Cota Farms' Blog

August 2, 2013

Young Swans At Cota Farms

A rare opportunity came our way this summer and we jumped on it!  We had swans before but lost them largely through inexperience with keeping these majestic birds.  The availability and cost of these birds vary so much it is difficult to price them but from what limited experience we have it was a deal that could not be passed up.  We are not likely to come across so many swans for sale at a price we could afford and distance we could easily travel.

For me having these magnificent birds on our small pond, watching them explore the wetland is a dream comes true, again.  We are very protective of them as we understand we may not get another chance and certainly not without paying much more than we did this time.

They are still young in spite of their size and take several years to mature.  We try to keep them close to the house because it is easier to care for them and protect them but they are drawn to the water and high grasses and get by us when we are not looking.  Fortunately we already have security in place.  We were sure to make introductions to the guard dogs when they got here and the entire farm perimeter is fenced.

Here they are scheming to get past an inner fence.  It did not take them long to discover they could slip through an area that the dogs had made in a fence not yet completed to a pasture in the opposite direction, then go around to get over the hill; they had to travel a long way but they made it.  So now they are where they want to be.  We will have to herd them back up the hill before winter though as it is too difficult to get food to them out there once the snow flies.  swans 017

June 23, 2013

We Like Sheep

Since I have become a shepherd, I have become oh so aware of what it means to be a sheep and it is quite disturbing.  There are too many references in literature liking people to sheep and it is not just a metaphor.  Among the most disturbing references is the idea that the very small group of men that control the world justify what they do because we are just sheep and therefore they have the right and duty to control, care for (whatever word you can stomach) us.  These people have been called various things for hundreds (thousands) of years and it is these very names that help to obscure their existence because these titles have been discredited, relegated to conspiracy theorists so I will not further help their cause by discrediting my own writing by using them.

It is true that we have greater intellect than sheep, and one would think that would be enough to protect us from their fate but I see that it is not true. Intelligence is a relative term and is not synonymous with thought, or the ability to reason or imagine possible future events.

We have been farming for a decade or more now and once again we are making changes to our operation.  This time the changes are more difficult and eerily consistent with what I see in the world around me.  You see we had a period when our flock grew, multiplied even faster than I had worked toward.  We didn’t have enough pasture to support them all but hay prices were such that we were able to supplement what we had.  Last winter changed all of that.  We lost what we thought we had gained because there were too many sheep and the price of hay increased so much we could no longer buy it.  And of course, not being alone in this predicament meant that the price we could get for our sheep dropped very low at the same time.

We are now culling our flock.  That is an interesting word, cull.  It is not used much in the cities but history teaches us that there will come a time when that word will have greater meaning to the population at large.  I remember when the Chinese government implemented its one child rule and other self-righteous countries like ours said what a terrible thing it was.  As a shepherd I very well understand the importance of controlling population, now more so than ever.

I know that most of us do not accept the idea of controlling the growth of the population unless we are controlling the growth of a certain group of people that don’t look like us.  This is often just dismissed as racism but I believe it is even more than that.  So then is it true that if we do not take responsibility for our own population growth we are just sheep and then it is left to others to deal with the situation?

Of course the powers that be have a way of dealing with this type of thought as well, once again relegating these ideas to the realm of conspiracy theorists.  They are very cleaver in how they go about it, using the classical argument of reducing these ideas to the absurd.  For example, these unnamed powers will harvest human beings for replacement organs maybe even bring aliens from outer space into the story.   Once you get people to laugh at the pure ridiculousness of the idea then the small amount of truth in the story is dismissed along with the rest of it.  Brilliant!

Maybe some of use will get a reprieve, much like this ewe that was a bottle baby and now enjoys a hands off status as beloved petrrr

March 21, 2012

Why we feed our sheep grain

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cota Farms @ 1:26 pm
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Extremes get our attention.  Images and statistics of extreme behaviors, practices and ideology is often the subject of news stories, movies and books.  This is logical when you think about it as at least one goal of all these media is to get people to look at it and somehow convey money back to those involved.  People respond to the outrageous and in a world constantly vying for our attention we have to expect that much of the information directed at us is adulterated.

Specifically, when we see and hear stories of how animals are treated it is generally those stories of not only extremely bad care but abuse that is there for us to consume.  When you can take an animal abuse story and tie it to an aspect that directly affects people, like what the animals we eat are fed, you have a story that is important to even more people.

The problem with this is not so much that we are being told something that is untrue, although sometimes it is just a lie, but what we take away from these stories is skewed and we form opinions based on this incomplete information.  We assume that this or that story represents what is routinely done in the industry and therefore we should not eat any meat because all animals are tortured so that we can eat them.

It is true, for example, that many animals in the industry, ruminants, animals that eat grasses, are fed large quantities of grains which are not their natural diet.  Because of this these animals must also be given medication to counteract the deleterious effects of too much grain.  It has also been argued that this diet makes the meat less healthful to we who eat it.  This has in turn led to the grass fed meat movement where grass and nothing else is fed to the animals.  Yes, you will find wild ruminants who subsist primarily on grasses and other plants, deer for example.  But these animals are not expected to feed millions of people nor do they represent the kind of meat that we have become accustom to.   Some people think it tastes “wild” and it is certainly not as tender or succulent as domesticated cattle.

I have had grass fed beef and I was unimpressed.  I find that some people like the idea of grass fed meat far more than they like the actual product.  Because some livestock producers feed their animals too much grain does not mean that livestock should be fed no grain at all or that purely grass fed meat is superior.

People ask me do I feed grain and I tell them yes, absolutely!  We do feed a small amount of grain and this is why.  A certain amount is not harmful to them.  Grain is a more concentrated food source and I think of it like fertilizer, it helps them grow.  Unless you have an exceptional pasture, grass alone is just not sufficient for good production.  Even good pasture may be lacking in needed minerals.  Feed is a wonderful training aid.  A little grain will greatly improve the quality and taste of the meat.  And most importantly, they like it!  We don’t just care for our animals, we care about them.

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