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Articles and Updates
Jul 10, 2017, 3:49 PM
For much of my working life, I spent a lot of time and energy killing. I grew up on a west Texas ranch in the fifties and as soon as I got old enough to work, a regular warm weather job was finding, catching and treating cattle, sheep and goats that were infected with screwworms. This took a lot of time since the animals were running in large brushy pastures and a sick animal’s instinct is to hide. If we did not find the infected animals and kill the screwworms, the animals would die. The worms would literally eat the animals’ alive, one tiny bite at a time. We used a variety of noxious materials in the attempt to kill the screwworms and to prevent the mama cattle, sheep and goats from licking the worm dope off of their babies. In addition, the sheep and goats had to be treated several times a year with other poisons to kill internal parasites and, on occasion, swabbed or sprayed with still other poisons to kill external parasites like wool worms, ear ticks and lice; the cows had to be sprayed regularly to kill horn flies and treated for internal parasites about half as often as the sheep. We spent a lot of time and money killing pests of one sort or another and in the process created at least as many problems as we cured.
Jul 10, 2017, 3:42 PM
Conventional agricultural practice is tailored toward the production of monocultures of various plants and to the concentration of large numbers of animals in small areas in search of efficiency of production. This reliance on monocultures plus common production practices such as pesticide use and tillage greatly reduces the number of kinds of plants, animals and microorganisms present onthe land and in the soil. This lack of biological diversity in the production units sets the scene for a large number of the problems encountered in modern agriculture since simple communities of plants and animals are inherently unstable. The constant onslaught of weeds, diseases and pest animals that plague the modern farm or ranch are nothing more than nature’s efforts to put in place those organisms needed to reestablish a functioning community of plants and animals that uses and reuses all of the available resources of water, energy, minerals and space while wasting none of them. Encouraging biodiversity is the only way to promote production that is sustainable and both financially and ecologically stable.
Jul 10, 2017, 3:41 PM
The concept of sustainable agriculture has received increasing amounts of attention in recent years; there is wide spread realization that much of modern agriculture has become an extractive process with production being taken at the expense of losses in soil health and increasing amounts of inputs from outside the system. Loss of soil organic content and soil erosion are common on most of our cultivated land and these degraded soils require ever greater quantities of fertilizer, energy and irrigation to maintain good production. There are a number of factors contributing to the loss of soil health but one of the prime culprits is that animals have been removed from the farm. A farm without animals loses the manure that for centuries has been the basis of soil health – the manure is now generated at feedlots and confinement housing where it becomes a waste product with a disposal cost. Without animals to convert crop residues into food for soil life and give value to pasture and cover crops, the loss of soil organic matter and the soil life that this material sustains increases with each passing year.
Jun 29, 2017, 10:00 AM
When we acquired the ability to hold animals on land that could no longer meet their needs for feed and water, we acquired the ability to destroy our grasslands. Prior to human intervention, when growing conditions deteriorated on an area, the grazing animals either left or died; they could not remain to pick at the struggling vegetation and permanently degrade the weakened local environment.