Steve’s Weekly Update 2/20/13

Climatology 2013:  I looked at what I wrote last week, and there is nothing new to say:  Some cold, some wind, but not much moisture.  No relief in sight.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: Colleen and I got to go down to Hagerman last week to see the herd at Dominic’s farm.  Generally everyone is looking good.  A bit thin, which is hard to avoid in the winter, but ok.  The cows who are not thriving are being given access to the wheat pasture, even though it is not fully grown and ready for grazing yet.  This is helpful for them.

Dominic has been working with his yard system to open up enough area so that the cows can be organized by “sub-herds” according to age and dominance.  The grouping criteria has a lot to do with age and size, and also whether the cows have fully developed horns or not.  The older and larger cows will tend to bully the younger ones and the hornless ones around.  So setting up separation yards assures that each group gets access to its share of feed.

It is always reassuring to speak with Dom about the condition and care of the herd.  He sets a high standard.  He is getting to know this herd (most of whom he is seeing for the second time) and is always pushing ahead with improvements that benefit their health, both long and short term.  It is really a relief to have him as one of our partners.

As we hoped, there are a LOT of calfs, recently birthed and doing well.  The calfs wander all around, in and out of fenced areas, going to their mothers whenever they want.  Dominic’s farm hand Manuel has a story about one special calf who was guarded by a group of horses during a stormy period when coyotes were passing through.

It looks like a few of our favorite cows did not breed back quickly, or lost their calves early in gestation, as some are being bred now.  Typically a cow who does not deliver a live calf every 12 months is culled for beef. We are taking a more patient (and expensive) approach:  some of the cows had too much pressure on them.  For example:  insufficient dry time between calfs, or too many calfs nursing during periods of only medium quality pasture or feed available.  We will give them all a chance to rest and recover and breed again.  This is expensive because dry cows are an expense with no associated income: no calf and no milk.  By design, our system allows the mothers to raise calves longer and to larger size.  Then we will allow them longer to breed back if necessary.  This is all part of our program of high animal welfare, and is still a “work in process”.

This week’s protein update:  Mesa Top Ground beef is in at the CSA for the foreseeable future.  We also have plenty of steaks and roasts to make up your family beef packs.

This week’s cheese making update:  Cheese making continues, we are focusing on getting the agreements together to launch the cow/herd shares.

One interesting point that was raised by a prospective herd share member is whether the 3-4 pounds of grain that each 1200+ pound milk cow receives each day while she is being milked, is GMO Free.

Conventional feed MAY contain GMOs, especially in the case of corn and soy, which are often included in dairy cow blends.   We have done some research on organic formulated blends for dairy animals, and will transition to that grain in order to have a greater certainty of avoiding GMOs in the feed.

95 to 98% of the feed our milk cows and calves eat is either grass, grown on our own (or leased) land, or hay, grass or alfalfa or a mixture of the two, grown by farmers who we have been working with for years.  We pick up our hay directly from our farmers or they deliver it to us.  There are no GMOs in grass or alfalfa hay, and our hay and grass farmers, though not certified organic, do not use any soil or crop amendments that would be excluded in an organic production system.

This change to an organic grain blend will increase our costs, but will be consistent with our “best practice” as developed for our chickens, and pigs (when we have them).

We appreciate having this question brought to our attention, and are happy to make improvements in our systems and processes.

If you missed the cow/herd share meeting and what to get caught up on the process and where we are at now, contact Colleen at cwarshawer@covcs.org or call her at MT Farm, 575-422-2238

This week’s cheese share includes: Tucumcari green chile cheddar and sharp cheddar.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:  This week’s share is smaller in number of items because of the presence of one item with a particularly high value:  simply honey’s delicious clover honey.  We include this in the share once each winter.  It is very tasty and strong enough that you can use it sparingly and still appreciate its sweetness.

Patagonia Produce’s Arizona citrus fruit continues to be a mainstay in the fresh fruit portion of the share, with pink grapefruits and limes in the share this week and also some organic zucchini.

From the greenhouses at Preferred Produce we have organic red lettuce.

And the share also includes a pound of fingerling potatoes from White Mountain Farm in Mosca, Colorado.

Membership news:  Please Follow us online at Facebook and Twitter. This a great way to show your friends our weekly shares, recipes and updates. People can contact the CSA to join and you will receive $10 for each person you refer.

Remember when you help us spread the word and sign up more members, we add $10 to your Farm Account for every member you refer.

Thank you for your investment in and continued support of the CSA.  We appreciate your support!

Steve Warshawer

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