Monthly Archives: July 2012

Antibiotics in animal feed is in the news again this week...

Chickens routinely fed antibiotics to fight E. Coli bacteria are creating a superbug that's resistant to antibiotics to treat bladder infections. Amee Magnus, epidemiologist at McGill University found that E. Coli responsible for bladder infections closely matches the bacteria found in retail chicken - and those bacteria have a high level of resistance. She went on to say, "They (the chickens) are getting drugs from the time that they were in the egg all the way up to the time that they are slaughtered." Forest Hill Farm chickens are fed non-GMO grains and never given antibiotics. Hormones are illegal to feed. You won't find them in any poultry or swine feed. Both beef cattle and dairy cattle are routinely injected with FDA approved hormones to increase milk production (in dairy cows), and to promote growth in beef cattle. Our livestock is all antibiotic and hormone free!

Forest Hill Farm pasture raised chicken

We've heard from many people concerned over the drought in Iowa. The Drought Monitor determined that 59% of the state is in severe drought.  We are concerned and are trying to prepare for the worst.  We're implementing a drought plan we've had in place for a few years, just in case.  Because we rotationally graze, the ground has additional recovery time between foraging. During drought conditions overgrazing certain areas by increasing the stocker rate (number of cattle in a paddock) and allowing them more time in each paddock, gives larger areas of pasture more time to recover.  This allows deep rooted legumes, weeds, and less palatable plants to hold the ground, keeping the soil in place when rain returns. If the weeds or cover crop were killed off, soil erosion would be accelerated. Soil erosion would leave very poor conditions for plant recovery.

As unpleasant as the subject is, culling older herd animals is necessary. A few favorite cows are going to be sold, two horses were sold, and a third is being advertised for sale. There isn't enough hay for the profitable animals so the older animals and recreational pets have to go. It's tough. These are difficult decisions but necessary to sustain the herd and the land.

The sheep who are prone to overgraze deep rooted forages while ignoring grasses have been brought closer to the barn for management. If confined to smaller areas, the sheep will eat weeds and clean up grasses and dry pasture matter. The saying, "Beggars can't be choosers", applies. Another drought management option is early weaning. The calves and lambs are offered better grazing areas and the cows and ewes reduce their required feed intake by up to 40% when not lactating.

The dairy cows and calves haven't been separated, yet.  Their yield is high and milk for the pigs keeps grain costs to a minimum. Sows, boars, and feeder pigs are grazing in smaller pasture areas, keeping rooting behavior to a minimum.

Hay prices and the rising cost of grain has us looking at changing our production model. This year we'll be selling off most of the feeder pigs. Carrying them through the winter months when grain prices will be at their highest would drive prices too high. We'll hold onto our sows and boars and breed for late spring rather than late winter farrowing.

With all of these practices in place we're optimistic about the coming year. As our friend says, "Every dry day that passes gets us one day closer to rain". He's right. Eventually it will rain. That's inevitable. The question is... when. Until that day our drought plan is in full force.

This would be the time to buy larger quantities of meat. The price is only going higher, at least until the next harvest season. Planning ahead can make a big difference in your budget.

Warmest wishes and food for thought,


Last night Keith and I were discussing reincarnation. He was explaining to me that some people believe when you die you get reincarnated but must come back as a different creature. I said I'd like to come back as a cow.
He said, "You're obviously not listening".

When Pigs Fly

The federal government proposed new guidelines allowing people with disabilities, assisted by "service animals," to board flights. The list of approved service animals includes, but isn't limited to: monkeys, miniature horses, parrots, and pigs. It gives a whole new meaning to "when pigs fly." Snakes have not been approved, yet. There is a gentleman with a service snake who warns him of upcoming seizures. Someday he may have approval to board a plane with his service snake.  Oh, here's the catch...the other passengers may not object. If I boarded a plane and there was a snake on it, you can bet I'd object. And, If the plane was flying over Middleborough, Massachusetts I'd be issued a huge fine. Police in Middleborogh, MA are allowed to issue $20.00 tickets for cursing in public. At that rate I'd owe close to a million dollars if seated next to a "service snake".