Steve’s Update for 6/22/11

Climatology 2011:   Waiting for moisture…

Farm book-keeping and financial management:  I am sending out another request for member assistance:  The farm and the CSA need a new accounting person to take over in July.  This position is part time now, amounting to 5-6 hours per week, and could grow with the CSA and farm over time.  It is crucial that we find a strong and experienced person for this work very soon.  Your referrals would be very much appreciated.

Farm investor Update:  Working with our accountant and our private investor we have simplified the investment process so that it benefits the farm and the investor as much as possible.  We are offering 6% interest on private investment dollars with Steve W’s personal guarantee as security.  Using this approach all of the assets of the farm back each investment.  If in the future we are able to convert the farm to a COOP of some sort, investors can be given the opportunity to apply some portion of their investment to shares/memberships in the COOP.

Another investor is gifting the interest, and taking that gift as a deduction on their taxes.

Securing a farm through private financing, and developing a cooperative share/ownership structure is a very exciting and much needed approach.  At the current time, there is no real support from the finance system for small and mid scale agriculture, or for any other type of small business for that matter.  Members interested in learning about investment in the farm are welcome to contact me.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: WARNING, This section is somewhat graphic and detailed about animal handling at the farm:   It was time this week to “work the calves.”  In traditional Western ranching this means dehorn, castrate, and brand, all of which is done in the first few months of the lives of the calves.  With our largest calf crop ever this was a significant undertaking for us.  We have the help of a terrific cowboy/ranch foreman who I have known and worked with for at least 15 years since he was foreman on the expansive Canon Blanco Ranch, which is my next door neighbor.  With his help we are able to get the work done quickly and to minimize stress to the herd as much as possible.

Even so, the stress and pain and disruption to the herd was jaw dropping.  We did a terrific job, going by the standards for this type of work.  We could not change our approach a whole lot.

I decided to de-horn because I have to sell so many of the males, and elsewhere in the cattle world animals with horns are not desirable.  The full grown bulls that I sold to larger dairies have to be dehorned, and the older the animal the more stressful that is.

I agreed to castrate the males because that is what it takes, especially in the case of grass finished beef, to get some fat on them so that they are more tender when they grow up to become beef.

Branding is fine, it is really a minor effect on the cows when done properly, but the other two steps are difficult.  If dehorning and castrating is done in the first few weeks or month of the calf’s life, they can be done with relatively stress.  But that eliminates the possibility of them getting “work” later in life as bulls.

We are looking at other approaches.  The most promising is that we keep the calves on the mommas longer, and then when a calf is weaned, if it is a male, it either gets a job as a bull or is processed for beef as “young beef”.  The processing cost for young beef is higher because the animals are smaller and much of the cost is on a “per beef” basis.  Young beef would be more expensive per pound.  In this scenario, we could leave the horns on the bull calves.  The down side is that they would be subject to greater stress of dehorning at a later age if they go to a traditional dairy as bulls, because almost no dairy would consider having a bull with horns in its herd.

We will have to try a “young beef,” but cannot do so until next year’s crop is grown.  All in all, we learned a lot, and it was emotionally draining.  I am reminded by this experience of how the domesticated animals serve us, AND depend on us.  We are responsible for their well being. They sacrifice themselves so that we can learn and grow.

I am in awe of this responsibility.  We honor the creatures in our care by tending to their needs thoughtfully and responsibly.  This is the real basis of ranching.


This week’s cheese and herd share update: 

Power generation struggle continues.  Repair to our backup generator is has eluded two very good mechanics plus me.  We are out of ideas.  We are ready for a complete redesign of the power generation system, and are hoping that can happen soon.

Herd share opportunities at Mesa Top:  the farmers need some help boiling down the lengthy, legalese format developed in Colorado, to a simple one page herd share agreement.  Along with this simple agreement, members interested in owning a herd share will need to visit the farm and meet the herd!

This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses

Mesa Top Protein update:  Pork should be available by mid July.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:    Another week of New Mexico Cherries.  We are indeed fortunate to have this fruit, which will be rare in 2011.

The rest of the share is spicy and exciting as we skip salad greens this week.  Spring turnips, white radishes, dill, and garlic scapes will all spice up your meals.

Along with those treats you will receive a pound of English (shelling) peas.

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA.  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer


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