'Tick mops' hailed as good news for landowners and ramblers

Yet another use for our woolly friends!

A scheme that uses sheep to control the numbers of ticks on Scottish moorlands has been welcomed by landowners and charities.

(link) [STV]

21:01 /Agriculture | 4 comments | permanent link

Critics: Obama Milk Reg Change 'Udderly' Ridiculous

Crying over unspilt milk ...

To some critics, the Obama Administration’s announcement Thursday about deregulating milk storage on dairy farms was “udderly” ridiculous.

(link) [Fox Business]

16:43 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Missouri lawmakers play dirty pool with family farms

Nice to see this issue framed as a property rights cause: because that's exactly what it is.

Protectors of property rights in Missouri take notice: State lawmakers have embarked on an unprecedented expansion of government power to intrude on private-property rights. Think of it as eminent domain abuse’s country cousin.

(link) [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

06:19 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

The Story of the Weeping Camel

The Story of the Weeping CamelWe stumbled across this gem last night on the Documentary Channel, and I've got to say it's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Here are the Wikipedia and IMDB pages.

Maybe it's because we're shepherds ourselves, and heathen shepherds at that, that we identified with these folks. In fact, I had to think about how to categorize this post - it could just as easily have been placed in my Asatru category as in Agriculture.

The story is simple: it's spring, and the sheep, goats and camels are giving birth. One first time camel mom has a terrible labor, and ends up rejecting her calf, a white male. We've has this happen with our sheep, and we usually end up with a bottle baby like Little Mac. But yurts are smaller than farmhouses, and camels, even newborns, are way too big to bring inside. So the family has a dilemma. Losing the colt is an unappealing economic loss, but despite their best efforts, momma camel is having nothing to do with it.

They get a hold of the local lamas, who come out and do a ritual trying to get the land spirits to help calm the momma camel. It doesn't work. So they send their two boys to the nearest town to get out the "big guns" - a musician who will do a "hoos" ritual to bond mother and calf.

In the Washington Post review, the film makers recounted the run up:

Falorni and Davaa admitted that they asked the family whether they were absolutely sure the ritual would work. "They said, 'Yeah, it always works,'" Falorni recalled with a smile. "'It might take half an hour, it might take two days, but it always works.'"

And it worked - the momma camel is so moved by the music that she weeps, and accepts her baby. Within minutes, mind you. I have never seen a camelid cry - Hel, I'd never seen a sheep or a cow or a goat cry! Now I have.

We've worked with ewes who rejected their newborn lambs for weeks to no avail. Other shepherds around here have mostly the same experience - it's often easier to get another ewe to adopt a rejected lamb than it is to get it's mother to accept it. But this musical ritual did it in 30 minutes. Amazing.

You gotta see this film - good for the whole family.

20:18 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Farm living could arm kids against asthma

This confirms something everybody who lives out here has known for a long time. Personally, I think the study probably underestimates the benefits to everyone, not just kids, of exposure to the natural world.

Kids who grow up on traditional farms are 30% to 50% less likely than other children to develop asthma, a new study shows. But it's not the fresh country air.

(link) [USA Today]

07:53 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Sheep in the News: Sheep as smart as humans

Don't believe it? Come on over at feeding time ...

A Cambridge Uni prof has provocatively suggested that sheep aren't actually as thick as a Fair Isle woollen sweater, and can match humans in the tricky task of identifying food amid a confusion of buckets.

(link) [The Register]

12:45 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Feeding TNT to sheep

Less bang for the baa ...

Stateside boffins are diligently getting a small number of laboratory sheep to eat as much TNT as possible. One should point out straight away that this will not - or ought not to, anyway - involve any sheep then exploding in a sequence of fearful fleecy detonations and spattering the landscape with woolly fluff and raw mutton. This is not some kind of crazed attempt to create instant-self-barbecuing lamb or similar. In fact it seems that the guts of a sheep, capable of digesting various things which would prove fatal to lesser species such as cows or humans, can break down trinitrotoluenes - TNT - into harmless residues without any ill effects on the animal.

(link) [The Register]

20:21 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Why cattle markets are having a cow

A good overview of the crisis in commodity markets. Note the baseline - population growth and energy usage. Something's gonna have to give here, and it's going to get real interesting when it does.

There are plenty of other places to point the finger if you want to assess responsibility for record livestock prices. You can start with wrongheaded U.S. energy policy, tightfisted herders and soaring food demand.

(link) [Fortune]

08:55 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Does International Aid Keep Haiti Poor?

Your tax dollars at work.

In the 1970s, Haiti imported just 19 percent of its food. During that decade, the U.S. government, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund began creating development plans designed to spur growth in the country's manufacturing sector and to move large parts of the workforce into urban communities. As part of the strategy, Haitian governments after François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who ruled for 15 years until 1971, lowered the country's tariffs for food imports to as low as 3 percent, while the United States raised barriers to exports from Haiti. As Alex Dupuy, a sociology professor at Wesleyan University, wrote on Anthropologyworks.com recently, the island "went from being self-sufficient in the production of rice, sugar, poultry, and pork to becoming the fourth-largest importer of subsidized US rice in the world and the largest importer of foodstuffs from the US in the Caribbean."

(link) [Slate]

20:21 /Agriculture | 2 comments | permanent link

African Farmers Displaced as Investors Move In

There is precedent for this thievery...

The half-dozen strangers who descended on this remote West African village brought its hand-to-mouth farmers alarming news: their humble fields, tilled from one generation to the next, were now controlled by Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the farmers would all have to leave.

(link) [New York Times]

20:08 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

You want flies with that?

Ya know, I would normally dismiss such stories as faked, or at least exaggerated, but this one, well, let me tell you a story.

Back in 1994, I happened to wander into a bait shop in Noblesville, looking to buy some fishing tackle. Displayed in the case, next to the cash register, was a McDonald's Cherry Turnover, looking pretty fresh. The only signage suggested that I ask for the story, so I did.

The owner of the shop had purchased the turnover and discovered a pit (or some foreign object) in it - he returned it to the store and asked for a refund. They refused, offering instead to replace it with another. He didn't want that - having found one contaminated food item he was leery of accepting another identical item for fear it would have the same problem - remember, we're talking less than a dollar here. After a heated discussion with the McDonald's manager, and no satisfaction, he resolved to simply inform people of the sloppy (and potentially dangerous) foods the restaurant was selling. He told the manager that he owned a shop, and would display the offending item and explain the situation to his customers. Which he, obviously, did.

The turnover was purchased in 1986 - 8 years before I saw it.

Vladimir Lenin, King Tut and the McDonald's Happy Meal: What do they all have in common? A shocking resistance to Mother Nature's cycle of decomposition and biodegradability, apparently.

(link) [Daily Mail]

Update: Natural News has more on this sordid tale ...

10:00 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Food Is the New Pharma

Just what we don't need ...

Nestlé, one of the world's most successful packaged-food companies, is planning to pioneer a new industry to bridge the ever-narrowing gap between food and medicine. The company announced it would invest about $500 million in a new venture called "Nestlé Health Science" to develop foods and supplements designed to help prevent diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease.

(link) [Time]

via Ebony's Pearls

06:53 /Agriculture | 1 comment | permanent link

Farmer's 24 hour milk filling station a hit

Bet those Germans are dropping like flies from drinking that poison - over here, we know raw milk needs to be regulated out of existence, for our own good, of course.

A German dairy farmer has come up with a novel way to drum up new business -- he opened a "milk filling station."

(link) [Reuters]

via Ebony's Pearls

18:55 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Blame Factory Farms for Salmonella Outbreak?

Brown EggsThe only real reason CBS got the link for this sordid tale is that this is the only story I've run across in the MSM that's more fact than bunk - they at least seem to have a inkling about the real cause.

"We have very cheap food in this country. It's hard to argue against it, and I won't," says Nestle. "We have made cheap food a value rather than value good food."

I have read how the eggs were contaminated by sick chickens - theoretically possible, I suppose, but highly unlikely. These eggs were almost certainly contaminated from being filthy in the first place and not adequately washed. Probably in cold water, which will actually drive the bacteria into the egg.

I heard a radio interview with one of the "farmers" at the egg factory, expressing amazement that eggs and shit came out the same chute in the chicken.

I've heard numerous folks swearing to go vegetarian to avoid food poisoning - enjoy your spinach!

I got a big kick out of this CNN article, which features a photo of "easter" eggs. These are laid by Aracuna or Americana hens, and are not used in commercial egg production. These are farm eggs, and almost certainly salmonella free, illustrating a story about food poisoning.

Our egg sales have gone through the roof since this story broke - suddenly folks don't think $3/doz. is too expensive anymore. Imagine that.

What this has really hammered home to me is our society's incredible level of ignorance about food - where is comes from, how it's produced and even how to prepare and eat it. And this is one area where ignorance is decidedly not bliss. It can be deadly.

The clue phone is ringing - I wonder if we'll ever get it?

In the midst of the largest salmonella scare we've seen in years, people are staying away from Caesar salad and examining their egg cartons for suspicious numbers and dates. At the same time, they're wondering whom to blame.

(link) [CBS News]

21:51 /Agriculture | 1 comment | permanent link

Small farms are the Vermont Way

says our friend Walter Jefferies of NoNAIS. They should be the Hoosier Way, too...

I believe in building small, scalable, sustainable systems that interlock to create a secure greater whole. This fractal approach is how nature gradually evolves robust, complex systems. It is a model from which we all can learn.

(link) [Burlington Free Press]

Update:See the comments for what the title should have been...

21:38 /Agriculture | 2 comments | permanent link