Text and Pictures from August Newsletter

Posted on Aug 15, 2012 | 0 comments

Text and Pictures from August Newsletter

We FINALLY Imported the White Parks

I committed to purchase two Ancient White Park bred cows and a bull back in May. They finally arrived in Ontario on August 7th (technically it was the 8th by the time they were safely in our yard but we did cross the bridge before midnight). Silvia and I spent three days on the road covering over 2500km. Our truck passed the 300,000km mark just south of Pittsburg on the way home.
I have learned an incredble amount about all the minutiae of importing livestock into Canada. The first stumbling block was a test to prove freedom from Brucellosis that is accepted in the US but not recognized in Canada. We had to re-test new cattle and go through the process again. Health certificates are only valid for 20 days after the observing vet submits the paperwork to the USDA. It then takes 10 days to go through the USDA process before the official paperwork is available, leaving a 10 day window in which to import the cattle. We made plans 4 times to head south before we finally had the paperwork.
When we got the border coming home, the CFIA vet wanted originals of the USDA paperwork and we only had certified copies (complete with the USDA embossing). Since neither we nor the farmer I bought them from had previously taken cattle across the Canadian border, we didn’t know that the package of USDA paperwork we received was incomplete. Thankfully, the border vet eventually allowed us to enter Canada using the certified copies with the condition that we track down the originals and get them to her. It’s been a week, the USDA is reissuing the certificates because they are certain they sent them to us and we are certain we didn’t receive them.
The good news is, we will have two purebred White Park calves born this fall and we have a pure bred White Park bull to breed our purebred cows with. Hopefully we can get our breeding program back on track.

One “bump” that we had to cross was replacing our cattle trailer – the old one wasn’t going to pass any safety inspection if we happened to encounter US authorities (we rolled through a police road block and were scaled three times during the trip). However, we have a group of pigs that are very happy that we retired the old trailer – to their pasture. The funny thing is, they sleep under it rather than in it!
Book Update

I’ve officially given up on the mainstream publishing industry. I’m going back to self-publishing. I have hired an editor and am now diligently working towards having the book out late 2012. The only hiccup so far is that after she agreed to edit the book, she fell madly in love, got engaged and has three weeks to complete renovations on her house to combine families before school starts. I’m sitting here on tenterhooks waiting for her recommendations…
I have a good feeling about working with her from the feedback on the sample she edited to get a feel for my writing and for me to understand where she might take me. However, patience is a virtue I am not well endowed with and I haven’t done any real work on the manuscript for several months.

PS: “waiting on tenterhooks” is the correct spelling of the oft-used and mispronounced english idiom. It originates with “tenters” which were frames with hooks (hence tenterhooks) all the way around the inside to hold a wool blanket square while drying after the fulling process.
Another New Family

These two piglets are part of a second litter of purebred Berkshires we had this summer. I’m beginning to remember what I loved about raising pigs – the battle with PRRS and insolvency left some wounds that have taken a long time to heal.
This litter follows their mother out into the pasture and was born knowing what to do with their noses.
I remember the challenges we had catching them in 5 foot by 8 foot pens. Their speed in the open pasture is amusing. I startled them one day while working with Abigayle’s 4-H calf. The nine of them made a mad dash back to the barn just as a group of chickens was scratching their way across the pasture. One chicken failed to get out of the way fast enough and was bowled over as the piglets dashed past. The chicken is fine but I’m not sure the chicken ever quite figured out what the blur of black that hit it was.

The Compost Pile

I’m sure you’re wondering what the dry weather has meant for us. The good news is that although we were without rain for over 3 weeks, we are probably in the least affected part of Ontario and North America. We’ve now received sufficient rain that we will get a second cut of hay, although it is late enough that we won’t get a third cut.
Our reliance on rotational grazing and perennial pastures is what has saved us. We have friends and neighbours that had to feed hay for several weeks to over a month during late June and July because their pastures completely dried up. That hay was made to feed the animals this winter and hay crops are short this year. We’re fortunate to be a bit understocked relative to our landbase and the rotational grazing conserves water relative to standard grazing methods.
We hosted a 4-H sheep club meeting on Monday night and there were several people surprised by the amount of green growth we had in our paddocks. It was a function of our rest period being longer than the length of the drought. The paddocks we’re moving into right now still had moisture from the last rain in June to regrow from and all the paddocks that we grazed during the drought are springing back beautifully now that they have had some water.
The picture below gives you an idea of just how much of the US is impacted. A good portion of Southern Ontario would fit in the “Abnormally dry” classification with a few places getting the “Drought-Moderate” designation. My prayers are with the families enduring the full impact of the drought. Government programs will prevent complete financial disaster from occuring but the psychological impacts will last. Watching your crops burn up in the field or shipping part of your herd because you don’t have enough feed for them doesn’t just weigh on your pocket book, it weighs on your soul.
US Drought Map August 7

The dried up crops are only one dimension of the drought. The dry conditions have led to an increase in wildfires. Most wildfires only make the news when they threaten movie stars’ million dollar mansions in California or a major town has to be evacuated. However, this year there have been several fires that raced across rangeland and consumed herds of cattle. I’ve seen some of the pictures and even though I don’t know any of the ranchers personally, my heart breaks.
Yes, these are all risks that we accept as farmers. However, all of you with children have accepted a number of risks by bringing a child into your family, including the risk that they will contract a major disease or die. Just because you know the risk going in doesn’t mean it hurts any less when it happens.
The good news in all this is that for most of North America, we’ve had several years of “normal” moisture levels. A wet winter will heal most of the damage. We’re not yet facing the multi-year drought that farmers in Northern India are experiencing or the farmers in Australia endured last decade.
Food prices are going to rise a little faster than normal, but there will still be food on store shelves and the percentage of your disposable income spent on food will still be close to historical lows. Remember, it’s impolite to complain about food prices with your mouth full.

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