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Sunday, June 21, 2009

This explains some of my confusion.

I've mentioned before that I grew up on a farm that was largely self-sufficient. We were, for the most part, organic as well. Not out of any philosophical reason, but because we didn't have the money to buy things like commercial fertilizers, herbicides, or for wholesale use of anti-biotics on our cattle. When we did use these things, it was because we needed to - insecticide powders to protect our cattle's skin from larval infestations some years, or for our potatoes when the Colorado Potato Beetle was too prolific for us to keep up with picking them by hand, that sort of thing.

We grew most of our food, for ourselves and our small herd of cattle, chickens, and the occasional geese or pigs. Most of our neighbours were the same. Only the largest of producers had to use commercial herbicides on their fields, as it was the only way to keep weeds at bay. In fact, our herbicide free fields were causing problems to our neighbour, a family commercial farm, not a subsistence farm like ours. Weed seeds from our fields were blowing into theirs, and my dad got a visit from the powers that be, saying that we had to either use herbicides or stop planting. My father, who was nearing retirement anyways, stopped planting and rented those fields out.

So when I read global warming alarmists running on about how cattle were contributing so much to global warming through their burps and farts, I found the whole thing rather silly. All ruminants expel gas, and I couldn't see how herds of cattle would be any worse than, say, the millions of bison that once covered the prairies.

This article, however, gives me a clue.

Vermont farmers cut cows' carbon emissions. feeding cows alfalfa, flax and grasses, all high in Omega 3s, instead of corn or soy,

This is a story about an organic farmer.

What farmer, never mind an organic one, feeds their cows corn or soy, but not hay or alfalfa? Sure, some grains and other plants as treats to supplement, but never too much. Cow digestive systems aren't designed for a lot of such rich foods, though given the chance, they'll eat themselves sick on grain. From the article, it sounds like these people winter fed their cows on corn or soy only, not as a supplement to ... well, what cows are supposed to eat.

Maikshilo and Dellert have also noticed a difference in Hester, Rosebud, Pristine and their other cows. The coats of the black and white Holsteins and brown Jerseys are shinier and they’ve had fewer foot problems and no stomach ailments, they say.

So far, it hasn’t cost them any more for their custom-made grain, which the cows only get in the winter. Now they’re out grazing on grass in the pasture, getting as many Omega 3s. And the farm’s vet bills have gone down.

Gee... maybe it's because they were feeding their cattle with a diet that was too friggin' rich in corn, and because cows don't normally eat soy at all?

No wonder their cows were gassy!! What the heck did they expect?

And how do people who calls themselves organic farmers not know what cows are supposed to eat? A neighbour of my parents raises beef cattle certified organically, and he'd be horrified by a corn/soy diet.

Those poor cows. I sympathize with the intestinal discomfort they would've been suffering from eating all that soy. I don't think the changes they're making is going to make any difference at all to the climate, but at least their cattle aren't suffering from their ignorance anymore.

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