Yesterday, I posted this article to the Spellcast Farm Facebook page. It’s the typical news these days: there’s a drought that’s killing all the corn, soy and other crops in the Midwest so food prices are going to go up. Well, food prices have been going up for some time now, as are gas prices; these price increases will probably become even more apparent because of the drought. What particularly irritated me about this article was these two statements “We live and die by corn and soybeans.” and “if you don’t have corn and beans, you don’t have feed for the chickens.” That may be true for some farmers, but some of us have taken the initiative to get corn and soy out of our livestock feed. Why? Well, in our opinion, soy is just plain bad for humans and animals, no matter how it’s grown. Corn, well, we like corn, our animals like corn, but so much of it is GMO, it’s hard for us to trust even organically grown corn so we avoid it. Even if we bought certified organic feed for animals, it is NOT certified GMO-free.
It goes deeper than that. When I first moved to this area in 2002, when you drove up and down the roads where I live, you saw pastures and woods. Pastures with horses, cattle, sheep and goats grazing. That’s changed. Now, you see pastures with corn and soybeans growing, most of which, I’m sure, are government subsidized. The government pays farmers to grow corn and soy and they in turn pass the corn and soy on to factory farms to feed to their livestock. It enables factory farms to grow their animals on cheap food.
Yesterday, Wally and I went to pick up a bale of hay from a farmer that grazes over 100 cattle. As we drove there, we went through neighborhoods with high end houses, likely urban transplants who purchased these houses with acreage, maybe 10 or so, just enough to give them the feel of privacy and country living. All around their houses are corn and soy fields. I asked Wally if they realized the chemicals they were being exposed to on a daily basis. He said, “no, probably not.” There was a time I didn’t realize this either.
So, this is what’s wrong with livestock husbandry today: reliance on cheap, genetically modified, chemical-laden feed. Don’t get me wrong: if I can purchase feed for my animals at a discounted rate, I’d surely do it, but not at the expensive of their health or mine. If there were fewer corn and soy fields and more well maintained pastures grazed by livestock, perhaps we wouldn’t be so reliant on corn and soy. Of course I know that the drought has damaged pasture land as well as corn, soy and other grains, but that’s rarely mentioned. It’s the corn and soy fields that are shown. Why? Because there’s so much more corn and soy grown in this country than anything else. Tens of thousands of chickens in broiler houses go through a lot of corn and soy, as do cattle in feed lots, factory-farmed pigs in their own personal hell. It’s all one big rat race and the sooner people realize it, the better everyone will be.
Then again, this probably won’t happen in my lifetime.
I am currently working with a local farmer who is growing non-GMO corn and if that crop is successful, I might feed some corn to the laying hens over the winter to help keep them warm. I will not feed it to the goats or cattle. If I do elect to use corn over the winter, I will disclose this. I am still on the fence about this. One thing I am sure about, however, is that I will continue to avoid purchasing feed mixed by a commercial supplier. I’ve heard and experienced too many problems with quality control and improper handling in commercial mixtures. There is really only one organic supplier around here and that they use fish meal in their soy-free goat feed completely turned me off from their products PLUS as I’ve said numerous times, it is not sustainable to use grain that is shipped in from thousands of miles away.
There was a time that farmers fed their animals grain mixtures, usually what they grew themselves in addition to kitchen scraps and raw milk (usually soured or skim). I truly do not think it takes a degree in animal science to feed animals. If you adopt a balance over time attitude and make sure your animals have plenty of room to forage, they should do just fine. The Amish people I’ve visited numerous times do just that: they feed their chickens, laying and meat, most of which they or other members of the community grow. The chickens grow and lay just fine on these rations. They do add a poultry mineral supplement (I do too), but all their chickens eat is a simple, locally-grown non-GMO grain mixture. It is unfortunate more animals cannot be raised in this manner.
Until later …