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kansasfarmer's blog

November 2009 - Posts

  • The trial of Cutlets Carr

    It takes my copy of Farmers Weekly about the same time to cross the Atlantic as it did my great great great grandparents, 10-14 days, so this evening I have been digesting the November 13th copy.  Stephen Carr and I evidently think along the same wavelength, because much of what he wrote and is considering has been on my mind for several weeks, ever since a book called "Eating Animals" has entered into my awareness. 

    I have not read this book, but have followed with a mixture of interest and horror various reviews of it on the Huffington Post.  The comments that inevitably follow the reviews are depressing to say the least, because it becomes so clear how little the public knows about farming of any kind.  The assertion that animals are "pumped full of hormones and antibiotics" is completely false, but never the less accepted as fact by the readership of the Huff Post.  The "don't eat animals" movement has moved far beyond the idea it is wrong to eat animals.  Now, it isn't just wrong to eat animals because they are living beings, now it is wrong because animal agriculture supposedly is killing the planet, something I rather doubt.  Growing corn(maize) evidently is as well.  In fact, nearly everything farmers do is bad for the planet......the armchair quarterbacks of farming sound this alarm daily.  One would halfway expect the crowd at a cattle auction to resemble a group of barbarians or mutant zombies, intent on eating the brains of the elite.

    The way I see it, cattle, sheep and pigs have been around for centuries.  Much of the land in the world is not fit to be tilled.  As far as I know, all of my ancestors for quite some time have eaten meat and used milk products, if it shortened their lives it wasn't by much, 3 of my grandparents lived to be 93, one lived to be 80.  None of my great grandparents died before the age of 72, several lived into their 80s and 2 into their 90s.  For all the harm we as farmers do, and for all the poison we spread to grow food, lifespans are increasing.

    Somewhere along the way, alot of common sense has disappeared in the population of the developed world.  Suddenly, a cow eating grass and belching happily, as cows have done since cows were invented, is a menace to the planet.  Forget the subdivisions, space shuttle(it gasses off alot of pollution).  Forget the grain used to make beer and pet food.  Forget the land used for golf courses and football fields, shopping malls and airport runways.  Forget the fact farmers worldwide are struggling with prices at or below the cost of production to feed 6 billion+ people.  Lets all follow the lead of a few actors, authors and a handful of scientists who I expect are very smart but have never farmed and let's damn livestock farming as the biggest menace to mankind since old Adolph Hitler first drew a crowd.  While we are at it, let's drag crop farming around by the nose for good measure, those darned farmers, poisoning all of us with herbicides and insecticides and chemical fertilizers just to make....a PROFIT of all things, who do those farmers think they are, thinking growing food is important enough to garner a living wage. 

    So, on one hand, organic farming is the darling of the save the earth crowd.  Perhaps they know something I don't, but from my farming experience I know all crops need N, P, and K.  If you aren't going to use chemical fertilizer, manure seems to be one of the best sources of it I know, and it takes alot of it to replace commercial N, P, and K.  But what does the save the earth crowd want to do??  Put livestock farming in the same category as selling cocaine to children.  I wonder if Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson considered that when he declared one day last week "thank a farmer day"???

    Cutlets Carr pointed out in his trial that 60% of British ag land is in grass, and much of that is unsuitable for anything but grass.  You can apply that same logic to much of the world, the 1800 acres of grass my cattle run on could never be plowed, it could never grow anything but grass.  The truth of it is, raising livestock has been part of humankind for centuries.  Meat has been part of our diet for centuries.  It has only been in the last few years that meat has become the supreme threat to the planet.  I think this is just fad, albeit a dangerous one especially when coupled with the "can't you all just farm organically" mindset.  Take away animal agriculture and you render millions of acres that have been producing protein for people more or less useless. Take away their manure and your remove what is arguably the best organic fertilizer there is. You can't feed over 6 billion people on pipedreams and theories, but you probably can cause enough damage to agriculture with irresponsible policies brought about by misinformation spewed by people who have never milked a cow or plowed a furrow to bring on a man made famine.  Maybe just every once in a while actors, politicians and musicians ought to ask the real experts on food production their opinion....hey, what a novel idea, lets ask a FARMER about growing food.

  • A challenging fall harvest.

    My initial predictions on the eve of our dry full moon of a weather pattern change were perhaps a bit premature.  It is true we did get one week of dry weather, enough for harvest to get going full tilt, but as soon as we got to day 8, we slipped back into our wet pattern.  The frustration amongst the farmers in my area is very evident.  Cell phones buzz back and forth all day long with neighbors asking, "when do you think you will try cutting?" or, "are you going to try today?".  In my immediate location, none of us have drying capability beyond fans, so moisture is a huge problem for us.  With short days and cool temps, mother nature is not proving to be a very effective dryer. 

    The full week we did get was weather we usually get 30-45 days of in September and October, but so far have had for a total of 10 or 11 days this fall.  Again talking about my immediate area, no one I know of has storage enough for all our crop,so our elevator is the focal point of activity this time of year.  With the forecast of rain for last Sunday, the combines rolled as late as possible last Saturday night, which actually was not very late, about 8pm.  I would have liked to have had the capability to take a picture Saturday night as the trucks rolled in to dump their final loads under a clear bright starlit sky on an unusually warm November night, where you could still be in shirtsleeves and be comfortable. 

     On Sunday morning the rain had not materialized, while greasing the combine I noticed thick black smoke coming from the vicinity of one of my closest neighbors homes across the section.  I got in the pickup to investigate as I did not have my pager and as soon as I was underway Mrs. KF called me on her way home from church to tell me the fire trucks were headed toward our house.  Knowing then the black smoke I was seeing was not just some brush pile or trash fire, I sped toward the road, meeting the first fire truck at the intersection.  Our neighbors detached garage was on fire.  He happens to live just on the other side of the line that divides fire districts, and while our station is 3 miles from his home and the other is 8, they were dispatched first, but arrived 5 minutes after our trucks did.  There wasn't much left to save, we did keep it from spreading, and after about 2 hours I was able to eat lunch and combine for a few hours.  Monday dawned cloudy, and the soybeans were tough, but I crawled through while listening to my combine groan, cutting very slow about 1.7 to 2 mph.  Monday night we got a slow half inch, and have sat still since because we have had no sunshine.  There is an outside chance of cutting late tomorrow and Saturday, then rain and maybe snow forecast for the weekend. 

    Looks more and more like harvest for me will go till Christmas, when you combine for 10-12 hours a week, you don't get much done.

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