Category Archives: FARM

Cato – Duties of the Owner

“The appetite of the good farmer is to sell, not to buy.” Marcus Porcius Cato

Let’s get back to Cato’s thoughts on Farm Management. As the title indicates, here is his outline of the basic duties of the land/farm owner.

  1. Upon arrival at your country house and have saluted your household, you should make the rounds of the farm the same day if possible. Certainly the next day.
  2. Observe how the field work has progressed and what things have been done, and what remains undone,
  3. You should summon your overseer the next day and should call for a report of what work has been done in good season and why it has not been possible to complete the rest, and what wine and corn and other crops have been gathered.
  4. When you are advised on these points you should make your own calculation of the time necessary for the work, if there does not appear to you to have been enough accomplished. The overseer will report that he himself has worked diligently, but that some slaves have been sick and others truant, the weather has been bad, and that it has been necessary to work the public roads.
  5. When he has given these and many other excuses, you should recall to his attention the program of work which you had laid out for him on your last visit and compare it with the results attained. If the weather has been bad, count how many stormy days there have been, and rehearse what work could have been done despite the rain, such as washing and and pitching the wine vats, cleaning out the barns, sorting the grain, hauling out and composting manure, cleaning seed, mending the old gear and making new, mending the smocks and hoods furnished for the hands. On feast days the old ditches should be mended, the public roads worked, briers cut down, the garden dug, the meadow cleaned, the hedges trimmed and clippings collected and burned, the fish pond cleaned out. On such days, furthermore, the slaves’ rations would be cut down as compared with what is allowed when they are working in the fields in fine weather.
  6. When this routine has been discussed quietly and with good humor and is thoroughly understood by the overseer, you should give orders for the completion of the work which has been neglected.
  7. The accounts of money, supplies, and provision should then be considered. Inventory and sales should be settled.
  8. If any thing is needed for the coming year, it should be bought; every things which is not needed should be sold. Whatever there is for lease should be leased.
  9. Orders should be given (and take care that they are in writing) for all work which next it is desired to have done on the farm or let to contract.
  10. You should go over the cattle and determine what is to be sold. You should sell the oil, if you can get your price, the surplus wine and corn, the old cattle, the worn out oxen, the cull sheep, the wool and the hides, the old and sick slaves, and if any thing else is superfluous you should sell that.
  11. Be a good neighbor.

Challenges or Opportunities

Oftentimes, we view challenges as mountains to overcome, but sometimes, those challenges are opportunities to diversify or force us to find the holes in our operations, the ‘dead wood’ as Stan Parson would call it.

I’ve penciled feeding hay vs grazing only. And even though feeding hay – even cheap hay and high calf prices – it is seldom (actually never) the path to take. Yet, i’ve taken it and been exhausted by mid-winter feeding hay! Now that i’m older, i must – forced, if you will — eliminate that practice. This year is tough – we are in a drought, so eliminating hay this year with little winter stockpile forage growth means a deep culling of my cow herd.

As markets have changed from their high in 2014, I also must let go of my beautifully colored Corriente and Longhorn cows. They have been a joy, but i can no longer justify the current deep discount those crossbred calves bring at market. My cow herd after November 19, 2020 will be almost exclusively black or red Angus.

Going forward, i’ve rigidly utilized the clever alliteration from the Noble Research Institute Foundation to start with my culling selections.

Old, Ornery, or Open.

This should be used every year actually, but i’ve let too many cows slide (not the ornery ones – they go quickly) through the years and this year is the year to clean up and add value. This year’s cattle prices have a lot of pressure with low demand and anything a bit off is deeply discounted.

  1. Even if a cow has really nice calf at side but comes up open (not pregnant) she needs selling because she will be freeloading for another year at least once her calf at side is sold. Plus, if she has a heifer i keep as a replacement, those poor conception genetics stay in my herd. Gone and gone. This cow may be a perfect fit for a fall calving buyer or one with better forages.
This particular red cow is actually pregnant and raising a decent calf, however she is a bit thin and shouldn’t be this time of year, so she will be sold as a 3 in 1 (3 animals in 1 package). Her pregnancy is a calf, not a blob of cells. The spotted cow with her butt to the camera also has a very nice calf, but she is not pregnant as indicated by the chartreuse ear tag we gave her to make it easier to sort off, she’ll be sold as a pair.

2. If a cow was bred and lost her calf sometime during the year and is open or bred back, i sell her. If she doesn’t bring a coupon (calf), she becomes the coupon.

This beautiful Corriente cow has made a lot of money for me, but she lost her calf this spring. She is bred back, starting to slip in condition, and is extremely old. She may have a difficult time making it through our harsh winter this year, so she can go to someone who may have a more gentle program. She has, until this spring, raised a big good calf for me for 12 years – she was middle aged when i bought her 12 years ago. She actually even carried an ET bull calf and raised it nicely. It’s tempting to keep her and let her die on the ranch and if she had a heifer calf at side i would do that.

3. Ornery is self explanatory. I used the same black Angus bulls for 3 years and one or more of them developed really bad attitudes. By the third year, i’d had enough and when i got them loaded out of the breeding pasture, I called the sale barn owner and asked i could just bring them up (there was a sale that day). Sold them (weighed up – i sure didn’t want anyone else have this problem) and so glad, but despite selecting my heifers very carefully for disposition, over the course of a couple years, some of them have become cranky. Now, i’m going to say, i’m much pickier on attitude than some people. I have 3 generations to work through.

This heifer coming with her first calf is bred and nice shape – you can note the Corriente touch in her. However, she is only being sold because she has snorted at me a couple times – even in the pasture. She doesn’t come after me, but i won’t tolerate a cow that raises her head and runs off or snorts at me.

4. As i wrote above, I will sell all my fancy, colored, cows with chrome – all euphemisms for being spotted or off colored. At the market, the quality of the animal is irrelevant if it is spotted. To quickly add value to the remaining calf crop is to just take my beating now and sell those beautiful cows and be done. 😦

This beautiful first calf heifer bred back in my 45 day breeding season and is raising a fantastic calf, yet both will be heavily discounted at the sale. Nevertheless, my goal is to eliminate ‘fancy’ cattle from my herd. It’s hard to cull a fine heifer strictly on color. 😦 You can see some hay set out in a spaced bale feeding scheme for winter. This is to not only feed cows, but add organic matter and build humus to the soil of that practically barren hillside.

5. If any cow had difficulty maintaining good body condition through the summer, she will also be sold. Even if she is bred back and/or has a good calf at side – eventually, she will come open. Selling her now at her peak.

6. Any cow with a dink calf (smaller or rougher haired than the other calves of the peer group) she will be sold with her calf. Usually, this happens with old cows, so they will be sorted off anyway – it’s just another mark against her.

CaTO’s Farm Management – Farm Buying Tips

Okay, for a bit of old, interesting yet wise counsel, i’m going to share some bits from a reprinted book of 1910 translated by a Virginia Farmer from the Latin Eclogues from the De Re Rustica of M. Porcius Cato of Roman times.

The reprint is a tiny portion of the Eclogues and is entitled ‘Cato’s Farm Management‘ with an ISBN 978-1-330-56017-4. I think i purchased mine through Amazon, but can be found at Forgotten Books.

It is noted in the intro “Cato practised and taught intense cultivation, the use of leguminous plants for soil improvement, the importance of live stock in a system of general farming, and the effective preservation of manure.” Bearing in mind that Cato died 149 years before the Christian era.

This is the ‘new’ revelation and movement now coined as ‘regenerative farming’, with the same principles laid out over 2000 years ago. As the Scriptures say, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Cato on Buying a Farm

  1. Give heed to the appearance of the neighborhood – a flourishing country should show its prosperity

2 Take care that you choose a good climate, not subject to destructive storms, and a soil that is naturally strong.

3) If possible, your farm should be at the foot of a mountain looking to the West, in a healthy situation, where labor and cattle can be had, well watered, near a good sized town, and either on the sea or navigable river, or else on a good and much frequented road.

4) Chose a place which has not often changed ownership, one which is sold unwillingly, that has buildings in good repair.

5) When you inspect the farm, look to see how many wine presses and storage vats there are; where there are none of these you can judge what the harvest is. On the other hand, it is not the number of farming implements, but what is done with them that counts. Where you find few tools, it is not an expensive farm to operate.

More to come!

Treasures from Washington

Dallas and i went to Washington state a few falls ago and collected a few treasures from our hikes. Finally going to get around and try to stratify and start these chestnuts. Hope they aren’t too dry or old to sprout~

Shells, chestnuts, claws

The Furrow – Year 1916

No worries, i’ve done the due diligence and checked with John Deere to get permission to reprint articles from this fabulous magazine which is still coming to our home four times a year. Fortunately, i received the very friendly return e-mail:

East Anne <EastAnneK@johndeere.com 3 August 2020 8:24 am

Hi Tauna,

Thanks for reaching out.  I did some research and as it turns out, anything pre-1925 is in the public domain.  While it might be on you to reach out to anyone mentioned or authored (who would be deceased by now), you don’t need our permission.

I also live in Missouri and the weather today is FABULOUS!  Happy blogging.

Anne East
Content Marketing Manager
Agriculture & Turf, Region 4
Olathe, KS
Phone: 913.310.8293

Here is the old magazine in its entirety! Enjoy.

Family Farmers

Thanks to the Missouri Rural Crisis Center for bringing this informative article to light.

View this email in your browser
MRCC member Jeff Jones co-wrote this opinion that appeared in the High Plains Journal with our allies within the Campaign for Family Farms & the Environment (CFFE).

Our members, independent family farmers and rural communities, are suffering and are demanding policies that will help.

This current and historical pain is due to “government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations”.

And, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Join MRCC and the fight for “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

Thank you Jeff, for joining with other farmers in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota and daring to speak truth to corporate power

 *CFFE is comprised of Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Land Stewardship Project (MN), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Dakota Rural Action (SD), Food and Water Watch and Institute for Ag and Trade Policy. Meatpacking corporations cash in on pandemic while family farms and consumers foot the billAug 21, 2020For most Americans, the fallout from the pandemic offered a crash course in how supply chains work (or rather, don’t work), especially in the meat supply. Suddenly grocery stores were rationing how much pork and beef each person could purchase, and consumers could no longer depend on getting the meat they needed at their local store. While the general public may have been shocked to see how quickly the meat supply grinded to a halt, farmers and ranchers, like us, were not.Just a handful of multinational companies, including Smithfield (China), Tyson (U.S.) and JBS (Brazil), control a critical step in the supply chain for pork and beef slaughter and processing. This industrial system hinges on a small number of massive slaughterhouses and processing plants, and these facilities are uniquely vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.  With hundreds of workers standing shoulder to shoulder during a grueling and frenzied eight-hour shift, it is nearly impossible to practice protective measures like social distancing, which is why more than 17,300 meat and poultry processing workers in 29 states were infected with COVID-19 in April and May alone.Through it all, the big meat companies used threats of empty store shelves to resist calls to protect their workers by slowing down processing lines or temporarily closing plants. While the news media showed pictures of empty meat cases in grocery stores, meat supplies were being exported from the U.S. to other countries and a historic amount of meat sat in cold storage. This is the result of years of overproduction, which the meatpackers intentionally fuel to drive down prices paid to family farmers.Big meat companies increased their profits during this unprecedented crisis, even as independent family farm livestock producers were paid less, workers were put at greater risk, and consumers paid more for food staples. In one recent example, the June price for a steer going to market from the feedlot was more than $200 lower than it has been for the last several years. Yet, the price of beef at grocery stores just saw the largest monthly increase ever recorded.Things are so bad for livestock producers that several members of Congress and state attorneys general have called for investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice. If done in good faith, these long-overdue investigations will confirm what farmers and ranchers like us have known for a long time: These companies rig the system to both increase their profits and deepen their control of livestock markets.But we need more than investigations. Our elected officials can act today to take on these global meat corporations and support workers and family farmers during this challenging time by making sure pandemic response assistance goes to independent family farmers who need it to survive, not multinational corporations making a racket. We also must protect workers by establishing enforceable workplace safety and health standards, preventing retaliation for reporting infection control problems or taking sick leave, and requiring tracking and public reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces.To help family farms, lawmakers should set rules that allow independent livestock producers and small and mid-sized packing plants to compete on a level playing field by finalizing the USDA Farmer Fair Practice Rules. We also need to establish a moratorium on new agribusiness and food industry mergers to stop excessive corporate control from getting even worse and reinstate mandatory Country of Origin Labeling so U.S. consumers have the option to choose U.S. born, raised and processed meat.Lastly, we need to stop public taxpayer funding of corporate factory farms that fuel the corporate takeover of the meat system. With livestock backing up on farms because of supply chain disruption, this is no time to build more large-scale factory farms. Factory farms flood the market, push prices down and independent family farmers out, and exist to feed these giant corporate slaughterhouses.One of the many lessons we have learned from this global pandemic is that it matters who controls our food system. Right now, it’s a few multinational conglomerates that write the rules and extract every cent of wealth they can from family farmers, workers and consumers. Instead, we need a democratic, decentralized industry that benefits and lifts-up independent family farmers, consumers, our national and food security, and environment.The multinational meat companies who created this mess must not be the ones who decide what happens next for our food supply. It’s got to be all of us.*Barb Kalbach, fourth generation family farmer and Iowa CCI member from Adair County, Iowa; Jefferson Jones, fourth generation cattle, grain and hay farmer, Missouri Rural Crisis Center member, Callaway County, Missouri; John Harter, livestock producer, Dakota DRA chairperson, Winner, South Dakota; Darrel Mosel, cattle, soybean and corn farmer, Land Stewardship Project member, Gaylord, Minnesota.Join MRCC HERE
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Just a Hiccup

Had a lot of things on my to-do list, but a few were left undone since i discovered the kitchen sink was leaking. Loosened the lock nut, raised up the drain, rolled up a replacement bit of plumbers putty, and replaced that which had deteriorated. Tightened it all up and voila! it seems to be working now. However, i did notice the flat rubber (located between the lock nut and the bottom of the sink) is stretched out of shape – had better get a replacement on hand just in case.