Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Scales are Tipping

On Balanced Reporting....

I guess I am a little hardened to what we have seen in Time Magazine lately. Time has not been a good friend to food groups or farming for that matter for many years. You may remember the frowning plate cover years back?

The cover story Bryan Walsh wrote was extremely unbalanced in covering anything to do with conventional agricultural production. This got me so steamed, that I did something I usually do not do. I wrote a letter to the editor. Since I don't think it will be published I am reprinting what I submitted below.

Email Subjet Line: Let's Get Real About Food in General

I found your story regarding cheap food [Aug 21, 2009] an unbalanced folly on what U.S. consumers have but fail to realize – A Choice! Conventional agricultural production (sustained now for decades) has allowed U.S. consumers to have more disposable income than any other culture in the world. Enough so to even allow us the luxury to demand greener, designer foods, and dictate what is to be produced. Two points we need to consider: If it is ok to buy a car, refrigerator, toothpaste, shoes, lumber, and ketchup made in a large factory why is it a crime to buy foods that were produced with the same economies of scale or organization? Secondly, if your kid were sick with a bacterial infection would you withhold antibiotic treatment? Even the range cattle need medication from time to time and there are laws that prohibit antibiotic residues from reaching the consuming public (all meat sources, always). It is disappointing to see the hard work of the American Farmer being dragged through the mud in biased articles such as this. Considering the time and risk to family livelihoods farmers take, few others are willing to follow them in the hard work they do to feed the rest of us (including you too Mr. Walsh).

Gregory P. Martin, Ph.D., PAS

Poultry Scientist
Just an aside here I let my subscription to Time Lapse a long while ago.... Looks like I'm not missing much.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cage or No Cages - You Decide !

Going Back in Time

Much of the rhetoric surrounding the push for for enriched and cage free layer systems surrounds the idea of supporting repressed common poultry behavior. The question that should be asked is "Do we really have to support every behavior that the birds possess? Humans used to be hunter gatherers that would move in groups to hunt, kill and maintain territorial bounds by force. We obviously no longer do all that, but are we frustrating ourselves as other groups feel we are imposing on chickens in cages?

If we are placing birds on wire, not in dirt do they really need to bathe in dust? In my years of work I have seen most behaviors exhibited in both cage and cage free systems. Yes, layers will simulate dust bathing, wing & leg stretching and so forth. I have also seen gang picking in larger aviary and range situations as well.

The answer to housing poultry is to look to bird behavior that we wish to support, and more importantly pay to support. If US consumers wish to have cage free production, they will need to support all the requirements of such production. If humane caged (e.g. UEP) systems are important then consumers should financially support those activities as well. There is no free lunch and each system has both positive and negative aspects. What is needed is choice; pushing for markets without choice in the US is against the tenets of capitalism itself. The market will ultimately tell the consumers choice of what is important to them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Sweating Feed Bin

During the heat of late summer and rain, be sure to inspect feed bins for feed that may hang near seams and at the top. Be sure to look up every now and then to make sure feed tank fill doors are securely closed to keep out the rain. Your feed mill does everything it can to eliminate mold; you should not be the source of new contamination. Considering the price of feed these days, you don't want to see spoiled expenses.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's Not the Heat but the Humidity

As we run downhill into fall and some of the hottest weather, be sure to compensate for humidity. As % relative humidity (RH) rises the efforts that the bird needs to make in order to cool itselfself also rises. The holding capacity of the air for water decreases so increases in ventilation rates must be made in help keep heat in check.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Making Composting Work on the Farm

In light of the recent specific restricted materials (SRM) requirements being placed on rendering plants, some may opt out of taking your livestock for processing. Because of this it is always important to have a mortality handling plan for the farm. If you are new to mortality composting there is help available to you. The key thing to remember is the Rule of 2's. Two feet of good sized carbon materials followed by two feet of covering materials over the animal. Above ground composting IMHO is the best way for all livestock owners to care for their on farm mortality. For more info and particular guidance see:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On Being a Good Scout

Be Prepared !

We always think about this after the car runs into the ditch or when the barn catches fire. Are we really, really prepared for emergencies? We are starting tornado season early this year and I have to think do we have our "ducks in a row" so to speak as to keeping our farms safe from a financial loss.

Be sure to have your insurance evaluated periodically. Ask your agent what ifs so that you can find out for example are the payments for actual expenses or a lump sum for loss. Does my insurance cover tornadoes or floods (some don't). What would you need in order to file a valid claim for losses.

Each farm is a little different, but all of us need to backup important things and contacts and either place them in a safety deposit box or give to a relative or friend out of the area so that you can get what you need when you need it. I have seen folks place photo negatives into vaults and come back to get them after fires or floods. Be sure to have a plan so that should disaster strike, you will be able to survive the aftermath.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Taking Time To Think Ahead

Americans are a bit fickle. They eat huge meals and wash it down with diet soft drinks. Think nothing of drinking bottle water, when nothing was wrong with what was coming out of the tap.

As time goes on we forget the sins we create with policy. Recent FDA actions to stop rendering larger cows and removing spinal tissues from all animal feeds has caused the cost of doing business to go up in price. The price of horses has dropped dramatically and the cost of rendering has increased to the point where the care and husbandry towards horses has actually decreased.

So for this group, we need to help them to either compost their animals or look for other available methods of approved disposal. Just ignoring the subject will not cut it as some will avoid the pickup fee and drag carcasses to the back of the field. Not my first choice in carcass disposal.

Whether we choose to limit antibiotics use or meat consumption, or condos in our neighborhoods, we need to think ahead of what hardships this may cause the general public. As the costs of production rise - guess what, the price of purchases will also increase. Sensible minds need to prevail.