Cota Farms' Blog

May 22, 2013

Therapy Dogs

I have wondered about this for some time now.  I have heard so much…incorrect information about Therapy Dogs and their certification.  It is even more confusing as there are so many supposed therapy dog training organizations out there and the laws governing them are different in each state.  I decided to get the skinny and be done with it.  I suspected money was involved somewhere particularly since there does not seem to be a medical billing code for therapy dogs.

This next part will make me some enemies or rather it would if anyone actually read my blog.  I think I’m safe.  There really is no such thing as a therapy dog.  This whole thing with dogs has legitimacy only because of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This federal law says that if you have a “service dog” you and your dog may not be denied access.  So what is a service dog?  Well that does not seem to be as important as how to get one and the only legal way to get one is with a prescription.  If your problem is all in your head then you can get a prescription for that too from your shrink and you can call him an “emotional comfort dog”, not a therapy dog.

There is even a law about what happens if you claim to have a service dog and she is not.  I imagine this is more about whether you have a legal script rather than the qualifications of the dog.

So then what does it mean when you see these “therapy dogs” walking around with their vest and patches attesting to their kind intentions?  It simply means that someone has spent time working with the dog and allows others to enjoy their company, probably for tips and treats.  If they are lucky they have found a nursing home or maybe even a hospital that will allow them to visit.  But I have to ask myself why?  I can’t imagine tips coming close to paying for the insurance.

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April 5, 2013

Alpaca Still On The Menu

We have had more and more interest in alpaca as a food source for both people and dogs that cannot tolerate many other foods.  I haven’t had the time to research just why alpaca doesn’t cause the problems that other foods can but I do know that it is an exceptional meat that has no trouble competing with beef, pork, lamb or poultry for taste and nutrition.  It is very lean, more like venison than beef or lamb.

I have to write of our small accomplishment here as it will otherwise go unnoticed, but we were the first farm in the States that openly retailed alpaca.  I understand that there are others now of course, out west mostly, but we also with the help of our favorite chef were able to get it onto the menu of the first restaurant to offer it.  I am proud to say that after more than five years it is still on the menu at The Refectory in Columbus OH.

Unfortunately for us it seems the demand for this excellent meat is growing far from our market place and other farms will ultimately benefit more than we from this new food.  It is new here but has been eaten for a long time in other parts of the world.  I won’t go into why or how we first came to using alpaca meat in this article or the prospects of it becoming more widely used but I do what to make one point.  Alpaca meat is relatively expensive and so not suitable for a dog food staple.  It is not part of the commercial meat industry and will remain high in price.  I believe the new and very trendy emergence of restaurants with alpaca on the menu is as a result of the temporary availability of cheap animals that are being dumped. Won’t say any more about that as it would surely not gain me any friends.

We will continue to carry a small amount of this superb meat as well as alpaca dog treats and bones but for larger orders we suggest purchasing a whole animal and have it custom butchered.  As a service to our customers we will help to obtain and transport your alpaca.

March 10, 2013

Komondor Puppies

PUPPIES!  We have puppies, roly poly, cute and cuddly, adorable and precious.  And not just any puppies but Komondor puppies!  For many years I had watched the dog shows and marveled at the Komondorok as they floated around the ring.  How many times did I remark, “I want one of those”?  Well much has changed since I saw my first Kom on TV, changes that allowed for me to actually have one of these magnificent dogs.  The biggest change is I now live on a farm that uses working dogs, the perfect place for such a dog.

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These are not your average dog and don’t thrive in the cities.  They were breed to endure some of the worst weather that nature has to offer and defend their charge against fearsome predators I love these dogs!  I can put them in the pastures in the midst of a blizzard to fight off packs of coyotes and then turn in for the night without fear of what I will find in the morning.  Nothing can do that except a LGD, not a llama or donkey or other such animal I have read about that some have claimed guard their livestock.  A U.S. Marine could do it but otherwise, no.

We have Great Pyrenees that handle most of the work now as we are just developing our Komondor training program so I will say something about them.  They set a very high bar for our new Kom puppies to reach.  Our dam is Paige, of the Montgomery Kennel as is the sire, Zenta, a Hungarian import.  Paige is the fourth Kom to live at Cota Farms and her litter is the first born here.

In addition to offering our puppies for sale, I hope to have sales of trained pups.  Ideally these pups would be purchased along with the rest but remain here for an additional period for training.  In this way we hope to develop a more modern training approach to livestock guard dogs.  Most of the present training methods are focused on a type of sheepherding that is used less today and far less here in America.  Much of the sheep production that goes on here is done on small farms or on limited acreage.  There is also the likely hood of some other livestock on the premises, like chickens or geese.  In the old countries the dogs may prey on these birds in an attempt to feed themselves but today dog food is abundant and so the dogs can be expected to protect everything in their domain.

We have had rather good success so far.  I can say that our losses under all circumstances are much less than when we did not have the dogs.  I have noted the drive to attack waterfowl seems to be greater than with chickens or turkeys.  This is something I will keep track of.  The smaller predators that like to prey on chickens or ducks are also deterred by the presence of the dogs as we seldom find their carcasses anymore and the dogs don’t usually consume the whole animal even if they do take a bite out of it.

January 29, 2013

Living With Dogs – Chapter 3

Why do dogs hate furniture, is it jealousy?  You discover your couch has been chewed and you’re still mad about the kitchen table.  So you pound on your dog a little, the walls shake from your rage and the dog retreats under the bed.  Thoughts of why do I need a dog creep into your mind, and I certainly don’t need two or three.  You love plush carpeting, beige, but not with Rover running in and out and sweet little Cookie always goes and pees in the corner.

I’ll be honest, I often hate what my dogs are doing.  But if you love your dogs and cats you make allowances for such things just as you do for the people in your life.  But you can’t keep replacing furniture to accommodate your animals.  In general I don’t believe that altering your animals is an acceptable solution to this problem.  For example, de-clawing a cat is a very serious thing to do despite the common practice.  Doing this to a cat is like removing a dog’s teeth because you are afraid it may bite someone.

A more reasonable approach in dealing with the animals in our lives is to make adjustments on our part.  Animals are perfect and we can’t make them better.   Yes, I said that, but I will explain.  Animals are the culmination of a very involved process to make them exactly what they are.  They are the best available solution for a life form to thrive in the given environment.  We can’t even come close to doing that without our technology that allows us to survive so a little respect is due.  My livestock guard dogs thrive on our farm in the dead of winter in ice and snow that would end my life in hours without the use of clothing and shelter and central heating.

It is true that we have re-engineered certain animals, mainly livestock, to better serve our needs but it is no improvement for the animal itself.  And we have created breeds of dogs that suite our fancy but in some cases these new animals require us to now care for them as they can no longer survive in nature or sometimes they can’t even reproduce on their own.

So then, with all that in mind I have begun a project to address those areas of incompatibility that we have with our dogs, specifically, redesigning our home to better allow us the interaction with our dogs (and cats and other animals as well) that we want without sacrificing our humanity or living in filth.  Yes, this is the dark side of living with animals and I have witnessed what happens when someone abandons reason and turns their home into a de facto kennel, but that is not what I am talking about here.

I want to go beyond the mud room concept and create a common area for us to interact in.  In times past, when people where not so far removed from the animals that we still rely on for food and other things, homes were designed in just this way.  One common structure had animal quarters on the ground floor while people lived above them.

I realize that my desire is not shared by most people and unfortunately many people have a sort of general contempt for all animals but they are to be pitied.  In future chapters I will give details and photos of my progress toward this dog/people house.

November 7, 2012

Common Sense and Feeding Your Dogs Raw Meat – Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cota Farms @ 8:37 pm
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Dogs can survive for a time on inadequate food, just like us.  What may be bad for dogs is certainly a matter of degree.  Our dogs get into things sometimes that is said to be bad for them and they suffer no ill effects.  That says nothing about a long term diet of chocolate chip cookies though.  Because there is so much information out there, much of it just plain wrong, common sense, personal research, and being aware of who is providing the information and why is your best approach to sorting through all the hubbub.

We have to look at what can be shown to be true and go from there.  For example, we know that a dog has a different digestive system than we do or sheep do and that means they can digest what that system was designed for.  We can feed other things and the body may be able to extract some nutrient from it but the system is then stressed and will fail long before its time.  We know that a dog has a relatively short digestive tract and so can best benefit from food that is more easily and quickly broken down.  Raw vegetable matter is not quickly or easily broken down.

Here is another opportunity to use our common sense.  When we examine what comes out our dogs and find clumps of grass it is apparent they were not meant to digest it.  I never find clumps of grass coming out of our sheep or geese and they consume much more of it than do the dogs.  If we are not scrutinizing what comes out of our dogs as much as  what goes into them then we will not have enough information to make rational decisions about what to feed our dogs or what to believe about what other people tell us we should be feeding them.  An analysis of what our dog leaves behind will upset the claims of many dog food manufactures.  If you have not yet proven to yourself that a commercial dry grained based food will produce much larger quantities of waste than a meat diet and what that means, then that is where you need to begin your research.  One of the first things you will notice when feeding raw meat is the change in appearance and quantity of your dog’s waste.

When we examine our dog’s mouth it is plain that it is not the same design that we have or other animals that chew their food.  Dogs do not chew they crush and tear so they need food that can be digested without first grinding it with flat teeth.  It is not merely a coincident that canine predators eat animals that do have teeth that grind their food; this is how they receive the nutrients of those things that their prey has eaten.  While it is true that domesticated canines (dogs) have adapted over the centuries to live with us they are still canines, they remain physically the same animal with the same biology.

October 30, 2012

Common Sense and Feeding Your Dogs Raw Meat

We at Cota Farms feed our dogs raw meat and we sell this same meat to others.  If you search the internet for information about feeding raw meat to your dog you will not find a simple explanation about this practice.  You will find opinions pro and con with lots of ideas about where dogs come from, what wild canines eat, similarities between the two, the dangers of bones impacting the colon, nutrition, bacteria, what nature intended, veterinarians opposed to the practice and so forth.  Unfortunately if you give a thought to what you are feeding your dogs and question it even a little you will be pulled into this mess and have to deal with it, decide what is right for you and your dogs.

I think it is important to consider the source of the information and how it may be biased.  Most important is to use a little common sense!  This may sound like a simple matter and maybe even a little patronizing but it certainly is not.  We have been trained to not think critically and to avoid questioning any figure of authority or commercial product.

Let’s take the issue of feeding bones for example.  I have no doubt that some veterinarians have had to help dogs that have been over fed bones.  I would bet however that they are far fewer than the number of medical doctors who have had to help people that have been over fed junk food. Raw meaty bones are not a meal and if you feed this to your dog every day you will eventually hurt your dog.  Because some people out there are negligent when it comes to feeding raw bones is not an argument against giving your dog a bone.  We sell bones to our customers, a variety of bones of high quality.  We do not present the bones as a meal for your dog!  Consider this choice, an occasional raw bone or a hunk of nylon in the shape of a bone.

And of course all dogs are not the same!  We have several dogs, most live outside on the farm; they are livestock guardians and have free access to 25 acres of pasture, wetland and ponds.  They are a lot like wild animals if you ask me.  They will at least taste almost anything and eat things so disgusting that the idea that clean raw meat is bad for them is laughable.  We also have small dogs that live in the house and sleep in our bed.  They are nothing like the LGDs and we don’t feed them like they are.  Here is an opportunity to use a little common sense, some critical thinking.  Because we don’t feed raw meat to our small dogs, nor subject them to things like Hurricane Sandy, is not an argument against feeding raw meat.  By the way, our LGDs did not take that evening off; I watched them run around in the storm doing their job without any indication that they were bothered by all the weather.  Since our small dogs would not have survived even one hour in that terrible storm am I then to deny the fact that my other dogs are better suited to that environment?

Our small dogs are quite partial to the same food we feed all our dogs it is just that they prefer it to be cooked a little and cut into tiny bits, tender pieces please.  Cota will choose my home cooked sliced kidney every time over commercial dog food.  Now if I were to feed him just kidney that would not be good for him and I would be negligent – again, common sense to the rescue.

I tell my customers that variety is key in feeding a raw diet.  Money is also a very important factor.  I have seen raw diet menus that no honest veterinarian could argue against yet they are not practical.  Still there is a lot you can do by being creative.  If you have a source for discount can goods that can be very helpful.  For example, fish is a good food to rotate into your dog’s diet, preferably cold water fish as they have the good oils in them.  A dented can of sardines or mackerel is just great.  A can of pumpkin or yams mixed in now and again is good too.  Raw eggs are an inexpensive item that should be on your menu.  Our dogs eat more eggs than most as they live on a farm and are not opposed to self-service.

We sell raw meat for your dog’s diet; it is not a complete or balanced diet but does make for some good meals.  We are pleased to offer a variety of basic food at a price far lower than any we have seen.  We encourage our customers to seek out additional foods for their dogs, as best as they can afford and if you find a good source for gazelle pancreas please share it with the rest of us.

October 10, 2012

Feeding Your Dogs In Winter

How you feed your dogs in winter is important if they are outside dogs.  Most of our dogs are outside and are true working dogs.  I consider them employees working security for the farm and account for them that way for business purposes.  They are better treated than most employees; in addition to enjoying a superior cuisine, they get free health care, housing, acres of recreational space, a healthy social life, and internet access.

Not all dogs should be kept outdoors in winter in Ohio; they are just not adapted for it.  Our outside dogs are made for harsh winter weather and in fact do better in the winter than the high heat of the summer months.  In summer we feed meat right from the refrigerator to help cool them down.  In winter we increase their rations by as much as 50% when the weather is particularly bad.  Interestingly this is the same thing we do with our livestock, something a farmer once told me.

Even in the snow and bitter cold they hardly ever take shelter but they do need good food and enough of it to keep warm and healthy.  In a natural diet they would eat fresh kill which would be warm.  Since we feed raw meat we don’t really want to warm it up in the microwave as that would defeat the purpose so we mix hot rice with it to take the chill off.  Some of you already mix rice with your food and that is fine and so the opportunity is there to give your dogs something warm to eat when it is freezing cold.  It is a little extra work to cook the rice before each feeding so that it is still warm but there are some things I do to make it a little easier.  I have discovered that if you use a crock pot to cook your rice, with some alterations in the amount of water to rice ratio and the different settings on the crock pot, you can start it in the morning and your rice will be ready at dinner time.  We go a step further because we have more than a reasonable number of dogs and make enough rice so that there will be some for breakfast as well.  We use a 12 quart crock pot (less than $20 at this writing) so there is enough for two feedings.  We feed our dogs twice a day as I don’t believe they can get all that they need in just one meal.  If you get up a lot at night like I do you can just turn your crock pot to warm some time during the night so that it is ready for breakfast.

Is this too much, more than they need?  I don’t think so but I know those that would disagree with me and I say to them, then why have the dog.  Why buy a dog only to put it in the backyard on a chain?  OK, I’ll stop here as anything more would just be a rant and those people would never read this blog anyway.

October 3, 2012

Drugging our Livestock

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By what miracle do we have any animals on our farms?  I am exasperated by the constant call for livestock to be drugged to prevent this malady or that threat to their health.  How is it that these animals have come to us, how did they survive before the pharmaceutical industry came to their aid.  Is it reasonable to believe that without a constant health care regiment there would be no livestock?

The really strange thing is that I have witnessed the seeming inability of some farm animals to survive without these drugs.  But how can that be, where then did these animals come from that once they are with us they become weak?

I have discovered that the answer has at least two divisions.  Foremost, these animals are not the same as those that first populated the earth; they are products of our having domesticated and re-engineered the original animals for our purposes.  Having some experience with engineering I understand that if you take a certain device, one that was created to do a specific thing, and try to make it do something else, there will be problems.  Therefore, if you take a turkey and decide that you want it to provide you much more meat than its body was designed to carry and re-engineer that turkey, there will be problems.

Another reason some livestock require so much intervention is that they are out of place, they are not adapted to live on our farms.  A popular goat here in Ohio is a glaring example.  These poor creatures require regular worming and don’t do well in very cold weather yet they provide for large meat carcasses so people raise them here.

One other issue that must be looked at is how these animals are sometimes kept.  Feedlots are an efficient means of bringing livestock to the desired weight in minimal space.  If you decide it is not cost effective to give your cows the needed acreage of pasture, and put them all in a pen where they effectively live in their own waste, there will be problems.

As I said before, what really pisses me off is that these drugs are presented as the standard and accepted way of raising livestock.  This is what you are suppose to do, buy these drugs and give them to your animals.  It is more accurate to say, because we have created animals that are inherently susceptible to disease, and we routinely practice poor animal husbandry because it is more efficient, we must drug them or they will die.

It is true that these methods provide us with vast amounts of cheap meat; here in America we can eat meat every day and it is more a matter of choosing not to eat meat three times a day that makes any difference from one person to the next.  Of course it wasn’t always like that and may be again before too long.

Here on Cota Farms we use little or no medications for our animals and are happy to provide this higher quality meat for those that prefer it, and yes for those that can afford it.  Once again I will say that we are not crusaders and don’t call factory farms out of their name but we also don’t shirk at calling them what they are.  It is the deception that bothers me, that is where the real danger lies.  If we are told this is the way things are and it is good and right, then there will be no need to analyses it and consider other options, but that of course is the goal.

September 19, 2012

Somebody Ought To Write A Song

Somebody ought to write a song about livestock guard dogs!  Yes I am enamored with these dogs and want to tell everyone, but maybe you already knew about them.  Since we are relatively new to the whole farming thing we are still fascinated by what some people have known about for centuries.  Working dogs in general are marvelous creatures but to actually be able to work with them is a special experience.

If you have read my past blogs you know that we lost many lambs to coyotes before we got these dogs and have enjoyed no losses since.  It is very interesting that a domesticated canine can be trained to defend your property from its wild cousin.  We are doing something a little different in the way of training though.  We I first began to work with the dogs and did my research, I found mostly just books and articles from long ago.  What more recent writings I found were still focused on dogs protecting flocks of sheep in vast areas of grasslands.

There is still some of this going on but for my purposes, and other farmers like us, we contain sheep on acres of fenced land, often with neighbors nearby.  This is a very different environment.  While the general job description is the same, the specifics are not and so some of what I was reading did not apply or was not going to work.  But what I really wanted and needed was not addressed at all.

On a small farm like ours, close to the city, we have a lot of different things going on; diversity is not just a word here and neither is free range. Our dogs don’t just protect our sheep from coyotes, but they protect all that we produce from a variety of different predators.  I had to make some significant changes to the traditional livestock guard dog training regiment but it has worked far better than I expected.  So we now not only have no more losses of our sheep to predators, but we no longer lose chickens or turkeys or even plants!  Yes I tell you, even the herons are denied the fish from our ponds and the hawks the ducklings on the ground.  We have always had large losses of young birds so we had to steal the day olds from their mothers when she took then from the nest and put them in brooder boxes lest they disappear one by one.  What a labor savings to be able to allow the mothers to raise their own young!

Here is one of our LGDs, his name is Doodle and he is watching over this sheep as she has her lambs right out in the open.  She and her lambs are most vulnerable now but she (and me) need not worry; should something smell what is going on and decide to take advantage, Doodle will sound the alarm and the other dogs will quickly come to help.

August 29, 2012

Summer Lambs

I love summer lambs!  Even though we have never lost a lamb to the weather, I still worry when it is very cold and the wind howls terribly.  In the summer it is so easy on the new lambs and their mothers.  I look at nature and think it is not natural to have young in the dead of winter; perhaps I am wrong but I think the demand for spring lamb has led to the practice of farmers lambing in winter.  We don’t do things that way, yes we do have most of our lambs in the winter but our lambs are generally not big enough by Easter for sale.  That is one of the disadvantages of using Jacob Sheep but I believe the advantages prevail.

One reason we are able to have summer lambs is we don’t take our rams out of the pasture, when a ewe is ready the ram will be there to service her.  This is something else we do differently.  We also don’t have to worm our sheep or stay up at night to help with lambing.  I wonder if anyone has run the numbers to see if the larger commercial lambs are worth the added labor and expense.  I have noticed that the non-commercial breeds don’t bring as much at the livestock auctions so their advantage is greatly diminished when it comes time for sale.

The advantage may still yet come back to the heritage breed producer.  If the meat is in fact better, an important reason why we use them, and we don’t have to depend on the stockyards to move our sheep to market, then we can overcome some impediments to selling our lamb.

Ohio produces a lot of lamb but most of it is consumed in other states, this is why we are so dependent on the brokers.  Because of government laws we are not able to sell our processed lamb across state lines.  This seems very strange to me as China is able to sell whatever they want to every state but I don’t want to go there just so I can sell my lamb to New York.

This has changed.  State processing facilities can now apply for a new label that would allow farmers like me to sell our lamb directly to buyers in states that consume a lot of lamb.  I plan to investigate this further and see if it will help me or merely discover that once again those with the power and the money have already found a way to keep the advantage.

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