Posts Tagged ‘cattle’

The Season of Water Has Begun

In many places, winter is the season of water. It’s monsoon season, or snow season. Out West, summer is our season of water. Why? Because that’s when we need it and we may not have it. California is at the top of the list at the moment when it comes to lack of water, but they aren’t the only ones that are concerned. All of the states that have lower rainfall than the East Coast are aware that California’s fate may well be ours in the not-too-distant-future.

Fire season has already started here in Colorado. I have a fire about 90 miles south of me that just decided it didn’t want to be contained anymore. While that one isn’t a direct threat to me, it is absolutely something to keep my eye on. My community garden just opened itself back up to us for spring watering, and I did not mulch my garlic bed well enough so the soil is dry as a bone. That’s perfectly normal for poorly covered or bare ground in Colorado. It’s also really bad for the garlic and all of the critters that needed moisture for over-wintering. Despite the silly Kentucky Blue Grass lawns around here, lack of water is simply a fact of life.

Jon Stewart, as usual, brings his wit and sarcasm to the issue of climate change. As he points out, our two most phallic states have totally opposite, yet equally serious, water issues. This is the challenge of climate change, after all. It’s not just that it will increase heat and melt the ice caps, it’s that everything will become more unpredictable. Wet places will get wetter and dry places will get dryer. The fact that we are doing everything in our power to suck water out of the air and water and send it through the sewers really isn’t helping to balance that back out.

One thing that he didn’t bring up was that apparently frackers in California aren’t being subject to any of the restrictions that the citizens are subject to. It is absurd to think that not drinking water in a restaurant will do a thing when the farmers aren’t being told to restrict their water use. I don’t want to make farming any harder than it is, but when the state is out of water, everyone is affected and has to pitch in. What is more absurd is to not restrict the people that take massive amounts of potable water, turn it into poison, and pump it past the groundwater reservoirs to pull out oil. They swear the arsenic and other fun chemicals can’t possibly leak into the groundwater, but I’m not sure how much I can trust that.

After 450 words of bad news, what do we do about it? I think the biggest thing we can do is to buy local, pasture-raised meat. I know, meat’s evil and all that, but what the simplistic headlines don’t bother to do is differentiate between meat sources. Urine and manure from CAFO feedlots are corralled in lagoons as toxic waste. As they should be. They should not be returned to the land. Then there’s all the water that’s used to grow the grains that keep the animals not-dead and very fat up until slaughter time. Meat raised like that is an affront to nature.

When you raise, say, a cow on pasture, you get the opposite result. Grazing animals produce no more methane than the grass would have when it rotted on the ground. More to the point, in a properly managed pasture, the urine and manure they produce soaks directly into the soil, returning both moisture and nutrients to the soil in amounts that the microorganisms can handle. Proper management also encourages the grass to grow to its best advantage, sending carbon-sequestering roots deep into the soil. Between the roots making spaces and the small amounts of moisture added to the surface, a good pasture will help the rain to soak into the ground and back into our groundwater reserves instead of running off the top and right to the ocean.

That’s right. Meat could save us. Alan Savory has dabbled in this a bit.

One really shouldn’t eat meat without vegetables, though. The next biggest step is to grow your own vegetables. If you don’t have a yard, or a patio with decent sunlight, then buy them from small, local, organic farmers that use all of the sensible water-saving techniques that are difficult to impossible to implement on huge, mono-crop farms. If you ask nicely, the farmer will probably be happy to let you come out to see how their land looks and their crops are grown. Just bear in mind that if the sun’s up, you are taking time out of their work day. The best farming, just like the best beef, should actually help refill the groundwater reserves. But good farming will still slow the use of unnecessary water, and shouldn’t be discouraged.

Don’t get me wrong, things like shorter showers and high-efficiency appliances are good. But if we want to do more than just slow the loss of potable water across the world, we need to be proactive about helping the water to go back where it belongs. In the ground, not in the sewers. Preferably without arsenic.

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Hanna Ranch Movie

I know I’ve been MIA for a while now, and I intend to update you on that and on some of the cool things happening in my life, but for the moment- this movie.

If you live in Southern Colorado (specifically Colorado Springs to Pueblo) or you have any interest at all in the plight of the family farmer or rancher- you have got to see Hanna Ranch. For the local folks, it’s going to be at Ivywild for a few more days. For everyone else, it’s travelling around a bit and available on iTunes. It should be showing up on Netflix eventually, too. It is one place, one ranch, and one family- but a story that I suspect a lot of the agricultural community knows in one way or another.

We need to support our farms. In 30 years, we’ve lost half-a-million ranchers (or farmers in general- can’t remember which) which is a problem. This film clearly illustrates why.

National Western Stock Show: Part 3

I have a tendency at these sort of things to wander through animal housing, so visiting the stockyards was just part of my wandering.

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Apparently, I’m not the only one that does so. The path was divided into the part for animals and the part for people.

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It’s too bad they don’t build them like this any more. Just because it’s a stock yard doesn’t mean it can’t be attractive.

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The walkway made it easy to see into lots of pens at a time.

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Naturally, lots of cattle. (I’m afraid that I only recognize the really distinctive breeds, so I have no idea what these are.)

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I do recognize buffalo, though! (Technically, American Bison.)

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Aren’t the little ones cute?

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Yaks are a lot smaller than I expected.

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This one just struck me as beautiful. Possibly clipped for a class?

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Then there were longhorns.

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Check out the rack on . . . her? It’s the steers (castrated males) and the cows that have the massive horns, not the bulls.

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His name is Henry. Named after Henry VIII because he rules. So said the sign on his pen.

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I love draft horses. Passing trains don’t even excite them.

National Western Stock Show- Part 1

This is going to be mostly a picture post, again. However, I took so many pictures, that I need to split my one day at the stock show into four parts. This one will be the critters I saw in the Expo Hall.

According to the back of my National Western Stock Show Bar and Grill menu, this stock show started in 1906. It is the largest in the world by number of animals. The proceeds are used for scholarships to schools in Colorado and Wyoming for studying medicine and agriculture. Pretty cool, huh? Through my wanderings, I figured out that they weren’t kidding about the “national” part of the title. There were farms from as far away as New York and Massachusetts.

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The first event I wanted to see was Urban Farms: Fabulous Farm Animals.

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I was hoping for something like a lecture, but it turned out to be kid-oriented.

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That’s ok, though. More kids need to meet animals.

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Not that he thought so.

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The next spot was the shorn fibers . . .

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and their former wearers. (There had to have been alpacas and llamas somewhere, but I never did find them.)

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Pork butt. Also known as “Happy as pigs in . . . sawdust.”

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Pink with black spots.

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Black with pink spots. (It’s so much easier to be sure than with zebras.)

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Oreo pig! (Probably a Wessex Saddleback, but I didn’t check to be sure.)

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Chocolate pig! Is that where chocolate-covered bacon comes from?

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I have now seen a steer with a blowout. And so have you.

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How cute is she?

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Highland cattle are very hardy, coming from the Scottish Highlands, and produce lean meat.

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Also, they’re cute.

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And sweet- he was asking every passer-by to pet him while he was being groomed. Although I’m not sure how he saw them.

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Ha! I found the basis for the ton-ton’s heads! (Sorry about the picture quality.)

Unless I change my mind before I put up the others, the rest of the series should be horses, stockyard, and everything else.

Stock Show Parade

This past Thursday was the parade that opened the National Western Stock Show in Denver. To celebrate the history of the city, it opens with 1,000 head of longhorns being driven through downtown from Union Station to the fairgrounds. Naturally, I had to go check it out.

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Mr. Denver. The bull, not the cowboys.

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How cute are they?

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I was wondering if they were the ones that would supply the longhorns.

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I need to work on picking my spots for photography.

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There were lots of cowboys and cowgirls to keep the critters moving.

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I thought about being a mounted police officer once upon a time.

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Can you have a parade without a stagecoach? Not out here!

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When I heard “floats” I assumed they’d be pulled by tractors or trucks. Belgians are so much cooler.

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The glitz begins . . .

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A 1929 six-speed special, as the vanity plate proclaims. Looks like new!

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Now that’s a get-up.

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Is it bad that I forgot who he was, just that he was someone important?

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Here’s the beer! Oh, it’s more people.

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It ain’t a parade without a firetruck. (The little girl in front of me was waving to everybody. They were all waving back.)

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My favorites in the draft world. Percherons.

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I’m starting to think everyone around here owns a horse.

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I’m not sure who they were, but there were about a gazillion of them.

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They’re just like teddy bears! Evil, adorable, teddy bears.

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The cavalry even made it.

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With their chuck wagon. You know, between the two of them, those mules had an ear for each direction.

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Need we say more?

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen sleigh bells on a horse before?

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Now this part of the parade I recognize from growing up in farm country.

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A necessity after driving 1,000 head of cattle and at least 2,000 head of horses down city streets.

I hope you folks enjoyed the parade as much as I did! Hopefully I’ll get up to the stock show to get some pictures of that, too.

P.S. I might obsess a little over horses, but they were also 90% of the parade, so that many horse pictures isn’t totally my fault.