Farm Catch Up

Catching up with the week’s farm news

Local Alfalfa Die Off

The weather this spring has caused significant damage to the hay crop around here. I’ve been seeing large areas of stunted and even bare ground in a lot of the hayfields here in this county and in Manitowoc county when driving around. But you know it’s really bad when it makes the AP news. According to one report Manitowoc County has lost 10,000 acres of alfalfa, well over half of it’s hay crop due to the weather. From what I’ve seen around here I wouldn’t be surprised if we were almost that bad in this county. The main culprit was February daytime temps climbing into the mid 60s, then plunging down to the low 20s at night.

Addendum: After writing the above new info has been coming out that indicate the losses are as high as 80% here in Calumet County and in neighboring Manitowoc Cty. When you add everything up; increased labor costs, poor milk prices, and now a severe hay shortage, it doesn’t look good for the dairy industry around here, alas.

Manure, Manure everywhere and not a drop to drink

Kewaunee County is trying desperately to find a fix for it’s well contamination problem. Dumping massive amounts of manure from CAFOs (mega-farms) has polluted almost half of the wells in the county. The geology of the county is such that contaminants quickly flush through the soil, through the cracked bedrock, and into the groundwater in the area.

The county is proposing a new ordinance that could change how the farms are allowed to spread manure. Right now they can dump manure only in the spring and fall.

Some have been using high-pressure irrigation systems to spread manure, basically something similar to giant lawn sprinklers. There has been a huge stink about this. Literally, because this stuff doesn’t exactly smell all that appealing. There are also health concerns about the practice because the locals are afraid the vaporized cow poo could also be causing pathogens to get into the air as well.

The county is thinking of changing regulations. The new rules would forbid using high pressure irrigation type spraying of manure, but allow low pressure spraying, under the canopy of plants. It would also allow spreading manure over a 6 month period of time rather than restricting it to just spring and fall.

Will this do any good? Well, maybe??? If farms can spread out the application of manure over six months rather than having to dump all of it in just a few weeks, it might help.

In the long run though, no. It won’t. The problem is too much manure in one area.

When you have grazing cattle on pasture, the situation is entirely different. When a cow drops a pile on grass, it doesn’t just sink into the ground. It sits there on the surface. Insects lay eggs in it, insect larvae burrow through it. Birds and small mammals dig through it to eat the larvae, scattering the manure over a wider area. It naturally rots and decays and it gradually gets absorbed by the soil to be taken up by plants. It takes many days to go through this process, and almost none of the material ends up in the ground water.

But the process CAFOs use? The manure from thousands of cows is dumped into pits, liquified, churned up, allowed to bubble and ferment and cook for months, and then all of that muck is dumped on fields, at one time, tens of thousands of gallons of it dumped in just a day or two… It isn’t surprising we have problems. What’s surprising is that the situation isn’t far, far worse.

US Regains Beef Export to China

In 2003 China banned the import of US beef because of a case of BSE. It didn’t import US beef even after the ban was lifted a year ago. But a new trade deal may change that. In exchange for being allowed to ship cooked chicken to the US, China is going to allow the import of US beef, apparently starting in July.

China has seen a large increase in the consumption of beef in the last decade or so, but most of it’s beef imports have been coming from South America and Australia.

While the beef industry in the US is delighted, exactly how much China will import from the US remains to be seen. China, like the EU, bans the import of meat that was raised with the use of hormones and other growth promoters, a practice that is widespread in the US. It is unlikely China will change this requirement and, at the moment anyway, the production of hormone free beef in the US is very limited and it’s unlikely that will change very  much.

Donkeys? Really???

In the WTF department, I ran across this item over at AgWeb reprinted from Bloomberg. Donkeys are really popular in China. Not as pets or work animals or even for food, but for something called e’jiao. They take the skin of the donkey and render it down into a gelatin that some believe will enhance… Oh, come on, really? That? They think it does that?

Yeah, they do. “Libido enhancers” as the article delicately puts it. Or as those of us who are a lot less delicate would put it, dick pills.

Apparently the demand is so strong that it’s decimating the donkey population in some parts of the world.

I have two basic questions:

First of all, what idiot first said “Hey I’m going to rip the skin off that cute little donkey and boil it down and eat it and I bet it’ll turn me into one of those porn star dudes.”?

And second, who the hell is dumb enough to actually believe that first idiot up there?

Well, apparently a lot of people do believe, to the point where it’s having serious economic impacts on some communities in Africa where work animals are being sold off to be boiled down to make dick pills for impotent rich.

Anyway, if you want to know more click the link up there and read the article over at AgWeb.

What the hell is the matter with people? I mean, really? Boiling down donkeys, killing rhinos for their horns, cutting out bear gall bladders and I don’t know what all else, just so some fat, balding, aging jerk with an overinflated ego can…

No, I won’t go on or I will descend into vulgarity.

Got Milk? Increasingly the Answer is No

Sales of liquid milk for drinking have been falling for years now despite heavy advertising and marketing by the dairy industry. A brief but informative article over at NPR’s The Salt goes into the history of milk in the US and it’s worth clicking the link and taking a couple of minutes to read it.

Milk, as a beverage, has been falling out of favor for decades now. In the 1970s, as the article says, average consumption was about 30 gallons a year. Today it’s about half of that. If you go into the history of milk marketing in the US, it’s fascinating how the dairy industry turned a product that no one really needs, into an “essential source of nutrients”. And it is. If you’re a calf. Yes, milk does provide necessary nutrients, but it doesn’t offer anything that you couldn’t get from other foods.

The problem is that often milk is being replaced by stuff that’s a hell of a lot worse; soft drinks, juices, stuff that looks like juice but is really a blend of sugar water and fruit flavorings. Or with expensive and useless products like water fortified with vitamins you don’t need or herbal concoctions that have never actually been tested for safety.

Probably a more accurate slogan for marketing milk would be something like “Milk: It probably won’t kill you, but some of the other crap your drinking could.”

NAFTA

It’s official. The administration has formally announced it is going to renegotiate NAFTA. But before you get all giddy with anticipation, or full of dread or whatever your opinion is on the subject, don’t hold your breath waiting. From what I’ve been seeing going on in DC I get the feeling that this administration doesn’t have a clue as to how government actually works, doesn’t know what it itself is doing most of the time, and doesn’t understand how treaties like this actually work. Perdue’s earlier claim that the administration would completely renegotiate NAFTA in just a couple of weeks is especially troubling, giving more indications that they don’t know what they’re doing over there in DC.

 

 

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