Tag Archives: farm

Gene Editing Animals – Problem!

This discussion and wrangling continues, yet money is the deciding factor over any other considerations.  As a community, we all will continue being guinea pigs in the new ‘agriculture’ experiment.  We will be caught unawares if we don’t research the food provided to our families.

Leviticus 19:19 You shall keep my statutes; you shall not cause your livestock to breed with different kinds; you shall not sow two kinds in your field; and you shall not allow a garment mixed of mixed fabric to come upon you.

Brave New World: What You Need to Know About Gene-Edited Farm Animals

For decades, the biotech industry has spun a narrative around genetically engineered crops that could be summed up very simply as “jam tomorrow, instead of bread and butter today.”

Sustained—and financed—largely on the promise of spectacular success at some unidentified point in the future, the research and development of new types of GMO foods, made with a whole host of new genetic engineering technologies, has gathered pace in recent years.

These days, without most people being aware of it, genetic engineering is spreading from the crops in the field to the animals in the barn.

Using new genome editing (sometimes referred to as “gene editing”) techniques like CRISPR, biotech breeders are proposing to breed a brave new world of farm animals that don’t get sick, don’t feel pain and produce more meat, milk and eggs at a lower cost than ever before.

Not many NGOs are currently working on this issue and it can be hard to find good information to help make sense of it all. But two recent reports provide in-depth information on the mechanics as well as the ethical issues around gene-edited farm animals.

One, from Friends of the Earth, entitled “Genetically Engineered Animals: From Lab to Factory Farm,” is an extensively referenced report that provides key background information and highlights the urgent need for safety assessments of genome-edited animals.

The other, “Gene-edited Animals in Agriculture,” is a report from a day-long round table in June 2019, co-hosted by my organization, Beyond GM, and Compassion in World Farming in the UK. The round table involved individuals representing a wide range of perspectives. What emerged was a fascinating glimpse into not only the technology, but also the ethics and values systems that underpin that technology.

If you are new to the subject of genetically engineering farm animals for food, if it concerns you or if you just want to know more in order to be an informed consumer, these two reports provide an important starting point.

What are gene-edited animals?

Gene editing is a type of genetic engineering. It is used as an umbrella term for a suite of new technologies, of which CRISPR is the most well-known.

With gene editing, as with older genetic engineering techniques, the organism’s genetic material is changed directly and artificially, by humans using laboratory techniques. This means that gene editing, like other forms of genetic engineering, produces GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Currently, research priorities for gene-edited animals focus largely on a few high-value animals. Pigs are the priority farm animal, followed by cattle and poultry. Genome-edited fish—particularly salmon and tilapia—are also being developed.

How is gene editing being used on farm animals?

Much of the current research and development is focused on health problems in farm animals raised in intensive, industrial systems. Genome editing has been proposed as a way to protect animals from disease by altering their immune response to diseases like PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) and ASFv (African Swine Fever) in pigs and ISA (Infectious Salmon Anemia, or “salmon flu”) in farmed salmon.

Researchers are also looking at creating animals with desirable commercial attributes, such as the ability to produce more muscle mass (meat) while consuming less feed.

They are also looking for ways to adapt animals to their environments, such as cattle with “slick” coats that protect them from extreme heat.

These problems targeted by the biotech industry are real. But most of them are also man-made—a consequence of the crowded factory farm conditions in which the animals are raised, and the spread of industrial livestock operations into geographical areas (e.g. tropical climates) not well suited to this kind of farming.

Poor health in animals often arises as a result of the systems in which they are kept. Gene editing should not be used to address diseases that primarily arise from keeping animals in stressful, crowded conditions. Such diseases can, and should be tackled by improving things like housing and hygiene, and lowering stocking densities, before turning to selective breeding – of any kind.

What advantages are claimed for gene-edited farm animals?

Genome editing has been proposed as a solution for sustainably feeding a growing world population. Producing animals that grow faster and eat less, argues the biotech industry, reduces input costs for the farmer and, on a global scale, helps reduce the amount of crops diverted to livestock as feed, and may also help to reduce the impact of industrial meat production on global warming.

Gene-editing could be used to control reproduction, for instance to produce more female dairy cows (thus more milk) or more female chickens (more eggs). “Gender skewing” in this way, say biotechnologists, has the added bonus of lowering the number of male cows and chickens culled shortly after birth.

There are also claims that genome editing could be used to “edit out” animals’ ability to feel pain and stress. This, it is argued, would reduce the animals’ suffering in factory farm conditions. Opponents argue, however that this is unethical, reduces the animals to little more than a machine and furthers the interests of those who support factory farming.

Another major argument for gene editing is that it can speed up the breeding process—producing in 2 years an animal that might take 10-15 years via traditional breeding.

This notion of speed, however, may be misleading. Although genome editing is promoted as a fast technology with limitless possibilities, no gene-edited animals have yet made it into farms or the food chain.

Most of the “innovations” you read about in the media are based on studies performed to show what might be theoretically, technically possible. These PR stories are often released by research institutions as a way of attracting the interest of funders that might be interested in financing further work.

But if gene editing can help relieve animals’ suffering, isn’t that a good thing?

Most researchers involved in this work (as opposed to the large biotech companies that eventually market the finished product) are concerned for animal welfare and believe that what they are doing will help animals.

It is worth remembering that those involved in conventional selective breeding believe that they, too, are doing “good.”

However, decades of evidence show that selective breeding for specific traits can have a negative impact on animal health, including skeletal and metabolic diseases, lameness, reproductive issues and mastitis.

The fact is, the more we breed animals to be little more than “production units” in industrial farms, the less likely it is to benefit the animal—whatever the method.

How successful have attempts at gene editing been so far?

Results in animals thus far are not as predictable or reliable as researchers had hoped.

For example, a recent Wall Street Journal investigation reported unintended effects including enlarged tongues and extra vertebrae.

Brazil’s plans to breed hornless dairy cattle, gene-edited with TALENs were recently abandoned when a study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that one of the experimental animals contained a sequence of bacterial DNA that included a gene-conferring antibiotic resistance. In theory, this antibiotic-resistance gene could be taken up by any of the billions of bacteria present in a cow’s gut or body—and from there be spread beyond the farm.

Other recent research has shown that edited mouse genomes can acquire bovine or goat DNA. This was traced to the standard culture medium for mouse cells, which contains DNA from whichever animal species it may have been extracted from. This mix-and-match DNA is potentially a problem for other genome-edited animals, too. And it raises some urgent questions about authenticity and traceability.

Studies like these, which are appearing with ever-greater frequency, suggest that the science of genome editing in animals is a long way from providing watertight solutions to the problems associated with factory-farmed animals.

Are there any gene-edited animals on the market now?

Although it is promoted as a fast technology with limitless possibilities, genome-edited animals have yet to appear on farms or in the food chain.

The only genetically engineered animals currently on the market is the GMO salmon on sale in Canada and the U.S. This was produced using older style genetic engineering.

Can we achieve the same improvements in farm animals with traditional breeding?

Conventional breeding can also produce robust animals that are suited to their geographical locations. Both farmers and consumers are showing increasing interest in these kinds of “heritage breeds.” And supporting them also helps to protect the diversity of the animal gene pool.

Conventional breeding also has the advantage of not requiring complex regulation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently trying to “simplify” things by proposing that it, rather than the FDA, should have oversight on genome-edited animals and that these animals should be exempt from regulation.

Given the scientific uncertainty around genetically engineered animals, this kind of blinkered rubber-stamping should alarm consumers.

Surely, gene editing is just another tool in the toolbox. Is it right to discount it entirely if one day it might be a useful tool?

Most people agree that our food system is no longer functioning optimally, that it needs to change and is, in fact, changing. Genetic engineers believe that they have something that can help agriculture change. They often refer to gene editing as a “tool in the toolbox.”

This suggests that rather than being a universal panacea, genome editing may be a technology with useful but limited applications and several caveats—i.e. you don’t use a wrench when you need a hammer.

Arguably, more important than the “tool” is the “toolbox” itself, which is what we use to frame our questions, the points of reference we use and how we organize our thoughts.

All over the world, the “toolbox” is the intensive, industrial farming model—these days referred to as “sustainable intensification.” This model drives much of the thinking and decision-making around agriculture and agricultural policy.

In a world where agroecology and regenerative farming are the dominant systems, decisions around genome editing, about when—or indeed if—it is needed might look very different.

There is now a large body of opinion suggesting that, whichever yardstick is used—welfare, sustainability, environment, nutrition—the industrial farming system is damaging and outdated.

If we envisage the future of farming where the industrial model will continue to dominate, then genome editing may take on a more prominent role.

However, if we envisage a future for farming as largely agroecological, and invest in and work conscientiously towards that kind of system change, then it is possible that gene editing won’t have a role to play.

In that future, instead of creating genetically engineered animals to fit into factory farms, we will develop sustainable and ecological animal agriculture systems that support animal welfare, preserve and restore biodiversity and protect public health.

Pat Thomas is a journalist, author and campaigner specializing in food, environment and health. See more on her website. To keep up with Organic Consumers Association (OCA) news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

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Deviled Eggs – Newest Recipe

In my quest to use more local and less processed ingredients in making meals, I’ve updated my previous deviled egg recipe with this one which does not need Worcestershire sauce or Bragg’s Amino Liquid.  There is too much soy in our lives and there is no need for it.  Especially given the proliferation of genetically engineered soybeans.

Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 12 large eggs (hard cooked)*
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

Peel hard cooked eggs, slice in half lengthwise and remove yolk to food processor or mixer (or smash by hand with a fork).  Place the egg white halves on a plate or special deviled egg plate or container.  Smash the yolks to fine pieces and remove to a bowl, then add the remaining ingredients mixing thoroughly.

You can then spoon a bit of the yolk mixture into each egg white half or use a pastry tube for a more decorative look.  Cover, refrigerate and use withing a couple days.

Clearly, i don’t have all the ingredients local – we cannot grow lemon trees in our north Missouri, Hardiness Zone 5B.  (Find your hardiness zone here at Stark Bros Nursery.)  So, i’m sure looking for suggestions for a suitable replacement.  Salt and pepper is also a work in progress.

*Tips:  Remember to use 7-10 day old eggs for easier peeling.  Allow them to come to room temperature before cooking.  Place in a pan and just cover with water, place on a lid, then bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let stand in hot water for at least 20 minutes.  Drain and cool before peeling.

Farm Fresh is Best

Oh, i suppose there are many, including farmers, who could somehow find a way to argue with the title of my blog (which is also the title of a great article in the latest issue of Missouri Life magazine written by Corin Cesaric).  But, the arguments will need to be pretty convoluted and perhaps mostly fall into the fallacy department.

Anyway, this is a beginners guide to exploring and discovering fresh food in Missouri.  If you live in another state, the same guidelines can be applicable.  No one is guaranteed a meal, nor is it even easy to find actual food in this country anymore.  It takes planning, a change of diet (more seasonal or simply eliminate them from your diet), and exploration.  Where is this great food?!  The home manager/economist must take up the important mantel of “She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.  She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.” (Proverbs 31:14-15)

Now, i’m not one to worry with eating out, but if that is your thing, there are meals out there provided by restaurants committed to purchasing and serving fresh, in season, local as possible.  Don’t forget to buy from your neighbors!!  As the saying goes, “Costco doesn’t buy Little League t-shirts for your community.”  Guessing that is true, but i’ve never been in a Costco or other big box store – i think there is one in Columbia (1 1/2 hours away)

On the rare occasions when I decide to make a home-cooked meal, it doesn’t take more than a five-minute drive to my one-stop-shop to gather all of the ingredients. I can find pretty much everything I need at my local Gerbes, and although there are many organic options, there’s hardly anything from local producers. The bigger the chain store gets, the more apparent this is.

A lot of people, myself included, are realizing how important it is to live sustainably. So I decided to attempt to eat only locally sourced food for seven days. I was excited, but also a little nervous. Would I have to dedicate a lot of extra time to sourcing my ingredients? Would I find everything I need? What ended up happening was that I gained a newfound appreciation for local business and learned a few life lessons, too.

Before I plunged into my recipes, I did some research on farming in the United States. According to the US Department of Agriculture, for every dollar consumers spend on food, only 7.8 cents goes to farmers.

“We believe that farmers should have not only the cost of production for raising livestock independently, but also a living wage on top of it,” Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) Communications Director Tim Gibbons says. Patchwork Family Farms, established by the MRCC in 1993, purchases hogs directly from local, independent family farmers in Missouri and pays farmers above market price.

One of the biggest advantages of buying local food is supporting these farmers and your local economy. Missouri relies heavily on agriculture, so if you love the town and state you live in, this is an easy way to support it. In 2016, agriculture and other related industries in Missouri had an $88.4 billion economic impact and contributed 378,232 jobs.

Luckily for me, Missouri is home to more than two hundred farmers markets across the state, so with that in mind, my first stop was the Columbia Farmers Market. I headed there late last summer when it was in full swing with about ninety vendors. I got a decent haul, met a lot of local farmers and producers, and had some ideas in mind for the following week. I found that knowing exactly where your food comes from makes cooking quite a bit more fun. I was taking my time and cared more about the end result of my meals.

Of course, there were some things that I wasn’t able to find from our state, but in the middle of summer, most things were accessible. Here you can see what I ate each day during the week.

Monday

I started out with pretty simple meals so that I wouldn’t get in over my head. For breakfast, I had honey bread from Fiddle & Stone Bread Co. topped with apple butter from C & J Baked Goods, located in Paris, Missouri. C & J sells fresh-baked bread, pies, jellies, and jams along with some other snacks that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. I can’t stress how delicious this apple butter is. It’s essentially highly concentrated apple sauce, but it has a sweet and caramel flavor. It immediately became one of my favorite morning snacks. As of now, Fiddle & Stone doesn’t have a permanent location, but you can find this homemade bread at the Columbia Farmers Market every week.

For lunch, I had a salad with bell peppers and onions with ingredients that I found at the farmers market, and I topped it with Italian dressing. I got all of my bell peppers for the whole week from The Backyard Farmer at the market, which is run by husband-and-wife team Jay Vang and Nou Lee from Sedalia and their five children.

The family is made up of their youngest, Crystal, who is thirteen, and their oldest, Jenny, who graduated from the University of Missouri and now works in IT in Columbia. Their three other children, Vicky, Nicholas, and Daniel, currently attend MU.

“We do a little bit of everything to pay for our kids’ tuition and rent a place so they can stay [in Columbia],” Jay says. This year is The Backyard Farmer’s fourth year in business.

I topped my salad with cheddar cheese from Hemme Brothers Farmstead Creamery located in Sweet Springs, and I ended my day with tacos. I used ground beef from Altai Meadows in Higbee with bell peppers, onions, and fried potatoes on the side. It was a simple meal, easy to whip up.

The money made by The Backyard Farmer, a family business, goes directly to helping the children while they are at school in Columbia. The family of seven all help out at the market when they can.

Tuesday

The next morning I used the bread from Fiddle & Stone Bread Co. again, but this time I made what I like to call “Lazy French Toast.” I learned how to make this in college. I’ve always liked it because you can make it in ten minutes or less, and it only takes three ingredients. Instead of adding cinnamon and sugar to make the meal sweet, I just slice bread, dip it in an egg mixture, and fry it. The eggs were from Buttonwood Farm in California, Missouri. I topped my Lazy French Toast with apple butter instead of syrup, ate it way faster than I should have, and headed to work.

I purchased the eggs from Root Cellar in Columbia, which is one of the best local resources in town. The market, owned by Chelsea and Jake Davis, sells locally sourced food and offers subscription boxes full of local ingredients that can be delivered straight to your door.

“Jake and I are both farm kids. We grew up in Southwest Missouri, so we have a deep passion for agriculture,” Chelsea says. “Growing up on independent family farms, we know the values that farming has and also the great food that the state of Missouri actually produces, which is really wide and diverse.”

They bought the grocery store in 2011 when the previous owner was selling it and immediately added the year-round subscription boxes. “We’re farmers ourselves and we want to make sure that farmers have an outlet for their products,” Chelsea says.

When lunchtime rolled around, my anti-cooking mentality kicked back in, so I started to search for places around Columbia that offered locally sourced meals. Places like Barred Owl Butcher & Table and Sycamore popped up—two of my favorite spots—but Le Bao is what caught my attention. This Asian eatery opened in 2018. Not everything on the menu features locally sourced ingredients—it would be pretty hard to find seaweed here—but the pork ramen uses meat from Patchwork Family Farms. I’ve never been a huge pork eater, but in order to eat local, I ordered it. I can say firsthand, this pork tastes different in the best way. It wasn’t fatty or overwhelming in taste and it really complimented the noodles.

“The way that corporations raise their hogs nowadays is in big buildings over slatted floors with the waste lagoon underneath the building,” Tim says. “This industrial production model not only negatively impacts the property rights of rural communities and their water and air, but also the taste and quality of the meat. Livestock raised by independent family farmers the traditional way respects their neighbors and results in a superior product. You can taste the difference.”

For dinner, I made baked eggplant with the ingredients I purchased from the farmers market. This is one of my all-time favorite meals, and like usual, it didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, my Italian bread crumbs were not locally sourced, neither were the salt, pepper, and spices I used during the week.

When I couldn’t find something sourced locally, I was able to easily find it at a grocery store. If I hadn’t had access to those stores, my meals would have looked and tasted a lot more plain, and I would have had to travel much more around the state to find exactly what I was looking for. I wouldn’t have been able to use basic things like salt and pepper or the Italian dressing I used for my salads.

If I truly didn’t have access to anything outside of our state’s borders, this week would have been more challenging, but still possible.


Wednesday

On Wednesday morning, I made scrambled eggs for breakfast with Hemme Brothers cheddar cheese. Lunch was also easy since it was my leftover dinner from the night before, but I’m not complaining. Eggplant really is one of my favorite meals, and many of the vendors carried the fruit—that’s right, I even learned that eggplant is technically a fruit.

The dinner I made on this day turned out to be my favorite meal for the whole week, and I’m not just saying this because I was proud of successfully cooking something. It really was delicious. I made stuffed peppers with homemade meatballs. I made the meatballs with ground beef from Hormann Meat Company in Springfield combined with mild sausage from Patchwork Family Farms. I cut some leftover peppers I had from the market in half and stuffed them with the meatballs and put them in a pot on the stove, then topped everything with local tomatoes and organic marinara sauce and added mashed potatoes on the side. There were plenty of leftovers I was happy to pack up.

Missouri Life Associate Editor Corin Cesaric cooks stuffed peppers with local ingredients from Root Cellar and Columbia Farmers Market.

Thursday

I headed to Main Squeeze for breakfast. This vegetarian restaurant has been known for its local and healthy meals since 1997. I opted for the breakfast tacos made with eggs from Share-Life Farms in Napton, jack cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion, and salsa on corn tortillas with some greens on the side. This year, the restaurant will be replacing the corn tortillas with local flour tortillas from Tortilleria El Patron in Columbia.

“I would estimate we have spent more than a quarter million with local farms in the past twenty-two years,” Leigh Lockhart, owner of Main Squeeze says.

When local isn’t an option, they choose certified organic products instead. Eggs, potatoes, feta cheese, bread from Uprise Bakery, pecans, and blueberries are always locally sourced.

“It seems like a natural extension of running a conscious business that you would want to support the local economy because you live here,” Leigh says.

Leigh didn’t grow up in agriculture, but she found her passion in creating meals in a sustainable business. As the owner, she does a little bit of everything around the restaurant and is the mastermind behind her tasty menu.

“I may not cook every dish that comes out of the kitchen at Main Squeeze, but I’m the one at home figuring out how to make something taste eggy even though it doesn’t have any eggs in it,” she says.

For lunch, I pulled out my leftover peppers to have them again and froze what was left for another meal later in the week. Around dinner time, I realized I needed to become a little more creative with my meals. I decided to attempt a lasagna. Instead of seeking out locally made noodles or the ingredients to make my own, I decided to use what I already had bought from the North Village Arts District Farmers and Artisans Market in downtown Columbia, which was a whole lot of zucchini.

To say this meal was an experiment might be an understatement. I don’t have a vegetable sheet cutter, so I sliced the zucchini horizontally. Some pieces were thick and others were thin, so I made half of them into a lasagna like planned and the other half into zucchini roll ups. Despite the challenges that came with this meal, it still turned out pretty tasty. I purchased the meat from Root Cellar, and it came from Prairiebird Pastures.

Prairiebird Pastures is a private brand owned by Root Cellar that only carries 100 percent grass-fed beef with the Audubon certification seal. The Audubon Conservation Ranching Program works with local ranchers who raise cattle to help with Audubon’s mission. Since grazing cattle restores the land, the program fits with Audubon’s goal of protecting the habitat for native birds.

The Root Cellar and Columbia Farmers Market made grocery shopping simple.

Friday

The breakfast trend became bread with apple butter because it was so quick to make. It’s sweet, but not too sweet for breakfast, and I got the Thai Caesar Salad from Uprise Bakery for lunch. Uprise Bakery is another great spot in Columbia to find dishes with locally sourced ingredients.

For dinner, I had my zucchini leftovers, which still tasted pretty good. I’m proud of how my creation turned out and it provided enough food for three separate meals. Plus, I learned how to get water out of zucchini—and that it’s a necessary step!

Saturday

On the weekends, I usually sleep in a bit later, skip breakfast, and go straight for lunch. This weekend was no different. I went to my hometown Festus, but made a quick stop on the way for lunch at Lulu’s Local Eatery in St. Louis. This neighborhood cafe is known for its sustainability. According to its website, the restaurant recycles and composts 95 percent of the waste, offers a 100 percent plant-based menu using all-natural, local, and organic ingredients whenever possible, and offers 15 percent off to customers who ride their bike to the restaurant, among other eco-friendly perks. I ordered the buffalo cauliflower wrap.

When I made it to Festus, I stopped at one of my favorite produce stands in town, Richard’s Produce, and picked up a Missouri Melon. It’s similar to a regular watermelon, but a little smaller and a lot sweeter, and of course, they are all grown right here in the Show-Me State. At dinner time, I was still pretty full from lunch so I snacked on some locally sourced food that was around the house, like more of the Missouri Melon and a whole lot of Billy Goat Chips that are made in St. Louis.

Richard’s Produce has been in Festus since 1989. You can find fresh fruits, veggies, and various seasonal items here.

Sunday

I had brunch at Rooster in St. Louis. It’s hard for me to pass up crepes anywhere, but I usually opt for sweet ones. On this day, I went with the Mo. Made savory crepes. This daytime cafe has two locations in the city and supports local producers. The Mo. Made crepes are made with Missouri-made sausage, spiced apple, and cheddar.

When I got back to Columbia, I defrosted my leftover stuffed peppers and had them for a third time. I thought about making something new since I still had some local ingredients, but I decided to save them for the following week.

I’ve always known the importance of eating ethically produced food, but these seven days opened my eyes to other factors. There’s the obvious advantage of eating fresher, healthier food, but helping your local farmers, neighbors, and makers supports them and your community at a time they need it most. Although eating local all the time isn’t easy, it’s definitely worth doing more often.

Farmers Markets Around the State

C-Street Market, Springfield
City Market, Kansas City
DeSoto Farmers Market, DeSoto
Ferguson Farmers Market, Ferguson
Hickory County Farmers Market, Hermitage
Overland Farmers Market, Overland
Pulaski County Farmers’ Market, Waynesville
The Sedalia Area Farmers Market, Sedalia
Soulard Farmers Market, St. Louis
Wildwood Farmers Market, Grover
More at agebb.missouri.edu/fmktdir

Grocery Stores With Local Food

Clovers Natural Market, Columbia
Dutch Bakery and Bulk Food Store, Tipton
Local Harvest Grocery, St. Louis
Market Fresh Produce, Nixa
McGonigle’s Market, Kansas City
South Side Sales Amish Market, Clark
Weaver’s Country Market, Inc., Versailles

Photos // Drew Piester, Corin Cesaric, Columbia Farmers Market, Jesse Epple

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Fundo Panguilemu, Coyhaique, Chili

I cannot do justice to the sweet hospitality of this young family.  Our Savory Institute journey group is here to learn about the improvements they have experienced using the holistic management techniques.  The grass is thick, lush, and tender – rested paddocks are ready for consuming.

 

 

img_7564
Regenerative farm owner and operator, Jose,  (who is also a holistic management instructor) gave us an excellent overview on how they’ve managed their farm and improved the sward and healed the soil substantially in only 6 years using managed grazing of cattle and sheep.
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No bare soil in this thick sward.
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Thick stand of grass after 45 days rest.
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Elizabeth, also owner of the farm and a holistic management instructor keeps all the balls in the air on this stunning cattle and sheep farm/pastured egg laying/horse trekking/firewood gathering/wildlife viewing/fly fishing/mountain biking/yurt accommodation/HMI training site.  Oh, did i mention she also is raising 2 wonderful little children as well as training interns who show up from around the world to help on the farm?
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How about a unique stay on a working farm?! And talk about a view!  Excellent fly fishing available here on the edge of the Simpson River.  Contact Elizabeth at Fundo Panguilemu.
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Lookout Paddock provides excellent overview of paddock layout.  Note cattle and sheep grazing in lower left paddock.
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For my Missouri friends, you will be surprised to know that many of the grasses and forbes are the same as what we graze.  This is a photo of the rose bush that we also have growing, but no multiflora rose here.

No One Owes You A Living!

 

The world, including the US, does not owe you a living. Or as Dave Ramsey would say, “You Are NOT Entitled To Anything“. If you dream to make a widget and insist that everyone must support you in your dream and insure that you make a full time living making that widget, then i fear you may be sorely disappointed.  Especially, if your widget making imposes on others’ freedom and property rights.

There are very few, if any, financially successful people with no debt and have, or are building wealth, working only one job.  Often the most successful have at least 2 or 3 other gigs on the side going.  (Even Warren Buffet has several unrelated income streams going!)  When you are in your teens, twenties, and even into thirties, you have energy, vision,  and motivation that enable you to put in 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week.  This allows you to save, build equity, and work towards your dream job if you aren’t already doing that.  When you are older and that energy level drops, hopefully those side gigs are the money invested which are then working for you rather than you working for it.

I recently wrote a blog which told of the near impossibility of a person to get into farming or ranching these days.  This is largely due to the out of balance cost of land vs its productive value.  However, it is not yet impossible to farm and build wealth – even without incurring massive debt!  It may take longer, however.  And, i know of absolutely no one – young or old, in the present or in the past- who can farm or ranch (or any other business for that matter) full time without some sort of side gig.  Read stories of old timers – they were blacksmiths, carpenters, mechanics, traders, transportation specialists, suppliers; any skill they could put to use for pay was engaged.  Wives farmed alongside their husbands, raised the children, and often had a couple side gigs as well.  (Yes, i know that many women are farmers and ranchers, i am one, but also raised my own children, managed the household, and help with the farm.)  It is the same today – if you want to farm (or start any business for that matter) you’d better put a sharp pencil to how you’ll put food on the table and a roof over your head.  Don’t incur debt and make sure you have some savings.  (a borrower is always slave to the lender).  Operational farm debt is as bad as school loans.  Debt for building  a depreciating asset may be the worst of all!  What if something happens to you?  make sure you have plenty of life insurance!  Liability, maintenance, disease, accident associated with buildings and machinery are expensive and ongoing.  Once debt is incurred for a single purpose gadget, you have to keep it going or you may default or leave your family with a ball and chain which seldom adds value (it may actually devalue) to your property. Better yet, don’t go into debt.

Keep your paying job and save your money before you buy a single acre or cow or gadget. Many ranchers today are leasing both land and cattle which can be a great way to get started with very little investment or risk.  Best book i’ve read on this is Greg Judy’s book, No Risk Ranching.  Maybe you won’t have the exact same opportunities that Greg has, but use your imagination – maybe you’ll have to move – as Allan Nation, founder and former editor of Stockman Grass Farmer, used to say, “Everyone has an unfair advantage.”  Figure out yours and put your best foot forward.

Many farmers today still abide by the ways of Earl Butz to ‘get big or get out’ and we now have such an abundance and overproduction of all products that prices continue to slide.  Yet, the mantra continues to be ‘produce more’  and use the economy of scale to maximise profits.  That may good to a point, but the cost to the environment has been substantial by farming ‘fence row to fence row’  and with government subsidies now firmly entrenched there is less risk of a ‘failed crop’ resulting in going broke regardless of debt load or lack of wise financial planning.

I’m not espousing a return to farmers falling out due to the vagaries of weather, political machinations, or burdensome regulations.  Without subsidies, food, fiber, energy prices could soar to the level of parity and the consumer would certainly cry ‘foul’.  But, we all must remember that the economic  rule of supply and demand may cause us to consider better management practices.

There is the concept of focusing on profit rather than production.  If it is possible to make more money producing 120 bushel corn to the acre rather than 200 bushels to the acre, would that be something to consider?  what is the cost to the land and quality of life to produce 200 and even 300 bushels to the acre?  Can i do a better job of regenerating and improving the soil i have to increase pounds, bushels per acre and lower cost as well?  There are a lot of opportunities and new/old practices to learn – the hard part is keeping it simple and CHANGE!  This is a head issue – don’t be a stiff necked people.

Speaking of quality of life – how have you organised your dream?  does it enhance and edify others?  or detract from the lives of others?  is it sustainable?  is it regenerative?  can you keep doing this for the next 60 years?   If not, it’s not sustainable and you had better have a plan in place for the future, less strong, less energetic you.  Will your model rely on unpaid labor of yourself or your family?

Happy Planning!

 

Proverbs 6:

1My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, 2if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, 3then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor:  go, hasten,a and plead urgently with your neighbor.

4Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; 5save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,blike a bird from the hand of the fowler.

6Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. 7Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, 8she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

9How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

12A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, 13winks with his eyes, signalsc with his feet, points with his finger, 14with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord; 15therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

16There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

 

Cheapest Ranch to Buy Part 2

The second part of Jim Gerrish‘s excellent article and how to not only make your farm or ranch more profitable, but also improve soil, grazing, water, and wildlife.Building electric fence in rough countryJim Gerrish

In most locations, single-wire electric fence and water facilities are the main costs for improved grazing management.

What is the cheapest ranch you will ever buy? Part II

For a fraction of the cost of purchase, most ranches can make improvements that sometimes double their carrying capacity.

Jim Gerrish 1 | Aug 12, 2019

In Part 1 of this series, I made two fundamental assertions: The first was that time management of grazing period and recovery time is the primary determinant of pasture productivity. The second is that we should be assessing ranch output and profitability on a per-acre basis not on the per-animal basis commonly used in the ranching industry.

I ended that article with the observation that increasing pasture or range production by 40% would be more profitable than trying to increase individual animal productivity by 40%.

My 40% is not a magic number. It is simply the example I am using. I do that partly because of the commonly held idea that producing a 700-pound calf must be more profitable than raising a 500-pound calf. The other reason I am using 40% is because that is also a common level of increase in pasture productivity we see when ranchers implement management-intensive grazing (MiG).

MiG is the term I use to describe an approach to grazing management that is more intensive than the set-stocking or slow rotations common in the ranching industry. Our objective is to shorten the period of time any piece of pasture or rangeland is exposed to grazing animals. If we do this, the potential recovery period is always significantly extended. This is the key component of time management I have been referring to.

When we build subdivision fencing across the landscape of the ranch, we are not only subdividing space, we are also subdividing time.  Each time we make a smaller pasture increment, we reduce the amount of time the stock will be on that increment. That has a tremendous, and for some ranchers, an almost unbelievable change in the vigor and productivity of the pasture. With shortened grazing periods, we can more tightly control every aspect of the soil-plant-animal relationship. That is the component missing from almost all of the grazing management research of the last 100 years.

What is this management of time worth down on the ranch?

As mentioned above, the average increase in carrying capacity we see among our ranching clients adopting MiG and making investments in stock water development and subdivision fencing is about 40%. We have numerous clients who have doubled their carrying capacity. We have a few who have gotten less than 40%. All of this is the product of more effectively managing the period of time cattle are allowed to be in a particular area. On rangeland we usually work toward having that time period no more than 7-10 days. On productive pasture, we keep the length of the grazing period to no more than 3-4 days.

What does it cost to install all that fence, pipelines and tanks?

Every ranch is different, so of course the answer is that it depends! For example, is there already a good well on the property or do we need to drill a well? Is there already a pipeline network on the property that we can spur off of? Are there existing fences that are in reasonable locations that can be used in the new management scheme? These are the components that can make a difference. Here are examples from a couple of recent projects we have designed and which the ranchers implemented.

Jim GerrishA dozer pulling in water line.

Livestock water typically is the most limiting resource for managed grazing, but it is far cheaper than land.

Twice the ranch

On an 8,000-acre ranch in the Nebraska Sand Hills, we started a ranch that had 15-20 existing pastures with low-output windmills that allowed them to only carry 20-60 cows in each pasture. With a 7.5-mile pipeline project, 20 new stock tanks, and more than 20 miles of two-wire electrified high-tensile fencing, the ranch was split into about 60 permanent pastures with a stock-water supply system that allows 600-800 cows to be run in a single herd. The project cost was about $400,000 when we include the rancher’s labor contribution to the construction project. That is a big chunk of money, but on a per-acre basis it is only $50 per acre. In three years’ time, this ranch doubled its carrying capacity and the infrastructure investment was paid off in the third year.

That means they essentially bought another ranch for $50 per acre, while the cost to go out and actually purchase another ranch would have been $1,000 per acre, plus closing costs and added taxes.

Might double

Another recent project on a 30,000-acre ranch racked up an infrastructure development cost of about $1.1 million. That is a per-acre cost of about $36. Projecting a 40% increase in carrying capacity has the project paid off in year four. With a 40% increase in carrying capacity, the equivalent per acre purchase price is $90 per acre. I am confident this ranch will also experience a doubling of carrying capacity in 3-5 years, so the payoff rate should be accelerated. Why do I expect this ranch to double carrying capacity? Because the ranch is presently very under-supplied with stock water and much of the ranch is rarely even being grazed.

Remember the title on the article: “What is the cheapest ranch you will ever buy?”

It is the one you acquire by more effectively managing grazing and recovery time on the ranch you already own.

Read part one of this story here. Gerrish is internationally known grazier, grazing consultant and consultant. Find him at http://www.americangrazinglands.com.

 

Grandpa Falconer

We all have people in our past who have helped us through the tough times and often we don’t recognise the impact they had until we are much older and those wiser ones are long past from our lives – perhaps even have died.  I didn’t know it at the time, but reflecting on the years i had with my grandpa – i realize now – he was my hero.

Sure, he wasn’t talkative or a hugger, but showed by example, a work ethic of getting up early (and making me get up early by pulling my toes to wake up), he would already have some chores done before i dragged my laziness out and ready to go do the chores that were away from the house.  The importance of finishing a job which included putting things away and cleaning up.  But, i LOVED going with him.  He’d let me drive the truck while he threw out small round bales to the cows to feed in the winter, taught me how to drive the old Farmall 460 and clip pastures with a 9 foot sickle bar mower AND how to change out a broken section.  And even when i drove (i think i was about 10) the pickup into a deep wash out along a ditch (he was on foot looking for a calf), he was more concerned whether or not i was hurt rather than upset about any damage to the pickup or that we had to walk a mile to get the aforesaid 460 to pull it out.   Additionally, he taught me how to ride and have a love for horses.  That was my passion for years.

Back from chores, every morning we stopped in at Tolly’s Garage on the western edge of Purdin, MO which had a population of 236 at the time – less now.  He would reach in for a Coca-Cola and I’d select my favorite – Chocolate Soldier.  Then i could just sit and act like i was one of the guys in the office area.  I was part of a small and important community even at age 8.

Today, my grandpa would have been 100, but he died August 9, 2008 and i continue to miss him though he corrected me a lot about how to raise cattle.  I’m still learning and still need correcting, but thankfully, i don’t make the mistakes he chided me about.

How many people get to farm or ranch the very land and legacy that his or her grandparent’s built?  Not many, but i do own and directly manage at least a portion of their legacy and i could not be more honored to carry on a tradition of land and livestock management.  I call this farm Tannachton Farm to reflect our Scottish roots and the commitment to regenerative and sustainable stewardship.

Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Family  – cling to what is good

Cheers!

tauna

Grandpa Virgil Lee Falconer with Stanley and Stephen
Grandpa with his two sons, Stanley (my dad) and Stephen.  circa 1943

Virgil Lee Falconer tractor grinder

Grandpa Virgil Lee Falconer and tauna
Me on Danny and Grandpa on Gypsy
Jessica and Grandpa Virgil Lee Falconer 001
Grandpa with my three yayhoos, Jessica, Nathan, Dallas
Grandpa Virgil Lee Falconer
Grandpa always drove Chevrolet pickups, so do i!  Thanks to cousin, Heather for this great photo.

 

 

 

Faith, Family, Farm

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