Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Farming Book Recommendation

Yesterday I posted my last "chapter report" from Ron Macher's book, "Making Your Small Farm Profitable". Today I would like to recommend it to others who are (or wanting to be) beginning farmers like myself or those that are looking to take a different direction with their small farm. It is well written and organized in such a way that it is easy to read in small chunks (a good thing for a busy person). Also, I think it is full of good practical advice and principles to follow (or at least consider).

As I have mentioned in some of the "chapter reports" it is a little different than some of the books by Gene Logsdon, Wendell Berry, or Joel Salatin. While all three of those writers include many practical tips and advice in their books they also include many philosophical thoughts behind the reason to do things certain way. Mr. Macher doesn't get into some of those areas and sticks with the basics. Things like what livestock or crops to choose, what to consider when buying machinery, how to set goals, and so on.

Here are the links to all eleven of my "chapter reports: Chapter 1 ... Chapter 2 ... Chapter 3 ... Chapter 4 ... Chapter 5 ... Chapter 6 ... Chapter 7 ... Chapter 8 ... Chapter 9 ... Chapter 10 ... Chapter 11

Now that I'm done with this book it is time for me to start the next one. Here are my choices: "Harris on the Pig: Practical Hints for the Pig Farmer" by Joseph Harris ... "Dirt Hog" by Kelly Klober ... "Grass-Fed Cattle" by Julius Ruechel. Vote in the comments for what you think I should read next.

**In a totally unrelated note I encourage you to go over to the Epi-Log and vote on the, "Eat Me: Farmer Ethan To Name A Calf After Michael Y. Park". This is a funny little thing that he came up with and I thought it was silly enough to go along with. Of course he already has a vegetarian implying that he should only eat veggies, but that doesn't mean you can't vote!**

21 comments:

Rich said...

Since I'm primarily interested in cattle, I would have to vote for "Grass-Fed Cattle", with "Dirt Hog" a close second.

On the other hand, since I am mainly interested in cattle, I could vote for "Dirt Hog" as my first choice (so that I could learn something new), with "Grass-Fed Cattle" as my second choice.

Steven said...

Since I've already read most of Grass Fed Cattle... I'd throwing my delegates into the "Harris on the Pig: Practical Hints for the Pig Farmer" camp.

Tim said...

Silly Ethan, all hogs are dirt hogs! :)

sugarcreekfarm said...

My vote's for "Harris on the Pig"

Anonymous said...

And my vote all the way from sunny Qatar in the Middle East (what in the world am i doing out here?):

grass-fed BEEF

Nothing like a juicy grass-fed 1" thick rib-eye steak...

Chris said...

Even though I've read Grass Fed Cattle, I'd like to hear your take on it and the discussion that it might prompt.

Dave_Flora said...

Since cattle seem to be the main thrust of what Ethan's getting into, I'd suggest reading "Grass-Fed Cattle" first.....and then all the rest!)

Yeoman said...

Ethan, are you thinking of adding pigs?

I wish I could add sheep. I would, but I'd have to watch them all the time, which I don't have the time to do.

Kramer said...

I'm reading Dirt Hog right now. We currently have pastured pork right now but it is always interesting to read about ways to possibly improve. So far, its not a bad read.

Ethan Book said...

Well, let's see ... I don't know if this is correct, but it looks like 3 votes for "Grass-Fed Cattle", 2 votes for "Dirt Hog", and 2 votes for "Harris on the Pig". I'll leave the voting open for awhile and try a chapter from each to see what I think.

Yes, we plan on adding hogs as soon as the fence is up! We are debating on whether to go with a heritage breed or just plain ol' hogs. A lot will probably depend on what is available at the time.

Yeoman - You can always do what some shepherds do. Leave during lambing season ... their thinking is that they let the ewes do it themselves and if they can't ... well, then they are selecting for the ones that can. All I have read about that, but it is mostly from other countries.

Yeoman said...

"Yeoman - You can always do what some shepherds do. Leave during lambing season ... their thinking is that they let the ewes do it themselves and if they can't ... well, then they are selecting for the ones that can. All I have read about that, but it is mostly from other countries."

Not here. Between the coyotes and the wolves, all I'd have left wold be a few bones.

Equyne said...

The answer to the coyote and wolf problem is Great Pyrennes. I keep a small flock in a heavily infested coyote area and they keep them safe. Keep flock small and feed them next to barn in evening so they will learn to spend the night next to buildings which discourages preditors.

As for book, I vote for cattle first. I want to add a few Dexters or Highland cattle to my small farm and am exploring how to best do it.

Yeoman said...

"The answer to the coyote and wolf problem is Great Pyrennes. I keep a small flock in a heavily infested coyote area and they keep them safe. Keep flock small and feed them next to barn in evening so they will learn to spend the night next to buildings which discourages preditors."

Great Pyrennes are pretty common here, and the ranch used to have one, when it had sheep. They are a great help, although not fool proof. The sheep here are moved from pasture to pasture by necessity, so they are fed near any structures, but the dog stays out with them. We still see a few of them around, although there aren't nearly as many sheep as they're used to be, so they're aren't as many dogs either.

Anyhow, Great Pyrennes are a great help to sheepmen.

Others have experimented with donkeys and llamas, fwiw, but they don't seem to work quite as well. Donkeys can be pretty aggressive, however, so they're not too bad. Coyotes seem to figure llamas out.

I don't know how well any of these work with wolves, which are a new and increasing factor. I'd guess none of them work as well, but the Great Pyrennes might work the best. None work better than a full time herder.

Yeoman said...

That should read "the sheep are not fed near any structures".

Coffee hasn't kicked in yet.

They have to be moved here or they'd eat the pastures down to dirt. They're great on weeds, however.

Ethan Book said...

equyne - Thanks for checking out the blog and for voting on the book.

LGD's are pretty popular with sheep and with the homesteading crowd. I don't know much about them, but it is an interesting thought.

I have read about a rancher in Montana (I think) that has a goat herd that he uses for weed management and takes his herd to other ranches to "weed" for them. I wonder if you could do the same thing with hair sheep (no wool to sheer)?

Rich said...

There is some information about a method for training cattle to eat weeds at:

http://www.livestockforlandscapes.com
/columns.htm

If you can train cattle to eat weeds, I would think that you could train sheep to also eat weeds.

Ethan Book said...

Rich - Thanks for the link. I think that may be the person that writes the articles for the Stockman Grassfarmer ... maybe?

JRG said...

On the subject of guard dogs...

We only have one band of range sheep left in our valley herein central Idaho. They run three Great Pyrenees and these ones are not the kind of dog you want to be wandering around on foot if they're in the area. We have mountain lions, bears, wolves, and coyotes (down on the low end of the totem pole here). The dogs do a good job. We've set up on the montain above them and watched them work. They are always moving and drifting up and down the slopes. Pretty effective and pretty cool.

A couple valleys away there is an outfit that still runs six range bands (1000 ewes/band). Each band has one shepherd and 4-5 guard dogs. They are in real wolf country and the dogs do a pretty good job over there.

We ran sheep for 9 years when we were back in Missouri with gaurd dogs and electric perimeter fences. In nine years we never lost a lamb or ewe (100 ewe flock) to predators. We had neighbors who were put out of the sheep business by dogs and coyotes because they refused to manage the problem. Their only idea was to shoot every coyote they saw. IMHO, shooting coyotes is a complete waste of time. You see less than half of them and worse ones usually move in if you shoot your residents.

Dogs and fence can manage the problem pretty well.

Steven said...

"We've set up on the montain above them and watched them work. They are always moving and drifting up and down the slopes. Pretty effective and pretty cool."
Wow, I wish I could see that. We're actually thinking about getting a Great Pyrenees in a month (when they are 6 weeks old). We're just not sure if it's worth it at this point on the farm. Our friends at www.familyfriendlyfarm.com have 11 for sale. Theirs guard the chickens on their farm. They used to loose about a chicken a day to hawks (they have a few hundred in each of 2 or 3 flocks) but now they almost never loose one! My last dog experience involved him tearing up my chain link fence and running cross country over and over. I just hope that the desire to guard animals, and an electric fence might be enough to keep a Pyr. close to the farm.

JRG said...

Hey Steven,

For a dog (of any of the guard dog breeds) to be effective, they really need to be raised from pups with the animals to be protected. While there is some instinctive behavior to their job performance, most of it is learned and the earlier they learn to bond with the flock or herd, the more effective they will be. The best sheep guard dog might enjoy eating chickens, so some behavior modification may be necessary.

The only time I can rememeber one of our dogs abandoning the flock was when he traveled several miles for a female in heat. Our best dogs never left the pastures.

I think dogs are they most effective predator protection but they have to be fed. On of the arguments for llamas and donkeys is they eat the same thing the sheep do.

Rich said...

How effective ARE llamas or donkeys in guarding livestock?

There is a llama in the neighbor's pasture behind my parents house, you can usually find him every day hanging out close to the perimeter fence with my parent's dog laying on the other side while the cattle are nowhere to be seen. To the casual observer it doesn't look like the llama has a particular dislike of canines and isn't really "guarding" the cattle.

Is it a matter of properly training llamas to guard, or is this typical llama guarding behavior? I was under the impression that llamas had a natural "hatred" of canines, which is what made them effective as guard animals.

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