Marshmallow Study, REALLY?!

There is more to the story; much more.

The basis of a Stanford study, called “The Marshmallow Experiment”,

One now, Two in a While

One now, OR Two in a While

that was begun in the 1960’s and has been replicated several times (and validated)… looking at the long-term effects of delayed gratification that could be demonstrated in 4-5 years old who were followed through adulthood, for 40 years!

The ability to delay eating a marshmallow for 15 minutes to get TWO instead of just one marshmallow, was indicative of abilities that would translate into an increased life-long capacity to delay immediate gratification for long-term benefits.  The implication was that the inherent genetic programming of the child had already pre-determined their path.

NOT!

That was the implication of the study, but further study brought out more insights which creates a picture of a much more complicated process; one in which the environment actually plays a significant role, in the first 4 years. The environment that the parents create, actually.

As a labor & delivery nurse for some 25 years+ I’m well versed in the innate personality differences that are present from the very moment of a newborn’s first breath. Having had the unique experience to be part of over several thousand births, it always continues to be incredibly inspiring.first breath

A newborn, in those first few minutes of life, show great variability in their response to emerging into the world. Some open their eyes and look around at the new world that they have entered, calm & accepting, while others have their eyes clamped shut as they scream bloody murder until placed in their mother’s arms and are calmed by her heartbeat and touch. There is indeed a whole spectrum of responses.

Some, of course are a response to the type of deliver: varying from easy, short labor vrs long, traumatic vrs newborn’s responses depressed due to being recipients of drugs for maternal pain relief, vrs those that had oxygen issues during labor and delivery. But generally, for those rough deliveries, these are temporary adaptive responses and the newborns innate personality shortly becomes apparent.

Differing Personality Types

From the moment of birth,  normal delivery and  Cesarian section deliveries, newborns show a range of responses that are part of their own personal patterns.  It’s easily recognizable at birth; how does the newborn respond to brighteyesstimulation, to change, to touch, to comforting measures, to voice, etc. He recognizes mother, and father, in the delivery suite, illustrated by the quiet, calm responses when parents interact with the newborn, who “tunes in”.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton wrote a book, in the early 1970’s that looked at how newborn’s communicate with us, as well as identifying newborn temperament that are all within the normal range of development. He moved beyond the “sick” or premature newborn, to what the normal newborn brought to the table.

Infants and Mothers: Differences in Development  Dr.T.Berry Brazelton 

While babies may not speak their first word for a year, they are born ready to communicate with a rich vocabulary of body movements, cries and visual responses: all part of the complex language of infant behavior.

He identified three major personality groups he called Quiet, Average, Active Baby.

Brazelton was able to identify ways that mother’s could interpret their newborns behavior patterns and work with them. So yes, many things are innate, part of our genetic backup. It turns out that being able to “hear” our newborns and respond to their needs influences the way they interact with the world around them. (To learn more about the specifics of the process check out this webpage: Brazelton Assessment ).

Reliability?

Getting back to the Marshmallow Experiment; if a newborn or toddler, is raised in a world where their needs are heard and met fairly consistently then they build a picture of a world that is dependable.

The Marshmallow Experiment, with a Twist, at the University of Rochester; divided the children into two groups.

  • The first group was exposed to a series of unreliable experiences. i.e. promises were made but not kept.
  • The second group was exposed to a series of  promises that were made and consistently kept.

Each group was learning something about the world around them.

The first group had no reason to build trust. “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush” would be an apt expression for that group. If your world is constantly changing and unreliable… you tend to live for the moment.

The second group was learning two important things: waiting can be worth it, and, I have the ability to wait; in fact they would wait up to 4 times longer than the first group! Impressive. Especially given that it only took a few “reliable experiences” to influence their behavior.

birdInHand

As mothers and fathers we have an enormous effect on the world our children experience. If we build a framework that is caring and consistent, then our children find it dependable.

In an experiment: when a newborn cries are answered within 3 – 5 minutes, they quickly settle. That same newborn if left to cry for 10 minutes, so that they are not ‘spoiled’,  are unable to settle for over 30 minutes.  Babies do not get spoiled, they only know their needs are answered, or not. But once they are “out of sorts” (i.e. abandoned) it takes much longer for them to calm back down when their needs are attended to.

Responding & nurturing our children works toward building healthy adults, as we create a dependable world as much as is possible, from which to reach out and deal with a world full of experiences.  Over time, as our experiences and awareness expands we are able to tolerate more “ambiguity” in our world and work toward the goals we have set.

Incredible Value of Parenting

I often think, that we don’t realize just how important our young mothers and fathers are, in the development of their children.  It’s not enough to “birth” the child, feed, cloth, & educate. Not if we want them to successfully navigate the future world. Here is 3 min video on how dependent the child is to social interaction with mom: Mother/child interaction

The biggest complaint that we heard voiced, when working with “street kids” (those who had left home, and were roaming the country)… was the sense that they had been abandoned by their parents to the TV, the video games, to someone else, while their parent’s focused on their careers. (NOT my statement, but what I heard from them). Or parents just were too tired to interact with them, when they did come home from work.

Few (uh, as in none) had been taught life-skills (cooking, mechanics, gardening, sewing, etc). This was true of most of our farm interns, as well. (Usually from stable families and educated.) They lived a life of either processed foods out of a box/bag or fast foods. (In the ’70’s only 2% of meals were out of the home; today over 50-70%).

I worked hard to get my nursing degree and to work in Maternal-Child nursing. I will say that we tried to make it a point that at least one parent was home most of the time, and that I worked only 3 days a week for most of my nursing career.  I felt like 4 days a week, life revolved around work but working 3 days a week allowed life to revolve around family.  This is NOT a choice most people have, though.

I ended up dropping my nursing program with my 2nd child. I delivered her in the middle of my semester on Maternal-Child Nursing (with lectures on how important the maternal connection was in the first two years of life).  The dichotomy was crushing.  Coming home from a lecture to a newborn that I had abandoned for school (a choice I had the luxury of making) was more than I could emotionally deal with. My first responsibility, if within my power to do so, was to the child. It’s not always an easy choice, it was a high price to pay. It took me years to get my nursing degree because of the detour.

CHOICES

Just before the housing crash, when we put our 10 year project of a remodeled home (we were all involved in the building process) on the market, the kids were devastated (not little kids but young adults, college & senior in high school).

We had all poured heart and soul into creating a home that worked for us.  All I had to say to them was, “would you rather have dad home/retire or he continues to work full-time ?” They opted for having dad there & getting to live life, in lieu of having “things” (possessions that posses us, I guess).

Real happiness is not things, of course, but it is meaningful work and relationships, after all. It felt good to see the choices the young adults opted for.

The take home message for me, from “The Marshmallow Study, with a Twist”, was how important our interactions are, with little ones.  To be consistent, to follow through on our word, and to nurture them creates a world they can trust. That trust factor allows them to look past grabbing the immediate satisfaction, building the capacity to work toward longer range goals.  Your interactions with preschoolers is more significant than you might think!

With a Twist:

 

Orginial:

 

 

 

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WARNING! Ultra-Pasturized Milk issues

Ever wonder what the difference is in the milk in the store?

 What’s the difference between the brands? and why different prices?

 It is much cheaper to move milk around if you take all the water out!

You take the water out, you take out the water-soluble components in the milk. whole-milk-powder

 

 

Many processors “reconstitute” the milk and then ship it to the store. Except for two producers here in california, all milk is pasteurized. Because the pasteurization process can damage the components of milk, much of that is added back via a chemical additive.  Not always the same thing as the “cow” put out.

Think sweetener: sugar, saccharin, stevia, glucose, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)…  all called sweeteners but all very different. So when they “add” Vitamin D to the milk, is it in the same form that the cow produced, that our bodies can absorb?

whey protein chart The “cheaper brands” take the milk apart and then try to reassemble it as inexpensively as possible, to keep that price low.

I know if you make cheese from commercial milk, you have to add calcium back into the milk!  ultra pasteurized milk can NOT even be used to make cheese.

Ultra-Pasteurized WARNING!

 I’m finding that it is almost impossible to find milk that has NOT been ultra pasteurized (even those called organic).

Ultra, High Tem, Low Temp Pasteurization

Ultra, High Tem, Low Temp Pasteurization

 We have another name for ultra pasteurized milk.

It’s called: 

“white water that lives on the shelf

long time!”

It is “cooked” at very, very high heat which alters the milk, and allows it to not go bad on the shelf, for weeks.

 Think of the difference between a raw egg, and an overcooked scrambled egg. They are NOT the same product, even though they had the same beginning and both can be called ‘an egg’. Heat can dramatically alter the product.

 Organic milk, that is ultra pasteurized, is stripped of the very properties that made it a good buy.  I talked with some dairy farmers who provide this organic milk and asked why this was done. They said that they had NO CONTROL despite being a farmer co-operative. The buyer’s of their milk (processor) did it to make the milk last longer.

 Clove:straussLucky, so far, some local dairy operations, CLOVER & Strauss do NOT ultra pasteurize their milk.  If you want to support local dairy operations here in Northern California, these are two great ones. In fact, Strauss (the glass bottles) does a very low heat, slow process that preserves the components in the milk.

 

Remember the adage, “you get what you pay for!”  Yes, their milk might look pricier but you are actually ending up with “more” for your money.

 (I understand that all Clover milk is organic but they can only “sell” so much at the higher price that they get for it, but much of their “non organic branded” milk can be organic. If you have to choose, this might be a less expensive milk to choose! I have been told this, but can NOT verify that this is true.)

Strauss, also, does NOT homogenized their milk. There is some thought that vigorously mixing the milk and breaking up the fat globules to “homogenize” the milk, actually damages it. Thus you will see a separation level in the milk bottles, without this “forced” mixing. Shake to mix before pouring.  Or, better yet, steal some off that top-level, for cream for your coffee!

Pasture-Butter-325A side note:  If you can buy butter, made May-September, do! 

Several companies are beginning to market it because of the higher vitamin, CLA levels from the fresh pasture. You can freeze butter up to a year. But only butter that is from pastured cows!

Some Economic Beef Background:

I don’t know if you know, but the cost of feed/hay has dramatically increased over the last 5 years.  When we started, hay was $5/bale and now is at $20+/bale.  A lot of this is due to the severe drought conditions in the midwest & south… with everyone trying to “source” hay to feed their cattle.

We’re lucky because our costs are lower since we DO NOT EVER feed grain, and we have access to some awesome pasture on the Mendocino Coast.  We have focused on compact heritage Angus beef that have the genetics to do well on forage only. Our beeves are raised mostly on fresh forage. They are only supplemented occasionally, with hay, to protect from over-grazing.

grass fed lowlines

Ranging the land

 Commercial ranchers in the mid-west and south literally dumped their herds into the slaughter houses last year, because they could not afford to feed them, or even in some cases, have enough water for them.  Herds in 2013 are the lowest size since the 1950’s.

 Initially, prices on commercial beef at the store dropped, but you will start to see a dramatic increase in price (in some places it has already started).

The Heritage Farm – Healthy Food: 

 Again, I will remind you of my “spiel” that grass-fed beef has the Omega3:Omega6 ratio that is healthy for the human body.

Because our beeves are raised on pasture, they will have high levels of CLA’s (associated with cancer fighting properties). See EatWild.com for in-depth information on the positive benefits from eating “pastured products”!

Beef from grasslands is a completely different product than that raised in  a feed lot.  So is the butter, 1/2&1/2, milk.

Anyway guys, hope I didn’t overwhelm you with too MUCH info! But I’ve wanted to share some of this and thought you might find it interesting.

The more I see of the health complications in our world the more important I realize it is to provide quality food. It’s the little things we can do, for our family and friends, to help and to protect them.

Products Available:

100% Grass-fed Angus Beef halves available:  Only have 4 half portions available.  Min  weight: 125# (up to 140#)

USDA processed, cut & wrapped  – Works out to roughly $7-8/lb for 100% grass-fed beef.

Our heritage line of Aberdeen Angus has had no hormones, no antibiotics. They are raised on pristine pasture with their mothers, on the Mendocino Coastline utilizing rotational managed grazing, which increases the health of the soil/forage.

$959/per half, whole $1800. Can be paid in 4 installments.

[Cost by the cut: $7/lb ground meat (NO added fat), stew meat

                        $10/lb roasts, ribs, misc cuts

                        $15/lb steaks        ]

 (Please check Oliver’s or Whole Foods and you will find these are EXTREMELY reasonable prices.)

 But the best deal is to buy a half (join up with a friend and share).

Bulk pricing gets you the best deal, which you already know!

We have already done all the work: birthed, raised up humanely, harvest, & custom cut & wrap.

 All locally done (within a 100 mile radius).

– ready April 8th.

CONTACT:

email me if you are interested in a beef half.

Also, we have just got our order of USDA heritage Berkshire hog pork in.  Again, no antibiotics, no hormones, raised in an outdoor setting.

 If you want: pork chops, ground pork, apple-sausage links, bacon,ham, or back-fat to make lard, let me know. Back-fat lard is awesome for cooking and seasoning beans, stews, etc.

I can send you a price list.

Cheers!

Amy

She Delivered! We’re waiting on the last calf…

Bessie, our standard Jersey who gives wonderful milk, is expecting any day now.

Products from Bessie's milk

We’ve been without her milk for several months because we wanted to give her time to build her system up before she delivered.

Bessie was purchased from a local commercial dairy in our area, that had been in the business (family) for over a 100 years.  They were fairly close to organic in the sense that they did NOT use antibiotics, hormones, or and steroids to increase milk production.  They did some pasture grazing besides the grain they fed. Definitely were not certified, which is just about the only way family dairy farms can survive these days.

Organic certified milk brings a premium but the  middle man will only buy so much organic milk.  The rest may still be organic but brings a much lower price because it must be sold as “regular” milk, once the “quota” has been filled. On the other hand, dairymen have found that their VET costs are much less with their pastured dairy cows… so there is a payoff for them.

Cows in a standard commercial dairy are kept on the average, only 2 1/2 years before being sent to the slaughterhouse (for hamburger).  That makes them about 5 years old (2 years before their first calf and then 3 years “on the line”), before the are out the door.  Bessie was almost 5 when we bought her from the family dairy that was closing down after a 100 years.

Hand-milking Bessie, as she patiently waits

Bessie  was perfect for us beginners. Mellow and fairly patient…. except she MUCH preferred being milked by machine (10 min) vrs us hand-milking (45 min). Yep, 45 minutes… you gotta have hand strength, and she has to be happy enough to let down her milk.  After about 20 minutes she would get a bit ansiy… looking back, wanting know what was taking so long.  My 1-2 cups of milk was not enough to get me through the door and face the waiting crowd who wanted to try her milk! We’d keep plugging on… until I could get at least a gallon.

When our “portable milker” arrived, we suddenly

Portable milker, YEAH! says Bessie

jumped to 3-4 gallons of milk.  Amazing! Raw milk, at least Bessie’s milk, has a sweet fresh taste to it.  Very different from commercial milk.

I used to wonder why milk came in different prices.

Now I know (and can taste) that often milk is “made” with powdered milk.  It’s cheaper to transport (and lasts longer) when the liquid is removed… and then added back later.

Sometimes the milk is a blend of powered and whole milk.

Powdered milk + water =

I used to do that myself when we were dirt poor, 40 years ago, and raising a family.  I would mix the milk at home and chill it. It’s now not an uncommon practice in the industry…

A2/A2 Milk

But back to Bessie.  We did some testing on her and found that her milk was A2/A2… just means that one of the amino acids in the milk is slightly different, and people who have trouble digesting milk, can handled A2/A2 milk without any problems. It’s actually the older gene and a mutation, known as A1/A1, occurred about 6,000 yrs ago… which most dairy cows carry.

Portable milker on a cart, to the barn

We’ve had several non-milk drinkers (because they were lactose intolerant) handle our milk just fine.  Glug-glug-glug… a gallon later. Did I mention they have NO problem with the milk, other than keeping some for tomorrow!  Now my daughter, who has a RESPIRATORY allergy, get’s worse. For her there is something else in the milk that she is sensitive to… and  with A2/A2 milk it gets worse.

When it came time to have Bessie bred we opted to A.I. (artificial insemination) with an A2/A2 Jersey Bull so we are very anxious to see if she will have a heifer that will someday give us A2/A2 milk!

Bessie is now 9 years old and has given us good service… but her genetics are telling on her.  For the last two years she has developed weepy areas where her skin is thin.  Never an infection… but I think, just the long time stress… she’s almost twice as old as her sister cows got to be; while my Old World Jerseys should be good for 20 years… I don’t know if it’s because of the actual genetics or because commercial cows are really pushed to produce in those early years.

We take it very easy and only milk once a day… because we would rather have the longevity, than quantity. I also dried her off three months prior to her delivery to give her extra time to build up her reserves.

But to my story…

The calf is checking on Bessie

Bessie is due any minute..

her bag has filled up and it was leaking. We put her in the fresh pasture between the house and the mini horse paddock… to keep an eye on her. Chocolate and her calf are with her to keep her company.  

The next morning, she stopped eating or chewing her cud.

 She laid down and started “laboring”. I raced around and grabbed my camera and cellphone.

I patiently sat quietly for at least an hour. Her companion cow, Chocolate, and her calf, would come over and nuzzled her occasionally, as she labored.  She would pant, and then rest.

And then she started stretching… she began a slight amount of pushing… passed a bit of stool;
I assumed that the calf was moving down the birth canal & called our intern and a neighbor the the imminent birth.
About 30 min later she stood up and did it! She delivered a nice, big, huge… cow pat.
Boy, did I feel dumb.  She stood there for a moment. Looked around.

she delivered a rather large cow pat

She’s so big (not huge, though) and when she lays down there is so much pressure from the calf, on her bottom, that everything swells up. You can see the calf shifting on occasion, and mom shifts around trying to get the calf in a more comfortable position (after having four kids, I remember THAT feeling very well).
Bessie looked around another moment… then she started on lunch….
If she’s feeling good enough to eat, she’s definitely NOT delivering.
Back to the house…. no more excuses not to do MY chores!  I remind myself that a “watched pot” doesn’t boil (or something like that)! I’ll leave her buddies to “labor sit” for now.

He & mom will keep Bessie company, but continue on with their "business"


This little piggy….

Whoops: Change of Plans

We were headed out the door to head to town when our intern alerted us.

He walked by the pregnant gilt’s farrowing area… and saw three baby piglets!

Newborn piglets, dozing in the sunshine

One was still wet and working on figuring out which way was up. He was that new.

I grabbed a towel, my cell phone (to call and delay a meeting), and checked to make sure I was wearing something that could get grubby… very grubby. No telling what I would need to do… stand by and just watch a normal labor process, dash in to grab a piglet who was in trouble, or even help deliver babies if the gilt’s labor stalled out.

I say “he was that new” just because I don’t want to check the sex and upset the newborn, and trigger ANY squealing. Turning a newborn upside down and poking around, for some reason seems to initiate an ear-piercing squeal that WILL not stop until he is put back on the ground.  Our new momma has VERY strong instincts and will immediately jump up to defend her newborn.

Unique

Pigs are very interesting creatures as they deliver their young in a totally different way.  Cows, horses, cats, dogs, etc. all deliver and to some extent help their young… usually by licking them to stimulate, to clean off, and to help dry them. But piglets do it all on their own!

Mom lays down on her side and labors.  She gets up occasionally and may go check on the babies delivered (just sniffs them) but then she goes back and lays down.

The critical part is that if there is a newborn where she lays down, he must have an escape route! 300lb momma laying down on a 3 lb newborn can have some very distressing results.

Jim designed and built (with intern assistance!) angled areas in the corners of the farrowing stall.  Enough for a person to stand behind & in.  The angle area cross pieces are NOT all the way down to the floor.

Job, making sure the newborn piglets are safe!

If the momma sow lies down next to the angled area (which of course she does), there is a space that allows the piglet to move away from mom, and she is blocked from that; the piglet can shift into the protected angle.  We have flakes of straw in those areas so the piglets can burrow in and get warm.

Momma pig lays down and breaths/ pants with her labor and then will give a push. Out flies a piglet still encased in its amniotic sac & still attached with the umbilical cord.  As the baby “hits” the ground the sac is pulled away from its snout.  Sometimes the cord “snaps” (i.e. breaks at the delivery & sometimes not).

At first the newborn is totally still. My heart always stops until I see a little wiggle or flip of an ear. I have to consciously “STOP” myself from helping out!

Finally, real movement. The newborn is “shaking off” the shocking introduction to the world! As he begins to move around, the sac encasing him, breaks away.  As he wiggles around, and then finally finds his feet (usually less than 3-4 minutes), he is pulling on the umbilical cord and it  breaks away so that he is free to move away from mom.

On average piglets delivery every 20-30 minutes. We’ve even had them deliver an hour apart.    Our new sow proceeded to deliver piglets at the rate of one every 10 minutes! That includes taking a break occasionally, getting up, nosing around to sniff & nuzzle her newborns.  After a brief check, she goes back to lay down…  carefully, so that any piglets in the way can move, and if they are trapped under her, squeal. A good mom whe will immediately jump up to prevent any squishing of newborns!

Cautious, is the name of the game!

Job, our intern, had never dealt much with livestock (thus part of the reason he is at OUR farm).  Jim had gone over a few techniques to use when working with the laboring mom, and he went right to work.  If mom gets a little bit shook or worried, she can be calmed by rubbing her belly.  Initially he stayed in the protected angled area, where he was in place to rescue a piglet if he needed to. He was just a hands-breath away, and had a clear view of what was happening.

It’s an unknown situation with a first time mom. Some sows can become confused, very aggressive and protective.  We had a sow who started to attack her first baby (it was her first litter) because it was squealing.  She hadn’t quite made the connection that it was her baby squealing but thought the baby was “attacking” her newborn.  We quickly had to scoop that newborn out of momma’s reach & calm her down by rubbing her belly.

As this was a new sow, and this was her first litter… we had no idea how she would act.  I must say, we were really impressed. She will be a keeper. First off, she had 12 healthy piglets (no runts & no super big piglets)… all pretty much 3-4 lbs each.  She was mellow during her labor and very careful of her newborns, even in the middle of labor.

Some TLC for the babies…Nursing

The first group of piglets are now quite hungry and search for a teat to nurse on. Momma sow has a minimum of 14 teats, seven on each side, but getting on for the first nursing can be a challenge. Job works out a method.

Piglets first nursing

When all 12 try to nurse and get to the upper seven teats, nobody gets to eat! Oh, I’m sure eventually they would but to short cut the drama, and make sure each piglet has gotten a good first nursing of the colostrum, we  assist. Remember?  that first milk which has lots of goodies in it for the baby – immunities passed from mom to babe. If a newborn does not get a good nursing within hours of birth, he will tend to be sickly or just not grow well.

So Job divides the group up into two parts, each made up of 6 piglets.  He corrals up one group away from mom, and then makes sure each piglet finds and attached to a teat.  Over a few hours he has made sure all the babies have had several good nursings. What an outstanding start!  And whenever mom would get a little anxious, he would just rub her belly and she would flop back, and snooze.  When Job brought her sweet cob, grain, and curdled jersey milk (her favorite), in a low bucket, she didn’t even bother to get up. Just picked her head up, pushed on the buckets edge until it tilted toward her, and munched away happily on her treat.

In the past, when we’ve had a sows labor stall out, we’ve put piglets to the teats to nurse, to stimulate more contractions. The nursing process releases hormones that trigger the let-down of  milk, and uterine contractions.  I think it’s Nature’s way of making sure the labor process is completed and the placental tissue is passed.

Nighttime…

Enough for now; we’ll leave the babes & mom alone and “pray” they get through the night OK.  I always worry about the little ones getting squished but this mom is very careful. She moves slowly, watches, and nuzzles the straw before she lays down.  If she hears someone start squalling she will immediately jump up, and then carefully try again.

Mom and babies sleep separate! All the babies bundle together, overlapping each other, usually burrowing into the straw… and keep each other warm.  When mom carefully lays down, she will then call to her babies and they all come running, to nurse. But when done, the babies gather together and sleep in their little angled protected area, or huddled together under a flake of straw.

Reducing Losses

If you don’t have a “good mom” you could have a 25-100% loss of piglets! That’s why in the swine industry, in their confinement system, the moms are put in farrowing crates, that barely allow her any movement.

We have lost several piglets in the past, with different sows, because the moms were not careful enough during and immediately after labor. We switched breeding lines to see if we could improve our delivery numbers and survival rates.  In the past we would have 8 piglets, with 6 surviving delivery. Generally never lost a piglet after the first day.

Selecting for Survival

But our approach is different from the industrial model. Instead of using every sow, even if she is not a good mother, we selectively choose who will breed. That way our stock will get better… need less intervention, be healthier, and more productive. Strikes me that the industry method is decreasing the quality of the breeding livestock, over time.

We aim toward a sustainable model, where livestock don’t actually need humans to survive!

Spring Babies, At School, At Home

A hands-on visit at school!

Spring Babies to School

Taking our farm animals to the local elementary school is pretty high on my list of things we want to do.  Especially the young ones… they appeal so much to the kids. We took three calves (2 beef & 1 milk breed), as well a 2 mini-horses to the school.

On the Trailer, to the school

The calves were from 2 days to 6 weeks old. With a neighbor’s help, we loaded them up and a short trip later, they were out on grass being introduced to the students.

It was a chance for the kids to talk about, see, touch, and learn about real livestock. They get to see them pee and poop! call to their mothers, to their friends.  Get tired & lay down to take a nap!

They are able to check out the mini-horses in great detail, as mini’s are busy eating fresh “playground”… and of course, leaving some fertilizer behind as a “thank you”!

I like taking the smaller creatures because I think they are more “kid-friendly” size… as well as having a naturally built-in “baby” attraction that we all seem to have in our make up. We are drawn to babies and want to “nurture” them.

Great Discussions!

We talked about how soon after a calf is born, can it walk.  Guesses from the 3 & 4th graders ranged from hours to days to weeks.

A chance to actually touch a calf

I told them that the calf is born with hooves that are very soft… too soft to walk on. They look white at birth.

Newborn Lowline Calf, still hasn't stood-up yet!

The hooves are soft so that they don’t hurt the mother when the are being born. It’s like having your hands in water for a while; your fingernails get really soft. But as soon as they are exposed to the air, they begin to harden up.

In nature, the calf need to be able to stand, within 30 mins usually, and navigate to the udder to nurse, within a few hours at the most.

There is a “key” window for the calf nursing.  The best is within 2 hours, but 4 hours at most.  That is when the calf’s gut is open to absorbing the immunities that the mom passes on to the calf.  If he does NOT get that special milk, he will tend to be very sickly and not grow well.  It’s important for him to nurse as soon as he can. After 4 hours the gut changes and begins to lose the ability to absorb the larger molecules. By 12 hours that door is completely shut.

We always try to have some of that special early milk (colostrum) saved up in our freezer if we have a baby that has a problem with nursing or a mom that can’t produce the milk.  It’s good for calves, colts, kids (goats), lambs, etc!

This is a “real world” experience.

group discussion, and then hands ON!

It’s amazing what a great time we had talking about the livestock, with the kids. I was impressed at their questions and how much of an in-depth explanation they where able to take in.

They were very excited about learning about all the things that actually come from the milk the jersey cows produce.  They were able to name off quite a few items besides milk; cheese, butter, yogurt, whipped cream, ice cream, but NOT actually chocolate milk! Well, not the chocolate part, anyway. I think it made it very real to them.

As their teacher said, “Most kids see the world through books, pictures, TV, movies, video games, cartoons, computers…. but never REAL, in life!”  I was told that last year, when we brought animals, the kids talked about it for weeks.

first steps of newborn calf

Spring Babies on the Farm

Today we had newborn calf just suddenly appear… I love our compact pastured beef livestock.

They do their JOBS so well.  They convert the green grass and hay for their food energy.  They get pregnant, at the drop of a hat, and then proceed to calve with hardly a murmur. And smart enough to do it on clear, sunny days, for the most part.

Interestingly, the cows/heifers synch their cycles!  What that means is that they will all deliver about the same time.  We had three newborns this week!  Unlike commercial farms we don’t use medications to make the cows ovulate at the same time… but in nature, at least with the Lowline Angus breed, they do it themselves.

Safety in Numbers

Now WHY?  This is a comparatively old breed, Aberdeen Angus, so I think the older drives are much intact. In the wild or out on extensive pastures, it is actually safer to calve at the same time… and it’s usually early spring.  Why would that be safer?

Coming out of winter, the predators are looking for food, and young livestock are a perfect meal.  If there is only one calf… the chances of it being “prey” go up significantly.  If there are a dozen calves, then there is safety in numbers and the odds are YOU will not be dinner.  And by the time predator comes back, the calves are older and able to manage escape! Mom’s who tended to cycle together had more survivor calves. Outliers (those who delivered at odd times) did not have offspring with as high a survival rate.

Bigger is Better, NOT

I feel so sad when I hear stories from other farmers/ranchers who talk about their difficulties.  Having to get up in the middle of a (of course) cold, windy night (or freezing sleet night, or howling winds), … to help a birthing cow. In their stories it NEVER happens on warm, sunny days, mid afternoon!

Calf puller, for those that are too large for the mother

They also have these horrific looking devices to attach to a calf and pull it out, found at your local farm supply store. For those “Too Big Too Deliver Syndrome” calves!  Our calves weight in at around 40-55 lbs.  Standard or large breed calves weight in at 75-120 lbs AT BIRTH.

We have never lost a calf or mother, at birth because it was too big or badly positioned, which is sadly not true of the typical large beef breed ranches. But then, we only have at any time, 5 – 15 cows…

But many ranchers are beginning to see the advantages of the smaller calves, especially for their first time moms (AKA a heifer – never had a calf). They use Lowline Angus Bulls to decrease the size of those calves to make for very easy births! They lose fewer calves and their night’s sleep are NOT interrupted. Makes for a much happier farmer/rancher.

A breakfast surprise... new calf

But for us… Our experience, as our new intern said, “Oh, I was feeding this morning and an extra calf showed up!” I think Big Momma has delivered.

We were able to finish our morning coffee; then go out to see if we had a boy or a girl!

What a life… just love it.

Throw some mud in the water: Boiling Mad, pt 1

OK, NOW my blood is boiling! The name of the game: Confuse the Consumer.

Erggg… it’s so hard to keep my mouth shut when “data” gets slanted or manipulated… here is my response, in two parts.

When the Western Farm Press (goes out to farmers all over the USA) says to ignore the results of EWG studies done, I have to ask what their interest is. I mean I could say something like:

New mom, New babe

“Hey, pregnant mom, don’t take that medication ’cause it might hurt your baby, but here, have some wonderful strawberries.

Oh, by-the-way, they were grown in Chile and are loaded with neurotoxins which are systemically absorbed and can’t be washed off!”

Only, guess what! That is not slanted or manipulated data. It’s well know and the EWG (Environment Working Group) has highlighted those issues in their annual Dirty Dozen report.

Many of you know that I am coming from a background in High Risk Labor & Delivery. From working in the newborn intensive care units, to working with high risk moms (heart problems, diabetics, premature labor, mutilples…twins, triplets, etc), working in family centered units with midwives; in the home, in the clinic, and in the hospital. A fairly broad exposure to the field of Maternal-Child nursing.

Systemically Contaminated Foods

Pieces of the Puzzle - Autism

After 30 years in high risk obstetrical nursing… I have some big concerns about the accumulations of “small” amounts of toxins (pesticides, herbicides, neurotoxins) in our bodies, and in the growing fetus.

I’m concerned about the sky-rocketing rates of autism; from 1/10,000 to 1/100! Yes, one out every 100 babies is diagnosed with autism. And guess what, it’s the middle class and affluent who are experiencing the highest increases.

Do I know that contaminants are directly related? NO, but I worry that it does.

It’s been demonstrated that the “placenta” is NOT a barrier, and what mom takes in, the developing fetus is exposed to, during very critical stages of development.

Toxic effects, know only over time

Most medicine/research advances are made when data is collected RETRO-ACTIVELY, meaning… we look back over time to see what happens. We look at that data, and alter our views.  Short term studies are only good for acute issues (drink a poison, you get an immediate response).

Long-term studies are needed to parse out the real effects.

And I have no desire for my children/grandchildren to be the “test subjects”. “Whoops, we thought it was safe… I think we might have made a slight error”…. Right!

OF course we need to eat fruits and vegetables. It’s the “additives” that I want to stay away from. We do have a choice about the “additives” that find their way into our foods… we can talk with our dollars because that’s the only thing Industrial Ag listens to.

Repeatedly, in medicine and in the industrial corporate world, we are told something is OK, only to find over time, that it was absolutely Incorrect. Because it takes time to get to the real answers… and it’s not the sellers who pay the price, it’s the consumer. You pay both short-term and long-term.

Research & Documenting

We need information, without a vested money interest in the results

I would encourage you to look at the Environmental Working Group website.  I find it balanced, thoughtful, and educational.  Look at how their studies are done.  It is in a very friendly format that is easy to understand (not like those usual dense research reports that I have a hard time wading through).

Look at the FAQ’s: frequently asked questions…. the concerns that other people have had… and the group’s response.  Are their answers dogmatic or rational thinking responses.

I think you can tell pretty quick what a site’s bias is and whether it is based in emotional appeals and/or trying to manipulate you. Or if they are explaining their concerns and giving you the data to make your own decisions.

Good & the Bad Guys

Anything you want, it will get served up… somewhere

I agree… you can find anybody on the web to support any side of any argument, theory, conspiracy, etc. The challenge is to educate ourselves intelligently.

We discuss with our interns, working on the farm, how do you tell when something is true? I mean, you can find info to back up anything you believe… and the tendency is to only look for info that will back up what you WANT to believe.

We’ve gotten some good responses, and two of the best:

  1. when the data is confirmed coming from multiple fields.  From math, from history, from biology…
  2. when you use the information/theory/belief and predict outcomes that are consistently true over time
I would enjoy hearing your opinion on this issue. I’d like to know if others share the same concerns.
  • are you aware of the residual chemicals that can not be removed by washing, on your food?
  • do you ever think it’s important, for safety reasons, to choose american vrs imported?
  • did you know about the dramatic rise in autism rates?
  • have you changed your buying patterns once you  became more aware?
  • does your pediatrician ever say anything about organic foods?
Please use the comment section to respond… it would be great to hear everyone’s experiences or thoughts!

Back to the Basics
Eat Healthy, Eat Local, Eat Quality

Sex on the Farm

It can be difficult to warn people that ours is an “X-rated” farm.  Our farm animals do the “wild thing” at the drop of the hat!  Sex is so prevalent on a farm… and an important topic to be able to discuss.

six piglets getting the colostrum, after birth

Piglets delivered and nursing well

We’ve had many an intern turn red and start stuttering when we have to discuss the topic of breeding and mating.  As if it were magic! Our interns are generally, bright, well-educated young people who want to learn organic farming.  We are one of the few farms that offer livestock management as well as the organic gardening aspect. And yet, SEX, is still a forbidden topic.  But the mating management is critical to the success of any farm.

We try to get over that barrier pretty quickly.  We are involved in utilizing high-tech methods to improve livestock for the small, low-tech farm. We want livestock that can survive WITHOUT vets, medicine, special diets, or extraordinary support.  To do this we sometimes use artificial insemination (A.I.) & embryo transfers (E.T.) to get where we want to go.  Thus it is important to monitor their reproductive cycles.

Lowline Bull, Herd Sire

Lowline Angus Beef, full-bodied, grass-based genetics

We are working on returning to the “grass genetics” that allow livestock to thrive on their historically natural forage.  We use DNA testing to identify markers for food efficiency, as well as observation.  You can have two cows, eating from the same pasture.  One will be fat and the other will look scrawny.  The fat one is better at converting her food to meet her needs AND build a reserve. She is a survivor, and it will cost less to support her.  Her’s are the genes we want in our pool.  As long as she has a good temperament. Temperament trumps… be nice or you are off to freezer camp!

In nature, it make take years for those poor survival genes to be weeded out.  In our herd, we cull those animals and don’t allow them in our gene pool.  We have very mellow animals that are generally easy to work with.

Jim tells the interns, “Cows are really a lot like women! They cycle every 21 days, they get bitchy and they get lovey-dovey.” And it is actually true.  One cow will start licking another, and nuzzling, comforting her. You know she is getting ready to ovulate.  Another cow may bawl and bellow all day.. she is really ready to ovulate. Interns have to learn to watch for standing mount. When a cow allows another cow to mount her, without moving away, we know she is ready to breed! (i.e. she will ovulate within 12 hours).

If you know your cows you can figure out what is going on.  We have to identify when they ovulate so that we can do our intervention (A.I. or embryo transfer), or just mark down on the calendar so we know when to expect a calf if she has been exposed to a bull.  Our goal is to get a bull  & cows, who carry the DNA markers we want to encourage, and then eliminate the need for AI or ET. But at this point the numbers are still small.

The current success rate in embryo transfers, in the industrial cattle industry, is 30-40 %.

Our success rate is close to 90%!

We do NOT use hormone injections or patches to bring on a cow’s cycle. Instead we watch for her natural cycle and work with her.   Of course it helps to have a top-notch vet versed in the skills needed. And we pay close attention to the cows diet.  We add kelp meal, selenium, and diatomaceous earth for the micro-nutrients she may need.

We follow our beef cows, our dairy cows, pigs, and poultry.  The goal is to understand the natural behaviors and work with them to breed stock that can survive in the real world.

Such show-off, our tom turkeys

Heritage Bronze Turkey Toms strutting

I was shocked to hear that the turkey one buys in the store… are so large breasted that they can NO LONGER reproduce on their own.  They must be AI’ed to reproduce.  That, to me, is a very precarious situation.  We use A.I. but our goal is to NOT need it. Our heritage turkeys are quite capable of doing their “job”!

I’m reminded of the story of the special dairy cows in Cuba.  There was a line of dairy cows that were so productive that all the dairies used them.  The problem was… when they no longer had access to the special diet that was needed to produce those prodigious amounts of milk, they were in big trouble.  Besides no longer producing volumes of milk, they could NOT even survive. Not on pasture alone.  That line died out.

We were asked to provide vacation backup for some friends; to milk their daughter’s blue ribbon milking goats.  What struck me as terribly funny (funny sad)… when we milked the goats, we had to pasteurize the milk before we could give it by bottle, to the kids the mother goat had given birth to.  The line was so inbred that an organism was in the milk which could damage the babies if they drank milk straight from the mother.

Our farm is focused on the sustainable. It’s a pretty precarious situation to get into if you make yourself dependent on livestock that can’t survive in the real world

When the price for oil shoots up, the agriculture prices supported by oil must increase.  What happens to the price of food?  We’re working to unhook from that price lock.

Beef has gone up 17% in the last two years, and looks to go higher in the coming years.  The beef herds are the smallest they have been since the 1950’s. Between the price of feed and the lack of water, cattlemen have been unable to support their herds and have reduced their stock.  Our Lowlines don’t need feed (grain), they flourish on forage/grass.

So interns come to our farm and learn about the economics of livestock management… at least on a small family farm. Included in that is learning about the sex life of cows… and most importantly, how to talk about it!

another Lowline Bull

Another Herd Sire

Update: Turkey & the Hen, pt 2

I’ll be dang.  That turkey Hen, after a full week, is still sitting on her eggs*. I say her (almost) eggs because we actually put her eggs under the hen, and gave her fresh chicken eggs to sit on.  If she was gonna run off and visit the “guys” I wanted to be able to save her chicks.  Chicken chicks are pretty easy for us to get, but not turkey chicks, so if we lost  her “chicken eggs” it was not quite a disaster for us.

But, she is finally hanging in there.  I peek in every day (sometimes twice) just to make sure… and she just looks at me. Doesn’t get flustered at all.  The hen gets pretty grouchy at me if I try to check her eggs. She rustles up her neck feathers and tries to peck me if I get to close.  She’s definitely into protecting her (turkey) eggs. Her eggs were actually moved to the incubator, along with some turkey eggs as there were too many eggs for her to sit on.

The Alternate Surrogate – an incubator!

A couple of days ago we had a surprise in the incubator, the hen’s eggs are starting to hatch!  A constant churp-churp-churp alerted us to a hatching chick.

We’ve been struggling a bit with the incubator, at the start, to make sure we had the temp in the right range… 99-100 degrees F, so I was SURE we had killed off the developing chicks. Nope, tough little guys.  It turns out they can tolerate short periods of temps down to 90 degrees for hours. It may slow the hatch but high temps (103  F) for even 30 min, will kill the embryo.

Temp & Humidity Levels

We bought an instant read digital thermometer with a probe that went into the incubator.  It would give us the internal temp and the humidity level.  Things you need to know… and difficult to actually find out WITHOUT opening the top of our little incubator. Every time you remove the top you alter the very things you are trying to keep stable.

The little funnel you see in the top of the lid gives us access to putting water inside to increase the humidity level WITHOUT opening up the unit. The humidity inside the unit needs to be in the 55-65% range or else the growing embryo’s get too dry and stick to the membrane inside the egg.

We use an automatic turner in our forced air incubator. The mother hen normally turns the eggs multiple times a day, to keep the embryo from “sticking” to the internal membrane. If the eggs are NOT turned consistently you end up with a very poor hatch rate. Years ago we started out turning them manually but as soon as we could afford to add the “turner” we did. You are supposed to stop turning the eggs for the last three days, but out little hatchling did just fine.

Automatic Turner w/eggs

You can see the chicken and turkey eggs (light speckled eggs). They are placed in the slot with the large rounded end up.

There is an air pocket inside the egg as well as the yolk, the clear ‘white”, and the embryo surrounded by a white layer. Did you know that the yolk is NOT the chick? It is the food the chick will use while it is developing. Just before it actually hatches, it draws the rest of the yolk sack into its gut, and uses it for food, for the first couple of days, after it is hatched.

Chicks do not need food or water the first two days, which allows them to be shipped all over the country, from hatcheries. They draw on the yolk reserves for their energy needs.  Now, of course nature did not design this process for OUR use… so why does it work that way?

People are often astounded when I tell them that Hen’s do NOT sit on their eggs right away. But instead, lay eggs for up to 1-2 weeks before sitting.

Think about it.  A hen, at most, lays one egg a day. If it takes 21 days to hatch a chick, and she was sitting on 10 eggs, starting from the day she laid the egg, she would have chicks born over 1-2 weeks.  How could she keep her unborn chicks warm AND take care of her new chicks.

Momma Hen with her new chicks

Actually, she lays a clutch of eggs over a couple of weeks, and THEN she sets.  That way all the eggs are “warmed up” beginning at the same time.

They generally hatch over a two-day period (maybe some were at the outer edge and weren’t quite as warm so the hatch is slightly delayed).

As the chicks begin to hatch they stay under mom to keep warm.  After two full days she will then leave the nest. Any eggs that have not hatched, are left.  It’s time for mom to take care of her new hatchlings. The oldest chicks have two days food supply on reserve but after that mom needs to show them how to scratch and eat/drink.

So, contrary to public opinion, eggs do NOT have to be kept refrigerated to be fresh. If an egg can sit in a nest for two weeks and still be “fresh” enough for mom to set … and hatch out a clutch, I bet they are still good eggs.

In Europe, it is unheard of to put eggs in the refrigerator… you must WARN people, by law, if you do that.

What’s the deal?  I’ll address those issues in my NEXT post!

Newborn calf’s first steps, pt 2

The calf finally balances enough on his little legs, to actually MOVE around!

Newborn calf’s first steps, pt 1

http://youtu.be/xzGXjXBI-SI

You can hear the pig in the background… he was SO curious about what was going on!

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