get the diet that the goats need. Typically the hardest issue you face, also makes the place the best asset. In your case, if its not conducive to goat dairying, and yet you figure out how to do it economically, you can get a higher price for your milk since no one in the area is doing it. The real question is, if you were to pick a meat goat breed that would excel there, would the lower cost of farming bring a better return then farming with intensive inputs?

See how it works. Pretty simple stuff. The biggest issue I see is:

1. People not be willing to change when its obvious their initial ideas are failing

2. Lacking a commitment to make the initial idea work (farming is based on years, not months like most businesses)

2. Falling in love with an ideal way of life that is not realistic.



Quote:
Originally Posted by saharan View Post
If you are alluding that some information in credible books, particularly agricultural ones found in a library, are not always factual, that is very disturbing. can homesteaders only believe word straight from the farmer's mouth? or are most books basically accurate?
farming by example used to be a natural thing passed down in families. now anyone new to it has to learn from seemingly arcane sources. i've even read books written before the 1940s, before everything started to revolve around pesticides and mass production.

it is up to the experienced farmers like you to keep homesteaders from going astray. if it seems like they are "wasting" land it's because they don't know how to use it properly. if you stay open-minded to our ideas that blend cutting-edge technology with centuries old agricultral principles, we'll stay open minded to your principles that have stood the test of time.
I'm not alluding to it at all, I am straight out and out telling you that this is the case. There is more to authors telling you what they are doing out of the goodness of their hearts. Their ideas are most likely losing their novelty, the work is to laborious or they need income for the farm...otherwise they would be doing what I am doing, looking for ways to increase my farm size to make more money since I am doing well now.

Now don't get me wrong, I am a writer and part of that is also reading...a lot. In every book I read, I gain valuable insights and generate new ideas on how to do things on my own farm, but at the same time, I read things and realize the reason why some of these farms are successful because they are taking advantage of site-specific locations.

For instance the book "Grass Fed Cattle" is an excellent book, but one has to understand the Canadian System of farming to realize not every principal is going to work on USA farms. Neither is winter grazing. In the right location it would work, but not in ice covered Maine! Other elements of the book were informative though.

Overall I would say tenacity is the farmers most successful trait. For 99% of the nation, the people are fickle, moving every 7 years on average because they want change and are inpatient. In contrast farmers can figure 1 well profitable year in farming every 7 years. 2 really bad years that are less than profitable, and 4 marginal years. A good farmer knows this, and on the good years they bank the money in soil amendments and livestock purchases so that when the 2 bad years come, they can weather the fiscal storm. The less then tenacious people engaged in farming typically give up once the big checks stop rolling in.

I did not get into sheep 2 years ago because I needed the extra farm income...I got into sheep 2 years ago because I knew I would need the extra income in 10 years time. I think in years, not quarters or months.
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Old 11-11-2009, 11:05 AM
 
Location: tampa, florida
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tenacy = stubborness yet open-minded to new ideas. you have my deep respect, BrokenTap. Grass Fed Cattle is an excellent book btw, i read it cover to cover twice. if i am understanding you right, information about the right approach to the land is so hard to come by because a generalized approach used by others far away will fail. it must be very specific and specialized to the conditions you have.
if i were to hazard a guess, you were influenced by methods used by neighbors and other farmers nearby, but the finished product was your own ideas for what would work and make you money.

i'm in florida by the way, looking at places either by lake okeechobee (sub-tropical) or in northern florida (climate like georgia, seasonal)
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Old 11-11-2009, 12:15 PM
 
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BrokenTap-------you have a wealth of experience in farming, but have you ever experienced a reluctance from people to accept your advice due to your young age ( 32) ?

Many people are reluctant to accept advice from people who haven't experienced the boom of the 70's or the bust of the 80's while actually farming on their own.
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Old 11-11-2009, 05:34 PM
 
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I have never had an issue with my age, but I do find a lot of people I talk to online, or on the phone are shocked at how "young" I am (if you can call 35 years old young). I guess they think I should be older then I am.

The only thing I can say about my age is that I will probably die young, only because everything in life has come at a young age for me. I blew out my back in high school because I was logging instead of working at McDonald's, got tangled in a chainsaw when I was 15, and got my first moving violation when I was 10 (drove a bulldozer across a paved road).

All my life I have lived by doing.

My problem is I have a hard time relating to homesteaders. I have farmed so long, with so little, with some truly deplorable tractors and trucks that it would scare you to death, but we had to because its all we could afford. With homesteaders and hobby farmers, I have a tough time because everything in my life has to be justified by the price of milk, or the price of livestock, while for them, its just an expense in order to play. I have a hard time understanding that because I can not build the ideal fence because the price of lamb does not justify it it yet. Just like I know my fields need 300 tons of lime but it cannot be done at the current price of milk. And I minimize my grain costs, not because it is a farming fad right now, but because to glean the most profit per lamb I have to reduce my overall inputs without affecting health.

I admit I am forced to farm smarter because of the low profit margins, but I also think that is better overall then farming with an open checkbook.
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