Thursday, October 04, 2007

Quality Pasture :: Chapter 11 Book Report

Last night I finished reading the chapter titled, "Baby Calf Rearing On Pasture," from the book Quality Pasture by Allan Nation. I will admit that just by the title this was a chapter that I was interested in because I knew that I was going to be raising our calves on pasture and I thought this would give some great tips for having pasture forages that would be beneficial for the calves.

In reality I would say that this is the chapter that I like the least of what I have read so far. In this chapter Mr. Nation talks a lot about buying in dairy bull calves in order to raise them on pasture and grain to obtain a large gain before slaughter. He also talks about raising replacement heifers for the dairy industry. While I agree that both of these ventures can be profitable in the real world (and he does back that up with farmer testimonials), I'm not sure if I agree with it in principle. In my way of thinking a lot of the things he proposes in this chapter go against the idea of a small family farm (which is what I desire Stoneyfield to be). He talks about the benefits of setting up a industry in the United States like the have in New Zealand where a master contractor handles marketing to find dairymen looking for replacement heifers and then sub-contracts out the growing of those heifers. It seems like that is taking control away from the farmer and placing squarely back in the hands of a business or corporation. Again, I do not doubt that it can work and be profitable if you manage your pastures correctly, but I do wonder at the principle behind it. In one way it sounds an awful lot like some of the vertical ownership farm that we have now days. You know, the ones where the farmer owns the land, buildings, and buys the food, but a company owns the animals. And, if you don't have the right land, right building, or right food they will take the animals away from you... It just seems like a system that would only slightly fix the farming problems in America not bring about a needed paradigm shift.

I realize that we are never again going to be a country full of family farms proving all the food needs for the surrounding areas, but I do believe that it is something we need to strive for. I believe we need diversified farms around our communities not single aspect farms like those talked about in this chapter. Maybe I am a little too idealistic, but I believe that is what we need to work towards.

So, did I learn anything in this chapter? Sure I did, I have more understanding of pasture management and how to make a highly nutritious pasture for baby calves. But, more importantly I believe it has made me think about the "business" of farming and how I would like to see that "business" working. At least in my case...

**The picture above is of a little calf from Cascade Meadows Farm located in Oregon. You can check out their website by clicking on their farm name.**

1 comment:

sugarcreekfarm said...

Hm, I wouldn't have expected to find that position on raising dairy steers and replacement heifers in this book.

I will say that buying a few holstein bottle calves in the spring and selling them in the fall is a great project for kids. We're usually able to source local calves thru our vet, but otherwise the Dyersville Sale Barn is a good place to buy them.

Our middle daughter did this to one, show us that she would be able to be responsible for a horse and two, to raise a few hundred dollars to put towards purchase of said horse. We sell them directly to local farmers or as 4-H projects to finish out as "dairy beef".

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