chicken
I recently read an article about the consequences of the waning “back-yard chicken” movement. To me, it’s rather sad, and I have to say that I saw it coming. A few years ago, urban and suburban folks, lured by romantic images of farm life, the “local foods” craze, and in pursuit of fresh eggs, decided that it would be a good idea to keep chickens in their residential back yards. A few municipalities in our area debated allowing chickens in non-agricultural areas. Those against the idea brought up practical reasons why poultry should be limited to farms, such as noise (often very early) from roosters crowing, the problem of waste disposal, associated human health risks, and the hazard the birds can cause when not confined by proper fencing.

Those in favor prevailed in some cases, and ordinances were passed allowing poultry in non-agricultural areas. Designer coops were erected and exotic breeds of poultry purchased. The trend went along for a while, but now as reality sets in, unwanted chickens are being turned in to pet shelters, and specialty rescue organizations are being formed. Especially now, as cold weather approaches, many owners are seeking new homes for their birds. Winter means additional expenses and chores: heating coops, providing fresh, unfrozen water, extra feed, and more frequent shoveling and cleaning of the coops. Many first time chicken owners are unprepared for, or grow tired of, the winter requirements.

Another factor in winter is the lack of natural light. Hens very often will quit laying eggs as the days grow shorter. Artificial lighting can be manipulated to keep the hens laying eggs but that requires electric service and a timer. Hens will quit laying when they are 2 to 4 years old, but can live 10 to 12 years, which brings up another problem: what to do when the “pet” chicken is no longer productive. In commercial settings, these birds are used for meat, i.e. stewing hens. Many city people form pet-like attachments to their birds and can’t bear to part with them, or are simply unprepared for the long-term commitment. It’s one more reason why poultry shelters, like “Chicken Run Rescue” have come into existence. In the article that I read by Kim Palmer in the November 8 edition of The Beacon, Mary Britton Clouse, founder of the rescue, says that last year she had nearly 500 surrender requests. “All the other sanctuaries and shelters have noticed an increase. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion”, she says of the abandoned and neglected chickens that she sees.

There are also health risks to both humans and poultry associated with keeping the birds in urban areas, that most new owners are completely unaware of. Most of them do little or no research, and report getting their information from the Internet. There are some capitalizing on the trend, like Al Bourgeois of suburban Minneapolis, aka “The Chicken Enthusiast” who, according to the article, has taught classes on urban chicken-keeping for the past four years. His curriculum includes a pragmatic “cautionary section” to “deter those with unrealistic expections”. Unfortunately, there are too many who ignore the warnings and proceed with their pursuit.

My fear is that the number of unwanted birds will continue to grow until the fad completely flames out. The reported neglect and abandonments is not fair to the birds. There’s a reason why livestock are raised on farms. Let’s leave the farm animals on farms, and in the care of farmers.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

Advertisements

IMG_0251
I took this picture earlier this fall. It’s one of my favorites because it shows the cow in her most essential role, as a mother. And as a mother myself, I can relate.

Sure, the machinery and crop production is very important, but it’s the cattle that really come first. It’s our priority each and every day to provide the best possible care to our herd. Before we feed ourselves, we feed our cattle. Before we move on to the other tasks on our lists, we make sure that the needs of our cattle are met. Before we go to sleep at night, no matter how long or tiring the day has been, we check to ensure that cattle have everything they need. It’s all about the cattle!

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

Grant with Betty

This photo is one of my favorites, it’s from the Fall of 2001. My son, Grant, is now 22 years old and a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He still loves cattle and is planning to milk cows after he graduates in May with his Animal Science degree. And the heifer calf he’s with in the photo is still around. She’s now a cow named “Betty”. I’d like to think that the lessons Grant learned growing up around livestock helped shape him into the responsible young man he is today. He’s not perfect, but I couldn’t be more proud of him.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

Gary with Gleaner
Here’s a harvest related photo from the late 60’s. It’s Gary and his dad working on their Gleaner combine. It’s remarkable how much Gary now looks like his dad did then. Back then, they were happy to harvest around twenty acres per day. Today, using newer equipment, we try to finish eighty acres in a day. The newer John Deere machine that we currently have has more than three times the horse power of the Gleaner. We’re very thankful for the improvements that technology has brought agriculture!

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

Plowing

IMG_20131117_162302_886

The storms that rolled through here Sunday brought us rain. So much rain that the fields are still too wet to work. We have a lot of fall tillage to get done before the ground freezes, so we're hoping that the sunshine today helps dry things up quickly. Until then we'll continue to work at cleaning up the storm damage. At the top of the list: fence repair. I'm too old to chase cattle across the field!

IMG_20131117_155059_790
Above is another photo taken Sunday afternoon during the rain. We were in the woods pasture, working to remove a huge tree that had crushed a section of fence. The cows and their calves lined up to see what we were doing. They’re very curious, or could it be that they were planning to take advantage of the faulty fence and go out exploring?

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

We’re spending today cleaning up after the storms that rolled through here yesterday. I’m not sure about the rainfall total, much of it was blowing sideways and didn’t make it into the rain gauge.

IMG_20131117_143932_125

The worst of the damage was at a farm owned by a family member. It’s around the corner from our place and we’ve been renting a couple of the buildings there for hay and straw storage. We also keep a dozen or so cows there, along with their calves. The east wall of the shed blew completely down and the north wall is badly damaged. We spent yesterday afternoon making temporary repairs and a makeshift wall out of gates so that the cattle don’t get out, or get hurt by the remains of the wall that fell.

IMG_20131117_154957_284<
We also had a lot of damage to our fences caused by large trees falling on them. We spent a lot of time in the rain yesterday with the chain saw, cutting up and removing trees. We put the fences back together last night – can't have the cattle getting out. Now today we're making more repairs; re-stretching and replacing wires, posts, and insulators.

The rain will keep us out of the fields for a few days. The fall tillage work will have to wait. Until then we'll stay busy cleaning up after the storm. We're counting our blessings here. No people or cattle were hurt. The images coming out of central Illinois are horrific – so much worse than what we're dealing with. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people there.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

IMG_20131117_112225_698-1

It’s around noon and we’ve already had two tornado warnings here today. We’re still under a tornado watch until 4:00 pm. We’ve had a little rain and some strong winds but no real damage yet. I can’t help but wonder about our neighbors, though. I’m hoping that everyone is safe.

Funny thing about storms on a farm with cattle. They tend to bring calves. This cow calved early this morning out in the pasture, delivering a big heifer calf. So in addition to the usual storm preparation tasks, we had to get the cow and calf into the barnyard and then into the barn. Not easy to move the nervous pair, but we felt it would be best for them to be inside in the event that the weather turns severe. Beef cattle are hardy animals, but a newborn calf can often need a little extra attention. Not only are we expecting storms but the temperature is supposed to be dropping later. These temperature fluctuations are also hard on cattle.

Days like today just drive home the fact that what we do is so dependent on Mother Nature. We can only do our best for our land and our animals. The rest is out of our hands.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

IMG_0076

Today brings an element of relief and happiness – Harvest 2013 has come to a close! We finished harvesting the last of our corn last night. All harvest seasons bring challenges and this one was no exception, complete with weather delays, machinery breakdowns and other assorted distractions. The end of harvest is a big thing to farmers, probably similar to how accountants feel when April 15 rolls around.

To the farmers still at it: I wish you a safe and successful harvest. For us, there’s time to briefly savor the moment, catch our breath, and get back to work. Next up: fall tillage.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

I have lots of framed artwork on my walls. It’s been pointed out to me that nearly all of it is farm related. It was not a conscious decision, but it seems that art has to include a barn, a cow, or both to make the cut here. I thought I’d share some of my favorites today.

Artist: Sue Skowronski

Artist: Sue Skowronski

The print above is by a local artist, Sue Skowronski. I really admire her work and wish I could afford to have more! I got this one several years ago at a silent auction fundraiser at the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting. “Hey, it’s a fundraiser, for a good cause”; always my justification for spending a little more than I should. In my opinion Sue gets cows “right”. Plenty of artists try and fail, I think it’s the angularity of the head.

Artist: Kurt Kamholz

Artist: Kurt Kamholz

The painting above is by another local artist, Kurt Kamholz. I bought this one at a fundraiser for The Land Conservancy of McHenry County a couple of years ago. Love the colors and technique.

Antique print

Antique print

The print above is an antique, by an unknown artist, picked up somewhere in my travels. It was inexpensive, in a cheap gold frame, but I love it nonetheless. I have many older prints like this all over the house.

IMG_20131114_085925_500

Here’s another antique; this one is actually an advertising piece in glass with a gold tone chain around it. It’s not on a wall but sitting in a plate holder type thing on top of an old oak secretary. I think it’s beautiful, and different.

So there’s a sampling of the farm art that’s all over my house. Did I mention that I also collect cow creamers? There are a couple hundred of those around too. A little excessive? You bet!

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!