As I scurry to get the Feather River Fibershed organized and viable, I force myself to take breaks. Visiting the sheep both calms and invigorates me. Among their many observable traits, sheep are always reaching for something better on the other side of the fence
which got me thinking about their eating habits. Many folks feed their sheep grain, but I was trained to think of it as occasional "candy" for them, to get them to comply when I want them to move somewhere. A recent newsletter from the Ranching Management Consultants had some "food for thought":
Feeding The World or
Feeding Our Habit
by Dave Pratt
I attended a conference at which a professor from a major University spoke of the need for implants, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers and other inputs to increase production so American farmers and ranchers can continue to feed the world. She argued that the 98% of people who aren't involved in production agriculture just don't get it. I think she's right. If the 98% saw some of the things that we do, they wouldn't get it. They'd think we're nuts. Consider the following and tell me what you think:
Breakfast in Bed for Cows
Feed lots are the ruminant equivalent of breakfast in bed. BSE reminded us that cows are herbivores, not carnivores. What we haven't seemed to learn is that ruminants are celluloseivores not starchivores. The high grain (starch) rations we use to finish animals only work because we kill them before it kills them.
I also read an interesting article about how we can manage our pastures to help our sheep stay healthy. This was from an organization that has just come to my attention: BEHAVE--Behavioral Education for Human, Animal, Vegetation & Ecosystem Management - The BEHAVE mission is to inspire people to master and apply behavioral principles in managing ecosystems through research, extension, and teaching. Read the article here.